Father Joseph Ratzinger 1969 Prediction of the Future of the Church

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By Fr Richard Heilman on ROMAN CATHOLIC MAN

In a 1969 German radio broadcast, Father Joseph Ratzinger offered this prediction of the future of the Church:

“The future of the Church can and will issue from those whose roots are deep and who live from the pure fullness of their faith. It will not issue from those who accommodate themselves merely to the passing moment or from those who merely criticize others and assume that they themselves are infallible measuring rods; nor will it issue from those who take the easier road, who sidestep the passion of faith, declaring false and obsolete, tyrannous and legalistic, all that makes demands upon men, that hurts them and compels them to sacrifice themselves.

To put this more positively: The future of the Church, once again as always, will be reshaped by saints, by men, that is, whose minds probe deeper than the slogans of the day, who see more than others see, because their lives embrace a wider reality. Unselfishness, which makes men free, is attained only through the patience of small daily acts of self-denial. By this daily passion, which alone reveals to a man in how many ways he is enslaved by his own ego, by this daily passion and by it alone, a man’s eyes are slowly opened. He sees only to the extent that he has lived and suffered.

If today we are scarcely able any longer to become aware of God, that is because we find it so easy to evade ourselves, to flee from the depths of our being by means of the narcotic of some pleasure or other. Thus our own interior depths remain closed to us. If it is true that a man can see only with his heart, then how blind we are!

How does all this affect the problem we are examining? It means that the big talk of those who prophesy a Church without God and without faith is all empty chatter. We have no need of a Church that celebrates the cult of action in political prayers. It is utterly superfluous. Therefore, it will destroy itself. What will remain is the Church of Jesus Christ, the Church that believes in the God who has become man and promises us life beyond death. The kind of priest who is no more than a social worker can be replaced by the psychotherapist and other specialists; but the priest who is no specialist, who does not stand on the [sidelines], watching the game, giving official advice, but in the name of God places himself at the disposal of man, who is beside them in their sorrows, in their joys, in their hope and in their fear, such a priest will certainly be needed in the future.

Let us go a step farther. From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge — a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes, so it will lose many of her social privileges. In contrast to an earlier age, it will be seen much more as a voluntary society, entered only by free decision. As a small society, it will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members. Undoubtedly it will discover new forms of ministry and will ordain to the priesthood approved Christians who pursue some profession. In many smaller congregations or in self-contained social groups, pastoral care will normally be provided in this fashion. Along-side this, the full-time ministry of the priesthood will be indispensable as formerly. But in all of the changes at which one might guess, the Church will find her essence afresh and with full conviction in that which was always at her center: faith in the triune God, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, in the presence of the Spirit until the end of the world. In faith and prayer she will again recognize the sacraments as the worship of God and not as a subject for liturgical scholarship.

The Church will be a more spiritual Church, not presuming upon a political mandate, flirting as little with the Left as with the Right. It will be hard going for the Church, for the process of crystallization and clarification will cost her much valuable energy. It will make her poor and cause her to become the Church of the meek. The process will be all the more arduous, for sectarian narrow-mindedness as well as pompous self-will will have to be shed. One may predict that all of this will take time. The process will be long and wearisome as was the road from the false progressivism on the eve of the French Revolution — when a bishop might be thought smart if he made fun of dogmas and even insinuated that the existence of God was by no means certain — to the renewal of the nineteenth century.

But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty. Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret.

And so it seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult, which is dead already, but the Church of faith. It may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but it will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death.”

Another fascinating interview with Raymond Arroyo in 2003:

 

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24 Responses to Father Joseph Ratzinger 1969 Prediction of the Future of the Church

  1. Tom Fisher says:

    If today we are scarcely able any longer to become aware of God, that is because we find it so easy to evade ourselves, to flee from the depths of our being by means of the narcotic of some pleasure or other. Thus our own interior depths remain closed to us. If it is true that a man can see only with his heart, then how blind we are!

    Centuries from now, he will be teaching a new generation. He is a wonderful theologian.

  2. toadspittle says:

    “If it is true that a man can see only with his heart, then how blind we are!”
    A man could use his eyes, and then his brain, of course. (No mention of women, I see.)
    Personally, I’d be strongly against any other course of action.
    …But nobody’s asking me.

    But seriously, given his strong feelings here, why did he decide to quit?
    He had a unique opportunity – as Pontiff.
    And he simply walked away from it. Or so it seems to me.

  3. toadspittle says:

    “..but in the name of God places himself at the disposal of man, who is beside them in their sorrows, in their joys, in their hope and in their fear, such a priest will certainly be needed in the future…”
    “…But that priest won’t be Benedict, folkes. I’m off.”

  4. RLY08 says:

    “But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church.” – this is the promise of Jesus, that no evil will overcome His Church.

    “Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty.” – a joyful sight to see, that the world will convert and truly see God once again, for who He is.

    “Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret.” – Man was made for God. As St. Augustine says it, “My heart will not rest until it rests on God.”

  5. Diana Pierrotti says:

    How true are these words. We see this happening in our Catholic Church. We need to wake up and pray more and be more active in our faith. So much is needed for us to become more involved. We must pray lots for ourselves and our children cause they are the ones who will suffer the most. Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us, Most Blessed Mother Mary pray for us. AMEN

  6. Sharon says:

    I miss him so much♡

  7. This moved me to tears – of awe, of sadness, of amazement at its accuracy, of gratefulness for God’s providence, and in begging for His mercy for all people of all time. How blessed we are to live in such times; what responsibility we hold. Here I am Lord! Help my unbelief!

  8. Parel says:

    How I wish he is still our pope today.

  9. mmvc says:

    Here’s what Archbishop Fulton Sheen said about the future of the Church:

    The False Prophet will have a religion without a cross. A religion without a world to come. A religion to destroy religions. There will be a counterfeit church. Christ’s Church [the Catholic Church] will be one. And the False Prophet will create the other. The false church will be worldly ecumenical, and global. It will be a loose federation of churches. And religions forming some type of global association. A world parliament of churches. It will be emptied of all divine content and will be the mystical body of the Antichrist. The mystical body on earth today will have its Judas Iscariot and he will be the false prophet. Satan will recruit him from among our bishops.

  10. Dave Maxwell says:

    Being pope takes a vigorous person, and Pope Benedict clearly did not want to go the route of Saint Pope John Paul ll. Let’s give him credit for recognizing his limitations and not be judgmental about it.

  11. GLADYS MIGLIORATO says:

    IS POPE FRANCIS THE FALSE PROPHET?

  12. Neville Whiteley says:

    Whatever the truth about this Pope, I feel uneasy about him. As an old man, it’s the first time I have ever felt this way about any Pope. Even though I pray daily for him, and all prelates, I can’t shake of my feelings of disquiet. I fight against judging him, but I feel something isn’t quiet right, I hope I’m wrong but that’s not what my instinct is telling me.

  13. Emmanuel Akpobolokemi says:

    mmvc, can you give me the reference to the quote from Archbishop Fulton sheen?

  14. mmvc says:

    Hi Emmanuel,
    I found the quote on this site (Father Richard Heilman is the author of the post):
    https://www.romancatholicman.com/things-accelerate-toward-the-end-prophecy-of-archbishop-fulton-sheen/
    Another site gives the following as a source which I can’t verify as I don’t have the book:
    Fulton J. Sheen, Communism and the Conscience of the West (Bobbs-Merril Company, Indianapolis, 1948), pp. 22-25.

  15. mmvc says:

    Here’s a YouTube video with a fuller excerpt (including the above quote) from Fulton Sheen’s book “Communism and the Conscience of the West”. I hope that helps:

  16. Rodney says:

    Wow… as a layman this prediction is a confirmation of my experiences – struggling from parish to parish – the lack of direct spiritual guidance, the social agendas of some that volunteer to manage Church programs. Catholic Schools that are primarily interested in building social status and make it nearly impossible for middle class and poor families to attend. Bad Chatechism spread to our children by Catholics that pick and choose what to believe. And finally, the most visible sign, churches that have been closed… the list goes on.

  17. Rodney – that’s exactly what I experienced. But over time, I researched and studied the ‘why’ of it; and it’s all encapsulated in the predictions/prophecies of my most favourite Prelate, Archbishop Fulton Sheen. I watched him religiously and he affected my life, positively.

  18. the catholicchurchsince vatican 11 is Gods will the church evolved into local culture and worship and became ecumenical for its evangelization Pope Francis is a unifier to help us become one in Christ and not isolated like a church in the dark ages and screaming for reform

  19. johnhenrycn says:

    All I can say, Mary Ann Steppke, is, despite your rhetorical skills, I’m not persuaded we should look forward to Vatican 11. The second council of that name has just about – if not quite – put paid to our unified One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Thanks to liberal, go-ahead, progressive, career-minded priests and bishops, there are now many splinters on the quarterdeck of Peter’s Barque, not to mention holes in the hull.
    ___
    But all is not lost by any means. For people, such as our Mr Kehoe, in love with the traditions of Holy Mother Church, I recommend an inspiring and humbling article in this month’s The New Criterion “The Vatican’s Latinist”

    Reginaldus Foster: “He entered seminary at thirteen. He said he wanted only three things in life: to be a priest, to be a Carmelite, and to do Latin. He has spent his entire life in great personal poverty. His cell had no mattress: he slept on the tile floor with a thin blanket. His clothes were notorious in Rome…he gave up his cassock and bought his clothes at Sears: blue pants and a blue shirt, with brandless black sneakers. When it was cold he added a zip-up blue polyester jacket. The Vatican’s Swiss guards called him “il benzinaio,” the gas-station attendant. Reporting for work at the Vatican, he looked like someone called to fix the washing-machines…When people would give him gifts, he would give them to the poor. He owned almost nothing, and his Vatican office was legendarily spare: a typewriter, pens and paper, one chair, one desk, and a Latin dictionary. Nothing mattered to him except Latin…He made two exceptions to his no-gifts policy: books…and music…”

  20. johnhenrycn says:

    Speaking of our traditions, my home diocese is the purchaser of the only (one copy only) original hand-written illuminated Bible ever made these past 500 years. I haven’t seen it yet, but I think it will be more faithful to Catholic devotion than some other “art” we’ve endured here recently:
    http://www.therecord.com/living-story/7112677-the-art-of-illumination/

  21. toadspittle says:

    “Sacred language?” he (Foster) said when asked about Latin as the “sacred language” of the church. “In the first century every prostitute in Rome spoke it fluently—and much better than most people in the Roman Curia.”
    I imagine our dear current Pope would have thought the world of him.
    “..he gave up his cassock and bought his clothes at Sears: blue pants and a blue shirt, with brandless black sneakers.”
    Brandless, we note. How soon can this man be canonised? How much does it cost? I will chip in.

  22. johnhenrycn says:

    Fr Foster is a year older than you, Toad. He still teaches Latin at his nursing home in Milwaukee WI.
    http://thelatinlanguage.org/

  23. johnhenrycn says:

    Glad you enjoyed (or at least read some of) that The New Criterion link. Here’s another excerpt from it that I found fascinating:

    “Foster had first arrived in Rome in 1962, the year the Second Vatican Council opened. The entire Council was conducted in Latin: speeches, debates, drafting and editing and finalizing documents, everything was in Latin. ‘In those days they would play games where one bishop would recite a line of Virgil and the next guy had to give the next line and on they would go, until someone couldn’t remember a line. That’s all gone now.’ The destruction of the Church’s Latin culture would remain the abiding sorrow of Foster’s life.”

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