SACRED CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH
The Church of Christ has received from God the mandate to keep and to safeguard the deposit of faith so that all the faithful, under the guidance of the sacred Magisterium through which Christ himself exercises his role as teacher in the Church, may cling without fail to the faith once delivered to the saints, may penetrate it more deeply by accurate insights, and may apply it more thoroughly to life.1
In order to fulfill the important task entrusted to itself alone2 the Magisterium of the Church avails itself of the work of theologians, especially those who in the Church have received from the authorities the task of teaching and who therefore have been designated in a certain way as teachers of the truth. In their research the theologians, like scholars in other fields, enjoy a legitimate scientific liberty, though within the limits of the method of sacred theology. Thus, while working in their own way they seek to attain the same specific end as the Magisterium itself, namely, “to preserve, to penetrate ever more deeply, to explain, to teach, to defend the sacred deposit of revelation; and in this way to illumine the life of the Church and of the human race with the light of divine truth.”3
It is necessary therefore that theological research and teaching should always be illumined with fidelity to the Magisterium since no one may rightly act as a theologian except in close union with the mission of teaching truth which is incumbent on the Church itself.4
When such fidelity is absent, harm is done to all the faithful who, since they are bound to profess the faith which they have received from God through the church, have a sacred right to receive the word of God uncontaminated, and so they expect that vigilant care should be exercised to keep the threat of error far from them.5
If it should happen, therefore, that a teacher of sacred doctrine chooses and disseminates as the norm of truth his own judgment and riot the thought of the Church, and if he continues in his conviction, despite the use of all charitable means in his regard, then honesty itself demands that the church should publicly call attention to his conduct and should state that he can no longer teach with the authority of the mission which he received from her.6
This canonical mission is in fact a testimony to a reciprocal trust: first, trust on the part of the competent authority that the theologian will conduct himself as a Catholic theologian in the work of his research and teaching; second, trust on the part of the theologian himself in the Church and in her integral teaching, since it is by her mandate that he carries out his task.
Since some of the writings – spread throughout many countries – and the teaching of Professor Hans Küng, a priest, are a cause of disturbance in the minds of the faithful, the bishops of Germany and this Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, acting in common accord, have several times counseled and warned him in order to persuade him to carry on his theological work in full communion with the authentic Magisterium of the Church.
In this spirit the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in order to fulfill its role of promoting and safeguarding the doctrine of faith and morals in the universal Church,7 issued a public document on Feb. 15, 1975, declaring that some opinions of Professor Hans Küng were opposed in different degrees to the doctrine of the Church which must be held by all the faithful. Among these opinions it noted especially, as of greater importance, those which pertain to the dogma of faith about infallibility in the Church, to the task of authentically interpreting the unique sacred deposit of the word of God which has been entrusted only to the living Magisterium of the Church, and finally to the valid consecration of the Eucharist.
At the same time this Sacred Congregation warned Professor Küng that he should not continue to teach such opinions, expecting in the meantime that he would bring his opinions into harmony with the doctrine of the authentic magisterium.8
However, up to the present time he has in no way changed his opinion in the matters called to his attention.
This fact is particularly evident in the matter of the opinion which at least puts in doubt the dogma of infallibility in the Church or reduces it to a certain fundamental indefectibility of the Church in truth, with the possibility of error in doctrinal statements which the Magisterium of the Church teaches must be held definitively. On this point Hans Küng has in no way sought to conform to the doctrine of the Magisterium. Instead he has recently proposed his view again more explicitly (namely, in his writings, Kirche-Gehalten in der Wahrheit?, Benziger Varlag, 1979, and Zum Geleit, an introduction to the work of A.B. Hasler titled Wie der Papst Unfehlbar Wurde, Piper Verlag, 1979), even though this sacred congregation had affirmed that such an opinion contradicts the doctrine defined by Vatican Council I and confirmed by Vatican Council II. Moreover, the consequences of this opinion, especially a contempt for the Magisterium of the Church, may be found in other works published by him, undoubtedly with serious harm to some essential points of Catholic faith (e.g., those teachings which pertain to the consubstantiality of Christ with his Father, and to the Blessed Virgin Mary), since the meaning ascribed to these doctrines is different from that which the church has understood and now understands.
The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the aforesaid document of 1975 refrained at the time from further action regarding the above-mentioned opinions of Professor Küng, presuming that he himself would abandon them. But since this presumption no longer exists, this sacred congregation by reason of its duty is constrained to declare that Professor Hans Küng, in his writings, has departed from the integral truth of Catholic faith, and therefore he can no longer be considered a Catholic theologian nor function as such in a teaching role.
At an Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect, the Supreme Pontiff Pope John Paul II approved this Declaration, decided upon at an Ordinary Meeting of this Sacred Congregation, and ordered its publication.
In Rome, at the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on Dec. 15, 1979.
Franjo Cardinal Šeper
Father Jérôme Hamer, O.P.
Titular Archbishop of Lorium
1. Cf. Conc. Vatic. I, Const. dogm. Dei Filius, cap. IV «De fide et ratione»: DS 3018; Conc. Vatic. II, Const. dogm. Lumen gentium, n. 12.
2. Cf. Conc. Vatic. II, Const. dogm. Dei Verbum, n. 10.
3. Paulus VI, Allocutio ad eos qui interfuerunt Congressui internationali de Theologia Concilii Vaticani II, Oct. 1, 1966: AAS 58 (1966), 891.
4. Cf. Ioannes Paulus II, Const. apost. Sapientia christiana, art. 70: AAS 71 (1979), 493; Encycl. Redemptor hominis, n. 19: AAS 71 (1979), 308.
5. Cf. Conc. Vatic. II, Const. dogm. Lumen gentium, nn. 11 and 25; Paulus VI, Adhort. apost. Quinque iam anni: AAS 63 (1971), 99f.
6. Cf. Const. apost. Sapientia christiana, tit. III, art. 27, par. 1: AAS 71 (1979), 483.
7. Cf. Motu proprio Integrae servandae, nn. 1, 3 and 4: AAS 57 (1965), 954.
8. Cf. AAS 67 (1975), 203-204.
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