Thursday, August 28, 2014



When I first read this, my eyes saw FSSP, not SSPX and I went to the video and saw liturgical abuses, altar servers coming up late and not vested properly, the priest wearing a modern chasuble and no maniple. So I thought to myself, I'll write a post on liturgical abuse in an EF Mass at St. Peter's.  Then I thought to myself, did I see SSPX instead of FSSP? And I went back to the Rorate Caeli headline and sure enough it was SSPX! Well! Well! Well! This is stunning ecumenical news concerning the SSPX if you ask me. And yes, yes I know, the liturgical abuses were not really and the unvested altar boys certainly know what they are doing.

The other thing I was going to write in terms of the EF Mass is that I've only celebrated the EF Mass for the last seven years but I haven't attended one believe it or not in that time. What I notice watching this low Mass is how sober the EF Mass is, how gestures are like sign language and there is no need for an audible voice when the priest is praying directly to God just as long a you know where he is in the Mass and have the prayers available in a missal to follow along in the vernacular or Latin if you understand it. 

It shows the beauty of movement, gestures and an superabundance of these in the EF Mass which is its liturgical genius lost completely almost in the OF.

But the real bombshell is an SSPX Priest was allowed to celebrate Mass in the Basilica. EF Masses are celebrated privately every Morning at St. Peters by any other priest who wishes to do so.

SSPX Priest Celebrates Mass in Saint Peter's Basilica

By the gracious permission of the higher direction of the Papal Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican, the faithful of the church of Saint-Martin-des-Gaules, Noisy-le-Grand (near Paris) -- who were in Rome for a summer vacation pilgrimage led by Father Michel de Sivry, of the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) -- were able to attend a Mass at the Altar of Saint Pius X, where the saintly Pope's body reposes.
The Mass in the Vatican Basilica was celebrated by Fr. de Sivry on August 9, 2014, during this special centennial year of the dies natalis of Saint Pius X.


Top Italian Bishop Nunzio Galantino Says Church Must Welcome 'Unconventional Couples'


My Comments first and the RNS article below my comments: Bishop Nunzio Galantino Pope Francis’ choice in March to lead the fractious Italian hierarchy has stirred the waters a few times since he has risen to fame and has had to back track once or twice in his pastorally insensitive comments.

He seems to have stirred the pot again according to Religious New Service. Of course we have to wait and see what the Synod on the Family promotes in October. But when reading the Italian Pastoral situation let me offer a few comments from the perspective of my Italian relative in Livorno whom I visited and had a conversation about some of these things last October to be exact!

1. Italian clergy tend to be very clerical and aloof, but not all certainly. They do not seem to have been trained well in pastoral theology or sensitivity to the legitimate requests of Catholics, either practicing or not practicing.  For example, one of my first cousins was incense that a relative of hers who had a baby who was dying could not get a priest to come and baptize the baby because the mother, though a cultural Catholic, was not practicing the faith. This sort of thing is a scandal and pushes even practicing Catholics to the brink!

2. Annulments are not as common in Italy as in the USA where is has been a great, very great pastoral tool. Keep in mind that civil divorce was not allowed in Italy until relatively recently, in the past 30 years or so. The Church's fight to keep divorce illegal rankled not a few Italians especially those who had spouses who left them for someone else and had no legal recourse in terms of separation benefits.

Thus annulments are rare. When I spoke about the annulment procedure and how many Catholics I had marriages blessed in the Church after an annulment they couldn't believe their ears. None of my relatives knew of anyone who ever got an annulment!

So if the Synod moves the Church in Italy and elsewhere to find solutions to divorced and remarried through the Church's structure of annulments, that is a great thing to say the least and it is pastoral.

I do not believe there will be solutions apart from the External Forum's (tribunals) system. I do believe the synod will ask that tribunals and education about annulments will be beefed up especially in areas of the world where it is weak. I think too, the Internal Forum, that of Confession, will be clarified.

The External Forum may be simplified in some ways.

So don't jump to conclusions. I don't see anything radical happening independent of the ways we are already doing things in the USA. It will simply be extended to others and the internal forum will be clarified with more rules to govern it!

ROME (RNS) The Catholic Church should make “unconventional couples” feel at home instead of making them targets of “de facto discrimination,” the leader of the Italian Bishops Conference and an ally of Pope Francis said this week.

“Couples in irregular matrimonial situations are also Christians, but they are sometimes looked upon with prejudice,” said Bishop Nunzio Galantino, an apparent reference to divorced and remarried Catholics.

“The burden of exclusion from the sacraments is an unjustified price to pay, in addition to de facto discrimination,” he said Wednesday (Aug. 27) in an address to a national conference on liturgy in the Italian hill town of Orvieto.

Galantino was Francis’ choice in March to lead the fractious Italian hierarchy, and from the beginning the bishop has adopted the pontiff’s inclusive approach. That has often landed Galantino in hot water, as he has spoken about the need for the church to welcome gays and to consider optional celibacy for the priesthood.

But Galantino has not softened his views, which are especially newsworthy because in October the Vatican will host a major conference of the world’s top bishops, called a synod, to discuss issues facing the modern family.

How to deal with gay and cohabiting couples is a likely topic of discussion, but the question of whether Catholics who have divorced and remarried without an annulment can take Communion has emerged as a focal point of disputes among bishops.

That’s because the issue is a test case of whether the church under Francis will, or can, change its policies relating to the central sacrament of Communion. Some say such a change is impossible, while others say that changes are not only possible but imperative given that so many couples have divorced and remarried and feel alienated from the church.

Galantino’s remarks were widely reported in Italian media, including Avvenire, the official newspaper of the Italian hierarchy, and were translated by the Italian news agency ANSA.

In his talk, Galantino, who is secretary-general of the Italian Bishops Conference, stressed that everyone should “feel at home” in the church, and especially at Mass — including migrants, the disabled, the poor and those in unconventional relationships.

He spoke about the need for churches to make their buildings accessible for those with disabilities, for example, and said Catholics should take care that the poor are not treated differently from the wealthy at Mass.

But he appeared to send a strong message about divorced and remarried Catholics who are excluded from the sacraments.

“They live in their situation with great suffering,” he said, “and they perceive the church’s regulations as very severe, not compassionate if not punitive.”


Rorate Caeli is reporting the following and we hold our breath!

Cañizares goes to Valencia, and his replacement at Divine Worship is...

As mentioned by us days ago, it's been confirmed today: Cardinal Cañizares Llovera, up to today Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, was named by Pope Francis new Archbishop of Valencia (in the place of Carlos Osoro Sierra, named also today Archbishop of Madrid).
Who will now occupy the currently vacant central liturgical position in the most widespread rite in the Church, the Modern Roman Rite ("Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite")? A Ratzingerian? A Bugninian? Someone (or something?...) altogether different? Somewhere in Casa Santa Marta, this has already been decided...


I was at this outdoor Mass in October when Pope Francis consecrated the world to our Lady of Fatima. I was fortunate enough to distribute Holy Communion at this Mass and was seated on the front row with other priests directly opposite to where the "Our Lady of Fatima" statue was placed on the top step of St. Peter's Basilica. With what is happening in the world with ISIS, I continue to wonder about the third secret of Fatima and to just what pope it refers:
Fatima and Islam
       A Muslim Princess is linked to the place where Blessed Virgin appeared in Portugal in 1917.   Long before these heavenly events, a place near where the apparitions would occur, was named after this Princess named Fatima.  In the unfolding of time, Mary manifested herself on earth, and the place called Fatima would become attached to her, as Our Lady of Fatima. 

       Fatima was the favorite daughter of Muhammad, so we associate the name with Islam. In this way the namesake in Portugal is connected to the Muslims.  But it seems to go deeper than this. 
       The name Fatima may be thought of as a bridge between Christendom to Islam.  As such, it's not a bridge to nowhere, that we hear about today, but a bridge to somewhere: to a much better world, where we may hope for a better understanding between Christians and Muslims. Read more HERE.

Vatican Addresses Report Saying Pope Francis Is An ISIS Target

Posted: Updated:
The Vatican is speaking out against a claim that Pope Francis is a target of the Islamic State militant group, otherwise known as ISIS.

In an article published Monday, Italy's Il Tempo newspaper reported that the pope is a target of ISIS. The paper, citing an unnamed Italian intelligence source, states the pope -- who is considered the "bearer of false truths" by the group -- is "in the crosshairs of ISIS" and that the extremist group plans to "raise the level of confrontation" by attacking Italy and greater Europe.

However, the Vatican has dismissed the report.

“There is nothing serious to this," spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi S.J. told Catholic News Agency. "There is no particular concern in the Vatican. This news has no foundation."
ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who is behind the group's offense to overtake large regions of Iraq and Syria in an effort to establish its own Islamic State, issued a threat against Rome earlier this summer, near the start of Ramadan.

"Rush O Muslims to your state. It is your state. Syria is not for Syrians and Iraq is not for Iraqis. The land is for the Muslims, all Muslims," he said in an audio recording posted online and reported by the Telegraph. "This is my advice to you. If you hold to it you will conquer Rome and own the world, if Allah wills."

Earlier this month, ISIS took control of Iraq's largest Christian city, CNN reported. At the time, the pontiff expressed concern for Christians in the region.

While he has not endorsed American airstrikes against the group, Pope Francis has said ISIS must be stopped.

"I can only say this: It is licit to stop the unjust aggressor. I underline the verb: stop. I do not say bomb, make war, I say stop by some means," he said during a press conference last week, according to CNN. Adding: "It is there that this should be discussed. Is there an unjust aggressor? It would seem there is. How do we stop him?

And then there is this from Rorate Caeli about a new Fatima Secret? READ ON.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


We have begun to lay the marble floor tiles from Italy, of course and are still awaiting the completion of the actual altar railing which is being polished. New gates are ready too!

The first step on the nave level has been extended and tiled with marble. Just doing this has helped with going down these stairs from the top level of the sanctuary. There was something about having four steep steps now reduced to three with a large landing for the forth. It is on this extended step the altar railing will be installed.

As well, the removal of the ugly hand railings makes all the difference in the world in presenting a less constricted area to the eye.

Also we are repairing a leak and plaster damage below one of the "rose" windows in the church, thus the need for scaffolding.


UPDATE WHICH SEEMS TO CONFIRM THE PREMISE OF MANY ABOUT INFILTRATION, PRESS THESE SENTENCES TO READ MORE: In an open letter to Pope Francis, I explain my decision to leave the Jesuits because of LGBTQ issues and ask the pontiff to be stronger in his statements about LGBTQ equality.

It was said that in the heyday of Communism in various countries, communists tried to infiltrate the Church to convert her to the Communistic ideology. This certainly happened to the bishops and clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church.

There was a try also in the Catholic Church of Poland and perhaps in some senior ranking officials in the Vatican. Certainly during the time the Nazis there were Catholic bishops who sympathized with some of the ideologies of Hitler.

It is also said that in Europe and in Italy and perhaps in the Vatican City State, that high ranking Church officials were Masons. European Masonry is much different than the USA's version and there remains a virulent anti-Catholicism. In fact Pope St. John Paul II reiterated the Church's historic censure of this group in the 1980's following a major scandal in Italy involving high ranking Church personnel and the Masons. Up until that time, there was a sort of detente with the Masons and Catholics in this country were allowed to join for fraternal reasons and insurance, etc. But no more.Catholics are not permitted to be Masons by Church law and the edict of Pope St. John Paul II.

I print below an article below from an evidently fundamentalist Protestant publication. One might read into this article a bit of homophobia but I think we can't underestimate the lobby of the homosexual community to mainstream their ideology concerning sex, public sexual expression and same sex marriage and a sort of dictatorial fascism concerning this lobby that is highly well financed with promoters in high place in the most important areas of communication, the old and new medias as well as entertainment.

Given the recent spike in lawsuits against the Catholic Church from so-called Catholics and non-Catholics who worked in our schools and then entered same-sex marriage only to be dismissed from employment with the Church's institutions, one has to think there is an agenda to change the Church through these sorts of tactics and to infiltrate the Church with people who have an ideological agenda against the Church's teaching on sexuality, chastity and marriage, anti-Catholicism in disguise similar to the other examples I report above, an infiltration of sorts.

I do not print the following as an endorsement of the entire contents of this Protestant publication but as something that should be pondered, critiqued and evaluated.

Vicky Beeching
Vicky Beeching

An evangelical Christian worship singer who has been urging churches to change their doctrine on homosexual behavior since announcing she is a lesbian is at the forefront of a coming tidal wave of “infiltration” of the church by promoters of the “gay” agenda, contends evangelical attorney, evangelist and activist Scott Lively.

Lively, president of Abiding Truth Ministries, said that with insiders on the offensive such as Vicky Beeching, a British-born artist who has become popular among evangelicals in the U.S., he expects “attacks on Christians in America like we’ve never seen before.”

He explained that after the Stonewall riots in 1969, homosexual activists banded together to oppose every American institution that did not fully accept and promote homosexual behavior.
The first victory was over the American Psychiatric Association, and within 40 years, every other group had been conquered, he said. The Boy Scouts were the latest to fall, just a year ago.
Now, the only organization left is the church, he said.

“All of their battle-hardened activists and enormous resources are all directed at the church,” he said.
The problem is that church leaders haven’t been preparing for such a fight, Lively said, and don’t really know what the movement is about.

Beeching revealed she is a lesbian in an interview last week with the Independent newspaper of London.

“What Jesus taught was a radical message of welcome and inclusion and love. I feel certain God loves me just the way I am, and I have a huge sense of calling to communicate that to young people,” she said.

Lively, however, said Beeching represents “the drawing back of the tide before a tsunami” and an indicator of “how bad this is going to get.”

He’s published a brochure for pastors that explains what the Bible says about homosexuality.
“Not a single biblical passage portrays homosexuality positively,” the brochure says. “Jesus unequivocally condemned ALL sexual sin including homosexuality by affirming the ‘one flesh’ paradigm of Genesis.”

It contends a “dangerous modern heresy called ‘gay theology’ is infiltrating the Christian church at an alarming pace.”

“Many believers, fearful of being called ‘haters,’ are trivializing the threat by calling homosexuality ‘just another sin,’” it says.

“But from Genesis to Revelation, the Bible teaches that homosexuality is NOT ‘just another sin.’ It is a symbol of extreme rebellion against God and harbinger of His wrath.”

He said his goal is to put the brochure into the hands of every pastor and Christian leader in America and around the world so they have a biblical explanation for why homosexual behavior is sinful.
Lively noted one of the founders of the “gay” agenda, Herbert Marcuse, expressed a desire to see the “disintegration of the … monogamic and patriarchal family.”

“One last barrier to ‘gay’ cultural hegemony remains: the Christian church,”

Lively is not unfamiliar with attacks on Christians. He’s being sued by activists in Uganda who accused him under the Alien Tort Statute of inciting the persecution of homosexuals.

The case is significant because a ruling against him would mean that an international agenda based on anti-biblical standards could trump the U.S. Constitution’s freedom of speech and religion.

U.S. District Judge Michael Posner has let the case brought against Lively by an African group called Sexual Minorities Uganda, or SMUG, proceed.

SMUG calls Lively’s speech against homosexual behavior a “crime against humanity” in violation of “international law.” The plaintiffs allege the Alien Tort Statute in the United States allows them to make the charge in a U.S. court.

But Lively’s attorney, Horatio Mihet of Liberty Counsel, says his client’s preaching is protected by the Constitution.

“We believe SMUG’s claims are firmly foreclosed, not only by the First Amendment right to free speech, but also by the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Kiobel, which eliminated Alien Tort Statute claims for events that allegedly occurred in foreign nations,” he said.


MY COMMENTS FIRST:  To be honest with you, I have not detected a "Francis" effect in my parish or the Diocese of Savannah. I think what was said about Pope St. John Paul II is true of Pope Francis. In St. Pope John Paul II's time, progressives and those who didn't like the Church too much, liked St. Pope John Paul II. It was a personality sort of thing and the strength of his convictions was respected although most who loved him didn't love the Church's teachings on truth. Time Magazine had a cover of Pope John Paul II that had the headline "Pope John Paul II, Superstar." And thus this is the way it is with the cult of celebrity of our day. 

We all know that the true test of any religious fervor means that more people are coming to Mass, going to confessions, seeking make sure their marriages are recognized by the Church and are living their faith at home, work and play, in the public square.  There would be more vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

Can we say this is happening today or is the Francis' effect similar to any other celebrity effect, superficial and temporary until a new celebrity arises?

I think there is much, much superficiality in all this popularity especially those who are enamored with Pope Francis. In St. Pope John Paul II's heyday and now in Pope Francis' celebrity it is superficial for the most part. Cardinal Brandmüller in the article/interview I have posted below this video hits the nail on the head when he says the following:

The biggest threat to the church today [is] the absolutism of the individual: "Modernity does not ask: What is true ?, but: What good is it? Is it feasible? Pragmatism and utilitarianism are the great heresies of our time. "

However, don't misunderstand what I am writing. There is some good to celebrity of the popes because their celebrity acts as a giant dragnet of a fisherman. St. Peter pulls in all kinds of people with all kinds of ideologies and perhaps some are good and will remain and convert and others will jump back into the sea on their own accord. Others will remain in the Church and the great and just Judge at their personal judgment will decide who enters the Kingdom of God and who doesn't. 

We should never fear a Catholicism that acts as a giant dragnet. But we should fear a Catholicism deformed by the two great heresies of our time, an antipathy for the truth or worse yet making lies truthful and the "pragmatism and utilitarianism of our time.

An example of the cult of the celebrity:

And then there is this sober analysis: 

Hamburg ( Emeritus German Cardinal Walter Brandmüller (85) does not think much of the enthusiasm for Pope Francis: "It is superficial. Were this a religious movement, the churches would be full, "the former president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences said in an interview with the Hamburg magazine.

Brandmüller opposed the abolition of celibacy and against women priests: "We take concerning faith clear boundaries. This is not a sign of weakness but of strength, "he said. A "laissez-faire, laissez-aller would mean watching passively the devastation of the Church from within," said the 85-year-old.

An ecumenism that unites Protestant and Catholic believers in this doctrine could not exist, because "to be the church in the sense of a purely spiritual greatness of Luther. So Protestantism remains contrary to the Catholic faith. "

The biggest threat to the church today Brandmüller sees the absolutism of the individual: "Modernity does not ask: What is true ?, but: What good is it? Is it feasible? Pragmatism and utilitarianism are the great heresies of our time. "
(C) 2014 CBA Catholic News Agency. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014



 Of course to me the real Superman was George Reeves of the 1950's television version of the superhero.
This is the ice bucket of water and kind of cool and funny. I don't like the new superhero outfit that much, heard it cost a lot and wonder if it shrinks?

Monday, August 25, 2014


Nineteen Sixty-four is a research blog for the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University edited by Mark M. Gray. CARA is a non-profit research center that conducts social scientific studies about the Catholic Church. Founded in 1964, CARA has three major dimensions to its mission: to increase the Catholic Church's self understanding; to serve the applied research needs of Church decision-makers; and to advance scholarly research on religion, particularly Catholicism. Follow CARA on Twitter at: caracatholic

Sunday Morning: Deconstructing Catholic Mass attendance in the 1950s and now

Social science is not just about surveys, trend data, or focus groups. Some of my favorite types of research involve content and historical analysis. The study of art, for example, can provide some amazing insight that is not visible on a spreadsheet. Norman Rockwell’s “Sunday Morning,” as shown below (click to enlarge), has always caught my eye as an interesting piece because it brings to life some of the survey results we have been seeing for many years and it did it on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post all the way back in May of 1959 (for more see: “Sunday Morning Slackers” from the Post).
Sunday Morning; Norman Rockwell; Published: May 16, 1959; © 1959 SEPS.

Rockwell illustrated this piece five years after appearing in the national print ad shown below, which reads, “Light their life with faith. Bring them to worship this week.” This advertisement was sponsored by Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish lay people in an effort to encourage weekly religious service attendance—especially among parents with their children. This should be the first sign of something amiss with our recollections of this time…

They needed a national ad campaign to get people to take their children to church? Wait this is the 1950s right? Didn’teveryone go to church in the 1950s?

According to his biographer (Norman Rockwell: A Life, by Laura Claridge, Random House, New York, 2001), Rockwell lived a life much more like his cover illustration than the text of the ad campaign. He was said to rarely make it to church on Sunday during his first marriage (to a Catholic woman he later divorced) or during his second marriage (to a woman of his own Episcopalian affiliation). Rockwell did have his children baptized from the second marriage but was not a regular at church services otherwise.

In itself this may come as a shock to those who view Rockwell as the visual soul of conservative, small town, religious America. As “Sunday Morning” indicates Rockwell was not shy about pointing out the realities of American religious life even in the 1950s. Take special notice of the father’s unusual morning-bed hair-style and the color of his robe. When one realizes from his biographer that Rockwell may have spent many similar Sundays in his pajamas it is more difficult to typecast the illustrator into some of his other more famous and pious illustrations regarding religion.

It is likely that the family in the illustration is Protestant. Thus, it is not the case that Rockwell was making any comment about Catholicism in this work. But the fact that it made it on to the cover of America’s magazine of record at the time indicates that it resonated with the culture of this period. This issue of the Post was published at a time when weekly Catholic Mass attendance was peaking, as measured in Gallup telephone surveys (74% in 1958 and 72% in 1959). In 2008, Gallup surveys estimated Catholic Mass attendance in any given week had fallen to 42%. Don’t giggle. I know you don’t believe that 42% of Catholics nationally attend Mass in any given week and you’re right. But why do we believe 74% did in 1958?

I am sure there will be some reading this who says, “I remember, I was there.” But what we did see in the 1950s is not important. It is what we did not see… the people who were not in the pews. You can only get an attendance percentage by dividing the Mass attendance count (numerator) by the number of self-identified Catholics in the parish boundaries that could have attended (denominator). All of this is unlikely to be found in your memories! (Note: even Robert Putnam who notorious for highlighting the declining trend lines from the 1950s says the following in American Grace: “research on the accuracy of reporting church attendance… suggests that we should take these self-reports with a grain of salt,” pg. 571).

A piece of art is one thing. Perhaps more can be said by taking a second look at a researcher who was in many Catholic parishes studying Mass attendance in the 1950s. Joseph H. Fichter, S.J., (granduncle to current CARA research associateFr. Stephen Fichter) famously studied parish life by going door to door and taking censuses, making Mass attendance head counts, observing parish life, and documenting everything possible both qualitatively and quantitatively.

In his 1954 study, Social Relations in the Urban Parish (University of Chicago Press), Fichter estimates Mass attendance levels based on the number of individuals registered with the parish. But he also provides the counts for what he calls “dormant Catholics” from his census within parish boundaries. These are people who self-identify their religion as Catholic but who do not attend Mass. Thirty-eight percent of the Catholics within the parish boundaries he studied in this book were dormant. Thus, at the outset we know that typical weekly attendance by the measure of this study could have been no more than 62%. But what about among the “active” Catholics? About 79% of the non-dormant Catholics attended Mass on a typical weekend. So overall, the total percentage of self-identifying Catholics attending Mass in this study was estimated to be about 49%.

This is almost exactly what we get in the early 1950s if we “correct” the Gallup trend numbers down for “over-reports”in each year by about 12 percentage points (Why 12 percentage points? See “The Nuances of Accurately Measuring Mass Attendance” and more recent research cited below). The figure below shows this correction for the entire Gallup series.

Attendance over-reports occur as people being interviewed over the phone respond to their interviewer with answers about their behavior that they believe to fit socially desirable expectations. So typically the respondent has just told the interviewer their religion and then they are asked how often they attend services. Many respond in a way that they believe is socially acceptable—even if it does not fit their actual pattern of attendance.

We have some early evidence of this in the Americans’ Use of Time Study, 1965-1966. Here, 57% of Americans when asked directly about their church attendance reported that they had attended in the last week. However, only 39% of these respondents actually indicated attending religious services when recording their time use hour by hour in diaries (i.e., an indirect measurement). For more on this see Philip Brenner’s excellent recent article “Identity Importance and the Overreporting of Religious Service Attendance” in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (March, 2011; pgs 103-115). Brenner not only estimates this phenomenon in the United States but in Europe as well, where this issue is less of a problem. These estimates are in “Exceptional Behavior or Exceptional Identity?” in Public Opinion Quarterly(Spring, 2011; pgs. 19-41). For example, in Italy (2003) time diaries estimate church attendance to be 25% weekly but surveys measure this at 30%. In Spain (2003) attendance is estimated at 16% in time diaries compared to 19% in surveys. In Ireland (2005) these numbers respectively are 42% (time diary) and 46% (survey-based). Here, Brenner also shows that from 1975 through 2008 the average annual over-report in U.S. religious attendance is very stable and much higher than in Europe, at an average of 13.4 percentage points.

In another of Father Fichter's 1950s studies, Southern Parish: The Dynamics of a City Church (Volume I, University of Chicago Press, 1951), he showed that there was also considerable variation in Mass attendance week to week (see figure below). This again is quite similar to some indirect measurements made now. Just as today, Lent brought more Catholics to Mass than during other periods of the year.

Joseph H. Fichter; Southern Parish: The Dynamics of a City Church; Volume I, University of Chicago Press, 1951, pg. 151.

Father Fichter’s observations also indicate that some of the Mass attendance of the 1950s was not as “active” as we might remember it. Here is a passage that likely still resonates with your observations of parish life today:

“A measure of the parishioners’ devotion to the Mass and of their fulfillment of this obligation is seen in the numbers who arrive late and who leave early. By actual count it was noted that, at all Sunday Masses, 8.37 per cent of the congregation arrived after Mass had started and that 6.35 per cent left before it was completed. … Although we have no accurate count, we have noticed that many of these persons are duplicated in both categories. In other words, those who come late also tend to leave early. … The younger males constitute the majority of those who omit part of the Mass, while older females make up the majority who arrive in church well in advance of Mass” (1951, pg. 138).

“By actual count, 35.08 per cent of the congregation read the missal all during Mass, while another 22.08 per cent read some sort of prayer-book while following the priest’s reading of the Gospel. … The remaining persons simply stare off into space, although several men in the last pews sometimes read a copy of 
Our Sunday Visitor during Mass” (1951, pg. 138).

Over a year of Masses, on average, attenders were much more often female (about 7 in 10 or more) than male—a composition that can only result from some men, perhaps like the man in the Rockwell illustration above, staying home.

Today, CARA’s national surveys use a methodology that minimizes social desirability pressure on respondents to get the most accurate measurements of Mass attendance possible. Many cite our weekly Mass attendance figure in the low 20 percent range. Some also then cite Gallup’s figure from the 1950s and attempt to argue that Mass attendance has fallen from nearly 80% to just above 20%. This is misleading and inaccurate. First, as shown above, the Gallup numbers for the 1950s are inflated by over-reports just as they are in the 1970s or now. Second, CARA and most other survey-based estimates of Mass attendance measure general frequencies of attendance such as “every week” or “at least once a month.” Gallup’s church attendance question measures whether a respondent has attended in the last 7 days. Depending on the week in which this question is asked, one will get very different results. Thus, the best use of the Gallup data is in taking the average for the year in response to this question.

Currently, CARA surveys indicate that 23% of self-identified adult Catholics attend Mass every week. Yet, in any givenaverage week, 31% of Catholics are attending (almost identical the “adjusted” 30% estimate from the Gallup trend). Note there is considerable local variation in Mass attendance levels with higher levels in the Midwest and lower in coastal urban areas). During Lent and Advent, Mass attendance increases into the mid-40 percent-range and on Christmas and Easter, an estimated 68% of Catholics attend.

Thus, if one is seeking to make a comparison of Mass attendance in the 1950s to now, the drop is not 80% to 20%. Instead it is from a peak of 62% in 1958 to about 31% now. This is still a remarkable decline. It means that the Mass attendance you see at Christmas and Easter is a lot like the attendance you might have seen in a typical week in the late-1950s. Yet, even then, as now, there is a significant number of Catholics like the father in Rockwell’s “Sunday Morning” who choose to do something else.

The slope of the Gallup declining trend is accurate. It’s the levels that are off. If you are going to use the Gallup data from the 1950s and make comparisons to CARA data in the 2000s and beyond you’ll need to adjust the Gallup trend (and our collective memory of the 1950s) down to reach reality. And this is of course is not just an artistic endeavor. As I have argued here I believe it to be statistically valid.


When the Deacon's Bench is on the same page with Rorate Caeli concerning the liturgical abuse and disaster of this priest's OF Mass below you know we have problems! And think of these high school boys from a pricey swanky Catholic school who attended this wet and in bathing suits poolside what it does to their sense of Catholic spirituality and liturgical piety not to mention seriousness of Catholic liturgical reverence.

To the priest celebrating Mass this way I say Really! Are you serious?

From the Deacon's Bench:

Dear La Salle College High School: would you like to explain this, please?

Drop me a line, when you have a chance. I'd like to know what this is about:Various sources around the interwebs are saying this was a Mass celebrated on the Feast of the Assumption (August 15).The priest appears to be using a TV tray as an altar.Want to let us know what this is about?  Please? I'll happily print your response.Thank you.Bestregards,The Deacon's Bench … [Read More...]


This morning from Vatican Radio:

Pope sends letter of condolence to family of journalist James Foley

Mourners pack the Church of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary in Rochester, New Hampshire for a Mass in remembrance of American journalist James Foley

(Vatican Radio)  The Holy See’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin has sent a message of condolence on behalf of Pope Francis for the family of the U.S. journalist James Foley, brutally executed by Islamic State militants.  The message was read out Sunday at a memorial mass for Foley at the family’s Catholic parish, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church in Rochester, New Hampshire.  The letter, addressed to the Bishop of Rockeville Centre, William Francis Murphy, reads:
“The Holy Father, deeply saddened by the death of James Wright Foley, asks you kindly to convey his personal condolences and the assurance of his closeness in prayer to James’ loved ones.  He commends James to the loving mercy of God our Father, and joins all who mourn him in praying for an end to senseless violence and the dawn of reconciliation and peace among all the members of the human family.  Upon the Foley family, and upon his friends and colleagues, he invokes the consolation and strength borne of our hope in Christ’s Resurrection.”
The Director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi confirmed last week that Pope Francis had made a private phone call to James’ parents, Diane and John Foley, to personally express his condolences.
Foley, a 40 year old journalist, was covering the conflict in Syria when he was abducted two years ago.