Perhaps time has come for third Vatican council
That is why I write in my assessment of the council on December 17th/18th, 1965, quite unmistakably: “The tension between a church that embraces reform and an unwilling curia can only produce – as in the council – a serious crisis. If, at least over time, the few forces of renewal in Rome do not gain the upper hand (not least through the filling of high positions in the curia) and if, as they have to some extent suggested, the others seek to restore the pre-conciliar situation, it can only lead to a great crisis of trust.
“Only the reform of the curia, in personnel and structures, can help to avert such a crisis. Here too, the renewal of the spirit and the conversion of the heart is most decisive.”
Then I clearly outline the questions that were not discussed at the council or simply could not be discussed at all. So what are the questions not resolved by the council?
* Birth control and personal responsibility.
* The regulation of mixed marriages (the validity of the marriage, raising of children).
* Priestly celibacy in the Latin church.
* Structural and personnel reform of the Roman curia.
* Reform of penance: Confession, abstinence, fasting.
* Reform of ecclesiastical dress and titles.
Effective engagement of the affected levels of the church in the appointment of bishops. Transfer of the election of the pope from the College of Cardinals to a synod of bishops representative of the church.
Listing out these suggestions, I think not least of Pope Paul VI, to whom I also sent my assessment in Epoca. But when I think back again after the end of the council on the recommendations in Council and Reunion, which were viewed five years earlier as extreme demands, I can say now: the council was, despite all the disappointments, worth it. Where would we be without this council – in liturgy, theology, pastoral care, ecumenism, in relations with Judaism, the other world religions, with the secular world itself? Vatican II certainly did not, by a long way, do all it could have done. But it achieved far more than most expected. At that time, I wrote the sentence: “The council will be the fulfilment of a great hope or a great disappointment. The fulfillment of a small hope will be – given the seriousness of the state of the world and the urgent need for Christianity – a great disappointment.”
Today too, looking back after 50 years, I can say: the council did, despite all its not inconsiderable disappointments, fulfil a great hope. One hoped the pope and the bishops would make further strides along the path of the council – through the renewal of the church, ecumenical understanding, opening to the modern world. Unfortunately, the opposite has happened and so more and more voices are raised, calling for a third Vatican council.
Swiss theologian Fr Hans Küng is a long-time critic and former colleague of Pope Benedict XVI. Fr Küng and the then Joseph Ratzinger were the youngest theologians at the Second Vatican Council from 1962 to 1965.