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Friday, May 28, 2010

A church of the little people

Guess which Catholic theologian said this .....

"From today's crisis, a church will emerge tomorrow that will have lost a great deal .... She will be small and, to a large extent, 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 ... 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 ... It will make her poor and a church of the little people ... All this will require time. The process will be slow and painful."

Weirdly (to me, anyway :) it was spoken by Joseph Ratzinger during the upheavals of the late 60s. I saw this today in an interesting TIME article, The Trial of Benedict XVI, about the present sex abuse problem. As the article opines ... his vision from 40 years ago may now unfold in ways he could never have imagined. .... I hope changes do come about, but I'm not holding my breath.


Blogger PrickliestPear said...

I guessed it was Ratzinger. He's never hidden his preference for a smaller church. His reference to "a church of the little people" is consistent with his romanticised vision of "the simple faithful." I'm not sure how he thinks a church of simple folk will meet the pastoral and theological challenges of the post/modern world (they can't, and won't), but it is nevertheless clear that he thinks they can.

The idea of "new forms of ministry" and a priesthood of people "who have other jobs" would be a bit surprising coming from him today, I think, but I could be wrong about that.

3:46 AM  
Blogger colkoch said...

I guessed it was Ratzinger as well because it contains two of his favorite themes: the remnant church of the simple, and the essential place of the priesthood around which this church will be built. I don't find it surprising he speaks about priests holding outside jobs. Small congregations will have trouble supporting a full time priest.

I agree prickliest, I don't think Ratzinger's view of Catholicism will ever meet the needs of the post modern world. The priesthood, small or not, no longer controls access to the history, tradition, theology, and scripture. With out that exclusive control over knowledge, and there for lay formation, Benedict's romanticized version of the priesthood and the church based on it is not viable over the long haul.

10:46 AM  
Blogger crystal said...


Yeah, the little people - I don't think he wants people who can meet challenges - it's like taking Greyhound, where you leave the driving to "them" :)

1:02 PM  
Blogger crystal said...


Everyone guessed but me - I'm not very familiar with his writing.

I think you're right - his idea of a smaller Catholic church can't really exist in these times.

1:11 PM  

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