Friday, December 14, 2012

The Economist notices Catholic Traditionalism

There's an article in this weekend's Economist (which you can read online) about the reappearance of the Latin Mass in the Catholic Church. It starts:

'SINCE the Second Vatican Council in 1962, the Roman Catholic church has striven to adapt to the modern world. But in the West—where many hoped a contemporary message would go down best—believers have left in droves. Sunday mass attendance in England and Wales has fallen by half from the 1.8m recorded in 1960; the average age of parishioners has risen from 37 in 1980 to 52 now. In America attendance has declined by over a third since 1960. Less than 5% of French Catholics attend regularly, and only 15% in Italy. Yet as the mainstream wanes, traditionalists wax.'

As a regular reader of the Economist I'm used to the strange, jaunty style in which they write everything (they love words like 'canny'), and the oddly casual attitude to facts - a statistic here, an anecdote there, and hey, readers can now take a view on a vast and complex subject when it comes up at a cocktail party. But it is essentially a very positive article, and it was pleasing that they went to the Una Voce Federation and the Latin Mass Society for information. (And yes, we did NOT tell them the LMS has more than 5,000 members. Sheesh.)

I like the quote from Fr Timothy Radcliffe in the final paragraph.

'The return of the old rite causes quiet consternation among more modernist Catholics. Timothy Radcliffe, once head of Britain’s Dominicans, sees in it “a sort of ‘Brideshead Revisited’ nostalgia”. The traditionalist revival, he thinks, is a reaction against the “trendy liberalism” of his generation. Some swings of pendulums may be inevitable. But for a church hierarchy in Western countries beset by scandal and decline, the rise of a traditionalist avant-garde is unsettling. Is it merely an outcrop of eccentricity, or a sign that the church took a wrong turn 50 years ago?'

Solemn Dominican Rite Mass in the Oxford Blackfriars, for the LMS Pilgrimage
I wonder what Fr Radcliffe makes of the traditionalist revival in his own order. Has he noticed that not all the young priests saying the Dominican Rite these days fit his stereotype?


  1. So, if the figure isn't 5,000, how many members does the LMS actually have?

  2. 'Over 2,000' is closer to the mark. I don't have the exact figure.

  3. I attend St. Mary's, Louth which must be one of the most overtly liberal parishes in the country (ironically Louth is the home of the Lincolnshire uprising).

    When two of us turned up and started rigorously defending traditionalism you could literally see the liberals seething. At one point when kneeling was mentioned in a parish council meeting two people even started shouting.

    Our work has moved on. When we have an opportunity to give people an experience of the sacred some people have been moved to tears.

    The Church did take a wrong turn 50 years ago and our church is particularly crying out for tradition, piety, and the sacred. When 'the sacred' is present God always turns up, and as we have shown people instinctively know this.

    It has been a long battle. We do not rest on our laurels. Every time someone speaks of dissent from church teaching, or other liberal notions are spoken, they are immediately challenged with the correct theology. We do not back down. We also speak to the other members of the church and help those who want a closer relationship with God, but are presently unable because of our churches non-Catholic mindset.

    We are not antagonistic to the liberals but we are steadfast and will not have non-sense spoken in the church community. We are slowly breaking down the non-Catholic mindset and Catholic truths are slowly being brought back to the church, but it is still a long battle.

    My experience is that if there are two people who will not back down, but who are also willing to shoulder some of the responsibility of helping those who want to go deeper in their faith journey then you can slowly bring about change.

    Needless to say there is also a need for prayer.

    1. Worth pointing out that Fr O'Connor is v. traditional.

    2. Adam,

      Quite right.

      I try and attend the Latin Mass at Brigg at 5 pm on a Sunday, despite the distance. Fr. O'Connor is a wonderful traditional priest. Of course, there is also kneeling for all N.O. masses during the week as well. All liturgy is celebrated with reverence at Brigg and no stone is left un-turned. Fr. Dominic is a great inspiration.

  4. I should also have said that we have recently been informed that kneeling will be re-instated for those who wish to kneel.

    Proof that tradition is worth fighting for!!!!