Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


Ethical solutions to the global moral crisis

  • 18 December 2009

This is the first in a series of interviews recorded for Eureka Street at the Parliament of the World's Religions in Melbourne. It features one of the giants of Catholic theology of the 20th century, Hans Küng. He speaks about the need for interreligious dialogue, a global ethic and the state of the Catholic Church. (Continues below)

Küng was born in Switzerland in 1928 and, after studying at the prestigious Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, was ordained to the priesthood in 1954. He is a contemporary of Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, and both were among the expert theological advisors, the periti, at the Second Vatican Council.

Both men could be seen as symbols of their time, with each reacting differently to the same momentous events. The present Pope was deeply troubled by the turmoil of the 1960s and '70s, particularly by student unrest and riots, and retreated into Catholic tradition and a conservative mindset.

Küng was excited and energised by the same ferment, and has been a persistent champion of the reforms of Vatican II. He has a troubled history with Church authorities, mainly because of his critique of the papacy, particularly his rejection of the doctrine of papal infallibility. Because of this, his licence to teach as a Catholic theologian was revoked by the Vatican in 1979.

He is a prolific author, having written some 60 books in German, with around 40 available in English. He lectured in ecumenical theology at the University of Tübingen in the south of Germany until he retired from teaching in 1996.

Since the early 1990s Küng has been involved in interreligious dialogue. At the first modern Parliament of the World's Religions in Chicago in 1993, he presented his Declaration Toward a Global Ethic which was the result of extensive interfaith consultation. At the Melbourne Parliament, in reaction to the global financial crisis, he presented his Ethical Manifesto for the Global Economy.

Now in his early 80s, Küng is still very active travelling, writing and lecturing, and is president of the Global Ethic Foundation based in Tübingen.


Peter Kirkwood is a freelance writer and video consultant who worked for 23 years in the Religion and Ethics Unit of ABC TV. He has a Master's degree from the Sydney College of Divinity.