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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?

About the Author

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.



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Fr. Komonchak, thank you for this post. I had contemplated adding a comment in a thread below, asking for a cite of this oft-repeated claim.Thanks also for the passage from David G's book - it looks like a very interesting read (particularly that bit about national conferences), and I'm just finishing up the book I've been reading ...

Fr. Komonchak - I believe this sentiment comes from a harsh interpretation of Ratzinger's comments about the "mustard seed." I found a helpful synthesis of the theme here:

Suppose: 1) the words "smaller, purer church" were not said by Ratzinger; 2) those words, however, have been increasingly offered as the appropriate interpretation of what he did say, which is susceptible (at least on its face) to such an interpretation; and3) the ideal of the smaller purer church is increasingly present in the approach of the life of the American church, thanks in part to people such as Chaput, the apb of Minnesota, Burke, etc. Just like (to pick up another thread): 1) the words "wall of separation of church and state" are not in the Constitution; 2) those words, however, have been increasingly offered as the appropriate interpretation of what is in the Constitution which is susceptible (at least on its face) to such an interpretation; and 3) the ideal of a wall of separation is increasingly present and powerful in American political life.In both cases, merely pointing out that the original words do not compel such a development (and all interpretation involves some form of development --at least specification) isn't sufficient to combat the difficulty.

Makes sense to have a smaller purer church not tied to appeasing political leaders. Seems to me this kind of church would have supported a Romero and Guttierez. It is not so much orthodoxy that will be helped as it would the true gospel.

Ascertaining whether or not Ratzinger/Benedict ever used the phrase "smaller but purer church" does not settle all questions having to do with the phrase, but the scholar in me--I once taught at a university--thinks it not an illegitimate query, and not least in order to know what the present Pope, if he used the phrase or said something like it, meant and, whether it fairly describes the program of his pontificate and whether it is rightly invoked by those who wish to take him as the guide for their own, more circumscribed, programs.

Weve been referred to the set of interviews gathered as Salt of the Earth, pp. 15-16. Here Ratzinger was asked about his failure to bring about a broad movement against the currents of our time and a general change in mentality. He responded that he never imagined he could redirect the rudder of history. And if our Lord himself ends up on the Cross, one sees that Gods ways do not lead immediately to measurable successes. He then alludes to Jesus parables about the mustard seed, the yeast, which told the disciples that statistics is not one of Gods measurements. He went on:In spite of that, something essential and crucial happens with the mustard seeds and the leaven, even though you cant see it now. In that sense, I think we have to disregard quantitative measures of success. After all, were not a business operation that can look at the numbers to measure whether our policy has been successful and whether were selling more and more. Rather, were performing a service, and in the end, when weve done our job, we put it in the Lords hands. On the other hand, that doesnt mean the everything is totally in vain. In fact, there are stirrings of faith among young people on every continent.Perhaps the time has come to say farewell to the idea of traditionally Catholic cultures. Maybe we are facing a new and different kind of epoch in the Churchs history, where Christianity will again be characterized more by the mustard seed, where it will exist in small, insignificant groups that nonetheless live an intensive struggle against evil and bring the good into the worldthat let God in. I see that there is once more a great deal of activity of this kind.... There are certainly no mass conversions to Christianity, no reversal of the historical paradigm, no about-face. But there are powerful ways in which faith is present, inspiring people again and giving them dynamism and joy. In other words, there is a presence of faith that means something for the world.This strikes me as prognosis more than program. It reminds me of Karl Rahners assessment of the Churchs situation at the beginning of the 1970's as one of transition from a Church sustained by a homogeneously Christian society and almost identical with it, from a peoples Church [Volkskirche], to a Church made up of those who have struggled against their environment in order to reach a personally clearly and explicitly responsible decision of faith. This will be the Church of the future or there will be no Church at all (The Shape of the Church to Come, p. 24). The next chapter in this provocative little book is entitled Church of the Little Flock, and it begins with the prediction: We are the beginning of the little flock. I say the beginning because, without being really deeply disturbed in my faith, I am sure that in the next decades the German Church will decline quite considerably numerically, at least in relation to the total population, and in social influence (p. 30). Rahner then goes on to urge that a Church thus diminished in size and influence not become a ghetto or a sect.

Interesting question. The phrase is quoted so often and has been for so long, that I assumed Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict really said it. But maybe it was McCloskey. (Jane Kramer puts "purer" in quotation marks, but there's no source.) (Greeley puts "smaller and purer Church" in quotations marks in his review of Gibson's book.) (No quotation marks around Navone's answer.) (Russert on Meet the Press in 2005 said McCloskey predicted "almost a smaller and purer church".)

I think what the pope said matters, of course. But I think as traditions develop in living ways, unless he himself clearly rules out the "smaller purer church" model, it's going to be very hard to combat it practically.

Just weighing in now, with some comments I'd sent to Father Komonchak in an email...But the passage cited above I think captures well Benedict's sense of the saving remnant/mustard seed/leaven/creative minority...I am certain I never found the smaller but purer phrase directly attributed to Ratzinger, and I believe (hope) I made that clear in the book, even as I believe the concept is one he embraces and is an important one in reading him. He also speaks frequently of the mustard seed parable as appropriate to this wintertime of the faith (as opposed to John Pauls springtime), and of Toynbees idea of creative minorities preserving and carrying culture forward through dark times. Ratzinger also spoke of his comfort with different levels or degrees of association in the church, that is, those who are faithful and entrusted with responsibility and authority, and those who he said, understandably, would find themselves on the fringes, though still attached by baptism or whatever. The smaller but purer motif is usually used in a critical way to suggest that it is a goal he is actively working toward, and I believe that can be argued in a limited sense, though to the extent most would see it. He doesnt necessarily want a smaller church, but he simply sees that as a reality, in his rather fatalistic view of things, and he sees the saving remnant as the best hope for the church. I also believe he sees it as easier to control. Hes uncomfortable with the messyness of the church, especially these days. Anyway, thats my analysis/bias. As with many things regarding Ratzinger, I agree with him in many respects, and I like the Rahner citation from Father K. I do think the faith, in places like Europe mainly, and perhaps eventually here in North America, will be preserved and transmitted most effectively by small communities I think of Bose and Taize, e.g., rather than the Latin Mass types, however (though B16 likes Taize well enough). And I think it is often creative minorities who keep things going. But he is too eager in my mind to write off seeds of renewal in non-traditional places, and faith found outside the church parameters. And his view that we are living in a parallel secular version of the Nazi regime he grew up under seems over the top and too much like a desire for a do-over for him. The Nazi-era lesson of Ratzingers that Father K cites is valid, but the flip side of that, which Ratzinger has never really explained, is that many of his heroes von Faulhaber, Pius XII acted in defense of those institutions, too. Its interesting. And I think pinning the blame too much on the self-protective institutional culture is problematic. Church institutions can be heroic universities and such. And as cardinal and pope, Benedict has been quick to defend the churchs institutional prerogatives, such as crucifixes in classrooms. One last thing, I think Ratzinger is very much a cultural Catholic (as well as a genuine Catholic, I suppose I should add), hence his alliances with culturally conservative atheists and agnostics, Marcello Pera and Oriana Fallaci et al. But he tends to universalize his own European/Bavarian world, which, given the Catholic straits in Germany, would give one a dim view of the present and future, and which also ignores the enormous growth elsewhere in the Catholic world.The question of numbers and growth are esepcially problematic for papalists, as there often seems to be a desire to adopt the persecuted minority view of the lone voice in the wilderness, in which being small in numbers connotes greatness of purpose and righteousness. But then those same folks play up and even overhype numbers as evidence of their champion's power and righteousness. It seems they want it both ways. I think those two motifs, martyrdom and the missionary impulse, are often in tension. Anyway, that's my story. Smaller but purer -- like Cathy said, it's the separation of church and state of the Ratzinger revolution!

PS: As Gerelyn noted, it was Ratzinger's fans who often trumpeted the exact "smaller but purer" phrase. It can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, of course, especially if its fans are running the show.

I thought Cathy's analogy was quite germane.Claire's cite of Rahner in the "lukewarm Catholic" thread below helps raise the nub of the problem, viz. is BXVI, in blessin ghis curial led Church in its policy moving it more to the 'mustard seed' or the sect or ghetto?Those in drift, including myself, think the latter far more probable.

If Benedict spoke of a smaller but purer church, he would not have done so first in English, I would think. He might have used Italian or German, no?

In a column that comes up on Google, Timothy Garton Ash used the phrase "klein aber rein," but whether this was his or Ratzinger's is not clear.

"In both cases, merely pointing out that the original words do not compel such a development (and all interpretation involves some form of development at least specification) isnt sufficient to combat the difficulty."True - not sufficient, but necessary, if we desire to understand what was originally said and meant.

"Smaller" is an objective condition. "Purer" is in the eye of the beholder. I do not concede that a smaller church will be purer.

The analogy with the the phrase "wall of separation of Church and State" is apt in this sense that those who are indifferent to the question whether it is found in the Constitution miss an opportunity to contribute to the public debate and to clarify it by pointing out that the phrase is not constitutionally normative but represents already a particular way of interpreting the actual words of the First Amendment. Something similar appears to be occurring with the phrase often attributed (mistakenly, it appears) to Ratzinger/Benedict.

I'm sympathetic to those who yearn for a deeper, more intentional commitment to faith. The reason why I think nothing positive about the smaller/purer meme is that it strikes me as narcissism and gnosticism in a rather convenient marriage devoid of personal sacrifice. The desert tradition began with people dissatisfied with the Church at peace with Empire. Their solution wasn't to shut down their catechumenates and eject the lukewarm masses, but to go to the wilderness and find God. When I see evidence of the smaller/purer crowd aligning with sacrifice, personal reform, and metanoia, I'll be ready to listen. Until then, this is just class warfare transferred to a pseudo-religious mentality.Another possibly unfair bit tacked to the B16 legacy. I don't think he meant what his followers have picked up, but we're probably past the point of plausible deniability for him.

Whatever the source, the "smaller but purer" approach seems to clash with efforts being made to bring lapsed Catholics back home, to convince young people that there is a place in the church for them, and so forth ... the effort to "meet people where they are," as it is often put. A lot of people work very hard at these ministries.

I've used the phrase "smaller but purer church" and attributed it to B16 quite often in my blogging and conversation. In light of Joseph Komonchak's query, I'm going to try to avoid such attribution in the future unless/until any further information might reveal otherwise.In the meantime in the world of blogging, it is not at all unusual to see self-described "orthodox" Catholics invite their liberal/progressive adversaries out of the Church of Rome. During the years immediately after Vatican II, was it the liberals/progressives who might have suggested to conservative Catholic complainers that they leave the church? I don't know. What we are witnessing, however, is exodus from the institutional Catholic Church in the U.S. But for the influx of Hispanics, we'd be seeing actual decrease in numbers. People leave for many different reasons, as the Pew Survey data indicate. I've no doubt in my mind, however, that departures from "the fold" are largely due to the pontificates of JPII and now B16. Anyway, returning to the "smaller but purer" language, as I've written here or elsewhere, it's the "purer" part that gives me heartburn. I don't see genuine Christian witness in the behaviors of Burke, Nienstedt, and other likeminded hierarchs. O, well...

I have no problem with the concept of a smaller, purer church, as I understand the concept. I imagine many who would view themselves as on the outside looking in, if the church were "smaller", have a problem with the concept, but then why would you want to join a club that stands for things you don't sufficiently believe in?Assuming smaller (not purer) is the offending word, I interpret the concept of a smaller church in the sense that evangelism does not consist of bending to the world, to increase the size the church. Evangelism consists of a confidence and faith that the church's message does not need to be, indeed cannot be, diluted for the Word to thrive. We went the dilution route in the 1970's in our seminaries--how did that work out?It's not the people that would be purer, it's the message. The people will follow.

Four and a half hours is probably not enough time to establish firmly that the Pope didn't himself use the phrase, so I'll wait a couple of days. An interesting further point. When I google the topic, I don't find any references to the phrase as associated with Ratzinger earlier than his election as Pope, when there is a flurry of them, many (perhaps most) of them appearing to echo the comment attributed to David Gibson above. David: Could it be that you are, singlehandedly, responsible for this association?

I thought it was before Benedict's election that the phrase was mentioned a lot. Around the time when there was a lot of talk about Ecclesia Dei and reconciling with the SPPX, etc.Googling "latin mass smaller purer" brings up weird stuff, including a claim by a poster "Bernard" on this site -- -- that Ratzinger was interviewed by Arroyo in 2003 and talked about Smaller numbers, I think. but from these small numbers we will have a radiation of joy in the world". He gives no link. (Scroll down two-thirds.)

What Garton Ash said was "klein aber fein," and I have corrected this above. It means "small but excellent," with one translation offered suggesting "small is beautiful!" The issue is likely to turn on a couple of things: What is meant by purity here? It is a Beatitude after all: "Blessed are the pure of heart, they shall see God," and Kierkegaard sought the Christians of his age to go beyond merely nominal or cultural Catholicism when he wrote a book entitled Purity of Heart is to Will one Thing, and perhaps we could agree that seeking to will the one great thing, that is, the will of God, would be a good thing for the Church, that is, for us, to pursue.Then, of course, one would think it the role of Church leaders not to make the Church smaller but to make it purer, in the sense just described. A question: Does making the Church purer inevitably make it smaller? Certainly, as Barbara points out above, making it smaller does not necessary make it purer.

Also see page 222 of Salt of The Earth.

"Ascertaining whether or not Ratzinger/Benedict ever used the phrase smaller but purer church . . ."JAK --Given the exegetic nature of this thread, maybe we should note that sometimes Ratzinger is said to have said "smaller and purer church" and sometimes as "smaller but purer church". Depending on context and whether or not the reports which we are considering were verbatim, there might be a very large difference in his intended meaning. Consider these possibilities: In the first century the Church was smaller and purer.In the first century, when Christians were persecuted, there was a smaller but purer Church.In the 21st century the Church will be smaller and purer.Already in the 20th century, the Church was smaller but purer.Also note that "smaller and purer" has a very different connotation from "small and pure". Consider"She was smaller and purer than her competitors.She was small and pure. (as if small is a necessary condition of pure)(Yes, this is linguistic analysis at its most boring, but sometimes it sheds some light or makes us ask further questions.) I do wonder if Ratzinger ever used either of the phrases and what he meant by it or them.

I do not know if/where the pope used the phrase but there is a benign way to understand the sentiment. When Karl Raner made the often quoted observation that the Christian of the future would either be a mystic or not a Christian at all he was making a point that the culture might not support traditional faith - that one would either have an experience of faith or one would not survive as a Christian. The article of Peer Steinfels on the dissafection of so many Catholics in this country is a variation of the theme.

Ann: That's my question, too. So far there's no evidence that he used either phrase. Kevin: Thank you for the reference. Here is what is said there: "The Church, too, as we have already said, will assume different forms. She will be less identified with the great societies, more a minority Church, she will live in small, vital circles of really convinced believers who live their faith. But precisely in this way she will, biblically speaking, become the salt of the earth again."This is similar to what Rahner was saying and reminds me also of what Congar said about the inner Christian life that will be required once all the social and cultural supports for the faith are gone. We discussed this in the thread entitled "Christians without Backbones" below.I tried the phrase "smaller but purer" on Lexis-Nexis and found there examples of the use of the phrase with regard to splits in political parties, among Communists, etc. One reference to Benedict occurs after his election."A smaller and purer church" also appears with reference to splits within the Anglican community.

Making the rounds is some (Catholic) e-mails is the comment : latest hierarchical rationalization: smaller is better."I'd be bemused if the issue wasn't so sad and divisive.The comment was accompanied by a large phote of the Minnesota Bishop of "lukewarm" fame.But he and other bishops continue to be supported by BXVI and there's little or no drift engagement no matter what Benedict said or is thought to have said.So, if we are moving towards a smaller (and purer?) Church, does the buck stop at Benedict's door?

I googled "Ratzinger smaller, purer" and came up with a Business Week interview with Scott Appleby after Ratzinger's election as pope. Appleby is quoted as saying, "it's true Pope Benedict XVI prefers a leaner, smaller, purer church as he has spoken of before, we could see a withering of certain Catholic institutions because they're not considered fully Catholic. This might include Catholic colleges, hospitals, and other Catholic institutions."Interesting that he includes "leaner" among the adjectives. That can have quite a different meaning from "purer" and from "smaller". I wonder which sayings of Ratzinger Prof. Appleby had in mind. Given the "leaner" he might have been thinking of the Curia and of allowing more collegiality our in the sticks.One thing is certain, I think, Ratzinger/Benedict has not been consistent in all of his views, and maybe he never was. Or maybe there are truly two Ratzingers.

I believe the sentiment for "smaller but purer" comes from Glaube und ZukunftHere is an excerpt I have found on the Wir sind Kirche site:Die Kirche der Zukunft "wird klein werden ... Sie wird viele der Bauten nicht mehr fllen knnen ... Sie wird auch gewi neue Formen des Amtes kennen und bewhrte Christen, die im Beruf stehen, zu Priestern weihen" (J. Ratzinger, Glaube u. Zukunft, Mnchen 1970, 123).The Church of the future will be small...She will no longer be able to fill many of the buildings...She will certainly also acknowledge new forms of ministry and will ordain to the priesthood proven Christians who have other jobs. I have found other excerpt that suggest a purer Church, but they are in English, supposedly translated from the same book. I have not been able to find a full German copy online to verify the translation:As a small community, she will demand much more from the initiative of each of her members and she will certainly also acknowledge new forms of ministry and will raise up to the priesthood proven Christians who have other jobs. In many smaller communities, respectively in social groups with some affinity, the normal care of souls will take place in this way .... There will be an interiorized Church, which neither takes advantage of its political mandate nor flirts with the left or the right. This will be achieved with effort because the process of crystallization and clarification will demand great exertion. It will make her poor and a Church of the little people .... All this will require time. The process will be slow and painful .... From this interiorized and simplified Church, a great force will pour out. The men of an [artificially] planned world will feel unspeakably isolated. When God will seem to have totally disappeared for them, they will experience a complete and horrible poverty. And then they will discover the small community of those who believe as something entirely new ....

Many years ago I remember reading an interview with Ratzinger when he spoke of a time when the Church would be made up of a faithful remnant. I do not remember the phrase smaller and purer, although that could have been part of the phrase. Certainly the intent of the statement was to say that there were some in the Church who were not as faithful as they should be. This phrase was quickly picked up by the right to suggest that Ratzinger was speaking about them. However, I've often used the phrase myself to call Catholics to an intensity of faith. Unfortunately, I do not remember the source of the phrase, but I know that it exists. Perhaps a search for Ratzinger and "faithful remnant" would reveal the source.

Without slighting the interesting comments on smaller-purer-leaner, etc., Barbara is surely right that "smaller" does not entail "purer." And may I add that I can't see any reason that I shouldn't hope and pray for a larger Church and oppose any actions that would make it unnecessarily difficult for people to join or to stay in the Church.And by the way, doesn't some of the talk mentioned above on this thread about pure and or lean sound like military talk for what characteristics are desirable for an organization to defeat its enemies or competitors? What's Christian about such talk? The gospels surely give lots of support to talking and thinking like this. Yes, I know and appreciate that there is some tough talk in the Scriptures. But that tough talk is always in service of a loving call extended widely to all sorts of people in all sorts of spiritual need.

If (and I emphasize if) the Pope is inclined to tolerate a smaller Church because he thinks its purer, then I for one am scandalized. The Lord didn't tell his disciples to be satisfied with a few converts, He said to preach to all nations, and I assume that meant the good and the bad, the pure and the impure everywhere. But that requires learning their languages, and learning their languages requires understanding their experiences which give weight to their languages. I don't think the Pope is inclined to do that.(In fact, it looks like the enormously great understanding of language that has been accomplished since the mid-19th century has passed him and the whole curial culture by. If they understood how language works they wouldn't put their feet in their mouths with such regularity. But I digress.)

I came accross this translation from a 1969 radio address that Ratzinger gave, at the time i thought it might be the source of this "smaller and purer church" that he is often credited to have argued for. Similar to the Salt and Light remarks, it seems more descriptive than proscriptive: "From todays crisis, a church will emerge tomorrow that will have lost a great deal. She will be small and to a large extent she will have to start from the beginning. She will no longer be able to fill many of the buildings created in her period of great splendor. Because of the smaller number of her followers she will lose many of her privileges in society. Contrary to what has happened until now, she will present herself much more as a community of volunteers, she will demand much more from the initiative of each of her members and she will certainly also acknowledge new forms of ministry and will raise up to the priesthood proven Christians who have other jobs It will make her poor and a church of the little people all this will require time. The process will be slow and painful."

errata - Salt of the Earth, not Salt and Light!

Bernard --Interesting perhaps that both you and I simultaneously sent a similar message -- I gather that you and I must have both been young uns' under the same great archbishop (Rummell) and that might account for our similar views. I can't imagine Archb. Rummell (who was German-born!) talking with any degree of satisfaction about some hypothetical smaller, purer Church. He wanted those schools, and he wanted them open to everyone.Yes, folks, there is such a thing as a great bishop.

Alan: Thanks for the reference. The work has been translated and published in English as Faith and the Future, and the pertinent passages are in the last chapter, entitled "What will the Church Look Like in 2000." Ratzinger's description, published in 1970, is very similar to that of Rahner, published in 1972. That he predicts that the Church will be smaller is very clear, but I don't find the word "purer" in the chapter. He does speak of "a more spiritualized Church," of "a more spiritualized and simplified Church." Rahner thinks that the Church of the future will be "a Church of real spirituality," which he appears to contrast to "the kind of sloth and pettiness that is prevalent among Christians today," to "our impoverished spirituality in the German Church today." "The Church then must remain the Church of mystery and of the evangelical joy of redeemed freedom."Ann: I don't think his view has ever been the one that scandalizes you. I don't think he has ever proposed that we not address all of humanity, or that we aim at becoming smaller. He predicted that we would become smaller, in size and in influence.

Oops -- I misquoted Prof. Appleby -- I didn't include a crucial 'If". It should have been:"IF (emphasis mine) it's true Pope Benedict XVI prefers a leaner, smaller, purer church as he has spoken of before, we could see a withering of certain Catholic institutions because they're not considered fully Catholic. This might include Catholic colleges, hospitals, and other Catholic institutions."

JAK --I didn't mean that he thought such a Church would be good. I just think that he is satisfied to *tolerate* such a Church, even for a long period of time. Such an attitude, I think, does not present the confidence in the grace of God that is always always there for changing us sinners. In other words, I think he is much too pessimistic. I've always thought of him as too Lutheran/Calvinistic, with their too negative view of human nature, and these ideas confirm it. The "purer" members of such a church sound too much like the elect to me.Maybe I'm just objecting to his sort of very negative mindset, which really isn't a matter of faith but of individual psychology. Of course, given the history of Germany during his lifetime, it's perhaps no wonder he thinks so ill of human nature. But most people are not Nazis.

I think "eine kleinere aber reinere Kirche" has a nice ring to it.

Whether the Pope is too pessimistic about the future I suppose will be settled in the future. He certainly has not adopted an "Oh my, let's just let it happen" attitude, but has urged one and all in the Church to preach the Gospel and to call all people to believe in it. Those early predictions, shared by Karl Rahner, were not exhortations to passive resignation in the face of human resistance to grace, but an effort at analysis, with the assumption, yes, that bigger is not necessarily better, and smaller is not necessarily worse--a view that many Catholics have a good deal of difficulty accepting. Jacques Maritain got inito trouble when he proposed that the Church rely on "the poor means of the Gospel" to fulfill its role in society and culture rather than on the institutional, financial, and coercive support of the State.And, please, let us all recognize that, so far, no one has cited a text of his that speaks of a "smaller but purer Church."

I think it is critical to this discussion to ask "smaller where?" Because numerically, we are headed to a 1.3 billion member church by 2025 so absolutely numerically small just isn't in the cards for Catholics anytime soon. No Christian group has ever, in history, had to deal with such numbers.1) But smaller in Europe? In terms of stature, influence, cultural impact, state-church relationships, attendance - sure. European Christendom is well and truly dead. But then, the entire population of Europe is declining as well. The whole "smaller" discussion is a reflection of the anxieties and debates of western Catholics, who do have something to be anxious about.2) Will European/western Catholicism be a much smaller part of the global Catholicism? Yes, absolutely. We are already a minority of about 35% and will soon only amount to 30% of global Catholicism. 3) Will the Catholic Church, as a whole, comprise a smaller percentage of global Christianity? Yes - The Catholic Church grew rapidly through the 19th and 20th centuries until our high point in 1970 when Catholics made up 53.9% of all Christians. Our global footprint has been slowly declining ever since. Right now, we are just about 50% of all Christians. By 2025, we'll have slipped below half to about 48.8%. What we are witnessing in our lifetime is the gradual Protestantization of global Christianity. In 1900, Catholics and Orthodox together made up nearly 3/4 of all Christians on the planet. Today, RC/O make up about 60% and the heirs of the Reformation about 40%. By 2050, Protestants and their spiritual children like the new waves of Independents and renewalists will probably make up more than half of all Christians. Both Catholicism and Orthodoxy are growing much more slowly than the world's population while Independent and renewalist Christians are growing at twice he rate of the world's population. To put it simply, they are evangelizing with great passion, creativity, and a sense of mission and we aren't. 4) But will the Catholics of Africa, Asia, and South American experience the 21st century as a time of a "smaller" Church? That is very unlikely. Their 21st century is going to be very different from that of European Catholics. 5) Honestly, we can't deal effectively with the numbers we have now. Not only have 32% of cradle Catholics in the US jettisoned that religious identity altogether, an additional 38% of those who have kept it seldom or never cross the threshold of our parishes anyway. Only about 30% of those raised Catholic in this country "practice" (that is, show up at Mass at least once a month.) Only about 15.6% of those raised Catholic are at Mass on a given weekend. Which is also roughly the percentage of millennial Catholics at Mass on a given weekend. For western Catholicism to go through a time of relative (this is only relative - I used to be a Quaker and there were only 300,000 of us in the whole world and we didn't spend our time worrying about it!) decline in numbers will be disturbing and disorienting but may well force us to re-focus on the essentials which eventually leads to a new cycle of growth. But I would agree that the Pope is only being descriptive, rather than prescriptive in recognizing these trends in the west. For the Pope to have recognized this so early (documents from the late 60's are being quoted) is quite remarkable. The unhappy souls who go around gleefully predicting empty suburban parishes or anticipating the imminent death of all baby boomers are crazy and I tell them so. Such an attitude is so plainly contrary to the heart of God. But we are called to recognize the signs of the times in which we live.

Out of death comes new life.I hope we are witnessing the death throes of the pre-Vatican II institutional church.All the pope's lackeys and all the pope's men, one hopes, will be unable to put ol' Humpty Dumpty back together again.

My big problem with the Pope is not his pessimism about the future, it's his apparent pessimism and insufficient engagement with the *present*. He seems to think that his first task is to reclaim the Church in Europe (where the gigantic losses began not a generation ago but centuries ago). How has he gone about it? Largely by talking to the Jews and Protestants, not the seculars. But the European Jews were all but eradicated by the Nazis, and they are no threat to Christian belief, while the Protestants themselves are in a state of decline. So how much does that advance his project? Not very much. I say: so what if he got an agreement with the Lutherans. Luther was then, this is now. Why isn't he talking to the secularists? I can see several reasons. First, today the university culture of practically all of Europe is secularist, and the secularists probably *don't want* to talk to *him*. And why should they want to? The educated class sees the history of the Church as one of repression, sometimes lying in the face of evidence (see Galileo) , plus exaggeration, and now of cover-ups of what is embarassing to the clergy. The secularists don't trust the churchmen to be honest, i.e., serious. Only the Pope and his minions can correct that image by showing that they are not generally liars. Second, possibly he doesn't talk to the seculars because he doesn't speak their language or know their existential concerns. That is probably because he hasn't had either a secular experience, except the German army which was not a typical European life, nor a secular education. Not having had either of those, he doesn't understand that the accusations of the seculars against the Church are too often well founded, plus he doesn't understand that for many seculars their rejection of the faith/dogma is based on ignorance or existential angst -- Darwin, for instance, didn't just cast off Christianity without a look back. He needs to take modern science and philosophy AFTER Kant very, very seriously to understand why they think that being a Catholic is being either ignorant, gullible, irrational, hypocritical, or a dolt. Yes, there are fine scientists, e.g., Dawkins, who take as their project the destruction of religion and all supersition. But there are fine scientists who don't. Why doesn't he give more attention to them? Yes, there are now some (new) scientific commissions at the Vatican, and happily they invite non-believing scientists to participate in some discussions. But does the Pope attend? I've never read that he does. (Too busy doing what is "important'?) He is himself an extremely brilliant man. He needs to use those brains talking to his equals who do so much to confuse and lead the faithful astray.Until he or others reach out seriously to the secular intellectual leaders who influence the wider culture so greatly, the Church will only continue to get smaller.

Oops -- I neglected to make a point:The Pope sees preaching the Gospel as his solution to the attrition. (Actually, much of the Gospel is already accepted by the secularists.) But given the reputation of the Church among intellectuals and now in the popular culture there is the job of explaining with obvious humility (if Rome can manage it) that the scandalous history of churchmen is not identical with the Church. Rome must admit that it was wrong about more than Galileo (which took them 500 years to get around to doing). It cannot go back to the age of the martyrs and start over. That world does not exist any more.

Ann: I think that Pope Benedict has made more of an effort to talk to secularists than any pope in the last century or two. Almost any visit he makes includes an address to representatives of the local cultural elite; he's engaged philosophers such as Jrgen Habermas in public debate; etc. He's not as ignorant as you make him out to be. And he understands the Council to have aimed at preventing all the scandals of the Church's history, or of its present sinfulness, from obscuring the great scandal that is the confrontation with the Cross.I don't know what you could possibly mean when you say that "much of the Gospel is already accepted by the secularists." But perhaps you have a very broad notion of the "secularists"--or perhaps of the Gospel. The core of the Gospel, of course, is the atoning death and life-giving resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God. This does not seem to me very prominent in the mental world of most of the secularists I'm acquainted with.

Joe, I'm just checking back in, and a few thoughts:One, I'm not sure what the purpose of this thread is, with its rather obsessive focus on a single particular phrase. This strike me as losing the forest for the trees. I certainly did not invent the "smaller but purer" paraphrase, as it was in circulation for years regarding Ratzinger, though may have been given greater prominence and hence sourcing after his election. I was certainly one of those commenting on his papacy quite a bit, especially since he had effectively silenced (purified?!) commentators like Tom Reese. It's understandable, in light of Ratzinger's writings and comments over the years, that the phrase "smaller but purer" would be associated with him, as it does reflect an important element of his thinking. The meaning, as I explained above and at greater length in my book, is the important thing. I think you try to get at that, Joe, when you try to associate Ratzinger's views on this with Rahner's. I think you are mistaken there, because I believe they meant two different things, and they are/were such different people -- "on different theological planets," as Ratzinger described their differences. They ended on quite a bitter note. Ratzinger also took quite a more pessimistic view of the church's season (winter versus spring) than did John Paul II, something Ratzinger made a point of noting, publicly and privately.That is the problem with taking a legalistic point of view in trying to make something uncomfortable go away. We can both cite our support for the "separation of church and state," but we can mean different things by it, and one of us could even be referring to the Establishment clause, for example. The context and thought behind of a concept need to be considered when trying to draw a full portrait. Arguing that because Ratzinger did not himself use the phrase, in English, "smaller but purer" does not mean that he does not hold a view associated with that prospect, and in a different way that Rahner (and myself, I dare say) would take it to mean. There have been many good citations in this thread, but one has to see what they add up to, along with gauging Ratzinger's actions as pope, to make a judgment of whether they resonate with the "saving remnant" motif so often attributed to him, and of which he has spoken.

JAK --The teachings of Jesus include those about God and the relation between man and God and His teachings about man relative to man. Many secularists (and by that I mean people who think that the world is all there is) already accept His teachings about man relative to man -- His ethics. Even those who fault the Christian dogmas and even religious belief itself do not fault Jesus as a person, and, indeed, consider HIm to be among the greatest. So those teachings are not much of a problem, except for some specifications of the general teachings, such as birth control and abortion. (By the way, Peter Singer has a lot more in common with the Church than is commonly thought.) As to engaging with the secularists, that should include above all engaging with the philosophers. But that has not been a priority of Benedict much less the other popes, though Benedict might be better than most in that respect. The Vatican has had many conferences on science and its relationship to religion, and conferences, etc., on the arts, and commissions on social issues, but have any of the conferences or institutes or any sorts of meetings been with the secular philosophers? In recent years, any way, it has been the philosophers who have had the greatest secular influence on the West and Europe in particular, not the the artists or scientists as was the case in the past. If there were such meetings with philosophers, did Benedict attend?In recent weeks he initiated a new dicastery to deal with secularism. But will that involve engaging with the contemporary philosophers themselves? Anybody know? You say, "And he understands the Council to have aimed at preventing all the scandals of the Churchs history, or of its present sinfulness, from obscuring the great scandal that is the confrontation with the Cross."Not clear what you mean by that. My plea was not for preventing future scandals, but for admitting past ones. Yes, the the Vatican has apologized about Galileo. But it took centuries.

Mr. Gibson, I find it difficult to see how you can describe the author of "God is Love", "Saved by Hope" and "Charity in Truth" as a pessimistic! Ratzinger is certainly a realist, but a pessimist does not speak with the joy, beauty and freedom that the current pope does. I am concerned by some of your characterizations here and in previous writings. Is it possible that you are perceiving him through your own ideological lens, rather than as an objective observer?Comments such as: "especially since he had effectively silenced (purified?!) commentators like Tom Reese." add to the feeling that you are not always basing your opinions on just the facts.In light of the question that began this discussion, I would hope that you would use greater care with your frequent analysis of the Pope, especially since you are often quoted by other sources (as we see here) when matters of the church and pope are deemed newsworthy.With due respect, I suggest that you (and perhaps Ms. Oliver) reread the Pope's recent letter to seminarians and then try to maintain the views that you express here. Peace!

David: The purpose of this thread, I thought, was quite clear: to determine whether Ratzinger/Benedict has ever used the phrase smaller but purer. That others and I continue to pursue the question need not, then, be considered an obsessive focus or as representing a legalistic point of view. The question is as legitimate as the one with which you seem concerned, viz., whether in your book you ever say that he used the phrase.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. In your earlier post, you said that the important thing is not so much the phrase but the concept or meaning it carries. It strikes me that the phrase is not used with the same sense by all who invoke it. I was led to start the thread by the appearance of the phrase on the thread below about lukewarm Catholics, where it seemed to be used mainly as shorthand for the agenda being pursued by Pope Benedict and by some other Church leaders. I thought, and think, that a first step in simple clarification of several questions is whether the Pope has proposed the phrase. If so, then we could investigate what he meant by it; if not, then we could turn to the question whether it adequately or accurately sums up his agenda.You are mainly (only?) interested in this second question. You find it natural that the phrase is associated with Ratzinger/Benedict since it does reflect an important element of his thinking. You seem to take it as analogous to his sense of the saving remnant/mustard seed/leaven/creative minority. The first three of these images are, of course, biblical, the fourth derived from Toynbee. They have been, and are, commonly used as descriptions of a group that is a minority (even a tiny one) in the world and yet has a redemptive role: the remnant of Israel received the Messaih; the tiny mustard seed grows into a broad tree, a little bit of yeast leavens a great deal of flour. A preacher today will naturally read the biblical images as appropriate to the minority-situation of the Church today, and may well hold out the hope that what the parables promise will be fulfilled: that the tiny seed will become a broad and welcoming tree (an aspect that the Pope emphasizes), that the yeast of the Gospel may yet again leaven a whole society or culture. These parables, it needs to be said, are hopeful images. I dont think it a stretch to appeal in this connection to Toynbees creative minorities as people who respond actively to cultural crises and challenges and help forge a new civilization.Im not at all convinced that smaller but purer adequately or accurately conveys all this, and certainly not when the phrase is interpreted, as is not uncommon, as implying a desire, even an agenda, that the Church be not only purer but smaller. Texts suggested on the thread seem to me to describe what the Pope thinks has been happening and is likely to continue to happen: a decline of the Church both in numbers and in influence. I referred in this connection to Rahner, as also to Congar, because they, too, thought that the Church was witnessing the collapse of traditional social, political, and cultural supports, and this represented a radically new situation, one that could not be effectively addressed by relying on former attitudes, habits, and institutions and that requires in particular a freely chosen and deep level of Christian faith, hope and love. In that respect, all three theologians resembled each other, whatever differences in other respects there may have been among them. (Rahner and Ratzinger even used the winter-metaphor although they certainly disagreed on what was causing the chill!)So I dont think the question I raised should be dismissed as obsessive legalism, but as a first step in trying to determine if the Pope has used the phrase. As I said, other questions arise after that one is settled.

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.

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

This quote from then Joseph Ratzinger was included in Pope Bendict's Faith and the Future published by Ignatius Press in 2009.

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