Reflections on the Teaching of Vatican II Through the Magisterium of John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis
Thursday, May 10, 2012
The Prescience of Benedict XVI in "Faith and the Future" (1970)
" Faith and the Future"
(From 2 Ratzinger books)
“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... (T)he full-time ministry of the priesthood will be indispensable as formerly. But in all of the changes at which one might guess the Church will find its essence afresh and with full conviction in that which was always at its center: faith in the triune God, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, in the presence of the Spirit until the end of the world. In faith and prayer it will again recognize its true center, and experience the sacraments again as the worship of God and not as a subject for liturgical scholarship... 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" (Franciscan Herald Press  103-105).
Notice that the attitude/virtue of Benedict is not optimism but hope. Benedict is not optimistic but hopeful, and this because he does not see the power of the future in us but in God, and thus his hope grounds optimism. But without hope in God, optimism is a desire for a utopia of one's own construction. Consider Ratzinger's remarks: "It dawned on me as the result of this reading that 'optimism' is the theological virtue of a new god and a new religion, the virtue of deified history, of a god 'history,' and thus of the great god of modern ideologies and their promise. This promise is utopia, to be realized by means of the 'revolution,' which for its part represents a kind of mythical godhead, as it were a 'God the son' in relation to the 'God the father' of history. In the Christian system of virtues despair, that is to say, the radical antithesis of faith and hope, is labelled as the sin against the Holy Spirit because it excludes the latter's power to heal and to forgive and thereby rejects salvation. Corresponding to this is the fact that in the new religion 'pessimism' is the sin of all sins, for to doubt optimism, progress, utopia is a frontal attack on the spirit of the modern age: it is to dispute its fundamental creed on which its security rests, even though this is always under threat in view of the weakness of the sham god of history.
"I was reminded of all this by the debate that was aroused in 1985 by the appearance of The Ratzinger Report. The indignation sparked by this modest little work culminated in the accusation that it was a pessimistic book. In many places efforts were made to stop its being sold, because a heresy of this magnitude simply could not be tolerated. The molders of public opinion placed it on the index of forbidden books: the new inquisition let it strength be felt. It showed once again that there is no worse sin against the spirit of the age than to show oneself lacking in optimism. It was not at all a question whether what was claimed was true of false, whether the diagnosis was correct of not: I have not been aware of people taking the time to investigate such old-fashioned questions. The criterion was quite simple: 'Is it optimistic or not?' - and it completely failed this test," [Joseph Ratzinger, "To Look on Christ - Exercises in Faith, Hope, and Love" Crossroad (1991) 43-44]