Skip to comments.Benedict's Logic: A Church Contracting & Expanding Simultaneously
Posted on 04/27/2005 6:42:39 AM PDT by Knitting A Conundrum
Benedict's Logic: A Church Contracting & Expanding Simultaneously
There is a caricature afloat of Pope Benedict's view of the Church's present and future that goes like this: "The new Pope thinks that the Church must become smaller and purer. This view contradicts the expansionary vision of the late John Paul II." The caricature is wrong. There is no contradiction here between the vision of John Paul the Great and Pope Benedict. All the world just heard Pope Benedict at the Roman church dedicated to the great missionary Apostle Paul proclaiming evangelization as the central task of the Church.
Let's correct the caricature by looking at what Cardinal Ratzinger said on this issue in 2000. I begin by quoting German journalist Peter Seewald's question to the cardinal on this matter:
Many years ago, you made a prophetic statement about the Church: The Church, you said at the time, will "become small, and will to a great extent have to start over again. But after a time of testing, an internalized and simplified Church will radiate great power and influence; for the population of a[n] entirely planned and controlled world are going to be inexpressively lonely . . . and then they will discover the little community of believers as something quite new. As a hope that is there for them, as the answer they have secretly always been asking for." It looks as though you are going to be right about this. But how are things going to develop in Europe?
Peter Seewald, God and the World (Ignatius Press, 2002), p. 441 (emphasis added).
Here is the cardinal's response:
The traditional [i.e., large] Church can be very lovely, but this is not something necessary. The Church of the first three centuries was a small Church and nevertheless was not a sectarian community. . . . All those who sought a faith in one God, who sought a promise, found their place in her. . . . We will have to accept losses, but we will always remain an open Church. The Church can never be a closed and self-sufficient group. We will have to be missionaries, above all in the sense that we keep before the eyes of society those values that ought to form its conscience, values that are the basis of its political existence and of a truly human community. . . . Missionary responsibility means in fact that, as the Pope [John Paul II] says, we really have to try to evangelize. We cannot just calmly allow everyone else to relapse into paganism, but have to find ways of bringing the gospel into the spheres of life of those who do not believe.
Ratzinger, pp. 442-43 (emphasis added).
We will have to accept that many historically Catholic universities are no longer Catholic. That means bishops will have to make that clear to the faithful. We will have to accept that many who call themselves Catholic will leave the Church when the whole faith is preached including subjects eagerly avoided by too many Western clerics: no contraception, no sex outside of marriage, no gay civil unions or "marriages," no ordained women. In that sense, the Church, especially in the affluent West, will become even smaller, less wealthy, less imposing in terms of assets and institutional affiliations. But, at the same time, the Church is then freed to preach the whole truth, to be challenging, to be heroic: to be herself.
At that point, genuine growth begins as more and more see the value of her countercultural witness, a witness that proposes mercy instead of abortion and euthanasia, a witness that proposes meaningful sex instead of impersonal sex, a witness that proposes generosity of time and resources instead of mindless accumulation of material goods.
An analogy comes to mind. For several years I lived in an inner ring suburb near a major Midwestern rust-belt city. The crime and anti-social behavior of the inner city was invading this leafy and graceful suburb. The municipal authorities loved to squelch any public complaining about the changing quality of life for fear of driving away residents. The authorities refused to face the facts directly. One frustrated neighbor of mine commented that city hall refused to recognize that, before you can go "up," you must first go "down"--a comment reminiscent of Christ's saying that to save your life you must first be willing to lose it. Those familiar with the Twelve Steps program will hear echoes here.
The lesson surely applies to the Church. We need to clean house. We need to speak forthrightly the truths of the faith and put an end to the conflicting faces of the faith presented by institutions that put secular conformity first. This new honesty will, at first, seem like a series of losses. But such losses open the way for an attractive truth to emerge, the truth the world yearns for, the truth that conformity does not offer. Then more will find it worthwhile to get up on Sunday morning and go to Mass, instead of to the golf course
What this says to me is that threats of withholding donations or leaving the Church will have no effect on him. Good.
Oh, I have a question and am glad you are here. I was on the Vatican news site and there is a special link that is embargoed and needs a password. Do you know if that is always on the site, or if it indicates an embargoed announcement to the media (in other words, something important to be announced)?
I think it means you have to have press creditials registered with them to get to it...
This reminds me of why St. Francis of Asissi gave up all...so that he could totally be free to do what God wanted him to do. That's the thing. We need to not worry about big and elaborate, but about what God wants.
**At that point, genuine growth begins as more and more see the value of her countercultural witness, a witness that proposes mercy instead of abortion and euthanasia, a witness that proposes meaningful sex instead of impersonal sex, a witness that proposes generosity of time and resources instead of mindless accumulation of material goods.**
Meaningful growth bump.
**This reminds me of why St. Francis of Asissi gave up all...**
And why priests take the vows they do.
Very good analysis indeed. Interestingly, I was watching Fr. Groeshcel not to long ago on EWTN and he echoed the same sentiments as far as the Church getting smaller. He saw this as somewhat of a good thing, weeding out all the bad apples.
And it's not like people don't have a choice. But if they want the church to tell them gay sex is ok, and that women should be ordained, it's not going to happen. End of story. It's like joining a club and deciding you don't like the rules, so you are going to destroy it, and then you get mad when people try to stop you.
Doesn't make much sense.
Can we nominate a few that are needful of being 'losses'?
We all have our favorite lists, I suspect....