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Future Bleak for Vatican II Mass

September 22, 2022 Our Catholic Faith No Comments


My parish is forced back into compliance with the “unique liturgical expression of the Roman rite” this month, as expressed by Pope Francis in Traditionis custodes, with the banning of the traditional Latin Mass in my as well as in other parish churches. This in order to open us to the full experience of the wonders of Vatican II and its sole expression of public prayer in the Novus Ordo or Mass of Paul VI.
Pope Francis’ vision of the full flowering of the 1960’s revolution is now realized only through compliance with dictatorial edicts. Gone is the individual freedom of expression promised by the peace and love movement. Instead we now have something more akin to fascist conformity with a kick of the jackboot for the rebellious.
The survey results are in after 60 years of experimentation. And it doesn’t look good. The viral videos of priests in Italy offering the new Mass on a raft at the beach, or in bike shorts adorned with rainbow stole at a picnic table, or using a guitar to bless the people, or dancing around the sanctuary to a trendy beat, reinforce the fact that the new liturgy does not have a fixed identity. It is not “one” rite for the entire Church. It is different nearly everywhere. As such it is incapable of serving as a source of unity.
But, you may say, my parish has a “reverent novus ordo” and you may strenuously oppose my characterization of the new Mass as “formless” and perpetually changing. The very fact that you must affix the adjective “reverent” to the description of the Mass at your parish offered by a no doubt sincere and good priest merely proves my point.
When in the history of the Church did we ever feel the necessity of describing any Mass as “reverent”? We didn’t. That was because the old Mass or TLM was dummy-proof: an inattentive or unfortunately careless priest could offer it in a nearly identical way to the manner of the holiest and most punctilious of clerics.
There are many good priests who are doing the very best they can with the hand which they have been dealt, deploying all of their skills and talents to draw people back to church. One local priest has taken to conducting catechesis outdoors on the parish lawn in full view of the promenading tourists visiting his waterfront town.
Let’s take an unscientific survey of the Catholic landscape, sampling the experience of some parishes that are committed exclusively to this wonderful gift to the Church of a new and improved liturgy which, we were told, promised a perpetual Springtime of active participation.
To begin with, in order to actively participate you have to be physically present. But the numbers of those who are no longer taking that first step over the church threshold are increasing.
Let’s take a look at the Wall Street Journal of November 12, 2021:
“The number of churchgoers has steadily dropped in the U.S. over the past few decades. But Covid-19 and its lockdown restrictions accelerated that fall. In-person church attendance is roughly 30% to 50% lower than it was before the pandemic, estimates Barna Group, a research firm that studies faith in the U.S.
“While religious leaders expect some rebound once the pandemic recedes, many don’t expect attendance to return to previous levels. That has left churches looking for different approaches to connect with existing members and attract new ones.”
Part of the drop is due to the long-term disassociation from churches and religion in general that has been at work for years. As noted in the WSJ article, the Archdiocese of Boston reports that lower attendance is a steady downward trend of 2.5% annually. That accelerated with COVID. Many started watching Sunday Mass at home and have not returned to the parish, further deepening the spiral.
Local pastors continue to experiment with various ways of offering the new Mass to encourage greater attendance. One approach is to appeal to a particular age group often missing at the typical parish Mass experience: teens. A neighboring pastor will soon begin a Sunday afternoon “Life Teen” Mass. But will it encourage long-term faith commitment after the program ends or when the teens move on to adult education or work experience? Perhaps the answer is another “program” geared to each age of the spectrum?
But isn’t that what the new Mass was supposed to be? A one-size fits all approach? Shouldn’t unity be a basic characteristic of any Mass, at which all are welcome? In the past that was a given with the traditional Latin Mass. There weren’t any “teen TLMs” in 1950.
Now, with the Balkanization of the Church into different language groups following Vatican II, and with Masses available in nearly any language except Latin, there is yet another reason for not attending. In my own experience, a Spanish-speaker will sometimes refuse to attend an English or Latin Mass because they don’t with little effort readily understand it. How is the language in which the Mass is prayed more important than the fact that our Lord is truly present in the Eucharist at every Mass? Is this another improvement of Vatican II?
Pope Francis certainly made a point about unity when he issued Traditionis custodes with the purpose of forcing everyone, even the unwilling, back into the novus ordo. It was given as the reason for the cruel and draconian edict. The TLM must go, we are told, so that everyone can pray together as one in the novus ordo. Even those who don’t go to the TLM, it appears, do not want the novus ordo when they aren’t going to Mass at all, leaving pastors grasping at straws to get them to return.
Parishes with schools offer a discount for students who attend Sunday Mass, as those should who say they are Catholic and who purportedly value a Catholic education. But for years priests have struggled to enforce Sunday Mass attendance upon unwilling families who just want to get the eighth-grade graduation and move on.
A recent email from a pastor with a parish school shows that we are in fact reduced to using tuition discounts to force the unwilling to comply with the commandment to keep the Lord’s Day holy:
“I would like to discuss the new ‘active parishioner scholarships’ for Catholic school families.  As I’m sure you will appreciate, we need our fellow pastors who have parishioners in our in schools to hold those parents accountable for bringing their children to Mass and supporting their local parish in order to receive an endorsement as an active parishioner.  Otherwise, some people will game the system by going to parishes where they will not be held accountable by the pastor.”
This pastor is now reduced to a spiritual “cop”, spending his time policing people who are getting reduced tuition who “game the system” by avoiding Sunday Mass while getting credit as an “active parishioner”. Not exactly a “new Springtime” of active participation. More akin to a Fall presaging a long, cold winter of pastoral discontent.
Another pastor with a parish thought to be large enough to warrant a second priest, a nearly endangered clerical species, is concerned about his upcoming October headcount numbers. Every year a headcount is taken at all Masses in the month of October and averages are reported to the diocese. The statistics affect everything from subsidizing the diocesan newspaper to annual financial appeal pledge thresholds. Attendance at weekend Masses has visibly fallen off for this pastor, potentially putting his hard-won status as a “two-priest” parish at risk.
Every parish that previously enjoyed increased attendance on the part of the willing by offering a traditional Latin Mass is back to begging, pleading and “bribing” with tuition discounts to fill the pews with the unwilling.
But Pope Francis says the new Mass is all you get. A future bleak indeed.
Thank you for reading and praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever.

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