There has been much talk of the second springtime for the Church since the Second Vatican Council. Much talk, but little to no concrete evidence. I have heard people talk of the vibrancy of the Church in Africa, the Far East and in Central and South America. But here in the UK things are grim, to say the least.
Mass attendance in the Novus Ordo is declining sharply (along with vocations, marriages, baptisms etcetera). But what about the Traditional Mass? Surely the stalwart Traditionalists are increasing, and people are being attracted to the depth and spiritual richness of the Traditional Rite?
Well, in the United Kingdom, the answer is “not really”. Sure, since the promulgation of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum by Pope Benedict XVI, there are a lot more Masses in England and Wales. Mass attendance at the Traditional Rite, rose slightly after the promulgation of the Motu Proprio, but it is common knowledge that it has now largely plateaued.
One thing for sure is that the Traditional families attached to the Traditional Rite, are far more observant of Holy Mother Church’s teachings, such as those regarding fecundity. So there is a phenomenal fecundity in the Traditional communities, in comparison to Novus Ordo communities.
And there is a trickle of people being attracted from the Novus Ordo to the Traditional Rite, which, for sure, is the working of the Holy Ghost. But it is also fair to say, that logically, there isn’t the “boom” of attendance and appreciation that many Traditionalists expected.
In the UK, I think we are blessed with the Latin Mass Society (LMS) which organises many public events with the Traditional Rite, but from what I can see is that a lot of them are very poorly attended. Why? Where are all the Trads? What can be done to change this?
One thing which struck me, was how often I have come across people saying “with Summorum Pontificum, the LMS should not need to exist”. For sure, after Summorum Pontificum the LMS had to rethink it’s existence, and I think (correct me if I am wrong) they changed their constitution to reflect that. But I think that public organisations like Federatio Internationalis Una Voce, or the Latin Mass Society, do have an important role to play.
So why do I think that Traditional Rite Mass attendance has plateaued in the UK?
- Recusant mentality
- Over focus on the Mass
Recusant mentality is two things: It is an instinctual response to a perceived threat, and it is a historical pattern in British Catholicism.
So firstly, instincts. What is the threat? We live in an age of unprecedented information. We find out what the Pope has said, quicker than the Vatican dicasteries themselves.
We get information (news) almost instantaneously, the problem is that the information comes directly to us, leaving us with the temptation to interpret those ourselves. Or worse, listening/reading other people’s private interpretations of events.
Of course, because we Baptised Catholics suffer from concupiscence, the tendency in our private interpretations is towards to pessimistic. There is all kinds of catastrophic interpretations of current events within and outside the Catholic Church.
The threat is our negative, or catastrophic, interpretation of the information fed to us by media. This perceived threat triggers our instinctual response. Fight or flight. For us British, we hunker down (flight) and fight off all comers (fight).
Let me be the first to say however, that I am not saying that we should walk around whistling in the dark, pretending everything is okay. Things are definitely not okay. For this reason I keep reminding my readers:
What I am pointing out, however is that there seems to me to be a mass instinctual response to the signs of the time. Instinctual responses are not rational responses. I will address my thoughts on how to correct this problem in a future post.
More on Elitism in the next post!