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"A smaller but purer Church"?

The phrase above is often attributed to Pope Benedict XVI. I have just googled it but not found it as his own expression, although many people attribute the idea to him. For example, in a story at the time of his election, I find this reference to our own David Gibson: "He has said himself that he wanted a smaller but purer church, Gibson said, referring to Ratzingers suggestion that Christianity may need to become smaller, in terms of its cultural significance, to remain true to itself." In Davids book, The Rule of Benedict, there is a reference to the phrase in the context of a discussion of Ratzingers criticism of the German hierarchy during the Second World War for having allowed concern for institutional security to dull its awareness of what was going on under the Nazis. David writes:

Ratzinger says there was a German core that did remain faithful to Catholicism, but as cardinal and pope he would return to the theme of the dangers of privileging institutional ties, emphasizing that the church would do better to shed bricks and mortaruniversities, hospitals, parochial schools, and the likerather than have them animated by anything less than a purely orthodox faith. This is an element of his oft-cited preference for a "smaller but purer" church of the holy remnant. This preference for the minimum, the creed of the classical conservative he remains, would manifest itself in many ways, notably in an ingrained suspicion of national bishops conferences, which he saw in wartime Germany and later as acting in national-self-interest rather than in the interests of worldwide Catholicism.

This reference could suggest an argument along these lines: If the Catholic Church in Germany under the Nazis had been smaller but purer (e.g., if there had been more people like Franz Jgersttter and fewer like his bishop), it would have provided a greater Christian witness against Hitlers totalitarian regime than it did. I would agree with such an argument. Similarly, the massive institutional structure and apparatus of the Church can seriously compromise the freedom and eagerness of the Church to follow Christ as much as his possessions led the rich young man to depart saddened from his encounter with Christ because he had demanded that he sell all that he have, give it to the poor, and follow him along a path that would end at Calvary.But I would like to be able to consult the place or places in which Ratzinger/Benedict speak of this "smaller but purer church"? Can anyone help?


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John Allen this morning at NPR on BXVI and the recent consistory: business as usual.My last thougt from drift on this thread: while some want to insulate Benedict from not exactly saying "smaller and purer" and of bein g one who engages the issues of drift, it is the continued pattern of Romanita centered movemen tbackward to the past (not the apologetic "continuity") that will continue the problem Peter raised.Bye.

Perhaps the "smaller but purer" topic will be discussed in the upcoming Seewald/Benedict book, LIGHT OF THE WORLD. SALT OF THE EARTH is where I first heard the general topic of "creative minorities" discussed. There he sees it as a realistic view, rather than a desired one.

Aiden Nichols, OP in his "The Thought of Benedict XVI: An Introduction to the Theology of Joseph Ratzinger," (Burns& Oates, 2005) entitles his fourth chapter "Christian Brotherhood" and details JR's "Die christliche Bruderlichkeit," Munich, 1960/ ET "Christian Brotherhood" (London, 1966) as his "first widely disseminated essay treating of a doctrinal topic 'in propria persona', rather than by way of the exposition of some earlier father or doctor" (p.66). This chapter's subsections detail 'the paradox of brotherhood' and 'a theology of brotherhood.' Nichols: "Ratzinger's synthesis culminates in a vision of what he terms 'true universalism'. As he (JR) wrote: 'The separating-off of the limited Christian brotherhood is not the creation of some esoteric circle, but is intended to serve the whole. The Christian brotherly community does not stand against but for the whole.' (CB, p. 75).I wonder to what degree the 'smaller but purer' theme might perhaps not be an elaboration/variation of the earlier brotherhood theme?

If the smaller but purer phrase is really his one would think that such a striking thought and one allegedly central to his beliefs could be found in many places. Its not as though he doesnt write very much.

Angela K.Not to be picky, but the title of the encyclical is "Saved in hope" rather than "Saved by hope."

Angela K: I think we always bring our biases to anything, though hopefully we minimize them as best as possible or are honest about them with readers. One person's pessimist is another's realist, quite often, and I see Ratzinger an an "Augustinian realist," but also someone who I think could be fairly categorized as having a very dim view of the modern world. His encyclicals can certainly be wonderful, as can many of his writings. But they are often at odds with other writings of his, or simply not on the same topic. Ad they are often at odds with his actions, especially towards people with whom he disagrees -- like Father Reese. By "purge" remark was meant humorously, and I realize this is not a good context for humor, as remarks can later be used against you. But the facts of Ratzinger's efforts to oust Reese are not really in dispute. Some like the outcome, others -- like myself -- not so much. Joe, I think the original question you posed could have been clarified quite easily, and more directly, so that what seems to me to be the more important question as to whether these views represent his thinking and if so, how, could be more adequately addressed. I certainly agree with your analysis about Ratzinger's views on the prospects for church's transformation in the current era and the future, as far as we can tell, as I stated earlier in this thread. But I disagree that Ratzinger's views are in synch with those of Rahner and others. Ratzinger takes such a dim view of modernity and its spiritual life (as per his problems with Gaudium et Spes) and would see a renewed orthodoxy and adherence to traditional ways and authorities as the saving remnant that would rescue the church. The difference in attitude and positions is striking. But Benedict's actions have also, it seems to me, clearly demonstrated a preference for this traditionalist, or fortress model, with his outreach to the Lefebvrists and Anglican dissidents, and conservatives who he identifies as bearers of the genuine Christian tradition. That seems far different from those who would welcome new forms of ministry and theological and intellectual exploration and church life and the openness to the modern world that Vatican II seemed to signal. Certainly, Benedict's views have also been interpreted that way, as the "lukewarm Catholics" post showed. Again, just because Rahner and Ratzinger used "winter" as a descriptor doesn't mean they meant the same thing by it. Ratzinger, has as you have noted, spoken of a hermeneutic of reform, but his sense of reform is not that which many if most people would understand by that, and indeed his "reform of the reform" could be seen as a retrenchment. Church leaders often use the same terms -- love and justice, for example -- and mean decidedly different things by them. To me it's important to unpack their meaning and intent.

About Benedict as a pessimist --A person can be an optimist about some things and a pessimist about others. Benedict's writings on God's love for us and on Charity are indeed optimistic and are, i agree, particularly fine examples of what theology needs to be. But his view of human nature is too negative. It leans to the Protestant tradition of natura vitiata, and I don't doubt it leads him to espouse a very authoritarian structure of the Church in order to ride herd on us naturally very wicked mortals. I don't fault him for that-- he saw what the Nazis did and that could cause a more pessimistic view of humanity than non-Nazis deserve.

"a preference for this traditionalist, or fortress model"Interesting analogy, David. Typically Protestant?, as in the great Lutheran anthem, "A Mighty Fortress is Our God", Benedict's image of the Church seems similar..

Joe GannonMy bad!

As Patrick Molloy observes: the man does write a great deal.Here's an excerpt from one of his writings:The Church is not there for her own sake. She cannot be like an association that, in difficult circumstances, is simply trying to keep its head above water. She has a task to perform for the world, for mankind. That is why the Church has to measure herself, and be measured by others, by the extent to which the presence of God, the knowledge of him, and the acceptance of his will are alive within her. A Church that is merely an organization pursuing its own ends would be the caricature of a Church. To the extent to which she is revolving around herself and looks only to the aims necessary for maintaining herself, she is rendering herself redundant and is in decline, even if she disposes of considerable means and skillful management. She can live and be fruitful only if the primacy of God is alive in her ("Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith," p. 287).It seems in a similar vein to the Nichols' quote given by John Calhoun above.

"To the extent to which [the Church] is revolving around herself and looks only to the aims necessary for maintaining herself, she is rendering herself redundant and is in decline."Boy-o-boy, those words ring a bell today!

David: I am aware, as I noted, of differences between Rahner and Ratzinger, but they make all the more interesting their common prognosis for the future of the Church: that it would be reduced in numbers and influence and would have to rely on the genuineness and intensity of the Christian life lived in small groups. The considerable differences between the two on what this may mean shouldn't hide their agreements.There are plenty of texts that run counter to the traditionalist or fortress mentality. He has always been critical of the option the Church followed in the nineteenth century when to preserve itself from modernity, it constructed its own little Sonderwelt (separate world). I don't think he has any interest, even if it were possible, to reconstruct one.At the Fordham talk I gave last month on the interpretation of Vatican II, someone asked me why he was bending over backwards to accommodate the Lefebvrists, and I started to answer that it was hard for me to understand, too, when I remembered that the previous Sunday Mass Gospel was that of the shepherd who left the 99 sheep and went off after the one lost, and I stopped my reply in half-course.The Pope defines his hermeneutic of reform as "continuity and discontinuity at different levels." That seems to me not a bad description of reform, as distinct, say, from revolution. What is your problem with it?

But he's not going after the Shelia O'Briens of the world--as I said in my column. In fact, if the Pope calls Shelia O'Brien, I'll by you a bottle of the best scotch you can find.

It seems that Ratzinger and Rahner were also in agreement in 1965 in criticizing the proposed text of "Gaudium et Spes" -- See O'Malley, "What Happened at Vatican II," p. 258.And the prominent Italian theologian Giuseppe Ruggieri, writes that theologians like Rahner, de Lubac, and Dossetti held that the text lacked an adequate theological reflection on Christian anthropology.

Rahner and Ratzinger collaborated at the Council in 1962 in preparing an alternate text on divine revelation that they hoped could be substituted for the official draft on the sources of revelation. It was then, Ratzinger later remarked, that he realized that Rahner and he lived and worked on different theological planets.In the summer of 1965 the two men wrote such strong criticisms of the latest draft of Gaudium et spes that there was fear among its authors that the whole idea would have to be scuttled. One of Rahner's critiques was that it lacked the necessary Christian pessimism and neglected that, according to the New Testament, the hostility between Church and world would become greater not lesser, as the draft could be taken to mean. One of Ratzinger's critiques was that it presupposed the distinction, even separation, between Church and world that a focus on the separate little Catholic world encouraged. It didn't express sufficiently that the Church exists within the world, not apart from it, as if it were looking at something outside it.

Fr. Komonchak writes, "I find it odd that if the phrase 'was,' as you claim, 'in circulation for years regarding Ratzinger,' there seem to be no instances available by means of the common search-engines."Here's an example from a 1999 book, so the idea was certainly well in circulation by then (I'd also point out the potential danger of relying on the internet for your research):"Over the course of his pontificate, John Paul II would speak frequently about the twenty-first century as a possible 'springtime' for the Gospel after the winter of the twentieth century. During the same period, Cardinal Ratzinger would deepen an alternative view, that the Church of the immediate future would be smaller and purer, not quite a catacomb Church, but certainly not the dominant force in Western culture it once had been. Cardinal Ratzinger seemed to think that the West and its humanistic project had fallen into irreversible cultural decline. The Pope believed that a revitalization of humanism was possible."George Weigel, Witness to Hope: The Biography of John Paul II (1999), at p.444Professor Kaveny is right that in some ways it's almost irrelevant whether then-Cardinal Ratzinger actually said the words "smaller" and "purer." What matters is whether or not the phrase is an accurate description of his beliefs. More important is whether or not others believe the phrase to be an accurate description of his beliefs. Even more important is whether or not others believe this is what the Pope desires, so they act to bring about what they believe he wants.

Jesus ministered to a motley crew, many of them outright pagans! He was not in search of smaller and purer; he came to give life and healing not judgment and pain. We, the church of the 21st century, need to expand greatly and to influence with our goodness and light the entire world in every nook and cranny. For that we need lots and lots of enthusiastic and perhaps messy members working hard to simply tell the good news to all they encounter. If we could address war and poverty, the rest of the call to 'purity' would take care of itself. (And I can't translate that to Latin)

Smaller but purer is not an accurate description of Benedicts beliefs; no one has yet shown a single reference where he says this either literally or more broadly. Fortress talk doesnt hold water, either, unless one miscontrues his thought (as Joe Komonchak's comments on "Gaudium et spes" show) or equates all profession of church teaching as defensive, divisive, anti-modern, or closed-minded. Second, many believe smaller and purer to be an accurate description of his thought because they depend upon prominent commentators on the left and the right who dont really understand that thought. George Weigels occasional efforts to cast Benedict in the JP II as bold proposer to modernity of the truth about humanity mold dont really fit Benedicts temperament or theological approach, for instance, nor do some liberal accounts that portray Benedict as desiring a pietistic retreat from modernity and the restoration of a pre-conciliar Bavarian world. These trajectories have changed little in the five years since Benedicts election.Last, some on the left and the right believe that this is what the Pope desires and act upon that beliefeither in seeking to purge mediocre Catholics or in caricaturing Benedict as a neo-Donatistprecisely because they either havent taken the time to read him closely or find a comfortable truthiness in simplistic misunderstandings of him. If you repeat something often enough, it becomes true. Perhaps that is what is desired.

Joe, I think that is a fine description of reform -- I just don't think it is one that Benedict himself follows. Chris Ruddy, I do think those on left and right have used the phrase in question to fill out an agenda for Ratzinger that they'd like him to follow, while others might want to deny he has any agenda or worldview or anything but a beatific vision (that can be summed up in lovely proof texts like those Bob Imbelli likes to cite -- "Nothing to see here, move along"!). Those kinds of arguments too can serve an agenda. As I said before, I think "smaller but purer" in some respects does represent Benedict's view of the present and likely future of a smaller, more orthodox ("faithful") church, and I think I'd qualify as someone who understands Ratzinger's thought and who has not relied upon commentators on left or right. Nor do I have the kind of conflicts of interest in my employer or vocation that would inject a note of self-interest into my opinions. I don't in any way think of "all profession of church teaching as defensive, divisive, anti-modern, or closed-minded," and yet there seem to me certainly some in the church who can profess church teaching and still have a fortress mentality, or be divisive or be permissive, I imagine. If you read more of Ratzinger's thoughts on Gaudium et Spes, and the development of his and Rahner's relationship I think it's also inarguable that he has a very dark, shall we say, view of Gaudium et Spes. I understand your anger on this topic, but imputing bad motives to those you disagree with seems to me to be following the same simplistic path you accuse others of taking.

Mr. Logan: Thanks for the lesson about the limitations of searching on the web.The reference to George Weigels biography of John Paul II is useful as an indication that the phrase was being used earlier than Benedicts election. This, of course, was Weigels summary phrase, with no citation of a text of Ratzinger. As for your other question: Relevance is relative to the question one is asking. There are sections of the Old Testament, for example, that are completely irrelevant to a study of ancient Near Eastern vegetation. Your question seems to be whether the phrase smaller but purer is an accurate description of [the Popes] beliefs. I myself think it is quite relevant to that question whether he has actually used it. If he has not used that phrase, one may still ask whether it accurately describes his beliefs. Now, of course, for this question to be pursued, one would have to indicate what one thinks the phrase means, something that few of those who use it seem inclined to do.. Whether or not others believe it accurately describes his beliefs is a further question. But the significance of this question varies with the answer to the earlier question whether it does accurately describe his views. If it does accurately describe his views, then those who think it does are correct. If, however, others are mistaken in thinking it accurately describes his beliefs, then one might be interested in correcting their misapprehension. This might be considered all the more important if the others who mistakenly believe that the phrase accurately represents his views include bishops who on the basis of this misapprehension are doing all they can to make the Church nott only purer but also smaller. At this point perhaps the questions I posed at the beginning are not so irrelevant.

Believe it or not I have sifted through most of the contributions above. So!SJ. Ratzinger, Glaube u. Zukunft, Mnchen 1970, 123 make the case for smaller and purer. as does a 1969 radio address that Ratzinger gave.Scott Appleby used the words "Smaller and Purer. Gibson drew from all this. So the onus might be on Ruddy to show that Ratzinger does not believe this. At any rate, this discussion is instructive in that so many can have so many different views on what Ratzinger thinks on this. Further, the pessimism of Ratzinger is important and may deserve another thread. How many things can we handle at once?For the most part, Joe, you made us think. What more can a professor, retired or not, want.

Fr. Imbelli - you were recently reprimanded for your tendency not to point to the many horrors of the Church that all truly honest observers on this website can so plainly see. Now youve been told that you fail to break the chains of self-interest that the more privileged among us have been able to transcend. Its obvious to all free-floating omniscient observers that youve strayed from the right path. Please repent but more importantly give public evidence of your contrition. Acknowledge our superiority and we will consider treating you as a worthy equal.

I have been reading through this thread and following it with interest, but have refrained from commenting because I am genuinely puzzled about its intent. The hair splitting over whether Ratzinger actually said "smaller and purer" seems to me to be misdirected. The intent of my earlier post was to show that I believe that the sentiment of "smaller and purer" is expressed in what Ratzinger wrote in Glaube und Zukunft. (Thank you Bill Mazella for understanding that.) There, he uses the word small, but also speaks of a more demanding church and one that is interiorized. Are these not words that imply purer, especially when the interiorized Church innoculates itself from the political whims of the right and the left, which can be seen as corrupting forces? I find it interesting that in the history of supersessionist theology, which proclaims Christianity as the "true Israel" that replaces Judaism, the contrast of Christianity as a religion of interiority with Judaism as a religion of externals, i. e. the Law is so prominent. The implication is that what is interior is better (purer?) than what is merely external.Will someone, then, please help me out? If the pieces are there, as I see them, for Ratzinger's desire for a smaller and purer Church, why is the focus of the thread on whether he actually used the word "purer"? I believe Fr. K. has already granted that Ratzinger has spoken of a smaller Church.

Mr. Molloy,I have seen the light. For my penance I pledge to re-read Ren Girard.Mr. Mitchell,You write that Ratzinger seeks "a more demanding church and one that is interiorized." What do you find objectionable here? Isn't this what reformers throughout the Church's history have sought -- Francis, Ignatius, Teresa to name but a few.However he also writes: I have nothing against it, then, if people who all year long never visit a Church go there at least on Christmas Night or New Years Eve or on special occasions, because this is another way of belonging to the blessing of the sacred, to the light. There have to be various forms of participation and association; the Church has to be inwardly open."

Fr. Imbelli,I appealed to "more demanding" and "interiorized" to substantiate the understanding of "purer" which is at issue in this thread. An experienced theologian of your caliber surely knows that the terms cut both ways.

I really don't understand why people are so puzzled by the intent of this thread. It was indicated in my last sentences above: "But I would like to be able to consult the place or places in which Ratzinger/Benedict speak of this 'smaller but purer church'? Can anyone help?"

The contributors who are priests function as representatives of the official church hierarchy (they're the ones closest to it in status), and because of that, I and some others interpret what they say through the lense of our dim view of church hierarchy in general, and consequently lash out. But this blog would be much poorer without them and I thank them for their continued participation.On a different note, given the great distance between what Pope Benedict says ("Only decisive action carried out with complete honesty and transparency will restore respect [...] towards the Church" -- letter to the Catholics of Ireland) and what he does, I see little point in analyzing what he says in detail. Only his actions deserve attention in my opinion.

Just to clarify: Neither in this venue nor in any other do I function as a representative of the official church hierarchy." Whatever I say here I say on my own, and because I know or believe it.

Fr. Komonchak,I am puzzled because you have discounted the evidence for "purer" that I believe I presented from Glaube und Zukunft. I will continue to be puzzled until you show exactly why what I have pointed to there does not contribute to the view that Ratzinger not only subscribes to a smaller future Church but a purer one.

That's right, Fr Komonchak, it happens in spite of yourself.

I am also puzzled by what I see as a double response from Fr. Komonchak, who seems to say, on the one hand, that Benedict does not foresee a smaller, purer church, and on the other that he does and "what is your problem with that?" It seems that what was initially presented as a quest for information is in fact a defense of the Pope. It seems that Fr. K is saying that Benedict is right either way. Perhaps I am missing your point, Fr. K?Claire reminds us of the undeniable truth: actions speak louder than words. I have yet to see reconciling actions from this Pope, except toward very small groups of people whose interests lie close to his own (the Latin Mass Society, Anglicans wishing to unite with Rome, the SSPX), actions almost always taken at the expense of alienating other, larger, groups. He has completely undermined ecumenical cooperation on liturgical texts, too, which is no small legacy. There is certainly no "re-evangelization of Europe" taking place. Catholics are leaving in droves during Benedict's pontificate, from German-speaking Europe especially.As for Benedict searching out the one lost sheep, that's a flattering but not plausible explanation of his actions toward the SSPX. The Lefebvrites are being sought because he sympathizes with them and shares their attachment to the old liturgy. Plenty of other groups are "lost," and no olive branch has gone out to them.

Not infrequently we'd like to be delivered from what 'we've said or may have said or implied recently' and reminded of what we'd said back then (before all that happened happened). I was taken by Nichols chapter on what JR said about ''brotherhoods' (mixed groups now, I hope) in the early 60s. If he's still in accord with what he said back then, how could his brothers and sisters in Christ help him develop groups that would 'leaven and salt' in various socio-cultural contexts Gospel insight, joy and freedom - to imagine and do what Jesus (Christ now) might savor.Couldn't we just write and ask him what he was hoping for back then.

This enlightening discussion has confirmed my belief that there are two Ratzingers. That being so, one should not expect consistency from him.About proposed "brotherhoods", this might be a stretch, but might he have had organizations such as the Legionnaires and Opus Dei in mind? If so, I wonder if he has revised his view of them. In the list of cardinals-elect it seems that there is one and only one member of OD. Might that be significant?

It is telling that there is still no reference in which Benedict indicates any kind of desire for a "smaller" church purged of 'mediocre' Catholics. Even the helpful "Faith and the Future" reference doesn't move in this direction. That is, Benedict has nowhere provided evidence--so far as I can tell, based on my reading and on this thread--that he wants a church that seeks to become smaller and purer through expelling 'nominal' Catholics, inviting them to leave if they can't keep up with demands, or accepting untroubledly their exodus. His use of "small" language is descriptive, not prescriptive, as was pointed out several times earlier in this thread. And, if no one can provide such a prescriptive reference, then what does that absence say about using the phrase "smaller but purer" or the vision behind it to describe Benedict's ecclesiology?Here is one quote from an interview with Ratzinger that does speak about a "small" Church:The Church of the first three centuries was a small Church and nevertheless was not a sectarian community. On the contrary, she was not partitioned off; rather, she saw herself as responsible for the poor, for the sick, for everyone. All those who sought a faith in the one God, who sought a promise, found their place in her.The synagogue, Judaism in the Roman Empire, had surrounded itself with this circle of God-fearers, who were affiliated with it and thereby achieved a great opening up. The catechumenate of the early Church was very similar. Here people who didnt feel able to identify with Christianity completely could, as it were, attach themselves to the Church, so as to see whether they would take the step of joining her. This consciousness of not being a closed club, but of always being open to everyone and everything, is an inseparable part of the Church. And it is precisely with the shrinking of Christian congregations we are experiencing that we shall have to consider looking for openness along the lines of such types of affiliation, of being able to associate oneself.I have nothing against it, then, if people who all year long never visit a church go there at least on Christmas Night or New Years Eve or on special occasions, because this is another way of belonging to the blessing of the sacred, to the light. There have to be various forms of participation and association; the Church has to be inwardly open (God and the World, 442).It is also not accurate to say that Benedict has a "very dark" view of Gaudium et spes. He was strongly critical at various points of its drafting history--an approach that he shared with Rahner and others, as Joe K. notes; Hans Kung had reservations, too--and he detected in the final document a few passages that he thought might be misunderstood or misapplied. But, in both his 1966 commentary in "Theological Highlights of Vatican II" and his 1966-68 commentary in Herbert Vorgrimler's 5-volume "Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II," for instance, he remained positive overall about the document, even in one place declaring it superior in some regards to Lumen gentium (GS #22 as preferable to LG #16 on the salvation of non-Christians). Ratzinger clearly has a preference for Lumen gentium and Dei verbum--which is no more a sin than preferring one Gospel to another--but he is also able to write, "Almost more important that the solutions offered by the text [of GS] is the attitude behind the text, which discovered here a new way of speaking. The Council had the courage to produce a public document that did not claim to be inclusive [I think it likely that the German original says something more like 'exhaustive' or 'definitive'] but rather sought to begin a task that would continue." (Theological Highlights, 230).

This thread is taking on the contours of a rabbinic scrutiny of texts -- that's neither criticism nor complaint.So Mr. Mitchell, despite your kind word, I grow denser as I age. So bear with me. You write:"I appealed to more demanding and interiorized to substantiate the understanding of purer which is at issue in this thread. An experienced theologian of your caliber surely knows that the terms cut both ways."I still do not understand whether "more demanding and interiorized" is, in your usage, something negative and to be avoided as a pastoral program?And what are the two ways that the terms (presumably "demanding" and "interiorized") can "cut?"I am sure you have a genuine concern and I am anxious to know what it is.

I myself am satisfied that:1. Ratzinger never used the phrase "smaller, purer church."2. That, nonetheless describes the church he expects and wants. Purer, because he thinks that is good--just like Bob does. Smaller, because he thinks that's an inevitable concomitant of the purer part, and because he romanticizes it (like the early Church, etc.). 3. Part of his "purer" is distinctness from the world--the Catholics he welcomes back are all primarily interested, in one way or another, in preserving distinctness.

Prof. Mitchell: I have no doubt that Ratzinger/Benedict wishes a purer Church--what Christian would not? (One can't quite imagine as a Beatitude: "Blessed are the lukewarm of heart...") That he wishes "a smaller future Church" I incline to doubt. That in the future the Church will be smaller in numbers and influence he, along with many others, predicted long ago, as in Glaube und Zukunft, for which, you may have noticed, I supplied the reference to the English translation, Faith and the Future. More generally, I started the thread because I wondered (genuinely, sincerely) whether Ratzinger/Benedict had ever used the phrase "smaller but purer." I was willing to wait a while (the thread is not yet two days old) to see whether any texts would be adduced. So far the one you give is the closest. Almost from the beginning, the question I posed has been dismissed by some as irrelevant and unimportant. I have several times indicated why I don't agree, and needn't repeat myself now.Rita: From the beginning, indeed in my opening comment, I distinguished in the matter between "prognosis" and "program," that is, between prediction of the future and the effort to bring the prediction to pass. The prediction of a smaller Church was one shared by many others; that it would also be purer was a hope shared by many others. In fact, the case can be made, as in the statement of Rahner often cited, that if the Church is to exist in the future, it can only be because it was more spiritual, more mystical, in part because many of the traditional social and cultural inducements to being and remaining a Christian would have disappeared. Ratzinger, so far from being a pessimist, did not regard the apparently inevitable decline of the Church in numbers and influence as an unmitigated evil, but looked forward to the Church's fulfilling its role as it did in the first generatons of its existence by means of committed, spiritual groups of Chrisitans. In any case, if we are agreed that Ratzinger/Benedict has not himself used the slogan "smaller but purer," then we might get to those other questions whether the slogan accurately or adequately describes what he thinks, predicts, desires, is trying to bring about, etc. Some may find it interesting to see that our discussion is being echoed elsewhere:

Cathy,I find this reiterated invocation of my name is quickly moving from the tiresome to the offensive. Please desist. If you want to quote something I said and ask for its meaning, fine. But don't presume to pass sweeping judgments when you haven't substantiated them. The thread is not about "Bob."

Bob, what in the world are you talking about? You're offended by your own name? Good lord. YOU are in a conversation. YOU are expressing views in the conversation. I am responding to --and yes, criticizing the views YOU express. I won't stop doing that. But I am perfectly happy to follow --with excruciating correctness -- the conventions of the academic culture to which we both belong and: 1) Quote you, and 2) Offer my interpretation of what you say. But I'm sorry: you can't persistently comment in an oblique way, with everything you say susceptible to plausible deniability and indignant rejection if it provokes a critical reaction. Incidentally, the one who ought to have been offended--and deeply offended -- by YOU was Peter Steinfels. You neither confirmed nor straightforwardly denied that he was the speaker of whom you spoke so critically in the recent thread on his article. You simply stated that you had not stated that speech took place at BC. It's like reading a deposition. Your words even invoke a "record."To quote you: "For the record (as newspaper folk are wont to say), there is no mention of Boston College in my comment though, of course, I remember with pleasure the visit to which you refer." So you left me with the impression that he was indeed the speaker you criticized--but that you did not want to say so. Why not just deny that he was the speaker? Why not just say, "I wasn't talking about you."Nice. So terribly, terribly charitable.

Digressing from the discussion as to what Ratzinger said or wants consider this. Connected to the smaller, purer church is the practice of infant baptism. In past times one could be killed, tortured, ostracized, exiled or condemned by being unbaptized. From Theodosius to Charlemagne to Pius XII the act of baptism was considered identical with being a Christian rather than the active commitment that being a follower of Jesus entails. We should immediately suspend infant baptism. Only those who make an ongoing commitment to the gospels should be considered Christian. From that group we can more easily deduce the departure from the Christian way. It will eliminate the false attribution of the Christian faith of those whose only connection is that they were baptized but never really confirmed in it. I know that is what Confirmation is supposed to mean but in fact this has not been a voluntary act either. It is something one does with little idea what it means. The committed conservatives and liberals that emerge from such a group will now have more motivation to seek common ground because they will not be concerned with Empire but a genuine building up of the faith. They will not have to worry about sharing the spoils from all those buildings that Ratzinger says we can do without. When the empire is gone the church can be built with purer foundations.

Fr. Komonchak:Thank you for the clarification. I believe I understand your position better. In an earlier response to my post on Glaube und Zukunft, when you wrote that you did not find the word pure in that work, I took that to mean that you did not find the concept of a purer Church there. Now I see that my interpretation was not your intended meaning and that, as you say, you do not doubt that Ratzinger wants a purer Church. Fr. Imbelli,I did not say whether I think the terms "more demanding" and "interiorized" as marks of a purer Church was a good or a bad thing because I thought the purpose of the post was to try to establish whether the notion of a smaller or purer Church was anywhere expressed in Ratzinger's writings. To answer your question, I believe the terms "more demanding" and "interiorized," when invoked in the service of promoting a purer Church, certainly can be good if the goal is authenticity in living the Gospel. What reasonable Christian would not think that? I believe the terms can cut both ways, however, because they are ambiguous without qualification. If, for example, this more demanding, interiorized Church is less engaged with the world, or returns to the triumphalistic Church of the past, I for one would not find that sense of a "purer" Church to be desirable. By stating this let me be clear that until I get my hands on a copy of Glaube und Zukunft, I do not know from the excerpts I found on the internet what Ratzinger thinks or means by by "more demanding" and "interiorized". I do not even know whether all of the English excerpts I cited have been correctly translated.BTW, you can call me Alan. I still think Mr. Mitchell is my father.

That should have been were good or bad instead was a good or a bad thing.

Father K, the question of prognosis versus program is indeed an interesting one in Benedict's case because, istm, he studiously avoids any admission of activism on his part even while pursuing an agenda of his own quite agressively. I have often wondered whether he denies, even to himself, how very far-reaching his own plans are.Benedict has said of himself that he has "no power," for instance, over the liturgy, yet he is the driving force behind the current worldwide project of retranslation of all our liturgical texts into a highly literal form, taking over the role of episcopal conferences in translation that was given at Vatican II, and completely scuttling ecumenical cooperation on that front; he has redefined the term "Roman rite" to include multiple forms; he has through his representatives actively promoted use of the preconciliar rites, and more. I stand by my statement above: his actions consistently promote a few, at the expense of larger groups. That may not be a program exactly, but it is practically putting into effect the prognosis of a smaller church, in pursuit of what he regards as a purer one.

Fr. Komonchak is right to insist that we not put words in Pope Benedict's, or anyone else's, mouth that they haven't uttered. He's also right that there's a big difference between prediction and program.But, so far as i can tell, Pope Benedict has not said what PRACTICAL objectives he is trying to bring about. Am I alone in finding, in this day and age, it strange that, five years into his pontificate, we can have such disagreement about what he is out to accomplish. With Rita, I don't particularly like what I see. But if I, and perhaps she, are off base, then what is "on base?" What I see are things like the imposition of the new translation of liturgical texts, A cardinaliate for Abp. Burke, the so-called Anglican ordinariate, what appears, in the list of new cardinals, to be a reassertion of the dominance of the Roman Curia, etc., etc., to say nothing of the handling of the sexual abuse crisis.Since I'm so often wrong about lots of things, I may very well have no legitimate beef. But how would I know unless, there is some reasonably clear statement of intent by the pope about what he's up to. Is it not a reasonable expectation today that our leaders tell us where they intend to lead us?

"Benedict has said of himself that he has no power, for instance, over the liturgy, yet he is the driving force behind the current worldwide project of retranslation of all our liturgical texts into a highly literal form,"Wow, Rita! He actually said that? Now I'm absolutely convinced there are two Ratzingers. Only a split mind could think it has no power, and at the same time wield power so aggressively.

Pope Benedict's "Letter to Seminarians" (October 18,2010) takes for granted the continued linking of celibacy to the priesthood but also stresses the importance of "the integration of sexuality into the whole personality. Sexuality is a gift of the Creator yet it is also a task which relates to a person's growth towards human maturity. When it is not integrated within the person, sexuality become banal and destructive. Today we can see many examples of this in our society. Recently we have seen with great dismay that some priests disfigured their ministry by sexually abusing children and young people. Instead of guiding people to greater human maturity and setting them an example, their abusive behavior caused great damage for which we feel profound shame and regret. As a result of all this, many people, perhaps even some of you, might ask whether it is good to become a priest; whether the choice of celibacy makes any sense as a truly human way of life. Yet even the most reprehensible abuse cannot discredit the priestly mission, which remains great and pure. Thank God, all of us know exemplary priests, men shaped by their faith, who bear witness that one can attain to an authentic, pure and mature humanity in this state and specifically in the life of celibacy." Benedict goes on to link celibacy to the virtues and to the seminarian/priest "letting yourselves be purified by him (Christ) ever anew." Any implications here for the discussion thus far?

Rita: Sorry I've been delayed in responding to your posts. My initial question was whether the phrase "smaller but purer" was used by the Pope. There seems to be agreement that he hasn't used it, that it is someone else's slogan meant to describe a or the program for his pontificate. I've proposed that at least some of the texts offered as programmatic are more like predictions, the predictions being that the Church in the future will be both smaller and purer. If by purer is meant more spiritual, more authentic, I think that everyone will agree that this would be a good thing. The Pope seems to express little dismay at the thought that the Church will in the future have to do without a lot of the institutional and traditional supports it once enjoyed, and that it will have to perform its role, by means of vibrant Christian communities, more as yeast than as by a conquering army.That the Pope appears to be bending over backwards on behalf of the Lefebvrites, something I've pointed out in other venues, is puzzling to me. I incline to doubt that he is doing so because of their affection for the unreformed usage. As far as I know, he has not celebrated the eucharist according to that usage, certainly not publicly, and he has done nothing to impose its use on those who wish to follow the reformed usage, which, of course, is the one he follows in his own public Masses. If he were such an enthusiast for the unreformed usage, he surely has not put the power of his office behind it through obligatory requirements that he himself might favor, e.g., praying ad orientem. I do not know to what you are referring when you say: "He has through his representatives actively promoted use of the preconciliar rites." That certain Curial figures are promoting it and wish it, e.g., to be available in every parish, is well known. How representative they are of the Pope's view I wonder. Could you send me to the source of that comment that he has "no power" over the liturgy? It certainly sounds strange to me. Although I was told that when the head of the CDF, he told me people that they should not confuse what that congregation produced with what he himself thinks, and someone familiar with Vatican protocol said, "Yes, the prefect can refuse to sign a document produced and approved by the congregation over which he presides, but he would have to resign if he did so." I don't know whether this is true.Now some of these actions, and others, have had the effect of upsetting a good number of people, perhaps more than those who were pleased by them, and some people have been moved by them to leave the Church. That, of course, was their free choice, one with which, presumably, those who, although distressed, are not leaving the Church would not agree with. (This in its own way is another confirmation of the prediction of a Congar, a Rahner, a Ratzinger that in the future, indeed already, whether one becomes or remains a Catholic will be a matter of existential choice.) In any case, that some of the Pope's actions, which speak louder than words, have had the effect of driving some people out of the Church is hardly proof that this has been his intention all along, as some of those who invoke the slogan "smaller but purer" seem inclined to think.

Joe, I have a question: unlike the framers of the Constitution, who are not around to protest misinterpretations of his work, this Pope is around. And writing. And the "smaller, purer Church" vision is a big misinterpretation, if it is a misinterpretation. If you're right, why wouldn't he at least try to correct the mistaken impression?

Fr. Konomchak,Pope Benedict has on two occasions celebrated Mass in the Sistine Chapel publicly ad orientem on January 14, 2008 when he also baptized 14 children, and in December of the following year.

Fr. Komonchak,Sorry for butchering your name. Must have a dislectic keyboard.