HAMBURG, Germany - The dissident Roman Catholic theologian Hans Kung has severely criticised the activity of Pope John Paul II, accusing the pontiff of betraying the Second Vatican Council.
Asked what have been the outstanding services of the pope--who is 80 on Thursday--Kung said he was "the first media pope" but that "in no single controversial question--from the contraceptive pill to the ordination of women--has he been able to rally opinion beyond that of the church hierarchy."
Kung's comments came in an interview with the German news agency DPA.
The pope's reconciliation with Judaism was a continuation of that begun by Pope John XXIII, while communism collapsed of its own accord, Kung said, arguing that the pope's only direct influence had been in his native Poland.
Asked about the repression of theological debate and the lack of internal church reform under Pope John Paul II, Kung replied: "The worst is his betrayal of the Vatican Council."
"Instead of a modernization in the evangelic spirit, one has gone back to the traditional fundamental Catholic lessons--rigorous moral encyclicals, traditionalist-imperialist world catechism. Instead of a collegiality between the pope and the bishops, there is an authoritarian Roman centralism expressed in the nomination of bishops and the attribution of theological seats over the interests of local churches.
"Instead of an opening to the modern world, there are complaints and scoldings about a supposed adaptation to it and the encouragement of traditional forms of piety. Instead of dialogue, there is more inquisition and a rejection of freedom of thought and teaching in the Church. Instead of ecumenism there is again emphasis on everything narrowly Roman Catholic."
Kung was an adviser to the Second Vatican Council, which was started under John XXIII and ran from 1962 to 1965. Vatican II, as it became known, aimed to reconsider the church's position in the modern world. It dropped the Latin Mass for local languages and promoted open dialogue with non-Christian religions.
Despite his prominence as a theologian, Kung has consistently criticized papal authority. He has been sanctioned by church authorities several times, and his book entitled "The Church" was banned by the Vatican in 1967.
Kung insisted that the successor to John Paul II will have "huge tasks" in dealing with delayed reforms in matters such as contraception, celibacy, the ordination of women, and advice to women seeking an abortion.
German church authorities withdrew his theological professorship at the Catholic University of Tuebingen, in southern Germany, in 1979, but he has been permitted to go on teaching in an independent institute there.