“It would be a bad generalization to place the whole clergy and Catholic Church under suspicion,” the Roman Catholic priest was quoted as saying in a recent interview with The European, a Berlin-based online news service.
Küng also said he still agrees with Pope Benedict XVI on some key issues.
The 83-year-old Swiss-born theologian was speaking two weeks after criticizing the Pope in an “open letter” to Roman Catholic bishops worldwide in which he said Benedict’s papacy had “failed.”
In the letter, Küng said there had been a “worldwide system of covering up cases of sexual crimes” by clergy by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which was led by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, before he became Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.
However, in his interview with The European, Küng described as “complete nonsense” claims that the present Pope is the “the worst for centuries.”
He said, “In the course of its five years, this pontificate has seen many breakdowns, as well as many wasted chances, above all in its approach to
Protestant churches.” The theologian added, “But we still need a Petrine [papal] office to serve the unity of Christians, though not a Roman papacy as it developed in the 11th century.”
Kung, whose works include “Infallible?”, which questioned papal authority, served as an expert advisor at the 1962-1965 Second Vatican Council, which introduced reforms into the life of the Catholic Church. He also taught alongside Ratzinger at the University of Tübingen in the 1960s. In 1979 his license to teach Catholic theology was withdrawn by the Vatican after it ruled he could “no longer be considered a Catholic theologian.”
In his interview, Küng said he believed the Pope had missed an opportunity to consolidate links with Jews and Muslims, but added that it would be “totally inadmissible” to compare Benedict XVI with “immoral and criminal” popes in history.
“The Pope and I are united on the relationship between reason and science, the necessity of dialogue between religions and the need for worldwide ethics, even if my hopes of a reformist course have not been fulfilled,” Küng said.