Support Dropping

It’s only two points in time, but over the past twenty-four years, support for the traditional Latin Mass has dropped 38%. The actual report from CARA is here.

I know there are hopes that a revived traditionalism will invigorate Catholic liturgy, if not Catholic culture. Personally, I think it’s a vain hope. I think the energy spent on the TLM would be better utilized to improve preaching and music across the board. I also can’t see how the TLLM (Low Mass) has anything whatsoever to offer the Catholic liturgical sensibility. If CARA or Gallup asked me, I suppose I’d be in favor of banning the Low Mass, and retaining the High Mass for those who wanted it.

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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8 Responses to Support Dropping

  1. Kevin in Texas says:

    Wow, Todd! Out of that report, I’m very surprised that you took away that support for the EF Mass has dropped 38% over 24 years! How about the fact that opposition to the EF Mass has dropped 60% and that those who consider themselves “neutral” on the issue (many of whom I would think simply don’t know about the EF Mass and/or have never been to one) has nearly tripled? Looking objectively, just in terms of numbers of EF Masses offered now versus in 1985, I’d say that’s a pretty solid set of numbers NOT against the EF Mass.

    I’m by no means an “EF-only” or even “EF-preferred” kind of guy, but I, and many with whom I speak under 35 years old in my work as a professor, are just dumbfounded by the resistance to, and in some quarters absolute shunning and demeaning of, the EF Mass. Some Catholic Americans prefer the NO Mass, some prefer the Low Latin Mass, and some prefer the High Latin Mass. I have no actual numbers on these from any source, but let’s throw out some possible round figures for the sake of a question I’ll pose: let’s say 90% of US Masses (daily and on Sundays) are NO Masses of some sort (after all, Latin can be used in NO Masses, too). That leaves 10% of Masses, said in probably far less than 10% of Catholic churches and chapels around the nation, in Latin. Why do people get so worked up in their opposition to it? I just don’t understand it, but my anecdotal sense is that most of the opposition comes from the 60s-early 70s generation like that of my parents and perhaps many of your readers, Todd. Is it just a generational thing, some sort of pseudo-political resistance to the notion of tradition?

    Just to be clear, I ask this in all earnestness and without malice or snark. When I read sites like National Catholic Reporter and others more aligned w/ progressive Catholicism, there just seems to be almost a burning hatred of the EF Mass that I honestly don’t think any younger Catholics can relate to or even understand. Those younger Catholics that I’ve ever seen are either indifferent to, or forthrightly supportive of, EF Masses and more traditional forms of Catholic worship. Any thoughts from my elders? ;-)

  2. Fran says:

    We all know that statistics can say many things. This is not to say that this post nor Kevin’s interpretation are done with ill intent from what I can see.

    I would wholeheartedly agree with Todd about TLLM going by the wayside.

    In addition, I too think that the energy could be used to better the liturgy overall without always defining this in the tilt of one side versus the other.

    As for what Kevin says in his comment, please allow me this in reply… I think you are reframing it in that either/or mode, if I am reading you correctly.

    And as your elder Kevin, presumably so anyway, allow me these other points in response.

    “Is it just a generational thing, some sort of pseudo-political resistance to the notion of tradition?”

    Pseudo-political resistance? I am going to presume that you don’t mean to be incendiary with this sentence, but I find it to be so.

    Why does it have to be “pseudo-political” in the first place?

    Can resistance not be based on the fact that for many of us, what you might refer to as “traditional forms” harken back to a far less communal liturgy?

    To some of us, FACP means something. Not that that happens easily with contemporary liturgical forms, but it is the intention regardless of the outcome.

    As to tradition, I often bemoan the fact (and I don’t mean you Kevin, I speak at large) that many people that I speak to about liturgy think that Jesus rose from the dead, donned some fiddle-backed vestments and stolled into a Gothic cathedral to celebrate liturgy in a style influenced by the Council of Trent.

    That is certainly part of the tradition, it is not in and of itself, the tradition alone. And the golden threads of tradition that might be pulled through and which are essential, do not mean every thread, just as it was.

  3. Liam says:

    The last thing traditionalist need – but something that some traditionalists apparently want, though they do not realize it – is for a general revival of the EF with an apathetic congregation. Right now, the EF is pretty much limited to its enthusiast base, which means it has a higher likelihood of being celebrated with great purposefulness and passion. The more the EF moves beyond its enthusiast base, the more likely it is to subject to the perennial Catholic liturgical temptations of pragmatism and minimalism.

    Todd’s somewhat snarky post may indeed make more of the poll than it merits, but his real point – about discouraging the low Mass in favor of the high Mass contains much wisdom that even a certain subset of traditionalists have expressed from time to time, only to be met by other traditionalists that they prefer the low Mass and resent the other traditionalists as elitist.

    Anyway, there’s nothing that would expressly forbid a low EF Mass being celebrated with the four-hymn sandwich that became popular well before Vatican II, let’s say: Gather Us In, Sing a New Church, Song of the Body of Christ and Anthem?

  4. Gavin says:

    I wonder, does Todd also support the banning of the Ordinary Form Low Mass as well? I certainly support relegating either to missions and daily Mass (a ban would be unpastoral, I should think).

    If I might define the term, a NOLM would be:
    A Mass with one priest, no deacon
    Mostly recited (or entirely)
    No use of Latin
    No use of propers
    No choir
    Generally under an hour

    Yes, I agree we need to relegate that Mass to the past.

    In seriousness though, the EF has already been invigorating the sectors of the Church it touches. Why not expand on that, regardless of what one thinks of the rite itself?

  5. Sam Schmitt says:

    “I know there are hopes that a revived traditionalism will invigorate Catholic liturgy, if not Catholic culture. Personally, I think it’s a vain hope. I think the energy spent on the TLM would be better utilized to improve preaching and music across the board.”

    I’m repeatedly puzzled by this false dichotomy between the TLM and the mass of Paul VI.

    If one insists that the two have nothing to do with each other, that those who prefer one avoid the other, that musicians and others working for one have no interest in the other, then you might have a point, and your prediction will certainly come true. Sure, there are plenty of people who cling to one form exclusively, but I know many others who see the two forms as mutually enriching (as Pope Benedict has expressed it).

    In my own case as a musician, my involvement with the TLM has definitely enriched my understanding and practice of music for the ordinary form of the mass, something I don’t think I would have gained otherwise.

  6. Jim McK says:

    There are other plausible answers to your questions. The first step is to understand the context of these polls.

    Fidelity to the Pope? 24 years ago, Abp Lefebvre was threatening to ordain new bishops without papal approval. The struggle with him defined approaches to TLM, with those indifferent but faithful aligning themselves with the Pope, ie against Lefebvre and his principal issue.

    Currently, the Pope allows TLM as an extraordinary form of worship. Those who previously took their cues from the Pope no longer have a significant cue to take, and so are “neutral”.

    I suppose living through the Lefebvre wrangling in the ’80s might explain some of the generational gap as well.

  7. Gavin says:

    Was the Lefebvre situation really that well known? I’ve found very few people who knew about the SSPX prior to the lifting of the excommunications.

  8. Liam says:

    I would say that fairly conservative Catholics looked askance at SSPX: the way you can tell is that SSPX followers have a special bitterness towards those conservative Catholics. It’s something you see revealed in combox wars on the more conservative Catholic blogs, for example.

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