Sunday, September 10, 2017


Most Catholics could care less about the politics of the Catholic Church and the current polarization that Catholic geeks on the left and right spill so much ink, adrenaline and rage over.

Progressive Catholics like those who comment on Praytell are on cloud nine over Pope Francis' authoritarian style of promoting their liberal agenda for the liturgy in the most pre-Vatican II way--a bit of hypocrisy no?

And traditional Catholics who comment here and on blogs like Fr. Z's are as apoplectic over Pope Francis and his authoritarian progressive agenda as the Praytell types were over Pope Benedict's authoritative decrees on the liturgy, especially allowing for the 1962 Roman Missal and a strict translation of the Latin into the vernacular and the restoration of pre-Vatican II externals.

But most rank and file Catholics don't give a flip, the 12 to 25 % of Catholics who still attend Mass.

The reasons why almost 88% of Catholics and in some places even more, don't attend Mass any more are very complex.

It starts with the disillusioned traditional Catholics of the 1960's who gave up on the Church and their children who embraced a less authoritarian Church and Catholics who rebelled against the discipline of the Church of the 1950's. The next generations of CAtholics were malformed in Catholic identity and on many levels.

Modern Catholics see the Magisterium of Secularism with its authoritarian agenda promoted by the liberal media and politicians as important than the traditional magisterium of the Church and her teachings on morality.

Modern Catholics embrace birth control, abortion, same sex marriage or simply living together, open marriage and anything that pleases the individual. A live and let live policy pervades and is viewed as being loving. Anything that criticizes what an inidividual wants or makes him happy is seen as unloving.

Thus modern Catholics leave the Church for non denominational sects that have happy, upbeat and like a rock concert and foster good feelings and friendships but don't interfere in people's sex lives.

Or modern Catholics simply become "nones" completely secular with politics their new religion.

It isn't the style of the Mass or the various means by which the Latin might be translated into the vernacular that cause them to leave the Church. They could give a flip about ad orientem or facing the people. They don't know Catholic spirituality, devotion of theology.

Thus the Church is still tracking to be a smaller Church composed of people who want the Church to be like non-denominationals when it comes to the style of worship and happy clappy music or allows for all kinds of sexuality to include birth control and abortion without guilt.

The EF Mass appeals only to a few liberals and a few conservatives. The OF Mass is the main course and what a well-celebrated OF Mass looks like is as individual and the individuals who express their views.


Anonymous said...

When Christ was crucified only a handful thought him worthy enough to accompany to Calvary. So it is not the numbers. Anon-1

TJM said...

Happy? Most go out of duty. And besides, you're talking a small minority of Catholics who still go to Sunday Mass. So I wouldn't be to sure about your statement. When I am forced to the Novus Ordo, I just can't wait for Mass to be over, because with rare exception ( you being one of those exceptions), it's so banal and boring.

rcg said...

Nine times that number were happy with the Mass prior to Vatican II. If we are going to base our liturgy on popular vote shouldn't we elect pasters from the convregation like the protestants? But if I take the position that the laity are not really listening then they won't notice the Mass is in Latin, so why not just go back to the EF all the time?

Anonymous said...

Bee here:

I had an interesting conversation today with a non-Catholic about religious orders and the way, for instance, nuns no longer are the teachers in Catholic grade or high schools, nor are they running and staffing hospitals as nurses. I was saying how everything changed after Vatican II, that religious orders were blown up by many of the changes that happened in the Church, and that prior to that obedience and piety were highly valued, and people took their vocations deadly seriously.

And then she asked the million dollar question: "Yes. But were they HAPPY?" and she smiled a "gotcha" smile.

And I said, "Being happy was irrelevant. They were doing God's work on earth, and that took sacrifice and they expected the good that came out of it would cost them a world of suffering. But they expected to be happy in heaven."

She's not Catholic, and may not have much religious background, but I could tell by her reaction she thought that kind of life was stupid.

And then I came home and read Fr. McD's entry, and I thought, yep, there's something about this wanting to be HAPPY now in the Great Apostasy. The world changed to wanting to be happy rather than wanting to be good. No one wanted to defer happiness. It was kind of an overthrow of self-control by the desire for immediate gratification.

(I know this is not news to anyone reading here. I'm just reflecting on Fr. McD's words, "Anything that criticizes what an inidividual [sic] wants or makes him happy is seen as unloving.")

We can wring our hands and say, "Oh, however will we rectify this?" But in truth, I think that ship has sailed long ago. The genie is not going back into the bottle.

I think this is where we say, "Well, we see the problem, but we know telling people to delay gratification in this day and age is like telling them to give up indoor plumbing. Not gonna happen."

Know who knows how to fix this? God. Did anyone think to ask Him? :-)

God bless (and may God protect everyone in the path of the hurricanes out there...)

Anonymous said...

I think that the new motu proprio makes sense in that Rome and the Conferences (especially the German and the Italian) had come to a stand still on translations. This way the Conferences might be more amenable to making certain changes (such as accepting the 'pro multis' translation that the pope has established and which this motu proprio still acknowledges to be dependent upon the pope's approval since it's a sacramental formula) if they feel that they are in control of other things. Much depends upon whether or not liturgiam autenticam will be revised/rescinded and whether the people at CDWDS will feel that they can flex some muscle on their end.

John Nolan said...

Benedict XVI did not issue 'authoritative decrees' on the liturgy since he had come to realize that papal meddling had created the crisis in the first place.

Most Catholic services are not worth getting up for, let alone crossing the road for. I know, I've checked them out. I wouldn't eat at a restaurant which served bad food; I wouldn't attend a church which abused the liturgy. Obligation works both ways. I have no time at all for clergy who think they can do what they like because the Poor Bloody Laity are 'obliged' to put up with it.

I've heard of people who endure priests who openly preach heresy. Fortunately, I have yet to encounter it (I'm pretty choosy about where I go), but were I to encounter it I would get up and challenge it. There and then. Error has no rights, least of all the right to a captive audience.

Daniel said...

I'm not sure how many people who sing the praises of the "old Mass" actually remember it and took part.
I do & did.
My early Catholic years were spent at a church where the old Italian ladies passed the Mass by saying the Rosary, because the service was boring, repetitive & not designed for participation and, bonus, conducted largely in a dead language.
That's why it changed!
The idea that everyone was enthralled, engaged and enamored by the old Mass is a historical myth of the good old days -- the same good old days when everybody had a job, everybody went to church, every school was perfect and every mom stayed home with the kids.

Daniel said...

By the way, RCG, if "the majority" (more than 50 percent) of Catholics like it, it's mathematically impossible for "nine times that many" to like it before V-II. At least, that's the way the nuns taught me.

TJM said...


Your experience was not mine. At my parish, the Missa Cantata was the norm and the music was glorious, not at all like the banal drivel we are subjected to at most parishes today. AND the laity sang the Latin responses and followed the Mass with their Missals. By the time I was 10 I could chant 5 Latin ordinaries by heart. In OTHER words, our parish was doing what Sacrosanctum Concilium was talking about. Sorry, you grew up where you did, but your experience was not universal. Prior to the Council and the liturgical deforms, it would have been unheard of for anyone in my large, Irish Catholic family to miss Sunday Mass other than for illness. Today, I estimate about 10% attend Sunday Mass. If that's your idea of liturgical and spiritual success, there is nothing more than can be said. And spare me the societal changes nonsense. The deformers set this disaster in motion and still lack the introspection and honesty to admit it.

John Nolan said...

Daniel, how come you 'took part' in something which was 'not designed for participation'?

Also, a majority of a small minority can easily represent a figure which can be multiplied by nine, or indeed ninety-nine. Perhaps your nuns were not too hot on maths.

It's presumptive and condescending to suggest that old ladies said the Rosary because they were bored with the service. If they did, then I wouldn't have noticed as I would have been following the Mass in my missal (if I wasn't serving at the altar).

In my little parish the principal Sunday Mass was a sung Mass and the congregation joined in - which is just as well since there was no choir to speak of.

Evelyn Waugh said at the time of Vatican II that to equate participation with making a row was a German trait.

As for Latin being a 'dead language', it was being spoken in Britain before Julius Caesar set foot here in 55BC and since then not a day has passed when it has not been used in this island. And it will still be used when the English you and I speak and write will have changed out of all recognition.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Being happy is hardly irrelevant.

The notion that serving God necessarily results in being unhappy is a strange one. God does not desire that we suffer as this would be contrary to the perfect love that He has for us. Perfect loves desires only good for the beloved.

Serving God, in whatever vocation one is called to will/at times result in suffering. Take up your cross does not mean going out and look8ng for some wsy yo suffer. Simply living a virtuous life will bring enough.

Yes, it matters that people be happy. Unhappy priests, nuns, sisters, brothrrs do little to advance the kingdom in this life and do little yo prepare others for the life to come.

Anonymous said...

Daniel said... By the way, RCG, if "the majority" (more than 50 percent) of Catholics like it, it's mathematically impossible for "nine times that many" to like it before V-II. At least, that's the way the nuns taught me.


And then the body of the article uses the figure of 88% of Catholics not attending Mass.

50 percent of 12% is 6%. So, Father is saying somewhere between 6% and 12% of Catholics "like the Mass" nowadays.

Prior to Vatican II, the overwhelming majority of Catholics went to Mass on Sundays, at least here in the U.S., which, since you were there, you know to be true. It is the experience of most of us who were born before that council.

So, putting Mass attendance at 75% in 1958 (a number taken from an article in the National Catholic Reporter, not exactly a bastion of orthodoxy), that 75% figure could most certainly be "nine times that many," depending on which percentages are used for Father's initial assertion.

That's the way the nuns taught math to me.


Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

TIM promotes the unsupported and demonstrably false notion that Vatican Two caused 90% of his family to stop attending mass. The SAME declines in other mainline churches did not happen because the Catholic church dropped Latin and chant. The SAME drop offs in participation in community service organizations cannot be blamed on hymnody and altar girls.

It's not nonsense, it's reality.

It is understandable that some people want to identify the Boogey Man upon whom we can place all responsibility. Bit that is an avoidance of responsibility. It's a simplistic answer to a complex problem.

Dialogue said...

This is perhaps the best summary of the present situation, Father McDonald. Most Mass-going Catholics are, effectively, practitioners of a new religion that is distinct from Catholicism.

As for Daniel's point, the real point of divergence, it seems to me, is not over whether liturgical reform was needed, but whether such reform was meant to lead Western Catholics deeper into the Roman liturgical tradition, or to abolish this tradition.

James J. said...

Fr Kavanaugh:

The decline in membership of other religious denominations is interesting and certainly reasonable to include in the argument. Seen from the view of my Catholic perspective however, their decline to me is much more understandable, given that our Church had more to bolster it against the counter prevailing winds of our time than other religious denominations, who were built on much weaker foundations

Perhaps this was not a realistic expectation, since in the end we are dealing with human beings. What one would want to know is why, for far too many, their faith was so fragile as it was.

As far as being happy, I think this is (to those on the outside) one of the confounding aspects of Catholicism, that one can give up everything to become a priest and consecrated religious and still be happy.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

James, What the Church had to offer wasn't persuasive if one did not see oneself in a position of neediness. Our relative wealth has led us to believe in self-sufficiency which, in turn, keeps us from recognizing our needs.

Add to that the traditional American desire to idolize the "rugged individual" who gets by on his/her own and you have the recipe for empty churches, Lions Club, Rotary Club, Kiwanis Club, Jaycee Club, etc.

Joe Potillor said...

I have to admit, as an outside observer, I wouldn't say that people are happy, more along the lines of it's what they have, or they're content. Liturgical wars can be quite spiritually damaging. I remember nearly going crazy over the use of glass kool aid pitchers in my Roman days. It seems to me, the Liturgy should be treated as a gift, and something to be treasured rather than something to be monkeyed around with.

Daniel said...

I'll accept DJR's hypothetical explanation of why "9 times" may, possibly, be correct.

But I don't see any hard evidence that six times more Catholics attended Mass pre-V-2.

There is plenty of evidence that self-reported poll numbers, like your 75 percent, are inaccurate. In days of yore, people felt a social pressure to pretend they attended Mass (or any religious service), just as 90 percent of people still tell pollsters that they voted in the last election.

I'd guess that the numbers of "fallen away" have been largely offset by Hispanic, Asian & African immigration. The Catholic Church is not the church of the 1950s, when it largely consisted of Irish, Italians and Poles in the Northeast. There are probably as many people attending church nowadays, and the flock is more diverse.

Daniel said...

Also, I am dubious of the faith of people, like TJM's family, who stopped going to Mass due to changes in the liturgy. They are the tail that should not be wagging the church.

TJM said...

Father Kavanaugh,

Thanks for the laughs and confirming you have no sense of introspection or humility. The Novus Ordo has been a flop, like the Edsel, like New Coke. You're like Hillary, it must have been the way I delivered the message!!!

John Nolan said...

At the same time as we were abandoning our traditional liturgy, the Anglicans were doing the same - indeed there was a cross-fertilization of trendiness. Anglo-Catholics turned their altars around and their traditional religious orders abandoned Latin and chant because this was what the Romans were doing.

They managed to alienate one generation while signally failing to attract the next - just as the Catholic Church has succeeded in doing.

What would have happened if the Catholic Church had not launched herself onto the shifting sands of the 1960s Zeitgeist, and instead stood four-square on her traditional worship and teaching rather than giving the impression that both were up for grabs? Malcolm Muggeridge argued this even before he became a Catholic. Of course, we shall never know, but despite its frantic efforts to be 'dans le vent' the Church is more alienated from the secular world than at any time in her history, and seems, like the Church of England, to be building her house on ambiguity and confusion. Sad times indeed.

Cletus Ordo said...

So the Church is now a democracy?

All that matters is how many people are happy?

If you want to argue that the majority of Catholics are happy with the Novus Ordo, I think it can also be argued that the majority of Catholics don't truly understand what the Mass is.

One group that was DEFINITELY happy about this are the diabolical theologians and bishops who promoted this limp, liturgical lameness to keep the sheep dumbed down. Dumb, but HAPPY! Then again, perhaps now that they have gone on to their just reward, they might not be so happy…if you get my drift.

One more thing Father: I don't want to nitpick, but this drives me crazy. The cliche is supposed to be "COULDN'T care less." If you could care less, then that means that you DO care to some degree.

Daniel said...

If it doesn't matter how many people are happy, then why does it matter whether Cletus, TJM, John and friends are happy? You cannot simultaneously argue that church attendance is down because people hate the new Mass, and dismiss empirical information showing that people like the new Mass. A logical contradiction and mendacious goal-post moving.

Daniel said...

Not to mention the fact that most of the people who really truly loved the "old Mass" 50-plus years ago, pre-V2, have sadly gone to their eternal reward. They're not a factor in who is or isn't attending Mass in 2017, or at least they're not a big factor.

TJM said...


You are an apologist for failure, self-inflicted failure. The Catholic Church's deforms did a far better job of emptying the pews than Martin Luther ever could have dreamed of. I noticed you NEVER addressed the praxis at my pre-Vatican II parish which largely anticipated the actuosa participatio enunciated by Sacrosanctum Concilium. Figures

rcg said...

Daniel, the various diocese track the numbers closely and can verify the drop in attendance. Also, note another tricky point about percentages: the actual population in the pews might be greater than before perhaps due to the demographics you suggest. But the percentages could be far lower. Again, the diocese report this situation despite claiming the many immigrants coming to live here.

Fr. Kavenaugh points to good candidate for the decline: wealth. I disagree with his conclusion that rugged individualism is part of it, otherwise the would not have all done it together. Rather I think it is faith in the collective that kills the faith in God. Who needs spiritual poverty when we have easy credit?

ByzRC said...


It's a bit much assuming a self-imposed judgement seat regarding someone else's family and their particular experience. It is neither your place nor mine to draw such conclusions.

Pre-council, I'd say attendance was much better than today. In the post WWII neighborhoods in the Northeast, churches were often massive, many having an upper and lower church, 4-6 priests and masses occurring simultaneously on Sunday morning. So many within the laity (and, presumably the clergy as well) were devastated when things changed, seemingly overnight. That which was a feast for all the senses became banal, whitewashed, reduced to a tedious simplicity. Soaring and inspiring high altars were removed or, had a ridiculously out of scale table placed before them. I suppose many who stayed have become content. Their children have largely voted with their feet until they have children and want them to make their sacraments. On the flip side, I'm amazed at how many younger people have embraced the EF, the veil, the hand missal bring the latter 2 to the NO when they go.

The old Italian ladies praying the rosary or engaging in other devotions during mass were likely taught to do so prior to the "Pray the Mass" movement which attempted to move people away from personal devotion or, saying a cycle of prayers while Father celebrated mass to actually following along in their missals and praying the prayers with the priest.

What TJM was outlining was, fortunately, the experience of many here in the Northeast prior to the changes. Though I'm sure many boys at the time liked serving at the altar to get out of class, many also liked serving and that liking lead to many vocations. Things like getting into the choir was viewed as an accomplishment as well. Now, getting kids to serve, assembling a choir is a struggle in many places.

My grandmother's cathedral of a church burnt to the ground in the early 60s. Fortunately, despite the storm clouds on the horizon, no one wanted modern and, therefore, a traditional structure with replica high and side altars was built and consecrated in 1966. Mass was celebrated ad orientem until almost 1980. I distinctly remember this growing up and was awe struck by that and what I now know to be a traditional approach to the celebration of mass. Had that not been my experience growing up (with bongo drums, maracas, tambourines and babbling charismatics at my home parish - way too weird for me), not sure if I would still be attending today.

Daniel said...

Well, OK.
Who am I to judge?

ByzRC said...


Great question. Glad you got yourself there first.

John Nolan said...

The disintegration of the liturgy, the loss of vocations, the collapse of the religious orders, the failure of Catholic schools to teach the Faith, the spinelessness of the episcopate, the fact that most Catholics have lapsed and those who haven't don't accept the teaching of the Church (assuming they know what it is) - all these betoken an institution whose increasingly flimsy fa├žade conceals not a crisis (which implies a turning point) but something more akin to a meltdown.

Since God will not abandon his Church (we have Our Lord's promise on that) we do not despair; but the situation looks set to get worse before it gets better. Vatican II arguably acted as a catalyst, but as Fr Kavanaugh points out, there are no simple explanations. The 'New Mass' and the sloppy way it is commonly performed is not a cause, but rather a symptom of a deep-seated malaise.

TJM said...

John Nolan,

There are a couple of words that come to mind for the deep-seated malaise: No Faith.

Vatican Disaster II brought the vermin (Modernists) out in the open

rcg said...

For a very long time I honestly didn't worry much about how things changed. I had a blind faith in the clergy and religious that tore out altar rails and moved tabernacles and sang attrocious folk songs. I didn't like it but left them to their job thinking they were doing what was directed by people who knew what was required. Like the frog boiling in slowly heated water it became intollerable to the point of being offensive almost too late. Several things changed almost at once for my family. It was an act of the Holy Spirit to place an FSSP parish three blocks from the pub we built to reverse the secular bile that passed for American Beer. Both are in a terribly run down area of town that was once a thriving Catholic oasis of productive people. Their children's children are dying slowly of drugs and every other sin immaginable. That didn't start with Vatican II but I do believe Vatican II was the manifesto, the constitutional convention, of that moder ist movement that gave us the slums of Europe that birthed two world wars and the slums of America that bind the people to endless poverty. It is exhilarating to have picked up the fight to push that heathen tide back. to

I agree that the Lord will never abandon His Church but does no one tremble to wonder how He will react when He assesses the mess we have tolerated if not made? Even if the reason for decline is ancillary to the broader fall of society I can't claim an excuse for myself if I don't resist it and aggressively help rescue the Lord's sheep.

John Nolan said...


The revival will have to come from the Church's European heartlands, which also include the European diaspora (North and South America being the most significant).

Priests have told me that, as happened a thousand years ago, the reform will arise out of a combination of monastic revival and a reinvigorated papacy. Let's hope so.

Looking to Africa to lead the way is mistaken. European cultural penetration in most of the continent lasted a mere seventy years (1880s to 1960s) and the last half-century has seen a significant regression. The noisy enthusiasm of congregations at 'inculturated Masses' does not necessarily imply that Catholicism, or even Christianity, has any deep roots. Older beliefs, such as animism and Voodoo, are making a comeback and only Islam (itself a baleful influence) is prepared to take measures to combat it, chopping off heads included.

In the far East, Christianity is not culturally significant. A Tokyo department store recently put up Xmas decorations which included a crucified Santa.