On Christmas Day in 1969, a little known German theologian outlined his own assessment on the future of the Catholic Church during a radio broadcast.
Mankind was at a turning point in history, he said, and the Church was fighting against a force which intended to annihilate it definitively. The theologian’s name was Joseph Ratzinger.
He predicted that the Body of Christ on earth would be undermined by the temptation to reduce priests to social workers and the Church’s work to a mere political presence.
During his speech, which came shortly after the socially and morally revolutionary tumult of 1968, while the ramifications of Vatican II were emerging and secular influences were fervently desiring to “liberate” themselves from the “shackles” of religious and social institutions, Ratzinger said, “From today’s crisis will emerge a Church that will have lost a great deal”.
Structures that had been built in times of prosperity would be lost and numbers would decrease, he stated; he Church would “pretty much have to start all over again”.
Ratzinger, however, then suggested “when all the suffering is past, a great power will emerge from a more spiritual and simple Church”.
He believed there would be small groups and movements arising and a minority who would make faith central to experience.
“It will be poor and will become the Church of the destitute”, he said.