Q: “But hasn’t John Paul II given Communion to non-Catholics, making exceptions every now and then?”
A: “Of course he made exceptions, and probably also Cardinal Ratzinger [later Pope Benedict XVI] has made exceptions. That is the Roman way: to give favors to the favorites. It is an indication that they are not honest in this issue. If they would be honest, they would permit the others what they do themselves.”—Hans Kung quoted in Laura Sheahen, “Towards a 'Continual Reform of the Church': Interview with Hans Kung,” Beliefnet, February 2004
Today marks the 85th birthday of Dr. Hans Kung, the Swiss-born prelate who is the last surviving the last surviving theological adviser to Vatican II. In 1979, the Vatican stripped him of his authority to teach Catholic theology, though he remains a priest in good standing. In the decades since, he has tangled with the man whose hiring he had once urged at the University of Tubingen in Germany, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict VI). (One notably exception to this: a surprising talk the two had during Benedict's term as pope, when the cordiality of the meeting was largely maintained by sticking to subjects they could agree on.)
Some of Kung’s positions—notably, a call for “voluntary euthanasia”—are highly questionable. But the Church hierarchy swung into action against him most of all because of his criticism of its retreat from the Vatican II ideals of openness, with his broadsides against papal infallibility counting most heavily against him.
Through the years, the Church has been filled with theologians (e.g., Teilhard de Chardin) and even saints who have run afoul of its governing body from the Middle Ages, the Curia, only to be rehabilitated at a later time. Kung might not live enough to see the “Vatican Spring” he has called for, but in years to come he will be seen as a prophetic voice against a “Roman way” of hypocrisy and lack of internal dialogue, I'm sure. His tart response to the question above indicates impatience with a governing body unnecessarily arbitrary and petty.
(Photo of Hans Kung from 2009.)