Continuing on from the post CatholicScout Ponders: Traditional Mass attendance plateaued – really? and why?. I commented briefly on the reasons why Mass attendance in the UK seems to have plateaued. I pointed to our historical response to threat, and how there seems to be a mass instinctual response which is hindering growth.
This article focuses on, what I believe is, the second cause of the stagnation that seems to be occurring;
This is a hard subject to put into concrete terms. There are different manifestations
There are the “young fogeys”
Yes, there is even a handbook! This is a group of young (usually male) Catholics who spend a little too much time (and money) copying the other young fogeys, that they see at certain Churches that attract a young fogey audience.
Audience is the right word here, for “show” is fundamentally what it is all about. The Churches which attract these people put on a “show”. The young (usually male) Catholics put on “show” too.
The problem is that if you are not putting on a “show” according to the young fogey criteria, then “your not in the club”, chap. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of very good and kind young fogeys, who do are very “inclusive”. What I am pointing out however, is that I suspect that the elitism that is actively and passively projected by this group can put people off the Mass. “I don’t have tweeds and speak “Rah” – I don’t feel welcome“.
Traditional CAtholic supremacists
There are the “Supremacists”, or the “old boys club”. In some way, they could be the modern “Traditional Catholic Scribes and Pharisees”.
What am I not talking about here is the group described in Leviticus 19:32
Rise up before the hoary [meaning: gray] head, and honour the person of the aged man: and fear the Lord thy God. I am the Lord.
I am not talking about our many, many good, holy and much needed brothers and sisters who are advanced in years.
I am talking about a strata of Traditional Catholics who perceive the Traditional Mass as their patrimony, their property to defend (and advocate) as they understand it. This is the group of Traditional Catholics who think that if they are not involved, the world is going to collapse and the Traditional Mass is going to disappear.
I have heard of people calling them “Rad Trads”, the “Fruits and nuts”, but I think that’s probably a bit unfair, and probably isn’t quite the group I am describing. And I need to be careful, I’m not on some anti-intellectual agenda here. It’s okay to be an intellectual, it is okay to be well read. It’s not okay to use those things as a separator between “us and them”.
A lot of people, me included, have taken offense at Pope Francis’ pointed remarks about Traditionalists, but maybe this is the group within Traditional circles that he is referring to. The modern day Traditional Catholic Scribe and Pharisee.
Traditionalist Supremacists have a difficult time stepping down from their pedestals and helping a newcomer through the Mass. The Traditional Supremacist will use “high Church language”, which the average Catholic won’t understand in the slightest.
Our Lord preached against this group in Luke Chapter 14: 8-11
When thou art invited to a wedding, sit not down in the first place, lest perhaps one more honourable than thou be invited by him: And he that invited thee and him, come and say to thee, Give this man place: and then thou begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when thou art invited, go, sit down in the lowest place; that when he who invited thee, cometh, he may say to thee: Friend, go up higher. Then shalt thou have glory before them that sit at table with thee. Because every one that exalteth himself, shall be humbled; and he that humbleth himself, shall be exalted.
They tend to be quite homogeneous and often will be found in groups, associations and even some organisations. Some symptoms of this group can be (any combination or all);
- Illusions of invulnerability creating excessive optimism and encouraging risk taking.
- Unquestioned belief in the morality of “the cause”, which causes such Supremacists to ignore the consequences of their actions.
- Rationalising warnings that might challenge the Supremacist assumptions.
- Stereotyping those who are opposed to the Supremacist position as weak, evil, biased, spiteful, impotent, or stupid.
- Self-censorship of ideas that deviate from the apparent Supremacist consensus.
- Illusions of unanimity among Supremacist members, silence is viewed as agreement.
- Direct pressure to conform placed on any member who questions the Supremacist group, couched in terms of “disloyalty”
- Self-appointed members who shield the Supremacists from dissenting information.
The elitism projected by this group can put people off the Mass. “my thoughts are not appreciated here, I’m not welcome”
Misers and OLD MONEY CAtHOLICS
Money is an age old problem, and no group is free of it. Despite Our Lord pointing out;
You cannot serve God and mammon
Here I am not talking about the necessary steps one needs to take to make a living. I am talking about two groups: Misers and Old Money Catholics.
I probably don’t have to explain why misers can put people off – there is nothing quite so off putting as someone who does have money, but does not give of his excess to support his Parish or help his fellow poorer parishioners.
Old Money however, needs some explaining. Wikipedia on Old Money: “The term typically describes a class of the rich who’ve been able to maintain their wealth over multiple generations, often referring to perceived members of the de facto aristocracy in societies which for historical reasons lack an officially established aristocratic class.”
So in England and Wales, for around 500 years it was illegal to be Catholic. The only publicly professing Catholic families that remained were rich land owners who could pay the fines. This effectively wiped out de jure Catholic aristocracy in England and Wales, apart from some very wealthy families (like the Stonors and the Fitzgerald-Howards).
There is today a class of rich Catholics who have been able to maintain their wealth over multiple generations, and are perceived as members of a de facto aristocracy (because formally it was illegal). My concern is, that there are examples of this de facto aristocracy in Traditional circles, which I think may be contributing to why people are put off the Traditional way of life.
How? Well, it’s one thing to have the blessing of inheritance, it is another thing to live off the fat. In some way I think that people can perceive these individuals as doing nothing for their bread. St Paul talks about them in 2 Thessalonians 11-12:
For we have heard there are some among you who walk disorderly, working not at all, but curiously meddling. Now we charge them that are such, and beseech them by the Lord Jesus Christ, that, working with silence, they would eat their own bread.
It goes back to the command issued to Adam as he was cast out of the Garden of Eden – Genesis 3:19:
In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return to the earth, out of which thou wast taken: for dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return.
Now I’m sure some Old Money Catholics will have some beef with what I say here. “But I sweat hard working for the SVP, or the Order of Malta, or this that and the other” – I hear them say. The problem is, that while they are doing plenty of volunteering. That volunteering isn’t paying for their bread. They are observed by others who are earning a wage, which is paying for their bread, and that is off putting.
The Old Money Catholic may well indeed say “ah, those plebs, they are just resentful, that is their problem, not mine”. Well, yes and no. Our Lord talks about being an occasion of sin, and condemns the misers, and just remember Second Thessalonians…
Miserliness and Old Money often go hand-in-hand, and for some reason miserly people and Old Money Catholics seem inordinately attracted to the Old Rite. I don’t know why. Maybe something to do with prestige?
But I do think that these two money issues are a major stink in Traditional Catholic circles. The elitism projected by this group can put people off the Mass. “Over there seem to be the Rich people, who don’t give a penny. Over there seem to be the people who have never sweated for their bread. No place for me here.“
N.B. Don’t get me wrong I am not a Communist, putting forward the idea of revolution to redistribute the wealth of the rich to the poor. I am a staunch Distributivist. Not heard of Distributivism? Then you probably have never read Pope Leo XIII’s Encyclical Rerum Novarum, which condemned both Communism and Capitalism.
I will give my thoughts on the solution to these problems in a future post.