By John-Henry Westen

The media is rife with stories about the meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and famed Catholic dissident Hans Küng. There is also much heated debate within Catholic circles over what the (according to Küng) 4-hour meeting, signified.

Many orthodox Catholics are chalking the meeting up to the fact that Küng and Pope Benedict are old friends turned enemies and now reacquainted in their old age. So-called ‘liberal’ or dissident Catholics are reading into the meeting a ‘new openness’ to dissident views. Küng himself is musing about the meeting as a sign of new “openness” on the part of Pope Benedict.

While Küng has given several interviews following his meeting with the Pope, the only official message to come from the Vatican on the meeting contained few details. For the best summary of Küng’s take on the meeting and his dissident history see John Allen’s report in the National Catholic Reporter here: (warning: it is a dissident Catholic publication)

Küng suggests that Pope Benedict himself penned the Vatican statement on the meeting, checking it with Küng prior to releasing it. The text (which can be viewed here: ) acknowledges the meeting but does not note the duration, and confirms that it was held in a “friendly atmosphere” and did not delve into doctrinal disputes. The statement notes that the discussion centered on Küng’s ‘Weltethos’ (global ethics) project. The Vatican statement says “The Pope welcomed Professor Kung’s efforts to contribute to a renewed recognition of the essential moral values of humanity through the dialogue of religions and in the encounter with secular reason. He stressed that the commitment to a renewed awareness of the values that sustain human life is also an important objective of his own pontificate.”

The push for “values that sustain human life” on the part of the Pope seems to be the only significant point the Vatican has made with the announcement.

But for those following the global ethics project, that intervention by the Pope is significant indeed.

Küng first pushed his notion of a global ethic at the United Nations in 1991 and then at the Parliament of World Religions in 1993. There the gathered religious leaders adopted the declaration “Towards a Global Ethic” which became a rallying cry both in UN documents and gatherings of international leaders culminating in the formation of the Earth Charter by former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev and Canadian-born UN environmentalist guru Maurice Strong. The founding documents of the Earth Charter credit Küng’s global ethics with its underpinning.

While the global ethics document is amorphous and open-ended, the Earth Charter is in favour of abortion under the UN code words of ‘reproductive’ health in relation to population control. The Charter’s resolution 7 calls all to “Adopt patterns of production, consumption, and reproduction that safeguard Earth’s regenerative capacities, human rights, and community well-being” and in subsection ‘e’ calls on people to “Ensure universal access to health care that fosters reproductive health and responsible reproduction.”

The Earth Charter has been criticized as a “new age Ten Commandments” seeking to supersede religious moral codes. Indeed the Earth Charter website ( ) boasts of nearly 15,000 “Groups, organizations and individuals from around the world, representing millions of people” which have officially endorsed the Earth Charter.

With the Pope stressing pro-life concerns to Küng, the progenitor of the Earth Charter, he can be seen as addressing the problem of the global ethic at its root. The Catholic Church has long acknowledged a system of moral ethics which can be agreed upon even without religious belief – that of natural law. However, current secular morality, such as that of the Earth Charter,Âhas rejected natural law on issues of life and family and has turned evil into good and good into evil.Â

In the new morality, the right to life of the unborn has been translated into an anti-woman stance. In fact, the UN frequently pushes for abortion in the context of stopping maternal mortality, thus opposition to the availability of “safe, legal” abortion is seen as an anti-life position.Â

Faithful adherence to religion is also seen as tantamount to extremism leading to violence. The terrorism of Muslim extremism has lent itself neatly to that thesis.Â

Thus a moral code or global ethic superseding religious tenets sits well with many – a prescription for a world religion, not calling itself a religion, but a religion nonetheless.Â