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.
Secondly, Kung weaves into his own story the ways in which his path has crossed time and again by some of the key personalities of late 20th century theology. Men like Karl Barth, Ernst Kasemann, Hans Urs Von Balthasar, Rudolf Bultmann, Yves Congar, Karl Rahner and a host of others richly populate these pages. The book devotes little space to specific discussion of their theology, but there is enough here to understand a little of the distinctive contributions these men brought to their quest for truth and understanding, and the extent to which some suffered because their views were not acceptable to Rome.
At the end I was left wondering why Kung didnt leave the Catholic Church and becoming a famous cross-bench dissenter! That he didn't is a cause for celebration for it is likely that the lasting contribution of this theological genius is that he stayed within and sowed the seeds of future theological reformation within the Catholic Church.
I eagerly await Volume II but I don't imagine the current Curia share this enthusiasm!