Is the traditional movement approaching a moment of crisis? January 12, 2016Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, Dallas Diocese, episcopate, error, General Catholic, Liturgy, persecution, priests, sanctity, scandals, secularism, Society, the struggle for the Church, Tradition, Virtue.
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:
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?