Typically, it would be a grave matter to publish anything that could damage the reputation of another. This article contains a frank discussion about the public actions and proclamations of the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church. The Holy Father’s public scandals have been broadcast with such great publicity and are already matters of universal public awareness that they have sadly reached the point that remaining silent would be a scandal of its own.
As Leon Trotsky once said, “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.” This quote particularly applies to traditional Catholics, many of whom are confused by the barrage of abuse and restrictions raining down upon them from leaders of their own Church. Traditional Catholics are not thin-skinned people. They are used to a little persecution and martyrdom from time to time, but when it comes from our own fathers, it is important to understand what is behind this abuse? “What man is there among you, if his son shall ask for bread, will instead hand him a stone?” Mt 7:9.
By now, I believe the evidence is clear to even his most sycophantic apologists, that Francis is waging war against the Sacred Deposit of Tradition within the Catholic Church. To some degree there were signs of this from the start of his pontificate but beginning about the time that he enthroned the demon Pachamama in the Vatican, there was a distinctive change.
While some have called his programs brutal, there is also a bit of crazy mixed in as well. Reporters are perplexed that questions about almost any topic will result in some wild-eyed rant about tradition (“Um, er… thank you for that answer your Holiness, but the question was about the Vatican Bank.”). He is sounding like that man in the park mumbling to himself, which would be more sympathetic if he weren’t damaging the faith of so many.
As Hilary White reported last year, “There is not the slightest doubt that the aim of the current regime in Rome is to see the total extinction of all traditional forms of religious life in the Church.”
How could any Christian harbor hatred for a 2000-year-old form of worship, whose organic development can be traced to our Savior, Christ himself while he was personally present here on earth. Where does this hatred come from? Maybe the answer is not that new or complex.
In Genesis, Chapter 4 we learn about Cain and Abel, the two sons of Adam and Eve. Abel (“Abel the Just” as he is referred to in the Roman Canon) was a shepherd and his brother Cain, a farmer. When the time came for them to offer thanks to God, the brothers built two altars onto which they each placed their offerings. Abel offered a sacrifice of flesh, the first of his flock. Cain, however, offered a meal. (Sound familiar)?
God accepted Abel’s offering, sending down a pillar of fire consuming his sacrifice of flesh. The next line in scripture is, “But to Cain and his offerings, God had no respect.” Rather than humbly admitting his error, Cain instead blamed his brother for God’s decision. Later when they were together in the field, Cain rose up and murdered Abel. As punishment for this violence, God cursed Cain such that for the remainder of his days his fields would yield no harvest.
It isn’t difficult to see the similarities between this account in Genesis and the Pope’s assault on the traditional Mass. For all of Church history up until the Second Vatican Council, the priest at Mass has always offered a sacrifice of flesh in the form of Christ, truly present in the Eucharist. In response, God has poured down his blessings and protections on His Church. While we do not have the benefit of divine revelation, we can see these blessings through many external visible signs, such as: Mass attendance, priestly and religious vocations, Baptisms, Marriages, and belief in the real presence. In other words, this offering of flesh was rewarded with an abundant harvest.
When the so-named Novus Ordo, or “new order” of the Mass, was introduced the sacrifice of flesh was abruptly replaced by a meal. The tragedy that followed was so predictable and profound that it seemed almost by design. Where before we saw external signs of God’s blessing, subsequent to the introduction to this new Mass, we saw a total collapse. If more proof is needed, in communities where the traditional Mass is reintroduced, these external signs of God’s grace return. This is where mathematicians would write, Quod Erat Demonstrandum (QED), indicating that the proof of the argument has been demonstrated.
Please don’t kill the messenger, but when we compare the harvests of the two communities, the societal damage that follows in the wake of the Novus Ordo is laid bare. Below is only a partial, easiest to measure, list of damage:
Mass Attendance: A 2019 Pew survey found that since the introduction of the Novus Ordo, the number of Americans who identify as Catholic has dropped 20 percent in the last decade alone. Prior to the Second Vatican Council 80 percent of Catholics attended Mass regularly, which has plummeted down to less than 25 percent. For parishioners at Traditional Latin Mass parishes, attendance is near 100 percent. As for the net-new converts to the Catholic faith, if you control for inflows of illegal aliens and people escaping oppressive governments (looking at you California and New York), conversions are largely coming through traditional communities.
Belief in the Real Presence: The 2019 Pew Study found that 69 percent of Catholics no longer believed in the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation – the doctrine that the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ is present in the consecrated Eucharist. For traditional communities, belief in this doctrine is near 100 percent. This belief can also be measured in the reverence shown to the Eucharist by the manner in which Holy Communion is distributed. In traditional communities, priests take care to distribute Communion only on the tongue to the faithful as they kneel. These priests also offer confession before Mass to help faithful receive in a state of grace.
Vocations of Priests: A 2019 CARA study reported that since the Novus Ordo was implemented, the number of priests in the US has dropped by 38 percent as of 2016. In the USA alone, 86 entire seminaries have been closed, and the ones that remain have extensive vacancies or entire wings that have been decommissioned. In the once powerhouse Archdiocese of Chicago, once known for ordaining hundreds of new priests annually, this year ordained only two priests by Cardinal Blaise Cupich. The rate of decline in priests is accelerating each year with more priests leaving active ministry (death, retirement, abandonment, or misconduct) than are being ordained each year. Meanwhile, traditional seminaries are overflowing.
Vocations of Nuns: A 2019 Pew survey found that less than 1 percent of nuns in America are under 40 years old and the average sister is 80 years old. The number of nuns in America has declined 76 percent over the past 50 years. Traditional convents are overflowing with vocations. At the present rate, nuns (other than at traditional communities) will be extinct in a not-so-distant future.
Marriages & Baptisms: A 2018 study from the Diocese of Philadelphia showed a 69 percent decline in marriages and a 79 percent decline in infant baptisms since 1961.
Art / Architecture / Music / Vestments: These liturgical arts as external signs of God’s grace are admittedly less statistically measurable, however that does not make them less important. There are volumes of scholarship on these topics for us to consider including, The Spirit of the Liturgy written by then Cardinal Ratzinger as well as discussions on the relationship between historic church architecture and the traditional Mass. These liturgical arts all serve the theology of the traditional liturgy in their ability to lift up our human condition toward heaven. As the opening words of the Mass proclaim, “I will go unto the altar of God, to God who gives joy to my youth.” The term joy in this context is the Latin word, juventutem, which refers to the spiritual youth that comes from the worship of Jesus Christ. This bold proclamation of juventutem was both literally and theologically stripped from the new Mass.
In Father Donald Kloster’s recent study comparing the two liturgical rites, he writes in his study observations:
“My estimate now is that if you raise your child in the Novus Ordo from the age of 7, that child has about a 5% chance of practicing the faith as an adult. The Novus Ordo fruit has cratered at a level I never expected. …, if your child is raised in the Traditional Latin Mass from the age of 7, they have about a 97% chance of practicing as an adult.”
One sobering fact is that all those studies were conducted prior to the government lockdowns and church closures of 2020-2021. I think it is safe to say that the societal damage has grown considerably worse since these studies were published.
Faced with such a path of destruction in the wake of the Novus Ordo, Church leaders have wrestled between two options: either return to tradition or follow the example of Cain. It is as painful to watch as waiting for an alcoholic to hit rock bottom. At present, the regime in Rome has determined to punish traditional worship for the barren fields of the Novus Ordo.
In between their attacks, Church leaders bludgeon anyone who asks questions about the Novus Ordo with accusations about not accepting its validity. As my father would say, this is hogwash. This goes right back to Cain blaming Abel for God’s actions. As laity, how are we expected to know what God accepts as valid or by what measure God pours out blessings? We see in the Canon of the Mass, that the priest repeatedly begs God to look past our sinfulness, accept the holy unspotted sacrifice of His son, to guide the Church, and grant her the blessings of peace and unity. Should we presume of that which we beg?
None of this is meant to offend the sensibilities of Catholics who attend and enjoy the Novus Ordo. However, humility requires us to have the self-awareness to face the difficult truth that the Church is in an absolute crisis and recognize the war that is being waged against our faith and the faith of our children. Let us pray for our priests and bishops that they are able to see the program of abuse coming from Rome for what it is and have the fortitude to resist and preserve the faith. They should also recall the lesson from Genesis that God did not punish Cain for his paltry offering – the punishments only came after Cain attacked his brother.
This guest post was written by Chris Lauer, co-chair of the Charlotte Latin Mass Community. He is married and the father of six.