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My Struggle for Freedom: A Memoir [Paperback]

Hans Kung , Hans Kng
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
Price: £44.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

1 Jan 2005
Hans Küng is undoubtedly one of the most important theologians of our time, but he has always been a controversial figure, and as the result of a much-publicized clash over papal infallibility had his permission to teach revoked by the Vatican. Yet at seventy-five he is also something like a senior statesman, one of the 'Group of Eminent Persons' convened by the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and a friend of heads of government like Tony Blair and President Mubarak of Egypt. In this fascinating autobiography he gives a frank and outspoken account of the first four decades of his life. He tells of his youth in Switzerland and his decision to become a priest; his doubts and struggles as he studied in Rome and Paris, and his experiences as a professor in Tübingen, where he received a chair at the amazingly early age of thirty-one. Most importantly, as one of the last surviving eye-witnesses he gives an authentic account of the struggles behind the scenes at the Second Vatican Council, in which he took part as a theological expert. Here it becomes clear just how major an influence he was, to the point of shaping the Council's agenda and drafting speeches for bishops to deliver in plenary sessions. With its rich thought and vivid narrative, Küng's book paints a moving picture of his personal convictions, and his struggle for a Christianity characterized not by the domination of an official church but by Jesus.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 532 pages
  • Publisher: Continnuum-3PL; New edition edition (1 Jan 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826476384
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826476388
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 16 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 757,206 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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"...refreshingly provocative and stimulating." -- Irish News (Belfast)

"Its style is colloquial and readily accessible to non-theologians." -- The Irish Times

"This is a splendid book, full of marvellous pen-portraits, stories, and bold judgements... It is also packed with theological insights." -- Church Times

About the Author

Hans Kung is Emeritus Professor of Ecumenical Theology in the University of Tubingen and President of the Global Ethic Foundation. He is the author of a number of international best-sellers such as On Being a Christian (HarperCollins).

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First Sentence
IN its manifesto Crossing the Divide, addressed to the UN General Assembly, the 'Group of Eminent Persons' convened by the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to which I belong, which also includes Richard von Weizsacker, Jacques Delors, Nadime Gordimer, Prince Hassan of Jordan, Amartya Sen and a dozen other personalities, has stated: It is ill advised to consider primordial ties as necessarily detrimental to the cosmopolitan spirit. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Theological Riches and Ecclesiastical Intrigue 12 Mar 2004
This book could do for theology what Stephen Hawking did for Physics! The mix of theology and political skulduggery is a heady potion and whilst it will make this book difficult for some to engage with, for others this will be meat and drink of the highest order!

Hans Kung is one of the most influential, and in some circles, most controversial theologians of the last century. This first part of his autobiography covers standard areas one would expect to be included, family background and such like, but by far the greater part of the book focuses on Kung's theological formation in Rome and his subsequent role during the Second Vatican Council.

The book is surprising in many respects, not least in Kung's rapier-like ability to settle old scores. On this evidence I would far rather have Kung as a friend than an enemy! His settling of old scores is not gratuitous but it is clinical. Several times I'm sure I actually said 'Ouch!' as I read his critique of those who had crossed him. Furthermore, whilst I was not surprised to read of the background machinations that surrounded the Council, the detail in which the story is told from Kung's unique vantage point makes this compelling reading.

Two major emphases in the book stand out for me. Firstly, the missed opportunity that was the second Vatican Council. With a pasionate exposition of the times and the personalities involved, Kung outlines the critical decisions taken by Pope John XXIII in calling the Council. The tremendous faith and vision of the man in daring to seize the moment, but the fatal mistake in not recognising the need to sweep away the Curia 'old guard' (which was within his power) in order to place reformers in charge of the reform agenda.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hans Kung's Memoir 16 Sep 2009
Hans Kung writes in an engaging style. He communicates with clarity and wisdom.
I thoroughly recommend this book which opens his life story interwoven with theological debate which is even more relevant today.For anyone who has a heart for the Church and wants to understand the struggle for greater unity.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
85 of 89 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another fine book from Kung 15 Oct 2003
By B. F. Mooney - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
My Struggle for Freedom is another fine book from this great Christian and Christian theologian, but one concentrating on his life and experiences as another way of approaching the issues central to his life. The years he covers are through the late 1960s, and include his boyhood in Switzerland, his path to becoming a priest, his education in theology and finally Vatican II. The issues, and his commitment to intellectual honesty, to Christian honesty and to Christ as the very core of Christianity, are still central. As always, he calls it as he sees it and gives his reasons for doing so. If you don't like honest and well-reasoned opinion, don't read Kung.
The book reads well, is touching at many points, and simply resounds with his famed honesty, clarity and great erudition. Reading this book is yet more of the liberal education he supplies in all his books. My Struggle for Freedom has only increased my love and admiration for him as a person, as a fellow Christian and as a leader in ethical and religious thinking today. To me, Kung is the voice of ecumenism. (Note that the publisher is a traditionally protestant book house.) While I am mainly protestant in my Christian orientation, Kung has helped me understand the Catholic Church, the mother church of Christianity, to the point where I deeply regret all the historical splits, and that another outcome had not been negotiated for the Reformation. This is ironic. He is a persistent and insightful critic of the church, yet he creates love for this church which he refuses to leave or stop loving; and after all is done, it is an ironic testament to the greatness of the Church itself that it has produced such a man.
Kung is a man of great courage, of true commitment to Christ and Christian ideals.
If you have ever wondered about the man, the person, who has the thoughts behind his many other books, you will enjoy reading this one. The best recommendation I can give is to say I await with excitement the publication of the second volume of autobiography, detailing his life up to today.
26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 5 star book 3 star translation 29 April 2005
By Catherine Michael - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Fascinating reading for those interested in the background of the Vatican II council sessions and Kung's part in them; and in the development of his theology. And for understanding who he is, getting behind the media picture of the young theological "radical". What emerges is that the Vatican's biggest problem with Kung is that they don't scare him, can't browbeat him, and are arguing with a man trained in their own methods.

Oddly, the book is written (or translated?) all in the present tense, which can be confusing at times, when some use of past tense might distinguish between what Kung thought at the time and thinks now. I don't know if this is the translator, or the author himself; at times it gets annoying and tedious, even occasionally sounding pompous, which is not characteristic of Kung judging from everything else (and that's practically his entire opus available in English) I've read of his work.

At any rate, the use of present tense is strange even in a memoir; I encountered it once previously in a biography, and almost couldn't finish that book.

Kung's memoir also contains some assessments of others (including the late and current popes) that come off unkind and "snarky", which also doesn't seem typical of Kung, even in dealing with opponents, who I think he typically confounds by courteously sticking to his position and insisting on truth. I can't help wondering if some of the "snarkiness" is also a product of the translation.

Also, there are, as noted by a previous reviewer, some odd translation errors, such as calling the USA Secretary of the Treasury "Finance Minister"; again, perhaps translation, or could be the translator trying to stay "true" (unnecessarily, in my view) to Kung's German? I have ordered the German edition (along with the new "Islam" volume) out of curiosity on this point. My German is labored, but I'm anxious to get started on the Islam volume, which could problably prove dangerous to Kung himself if it goes in the direction I suspect (urging modernization by subjecting the Islamic "scriptures" to exegesis, historical and form criticism commonly applied now for decades in Christian scriptural scholarship.)
29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Vatican II, the true story 14 May 2004
By Gregory J. Zimmerman - Published on
As a theology student at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. during the time of Vatican II, I was constantly in tune with what was taking place in Rome. Many of our professors made bi-weekly trips to Rome when the Council was in session and would bring back the details.
Kung's memoirs adds the inside story to complete the picture. It is a lengthy, yet fascinating review of the various Vatican II designers and participants. Better yet, you get an excellent understanding of the reform and why it was ended before it could take hold. And the knowledge of the author comes through. It's no wonder that Kung was the top theologian and primary behind-the-scenes designer of it all. I eagerly await his second volumn.
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Balanced Overview of Kung's Life and Thought Through 1968 13 Jan 2004
By A Customer - Published on
Hans Kung, perhaps the most controversial Catholic theologian of modern times, has written a memoir of his life up to 1968. In recounting his theological formation, years of teaching, and particularly his service to the Church during the Second Vatican Council, Kung provides readers with a nuanced view of his theological method and conclusions. For North Americans, particularly those who grew up in the wake of the Council's changes, this book is a valuable historical view of the ideas, people, and institutions that formed Catholicism in a time of enormous ferment.
Despite the struggles Kung was to undergo in the 70s, 80s, and 90s (only hinted at in this first volume), he is generally well-disposed to those who opposed him and rarely slips into personal attack. This book is a valuable addition to Catholic historical thought but should also be read in conjunction with those reflective works of Kung's theological counterparts: Rahner, Ratzinger, Congar, and de Lubac.
The translation at times is a bit slip-shod ("degree" in place of "decree" on a number of occasions) but readers should have no real trouble with this editorial problem.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for those interested in the lives of popular theologians! 22 April 2006
By D. Horan - Published on
A very well written, in-depth look at the life of one of the 20th Century's greatest theologians. Kung also happens to be one of the most controversial theologians due to his official disciplining by the Curia's Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (FMR: Holy Office).

Although I found this autobiographical memoir particularly engaging and interesting, it only covers half of Kung's life. In great detail, Kung introduces us to his upbringing, family, Roman theological education, French graduate work, early scholarly career, his appointment as a Council Peritus and then essentially concludes this work with the close of the Second Vatican Council. On at least two occasions, he refers to the "second volume of this work" which implies he will write the rest of his biography at a later time. For this I truly hope since what many consider to be his most fascinating saga (the revoking of his license to teach Roman Catholic Theology and battle with the CDF) has not yet been approached.

All in all, it is a wonderful, occasionally overly descriptive work that is a must read for those interested in the lives of major theological figures. Kung also presents a unique perspective of the Second Vatican Council which has not been seen to date.

I highly recommend this book!
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