PopeWatch recalls an episode of the Hogan’s Heroes sitcom from the sixties. Colonel Hogan is attempting to disarm a bomb. He has to cut one of two wires, and if he cuts the wrong wire the bomb will go off. He asks Colonel Klink which wire he would cut, and after Klink chooses a wire he cuts the other one and disarms the bomb. Klink asks Hogan why he asked his advice if he wasn’t going to follow it. Hogan responds that he wasn’t sure he would pick the right wire but he was confident that Klink would pick the wrong one.
PopeWatch views Hans Kung as filling the Klink role when it comes to the Catholic Church. One can be certain that his views in regard to the Church will be wrong. PopeWatch thus read with interest a column written by Kung which appeared in The Tablet:
Church reform is forging ahead. In his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis not only intensifies his criticism of capitalism and the fact that money rules the world, but speaks out clearly in favour of church reform “at all levels”. He specifically advocates structural reforms – namely, decentralisation towards local dioceses and communities, reform of the papal office, upgrading the laity and against excessive clericalism, in favour of a more effective presence of women in the Church, above all in the decision-making bodies. And he comes out equally clearly in favour of ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue, especially with Judaism and Islam.
All this will meet with wide approval far beyond the Catholic Church. His undifferentiated rejection of abortion and women’s ordination will, however, probably provoke criticism. This is where the dogmatic limits of this Pope become apparent. Or is he perhaps under pressure from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and its Prefect, Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller?
In a long guest contribution in Osservatore Romano (23 October 2013), Müller demonstrated his ultra-conservative stance by corroborating the exclusion of remarried divorcees from the sacraments who, unless they live together as brother and sister (!), are ostensibly in a state of mortal sin on account of the sexual character of their relationship.
As Bishop of Regensburg, Müller, as a clerical hardliner who provoked numerous conflicts with parish priests and theologians, lay bodies and the Central Committee of German Catholics, was as controversial and unpopular as his brother bishop at Limburg. That Müller, as a loyal supporter and publisher of his collected works, was nevertheless appointed CDF Prefect by Papa Ratzinger, surprised people less than the fact that Pope Francis confirmed him in office quite so soon.
And worried observers are already asking whether Pope Emeritus Ratzinger is in fact operating as a kind of “shadow Pope” behind the scenes through Archbishop Müller and Georg Gänswein, [Benedict’s] secretary and Prefect of the Papal Household, whom he also promoted to archbishop. One remembers how in 1993 Ratzinger as cardinal whistled back the then-bishops of Freiburg (Oskar Saier), Rottenburg-Stuttgart (Walter Kasper) and Mainz (Karl Lehmann) when they suggested a pragmatic solution for the problem of remarried divorcees. It is revealing that the present debate 20 years later was again triggered by the Archbishop of Freiburg, namely Robert Zollitsch, the president of the German bishops’ conference. It was Zollitsch who ventured a fresh attempt to re-think pastoral practice as far as remarried divorcees are concerned. And Pope Francis?