April 25, 2006

“statistical deception”

Here's a translation of a fascinating article on Joseph Ratzinger as young professor of theology in the 1950's and 60's. (If anyone still needs a corrective to the hateful caricatures of him, read this.) It's a portrait of a teacher, a man of rare wisdom and charm.

But this bit of prescience made my hair stand up...

...Bonn in those years was the almost accidental capital of Adenauer’s Germany. In the divided land, whose eastern states were behind the Iron Curtain, economic and civilian rebirth was proceeding at a dizzying pace. In the 1957 elections, the Christian Democratic Party had won an absolute majority in Parliament. After the Nazi nightmare, the German Church, with deserved pride, offered an essential contribution to Germany’s new beginning.

In an atmosphere that could have encouraged triumphalism, the young professor-priest Ratzinger had just written an article in 1958 for the magazine Hochland some reflections arising from his brief but intense pastoral experience as a chaplain in the parish of the Most Prescious Blood in Bogenhausen, an haut-bourgeois section of Munich.

In that article, he uses the term “statistical deception” for the cliché that described Europe as “a Continent that is almost totally Christian.” The Church in the postwar modern world appeared to him instead as “
a Church of pagans – no longer, as in the past, a church of pagans who have become Christian, but a Church of pagans that still call themselves Christian but who have really become pagans.”

He tells of a new paganism “which is growing ceaselessly in the heart of the Church and threatens to demolish it from the inside.”...
(thanks to Amy Welborn)

1958! Who else saw it? No one I've read of.

Posted by John Weidner at April 25, 2006 7:04 AM
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