Saturday, November 19, 2005

Hans Does Phoenix

While I continue to collect my thoughts about my Hans Kung experience, his lecture tonight is occasioning a brouhaha out in the desert for all the wrong reasons
Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, leader of the Phoenix Diocese's 500,000 Catholics, has refused to attend Kung's talk here, sponsored by a Jesuit alumni group and attended by local religious leaders from all faiths. He also refused the organizers permission to advertise the Kung talk in church bulletins or to hand out free tickets to Catholic high school seniors.

"He does not have faculties from the (Vatican) to teach as a Catholic theologian," explained Sister Jean Steffes, chancellor of the diocese. Such faculties, or permission, grant individuals the right to teach official Catholic theology.

Robert Blair Kaiser, leader of the Jesuit group, said that is an excuse. The real reason, he said, is that Kung and Olmsted hold opposing views on many issues.

Kung, the author of more than 50 books, leads the Foundation for Global Ethics in his hometown of Tubingen, Germany. The foundation works to identify the commonalities in all religions and proposes using them to foster peace.

"There will be no peace among nations without peace among the religions," he said in an interview."There can be no peace among the religions without dialogue.

"Without dialogue, we shoot each other."

In Phoenix, Kung, 78, will discuss the three Abrahamic religions: Christianity, Islam and Judaism. He will focus on what they hold in common, not their differences.

"The idea of global ethics is very simple," he said. "What we need are simple standards to avoid disorder and chaos. These standards are found in every religion." Basically, he said, the standards prohibit killing, stealing, lying and sexual abuse. "We need to treat every human being in a truly human way," he said. "This is the general heritage of mankind."

During his recent talk with Pope Benedict XVI, he said the new pope supported the idea of common ethical standards.
Olmsted is a good man, a holy man, but sending a message that what's good for the Pope is questionable for the papists doesn't serve anything well at all. It's not like Fr Hans is lecturing at a Catholic college or some other salient venue where the distinction of "He's not a 'Catholic' theologian" would call for clarification -- and no clarification is necessary when the talk is being given at a public high school. To do it anyway is like Coca-Cola saying it isn't responsible for what happens at a 7-11: bizarre, at best.

And if the people of the diocese aren't well-formed enough to realize the distinction, well, don't blame the guest.