Hans Küng, Controversial Swiss Catholic Theologian Who Criticized Church Teachings, Dies at 93

Hans Küng, a Roman Catholic theologian and priest whose brilliantly disputatious, lucidly expressed thoughts in more than 50 books and countless speeches advanced ecumenism and provoked the Vatican to censure him, died on Tuesday at his home in Tübingen, Germany. He was 93.

The death was confirmed by Nadja Dornis, a spokeswoman for the Global Ethic Foundation, which promotes Dr. Küng’s ideas.

Dr. Küng, who as an 11-year-old Swiss boy knew he wanted to be a priest, stood at the center of Christianity’s great upheavals in the latter half of the 20th century. His relentless challenges to the church hierarchy caused his critics to call him the greatest threat to the church since Martin Luther, even the Antichrist.

As a liberal, he criticized church policy on governance, liturgy, papal infallibility, birth control, priestly celibacy, the ordination of women, mixed marriages, homosexuality, abortion, the meaning of hell and much else.

On some issues, Dr. Küng said, Buddhism and Judaism were more constructive than Catholicism. Serving Jesus Christ is what matters, he insisted — not serving the church that took his name.

Many Catholics supported him, or at least admired his effectiveness. Peter Hebblethwaite, a Vatican expert, wrote that all Dr. Küng’s proposals at the Second Vatican Council were accepted, some in modified form, in the council’s final documents.

“Never again would a theologian have such influence,” he wrote.

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SOURCE: The New York Times, Douglas Martin