Evidence points to more continuity between the two than is normally thought.
Ratzinger, writing at the end of the 1960s, seems to predict the total collapse of cultural Catholicism and the institutions that characterize it:
The Church, Ratzinger predicted, would lose its social prestige and many of its institutions. Compare this prediction with Francis’s condemnation of the form of spiritual worldliness that he calls gnosticism:
In addition to treating the articles of faith only as “a set of ideas and bits of information that are meant to console and enlighten,” this Catholic gnosticism is focused on maintaining institutions and programs for appearance’s sake: It seeks to preserve precisely those social privileges and institutional edifices which Ratzinger predicted the Church would have to be prepared to abandon.
Among the edifices that will have to be abandoned, undoubtedly, are numerous Catholic schools, hospitals, and charities. Numerous parish schools and even parishes that were erected in any number of major US cities have closed down in the past few decades. Increasing cultural pressure for what is euphemistically called “reproductive care” and government oversight of the medical industry may lead to many of the Catholic hospitals that have emerged even in the last few decades to be bought out or forced out. The institution of same-sex unions has in various states led to the closure of Catholic adoption agencies that had previously been the most effective agencies in the state. Note in this last case that, even as most such agencies across the state closed, the agency in the Belleville diocese cut its denominational and doctrinal ties while attempting to cling to a Christian mission to social service.
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