Cardinal Ratzinger’s words–from 1969–could not be more appropriate for us to consider. What the Church endured in the 1960s was nothing at the beginning of the cultural revolution. Now that the effects of that revolution have been more keenly felt and we have slid further down the slippery slope, Ratzinger’s words are worthy of our attention today.
“The church 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… 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 cause her to become the Church of the meek… 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… 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. She may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but she will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death.”
– Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Faith and the Future, 1969