Hans Küng (b. March 19, 1928), is an eminent Swiss Roman Catholic theologian and a prolific author. Since 1995 he has been President of the Foundation for a Global Ethic. Küng is a Roman Catholic priest, but the Vatican has rescinded his authority to teach Catholic theology.
Küng studied theology and philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and was ordained in 1954. He then continued his education in various European cities, for example at the Sorbonne in Paris. His doctoral thesis was entitled Justification: Doctrines of Karl Barth and a Catholic Reflection.
In 1960 Küng was appointed professor of theology at Eberhard Karls University, Tübingen, Germany. Just like his colleague Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI), in 1962 he was appointed peritus by Pope John XXIII, serving as an expert theological advisor to members of the Second Vatican Council until its conclusion in 1965. At the instigation of Küng the Catholic Faculty at Tübingen appointed Ratzinger as professor of dogmatics. However, due to the fact that Ratzinger moved in a more conservative direction in the reaction to the 1968 students revolt, the cooperation between the two came to an end.
In the late 1960s Küng became the first major Roman Catholic theologian after the late 19th century Old Catholic Church schism to reject the doctrine of papal infallibility, in particular in his book Infallible? An Inquiry (1971). Consequently, on December 18, 1979, he was stripped of his license to teach as a Roman Catholic theologian but carried on teaching as a tenured professor of ecumenical theology at the University of Tübingen until his retirement (Emeritierung) in 1996. To this day he remains a persistent critic of papal authority, which he claims is man-made (and thus reversible) rather than instituted by God. He was not excommunicated and remains a Roman Catholic priest.
In the early 1990s Küng initiated a project called Weltethos (Global Ethic), which is an attempt at describing what the world religions have in common (rather than what separates them) and at drawing up a minimal code of rules of behaviour everyone can accept. His vision of a global ethic was embodied in the document for which he did the initial draft, Towards a Global Ethic: An Initial Declaration. This Declaration was signed at the 1993 Parliament of the World's Religions by many religious and spiritual leaders from around the world. Later Küng's project would culminate into the UN's "Dialogue among Civilizations" to which Küng was assigned as one of 19 "Eminent Persons". Even though completed shortly after September 11 (in November 2001), there was no coverage in the US media, something Küng complained about.
Based on "Studium Generale"—lectures at Tubingen University, his latest publication The Beginning of All Things discusses the relationship between science and religion. In an analysis spanning from quantum physics to neuroscience he also comments on the current debate about evolution in the United States, dismissing those opposed to evolution as "naive un-enlightened."
"If you cannot see that divinity includes male and female characteristics and at the same time transcends them, you have bad consequences. Rome and Cardinal O'Connor base the exclusion of women priests on the idea that God is the father and Jesus is his son, there were only male disciples, etc. They are defending a patriarchal church with a patriarchal God. We must fight the patriarchal misunderstanding of God." — Newsweek interview, July 8, 1991
"Everyone agrees the celibacy rule is just a church law dating from the 11th century, not a divine command." — Newsweek interview, July 8, 1991
- Structures of the Church (1966) ISBN 0824505085
- Infallible? An Inquiry (1971) ISBN 0385184832
- Why Priests? (1972) ISBN 0006430155
- On Being A Christian (1977, repr. 2008) ISBN 038519286X / ISBN 184706406X
- Does God Exist? An Answer For Today (1980) ISBN 08245-1119-0
- Eternal Life? (1984) ISBN 1592442099
- Why I Am Still a Christian (1987) ISBN 0567291340 (Echoing Russell's essay, Why I Am Not a Christian)
- Paradigm Change in Theology (1989) ( ISBN 0567094944)
- Reforming the Church Today: Keeping Hope Alive (1991) ISBN 0567095789
- The Church (1992) ISBN 0860121992
- Yes to a Global Ethic (1996) ISBN 0334026334
- A Global Ethic for Global Politics and Economics (1997) ISBN 0334026865
- Women in Christianity (2002) ISBN 0826456863
- Tracing the Way. Spiritual Dimensions of the World Religions (2002) ISBN 0826456839
- The Catholic Church: A Short History (2002) ISBN 1842124943
- The Beginning of All Things (2005) ISBN 3492047874