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The Catholic Church: A Short History (Modern Library Chronicles) [Paperback]

By Hans Kung (Author)
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Item description for The Catholic Church: A Short History (Modern Library Chronicles) by Hans Kung...

The renowned theologian and historian presents a landmark history of the Roman Catholic Church, from its origins to the present day, that discusses the role of the papacy, the schisms that split the church, and the role of the Catholic Church in the twenty-first century as it confronts issues of women's rights, scientific development, and more. Reprint. 40,000 first printing.

Publishers Description
In this extraordinary book, the controversial and profoundly influential Hans Küng chronicles the Roman Catholic Church's role as a world power throughout history. Along the way, he examines the great schisms—between East and West, and Catholic and Protestant—as well as the evolving role of the papacy, the stories of the great reforming popes, and the expansion of a global church infrastructure. The book concludes with a searching assessment of how the Catholic faith will confront the immense challenges posed in the new millennium by those seeking reform of traditional strictures.
“This much-needed book tells the truth about the Catholic past for the sake of the church's future.” —James Carroll

“Hans Küng has done more to shape contemporary Catholic hope than anyone else, and with The Catholic Church he does it again.” —James Carroll, author of Constantine's Sword

“One of the greatest theologians of the twentieth century, Hans Küng . . . is one of the world's great mavericks. . . . Indeed, he was once called ‘the greatest threat to the Catholic Church since Martin Luther.'” —The Independent (London)

“A well-told, sweeping, and often incisive portrait.” —Kirkus Reviews
Hans Küng obtained a doctorate in theology from the Sorbonne in 1957. In 1962 he was named a theological consultant for the Second Vatican Council by Pope John XXIII, and he played a major role in the writing of the documents of Vatican II, which radically modernized key areas of Catholic teaching. The author of many books, he lives and teaches in Tübingen, Germany.
As the author of The Catholic Church: A Short History, I want to say quite openly, right at the beginning, that despite all my experiences of how merciless the Roman system can be, the Catholic Church, this fellowship of believers, has remained my spiritual home to the present day.

That has consequences for this book. Of course, the history of the Catholic Church can also be told in a different way. A neutral description of it can be given by experts in religion or historians who are not personally involved in this history. Or it can be described by a hermeneutical philosopher or theologian, concerned with understanding, for whom to understand everything is also to forgive everything. However, I have written this history as someone who is involved in it. I can understand phenomena like intellectual repression and the Inquisition, the burning of witches, the persecution of Jews, and discrimination against women from the historical context, but that does not mean that I can therefore forgive them in any way. I write as one who takes the side of those who became victims or already in their time recognized and censured particular church practices as being un-Christian.

To be quite specific and quite personal, I write as one who was born into a Catholic family, in the little Swiss Catholic town of Sursee, and who went to school in the Catholic city of Lucerne.

I then lived for seven whole years in Rome in the elite papal Collegium Germanicum et Hungaricum and studied philosophy and theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University. When I was ordained priest I celebrated the Eucharist for the first time in St. Peter's and gave my first sermon to a congregation of Swiss Guards.

After gaining my doctorate in theology at the Institut Catholique in Paris, I worked for two years as a pastor in Lucerne. Then, in 1960, at the age of thirty-two, I became professor of Catholic theology at the University of Tiibingen.

I took part in the Second Vatican Council, between 1962 and 1965, as an expert nominated by John XXIII, taught in Tiibingen for two decades, and founded the Institute for Ecumenical Research, of which I was director.

In 1979 1 then had personal experience of the Inquisition under another pope. My permission to teach was withdrawn by the church, but nevertheless I retained my chair and my institute (which was separated from the Catholic faculty).

For two further decades I remained unswervingly faithful to my church in critical loyalty, and to the present day I have remained professor of ecumenical theology and a Catholic priest in good standing.

I affirm the papacy for the Catholic Church, but at the same time indefatigably call for a radical reform of it in accordance with the criterion of the gospel.

With a history and a Catholic past like this, should I not be capable of writing a history of the Catholic Church which is both committed and objective? Perhaps it could prove even more exciting to hear the story of this church from an insider who has been involved in such a way. Of course, I shall be just as concerned to be objective as any neutral person (if there really are such people in matters of religion). However, I am convinced that personal commitment and matter-of-fact objectivity can as well be combined in a history of the church as they can in the history of a nation.

From the Hardcover edition.

Citations And Professional Reviews
The Catholic Church: A Short History (Modern Library Chronicles) by Hans Kung has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
  • Wilson Public Library Catalog - 12/31/2008 page 118
  • Wilson Public Library Catalog - 01/01/2004 page 90

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Modern Library
Pages   272
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8" Width: 5.2" Height: 0.5"
Weight:   0.44 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jan 7, 2003
Publisher   Modern Library
ISBN  0812967623  
ISBN13  9780812967623  

Availability  4 units.
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More About Hans Kung

Hans Kung Hans Küng, (born March 19, 1928, Sursee, Switz.), Swiss Roman Catholic theologian whose controversial liberal views led to his censorship by the Vatican in 1979.

Küng studied at Gregorian University in Rome and obtained a doctorate in theology from the Catholic Institute at the Sorbonne in 1957. He was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 1954, and he taught at the University of Münster in West Germany (1959–60) and at the University of Tübingen (1960–96), where he also directed the Institute for Ecumenical Research from 1963. In 1962 he was named by Pope John XXIII a peritus (theological consultant) for the second Vatican Council.

Küng’s prolific writings questioned the formulation of such traditional church doctrine as papal infallibility, the divinity of Christ, and teachings about the Virgin Mary. In 1979 a Vatican censure that banned his teaching as a Catholic theologian provoked international controversy, and in 1980 a settlement was reached at Tübingen that allowed him to teach under secular rather than Catholic auspices. His more recent research has focused on interreligious cooperation and the creation of a global ethic. His publications include Rechtfertigung: Die Lehre Karl Barths und eine Katholische Besinnung (1957; Justification: The Doctrine of Karl Barth and a Catholic Reflection), Konzil und Wiedervereinigung (1960; The Council, Reform, and Reunion), Die Kirche (1967; The Church), Unfehlbar? (1970; Infallible?), Christ sein (1974; On Being a Christian), Existiert Gott? (1978; Does God Exist?), and Ewiges Leben? (1982; Eternal Life?).

Hans Kung has an academic affiliation as follows - Global Ethics Foundation.

Hans Kung has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Continuum Icons
  2. Modern Library Chronicles

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Catholicism > General
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Catholicism > Roman Catholicism
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Catholicism
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History > Church History

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Reviews - What do customers think about The Catholic Church: A Short History (Modern Library Chronicles)?

A palliative  Apr 13, 2008
After noticing a large number of reviewers who did not like the book, it seemed appropriate to suggest an alternative. Additionally, for those who support Kung's position despite his repeated condemnations, they ought to read what the other side has to say in reply. If one wishes to read a coherent, authoritative, and comprehensive answer to absurd positions like the ones taken in Kung's book, an excellent place to start would be "The Papal Monarchy" by Dom Prosper Gueranger The Papal Monarchy.

It's a very old book, but it deals explicitly with the background of papal infallibility through its foundations in Scripture, tradition, philosophy, church councils, and the teachings of saints. Many direct quotations taken from these sources are utilized by Blessed Gueranger that explicitly undermine the speculations of modern "theologians" like the heresiarch Kung. It must be noted that the intended target to this 19th century book were Gallicanists, but they held many of the same positions of Kung regarding the papacy, they just weren't as extreme in their "democratic" (so-called) agenda. Still, some of the roots are quite similar, so the book can be easily applied to Kung's doctrines.

I hope this helps those looking for a more accurate view of the papacy and its history. Incidentally, the work does not claim to be a history of the Church, only a defence of the papacy, yet it still manages to be longer than Kung's marxist pamphlet.
This book even in its brevity could form the basis for any course in the history of ecclesiology, branching like a mighty oak into further readings and discussions and prayerful meditations. Alone it forms the basis for much lectio divina and the contemplation of Our wayfaring Pilgrim Church.

As noted in the first editorial review on this product page, it tells us much we need to hear even if we do not wish to hear, and it provides the scholarly resources which support its statements and summaries in an academic, not polemical, manner. Father Kung has long been an excellent educator, having taught even Popes, having taught even an entire Ecumenical Council, and here, as ever, he does not fail us.

Father Hans Kung always serves as a great communicator, rendering comprehensible theological concepts which otherwise lay beyond our grasp. Many are dismayed at reading, for example, another great Catholic theologian like Father Schillebeeckx, finding his reliance upon technical and theological and philosophical terms far beyond their preparation. Yet miraculously Father Kung always brings us home the bacon, without falling into superficiality, without hollow sentimentality.

Thus we gratefully receive this excellent text, this Short History of the Catholic Church, comprehensive yet concise, clear as a mountain lake, yet as deep. Even now, years after its publication, we find much wisdom and knowledge here, and food for further thought and research. Fortunately we find in this Modern Library edition not only the new Epilogue, but also Questions for Discussion, which should enliven any parish's church basements get-togethers, any catechetical classroom, and university hall.

Highly recommended as portal to a truer and more complete knowledge, and thus love, of our Holy Mother Church.
Great overview with a lively punch  Aug 7, 2007
This book provides a wonderful, short history of the Catholic Church. Kung, a leading dissident priest and theologian, obviously has a few axes to grind - - but, it must be said, his axes are the right ones to grind.

Kung builds his story around a series of key moments in the history of the Roman Catholic Church. At each point, the Church faced a choice - - reform in the face of its critics, or stonewall. Kung obviously favors the reformist route, exemplified by the favorable responses to St. Francis of Assisi or the reforms of Vatican II. The Great Schism with Orthodoxy and the Protestant Reformation are the Church's greatest failures. Both reflect the same root cause, the growing doctrine of papal infallibility.

If you think the Roman Catholic Church is always right, that argument will make you mad. But if you value a Christian community of believers - - the True Church, it must be recalled - - it's hard to argue that the great moments of disunity are that community's greatest failures. The big puzzle, which Kung is not equipped to explore, is why the Protestants and Orthodox churches haven't been able to make common cause over the last half millennium.

Since he's focused on Rome, Kung doesn't examine that. However, he tells the story of his own church very well. He knows what's important, and most importantly, he knows what isn't. The prose is lively, so we must also praise the translator. All in all, it's exactly what a short and pithy history should be - - short, to be sure, but with a real point.

Any American interested in the history of Christianity, regardless of denomination, should read this book. When American Protestants and Catholics talk, they end up turning to the Reformation. This book suggests that we should be talking about the Great Schism instead, and we should bring our Orthodox sisters and brothers into the conversation. Kung's book can help us do this.
Hardly Anything A Protestant Does not Already Know  Aug 6, 2007
I am from a Protestant backgound, and I know little of the Catholic Church except what I have gotten from Protestent polemics, my Catholic friends, and general reading of history. Kung relates with some detail ths various and numerous "sins" of the Church: the hypocrisy of the clergy in matters of sexuality, the vast acquistion of wealth,the horrors of the inquisition, the indulgences, the rigid refusal to give up Aristotelian science,the self serving doctrine of papal infallibility, the power of the Curia, the anti-semitism, the Church's blind eye to the Holocaust, and many more. All of this many people already know. What I did hope to get out of this was some explanation of the doctrinal debates in the early centuries, apart from the fact that they occured; an in-depth explanation of the theological differences with Luther and Calvin; and most of all some detailed history of the sacraments -- their changing meaning and practical importance to the masses of catholic. None of this is discussed with any detail, or except as a polemic to emphasize his own radical views. The book is perhaps an introduction to Kung's own views -- I have not read them. But as a history of any of the main themes of the Catholic Church it is very poor: no sacraments, no liturgy, no attention to the monastic orders, no attention to the role or art and architecture, and much more.
little book with lots of information  Aug 2, 2007
I like the fact that the author himself is a catholic priest. The history of the Catholic church is not taught very much in church and especially not parts about the mistakes the church makes. The book is hard to read for me probably because it is translated from german. I generally find translated book hard to read.

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