08 January 2016

The Register: Forget the Death of Religious Orders, Closed Parishes, Lack of Children, Abandonment of Faith and Effeminacy of the LIturgy. The Real Problem? Trads Don't Evangelize.

There exists no bigger cheerleader for Vatican II and the Novus Ordo within respectable Catholic circles (no, NCR doesn't count) than the National Catholic Register.  Five years ago, they would have been the biggest cheerleaders for the Hermeneutic of Continuity.  Two years prior they would have been intrigued by the Reform of the Reform.

Of course, whenever thisPope lays down a party line (and I'm not talking about teaching the faith, but a political party line), the Register and their fellow travelers in the normalist press and blogosphere pick it up.  It doesn't matter what thatPope said, as soon as thatPope is no longer thisPope.

The Register, formerly a publication of the discredited Legion of Christ, and now part of the super-safe, post-Mother Angelica EWTN empire, has always been adept at this Orwellian dance.  And in the halcyon three week period after Pope Benedict issued Summorum Pontificum, it actually paid lip service to the traditional Mass being somewhat legitimate.

But those days are long gone.  We are now in the time of Mercy. And there is no bigger buzz kill to Mercy without Repentance than the Traditional Mass.

So, Monsignor Charles Pope, who ought to know better, writes an opinion piece wherein he says, admittedly based on anecdotal "evidence", that attendance at the Traditional Latin Mass has peaked. And why has this alleged peak occurred?  According to Msgr. Pope, it is because Latin Mass Catholics don't evangelize.

Oh, OK.

Ever since the New Mass was forced on the Church in 1969-- and I am speaking based upon statistical evidence and not upon anecdotal evidence-- there has been a steady, unrelenting emptying of pews, parishes, schools, convents, monasteries, and seminaries.  Why?  What in the world could have changed? 

Don't worry, we are told by those who read the Register, its merely coincidental.  Sexual Revolution.  Council misunderstood. Popes disobeyed.  Yada yada yada.  We all know the litany of excuses. And if we just double and treble down, with more of the same, we're right around the corner from a glorious Springtime.

After all, Msgr. Pope writes, the Archdiocese of Chicago wants to close the Shrine of Christ the King. Point made!  Um, Monsignor, you do know about the fire that utterly destroyed the structure, yes?  Not to worry, yes he does.  So, after admitting the fact of the fire, Msgr. Pope blames the intended closure on the fact that in a city the size of Chicago the congregation was too small to front a multi-million dollar reconstruction.  


I might ask if it is unreasonable to expect that an apostolate with no prior presence in the city, that is given an abandoned church in a neighborhood amounting to a war zone, without heating or cooling, and without a sustainable roof, might take awhile to build some mojo. It is a testimony to the Shrine that in fact, in a short number of years, it did go a long way in providing stability to the neighborhood, becoming a draw for the faith and the arts, completing substantial renovations, and developing a growing and substantial congregation-- starting at zero and now in the several hundreds.

Is that not growth, Monsignor?  Is that not evangelization?

Here's another anecdote for the Register to consider:  I belong to a Latin Mass apostolate that has seen consistent growth since it was founded eleven years ago, with a Sunday Mass attendance exceeding 1,000 souls, in a formerly moribund complex of church building, rectory, and empty schools in a not-so-great neighborhood.  Again, there has been outreach, evangelization, growth and neighborhood improvement. The apostolate is full of vitality. Most importantly, the sacraments are there, in the forms and rites handed down by the Church for more than 1,500 years.

And I have one final anecdote to share.  Before joining my current church, the novus ordo parish I attended-- one still considered vibrant in today's environment, and located in a good neighborhood-- witnessed the following "growth": The parish school enrollment dropped from 511 students to 165. From six Sunday Masses with good attendance and lots of families, they now have three Masses with an older and more modest attendance. From a staff of three priests and one in residence, they now have one priest, and one in residence.  Monsignor, is this growth? Is this evangelization? 

Or is the problem much more fundamental?

Forget facts, rely on anecdotes. 

Maybe to the Register, some anecdotes are better than others.


chantgirl said...

Frankly, D.C. makes for a poor benchmark of anything. How many couples who are open to life can even afford to continue to live in D.C.? Let's pray that these people no longer inhabiting his pews have married, and spurred on by the beauty of the faith, have bravely gone on to procreate, realized that they cannot raise an army of little Catholic militants in D.C., and have moved to more family-friendly areas.

Really, why would Catholic parents choose to raise their children in the middle of Mordor if a trace of the shire existed somewhere else?

I hate to say it, but this pontificate has been a bit of a kick in the teeth to faithful Catholics. Some of us feel sucker-punched and are working to catch our breath.

Finally, for myself anyway, I could occasionally use a jolt out of complacency. The EF is available, for now, but I can't assume it always will be. We must always be on the offense.

John said...

Sounds to me like you're primarily ticked off because MSgnr Pope dared say something that you didn't wish to hear.

Scott said...

I think this piece is totally unfair to Monsignor Pope and completely misconstrues what he is trying to say . He is an ally of the EF. Let's not waste our bullets on friends.

Long-Skirts said...


We are St. Joan,
Philomena, Campion
The Faith in its whole
Is what we do champion.

We are St. Margaret,
Pearl of York
Where the bowels of the Faith
They tried to torque.

We are Sir More,
That's Thomas the Saint
Whose reputation
They could not taint.

We are vocations
Large families and kneeling
Adoring His presence
It's not just a feeling.

We are descendents
Of Tradition and beggin'
To stop all the men
Who are turning us pagan!

We are the poor,
Uneducated ones
But in faith well-informed
The heretic shuns

And when we are told,
“Latin Mass, ummmm, no more.”
Since we don’t contracept
We birthe and IGNORE!!

...but, if there is an SSPX Chapel PLUS one of their schools nearby, you should be safe for awhile.


thetimman said...

John and Scott,

I write because I disagree with the point contained within Msgr. Pope's article: that the numbers of people attending the traditional mass have peaked, and that trad evangelization is somehow lacking. Just because he's a good guy doesn't mean I can't disagree with him. I would be happy to discuss and argue the point with the good Monsignor over whiskey anytime.

The larger point is that this kind of article is a variant of the tired "trads aren't welcoming/trads exclude people" bit. Of course all Catholics should evangelize. All Catholics should welcome visitors. Duh. These articles are a form of self-flagellation and distort reality. The major MAJOR problem in the decline of the Church isn't in the traditional Mass centers. The ship-- if it were possible, which through the grace of God it is not-- is going down. Our own Holy Father would strenuously disagree with Msgr. Pope: we shouldn't evangelize. We should go away. We must never proselytize. You saw his latest video, yes?

The traditional Mass is the guarantor of orthodoxy. These Mass centers are oases, they are lifeboats. Lets quit drilling holes in them and focus on the real problems.

Amos said...

Don't you know how easy it is to evangelize people to the TLM when they are stuck in ghettos where people have to drive 30+ minutes to get to? A wonderful parish neighborhood safe for the kids and convenient to access!

Don't you know how easy it is to attract people to the TLM when the majority of the clergy, bishops and the Pope included, don't even care for it?

Since the Pope never celebrates a TLM, and most priests and bishops do not encourage it, or anything else that would help promote it like slowly integrating Latin in the Ordinary Form, ad orientem, etc. - it should be EASY to evangelize!

I mean, right? The majority of the clergy's attitudes and visible worship style are squarely against the TLM, so people should very much care and understand. I mean, it’s not like there’s a crisis of faith going around or anything silly like that.

Nope, no way the clergy have a role. Why look at all the Popes they shove done our throats with their neo-canonizations, surely St. John Paul the Greatest of All and his liturgical abuses and banality has nothing to do with the current situation – after all, SAINT. Paul VI? Beatified. That’s right. He implemented the Novus Ordo. Not his fault, he is blessed after all.

It’s not as if they keep manufacturing political neo-canonizations of men who brought upon the Church liturgical destruction and helped facilitate the crisis of faith. Nope, nope indeed…

It’s gotta be all of us.

thetimman said...

Oh, and Scott, I don't think I will be able to discuss it with Monsignor. The Register wouldn't post my comment.

Anonymous said...

Since Summorum Pontificum I have tried to participate in TLM in the two parishes around here that provide it (not difficult to get to and in ok neighborhoods). While I don't "hate" the NO, and have sometimes been moved by a good and reverent liturgy in the vernacular, I have for many years hated the music and the sometimes irreverent noisiness, so I thought I'd love the TLM. In both parishes, I tried attending TLM for six weeks or so, and in both cases, I finally gave up. The mass was beautiful, yes. The altar boys were well trained. It was reverent, yes. So why didn't I stay? Because the people were so cold and kind of mean.

I'm not someone who needs everyone to be friendly and chatty, and I prefer NOT to be greeted and talked to before mass, or even after. I don't go to mass looking for friendship, okay? But I do expect, when I go to mass, not to be looked at like, "what are you doing here, you stranger?" I dressed well, I was quiet and reverent, but if I missed a latin response, the people around me practically hissed. I once asked a woman to excuse me so I could get into the seat beyond her (she was at the edge of the pew) and she GLARED at me, like I was an abomination. I don't need to feel "welcomed" to mass, but I also don't want to feel "Unwelcome" and in both parishes that was exactly how I felt -- like I was not wanted there, like there was an "us" vs "them" mentality and my obvious newness to the TLM wasn't construed as a good thing -- like something someone could encourage by smiling and pointing to a page number -- but as an offense and an insult. So, the takeaway here is maybe: if you see someone at a TLM who doesn't seem familiar with the liturgy, don't snarl at them; point out where they should be. Let them sit down without looking at them like they don't belong there. Had I felt just THAT welcome, I might have continued with the TLM, but I really didn't want to worship with what seemed like a bunch of really angry people. Maybe the TLM isn't growing because other people like me, who want to learn to love the TLM, have had the same experience. Peace, Julie

thetimman said...

Julie, I can't speak to your experiences, except I've never experienced anything like it. I've gone the whole way from curious n.o.er to full timer. I hope you'll Come back, as the point is the most fitting worship of God. The Mass intimidated me a little at first, but it passed. People are people. Pay for them too.

Anonymous said...

I'll echo timman's sentiments. I can't speak to your experiences either except to say that they're not like mine. I've been attending about once a month for almost three years now. Once at St. Anselm, maybe five or six times at Little Flower, and the rest at Francis De Sales. While no one has ever come up to me and greeted me warmly, I've also never gotten anything like the kind of reaction you're describing despite not being a regular member. I hope you come back.

Anonymous said...

oops, that last comment was from me.


Unknown said...

actually he is right , the Trad. Catholic tends to become withdrawn, exclusive and irrelevant in regards to evangelization.....not all, but many. I have to agree.

John L said...

There is an element of truth in what Msgr. Pope has said, but as many commenters have pointed out, he does not give an accurate picture. The TLM is actively discouraged in many dioceses by the bishop and priests, through measures such as inconvenient mass times, dangerous and distant locations, etc. At the same time the reason why it is worthwhile and indeed imperative to endure all these difficulties is not allowed to be articulated; it is not permitted to say that the Novus Ordo is intrinsically deficient and not a proper way of worshipping God, or even to simply say that the TLM is superior to the Novus Ordo no matter how the latter is celebrated, if you want to be allowed to preserve your diocesan TLM. These two factors - placing of obstacles and silencing of criticism of the novus ordo - do indeed severely limit the growth of the TLM; as they are intended to do. I don't see that any evangelising enthusiasm can make up for them. For Msgr. Pope to give a real assessment of the growth of the TLM, he would have to look at cases where it is provided along with the whole range of a normal Catholic life; available every Sunday at a reasonable time and a reasonable distance, weekday masses available, catechetics for children provided, in short the range of provision associated with parish life. In every case where these exist I believe he would find continuous and significant growth.

Michael Ortiz said...

Hmm. We now and them go to St. John's, in McLean, VA...their noon TLM is wonderful, as are the priests. I have never felt anyone, EVER, give me or my family an unwelcoming look. Indeed, everyone is really, mostly, looking at Our Lord in the Tabernacle, or on the altar.

Anonymous said...

A quick rant:

Going to mass is not about being welcomed [or entertained]. You're there to worship God and meditate on the sacred mysteries presented before your eyes.

The friendships develop as like-minded people begin to interact after mass, at donuts, at an adult formation series, decorating for Christmas, etc. Don't run off.

Fellowship is a tool for our faith, not the end game.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. But the TLM did not "intimidate" me. The people did. The force of anger did. Whether the TLM is "the most fitting worship of God" is something I won't argue. It might be, although Pope Benedict used the NO and (having attended two masses in Rome) I never felt anything lacked, there.

I think "the most fitting worship of God" is worship that is not so focused on getting everything so perfect that it makes you unable to see the person next to you who might need some help. We're supposed to be able to see Christ, not just on the altar but also in each other aren't we? Thank you, Julie

deprofundis said...

Julie, my family has been having the same experience at the TLM where I live for the last 9 years. We are a large Catholic family but have been sneered at the whole time. We no longer participate socially and that has helped a lot. We go only for the mass. It has been very painful. We continue because we think it gives more glory to God, disposes us to receive more graces, and fixes many of the problems like Eucharistic Ministers, altar girls, liturgical dance, banal music, noise, irreverence, bad homilies, etc. We accept the situation but it is sad. I recommend it to Catholics I know but feel I must do so with a disclaimer. I still can't understand how it is that so many people can receive so many graces and yet are so uncharitable. I love the Latin mass. I love the Church and tradition. I am committed to staying but I hear you loud and clear. - deprofundis

thetimman said...

Ok, everybody,

Thank you for comments, but those on whether traditional Mass attendees are "nice" enough I'll go ahead and close from here on out. The post was about whether the TLM was growing, flat, declining, etc. Comments on the subject of the post are still very much welcome. Christophe, I agree with your attempted comment 100% but it is not helpful at present. Hope you understand. Very much like Steve Skojec has pointed out in other contexts.

Unknown, as for evangelization of this particular traditionalist, I started a blog nine years to do this very thing. I'm not saying I do it well, but that was one of the stated points of this endeavor. It is nearing two million unique visitors and three million pageviews. This does not count all of my family's personal efforts. So can I say I've tried? I hope the good it has done outweighs the harm it has done. But that is the sorry of all of our lives. Yes?

Finally, and again to Monsigor's post-- anecdotally-- our TLM crowd has many evangelizers who are eager to share the joy of the ancient Mass and traditional Catholicism.

Philip James said...

I am most troubled by the post of Msgr. Pope. May I honestly say that I have never fully understood his position or how he thrives as he does--being a so-called Traditionalist--in Washington, DC archdiocese. So, whenever he speaks out out of the other corner of his mouth, I look over his shoulder expecting to see Wuerl with his hands working the strings. After all, everything Pope does on the internet receives tacit approval from Wuerl.

What other excuse is there for Pope to cry wolf, other than his bishop would like to see a return on the poor investments he made with the rigid Latin Mass attendees who are poor because they are actually raising families. Like the mafia boss taking a cut, he sees his coffers are empty and thinks the faithful attendees can do more to boost attendance so as to line the pockets of the diocese. It has to be about money. Why else would they send Pope screaming that the sky is falling?

John said...

"The larger point is that this kind of article is a variant of the tired "trads aren't welcoming/trads exclude people" bit."

I guess you could read the article that way, but I don't think that's quite the point. It's true enough that he places lots of emphasis on evangelism, at least on the surface, but I read a much deeper point is his commentary. Where you see needless self-flagellatioon, I see necessary reflection, recognition of concerns that require significant attention.
In particular, MSgr Pope comments about how many traditionally-minded Catholics had assumed that allowing a much wider use of the tradtional Mass would do its own evangelizing. He promptly informs readers that such an approach was misplaced confidnece. I understand this to mean soemthing very different from what you imply.

I recall reading a complaint several years ago about how bishops had previously killed interest in the traditional Mass by means of allowing for only ONE Mass at ONE tough-to-reach, relatively impoverished parish. I understood such a view to mean that the traditional Mass would grow more readily if only bishops would allow for a traditional Mass at the more wealthy, more readily sought parish churches. In other words, the Mass would grow if merely allowed to be celebrated in any location, that any who attended would be so impressed as to return frequently, abandoning the Novus Ordo, or near enough to it. ...I recall thinking that the author had lost his mind: If we have a choice between an older, poorer, but more beautiful church downtown and a newer, richer, but more plain church in the suburbs, most of us will choose the former, not the latter. Nobody really wants to celebrate Mass in a gymnasium, but the author tended to assume exactly the opposite.

I think that's more the concern that MSgr Pope meant to address. Merely offering a traditional Mass will not evangelize very well; it never did. I think MSgt Pope tried to emphasize the idea that traditional factions have, as a matter of practice, tended to assume that offering the traditional Mass would solve most of the Church's problems, that no further effort would be needed.

I think the letter emphasized how evangelism will require an open, public commitment of one's time energy, and money to cause tradional practice at large to grow if we wish to see the traditional Mass take hold more firmly.

John L said...

John, you comment:

'I recall reading a complaint several years ago about how bishops had previously killed interest in the traditional Mass by means of allowing for only ONE Mass at ONE tough-to-reach, relatively impoverished parish. I understood such a view to mean that the traditional Mass would grow more readily if only bishops would allow for a traditional Mass at the more wealthy, more readily sought parish churches. In other words, the Mass would grow if merely allowed to be celebrated in any location, that any who attended would be so impressed as to return frequently, abandoning the Novus Ordo, or near enough to it. ...I recall thinking that the author had lost his mind: If we have a choice between an older, poorer, but more beautiful church downtown and a newer, richer, but more plain church in the suburbs, most of us will choose the former, not the latter.'

Your 'understanding' of this complaint reads things into it that are not there, and ignores many concerns clearly stated by people making this complaint. Being hard to reach is explained as requiring a drive of an hour and a half in many cases. Objecting to this as a difficulty is not the same as asking for a 'more wealthy, more readily sought' church. It is a real problem, especially for those with large families of young children who will not take kindly to three hours in a car, and who may not have a lot of money to spend on gas. Objecting to a church being in a dangerous crime-ridden area is a common sense point. Of course Catholics who live in these areas should have the sacraments available to them, but why should TLM attenders who do not live anywhere near be expected to take the risk of travelling to them - a risk that is greater for people who will be recognized as not belonging to the neighbourhood than it is for those who live there.

I am still waiting for an answer to the question of whether traditional communities that have a full range of parish services available to them ever fail to show steady growth. My guess is that the answer to this question is 'no'.

Anonymous said...

How many converts from other faiths has the Oratory had in recent years? It seems that kind of data would be useful in refuting or sustaining Monsignor Pope's assertion.

Bryan Kirchoff

c matt said...

In particular, MSgr Pope comments about how many traditionally-minded Catholics had assumed that allowing a much wider use of the tradtional Mass would do its own evangelizing. He promptly informs readers that such an approach was misplaced confidnece. I understand this to mean soemthing very different from what you imply.

That would be a valid criticism if, in fact, there was widespread use of the TLM and nothing caught on. Sure, being "nicer" wouldn't hurt, but it is hardly fair to say allowing wider use won't work, when you haven't allowed wider use. For example, in a diocese of several million Catholics spread over hundreds of square miles, there is one - one - TLM offered in one location at 8:00 AM on Sunday. In that same diocese, there are hundreds of Life-Teen masses offered every Sunday within no farther a distance of any given Catholic of about five miles. Yes, ugly church buildings don't help either, but most of us are stuck with those for the foreseeable future. Perhaps improving what goes on inside those buildings might lead to improvements in the buildings themselves eventually? Until that happens, the jury, as they say, is still out.

Konstantin said...

What I too have noticed before is that many TLM apostolates in the States are in pretty dicey neighborhoods. The place where Fr. Walker, FSSP was shot wasn't safe, Woodlawn isn't safe, the area surrounding the Oratory in St. Louis isn't safe and so on and so forth. I can understand that people don't feel like taking their families there, and unfortunately in many cases it is probably the only place to attend within a reasonable distance.

Anonymous said...

A couple of additional points to the question above:

1) I admit that I need a bit more convincing that if the Tridentene Mass had only been upheld as the ordinary form, the current crisis of Catholicism would have been avoided. The Great Schism, the Protestant Reformation, the French Revolution, the Spanish Civil War, the rise of Nazism, and so on occurred when the Tridentene Mass was the only one available. Yes, the ancient Mass has very, very little temptation to be entertainment, which is magnificent… but it is also relatively inaccessible to those exploring Catholicism from other faith traditions. Again, I appreciate its beauty and hope it grows, but I will also fully admit it is hard enough for me to keep focused in Mass when said in a language I know.
2) Yes, EF oratories tend to be in bad parts of town; if an EF community wants a personal parish, available churches tend to be from the depleted parishes of the urban core. Suburban parishes that are, for the most part, still viable would be hard pressed to fit in another Sunday morning Mass. I would urge EF communities to focus their charitable efforts on making their bad part of town a not-so-bad part of town, not only for the sake of the surrounding poor and making the neighborhood a bit safer for families, but also because such community engagement is an evangelization in and of itself. All that said, in St. Louis we have the EF Mass at St. Anselm and St. Cletus, so they must be considered when arguing that EF growth is foiled by location.
3) I would also urge caution when deeming particular practices less (or less than) reverential. Presumably the Last Supper and the worship of the earliest Church was done in the vernacular. 2 Samuel 6 describes how the Israelites and King David behaved as the Ark was being brought back to Jerusalem – the process involved a lot of loud instruments, singing, and what we would call liturgical dance. The point is for us to be very careful in discerning whether worship practices are actually disrespectful of God, or simply not our particular cultural or aesthetic preference.

Bryan Kirchoff
St. Louis