Sunday, July 3, 2011

Appeal to my readers

Does anyone know when and where Pope Benedict first referred to the possibility that we may see 'a smaller, leaner and purer Church'? I thought it was in the very early days of his Pontificate but have been unable to find the quote. All I have found are claims on several progressive sites, that he actually advocated it, rather than simply suggesting that it may happen.  


A Reluctant Sinner said...


I don't think the Pope, even as Cardinal Razinger, has ever used this phrase. It seems to have gained its own mythological status for some reason, and many liberals use it to try and hurt the Holy Father.

There are some comments that the Pope has made which could be interpreted as supporting this call for a "smaller, purer Church", though, such as his comments during the Station of the Cross on the Good Friday before Bl Pope John Paul II's death (where Joseph Ratzinger prayed that God would purify the Church and remove the "filth" from it). He also said in Light of the World that there are many members of the Church who are members in name only, and therefore suggests that these people are counter-witnesses to the Gospel. This is something, of course, that Our Lord warned about, and St Augustine often said that there sometimes seemed to be wolves in the sheepfold than outside it!

There is a discussion regarding this phrase on the Commonweal site - Fr Joseph A Komonchak's blog,

Hope this helps.


shadowlands said...

I found this translated 1969 radio quote on

There is a whole load of info there that may be of interest to you Jane.

Here's the quote:

“From today’s crisis, a church will emerge tomorrow that will have lost a great deal. She will be small and to a large extent she will have to start from the beginning. She will no longer be able to fill many of the buildings created in her period of great splendor. Because of the smaller number of her followers she will lose many of her privileges in society. Contrary to what has happened until now, she will present herself much more as a community of volunteers, she will demand much more from the initiative of each of her members and she will certainly also acknowledge new forms of ministry and will raise up to the priesthood proven Christians who have other jobs… It will make her poor and a church of the little people… all this will require time. The process will be slow and painful.”

God bless, Ros

Tito Edwards said...

I'm not certain, but I believe it may have been as Cardinal Ratzinger in the book, "The Ratzinger Report".

English Pastor said...

I think these remarks were made during the Stations of the Cross he composed for use in the Colloseum just prior to the death of John Paul II.

Jane said...

Thanks to everyone for these comments. Unfortunately, the leads contained therein all seem to be pre-the papal election in 2005. For some reason I am convinced that I read somewhere that Pope Benedict had referred to the possibility of a 'smaller Church' very early in his pontificate. At any rate it has stuck in my memory as having been said at that time. Up until now I was sure he'd said it in a homily. When Googling it, the first site I found stated (without links or exact attributions)that he had said something like that more than once after his election.

Dylan is quite right that some people have used the phrase to bolster their view that Joseph Ratzinger would be an exclusivist Pope and that he would actively try to pare away all the CINOs and dissenters. Events have proved how wrong they were and in any case it was certainly NOT how I interpreted it at first encounter.

I'll wait a couple of days to see if there are any more comments and continue my search before writing another post on the matter.

Thanks again and God bless,

Marc said...

I expect that you want to refer to this paragraph in John Allen at the National Catholic Reporter:

... Ratzinger has also said on many occasions that the church of the future may have to be smaller to remain faithful, referring to Christianity’s short-term destiny as constituting a “creative minority.” He has also used the image of the “mustard seed,” suggesting a smaller presence that nevertheless carries the capacity for future growth as long as it remains true to itself.

The link is; the essay was published 19 April 2005. My presumption is that it's Mr Allen who launched the meme into general circulation, principally because large numbers of people on the right side of things read Allen even when they use the rest of NCRep as... what is the word? fishwrap.

Marc said...

(English Pastor's comment prompted a re-read of Card. Ratzinger's Via Crucis meditations @ the Colosseum in 2005, and it is truly remarkable how profound a spiritual exercise it is; one cannot but think that the poor man had some presentiment of what was to befall him.)