The Vatican today confirmed, "with great regret," the teaching ban imposed on nonconformist theologian Hans Kung, but said it had not given up hope that the 51-year-old Swiss-born priest and professor would bring his position into line with traditional Roman Catholic thinking.
The statement made it clear that an unusual, five-hour meeting Friday between Pope John Paul II and a delegation of West German bishops had failed to find a compromise solution for the move, which has angered liberal Roman Catholic and left the Vatican open to charges of intellectual repression.
Kung, who was informed of the decision yesterday, reacted bitterly today, accusing the pope of condemning "a man he has not heard."
"The pope did not consider it necessary to personally hear a Catholic theologian who has tried to serve his church with his best knowledge and conscience for 25 years," Kung said in a statement from Tubingen, West Germany. He also accused Vatican officials of using "all methods of spiritual force to silence a troublesome critic."
On Dec. 18, the Vatican's Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith obtained the pope's approval for a teaching ban on Kung, who has frequently used his post as professor of dogmatic and ecumenical theology at Tubingen University to express views that differed from major church positions on such issues as papal infallibility and the divinity of Christ.
Since then Kung has tried to justify his position in hopes of obtaining a reversal of the ban. On Dec. 22 his bishop, Georg Moser, flew to Rome to confer with the pope and bring him a letter from Kung.
Bishop Moser, who has shown his eagerness to find a compromise by refraining until today from officially communicating the teaching ban to either Kung or to West German state education authorities, is thought to have been instrumental in arranging a second meeting.
On Friday, Moser and four other West German bishops met with the pontiff, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, and two officials of the Sacred Congregation.
According to the Vatican statement today, "Everyone at the meeting agreed that unfortunately there were not sufficient grounds to alter the decision. In such a situation," it continued, "Professor Kung plainly cannot continue to carry out the duties of a theologian and teach with the authority of the church."
The statement said the decision had been made "inevitable" by the need to "protect the right of the faithful to receive in its entirety all the truth taught by the church."
It added that Friday's meeting was "one more proof that both the Holy See and the German Episcopate are continuing to deal with the problem of Professor Kung with an open mind."
Kung's statement today said: "Rome accepts no loyal criticism . . . Human rights and Christian love are preached for the public but disregarded internally."
In the week before the Vatican acted against Kung, it questioned the distinquished Dutch theologian, Edward Schillebeeckx, about possible error in his views on the divinity of christ.
The Vatican is also investigating allegations of doctrinal deviation in the work of Leonardo Boff, a Brazilian Franciscan, who is considered the principal theoretician of the controversial "theology of liberation" espoused throughout Latin American by many Catholics.