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Posted March 3, 2003

Book: The Catholic Church: A Short History
Author: Hans Kung
Random House Inc. New York, pp. 230

From the Introduction:

The Catholic Church: A Short History seeks to convey facts above all it is intended to provide orientation in three respect:

First, basic information about this tremendous dramatic and complex historical process; not about all the countless currents and the leading personalities of different eras or territories, but above all about the main lines of development, dominant structures, and influential figures.

Second, a critical-historical stocktaking of twenty centuries of the Catholic Church. Of course, there will be no petty condemnation and quibbling, but for all the chronological narratives, time and again there will be objective analysis and criticism to indicate how and why the Catholic Church has become what it is today.

Third, a concrete challenge to introduce reform in the direction of what the Catholic Church is and could be. There will certainly be no extrapolations and prognoses of the future, which no one can give, but there will be realistic perspectives offering hope for a church which, I am convinced, still has a future in the third millennium — provided that it fundamentally renews itself, in keeping with both the gospel and the age.

Excerpt from Book:

Four conditions need to be met if the church is to have a future in the third millennium.

1. It must not turn backward and fall in love with the Middle Ages or the time of the Reformation or the Enlightenment, but be a church rooted in its Christian origin and concentrated on its present tasks.

2. It must not be patriarchal, fixated on stereotyped images of women, exclusively male language, and predetermined gender roles, but be a church of partnership, which combines office and charism and accepts women in all church ministries.

3. It must not be narrowly confessional and succumb to confessional exclusiveness, the presumption of officialdom, and the refusal of communion, but be an ecumenically open church, which practices ecumenical statements with ecumenical actions like the recognition of ministries, the abolition of all excommunications, and complete Eucharistic fellowship.

4. It must not be Eurocentric and put forward any exclusivist Christian claims and show a Roman imperialism, but be a tolerant universal church which has respect for the truth that is always greater, and therefore also attempt to learn from the other religions and leave an appropriate autonomy to the national, regional, and local churches.

Table of Contents:

I. The Beginnings of the Church
Founded on Jesus?
The meaning of “Church”
Was Jesus Catholic?
The earliest Church
A fellowship made up of Jews
The break between Jews and Christians

II. The Early Catholic Church
The Pauline churches
The birth of the Catholic hierarchy
A persecuted minority endures

III. The Imperial Catholic Church
A universal religion for the universal empire
The state church
The bishop of Rome claims supremacy
The father of western theology
the Trinity reinterpreted
The City of God

IV. The Papal Church
The first real Pope
Errant popes, papal forgeries, and papal trials
Medieval piety
A state for the Pope
The western equation: Christian=Catholic=Roman
Catholic morality
The legal basis for future romanization

V. The Church is Split
A revolution “from above”
The romanized Catholic Church
Heretics and the inquisition
The Great Theological Synthesis
The ongoing life of Christians

VI. Reform, Reformation, or Counter-Reformation?
The end of papal domination
Thwarted reform
Renaissance, but not for the Church
Was the program of the reformation Catholic?
Responsibility for the split
The Roman Catholic Counter-Reformation

VII. The Catholic Church Versus Modernity
A new time
The scientific and philosophical revolution: Reason
The Church and the Copernican shift
The cultural and theological revolution: progress
The consequences of the Enlightenment for the Church
The political revolution: nation
The Church and the revolution
The technological and industrial revolution: industry
A sweeping condemnation of modernity — the council of the counter-enlightenment

VIII. The Catholic Church — Present and Future
Silence about the Holocaust
The most significant pope of the twentieth century
Restoration instead of renewal
Betrayal of the council
New departures at the grass roots
A Vatican III with John XXIV

Conclusion: Which Church has a future?

Epilogue: Can the Catholic Church save itself?