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What does Pope Benedict envision for a (traditonal) reform of ecclesial life?

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Now is an apt time, in view of Pope Benedict’s letter to the SSPX declining their theological presuppositions for reconciliation, to consider what His Holiness envisions for ecclesial reform.

In the interview of September 5, 2003 with Cardinal Ratzinger, EWTN host Raymond Arroyo asked about a so-called “New Springtime” in the Church anticipated by so many, and how he saw it emerging.

The entire interview appears here.

In sum, here follows what the then-Cardinal had to say. A careful reading should help it become evident why such a response is relevant today.

1. The then-Cardinal does not exclude an harmonious, near-universal acceptance or welcoming of the anticipated springtime, but supposes that to be seriously unlikely. He does not reasonably foresee “buses of conversions” anytime soon, or “that all peoples of the world will be converted to Catholicism”, since — as if here to glance back at the history of the Church — “this is not the way of God.”

3. “The essential things in history begin always with the small, more convinced communities. So, the Church begins with the 12 Apostles. And even the Church of St. Paul diffused in the Mediterranean are little communities, but this community in itself is the future of the world, because we have the truth and the force of conviction. So, I think also today it should be an error to think now or in 10 years with the new springtime, all people will be Catholic. This is not our future, nor our expectation. But we will have really convinced communities with élan of the faith, no? This is springtime, a new life in very convinced persons with joy of the faith.”

4. Smaller numbers? “Smaller numbers, I think. But from these small numbers we will have a radiation of joy in the world. And so, it’s an attraction, as it was in the old Church. Even when Constantine made Christianity the public religion, there were a small number of percentage at this time; but it was clear, this is the future. So we can live in the future, just give us a way in a different future. And so, I would say, if we have young people really with the joy of the faith and this radiation of this joy of the faith, this will show to the world, ‘Even if I cannot share it, even if I cannot convert it at this moment, here is the way to live for tomorrow.'”

5. And the various movements in the Church — will they be a part of that ongoing conversion? Is there a danger of ‘competitive factionalism’: that we all have to be a part of it if we are going to be a serious Catholic?

The then-Cardinal answers in a scholastic fashion, sic et non: “yes and no”. In this case, and in other words, he distinguishes between big and small.

On the one hand the Cardinal is “really a friend of movements”, e.g., Communione e Liberazione, Focolare, and the Charismatic Renewal. He sees in them a “sign of the Springtime and of the presence of the Holy Spirit”. There will be “new charisms and so on”. It is “a great hope that not with organization from authorities, but […] the force of the Holy Spirit present in the people. We have movements and new beginnings of the faith, new forms of the faith. On the other hand, I think it is important that these movements are not closed in themselves and absolutized; but have to understand that ‘even if I’m convinced this is the way, I have to accept we are one way and not the way, and we have to be open for the others, in communion with the others’. And essentially ‘we have to be really present and even obedient to the common Church in presence with the bishops and the Pope’. Only […] this openness to not be absolutized with its ideas and to be in service of the common Church, of the Universal Church, can be really a way for tomorrow.”

What has the above got to do with a traditional reform in view of the unfortunate set-back to the reconciliation of the Society of St. Pius X and the Holy See?

A future post will explain.


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