Catholic Church: A Short Historyby Hans Kung
In this extraordinary book, the renowned Hans Kung chronicles the Roman Catholic Church’s role as a world power throughout history. He examines great schisms — between East and West, Catholicism and Protestantism — the evolving role of the papacy and the stories of the great reforming popes; and the expansion of a global Church infrastructure. The book concluded with a searching assessment of how the Catholic faith will confront the immense challenges posed in the new millennium by the scientific community, by women questioning their role in the Church, and by those seeking reform of the strictures against abortion and contraception. The Catholic Church is a landmark book by a controversial and profoundly influential thinker.
From the Hardcover edition.
“Hans Küng has done more to shape contemporary Catholic hope than anyone else, and with The Catholic Church he does it again.” —James Carroll, author of Constantine’s Sword
“One of the greatest theologians of the twentieth century, Hans Küng . . . is one of the world’s great mavericks. . . . Indeed, he was once called ‘the greatest threat to the Catholic Church since Martin Luther.’” —The Independent (London)
“A well-told, sweeping, and often incisive portrait.” —Kirkus Reviews
Read an Excerpt
As the author of The Catholic Church: A Short History, I want to say quite openly, right at the beginning, that despite all my experiences of how merciless the Roman system can be, the Catholic Church, this fellowship of believers, has remained my spiritual home to the present day.
That has consequences for this book. Of course, the history of the Catholic Church can also be told in a different way. A neutral description of it can be given by experts in religion or historians who are not personally involved in this history. Or it can be described by a hermeneutical philosopher or theologian, concerned with understanding, for whom to understand everything is also to forgive everything. However, I have written this history as someone who is involved in it. I can understand phenomena like intellectual repression and the Inquisition, the burning of witches, the persecution of Jews, and discrimination against women from the historical context, but that does not mean that I can therefore forgive them in any way. I write as one who takes the side of those who became victims or already in their time recognized and censured particular church practices as being un-Christian.
To be quite specific and quite personal, I write as one who was born into a Catholic family, in the little Swiss Catholic town of Sursee, and who went to school in the Catholic city of Lucerne.
I then lived for seven whole years in Rome in the elite papal Collegium Germanicum et Hungaricum and studied philosophy and theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University. When I was ordained priest I celebrated the Eucharist for the first time in St. Peter's and gave my first sermon to a congregation of Swiss Guards.
After gaining my doctorate in theology at the Institut Catholique in Paris, I worked for two years as a pastor in Lucerne. Then, in 1960, at the age of thirty-two, I became professor of Catholic theology at the University of Tiibingen.
I took part in the Second Vatican Council, between 1962 and 1965, as an expert nominated by John XXIII, taught in Tiibingen for two decades, and founded the Institute for Ecumenical Research, of which I was director.
In 1979 1 then had personal experience of the Inquisition under another pope. My permission to teach was withdrawn by the church, but nevertheless I retained my chair and my institute (which was separated from the Catholic faculty).
For two further decades I remained unswervingly faithful to my church in critical loyalty, and to the present day I have remained professor of ecumenical theology and a Catholic priest in good standing.
I affirm the papacy for the Catholic Church, but at the same time indefatigably call for a radical reform of it in accordance with the criterion of the gospel.
With a history and a Catholic past like this, should I not be capable of writing a history of the Catholic Church which is both committed and objective? Perhaps it could prove even more exciting to hear the story of this church from an insider who has been involved in such a way. Of course, I shall be just as concerned to be objective as any neutral person (if there really are such people in matters of religion). However, I am convinced that personal commitment and matter-of-fact objectivity can as well be combined in a history of the church as they can in the history of a nation.
From the Hardcover edition.
Meet the Author
Hans Küng obtained a doctorate in theology from the Sorbonne in 1957. In 1962 he was named a theological consultant for the Second Vatican Council by Pope John XXIII, and he played a major role in the writing of the documents of Vatican II, which radically modernized key areas of Catholic teaching. The author of many books, he lives and teaches in Tübingen, Germany.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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If you are a dogmatic conservative who buys all papal dicta and decrees without question forget this book; you'll find it terrible at best, evil at worst - minus three stars! If you can accept that it's possible to be Catholic without mindless obedience to the sometimes dogmatic ( dare I say dictatorial? ) promulgations of a rigid, inflexible hierarchy, this is your book. Father Kung gives a vibrant history of a dynamic, developing church, which sometimes progresses because of the brilliance and loving care of its senior clergy, and sometimes in spite of their complete disregard of the laity they consider themselves responsible for. My only complaints are I wish the book were longer. He has a few "teasers" that I would have liked to learn more about.
Almost every important events in Catholic History were detailed here and faced with bravery. Don't miss this little jewell.
I highly recomend this book. I agree with the previous post it was to short. Short story from a very learned man who has increased my ability to understand what has and is happening the Church. The Historical review of the Popes their dogma and goals was fasinating.
As a Protestant searching for more insight into the Catholic Church, from a Catholic perspective, I felt misled and a bit deceived by Kung's representation of historical events. My goal was to find a Catholic view of the Church's history to compare to the history that I, as a Protestant, was taught growing up in anti-Catholic churches. I chose this book because I remember seeing Kung's name in some of the anti-Catholic writings I have previously read and thought as a priest, he should be able to give me the view point I sought in refuting anti-Catholic statements. After the first few chapters I questioned whether or not I should continue reading in light of some of the negative viewpoints he has on the Church. After googling him I found out he was reprimanded by the Church for some of his writings and asked to no longer teach catechism. It was then that I remembered where I had seen his name, my own protestant church used quotes from him to defend the reformation and anti-Catholic arguments! By the end of the book I felt as if he identified more with reformist views of the Church and it's history. Kung focuses mainly on the corruptions of the popes, but does not highlight many positives. He speaks poorly of popes that have been canonized and beatified, and pretty much all popes in general from the last few centuries. I had hoped to find out more about the history leading up to and including Vatican II, but was so turned off by the negativity in those chapters, I felt I sped through them and learned nothing. In hindsight, I should have stopped reading around chapter 6. This was not the book I thought I had bought. For a reader wanting more ammunition for their argument against the Church, this book would actually help. I walked away more confused and with more questions than when I first picked up this book. Very disappointed! Buyer beware!
By a guy who was so "Catholic" that he got the Catholic Church to tell him to stop it. This book's teachings are not Catholic. It's by someone who according to church law should be excommunicated as a heretic and a schismatic. It says this in canon law number 1364.
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