Rhetorical Analysis: A Vatican Spring?

Rhetorical analysis is a form of criticism that uses rhetoric principles for examining and identifying the interactions between the author, the text, and the target audience. Rhetorical analysis is applicable for a literary work to communicate artistically and analyze a rhetorical artifact. Hans Kung is the author of ‘A Vatican Spring?,’ an article describing the resignation of the Pope Benedict XVI. It first appeared in print on 27 February 2013 in the New York Times. Kung is a Swiss theologian and priest. He is a professor emeritus of Ecumenical Theology at the University of Tubingen. Kung’s purpose of writing the article is criticizing the ruling of the former Pope Benedict XVI and his reasons for resignation. He also suggests on the issues, to which the next Pope should give the first priority. Kung adopts a zealous tone to create a strong and convincing article.

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In his article “A Vatican Spring?,” Kung identifies the general subject of the old monarchical habits in the Catholic Church and minimal efforts from recent Popes to change the doctrine to fit the modern societal perspectives and needs. The author advocates for a Pope who would bring a new spring in Vatican. This idea is the thesis of the whole article. Kung points out that, as an active theologian, he has the responsibility to push for changes in the church doctrine for the general good of Christianity. He points out that there should be new reformists in the Catholic Church, who are ready to change the doctrine without the Pope’s influence. This means that the cardinals should elect a Pope, who would bring about a new reforming council, which would set out new church rules in line with the general feelings of the congregation, priests, and bishops.

The purpose of Kuhn’s article is presenting the recent and current events in the Catholic Church and relating them with the Pope’s policy. Kuhn starts the essay with a comparison between the Arab Spring and the possible Vatican Spring. He notes that the Catholic Church does not use similar ideological and administrational perspectives as the Arab countries do. This opening statement is crucial since it captures the reader’s attention to the theme that the whole article is going to develop. Kuhn then goes ahead to providing a brief history of the revolutions that the Papacy has influenced, such as the decision of Pope Gregory in the 11th Century. He then compares these events to power that the two previous seats have influenced, by the Second Vatican Council. All through the essay, the author identifies the problems the Papacy has faced in light of Benedict XVI and John Paul II. He uses a serious tone to explain the level of the church’s grave situation today. The author then explains the necessary changes that the church should implement in the nearest future.

Kung’s target audience is the general Catholic community, including its leaders and administrators. This is obvious through the choice of words, by which the author refers to recent events in the Catholic life and its leaders. He had written the article in German, but translations to other languages show that it targets a worldwide audience. The article itself proves that he addresses the Catholic community when he alludes to the church needs with a desperate lack of priests and other church leaders. The writing also presents general feelings of the clergy concerning marriages and ordination of the women priests. Kung’s audience is Catholics all over the world since they are interested in the running of the church, as well as its doctrine.

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Kung’s persona is that of a theology specialist whose main interest is the running of the church and its doctrine. He also presents himself as an influential activist and one of the harshest critics of the Pope Benedict’s ruling. He outlines that it was quite a bold act for Pope Benedict to accept their meeting in Vatican regardless of their differences. This presents Kung’s persona as a critic who advocates for the good of the Catholic Church with expertise in religious matters that rarely receives the Pope’s approval. He also presents himself as an advocate for the well-being of Christianity in general regardless of the denomination. He believed that the meeting with the Pope was a sign of hope to the church. He shows that he is the people’s voice when he points out that the Pope made a poor decision by not accepting his recommendations.

On the part of the ethos, it is evident that Kung is an expert in theology. He is a professor of ecumenical theology in a university. Moreover, he is a qualified priest. He was also the Pope’s colleague in the university, which further proves his expertise. Kung explains that he has suffered a situation whereby the Pope revoked his teaching certificate due to his harsh criticism. He has solid experience in criticizing the Pope’s failures and decisions, which has led to a revocation of his certificate. He has adequate knowledge of the problems affecting the Catholic Church today and possible solutions. The author proves this when he outlines numerous scandals involving Pope Benedict XVI, some of which are not known to the general public, such as recent sexual scandals in Vatican. He uses this knowledge to bring out the Pope’s weaknesses fearlessly and give recommendations to cardinals on the election of the next Pope.

As an authoritative testimony, Kung comments on the decisions by Pope Benedict XVI, which irritated the Jews, the Protestant churches, pro-reform Catholics, Muslims, women, Indians of Latin America, and reform-minded theologians. He describes different decisions of the two Popes to provide evidence for the failures of their administration. He uses their decisions and actions as the basis for creating arguments against the Papal administration. These examples include the support of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre’s ideas of arch-conservativeness, which opposed the Second Vatican Council, and the fact that Benedict XVI resigned due to his inability to manage the church.

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The analogies in the text show that Kung reveals and explains the real problem of the church. The Catholic Church experiences a shortage in the priests and this issue should be addressed by the Pope since “huge numbers of people have left the church” Already (Kung n.p.). The article brings out an obligation by all bishops to follow the doctrine that the Pope gives unconditionally and without any question. That is why there have been no public declarations against the Pope initiated by the bishops. So far, these doctrines have gone against the people’s feelings. The article gives statistical data to show the feedback of the Catholics concerning the existing doctrine. A recent poll in Germany shows that 85 percent of Catholics in the country are in favor of priest marriages, 79 percent favor allowing divorced persons to remarry, and 75 percent are in favor of ordaining women as priests. These facts support Kung’s suggestion that the new Pope should set the new doctrine according to the people’s wish (Kung n.p.).

Kung does not give his recommendations as a final plan. He advises the cardinals and church leaders to discuss theologian and congregational issues before setting up any doctrine. The cardinals should also use their election power to choose a leader for the church, who would exhibit good Papal qualities. The article points out that the origin of the future Pope does not matter, as long as he is ready to focus on reforms and choose a new direction. Kung concludes by asserting that the election of the new Pope who is not able to support new doctrine and changes would lead to a situation whereby the church diminishes in faith and size (Kung n.p.).

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