Sunday, February 22, 2015


Let's face it, there are many reasons, some quite valid, why people don't attend Mass. And it isn't necessarily the way the Mass is celebrated. The person may have a disagreement with the priests or have been hurt by the priest in a malignant or benign sort of way. We all know the horror stories, some criminal and mortally sinful!

A simple change in priests or pastors could cause some people to stop coming to the Holy Sacrifice.

But…if one actually believed what the Mass accomplishes, apart from all of the external differences available today, in terms of priests’ personalities and abilities, the beauty or ugliness of the church, the ornateness or plainness of the liturgy and accoutrements or the amount of active or inactive participation, language, who does what, friendliness or unfriendliness etc., that in fact in the Mass one encounters God through Jesus Christ in His spoken Word and His Word made Flesh sacramentally, experiences the grace of the one Sacrifice of Christ in a personal and communal way and the real presence of Christ can be received under the form of Bread and Wine, it seems, as you might have heard in a homily, that people would be crawling on their knees to Mass to experience God in this way. Nothing would stop them from attending.

If there is no “wonder” about the faith realities of the Mass, then there is no wonder 88% don’t go to Mass for whatever so-called valid or invalid reason.


John said...

Mainly, I go to Mass to worship God, to offer him prayer. If the Mass is more about "us" than him, in conscience, I can not participate because then I contribute to scandal by being present.

I would attend if there is no legitimate alternative.

Gene said...

If the OF and the way it is celebrated, Church architecture, the attitude of Priests, and the ambiguities of the Pope and his minions indicate to people that the Church does not take seriously the Real Presence or the Mystery, then more and more Catholics are not going to take it seriously, either. This cannot be fixed by parroting over and over platitudes about ex opera operato or petulantly insisting that "yes, yes, we take all that seriously." This has happened before…back in 1518.

rcg said...

It seems to me, Gene, that the clergy do take it seriously, but are contemptuous through familiarity and constant exposure. The handling of the Body and Blood always reminded me strongly of medical and scientific processes with rare specimens and particles. When people become complacent they risk becoming lax in how they behave and place themselves and those around them in danger.

John Nolan said...

This morning I attended Mass in the nearest Catholic church (actually it is a small chapel) knowing that it would an English OF Mass. The (young) priest followed the rubrics and was decently vested. The congregation (predominantly white and middle class) are a friendly bunch.

Now we come to the music. The resident guitarist (let's call him Rambling Syd Rumpo, an allusion which Brits of a certain age will recognize) gave us a selection of up-beat numbers, including a recessional 'Go, the Mass is ended etc. etc.'

There was no indication that we were entering a particularly solemn part of the calendar, where even the organ is silent and all leave in reverential silence.

The 20th century Liturgical Movement wanted the faithful to better understand the sacred mysteries. Unfortunately, they confused literal, verbal and immediate understanding with spiritual and intuitive understanding. They fell into the same trap as did the 16th century Protestant reformers.

That is why the Novus Ordo, for all its cleverness, fails miserably. Seasons come and go with no palpable change. Cultured people (if they still attend Mass) leave their critical faculties in the church porch.

In 15th century England the Mass was enormously popular and the liturgy regulated people's lives. A commenter on this blog actually referred to Latin as a 'foreign language'. The ignorance encapsulated in this simple phrase is mind-boggling.

Anonymous said...

"But…if one actually believed what the Mass accomplishes . . . "

But priests who "actually believe what the Masses accomplishes" don't inflict serial liturgical abuse on their parishioners. Liturgy whose celebration is not consistent with faith does not sustain the faith, and results in people's loss of belief.

This is why I fear that talk of "new evangelization", without emphasis on the reform of celebration of the Mass to implement Vatican II faithfully (at long last), is just so much blather.

Anonymous said...

Father, John Nolan's post seems to be a perfect example of your opening statement. He is totally preoccupied and obsessed with the externals...the vestments, the racial and financial makeup of the congregation, the music, the musician. He seems fairly oblivious to the miracle that he professes to believe is going on amid all of the distractions.. (Now John will speak some Latin and tell me how dumb I am.)

Rood Screen said...

I take the comment by Anonymous against John Nolan to be slanderous.

Anonymous said...

I take the comment by JBS against Anonymous to be slanderous and scandalous.

Daniel said...

I have never heard anyone say they stopped going to church because of changes in the Mass. Never ever ever. Not once. If you really want to find out why people stop going to church, the best way is to ask some of them. You know, as opposed to posing the question here to our merry band of misfits, where you are certain to get the answer you're looking for.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Daniel, you must be very young and naive. If you lived during the time of transition in the 1960's you would know better. After that time it is simply trickle down effect, but because young people don't know their history, they don't know it.

Daniel said...

Father, while I may be naive, I remember the old Mass well, as I noted the other day. A thousand things have changed in the world over the past 50-60 years. I could cite some examples, but you know them as well as I do. Blaming Mass attendance on changes in the Mass is an example of "post hoc, ergo prompter hoc." Yes, I remember that, too.

George said...

John Nolan:
"A commenter on this blog actually referred to Latin as a 'foreign language'."

It is not a foreign language of course. For too many Catholics today though, it might as well be. Most churches would be doing quite well just to have a majority of the Catholics in the parish attend Sunday Mass in the vernacular. It is a sad state of affairs. Fortunately, the Church does not mandate a requisite number to be present before Mass can be celebrated. So those who wish to attend the Vetus Ordo, even if small in number, can do do so, if they have a priest available who can celebrate it.

John Nolan said...


Ignorance is to be deplored, pitied even, but hardly merits litigation. I don't think my reputation (such as it is) will be damaged by anything Anonymous says. However, he (or she) requested some Latin, so here goes:

Melius est a sapiente corripi, quam stultorum adulatione decipi; quia sicut sonitus spinarum ardentium sub olla, sic risus stulti.

Paul said...

Not all change is for the better despite politicians and other people who link "hope and change" together.

Some of the worst things ever done have been the result of a desire for "change".

Who desires this "change" and why?

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Daniel - Ask Good Father McDonald for data - you know, actual facts about those who left because of changes in the mass.

Now, there are anecdotal stories, none of the verifiable, that Fr. McDonald will repeat. But, I suspect, he's not going to give you anything more than that.

And I, who am not so young, also don't know anyone who left because the mass was changed. I do know a few who were, in fact, very grateful for the changes.

Anonymous said...

No offense, Fr., but I was an adult many years before you were born. Like Daniel, I have never heard anyone say they stopped going to church because of the changes in the Mass. Never, ever, ever. You can take my word for it...I am neither very young or naïve.

There were probably some who lost interest after Pope Paul dragged his feet on birth control for ages...people used their own judgement (like we did)...then he said "no dice" and many probably said "adios"...My wife and I didn't quit, but we did use our own consciences....

rcg said...

If people did not leave because the Mass changed, why then the disastrous decline? Did the Church suddenly become almost totally irrelevant to modern life and unable to assist with living it? How did so significant a part of our civilization come to be rejected, even antagonistic to to the solutions we need? If it still has values and answers humans need how come we have trouble communicatining them?

Anonymous said...

There are statistics that indicate that as education increases, religious practice decreases. I'm not doing citations. If you are interested you can do the math...

George said...

There has been a tremendous drop -off in Mass attendance over the last 50 years. The Church needs to find and address the reasons for this. What we do know is that in some places the Latin Mass is pulling people in. That's not to say it is the only solution for getting fallen-away Catholics back to the Faith.

Anonymous said...

John Nolan, I would love to hear about your "reputation (such as it is). You seem to be implying that you are a well known, famous guy. Clue a dummy in....Maybe I'll be as impressed as some others in these parts are...

Carol H. said...

My oldest brother-in-law and my oldest sister-in-law left because of the changes in the Mass. He left because he saw V2 as an admission that the Catholic Church was not the one true church. She left because if people can make sudden changes to the Mass, and reject what came before, then the Church and God are just creations of the minds of men. For her, God doesn't exist at all.

Anonymous 2 said...

I have submitted several posts making the same point. As other commenters repeat their points frequently, and as I have yet to read something to change my view about this, I will repeat mine and combine various points made in some previous posts:

I am sure there are many factors behind the decline in Mass attendance. However, I still maintain that our fundamental problem in the West is metaphysical -- Gene would say theological but I think the problem is more basic. Modern science and technology and all the material blessings they bring with them, combined with the illusion of potentially complete human power over nature, are enormously distracting. With all the material wonders produced by modern technology and the erection of great cathedrals to Mammon, we are back in the Cave. Or perhaps more precisely, given that we spend so much of our lives in front of screens, we are in a Cave within a Cave, an Illusion within an Illusion (although sometimes the screens can, admittedly, stimulate the imagination and broaden perspectives). Plato would have understood the problem, as he too had to confront his society's relativism, skepticism, and the lure of worldly success.

This is not an indictment of technology or material progress (one does not have to throw out the baby with the bathwater after all), but I suspect things will not change much until either (a) we all face a terrible disaster, or (b) most people’s sense of everyday reality is seriously disrupted and destabilized. I also suspect that until we address the metaphysical problem successfully no changes in the liturgy of the Mass will be sufficient, but once we do so, such changes will prove to be unnecessary.

I have suggested before that perhaps one can begin by destabilizing “things taken for granted” in normal everyday perception and thus demonstrating epistemological limitations even in our physical world: for example, primary qualities versus secondary qualities, the phenomenon of dark matter and dark energy, and the problem of “time” and relativity and its relation to questions of “eternity” or “timelessness.” After this fundamental Socratic/Platonic move, the shackles become somewhat looser and it may be possible to begin stumbling out of the Cave and attend to the “theology” that Gene would emphasize over metaphysics. One could perhaps call it the “re-enchantment of the world.”

But what do I know?

Anonymous 2 said...

P.S. Here is another way to make the point – we cannot solve a postmodern problem with a medieval solution. We need a postmodern solution instead.

Paul said...

If people are leaving Holy Mass because of perceived changes in Holy Mass then they have been deceived and are making a grave error. Even if the perceived changes are truly real there is no other place to go. Christ is still fully present even if the servants are disrespectful and rude. Pray. Communicate. Put some faith in the faith and go to Mass anyway we need Christ's Church more than ever.

Nothing makes Satan happier than to see sheep silently stray away from the flock.

Gene said...

This is another example of liberals insisting something is true or denying something by continuing to assert it. The changes in the Mass are a symptom of the larger problem of a loss of the sense of mystery and the decline of reverence and awe for the sacred that is destroying the Church and the culture. I have talked with many lapsed Catholics who say that they do not go to Mass because the new Mass is not meaningful to them or because it seems like "going to the Methodist church." Just because they do not state it, "I no longer attend Church because of the changes in the Mass" does not mean that is not the reason." mikey is nothing more than a progressivist shill, anyway…who can possibly take him seriously except when God takes over his obnoxious personality in order to use him in persona Christi.

Rood Screen said...

People stop attending Mass for personal reasons: they fail to encounter the Persons of the Divine Trinity acting during the Holy Sacrifice.

The worthy goal of liturgical reform is to promote the participation of laymen in the personal interaction of the Trinity in the Sacred Liturgy.

Rood Screen said...

John Nolan,

When someone does not know how to discuss ideas coherently, it is tempting for them to resort to slandering their opponent's personality.

Anonymous said...

Somewhat older than Fr. Kavanaugh, I personally know numerous people who had been active and engaged Catholics, but left because they felt the changes had destroyed the sanctity of the Mass.

I also know personally many who left because of cultural or personal problems unrelated to the liturgy.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

The elephant in the room is that the reformed Catholic Mass is less distinctively Catholic compared to the EF Mass, thus there are scores of CATHOLICS now Protestant because they see no differences! The Black community had far more Catholic converts prior to VATICAN II with the LATIN Liturgy compared to today's experience of the Mass in the black community which is extremely similar to the Protestant counterpart!

John Nolan said...

Daniel (it was he, incidentally, who made the crass comment about Latin being a foreign language) should realize that 'post hoc ergo propter hoc' is a useful reminder not to attribute everything to cause and effect, but cannot be used to deny that there is such a thing as cause and effect. Benedict XVI, no less, believed that what he called 'the disintegration of the liturgy' was the main cause of the crisis in the Church.

If something that is regarded as more-or-less immutable (in other words any change takes place over a long time and is barely perceptible) is subjected to radical change almost overnight, it is surprising that anyone could have entertained the notion that it would NOT precipitate a crisis.

In half a decade the Mass was transformed (in most places) in terms of language, orientation, texts, manner of celebration, vesture, music, and even (as some of the staunchest defenders of the reform insist) the theology which underpinned it. This was accompanied by wave of iconoclasm which only recently has shown signs of receding.

'The Second Vatican Council caused more damage to the Catholic Church than did the Protestant Reformation. Discuss.'

A persuasive and intellectually coherent argument could be made for this proposition. It would probably require an informed non-Catholic to make it, as it would require the sort of academic detachment which those with a vested interest (or axes to grind) could scarcely muster.

Anonymous said...

Refining my preceding comment, I should credit Fr. Kavanaugh's statement that he had seen no Catholics leaving the Church because of dissatisfaction with the liturgy.

The many previously "good" Catholics I saw leaving the Church because of disillusionment with the new Mass were in the decade from 1965 to 1975. In many of those cases, the problem went much deeper than mere dissatisfaction with Sunday Mass. The abrupt disruption of the previously immutable liturgy caused a loss of certain faith in a broad range of previously immutable Church teachings--because this faith had previously been sustained by the unchanging liturgy.

I don't personally know of anyone leaving for this reason since 1980. So a priest ordained in the 1980s would have likely have no experience with this phenomenon. Instead he would have seen those leaving for other reasons.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

John - Latin is a foreign language. There is nothing crass about saying so.

Benedict 16 was, I think, wrong in his assessment of the causes of the crisis in the Church.

The United States of America, long ruled by the British sovereign was, overnight, separated from that rule. "We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved;..."

In that instant the United States were no longer subject to the Crown. Radical change for the good can, and does, happen overnight. Or, in the case of our Independence, at the stroke of 56 pens.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Good Father - If they see no differences, why have the left the Catholic Church to join Protestant churches? There had to be something different that attracted them towards a Protestant congregation.

Obviously there ARE differences, but few, if any, are related to the "distinctive" nature of Catholic worship. They are 1) Divorce/Remarriage, 2) Sexual Morality, 3) Family unity, 4) Political questions, etc.

Underlying and contributing to these is the general spiritual ennui/torpor which Anonymous 2 rightly describes as metaphysical.

Anonymous said...

I think the decline in Mass attendance goes well beyond the "switch" from Latin to the vernacular---moral issues (especially birth control) are a more likely explanation. Seldom have I heard anyone say they left the Church because of the language being used, whether the altar was at the back or the front, or use of Eucharistic ministers. For my 2 sisters (who became Episcopal) it was birth control among other things.

Speaking of Mass attendance, Gallup has a new poll out on the percentage of Americans (by state) who attend worship every week, at least monthly, and seldom or never. Not surprisingly, Mormon Utah topped the list at 51 percent weekly attendance. At the bottom, Vermont with 17 percent. A strong correlation exists between weekly worship and presidential voting---of the 22 states where at least a third of those polled claimed to attend church weekly, 19 were states that Romney won over Obama in 2012 (exceptions being Delaware, New Mexico and Virginia). Perhaps the most shocking statistics are from Massachusetts, probably the most Catholic (percentage) of the larger states (say over 5 million people). 59 percent there seldom or never attend church. Any wonder the likes of Ted Kennedy get elected up there? In Georgia, 39 percent claim to attend church weekly---tied with Oklahoma and Texas.

Rood Screen said...

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh,

In addition to ink, there was considerably blood spilled in two wars to achieve and maintain our independence. Interestingly, Gandhi later demonstrated that the British are so civilized that one need only to repeatedly tell them to leave, and they will do so. Although, I suppose Canada, Australia, Good Hope-Natal, and New Zealand had shown this even before he did. At any rate, in our case, it was more than just a mere instant of pen and ink.

John Nolan said...

Fr Kavanaugh

A somewhat far-fetched analogy, even by your standards, as well as being historically misleading. The independence of the United States was not achieved at the stroke of a pen, or even 56 pens - it took a protracted war, and the direct involvement of France, Spain and Holland (not to mention the armed 'neutrality' of Russia and Sweden). Even then, it was a close-run thing. But it's a ridiculous analogy in any case.

The fact that Latin is not English (although English is greatly indebted to it) doesn't make it a foreign language. It's not a vernacular language, and indeed the Latin of the liturgy never was. No foreigners speak it as their native tongue.

Latin was being spoken in these islands even before Julius Caesar landed in 55BC. Since then not a day has passed without its being spoken. The Pope celebrates Mass in it. Do you ever ask yourself why?

The United States of America were 'long ruled by the British sovereign'. Really? It's like saying that England was long ruled by the Romans. A schoolboy howler.

Benedict XVI was a supporter of the Liturgical Movement before you were born. He had first-hand experience of the Council and its aftermath. Even Piero Marini acknowledged he is a formidable liturgical scholar. You're entitled to think he's wrong, but it's far more likely that you are.

Paul said...

People swept into the whirlpool of false hope and unholy change.

To "keep up" with demand we're building a new, larger parish hall with a larger kitchen and meeting rooms. I don't see Mass attendance skyrocketing but I suppose the social and community needs are. We can't pack the church but I guess we can pack the hall.

Gene said...

Paul, Fried chicken and donuts…yes, two of the essential elements of protestantized worship everywhere, guaranteed to pack any social hall. You wanna' pack a Mass, make fried chicken and donuts the Elements.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

John - No, on the 4th of July, 1776, the colonies (aka United States of America) were free from the long rule of the British Crown. George and Charlotte were "not amused," Cornwallis and Gage were more than slightly annoyed, and Benedict Arnold became a tergiversationist.

Now, it took a while to convince the Mother Country that were free and independent, absolved of any allegiance to the British Crown. It also took a while for Americans to grow into that freedom. But, from the moment the Declaration of Independence was signed and declared, it was a done deed.

Rood Screen said...

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh,

As has been well-documented by scholars, at least 1/3rd of "Americans" were opposed to the Revolution, with many more finding the whole affair puzzling. Once the war began in earnest, everyone had to pick sides, with a large number of refugees fleeing into Canada.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

JBS - There are always those who end up on the wrong side of history, aren't there?

Nonetheless, the Declaration of Independence clearly states, "That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States;..."

It does not say "At the end of the Revolutionary War" or "When the 1/3 who doubt our freedom are convinced" or "At some future date will be free."

It wasn't that long ago that I discovered that an annual celebration of "Evacuation Day" was marked in New York to remember the day the last vestiges of British authority packed up and departed that city.

It is reported that, in a fit of philistinic pique, a British gunner fired one last shot as his boat was leaving - and that that shot fell into the sea well short of the shore.

Rood Screen said...

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh,

Yes, you are quite right. Enslaved Black families, gun control advocates, and progressive tax proponents were all on the loosing side.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

JBS - No, the 1/3 who opposed the Revolution were on the wrong side of history.

I doubt there were any "gun control advocates" at the time of the Revolution. Kindly name a few or offer links to their writings, if you would be so kind.

I don't know about the progressive tax proponents of 1776. I am impressed by what A. Hamilton accomplished, convincing the Congress that the federal gov't should assume the war depts. of the various states, allowing the Fed Govt to borrow at better rates.

In return, the Federal Capitol was planted in Washington, DC, to appease the southern states.

Rood Screen said...

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh,

Gun control was a major issue in the years leading up to the American Revolution, as Loyalists sought to disarm the Patriots. The most recent place I read about this was in "1775: A Good Year for Revolution". Any decent commentary on the colonial background of the Second Amendment will treat the subject.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

JBS - Both sides, Loyalists and Revolutionaries, sought to disarm the other.

"In New York, we find the events that eventually lead to a large-scale disarmament. The standing committee at Brookhaven, on 1 September 1775, issued the following statement:

Resolved, That if any person or persons shall hereafter oppose or deny the authority of the Continental or of this Congress, or the Committee of Safety, or the Committees of the respective Counties, Cities, Towns, Manors, Precincts, or Districts, in this Colony, or dissuade any person or persons from obeying the recommendations of the Continental or this Congress, or the Committee of Safety, or the Committees aforesaid, and be thereof convicted, before the Committee of the County, or any thirteen or more of their number, who shall or may meet upon a general call of the Chairman of such Committee, where such person or persons may reside, that such Committee shall cause such offenders to be disarmed; and for the second offence they shall be committed to close confinement, at their respective expense."

This is, I think, not really a matter of "gun control" but of both sides attempting to disarm the other in advance of the coming war.

Unknown said...

So... the American colonies were free the momement they signed the Declaration of Independence? But... when the 11 states in the South did the exact same thing (you know, secede—or, put euphemistically, 'declared independence') 'four score and seven years' later, it was illegal and invalid?

American hypocrisy. Well... y'all call it 'American exceptionalism'.

Of course, I couldn't expect more from a nation whose independence document lists wildly straw-grasping accusations against George III.

I'm being a little trollish here.

That said, I have no idea what the phrase 'wrong side of history' is supposed to mean. Maybe Mr. Kavanaugh can explain it to me with an analogy utilising a Sopwith Camel.

John Nolan said...

Declarations issued at the start of unsuccessful rebellions and independence movements litter the pages of history. Look at the history of Ireland, Poland and Ukraine to name but three. Successful rebellion confers retrospective validity on such documents.

Ghandi was indeed pushing at an open door. India was never a colony and so the British could be said to have 'left' it when it gained independence. But they did not leave Canada to the Amerindians and Eskimos, New Zealand to the Maoris and Australia to the Aborigines. They stayed. As did, of course, the former subjects of George III. Formal separation from the British Empire did not engender a distaste for imperialism - they went on to colonize an entire continent.

Gene said...

John Nolan is correct….we have not lost our taste for imperialism and tyranny…just look what we have elected for the last two terms.
There is no "wrong side of history." History is linear and irreversible. It is silly to try to make moral judgements in retrospect and from the 21st century mind set.
The Confederacy was a sovereign nation for five years. That is why the war should be called the "War Between the States." The war could have gone either way in 1862 if Lee or Jackson had entered DC (they were 8 miles away). Jackson wanted to burn the place, but Lee was too cautious and felt that such an action might make the North more determined rather than willing to negotiate. Likewise, at Fredericksburg, Lee did not pursue and destroy the Union army when he had a perfect chance. Anyway, once Grant took over, it was decided. Grant was every bit as competent a General as Lee and understood the arithmetic it would take to win the war. History moves on.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Flav - No need to refer to aeroplanes.

"The phrase refers to someone who supports (or supported) a person, country, movement, etc. that when viewed from far enough in the future that it's considered "history" was considered to be the "wrong" or "losing" side, even though it may not have been clear that it was the "wrong" side at the time.

For example, former US Senator Strom Thurmond was heavily opposed to the civil rights movement in the United States and was pro-segregation, etc. At the time, it wasn't especially clear which way the civil rights movement would end up, nor was it as cut and dry a moral issue as it is considered now. In the view of history, however, it's clear he was on the wrong side."

No, the attempted secession of the Confederate States (CSA) from the United States was not "the exact same thing." The US had no king (hereditary monarchy) and I will leave it to you to research the other differences.

The Civil War could have gone either way, but it didn't. "Could have gone either way" is merely a game of "what if" which may be interesting, but it meaningless.

History is irreversible. The South was defeated, and rightly so.

John Nolan said...

Secession is secession, and whether it's from a constitutional monarchy or a republic is immaterial. Only two years before the DofI Thomas Jefferson was addressing George III in the name of 'your subjects in British America'.

The historian Niall Fergusson, apart from pointing out the reality that what used to be called the 'Old Colonial System' was good, indeed very good, for the American colonial economy, makes the following observations about the War of Independence which goes far beyond the Hollywood version, and indeed the version which has been taught to generations of US schoolchildren.

1. It was a war that Britain could not win, a) because she was simultaneously at war with the three leading maritime powers in Continental Europe (France, Spain and Holland) and had no Continental allies to tie the French down, and b) because a sizeable proportion of the British political classes sympathized with the Americans.

2. The war in America was in fact a civil war (either the second British or the first American, take your pick) which divided social classes and even families. 'And the worst of the violence did not involve British regular troops, but was perpetrated by rebel colonists against their own countrymen who remained loyal to the crown.'

3. The war actually strengthened the British position in Canada. The 'Patriots' tried and failed to coerce the British settlers to the north into joining their rebellion, and the influx of loyalist settlers effectively marginalized the French Quebecois who might otherwise have been a destabilizing element.

Fr K's historical perspective, like his liturgical one, is over-simplified to the point of caricature.

Rood Screen said...

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh,

Do you think the American Revolution was fought over the question of constitutional monarchy? Parliament, not the king, ran things, and the American protest was essentially about the lack of American representation in the House of Commons. It was only after the Declaration of Independence that a decision was made in favor of a republic.

Gene said...

Well, I'm sure kavanaugh believes that, since they had slavery back then, it was all wrong anyway and nothing that happened means anything.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

JBS - Did I say the Revolution was fought over the question of constitutional monarchy? No.

Did I suggest the Revolution was fought over the question of constitutional monarchy? No.

PLAINLY I cited the fact of Britain's constitutional monarchy as ONE of the reasons for the Revolution.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

John - I'm sure we could cite atrocity for atrocity in the Revolution.

"On 29 May 1780, Tarleton (British), with a force of 149 mounted soldiers, overtook a detachment of 350 to 380 Virginia Continentals led by Abraham Buford. Buford refused to surrender or even to stop his march. Only after sustaining heavy casualties did Buford order the surrender. Tarleton ignored the white flag and mercilessly massacred Buford's men. In the end, 113 Americans were killed and another 203 captured, 150 of whom were so badly wounded that they had to be left behind. Tarleton's casualties were 5 killed and 12 wounded. The British called the affair the Battle of Waxhaw Creek, while the Americans called it the "Buford Massacre", "Tarleton's Quarter", or the "Waxhaw Massacre."

And if the Revolution strengthened Britain's position in Canada, so what?

Rood Screen said...

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh,

Thank you for your comments and clarifications, and for being a faithful priest and a patriotic American.

John Nolan said...

'Tarleton ignored the white flag and mercilessly massacred Buford's men'. Not according to Dr Jim Piecuch, the American historian who has made an intensive study of the affair. We can accept that Buford sent a flag, but there is no evidence that Tarleton received it (his horse had been shot and he was pinned under it) let alone ignored it. None of his subordinate officers would have been authorized to accept it.

There is even less evidence (none, in fact) that Tarleton ordered that no quarter be given. What is certain is that Buford (whose handling of his troops was inept), having earlier refused surrender terms, tried and failed to surrender while the action was in progress and then (disgracefully) fled the field.

The Patriots had sustained a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Loyalists, following hard on the loss of Charleston; the local population was hostile; there's nothing like a good atrocity story to explain away a defeat and win over the waverers.

George said...

Since we are discussing what transpired American colonies, I figured I would look up some things. If one feels the need to do so, one can add/correct to what is below.

The English(British)influence-

Over thirty Presidents of the United States (which constitutes a majority) had partial or full English ancestry.
According to the first US Census (1790) , those with English ancestry comprised close to 61% of the European population of the American colonies. Those with Scottish ancestry
(including Scotch Irish) constituted another 14%. The Irish made up 3.7%( the immigration of significant numbers of Irish would come decades later).

Those who claim English ancestory today make up a plurality of all the Southern U.S. states except for Louisiana.

Looking at just the eight most recent governors of Georgia you have Maddox, Carter,Busbee,Harris,Miller,Barnes,Perdue and Deal- all with the
possible exception of Perdue, English surnames. The eight most recent Lt.Governors are Byrd, Geer, Smith, Maddox,Miller,Howard, Taylor and Cagle.

America and the State of Georgia is changing though. We've been getting an influx of those escaping the snow-bound states and also a fair number
from south of the border.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

And there's nothing like good revisionist retelling of an atrocity story to whitewash the evils of the British marauders.

Maybe the Amritsar massacre never happened either...

Gene said...

Wasn't Tarleton the Portrayed villain in "The Patriot" (also known as "After Mel Gibson Saves Scotland He Saves America).

John Nolan said...


The villain in that dreadful Mel Gibson film was indeed closely based on Sir Banastre Tarleton. It was panned by historians on both sides of the Atlantic. American historians of the War of Independence have long since discredited the myths but they persist nonetheless. There is a parallel in Britain with the popular misperception of the Great War (1914-1918) still going strong despite the valiant efforts of historians over the past half-century.

You'll never get the likes of Ignotus to abandon or even modify his prejudices by confronting him with the truth. History is a field where Pope's observation that 'a little learning is a dangerous thing' applies with particular force. Liturgy is perhaps another, but while I can own up to being an historian, I do not claim to be a liturgist. But the perspective and detachment of the historian can be valuable in this field too.

Patriotism when defined as love of country is a fine sentiment. If it relies on xenophobia it is suspect. I find it sad that educated Americans like Ignotus still have to define their patriotism in terms of anti-British sentiment.

If you were to tell the average American that D-Day was a predominantly British operation in terms of planning, troop numbers and especially maritime support (where the ratio was 2:1) he wouldn't believe you. But even a cursory glance at the statistics will show that this was indeed the case.

Tarleton's command was called the British Legion, but inconveniently for the mythologists it was composed of Americans (including members of the 'Roman Catholic Volunteers').
The 'Tarleton helmet' which he designed and is shown wearing in the famous portrait by Reynolds was adopted by many mounted regiments (including my own, the South Nottinghamshire Hussars, raised in 1793). It was also worn by the Royal Horse Artillery at Waterloo.

Gene said...

John Nolan, I am a long-time student of WW II and you are, of course, correct. I love to poke fun at my British friends, but the truth is that America is, in so many ways, England. My father was in England from March of '44 through his landing at Omaha on D Day (2nd Infantry Division) and all the way to Berlin. He corresponded with a British family he had met and who had befriended him for many years after the war. I still have some of the letters. Elizabeth the First and Churchill are two of my heroes…oh, and Dickens, too.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

John - I am not anti-British. I love my country, warts and all, without falling into the popular delusions of "American exceptionalism" and without having to rely on casting aspersions on the Mother Country.

Now, would you suggest that the Amritsar massacre was an example of the honourable and chivalric nature of the British military.(No, I am not suggesting American military forces are innocent of atrocities committed in the name of "patriotism.")

Or is that another "long discredited myth"?

John Nolan said...


Nobody believes that any country's military forces invariably act in an honourable and chivalric manner. War is not like that.

I suspect that your perception of the Amritsar massacre of 1919 is conditioned by the 1982 film 'Ghandi', which although not as ludicrously unhistorical as 'The Patriot' is still grossly misleading. However, you need to understand the background of violence and instability in the Punjab which led to Dyer and 50 Gurkha riflemen confronting a crowd of 25,000 gathered for an illegal demonstration in an enclosed space. The crowd were armed with steel-tipped laths and could have easily overwhelmed Dyer's small force.

I'm not trying to defend an action which resulted in the death of 379 civilians, merely to explain it. Similarly, what happened at Dresden 70 years ago this month would be difficult to defend; the RAF created a firestorm which incinerated thousands of civilians without distinction of age and sex, and the USAAF arrived the next day and in broad daylight massacred those refugees who had taken refuge in open country. Defensible? Excusable? You decide.

No, my beef is about those who invent atrocities where none exist for the purposes of propaganda, or whose view of history is so skewed to one side as to resemble myth. Earlier I compared the popular view of the American Revolution with the popular (British) misperception of the First World War. I didn't go far enough. It more closely resembles the English Protestant 'Black Legend' concerning Catholic Spain.

Historical myths can be harmless, but they can also be insidious and corrosive. Nazi Germany provides an example of the latter. Historians have a duty (both intellectual and moral) to put the record straight.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

John - The deliberate destruction of innocent human life is neither defensible nor excusable, whether done in war or in peace.

Dyer provoked the Amritsar massacre, believing that he had a right to take action against the "illegal demonstration" that occurred following the arrest of two leaders of the Indian independence movement.

Yes, the facts should be presented and the record set straight.

John Nolan said...

The facts concerning the Amritsar massacre are not in dispute. Despite Dyer's conviction that his action had restored order in the Punjab, he was removed from command and censured by the House of Commons.

Anonymous said...

Daniel is spot on. We need to ask the young people who no longer attend Mass why they don't. Fr Peter Daly, of Washington, did so and here is a link to his report. Really interesting reading. God bless.

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