Apologia pro Marcel Lefebvre
Volume 3, Chapter XIX

An Encyclical from the Pope Tübingen


22 March 1980

Volume II of the Apologia contains an article by Louis Salleron in which he comments on Küng's action in sending the Pope a "fraternal reprimand" as "an act of charity." Professor Salleron referred to Küng as "the pope of Tübingen,” and wondered whether the Pope of Rome would submit to him or declare him a schismatic (pp. 356-357). There is, alas, little in the Church today which can give traditional Catholics cause for mirth. But sometimes, like Molière, we must laugh to prevent ourselves from crying. The statement which follows is the full text of what can only be described as an " encyclical" from the "Pope of Tübingen." The only sane reaction to it must be one of unmitigated hilarity. I must assure readers that it is totally genuine, really was written by Küng, and really is meant to be taken seriously. It is definitely not a hoax, something written by a conservative to deflate what must be the most massively inflated Liberal ego of the post-conciliar epoch. Pope Küng's “encyclical” was published in the 22 March 1980 issue of The Tablet, and in numerous journals in numerous languages throughout the world. The fact that the editors of such publications did take this "encyclical" seriously indicates the lack if seriousness with which we should take them.

Open Letter from Hans Küng

Your many demonstrations of solidarity from all over the world have been overwhelming; I received around 6,000 letters and telegrams – not counting the numerous oral expressions of support – from people of all occupations and age groups. With this letter I would like to express my deepest thanks to you. You can imagine that the past weeks have not been easy for me and for my aides here in Tübingen. The burden often reached the limits of our physical and emotional capacity, but it was above all your support which enabled us to survive in spite of everything. It gave us the feeling that we are not alone in our fight to have people in our Church treated in a Christian way, and for a renewal which is guided by the message of Jesus Christ Himself.

Many distortions and untruths have been disseminated in the past three months, particularly by the official Church. For the sake of my own credibility, I therefore felt it necessary to publicly set forth my basic theological position once again in the article, "Why I remain a Catholic." I am enclosing this article. It can serve you and your friends as a basis for information and discussion.

You know that the conditions under which my missio canonica was taken away from me cannot be called just and fair. One cannot detect a trace of honesty or Christian fraternity in them; on the contrary, they breathe the spirit of the Inquisition! In the past three months it has become more than clear that the present conflict is certainly no longer the " Küng case" (if it ever was), although Church officials would like to reduce it to that. No, what is at issue here – in the context of the "cases" of J. Pohier, E. Schillebeeckx, J. G. Metz, of North American moral theologians and South American liberation theologians – is nothing more and nothing less than the direction which the Catholic Church intends to take in the coming decade. Will it be back to Pius XII, to the pre-Vatican II era, in which, in the early fifties, there were also "purgings," or forward along the lines of John XXIII towards a church of dialogue, a church which is open, humane, Christian?

Many are asking, "What can one do? Put up with everything? Is it worth it working for a Church which treats people like this?" Many have been overcome with sorrow, resignation, bitterness, and I can certainly understand these reactions well enough. And yet, resignation would be the worst possible reaction at the moment! One should not give this pleasure to the opponents of, nor this grief to, the friends of renewal. No, we must, once again, soberly and with realistic hope, assert our position in this Church of Jesus Christ, which I am still not prepared to confuse with the ecclesiastical apparatus. Already over eight years ago 33 Catholic theologians published a manifesto in the National Catholic Reporter and The Tablet entitled “Against Resignation in the Church." Today, applied to our situation, it is as up to date as it was then. It does not offer quick, pet solutions, but it does suggest concrete principles for how to proceed in a difficult situation, one which also varies from place to place.

We must not be silent. The requirements of the gospel and the needs and hopes of our time are in many outstanding questions so unambiguous that silence out of opportunism, lack of courage or superficiality can involve guilt just as much as the silence of many responsible people at the time of Reformation. We must act ourselves. Complaining about Rome and the bishops is not enough. Whenever human rights are violated in the Church today, it always depends on the initiative of individuals to set change in motion. We must advance together. One member of the parish who goes to the parish priest does not count, five can be troublesome, fifty can change the situation. One parish priest does not count in the diocese, five are given attention, fifty are invincible. We must seek provisional solution. Discussions alone do not help. It is often necessary to show that we are serious. Pressure on the ecclesiastical authorities in the spirit of Christian fraternity can be legitimate when office-holders fall short of their mandate. Many changes in Church history (liturgy, tolerance, democracy, human rights) have been achieved only as a result of continual pressure from below in a spirit of loyalty. We must not give up. The greatest temptation in the renewal of the Church is the excuse that there is no point in it all, that we can make no headway and we had better get out of it: we leave altogether or withdraw into ourselves. But if there is no hope there can be no action. Therefore: particularly in a phase of stagnation and setbacks the important thing is to endure it and hold out with confident faith. Opposition can be expected. But there is no renewal without a struggle.

Once again, thank you very much, and remember that the most important thing is not to lose sight of the goal, to proceed steadily and decisively and not to cease hoping for a truly Christian Church.


Chapter 18

Courtesy of the Angelus Press, Regina Coeli House
2918 Tracy Avenue, Kansas City, MO 64109