“From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge—a Church that has lost much.”

Joseph Card. Ratzinger wrote this many years ago:

From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge—a Church that has lost much. It will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. It will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices it built in its palmy days. As the number of its adherents diminishes, so will it lose many of its 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 its 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. Alongside this, the full-time ministry of the priesthood will be indispensable as formerly.

The Church will be a more spiritualized Church, not presuming upon a political mantle, 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 it much valuable energy. It will make it poor and cause it 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. (…). But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. (…) It may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that it was until recently; but it will enjoy a fresh blossoming, and be seen as humanity’s home where they will find life and hope beyond death.

From Glaube un Zukunft (1970) Faith and the Future (1971/2006)

We need a Marshall Plan for the Church.

Biretta tip to a reader who posted the excerpt in a comment.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Benedict XVI, Brick by Brick, Linking Back, New Evangelization, Our Catholic Identity, The future and our choices and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. jessicahoff says:

    Very prophetic, Father.

    I don’t know how to put this tactfully, so I will just put it. Those liberal folk who want women priests etc, do they know no Episcopalians? My own communion has adopted all the liberal nostrums, and anyone who wants the Catholic Church to suffer that fate is either not looking or not thinking. We have a control to this experiment – why would anyone not heed the warning?

  2. chantgirl says:

    ” Undoubtedly it will discover new forms of ministry, and will ordain to the priesthood approved Christians who pursue some profession.” – This is a little vague. Do he mean that since there will be fewer Catholics, we won’t be able to financially support priests well, and they will have to have additional jobs?

  3. chantgirl says:

    Good grief. That should read “Does he mean..”.

  4. Fuquay Steve says:

    Maybe we can use that bus everyone’s been referring to lately re the Nuns on a bus tour. Who is paying for that bus by the way?

  5. anilwang says:


    They know about the Episcopalians, but its irrelevant since if they convert, it would mean that the Catholic Church would still judge them as being in error, and that is intolerable.

    Even if an Anglican analogy of Anglicanorum Coetibus for Catholics were established that could instantly absorb the “Magesterium of Nuns”[TM], “Magesterium of the Gaia”[TM], “Magesterium of the Seamless Garment”[TM], “Magesterium of the Protestant Envy “[TM], “Magesterium of the All Roads Lead To Heaven”[TM], and the “Magesterium of the Histoical Jesus”[TM], they still wouldn’t convert since they have a much higher status in the press as a Catholic than the would as an Anglican. They also have to give up being “a future-sited revolutionary amid conservative totalitarians” and be “just another liberal among liberals”.

  6. Sid Cundiff in NC says:

    So it seemed in 1970, in the wake of the Revolution of 1968, which struck Germany particularly hard. I remember the year well, when I was taking a fast boat from Liberal Protestantism to nearly a decade of agnosticism.

    Yet almost a half century later, things look quite different. I wrote in a previous post when this part of this excerpt came up: The world of 2012 is not getting less religious; it is getting more religious. The right question is, What religion?

  7. GregH says:

    You are already seeing it in the older, big US cities

  8. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Would Ratzinger, qua Holy Father, repeat these views now, 40+ years later? I dunno, I’m asking. [He has spoken of a smaller Church and a “creative minority”.]

  9. Supertradmum says:

    The Internet has been off and on here for four days, so I hope this is not a repetition. I write something and the screen disappears. I am never sure where the words have gone.

    Sid, from where I stand in Europe, there is little if any religion. People are materialistic in the Marxian sense, and only see the here and now as utopia. Cynicism and utilitarianism push the politics and economics. America will see the same, and when the fall of civilization comes, it will be worse in the States than here because the evil will be more organized. It is every man and woman for themselves.

    The Pope was prophetic when he wrote those words. We shall see priests having to work as labourers, as the professional jobs will be closed to Catholics as they were under the Soviets. Look at English history. In the areas where there were strong Catholic families, there were underground Masses and catechesis. In places where there were no strong families, the Church died. We shall be hand ploughing fields or foraging for food waiting for the priest to come to our area.

    Islam is a religion of the material. Even the afterlife is defined in material terms. Few of that religion understand the spiritual. They seek a perfection of a material kind. A material utopia will never last. Only the Catholic Church teaches consistently that the only utopia is in heaven. We have the Church which is the New Jerusalem, but not for here, not for now.

    The Church Militant will be the Church suffering. Do not kid yourself. We shall endure, with grace, and maybe without regular sacraments, but the Church will endure, if only in scattered communities of those who are orthodox. I suggest creating communities now, and evangelizing daily in the way God granted you to do that. We must, as the time is short. The Pope gave us those words over 40 years ago. Some of us were listening. We may have been lulled into complacency for awhile, but now we are awake. We cannot afford to pretend anything else will happen. I see a world divided between the Marxists and Islam. We shall be persecuted by both. Even in France already, there is an unholy alliance between those two groups, as the Christians are hated by both. We have been given time.

  10. To chantgirl:

    In the original German, the sentence reads, “Sie [die Kirche] wird auch gewiss neue Formen des Amtes kennen und bewährte Christen, die im Beruf stehen, zu Prietern weihen.” This could mean, as you suggest, that priests will need to supplement their income with outside work — but I think that is unlikely. I think the better interpretation of this would be that the Church will call men to the priesthood who didn’t go to seminary right out of high school or college — men who have worked in other professions for some time before entering the priesthood, i.e. who receive their call later in life. This will have the additional benefit of bringing men into the priesthood with a variety of experience and skills that they might not otherwise gain by going into seminary right out of college.

  11. Bev says:

    Sounds like Hegelism to me.

  12. Pingback: Father Joseph Ratzinger's prophetic words from 1970 are starting to come true... - Christian Forums

  13. I would be of one mind with the then Cardinal Ratzinger on this insight or prophecy. Think about the dissolution of the papal states in the 19th century, which then led to a more spiritual and moral voice for the world with the pope being more of a voice than that of a king. I believe in the climate of down sizing perhaps a more productive climate of dialogue with the Orthodox Church would yield better results. I say this because we are seeing the same thing happening to us in many places. May Christ lead us all into a better day of faith and love for one another who are called by the name of Christ.

  14. marknelza says:

    Something light hearted for those who may believe the Church needs to revert to married priests to solve the vocation problem. By the way I was Anglican – Anglo-Catholic – and the straw that broke the camels back was the ordination of women. But anyway, I digress. I hope this brightens up your day as it did mine because I am sure that there are many who would love this to be true: http://bit.ly/ODzCVJ

  15. shieldsheafson says:

    In the West, the struggle lies between Humanitarianism and Catholicism (Protestantism is dead; I’m not sure what will become of Islam or other eastern religions).

    The Catholic Church is the only church which claims supernatural authority (with all its merciless logic) and I think it may be a good idea to consider orientating itself to claim allegiance of all Christians who have any supernatural belief left.

    The secular State has long recognised that a supernatural Religion must necessarily involve absolute authority and so, to cut to the chase, must restrict ‘freedom of religion’.

  16. Pingback: Prophetic Words Ring True Today « Into Stillness

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