My Predictions for the Catholic Church in 2018

  1. Pope Francis will not resign in 2018 – whether or not Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI lives through the entire year.
  2. If Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI does pass away in 2018, media coverage of his life and ministry will be largely positive. He will be seen as a tragic figure who perhaps was not suited for papal leadership, but the tone will be more sympathetic than judgmental. He will be seen as a man of integrity and a towering intellect whose theological writings will endure, even as their application requires the pastoral touch of a Pope Francis.
  3. Pope Francis will add 6 voting cardinals to the college, and perhaps one or two non-voting cardinals over 80, on June 29, 2018. Six cardinals age out in the coming year by turning 80, the last of them by June 8, 2018. The Solemnity of the Peter and Paul on June 29 would be a natural date for Francis to create 6 more cardinal electors. In doing so, he will have appointed 54 out of 120 electors. Less likely but not to be ruled out: Francis will increase the total number of cardinal electors so that he can appoint a few dozen more of his own men.
  4. Amoris Laetitia will fade as a hot news item in 2018 as the interpretation of Pope Francis establishes itself – namely, that in some circumstances it is possible for divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion. Heated controversy will focus instead on married clergy (see #8 below).
  5. Liturgically, the “Reform of the Reform” will be further weakened– especially where ROTR means principled rejection of the post-conciliar liturgy and reestablishment of the preconciliar liturgy as much as possible. Communities which celebrate the pre-Vatican II rite may well increase and grow in some places, but the predominant narrative will solidify that the reformed liturgy of Paul VI is the norm for the Latin-rite Catholic Church.
  6. Some ROTR partisans will harden in their views and perhaps even consider aligning with SSPX, but more of them will realize that their best future lies with a more worthy celebration of the reformed liturgy and shift their movement goals accordingly. They will have plenty of upcoming younger clergy to work with.
  7. While 2018 will see no revision of the 2011 Roman Missal, the groundwork will be laid for an eventual solution, which would probably land somewhere between the proposed 1998 Sacramentary and the 2008 text the bishops sent to Rome for approval but didn’t get back. The translation wars will die down as the promising narrative emerges that it is possible to have translations which are faithful to the original, sound right in the receptor language, and are suitable for the prayerful participation of the people.
  8. A pathway will open up for the ordination of married men under some sort of special provision alongside celibate clergy. This will develop either in conjunction with the October, 2018 synod on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment, or via remote preparations for the Amazon synod to take place in October, 2019.
  9. Ordination of women deacons will not move forward, to the great disappointment of some. Some will accuse Pope Francis of having put forth this possibility for merely political reasons, so that his goal of married priests would appear to be a compromise – approve one reform, reject another.
  10. Reform of the Roman curia will continue to languish. There will be the occasional scandal around the departure of this or that official – something which anti-Francis factions will play up for all its worth, but most people will largely ignore. Less likely, though it would be desirable: Francis will use these never-ending scandals as the pretext for closing the Vatican bank for good. (If he attempts this, he better make sure he has a food taster.)
  11. I’m least sure about this one, but here we go: Cardinal Sarah will remain as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship. Sarah will not issue the kind of ROTR statements that get him swatted down by the pope.
  12. Mass attendance will continue to decline in the West, especially among young people. But media will increasingly notice that many young people are deeply interested in spiritual questions and not as reflexively opposed to organized religion as they were a decade or so ago.





  1. I’d be willing to bet money on most of these (especially 3 and 11) though I have doubts about 7. I get the sense that the vast majority of English speaking bishops, especially those at ICEL, are at least content with throwing their weight behind RM 2010, especially so soon after its promulgation. Nor do I get the sense that they hold RM 1998 in particularly high esteem, save for a handful of retired bishops you posted about earlier. MP too almost assures that the Holy See won’t force them to start this process over again if the bishops don’t see a need, unless a fourth typical edition of the Missale Romanum is coming. To say the least, I think a new English RM translation is quite a long way off.

    I might hold my breath on no. 8 too. As extraordinary as it was to have Pope Francis personally include discussion of married priests at the 2018 synod, I don’t think he sees it as a forgone conclusion (if he did, why not just declare it himself?). Similarly, I don’t think he’ll force the issue if the bishops advise against it, considering his recent promotion of synodality. Then again, if it does happen, I give you permission to say “I told you so” this time next year. It’s gonna be an interesting year for the Church!

  2. If #9 comes true, mothers will teach daughters to go where their charisms are appreciated and valued. Legions of women, with their families, will finally say enough. And there will be protests as yet unseen.

    And may your New Year be full of blessings!

    1. A friend who’s in Boston for the SCS/AIA conference persuaded me to accompany him to King’s Chapel for a candlelit Service of Holy Communion last night ( 3 January). It was a small intimate Service conducted entirely by ladies. Something which this old fuddy dud has never experienced but found quite moving. At the preface all were invited into the historic sanctuary to stand near the holy table during the consecration. After the reception all were invited to light a taper and place it in a sand filled platter, and after that all were asked to return to their cushioned box pew.

      Oh, I forgot I to mention that the ladies had a table set with soft drinks, cookies along with cheese and crackers which were well appreciated after dealing with a crowded T and interminable steps.

      We then repaired to a toasty warm Irish pub on Beacon Street for Shepherds Pie and drinks. I mention this because upon reflection I thought that most of the ladies at King’s had Irish faces. Perhaps Ms Zuroweste is more accurate than she realizes.

      1. Ah, yes, King’s Chapel is one of Boston’s Peculiars (we have a decent collection in these parts): High Church Unitarianism (at the former bastion of Anglicanism), as it were…. Notable sacred music program. Daniel Pinkham was long resident there.

      2. I tend to doubt that there would be mass exodus of women from the Church if it doesn’t open a women’s diaconate this year, as Donna claims. Not only is this issue receiving little publicity in the Catholic and secular press, the more traditional theological worldview of JPII, Benedict, and to a lesser extent Francis has been slowly sinking into the laity over the past decade or so. I’ve seen this in action in almost every parish I’ve worked with.

        If we’re talking purely about gaining/retaining members (which should NEVER be the primary consideration), I worry there’d be an even greater backlash if a women’s diaconate were actually created, for the same reasons as above. It would likely embolden SSPX and it’s ilk to further steal away traditionalist factions in the Church, both of which have been consistently growing the world over. Mainline Protestant churches are case in point that simply opening the altar to women will not save you from dwindling congregations, something that Catholic bishops are rightly concerned about repeating in their own local churches.

  3. I feel that 5 and 6 show a lack of understanding of how the ROTR works – why would some of them align with the SSPX? Now, I could see EF celebrations permitted under SP increasing if steps are taken to limit more traditional celebrations of the OF (the main charism of the ROTR), but it just doesn’t logically follow that they would jump ship for the SSPX just because aspects of the ROTR movement, like hopes for changing the texts or rubrics of the OF, are dashed under Francis. I think the more the ROTR is “weakened,” the more its advocates will see their best future in shifting even more attention towards the EF – and they will have many younger clergy to work with.

    1. I hope Anthony is right about this. I have often wondered how many EF afficionados would have remained in the OF fold, if there were more beautiful celebrations of the OF in more places. The OF Latin Mass is practically unheard of – suppose every cathedral and select parishes were commissioned with celebrating a sung Latin OF Mass – or even sung vernacular Masses with chanted propers. I think that might go a long way in healing the divide.

      1. People in the ROTR movement already do what Fr Anthony predicts (but seems not to recognize) – they work towards “more worthy” celebrations of the OF that completely respect the rules, texts, and rubrics of the rite. I would say it is the primary charism of the movement, and has been for quite some time. They produce hymnals and vernacular texts of the propers and ordinary, and write about how to gradually introduce them in regular parishes.

        The aspect that Fr Anthony and others do not like, is that this is usually accompanied by sympathy for the EF (even if it isn’t preferred) and a holistic reading of Vatican II and the context that created the new Missal that often leads to being skeptical towards it and the established narrative of the liturgical reform.

  4. “8” poses a real problem to the church beyond the obvious. The vast majority of American dioceses (cannot speak to other areas of the world, but it would most likely apply) are in deep contraction, fewer faithful, attending less and less frequently, therefore, contributing less and less sums of offerings, combined with rising expenses all bring financial woes.

    To insert, into this, Father, with his wife and children and the need for non-rectory living arrangements, children’s education, family healthcare and basically a higher cost of living is problematic.

    I personally know of a Methodist minister who progressed through the pastoral provision and was eventually rejected, essentially, due to the added financial burden he would place on a diocese where finances were already tight.

    I agree that things will continue to contract around the country and will pose another possibility that there may soon be mergers between dioceses, lowering the number and that some particularly hard hit dioceses (few clergy) may revert to “missionary” status.

    The days of adopting the Episcopal Church’s posture, that is, simply opening the doors and waiting for the faithful to come in, are over. The church, to survive, will have to adopt a more evangelical posture of seeking out individuals who are searching for a spiritual home in communities where this is becoming increasingly rare. Survival will require work with modest returns for the effort. Many pastors will not be up to the task as this “skill set” has never been taught nor nurtured.

    The days of the monolith massive churches are also over. A congregation of 60 – 100 at Mass are insufficient to justify the size and expense of such structures. Small will become the new norm.

    Things will continue to change and evolve in 2018. Where it all ends remains unseen but a smaller, tighter church seems a sure bet going into the future.

    1. I agree with this. The same situation obtains in the UK – ageing congregations and far fewer clergy bringing about a shrinking church. I am not at all sure that ordaining married men is the right area to look for solutions (despite attending a Christmas mass that was celebrated by an Ordinariate priest who was “in charge” of an diocesan parish.)
      For me a more basic question is “should the existence of a church community be dependant on there being a priest?” To this I would add “Is the ‘one man does it all’ the best model of priestly ministry? Or are we being led to a model where the different roles might be spread among several people in an area? People who administer, others who preach, others who minister to the bereaves and conduct funerals etc – these could all be done by non-salaried people in other kinds of employment. That is how it is often done in developing countries and the church seems to be thriving and growing.

      1. ……growing…..definitely!
        Thriving……not so much.

        Much has been taught about receiving grace and participating in the life of a parish, while supporting the ministries of that parish by sharing blessings remains, shall we say a challenge.

      1. Yes, but if you were to act as an MC at an EF Solemn Pontifical Mass, you could temporarily dress like one…..

      2. Our bishop’s secretary/MC likes to affect that sartorial style at OF masses when the bishop is celebrating.
        As they say in Yorkshire “Nowt so queer as folk.”

  5. I hear tell that if one is ordained in S. Peter’s Basilica in Rome then one is allowed to dress as a minor prelate without actually being one.

    If ordained by the pope does one get the right to wear a mini-tiara or at least a tiara pin?

      1. Made of nylon, of course, with the embroidery added by Sharpie…. Maybe some Latin acronym for Make Chaplains Great Again.

  6. #s 4,5,6,7 and 10 will continue to be a driving point for # 12 to come true. We are seeing this in the neighborhood parishes in our area but not just in the young people. While Pope Francis seems to be appreciated for who he is and what he says by many people, the same is not felt about the local Church.

    “Some ROTR partisans will harden in their views…” Some of the predictions might be a stretch however I find that first half sentence of #6 to be a sure bet.

    I appreciate the wisdom and the courage to go out on the limb Fr. AWR …now could # 13 be a Vikings prediction?

  7. I pray that Anthony is dead wrong about the ordination of women as deacons. Whatever changes may need to be made to canon law to ensure that such ordinations do not create a path to priestly ordination they could still be regarded as clergy. As such they could exercise jurisdiction and find their way to positions of influence on the hierarchy. It is not enough to merely wish that women could have positions of influence in the church, there need to be canonical changes to ensure that outcome. Diaconal ordination, however so conceived, would be a step in that direction.

    1. “As such [women deacons] could exercise jurisdiction and find their way to positions of influence on the hierarchy.”

      If the diaconate is desired as some sort of a pathway to a position of influence, I fear that women deacons are destined for severe disappointment once they become deacons.

      On the other hand, if they’re into unpaid service, it’s a great ministry. Seriously.

      If what is desired is influence within a diocese, there are already pathways open to laypersons of both sexes.

      1. If the desires of women to join the diaconate are considered that would be a major event!

        More likely the decisions will be made by an all male hierarchy who should already be interested in unpaid service by their ordination into the diaconate. Jack is talking about these people, who can change canon law, consider jurisdiction issues, etc.

    2. Actually, deacons, male or female, do not have juridicial powers. Only the bishop has the fullness of the sacrament of ordination. He delegates some of his juridicial powers to priests via the sacrament of priestly ordination. He does not do this via the sacrament of diaconal ordination. The words of the relevant rites make this clear.

  8. I loved these predictions, they are so balanced and well written. ‘Sapientia cordis.’ I certainly hope they’ ll become a reality in our Holy Church, especially # 3, 4 and of course #8. ‘Videbimus’ et Deo volente indeed, I am with you there. The issue of the declining number of priests in USA is also cause for concern. Right now we are importing dozens of priests from India, East Africa, Latin America and the Philippines as a palliative measure. “Sentite de Domino in bonitate et in simplicitate cordis quaerite illum, quoniam in malevolam animam non introibit sapientia, (Wisdom I: 1,4).

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