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Catholic Culture News

Joseph Ratzinger—What Will the Church Look Like in 2000?

By James T. Majewski ( bio - articles - email ) | Feb 27, 2021 | In Catholic Culture Audiobooks (Podcast)

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“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.”

In 1969, Fr. Joseph Ratzinger gave a radio address in which he made some predictions for the Church heading into the new millennium. The notion often attributed to him—that the church would become “smaller and purer”—is derived from this speech.

Interestingly, the phrase “smaller and purer” does not actually occur anywhere in the address. In fact, “smaller and purer” has often been misconstrued to suggest that Ratzinger wanted to drive people away from the Church. Instead, what Ratzinger does say is that the Church of tomorrow will be “a more spiritualized and simplified Church.” Far from driving people away, this Church, sifted through the crucible of trials, will be discovered by those outside of it as something wholly new and attractive.

To cast into the future this way, Ratzinger looks to the past—specifically, to the time of Enlightenment, the historical moment which Ratzinger identifies as most analogous to the times in which the Church finds herself today. “It is precisely in times of vehement historical upheaval,” Ratzinger writes, “that men need to reflect upon history.”


Joseph Ratzinger—Aspects of Christian Meditation audiobook:

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Theme music: 2 Part Invention, composed by Mark Christopher Brandt, performed by Thomas Mirus. ©️2019 Heart of the Lion Publishing Co./BMI. All rights reserved.

James T. Majewski is Director of Customer Relations for, the “voice” of Catholic Culture Audiobooks, and co-host of Criteria: The Catholic Film Podcast. Based in New York City, he holds both a BA in Philosophy and an MFA in Acting. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: James T. Majewski - Mar. 05, 2021 5:24 PM ET USA

    canónigoregular -- I couldn't agree more! Glad you enjoyed the reading.

  • Posted by: canónigoregular - Mar. 04, 2021 8:32 PM ET USA

    Benedict XVI - What a scholar! What a thinker! What a priest! The historical facts and characters covered in this talk are fascinating by themselves. After listening, I had to look up the online biographies of the four churchmen he mentions as diverse examples of currents from the enlightenment era of the turn of the 18th-19th centuries. The breadth and depth of Fr Ratzinger's analysis are enormous and compelling. Let us all be a part of the purification of the Church.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Feb. 28, 2021 1:08 PM ET USA

    Excerpt from C. Ratzinger's "Faith and the Future": "She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes...she will lose many of her social privileges...As a small society, [the Church] will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members.... 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...meek."