Hans Küng fought his whole life for the reforms being weighed by the Vatican today. In a SPIEGEL interview, the elderly Swiss theologian discusses Pope Francis' chances to revolutionize the church, why John Paul II shouldn't be canonized and what he hopes to learn in heaven.
SPIEGEL: Professor Küng, will you go to heaven?
Küng: I certainly hope so.
SPIEGEL: Some would say you're going to hell because you are a heretic in the eyes of the church.
Küng: I'm not a heretic, but a critical reform theologian who, unlike many of his critics, uses the gospel instead of medieval theology, liturgy and church law as his benchmark.
SPIEGEL: Does hell even exist?
Küng: Alluding to hell is a warning that a person can completely neglect his purpose in life. I don't believe in an eternal hell.
SPIEGEL: If hell means losing one's purpose in life, it must be a pretty secularist notion.
Küng: Sartre says that hell is other people. People create their own hell -- in wars like the one in Syria, for example, as well as with unbridled capitalism.
SPIEGEL: In his essay "Fragment on the Subject of Religion," Thomas Mann admitted that he thought about death almost every day of his life. Do you?
Küng: Actually, I expected that I would die at an early age because I thought that, given the wild life I live, I wouldn't make it to my 50th birthday. Now I'm surprised to be 85 and still alive.
SPIEGEL: You went skiing for the last time in 2008. How does it feel to know that you're doing something for the last time?
Küng: It certainly makes me feel a little melancholy to think about that last time, when I standing up there in Lech, up in the Arlberg range. I love the clear, cold air in the Alps. It's where I used to air out my often tortured brain. But I accept my fate. In fact, I'm happy that I was still able to go skiing at 80.
SPIEGEL: You are an elderly, sick man. You have acute hearing loss, osteoarthritis and macular degeneration, which will destroy your ability to read.
Küng: That would be the worst thing, no longer being able to read.
SPIEGEL: You were diagnosed with Parkinson's disease a year ago.
Küng: Nevertheless, I still work very hard every day. And yet I interpret all of these things as warning signs of my impending death. My handwriting is getting small and often illegible, almost as if it were disappearing. My fingers are failing. It's a fact that my general condition ...
By Markus Grillin Spiegel on line International
December 12, 2013
Part 1: 'I Don't Cling to This Life'
Part 2: Pope Francis 'Has Introduced a Paradigm Shift'http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/controversial-theologian-hans-kueng-on-death-and-church-reform-a-938501-2.html
Part 3: 'Churchgoers Are Largely in Support of Church Reform'