The dissident theologian Father Hans Kung has criticized Pope Benedict XVI as isolated and unable to take creative steps to deal with a series of internal church questions, including priestly celibacy and birth control.
Father Kung said the pope's recent lifting of the excommunications of four traditionalist bishops illustrated the pontiff's desire for a smaller and purer church, and his inability to make necessary reforms.
"The church risks becoming a sect. Many Catholics no longer expect anything from this pope. It's very sad," Father Kung said in an interview published by the French newspaper Le Monde Feb. 24.
His remarks drew a sharp comment from the dean of the College of Cardinals, Italian Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who told Vatican Radio he felt "wounded" when he read the interview.
"Fraternal criticism has always been possible in the church, from the times of Sts. Peter and Paul. Bitter criticism, on the other hand, especially when it's so broad, does not contribute to the unity of the church, for which Pope Benedict is working so hard," Cardinal Sodano said.