Joseph Ratzinger has given an interview to the monthly Herder Korrespondenz, due to appear in the August issue, on the occasion of the 70 anniversary of his priesthood. He was in fact ordained on June 29, 1951.
In this interview he recounts his first steps in the priesthood, as a chaplain. A passage from this interview makes a stern statement about the faith in Germany, particularly among those in positions of responsibility.
An idea struck the future Cardinal Ratzinger at that time, the need to make the Church “unworldly.” Indeed, this year of chaplaincy allowed him to see that many functions concerning the structure and the life of the Church are exercised by people who do not share the faith of the Church at all.
It then dawned on him that “faith and unbelief were mixed up in a strange way, and it would inevitably come out at some point and cause a rupture that would eventually bury the faith.”
Since then, the problem has become even more apparent. “In Church institutions — hospitals, schools, Caritas — many people participate in decisive positions who do not share the inner mission of the Church and thus in many cases obscure the witness of this institution.” This was particularly evident announcements and public statements.”
The expression “institutional church” was coined to express the contrast between what is officially required and what is personally believed. The term “institutional Church” insinuates an internal contradiction between what the faith wants and really signifies and its depersonalization.
It is unfortunately too true that the official texts of the Church in Germany are largely shaped by people for whom the faith is only official. In this sense, a large part of the official texts of the Church in Germany are linked to this institutional Church.
Six decades later, on his trip to Germany as Pope, Benedict XVI saw “the growing estrangement of considerable segments of the baptized from the life of the Church.” “To achieve her mission,” he said in the famous Fribourg speech, “she will always have to move away from her environment, to make herself ‘unworldly,’ so to speak.”
As long as only function, and not heart and mind, is expressed in the official texts of the Church, the exodus from the world of faith will continue. The word secularization indicates the negative part of this movement.
The accusation launched by the retired Pope is particularly serious: it suggests a detachment from the faith on the part of Church officials, which has already been going on for decades. This detachment explains the self-righteous character of German theology, which sees itself as the solution to all the evils of the Church, in an overtaking of traditional positions.
It reflects, according to Joseph Ratzinger, a more or less pagan thought, for which the faith is only clothing which serves as a pretext and camouflage.
This dramatic situation undoubtedly should be attracting more the attention from Rome and especially from Peter's successor, rather than the state of the traditional Mass, considered as a real poison which must be gotten rid of as soon as possible.