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Is the traditional movement approaching a moment of crisis? January 12, 2016

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, Dallas Diocese, episcopate, error, General Catholic, Liturgy, persecution, priests, sanctity, scandals, secularism, Society, the struggle for the Church, Tradition, Virtue.
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Msgr. Charles Pope, who offers the TLM regularly but who I would certainly not call a traditional priest, penned a piece for the National Catholic Register in which he asserted that at least as far as regards his experience of the TLMs he offers, he feels that interest in the TLM has reached a plateau, and may soon drop.  He seems to attribute this at least somewhat to TLM goers, possessed a fortress of solitude mentality and often, if not positively unwelcoming to newcomers, at least highly reticent to “evangelize” in favor of the TLM and with perhaps a hint of desire to keep their precious TLM all to themselves.  I’ll admit I’m reading a bit between the lines in that last bit of analysis, but I think it’s being hinted at.

For the most part, I think Msgr. Pope is off track.  Yes, the TLM appeals to only a niche of Catholics.  When 2/3 or more of even weekly Mass-going Catholics no longer believe in the Real Presence, the idea that the TLM is going to have mass appeal is a dubious one.  But, more specifically, I think Msgr. Pope has drawn bad conclusions from a far too narrow data set.

He seems to base his analysis almost entirely on his experience in the Archdiocese of Washington, DC.  He laments that even though the Archdiocese has “generously” made available TLMs in 5 locations, attendance numbers have remained flat at around 1000, all told. Now, it does seem that many of these TLMs are at less than optimal times or in inconvenient locations, but even still, I’d argue that his experience is far more a product of the old real estate maxim – location, location, location – than it is any shortcoming on the part of the TLM or its adherents.

Look, Washington, DC is one of the most liberal regions in the country.  It is dominated by those with a statist, progressive outlook. I don’t think I’m declaring anything extraordinary when I claim that the TLM generally appeals far more to those of a conservative outlook than it does to those of a more progressive bent.  Surely there are more than 1000 conservative Catholics in the DC area, but who knows what panoply of factors is playing into Msgr. Pope’s experience?!? Simply throwing one’s hands in the air and declaring doom seems excessive based on the very limited examples he provides.

Eponymous Flower provided a graphic that, to me, seems to largely belie Msgr. Pope’s claims: the number of TLMs being offered continues to grow:

875-chart-traditional-latin-masses-united-states_preview

In our local environment, the only TLM parish permitted in the Diocese of Dallas (and the only location where TLMs will EVER be permitted, or so I am told by non-TLM local priests) continues to grow, and rapidly.  That growth has continued even though the FW Diocese, only ~25 miles away, is creating a new TLM parish, and there are now two full-time priests assigned in Tyler, only about 90 miles away.  All of these three parishes continue to experience sustained growth, but, then again, DFW is a far more conservative area than is DC.

This experience is not isolated to North Texas.  In Arizona, in parts of California, in the KC area, the TLM continues to attract growing numbers of the faithful.  Numbers of Masses available would not steadily increase over decades were the same tiny population continually subdivided among more and more available TLMs.

Regarding evangelization of the TLM, I’m all for it.  I’ve done a great deal of that for years on this blog, even to the point of losing a good chunk of my circa 2010-11 readership.  But we must face facts:  even in Archdioceses blessed to have several TLMs, public advertising and evangelization for tradition is often highly frowned upon, if not expressly forbidden, as is essentially the case in our own fair Diocese of Dallas.  As a result, I would wager than 3/4 or more of even weekly Mass-going Catholics in this Diocese still have no idea that the Traditional Mass is available, or even just what is quite meant by the term.  There are huge institutional barriers throughout out the country and world to evangelizing in favor of the TLM and the entire traditional practice of the Faith, or even simple public announcements that such Masses are regularly available.

But I believe there may still be another factor at play: there is a huge difference between a parish, or a priest, who offers TLMs, and a fully traditional priest, grounded in the pre-conciliar Faith, formed according to rigorous scholastic methods, and desirous to see the whole post-conciliar Revolution consigned to the ash heap of history.  The problems Msgr. Pope describes seem to be localized in parishes tending towards the former, whereas the growth I allude to above is generally focused in parishes where the priests have fully embraced Tradition and who steadfastly advocate in favor of it, and not Gospel music in the Mass.  The TLM, glorious as it is, is really just one component – the most important component, certainly – of a broader mix that includes traditional catechesis, practice of traditional virtue, building up of a community of families and individuals dedicated to learning all the pre-conciliar aspects of belief and practice, etc., etc.  The TLM as a standalone in a Novus Ordo parish, with a priest mostly seated within the Novus Ordo milieu, is probably always going to be a more problematic, and less attractive, beast than a full-up trad parish.

In other words, if Msgr. Pope is concerned about shrinking attendance at his TLMs……and he certainly seems to be……..his best recourse might be to take a long look in the mirror.

Having said that, again, I’m all in favor of evangelizing not only for the TLM but in favor of the entire pre-conciliar practice of the Faith. I’ve tried to do so with my own frail efforts on this blog, and in other ways as well.  I have personally brought several dozen individuals to their first TLM, or their first TLM in decades.  I’d love to sell the TLM more personally in local NO parishes, but opportunities to do so are rare, and when I have I have found the response fairly disappointing.  Getting people to transition from the NO environment, even when they are quite conservative, is generally a long and involved process.  I guess one advantage of mixed-ritual parishes is the ability to interact more regularly with those who don’t regularly assist at the TLM, and to try to sell them on its virtues, but, again, that process of “conversion” is generally long and involved.

Look, my readership has always skewed heavily conservative, but even there, as I said, I lost nearly all my original cadre of readers when I transitioned from being conservative to more explicitly traditional.  They simply wouldn’t “go there.” It was one of those things where no amount of argumentation or demonstration of virtue, historical continuity, etc., would sway them. So I think we’ve got to realize, in this present crisis, many souls simply are not going to respond to the traditional message.  As a result, ultimately, the Church is going to shrink to a tiny fraction of its present size.

But, there remain a whole bunch of souls out there who will eventually, by the Grace of God, embrace the traditional practice of the Faith.  I don’t think the growth of the traditional movement is in any way capped.  I’m sure it won’t constitute 50% of the Church in my lifetime, but it will continue to grow, and steadily.  But I do think the tendency will be for more and more explicitly, entirely traditional parishes, and that the hybrid parish will eventually become a passing relic, like the Novus Ordo Latin Mass.

One critical thing we need to push for, is the right for any priest, Ecclesia Dei or no, to offer the TLM exclusively, and take his parish in that direction if he be a pastor.  That would be a huge help right now.

Outta time.  Any thoughts?

Comments

1. Woody - January 12, 2016

Hmm. Advertising for the TLM? I have an idea. Perhaps we should approach Fr. Clifford Smith at St. Mark’s and see if we could rent time on the two huge flat screen televisions in the sanctuary, the ones that are on either side of Christ crucified. I’d bet he’d do it for the right price. Just a thought. And since I know he monitors this site, I await his response.

Lynne - January 13, 2016

Ow! That’s an interesting idea…🙂

2. Branch - January 12, 2016

Great point: “there is a huge difference between a parish, or a priest, who offers TLMs, and a fully traditional priest, grounded in the pre-conciliar Faith, formed according to rigorous scholastic methods, and desirous to see the whole post-conciliar Revolution consigned to the ash heap of history.”

If you’re drawn to the TLM, then you are likely also drawn to the fullness of the Faith rather than post-conciliar version.

3. camper - January 12, 2016

Also important is Ross Douthat’s article on First Things: he says that the leftists in the Church will be with us for a long time…

https://www.firstthings.com/article/2016/01/a-crisis-of-conservative-catholicism

4. tg - January 12, 2016

I think the Latin might be a turn off to some people (not to me) because they won’t understand what is being said. The first time I attended a TLM in Austin a couple of years ago, I really didn’t know what was going on. The second time I went I had a handout and it helped. I just like the music, no sign of peace and the reverence. Even though I’m all for tradition, I can see why some people will never be sold on assisting at a Mass they can’t understand the language. I would go to TLM if it was offered in my diocese closer to home. I just can’t travel far. If I could just assist at a NO Mass that is reverent, good homily and hymns, no girls at the altar, I’d be happy every Sunday.

5. mfg - January 12, 2016

Thanks for clarifying he meant TLMs offered at Novus Ordo parishes, not full TLM only parishes.

With respect to evangelization, he might be right. How many TLM communities at Novus Ordo parishes offer more than just Mass? Like the things you note, fellowship, and traditional parochial life that can help evangelize the TLM to others. Are we doing all we can?

Maybe at some TLM communities, the laity may simply be unware that they really have an obligation to organize to help grow and preserve what they have?

6. Barry - January 12, 2016

Sadly, I have become discouraged in the last year or so. The NO environment rules, the TLM is marginalized – in Phoenix, most of the NO types don’t even know the TLM exists, and frankly they don’t really care. I can’t even get my own family to attend the TLM – they tried, but a couple of 2-3 hour High Masses completely wore them out. They lost all interest and moved on. Friends aren’t interested either – as in this article, one can’t make the transition overnight. They try it once, don’t understand it, and never return.

I frequently attend a reverent NO Mass with family members. It’s a good Mass, very reverent with a wonderful, learned priest. But one thing always troubles me – very few people seem to read anything. They sit, stand and kneel on cue, but they never pick up anything to read. Many of them appear to be bored. Maybe it’s just my imagination.

DM - January 12, 2016

Barry could you recommend some reverent NO Masses in the Phoenix area? The only one I’ve heard good things about is the cathedral.

Tantumblogo - January 12, 2016

What about Fr. Saenz? Does he offer a reverent NO?

DM - January 13, 2016

True, I forgot about Fr. Saenz. St. Catherine’s is just in a very rough, dangerous area of town. In fact most of the parishes with a TLM are. The north Phoenix/Scottsdale/Glendale areas really need more influence of Tradition.

7. Chad - January 12, 2016

I don’t know where he gets yhe basis for no evangelization. As far as I can tell, both parishes and clear creek monastery community all are regularly evangelists to the mass and traditional life – both to current Catholics as well as to heretics and unbelievers.

8. LaGallina - January 12, 2016

I find that most Catholics I speak with have no idea what a Latin Mass is. When I mention it to Catholic friends and acquaintances in my predominantly Catholic town, they look at me with a blank stare as if I had just started speaking in Chinese. And I am referring to people of all ages — older people who grew up with the old Mass to young people who usually don’t even know the name of the local bishop.

Then there is the handful who have heard something about the Latin Mass being for schismatics! This issue is clearly one that can only be won through a massive miracle.

I am working on making an attractive, little flyer to give out to people I meet introducing them to the beauty of the ancient Mass. But it is very difficult to get people interested in it when the only thing they have ever heard about it — if anything — is negative.

With that said, the Sunday TLM (at a Novus Ordo parish) is very well attended. It is a very youthful crowd, with a good mix of grandparents, teenagers, middle agers, and 3 young novices learning to say the TLM.

Tantumblogo - January 12, 2016

So what is a resaca? Did I miss your reply?

c matt - January 13, 2016

It likely refers to a dry river bed in a former channel of the Rio Grande.

9. DM - January 12, 2016

You’re exactly right about the difference between a Novus Ordo priest who also happens to celebrate the TLM in a NO parish, and a full-out, properly formed trad priest of the SSPX, FSSP variety. The diocesan, inconveniently timed TLMs are the ones that are growing slowly or not at all in my experience, for the reasons you’ve mentioned.

The difference is night and day between the environment in a fully traditional parish vs a NO parish that hosts a diocesan TLM. At the one I attend, said by a rotation of diocesan priests, the sermons and manner of the people attending sometimes is honestly almost indistinguishable from what you’d encounter in your average Novus Ordo mass. I find that fact quite depressing. Those of you who have always been able to attend a fully traditional parish truly do not know how lucky you are.

Unless more priests and parishes are allowed to become TLM only, and the Ecclesia Dei orders continue expanding to more locations, the growth of faithful, traditional Catholicism will be limited.

Tantumblogo - January 12, 2016

Thanks for the comment. Yes, I based my analysis on experience. I’ve attended some diocesan TLMs in mixed-rite parishes, and while some are better than others, they are just not the same. What is needed is not just the Traditional Mass- which is of course wonderful, glorious – but an entire traditional milieu, or orientation. I have been told by TLM goers in some mixed-rite parishes that they have been horribly scandalized by the dress and behavior of their non-TLM counterparts when they show up to Mass. They’ve also experienced a lot worse sermons and general catechesis than I generally have.

Look, an occasional or weekly diocesan TLM is a tremendous blessing, but should be a starting, and not an ending, point. The end goal should be a parish or parishes wholly dedicated to the TLM and traditional practice of the Faith.

10. Lynne - January 13, 2016

So many thoughts running through my head, I’ll try to keep this short. Time and location are both important. It can be a convenient drive but if it’s at 2 pm in the afternoon, you’re not going to build a big following. I’ve noticed that the Juventetum Boston group (the college kids who organize TLMs and socializing afterwards for young people always have their TLMs at 7 pm. Once again, that’s not going to build a big following.

Before I went SSPX (Mass at 9 am, 10 miles from my house), I drove to the diocesan TLM (Mass at 10:30 am, 25 miles from my house). The Mass was beautiful, the sermons less so and the calls for donations to the CCHD continued. Also, diocesan priests seems to want to have a monopoly on the TLM. When the TLM began to be offered at one diocesan parish, in an ugly, modernist-architecture church, another priest wanted to offer it too. His church was made for the TLM. It was breathtakingly beautiful. He wasn’t allowed to.

I appreciate Msgr. Pope. I read his blog daily but he’s way off-base. He’s of the “TLM must remain in a ghetto” mentality.

The N.O. Mass will never equal the TLM. It was designed by a committee with a stopwatch to ease the sensibilities of the Protestants. That’s a recipe for disaster and we’re seeing the fruits of that now in this pontificate.

11. Lynne - January 13, 2016

My last post didn’t make it.😦 Trying again…

So many thoughts running through my head, I’ll try to keep this short. Time and location are both important. It can be a convenient drive but if it’s at 2 pm in the afternoon, you’re not going to build a big following. I’ve noticed that the Juventetum Boston group (the college kids who organize TLMs and socializing afterwards for young people always have their TLMs at 7 pm. Once again, that’s not going to build a big following.

Before I went SSPX (Mass at 9 am, 10 miles from my house), I drove to the diocesan TLM (Mass at 10:30 am, 25 miles from my house). The Mass was beautiful, the sermons less so and the calls for donations to the CCHD continued. Also, diocesan priests seems to want to have a monopoly on the TLM. When the TLM began to be offered at one diocesan parish, in an ugly, modernist-architecture church, another priest wanted to offer it too. His church was made for the TLM. It was breathtakingly beautiful. He wasn’t allowed to.

I appreciate Msgr. Pope. I read his blog daily but he’s way off-base.

The N.O. Mass will never equal the TLM. It was designed by a committee with a stopwatch to ease the sensibilities of the Protestants. That’s a recipe for disaster and we’re seeing the fruits of that now in this pontificate.

12. Lynne - January 13, 2016

my comment is stuck in moderation?

Tantumblogo - January 13, 2016

Sorry. It’s fixed. I know it’s annoying. Usually happens at night.

13. Lynne - January 13, 2016

Joseph Shaw, from the London-based LMS wrote an excellent response on Rorate Coeli…

14. c matt - January 13, 2016

I tend to agree with your first observation – location, location, location. Hard to “compete”, as it were, with 4 time slots 3 miles away and 1 time slot 25+ miles away.

15. richardmalcolm1564 - January 13, 2016

“The problems Msgr. Pope describes seem to be localized in parishes tending towards [diocesan parishes that offer the TLM].”

Overall, I agree with that, Tantum; nearly all of the traditional personal parishes are doing quite well (the ICRSS is struggling a bit more in Chicago and Kansas City, for some localized reasons).

That said, out of the 473 public weekly TLM’s currently offered in the U.S. less than sixty are offered in traditional (or mostly traditional) parishes. The vast majority are in diocesan parishes, whether we like it or not, and that is not going to change for the foreseeable future…we might hit one hundred TLM parishes by the end of the decade, but that will still be only a fraction of the whole. So it behooves us to think hard about how to improve the situation as best we can at the diocesan TLM’s (which is where I must go myself).

16. richardmalcolm1564 - January 13, 2016

P.S. The graph that Eponymous Flower provides was actually from Jeff Ostrowski at Corpus Christi Watershed (credit where credit is due). I will add that, spiffy as it is, it obscures to some degree a point that has been made with some concern by some other traditionalist observers, to wit: The big surge was in 2007-10, and it has slowed in the growth rate since. Some of this may just be that the worst pent up demand was met right away, but I think it also reflects some dioceses finally erecting the minimum possible TLM locations to survive Vatican scrutiny – and then, nothing more. There really is no substitute for having a bishop and chancery open to having the TLM, and helping it grow.

17. Evangelizing the Reluctant Pearl Merchant - OnePeterFive - January 14, 2016

[…] See for example: “Is the traditional movement approaching a moment of crisis?” A Blog for Dallas Area Catholics, Jan. 12, 2016; Gregory DiPippo, “How is your TLM doing?” […]


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