January 23, 2018

When Father Joseph Ratzinger predicted the future of the Church

Pope Francis greets retired Pope Benedict XVI prior to the opening of the Holy Door of St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican in 2015. Photos: CNS/Maurizio Brambatti, EPA

He didn’t pretend he could tell the future. No. He was much too wise for that. As a matter of fact, he tempered his initial remarks with this disclaimer:

“Let us, therefore, be cautious in our prognostications. What St. Augustine said is still true: man is an abyss; what will rise out of these depths, no one can see in advance. And whoever believes that the Church is not only determined by the abyss that is man, but reaches down into the greater, infinite abyss that is God, will be the first to hesitate with his predictions, for this naïve desire to know for sure could only be the announcement of his own historical ineptitude.”

But his era, brimming with existential danger, political cynicism and moral waywardness, hungered for an answer. The Catholic Church, a moral beacon in the turbulent waters of its time, had recently experienced certain changes of its own with adherents and dissenters alike wondering, “What will become of the Church in the future?”

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