It isn’t the Church’s job to make herself “attractive”: Pope Benedict

This guy is just great. Asked on the plane out to the UK “Can anything be done to make the Church as an institution, more credible and attractive to everyone?”, he answered:

I would say that a Church that seeks to be particularly attractive is already on the wrong path, because the Church does not work for her own ends, she does not work to increase numbers and thus power. The Church is at the service of another: she serves, not for herself, not to be a strong body, rather she serves to make the proclamation of Jesus Christ accessible, the great truths and great forces of love, reconciling love that appeared in this figure and that always comes from the presence of Jesus Christ. In this regard, the Church does not seek to be attractive in and of herself, but must be transparent for Jesus Christ and to the extent that she is not out for herself, as a strong and powerful body in the world, that wants power, but is simply the voice of another, she becomes truly transparent for the great figure of Christ and the great truth that he has brought to humanity. The power of love, in this moment one listens, one accepts. The Church should not consider herself, but help to consider the other and she herself must see and speak of the other. In this sense, I think, both Anglicans and Catholics have the same simple task, the same direction to take. If both Anglicans and Catholics see that the other is not out for themselves but are tools of Christ, children of the Bridegroom, as Saint John says, if both carry out the priorities of Christ and not their own, they will come together, because at that time the priority of Christ unites them and they are no longer competitors seeking the greatest numbers, but are united in our commitment to the truth of Christ who comes into this world and so they find each other in a genuine and fruitful ecumenism.

BXVI rocks!

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8 responses to “It isn’t the Church’s job to make herself “attractive”: Pope Benedict

  1. Yes and no. On one hand there was the Counter-Reformation, definitely a marketing campaign but true to the church’s principles. On the other there are the desperate mainliners and their RC imitators chasing trends including principles. (Vatican II: marketing campaign that backfired, like New Coke, because it turned into what the mainliners are doing.)

    • In the 1990’s, my last decade as a Lutheran pastor, a movement called the “Church Growth Movement” – born in the American evangelical mega-churches and Fuller Seminary – was spreading into many other protestant churches. The big thing was “marketing the Church”, making it attractive to baby-boomers, and other target cultural groups. The thing was the the “wrapping paper” got in the way of the gift itself. All the attention was given on the externals, and not on the internal message. Papa B. is saying that the Church ought to be like clear wrapping paper, so that Christ may be seen undistorted through her and in her.

    • Robert Andrews

      “Vatican II: marketing campaign that backfired, like New Coke, because it turned into what the mainliners are doing”

      Great quote!

  2. Juano

    Evangelization an obligation. But the Church is human, so mistakes will come in the way.

    That is why sometimes some kind of marketing is used to pursue that obligation, usually in a wrong way. With good feelings and purposes, but in a wrong way…

    We must bring our brothers into the Church with the Truth, trying to attract them to later tell them about It rarely brings anything close to good.

  3. Matthias

    “if both carry out the priorities of Christ and not their own, they will come together, because at that time the priority of Christ unites them and they are no longer competitors seeking the greatest numbers, but are united in our commitment to the truth of Christ who comes into this world and so they find each other in a genuine and fruitful ecumenism.” food for thought. Yes Schutz the Church growth Movement- and we have it’s chuldren with us today- Hillsong ,Paradise church ,Planet shakers, all Happy Clappy ,Chappy churches that seek to promote an image that seems contrary to what the Pope was saying. what does the Risen Lord of the Church say to those that have the wrapping paper. I think His words to the Church at Sardis are apt,” i know thy works and that thou havest a name and that thou livest ,and art dead” Revelations 3:1)

  4. I dunno, David, I can’t see why you get all excited about this. The language is so vague and high fallutin’. For example, if I just swapped one word in the opening bit:

    I would say that a Church that seeks to be particularly accessible is already on the wrong path, because the Church does not work for her own ends, she does not work to increase numbers and thus power. The Church is at the service of another: she serves, not for herself, not to be a strong body, rather she serves to make the proclamation of Jesus Christ attractive

    And having been fortunate enough to visit the Vatican just over a year ago, if that place is not a testament to ‘attractiveness’, the word has no meaning. How does this centre of the Catholic world reflect a ‘transparency’ for Jesus?

    At one level the Vatican is accessible. Anyone can go there and you can enjoy most of it for free. But I’m not sure it represents the same sort of ‘accessibility’ that PB16 is talking about.

    I guess what I’m getting at is what does the difference between ‘accessibility’ and ‘attractiveness’ — as used in this context — mean to ordinary pewsitters?

  5. I attended a First Eucharist Mass last evening in an old parish of ours. From my experience I’d estimate that the congregation was four or five times bigger than usual and I recognised very few of them as regulars.

    As I watched proceedings and just about every rule in the book being broken — one minor example was using the hymn ‘Come as You Are’ as the theme of the homily — I wondered, were the priest and the organisers making this liturgy ‘accessible’ or ‘attractive’ in the name of connecting with these relative strangers? Or, again in the context of this post, did the liturgy make Jesus ‘more transparent’ to families who didn’t have the weekly familiarity with mass attendance?

    • Good questions, Tony. [nb. the task is not to make “Jesus more transperant” but the Church so that Jesus is not obscured]. Some would argue that a faithful celebration of the mass (without changes to make the mass “more accessible”) would make the Church most “transperant” and Jesus most clearly seen. Often when we do our own thing, it is us, and not Jesus who is seen. Of course, there are plenty of ways in which the liturgy can be made more accessible to irregular attendees, as Archbishop Hart pointed out in his funeral guidelines, such as page numbers on the service order. But I don’t think that is what we are talking about here.