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Photo by Thays Orrico on Unsplash

By Auguste Meyrat, Crisis Magazine, August 31, 2020

In 1969, long before he became Pope Benedict XVI, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger made a prediction about the post–Vatican II Catholic Church. Instead of a growing and dynamic Church reaching all cultures, he envisioned a smaller and less influential Church: “She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes, so it will lose many of her social privileges.” Today, with priestly vocations and attendance in steady decline, accompanied by an ongoing retreat from moral and cultural controversies, this statement has proved to be accurate—even prophetic.

In the age of Covid-19, many predict that steady decline will enter freefall. With bishops throughout the developed world imposing restrictions on distributing the Eucharist and celebrating Mass, many Catholics have stopped coming to Mass—some, no doubt, permanently. This can be seen with many parishes reopening only to see a small fraction of members return. It was assumed a signup sheet would be necessary to respect mandated capacity limits, but this has not been necessary for many churches that frequently have only a handful of people attending Sunday Mass.  …

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