Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Failure of the Traditional Latin Mass

When Pope Benedict XVI made the Traditional Latin Mass freely available through Summorum Pontificum in 2007, we were told by the traditionalists that this would revitalize the Church. The Novus Ordo Mass almost destroyed the Church, but the Traditional Latin Mass will save her. The TLM will draw people like a magnet. Churches will once again fill up, people will return to the Sacraments. The future is with the Traditional Latin Mass. Save the Liturgy, Save the World. Right?

It has now been almost 11 years since the implementation of Summorum Pontificum, the Motu Proprio that allows the TLM to be celebrated at any time. Below is a chart showing the growth of the TLM in the USA through 2015. As the chart says, 92% of US dioceses have at least one TLM every week:

However, just recently a Gallup poll came out which showed that weekly Mass attendance among US Catholics is lower than ever.  The bloggers have all pointed to this poll as proof that Vatican II and the "New" Mass are not working.  More specifically, they have pointed to this poll as proof that Pope Francis is a failure, as Churchmilitant.com wrote HERE:
Catholic church attendance in the United States fell by six percent between the pontificates of Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, the sharpest drop in decades, a new Gallup poll has revealed.
An average of 39 percent of U.S. Catholics attended church weekly during the heart of the Francis papacy, from 2014 to 2017, Gallup found in a survey released April 9, which represents a significant drop from the 45 percent of Catholics who attended weekly Mass from 2005 to 2008, in the early years of the Benedict pontificate.

Church Militant tells us that prior to 2008, Mass attendance had actually stabilized. The Church wasn't growing, but neither was it shrinking, despite the "upheaval" caused by Vatican II:
Weekly Mass attendance among American Catholics had stabilized in the mid-2000s at around 45 percent, after falling sharply during the period comprising the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and its aftermath, which many Catholics experienced as a time of confusion and upheaval.
Church Militant tries to tell us that the reason for the stabilization was Pope Benedict XVI and the reason for the decline is Pope Francis:
Gallup’s methodology has been to conduct surveys on church attendance near the middle of each decade from the 1950s through the present, so it does not provide a strict year-to-year accounting. Nonetheless, their choice of the period 2005-2008 happened to coincide with the first four years of the Benedict papacy, while the period of 2014-2017 does nearly the same for the pontificate of Francis, who was elected in 2013.
John Zuhlsdorf doesn't specifically blame Pope Francis.  His attack is against the Novus Ordo Mass:
Frankly, I think the way that our liturgical worship has been over the last few decades has made us all look like idiots to each wave of young people who have come along since the degradation began. That and lack of catechesis resulted with other factors in an ongoing, self-sustaining spiral downward towards a point of no return.
And our pastors insist on doing the same damn things over and over, ignoring the single most important factor in our Catholic lives: worship. There is a hierarchy to our loves and the activities that flow from them. Atop the hierarchy is what we owe God, whom we must love above all creatures, by the virtue of religion: worship. If we get our worship wrong, as individuals and as groups small and large, then everything else will be screwed up. {Emphasis Zuhlsdorf]
The result: erosion of Catholic identity.
Hey, wait a second! 45% of Catholics attended weekly Mass from 2005 to 2008? And that number had stabilized? But that was back in the bad old days before Summorum Pontificum. That was before we had the TLM proliferating all over the place revitalizing the churches. That was before we had all these wonderful *Catholic* bloggers on the Internet, such as John Zuhlsdorf and Church Militant, cheering on traditionalism and the TLM and telling us how terrible all the rest of the Church is, including and most especially, how dangerous Pope Francis is to the faith.

And yet now that the TLM is so readily available, the number of practicing Catholics has actually gone down? Shouldn't that number be going up? The trads told us that traditionalism and the TLM would drive Church attendance, helping it go through the roof. But the numbers tell us just the opposite.

The Traditional Latin Mass is beautiful.  But to say that it is the best way, or even worse, the only way to celebrate Mass is to put God in a box.  The TLM is European in nature from the language to the heavy vestments to the music.  It appeals to a certain group of people, who are very passionate about the Mass, but it is not for everyone.  

Even Msgr. Charles Pope, a staunch traditionalist, recognized the limitation of the TLM a couple of years ago when he wrote this:
Some years ago (as far back at the early 1980s) we who love the Traditional Latin Mass often said (or it heard said) that if we would just return to the beautiful Latin Mass our churches would again be filled.
At first this appeared to be happening. As many dioceses (through the various indults of the 1980s and 1990s) began to offer the Traditional Latin Mass, those churches were filled, often to standing room only. Liturgical progressives were horrified and traditionalists were joyfully pleased and felt vindicated.
But as the availability of the Traditional Latin Mass has increased, it seems that a certain ceiling has been reached.
In my own archdiocese, although we offer the Traditional Latin Mass in five different locations, we've never been able to attract more than a total of about a thousand people. That’s only one-half of one percent of the total number of Catholics who attend Mass in this archdiocese each Sunday.
One of our parishes generously offers a Solemn High Mass once a month on Sunday afternoon, a Mass that I myself have celebrated for over 25 years. But we have gone from seeing the church almost full, to two-thirds full, to now only about one-third full.
I congratulate Msgr. Pope, with whom I often disagree, on his acceptance of reality.  However, in his quest for an optimistic solution to the narrow appeal of the TLM, he says that it is up to the laity to evangelize about the beauty of the Mass:
Evangelization is hard work, but it is work that matters if we want to maintain a viable presence going forward. The lovers of the Traditional Latin Mass are not exempt.

Evangelize or else close and die. It’s a hard fact, but numbers matter. Too many in the Church today demand respect and support without showing the fruits that earn respect and that make support prudent and reasonable.
Here in my own borough of Brooklyn, we have had one weekly traditional Latin Mass for 25 plus years. About 50 to 60 people attend each week, and that number has barely changed over the years. This Mass has been celebrated for many years in a predominately Latino Church. There are many empty seats at the TLM. However, at the Spanish Mass held right after the TLM, it is standing room only. And yet, the trads will still tell us that the TLM is the future of the Church. They truly do live in their own world apart from reality.

The truth is, the TLM and even the radical right Catholic bloggers play no part, one way or the other, in the decline in Mass attendance. And despite John Zuhlsdorf's harsh, angry statements, e,g, "liturgical worship that has made us all look like idiots", the Ordinary Form of the Mass has not played any part in decreasing Mass attendance, either. The sad truth is that our western culture is dying. We have rejected God. Our culture has become almost entirely materialistic and hedonistic. People are not just rejecting the Catholic Church. They are rejecting God.

There is little doubt in my mind that, contrary to the assertions of the Trads, the Second Vatican Council is directly responsible for the massive growth of the Catholic Church in the last few decades.  Yes, the Church is in decline in the western culture, but it is growing by leaps and bounds in third-world countries.  The Second Vatican Council, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, led the Church away from the Euro-centric mindset that had guided her for so many centuries.  The Church opened up worship to reflect the worshippers, making the Church much more accessible to non Europeans.

Here is a chart showing Catholic populations in 1910:

Here is a chart showing the largest Catholic countries in 2010:

Would this have happened without the Second Vatican Council?  Highly unlikely.

We have a serious problem with fallen away Catholics in western culture.  But Trads need to realize that the Traditional Latin Mass is just a small part of the Church.  The TLM is not for everyone.  The TLM is not the universal cure-all.  Christ did not say the identifying sign of His Church is Latin, Gregorian music, organs, heavy vestments or Gothic architecture.  He said the identifying sign of His disciples is their love for one another.  People are drawn to the Church when they see the love we have for each other and them. Sadly, I don't see a whole lot of Godly love among the Trads.  In fact, I personally have been the recipient of a lot of hate from the traditionalists

We need to pray and to give our lives to Jesus Christ and allow Him to work through us to draw the rest of mankind.  We need to allow Our Lord to make the decisions and not decide through our own human reasoning.  That will lead us astray every time.


  1. CIB, while I don't want to lump everyone into this category, have you noticed how cradle traditional Catholics are swayed by the rantings of those like Zulsdorf who are conservative evangelical converts. They all seem to have a distorted view of the church before the council, have no use for the council or Pope Francis. Zulsdorf in my opinion is one of the worst. There's rarely is a post where he isn't name calling and as you know heaven forbid disagree with him. He will never respond in an educated manner. He needs to read that Article by Monsignor Pope you mentioned concerning the Old Mass. He was quite right.

    1. I was literally banned from Zuhlsdorf’s blog, not just from commenting but from actually viewing it. He is a very petty person. But his strong suit is he is a great propagandist.


  2. Catholic in Brooklyn, you might want to hold your nose and check out the following URL:


    According to a certain Wikipedia article, Canada doesn't seem to have TOO many South American immigrants. However, they do get quite a few immigrants from the Philippines these days. I'm half Filipino myself.

    1. Here's the URL for the Wikipedia article in question:


    2. Is your mother Filipino? Filipino women are among the most devout Catholics I have ever known. We have a couple of monthly all night vigils in NYC, and there are always a good number of Filipino women there.

    3. Yes, Catholic in Brooklyn, my mother is Filipino. She was born in the Philippines, but she moved to Hawaii when she was 11.

      For the record, Christine Niles is an immigrant as well. She was born in Vietnam before Saigon fell. My father fought in Vietnam during the war.

    4. You would think that for someone who has known true suffering, Christine Niles would have more love and compassion for others.

      I pray with several Filipino women almost every week. They belong to a Legion of Mary and we pray the Rosary in the subway at Grand Central. They also make all the rosaries that we give away.

      God bless your father. I grew up during the Vietnam war and remember how it divided the nation. The true victims were the young men like your father used as pawns by the powerful and elite. Did you know that the Gulf of Tonkin incident was a complete lie? It was a lie which supposedly started the war, leading to the deaths of 57,0000 Americans, who knows how many millions of Vietnamese, Thai, Cambodian and other people, and massive destruction of the country.

      "In the 2003 documentary The Fog of War, the former United States Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara admitted that the August 2 USS Maddox attack happened with no Defense Department response, but the August 4 Gulf of Tonkin attack never happened."


  3. .....And yet now that the TLM is so readily available, the number of practicing Catholics has actually gone down? Shouldn't that number be going up? The trads told us that traditionalism and the TLM would drive Church attendance, helping it go through the roof. But the numbers tell us just the opposite......

    Dear CIB,

    Even under Benedict, you know, there was a lot of anti traditional resistance from the people-that-run-things. The American Bishops really did not appreciate his befriending the beleaguered traddies. In most diocese , such as ours, Corpus Christi, Benedict's Motu was eventually squelched long before Pope Francis came on the scene.

    Naturally, under Pope Francis, these same traddie-haters feel more empowered. What should one expect to happen other than further dissipation?

    Our only hope now is that the Holy Father continues his initiative to normalize the SSPX. When this happens, I do expect the numbers of Traditional Masses offered will finally rise again. Maybe then, the animus of many diocesan bishops, can be circumvented.

    It will kind of like 'the revenge of Guido Marini'! :-)

  4. > Even under Benedict, you know, there was a lot of anti traditional resistance from the people-that-run-things.

    In the Catholic Church "people-that-run-things" is the Trinity. What is the basis for Protestantism if not "the Church is not faithful to God anymore", something Jesus Christ promised would never happen? I have learned that true faith is trusting God, not just accepting things because they seem reasonable to you. Yes, there are motives of credibility but there are also thing inaccessible to reason and we have to just trust God there. Part of the trust is believing that despite the hierarchy being humans, they are authorized by God to teach in His name, and tethered to the successor of St Peter they will not lead the faithful astray. I'm starting to understand that many Catholic don't have this faith but have a more Protestant-like faith where they don't trust the hierarchy but their own interpretation of Church documents. When their own understanding and Church teaching clash....


    Everyone should read "How to Lie with Statistics". Correlation is not causation. For example, the decline can be attributed to the West going godless rather than Vatican II. Numbers without context are meaningless.

  5. ANON...In the Catholic Church "people-that-run-things" is the Trinity.....

    Dear ANON,

    I don't think your idea works. For starters, I was quite scandalized back around 2000-2001 to find out that the Church's people-that-run-things were covering up a huge sex-abuse scandal, indeed many bishops were not only pedophilia enablers, many were guilty of it themselves. That was what the people-that-run-things were about back then, I am praying they are on to better things now. My child-like trust in the people-that-run-things has never quite been the same.

    It wasn't the 'Holy Trinity' that drug the Church thru the dirt.

    Open your eyes.

    1. KC, the hierarchy of the Church has always scandalized the faithful, starting with St Peter and the rest of the apostles who abandoned Our Lord at His Crucifixion. The hierarchy of the Church make certain decisions, but any faithful Catholic will tell you that the Holy Trinity are the true Head of the Church.

    2. I agree 100%. I did take issue with ANON equating people-that-run-things with the Holy Trinity. Let’s remember ANON's context. ANON pronounced this to respond to me mentioning that the American people-that-run-things actively undermined Pope Benedict’s Motu Proprio....This is very confusing....it’s ok to buck the pope as long as you’re the American hierarchy aka the Holy Trinity?

      ANON, you sound like you might be a member of the American hierarchy. Are you? :-)

    3. KC, you’ve lost me. It was you who used the term people-that-run-things. Anon said it is not people who run the Church. The Holy Trinity is in charge. The human hierarchy are flawed and sinful human instruments of the Holy Trinity. It is pretty much guaranteed that they will scandalize the laity from time to time. I don’t see how that is equating the Holy Trinity with the human hierarchy of the Church.

    4. CIB, you ARE patient with me! Since ANON has dropped out, we may not get a clarification of their pronouncement:

      'In the Catholic Church "people-that-run-things" is the Trinity'

      ANON's statement was followed by a long paragraph about the need to just trust the hierarchy. It sounds like what they mean is very much like the old clericalist position where the laity are commanded to shut up and pray and PAY and NEVER question what the hierarchy might be up to.

      Fair enough, I'm gonna stop questioning ANON. I certainly don't want to be called names, like 'protestant' or 'pickled pepper-face'! Do you? :-)

  6. I’m not calling you names, I am pointing out the basic of error of Protestants and how many Catholics are committing it. They can sin, but they cannot mislead the faithful when teaching on faith and morals. The fact is, behind all the humans, it is God running His Church, for Christ promised to always be with the apostles and that the Holy Spirit will lead them to truth.

    Even when they are not teaching infallibly, the Holy Spirit is still assisting the hierarchy. Do you believe this?

    1. I don’t think this statement is entirely correct. Infallibility applies only to the Vicar of Christ. Our bishops can and sadly do mislead us at times. An example is the time of Henry VIII in England when all but one bishop denounced the Pope in saying King Henry could divorce and remarry. And we have certainly seen bishops speaking against Pope Francis in our time. Cardinal Burke comes to mind, among many others, causing division in the Church.

      I do agree with you that the Church teachings are infallible, but not the men who lead her. The Pope is infallible only in that he cannot mislead the faithful in spiritual matters. But nothing stops him from personal sin.

    2. Friend,

      no offense taken! I was just wondering why you so favored the American Bishops when they opposed Pope Benedict's liturgical initiatives and you even seemed to be crediting them with speaking for the Holy Trinity by doing so.....

      Maybe I misunderstood your comment?

    3. CIB:

      I think that it only applies to the teachings body of Bishops in union with the Pope. The Holy Spirit does assist them, even if they can err the error is limited, otherwise we couldn't have to have religious assent to their teaching. Dogma of indefectibility. This is different than papal infallibility.


      I don't favor them. I'm just saying that Church teaching is how God communicates on earth. Although they can sin they still have authority to teach in Christ' name. The idea that an enemy can take over the whole Church, especially the See of Rome, clearly contradicts the dogma of indefectability. If the pope gives bishops authority over Church governance, they have this authority tru1ly.

      Just study what you can aobut the dogma of indefectibility. I believe that doubt of this dogma is the real crises of faith:


    4. We can always count on the infallibility of Church doctrine. But people are always subject to error. We are all on our own personal journeys with twists, turns and detours. That is why it is so important to be grounded in Jesus Christ, both the Living and Written Word of God. And always question yourself above all.

    5. The Traditional Latin Mass is only permitted with the New Ecclesiology which interprets Vatican Council II as a rupture with the past, a rupture with the past exclusivist ecclesiology of the Church.
      So we all have to attend the TLM and affirm the New Ecumenism and New Theology.This is all false doctrine.
      If a priest in Rome affirms the old ecclesiology in harmony with VC 2 at the Traiditional Latin Mass he will be warned and suspended if he persists.-Lionel Andrades

      APRIL 21, 2018
      Fr.Chad Ripperger and FSSP priests still not permitted by the Vatican to affirm the traditional teaching on salvation : positivism towards magisterialism

      APRIL 23, 2018
      New Catholic ecumenical groups must be formed which do not interpret Vatican Council II as a rupture with Tradition, affirm the old traditional ecumenism in harmony with the Council and the old exclusivist ecclesiology of the Church

    6. I hope you realize that you are not helping the cause of the traditionalists.

    7. I hope you realize that a Catholic you have nothing to contribute for or against this report, theologically and doctrinally and you have deleted another comment.-Lionel

  7. We can always count on the infallibility of Church doctrine.
    If you interpret Lumen Gentium 8 ( elements of sanctification and truth in other religions) as referring to known or unknown people in the present times you have two interpretations of Vatican Council II.
    If you interpret the baptism of desire as referring to invisible or visible people saved outside the Church in the present times you have two interpretations of the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus.
    You are presently interpreting LG 8 as a rupture with EENS and this is your irrational interpretation of Vatican Council II and EENS.One of two interpretations.
    You are also interpreting the baptism of desire (BOD) as an example of salvation outside the Church and an exception to EENS, this is your irrational interpretation of EENS and BOD.
    You are denying the infallibility of the popes ex cathedra who defined EENS in three Church Councils.
    Like the present liberal Magisterium you are saying that what was once an 'infalllible teaching' is no more infallible and you have the support of the Left and the Vatican-Lionel Andrades

  8. Catholic in Brooklyn, hold your nose and check out the following URL:


    1. What a horrible piece of divisive trash. There is no salvation in politics of this world, either left or right wing. If the perilous state of our world doesn’t convince people of that, nothing will. And if trads have the answer to the Church’s problems with the Latin Mass, then why has Church attendance declined precipitously since Summorum Pontificum? Voris is all about causing division, and we know that is not a fruit of the Holy Spirit.

  9. Catholic in Brooklyn, check out the following URL:



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