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4.3 out of 5 stars27
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 22 February 2014
As an example of change management, Hans Kung’s “Can we save the Catholic Church?” is outstanding. The analysis of how the Catholic Church is where it is at the beginning of Pope Francis’ term of office is compellingly absorbing.

Hans Kung puts forward analytical evidence that over the past millennium the Catholic Church was on an unchanging course. With the Second Vatican Council, this course changed dramatically through a paradigm shift. Subsequently those responsible for the Church’s corporate governance misunderstood the full impact of this paradigm shift and tried to carry on with the governance that worked before the shift. The result is that those running the Church became detached and remote from the corporate body and disengaged with the Church’s stakeholders; a classic problem of managing changes following a paradigm shift.

This frank and pragmatic book urges members not to leave the Church and concludes with a blueprint to remedy the state of the Church through a series of reforms. If followed there is overwhelming optimism that not only will there be a saved, Church there will be a reformed and renewed Church.

This superbly researched and well-written book is prophetic and its timing surely more than a coincidence.
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on 20 December 2013
This is a disturbing book. Indeed having read it I felt physically sick. If the Roman Catholic Church is as Kung describes, then it is unreformable and his hopes for reform are tatters of mere optimism. It is unreformable because, if it is as he describes, it is the bed of evil many Protestants have always held it to be.

However, too many allegations Kung levels at the Church and her ministers are unauthenticated. However thorough a scholar Kung may be we cannot merely take his word for all these profoundly serious allegations. Documentation and authentication is essential.

Towards the close of the book Kung states that he does `not want to paint everything black'. Freud remarked that this type of negative statement ought to be heard as an affirmation of the contrary! And so the book proves to be. Accurately or inaccurately, Kung has painted everything black. Indeed he has painted everything red - the biblical colour of sin! He inveighs against the centralisation of the Church in the Pope but the larger part of his book is a diatribe against the Popes - he is fixated on the papacy and has little to say about any other feature of the Church.

However, a strange pattern emerges from his survey and assessment of the Church's appalling failures: it is a replica in almost every way of the patterns of conduct and sinful failures of our Lord's chosen disciples and of the first 100 years of the life of the Church - all we find in the New Testament levelled at the pride, self-aggrandisement, cowardice, untrustworthiness and multiform failure of the Church and the disciples is echoed in Kung's analysis. (Although his sketch has little if anything to say of the way in which the positive and priceless features of the Church's life and teaching through the centuries also echoes those of the Church in her infancy.)

I do not understand why, if Kung believes what he alleges - and I have no doubt he does - he, like Luther, does not leave the Church - Luther, one might argue, had lesser reason than Kung, for the Church has added five hundred more years to its tally of iniquity. It would seem, in the light of what he writes, if what he writes is accurate, that that is a moral duty.

The Kindle version allows easy searching. It yields interesting results: `Luther' records 31 hits; Rahner 15; de Lubac 1; Balthasar, 0; Newman 0; Enlightenment 20. And of the Cross, as the Cross of Christ's sacrifice, there is no mention within the book at all! Oh, and 'Pope' exactly 100 'hits'!

Kung's `advocacy' of the Enlightenment `freedom' reminded me of some words of Hans Urs von Balthasar:
`In the religion of the Enlightenment, the truly enlightened person himself is the truth; in the religion of Jesus Christ, he alone is the truth that exposes the falsehood and sin of man and atones for them on the Cross. The two models of religious universality are incompatible: Jesus' absolute claim cannot be subordinated to an `intrinsically good' human nature that of itself knows the truth and can come to possess it.' (New Elucidations, 77)

G. K. Chesterton understood the implications: he understood that Tradition is `trusting to a consensus of common human voices, rather than to some isolated or arbitrary record. The man who quotes some German historian against the tradition of the Catholic Church, for instance, is strictly appealing to aristocracy. Tradition is the democracy of the dead.' (Orthodoxy, 43)

So you choose: the 'infallibility' of Tradition or of Hans Kung?

PS My 'star rating' of this book is wholly arbitrary - and hence meaningless.
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on 27 December 2013
This is a carefully considered and well researched criticism of papal infallibility. It is as usual with Kung very well written and reads fluently with well set out main points. It is highly critical but also very respectful of the essence of catholicism. Well worth reading by all who have catholicism at heart.
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on 20 November 2013
I think this is an excellent study of the malaise presently afflicting the governance of the Roman Church. Kung sets out, as a medical doctor would do, to diagnose the problems and to offer remedies. He does so more out of sorrow than anger and states that this could very well be his last book. I found the way he structures the book to be very helpful indeed - there are lots of bullet-point lists of the important matters which for me anyway makes the material easier to understand.

In his introduction Kung makes the point that throughout its first millennium the Church got along quite nicely without the monarchist-absolutist papacy that we now take for granted. It was only in the 11th century that a revolution started from above, started by Pope Gregory VII and known as the "Gregorian Reform". This gave us the three outstanding features that mark the Roman system today: a centralist-absolutist papacy; clericalist juridicism; obligatory celibacy for the clergy. (The latter feature looks a bit ragged at the edges since the creation of the Anglican Ordinariate by Benedict XVI and the ordination of married former Anglican clergy who now serve as priests in Roman Catholic parishes. So married men who have always been Roman Catholics cannot become priests but married former Anglicans can. Only the Vatican seems unable to spot the injustice.)

Kung mentions the many (failed) attempts over the centuries to reform the system and laments that under last two Popes (John Paul II and Benedict XVI) there has a fatal return to old absolutist attitudes and practices.

Given the background of Kung's struggle with the Vatican one might expect this to be an angry book. It isn't - it's a rather sad book written by a man who is still a Roman Catholic and a priest in good standing and who is concerned about a Church that he thinks is very ill, perhaps terminally so. The surveys by Linda Woodhead, published in The Tablet (November 2013) suggests that British Roman Catholics have moved further from a Vatican-approved model of a faithful Catholic with every generation.They have become Catholic in a different way. But the Vatican carries on regardless, blaming everybody and everything rather than itself. So perhaps the Church isn't terminally ill, perhaps its present form of governance is - and this, I think is Kung's main point.

He writes: " this Roman system of rule is characterized by a monopoly on power and truth, by legalism and clericalism, by hostility to sexuality, by misogyny and by clerical use of pressure on the laity".

This is a challenging book but a book that ought to be read by Roman Catholics seeking honestly to examine the present malaise in the church. You are of course not obliged to agree with Kung.
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on 11 August 2014
Challenging - a famous theologian reviews the state of the Roman Catholic Church from the perspective of one who played a major part in Vatican 2 and was a peer of Pope Benedict 16.His analysis of the present state of the church is pessimistic but he lays out a programme for recovery. This depends very much on the path Pope Francis chooses. I have read about 9/10 of Kungs work that are available in English and would never have described him as bitter or waspish. Unfortunately at this stage he comes across as both when discussing his former colleague Ratzinger.
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on 7 January 2014
Christ promised to guide his church for ever. Hans Kung accepts that he does but questions whether the Church has been alert enough and whether we have been misled more than once . Provocative ? I'd say!
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on 16 July 2014
This is a first class analysis of where the problems faced by reformers came from and why.
This is certainly the best understanding of the post Vatican 2 paradigm I have encountered written in a straight forward way. Incidentally this also serves as a wonderful history of the Church told without the mythology added by those with an anti women or anti marriage axe to grind.
Finally solutions from Vatican 2 and scripture are proposed.
Most importantly this feels good and true.
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on 23 November 2014
Have been in awe of Hands K since his 'On Being a Christian' I'm not a Roman Catholic but feel King's obvious pain at the state of the church he love. Sadly his excoriating essay sounds only too true in it's scholarly examination. Sadly I doubt we shall see the changes he longs for in our lifetime but change the church must if is to have any relevance in a fast changing world. Just as a sideline, it's also well written and a gripping analysis.
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on 14 October 2013
It all needs saying - it all needs documenting and publishing. Hans Kung has made an excellent start here. I found his exposition absorbing if very disturbing.
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on 4 December 2013
This book gives voice to many of the things that have been going through my head but have not had the confidence or know how to express. An excellent read for those who want underpinning to make change possible.
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