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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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Alan: Yes, I've known about the "ad Orientem" liturgies; I was referring to an example of his preferring the unreformed usage. I don't believe that the "ad Orientem" question was addressed by the Council. I don't believe it's forbidden in the reformed usage, is it?Cathy: To answer your quesstion: I don't know. I'm inclined to think he doesn't follow the Commonweal-blog... You seem to think the slogan does not misrepresent the Pope's view and desire. Could you explain what you think it means? I have an idea that all do not agree on its meaning.

Whether Ratzinger/Benedict said or desires a purer church, what matters is his definition of purer. I would submit , based on extensive reading of Benedict, that by "purer" he means one who has had a personal encounter with Christ and and lives his/her life with an "I, but no longer I" conviction...rather than as a mere membership of a cultural organization.I don't see this attitude however as a rejection of those who are as he likes to say "on the way". This is confirmed in his welcoming words to those who only attend Christmas Mass, as quoted by Robert Imbelli (thank you... I had intended to reference that but I see that you already have!)and with Benedict's engagement with the secular world, as Joseph Komonchak affirms early in this discussion.To those who are suspicious of Benedict I suggest you reread his homily at the Mass of his Inauguration which gives an idea of his priorities as pope.

Someone, somewhere on this thread (or was it in another life) spoke about finding Pope Benedict's program sketched in his three Encyclicals. Perhaps re-reading them may clarify some issues and concerns.Last week a symposium was held in Rome, under the joint sponsorship, I believe, of the "Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace" on the encyclical, "Caritas in Veritate." Among the participants were my Boston College colleagues, David Hollenbach, S.J., Kenneth Himes, O.F.M., and my fellow presbyter, Bryan Hehir -- all stalwarts of the ecclesiastical right-wing (only kidding, guys!). All committed, I dare say, to a "more demanding and interiorized" Catholicism.

"... To answer your quesstion: I dont know. Im inclined to think he doesnt follow the Commonweal-blog..."Perhaps. But there are definitely one or two here following it for him

And, Bill, who would they be?

Although he does not refer to 'contemplation' in his 'Letter to Seminarians', Pope Benedict does talk to them of a 'greater human maturity' and consequently of the need for 'integrating sexuality within the person' and also of seeking to be 'continually purified by Christ' - thereby implying their ongoing intimacy with the Lord (contemplation). Are these pastoral goals not for all (not only seminarians and priests) and if so, should parishes (like monasteries of old) become 'schools and support communities for servants of the Lord ' including structuring therein opportunities for growth in self-knowledge and self- discipline? Parishes are, after all, places where strangers in an alien land gather together to tell the stories (Scripture) and do the deeds (the Sacraments) which remind them why they are parishioners i.e., strangers in an alien land in the first place. Leadership development- ordained and lay - could and in some places does occur in an ongoing way within parish communities. These should be nurtured by bishops. Seminaries aren't the only places wherein growth for future leaders should occur. Parishes too. 'Small but pure' might well characterize the dedicated core/leaven/salt that make a parish community truly an 'in Christ' place. Perhaps 'small but pure' already exists in some places and should be recognized as existentially already there.

This thread has obviously had its own interest for a number of us. It has also prodded me to the following line of thought.I live in a diocese that has recently had a new bishop take office. I presume that, by way of preparing him to begin his service here, he was given some sort of evaluation of the state of affairs in the diocese and received some suggestions or guidance about what things it would be good for him to devote special attention to. Unsurprisingly, if he received any such evaluation and/or advice, we the laity know nothing about it. Whether the priests, or deacons, or lay members of the diocesan staff know what the evaluation or advice was, I don't know. In the year that he has been here, I presume that he has made some start on some program or other. Am I wrong to think that he, and all newly appointed bishops, has received some such evaluation and that he has been given some advice about how to proceed? Am I wrong to think that it would make much sense for us, the laity of the diocese, to know what such an evaluation, if it exists found and what the advice, if any, was given? Would it not be more than passing strange if there were no such evaluation or advice? Would it not be no less strange if the new bishops were just dropped into dioceses without having the benefit of a serious evaluation and some guidance? Of course, I'm not calling for muckraking of any sort. Just "transparency" about what faces the people of the diocese as well as its bishop.Would it be strange to expect something analogous from a new papacy, any new papacy?

I have no idea what advice, marching orders, etc., if any, are given to a newly appointed bishop. I think the clearest proof that the local Church is not taken seriously is that it has next to nothing to say about who will be its bishop. I made this point at an ecumenical meeting outside Rome a few years ago, and was criticized, I heard later, for using ecumenism as a smokescreen for radical proposals! Two bishops at the meeting said that it wasn't true that the local Church is not consulted. I pointed out that I had been a priest for over forty years in New York, had lived through the deaths of three archbishops, and had not once been asked about the state of the archdiocese and the qualities desired in a new archbishop, never mind for names of possible candidates. One of the bishops had the nerve to say, "Strano!" (That's strange!) It's not strange at all. I didn't think to ask them the two of them if their appointments had been by popular acclamation.

The absence of consultation or of any substantive standards of accountability undergirds 'the no protocol needed process' for determining excellence in pastoral practice. You'll know it when you see or hear it but there's no way of systemically promoting it. If the Church as 'Body of Christ' is an organism, it must primarily live like one - not be famous for being the Mother Bureaucracy of the West. Bureaucracies ofttimes have breathing problems which a healthy organism shouldn't. If 'the Body' has breathing problems, that's a symptom needing diagnosis.

"I didn't think to ask [the two bishops] if their appointments had been by popular acclamation."Perhaps you were exercising a bit o' charity toward these hierarchs?

Terrence Berres sent me a link to the quotation below from an interview between Raymond Arroyo and Cardinal Ratzinger on September 5, 2003;

Joseph,Sorry it has taken me so long to reply. Ive been struggling to meet deadlines here.First, allow me answer your query about Benedicts interest in the older rites. I am not sure that celebrating these rites himself is the best measure of his interest. However, in answer to your question, yes, he has celebrated them, in the 1990s. Two publicized occasions were when he said Mass at lAbbaye Sainte Madeleine (where they celebrate exclusively according to the older rites) in September 1995, and in Wigrazbad on the 15th of April in 1990. There may have been others, but these were publicized. More to the point, he has been a staunch friend to all the communities defined by their retention of these rites. He was the power behind establishing Ecclesia Dei under Pope John Paul II. As you know, he has bent over backwards to reconcile with the SSPX. He has defended them, and looked aside when it came to their anti-Semitism and other problems. He personally speeded up the establishment of the FSSP. If he isnt an advocate for the older rites, hes certainly giving their supporters the impression that he is. He is their hope, and his statements critical of the liturgical reform are quoted by them ad infinitum. The statement made in London by Cardinal Castrillon-Hoyos that the pope wants the extraordinary form available in every parish was never contradicted, and no clarification or statement to the contrary was made, to my knowledge. Is it the case that Benedicts lieutenants are saying things which dont represent his views? Possibly, but the simpler explanation is that he agrees with them, and lets them go out farther than he himself will do because thats one way to move the issue forward without taking too much risk.Benedicts master of ceremonies said recently that he will not celebrate the older rites at present. Nevertheless, it seems clear that he desires a return to a liturgy that isat leastvery much like the older forms. He plans for this to be accomplished gradually, because of necessity., I should have known better than to say no power in this thread, because you would ask for his exact words and I dont keep as good notes as I should from my reading. But one source which I could find quickly is his review of Alcuin Reeds book The Organic Development of the Liturgy, in which he stresses that the pope cannot do as he likes with respect to the liturgy. The words he uses here, on their face (obedience to tradition, etc.) are not objectionable. Indeed, apart from their context they could be construed as supporting Paul VI. But the book which he is approving is constructing a framework on the basis of which a negative assessment of the whole reform (in itself, not in its implementation) must be given. If Reed is correct, and Ratzinger seems to be saying he is, virtually none of the liturgical reforms that followed from Vatican II are acceptable. The alternative isyou guessed ita whole lot more like the preconciliar rites than like the rites we have. If Ratzinger does not agree with Reed, why did he endorse his book?The pope cannot do what he likes with respect to the liturgy. Yet Benedict is changing lots of things right now, and it looks to me and to others that he is doing as he likes. And, yes, in a dictatorial fashion, the gradual nature of his project notwithstanding. Here are some examples: Taking back from the conferences of bishops oversight of liturgical translations is doing what he likes. Excluding ecumenical cooperation on texts and thus unilaterally destroying two generations of development in common prayer is doing what he likes. Deciding to declare two forms of the Roman Rite coexistent, a thing which has never been done before, is doing what he likes.I dont want to overstate the public reaction against Benedicts policy decisions, but it is more than a few people being upset. The German bishops conference sent back the texts of the funeral rites as unusable. I cant think of a parallel. The new translations of the Roman Missal were used in South Africa, and provoked a severe public outcry. I cant think of a parallel to that either. The first report on the implementation of Summorum Pontificum is that it has not led to peace and reconciliation but rather to more tension and discontent. We havent got the response to the new translations here yet; time will tell.Recall the reaction in Germany to the Williamson affair. Dont you think it weakened trust? After all, its not every day that the German chancellor calls for the pope to declare his position on whether or not the Holocaust happened. Today people are leaving the Church in Germany in droves. The abuse scandal appears to be the driving force: But the issue of trust is key to the problem. The number leaving in Austria is expected to be 100,000 this year, a record number. Ireland and Belgium are losing Catholics. Its happening not gradually, as from the time of the council, but precipitously right now. The number of adult baptisms in the US has dropped by 40% during Benedicts pontificate, after a long stretch of stable, slightly growing numbers. This number does not correlate to the abuse crisis. It correlates to the change in direction of the Church under this pontificate.There are always those who blame the people who leave, never the pope. They believe the pope is right, his policies just, those people would have left anyway, etc. What concerns me is this: The prediction that, like it or not, we are on the way to a smaller Church can excuse us from assessing why people are leaving.

Rita: Thanks for the lengthy reply. I dont disagree with most of what you say. I do think that the fact that the Pope has not since he became Pope made use of the unreformed usage is significant. He cant believe that hes guaranteed a long pontificate, so why wouldnt he have acted more decisively, or at least symbolically? He has had every opportunity to do so and hasnt, and if he were to make use of the old rite, it would be far more significant than any actions or statements by his subordinates. Until he does so, or makes more decisions in that direction, Ill continue to regard statements by subordinates, especially those of Castrillon-Hoyos, as simplythat, their views. (I suspect that a considerable battle is going on within the Roman Curia on all these matters, but I do not think it has been decided yet.) I just read his preface to Reids book. At the beginning he locates himself between the relentless supporters of reform, who regret concessions, and the embittered critics of liturgical reform, who want a total rejection of the reform. In what follows it is clear that he has some criticisms to make about how the reforms mandated by the Council were carried out in practice, but he would not be alone in this.From the Catechisms statement that "even the supreme authority in the Church may not change the Liturgy arbitrarily, but only in the obedience of faith and with religious respect for the mystery of the Liturgy" he concludes that a pope cannot do as he likes (should this be translated: may not do as he likes?). The meaning, I think, is that the liturgy is nee of those countless things that the Doctrinal Commission at Vatican II told Paul VI limited what a pope may dothis after that Pope wanted to insert a phrase stating that the pope is bound only by God.. So far from thats being a defense of Pope Paul VI, it looks more to me like an implicit rebuke of him.I havent read Reids book so I cant comment on that or on what Ratzingers praise of it means with regard to the reforms that followed the Council. Nor do I want to defend all his decisions in liturgical mattersfar from it. The appropriation by Rome of the English translation is deplorable, both in principle and in apparent result. When I read about the German bishops recent rejection of a new translation, I wished that the U.S. bishops had pushed back harder than they did. On the other hand, as I wrote in Commonweal when the motu proprio was issued, I think too much is being made of the permission for greater use of the unreformed rite; I didnt think it should have been banned in the first place, and from what I hear from people both here in the U.S. and in Europe, there certainly is no flood of people asking for it, and I seem to remember your making a similar comment to a reporter about interest in the unreformed rite.)You speak of the first report on the implementation of Summorum Pontificum. Is this a specific document? If so, could you tell me where to find it? A Lefebvrist website I follow has had its own review of progress, and the results are not favorable to their cause, at least not in France, which is a kind of center of agitation for the restoration of the unreformed usage.As for general responses to the present pontificate, I dont have any doubt that many people in many regions are very upset or that Pope Benedict suffers from a considerable credibility-gap, which is, of course, an authority-gap. I dont myself agree with a number of decision he has made, nor with what I am told is a general lack of care for the ordinary administrative business of being pope in favor of completing his works on Jesus. If this is true, he is the second pope in a row to be indifferent to such matters, and we are suffering from it.The figures you cite about people leaving are alarming, although I suspect that many factors would have to enter into any discussion of causes or reasons. My point about this in my last post was not to blame the people who leave, but simply to point out that leaving was their free and presumably adult decision, a decision not made by people like yourself and myself; and I am not inclined to give more weight to their decision than to ours. I am no more inclined to blame the pope for the departures than I was to blame Vatican II for the Catholics who left in distress over the changes it introduced, or to blame the minister or priest who saw people abandoning his church when he began to preach against racism or the war in Vietnam. People are responsible for their own decisions. In the fifty years since Vatican II opened, many, perhaps most, of us have had occasion to debate whether to leave the Church, or the priesthood, and have decided to remain.In my recent Commonweal essay on Newman, I cited at the beginning and at the end his statement: It is so ordered on high that in our day Holy Church should present just that aspect to my countrymen which is most consonant with their ingrained prejudices against her, most unpromising for their conversion. I cited it because I felt it expressed what many people, myself among them, feel about the state of the Church at the present time. Newmans response was to write a lengthy essay to explain how he had overcome the same difficulties in the way of his own conversion some thirty years earlier. His own way across those difficulties may not be everyones, but maybe his example should lead us who remain to explain to ourselves and to others why we remain.

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I think it's worth watching this interview with Cardinal Pell to understand the depth of the opposition to the views expressed in the relatio


It seems to me that the core disagreement is about whether it is even possible to "meet people where they are," respect, and "welcome" them, without creating scandal and falsifying doctrine.

Clearly, Francis believes it is possible - and necessary. After next year's Synod, will there still be opposition from enough bishops to make him decide that it is not workable to say that clearly in his Apostolic Exhortation?

It reminds me of the SSPX objections to ecumenism. 

Sorry, posted that in the wrong thread