EVERAL YEARS AGO, Msgr. Charles Pope made headlines when an Archdiocesan blog published his defense of Gospel music for the Roman Catholic liturgy. While I appreciate the genre of Gospel music—and some pieces are lovely—I was troubled by his assertions with respect to music history. 1 On 7 January, Msgr. Pope wrote a piece for the NATIONAL CATHOLIC REGISTER with a sensational title:
“Urgent Warning About the Future of the Traditional Latin Mass”
Throughout his article, Msgr. Pope says things like: “The Traditional Latin Mass appeals to a certain niche group of Catholics, but the number in that group appears to have reached its maximum.” He keeps referring to a “ceiling” that’s been reached, making inexplicable references to “20 years ago, when the Solemn Mass was thriving.” His description of the EF early years does not match my recollection of the 1990s, nor accounts by pioneers like Fr. Michael Irwin (one of the first FSSP priests assigned to the USA).
Msgr. Pope seems to be unaware of charts like this one:
That chart displays WEEKLY MASSES ONLY, ignoring everything else. For example, a diocesan priest I knew in Texas isn’t on official rosters, yet occasionally offers the EF. Here in Los Angeles, there’s a diocesan priest who offers the EF—but likewise is omitted from official rosters. Perhaps more remarkable is the list of bishops who have publicly offered the EF, such as Bishop Serratelli (former chairman of the Bishops’ Liturgy Committee), Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz (USCCB President), and Archbishop Sample (head of OCP). Indeed, hundreds of bishops all over the world have offered the Traditional Latin Mass. 2
If Msgr. Pope’s point is that EF supporters should evangelize, his article should not have been published because nobody—not one person!—is arguing against such a thing. 3
SUCH GROWTH IS TRULY A MIRACLE. The EF is frequently given the parish’s leftover scraps: a Sunday Mass at 3:00pm; an evening Mass; a Mass twice a month; and so forth. Only those with young children can fully understand the inconvenience of such Mass times.
Time and again, Msgr. Pope stresses that “numbers matter”—revealing a disturbing perspective. Assisting at Mass should never be about numbers! At each Mass, Jesus Christ—Who is God!—is made present upon the altar and offered to His Heavenly Father. Mass is about sanctification. Mass is an opportunity to go where our Savior is truly present. My happiest memories are quiet Low Masses in rural Kansas where my father and I were the only people in the pews! Consider the Jesuit Martyrs of North America, whose efforts seemed totally fruitless from the perspective of numbers. Yet, these great saints obeyed God’s Will, which—as F. X. Talbot said so well—“none can understand yet none can question.” Mother Theresa said: “God does not require that we are successful; only that we are faithful.”
As a young child, I attended a rich Catholic parish with tons of parishioners but very little faith. Many there openly ridiculed Church teachings. Msgr. Pope implies that EF supporters must reach a certain percentage of the total Catholic population—but as Catholics, shouldn’t our goal be the conversion of everyone on this earth? Dividing up the Church into “acceptable” percentages of EF and OF seems valueless.
A discussion about this post is underway.
(A) It is not clear that 100% of the bishops listed in my article have publicly offered the EF. It seems several merely attended the EF “in choir.” We always attempt to be accurate in our articles, and I apologize if I have said anything wrong. On the other hand, it’s probably not the worst possible mistake to say a bishop has offered the EF when he merely attended “in choro.” I am not an expert at pontifical ceremonies, but it seems to me when a bishop or cardinal attends “in choro” there are special rites that include him.
(B) Msgr. Pope has posted the following the CCW Facebook page:
Good, I hope this news of the growth of offerings is true. My experience is less certain of this. Also, “growth” can take place numerically but percentages are important too, especially when it comes to influence. Here in DC, (even if the numbers are growing – and I don’t see that they are) one half of one percent of Catholics going TLM just isn’t going to have the impact desired and necessary. As for the author’s lament of my earlier post on Gospel music, I can only say that its OK to like a number of things. One the great joys in my life is the TLM and I want to see it grow. I hope to encourage others to promote it by my observations that I sincerely believe to be true. Not sure my views on Gospel music in the OF are relevant here since I am not asking the TLM to go away but hope it will grow. I have a lot of people I love, not all of them worship in the TLM form and I respect and have been blessed by them as well. Currently the Church permits gospel music and the TLM and its offerings from chant to polyphony to Orchestral masses. I am blessed to like it all. Please help to promote the TLM more, that is my bottom line. I certainly hope for more than one half of one percent of Catholics to attend the TLM in my archdiocese where the Mass is offered in at least four locations, sometimes five, every Sunday. I like the Watershed site too. Lots of good resources here. Keep up the good work!
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 Suffice it to say, his statements contradict what I learned studying musicology at the graduate level in the early 2000s.
2 A partial list of USA bishops would include the following: Cardinal DiNardo, Cardinal Egan, Cardinal Baum, Cardinal Burke, Cardinal Foley, Cardinal George (Chicago), Cardinal Levada, Cardinal O’Malley, Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop Apuron (Agana), Archbishop Aquila (Denver), Archbishop Brown (Papal Nuncio in Ireland), Archbishop Brunett (Seattle), Archbishop Carlson (Saint Louis), Archbishop Coakley (Oklahoma), Archbishop Di Noia (Ecclesia Dei), Archbishop Hugues (New Orleans), Archbishop Lucas (Omaha), Archbishop Myers (Newark), Archbishop Nienstedt (Minneapolis), Archbishop Keleher (Kansas City), Archbishop Pilarczyk (Cicinnati), Archbishop Sartain (Seattle), Archbishop Vigneron (Detroit), Archbishop Wenski (Miami), Bishop Backer (Birmingham), Bishop Bambera (Scranton), Bishop Barber (Oakland), Bishop Barres (Allentown), Bishop Bevard (Saint Thomas), Gracida (Corpus Christi), Bishop Blair (Ohio), Bishop Boyea (Lansing), Bishop Bruskewitz (Lincoln), Bishop Burbidge (Raleigh), Bishop Caggiano (Bridgeport), Bishop Callahan (LaCrosse), Bishop Conley (Lincoln), Bishop Conlon (Bishop of Jolliet), Bishop Cordileone (San Francisco), Bishop Cotta (Sacramento), Bishop Cummins (Oakland), Bishop D’Arcy (Fort Wayne), Bishop Dewane (Venice), Bishop Di Lorenzo (Richmond), Bishop DiMarzio (Brooklynn), Bishop Doran (Rockford), Bishop Elizondo (Seattle), Bishop Etienne (Cheyenne), Bishop Farrell (Dallas), Bishop Finn (Kansas City), Bishop Foley (Birmingham), Bishop Foys (Covington), Bishop Gainer (Harrisburg), Bishop García (Monterey), Bishop Gelineau (Providence), Bishop Hanchon (Detroit), Bishop Hermann (Saint Louis), Bishop Hying (Milwaukee), Bishop Hurley (Grand Rapids), Bishop Jugis (Charlotte), Bishop Kicanas (Tucson), Bishop Libasci (Manchester), Bishop Loverde (Arlington), Bishop Madera Uribe (Fresno), Bishop Matano (Rochester), Bishop McFadden (Harrisburg), Bishop McManus (Worcester), Bishop Morlino (Madison), Bishop Mulvee (Providence), Bishop Murphy (Rockville Centre), Bishop Nevares (Phoenix), Bishop O’Connell (Trenton), Bishop Olmsted (Phoenix), Bishop Paprocki (Illinois), Bishop Parkes (Pensacola-Tallahassee), Bishop Perry (Chicago), Bishop Provost (Lake Charles), Bishop Reiss (Detroit), Bishop Rhoades (Fort Wayne-South Bend), Bishop Rice (Saint Louis), Bishop Ricken (Green Bay), Bishop Silva (Honolulu), Bishop Slattery (Tulsa), Bishop Timlin (Scranton), Bishop Tobin (Providence), Bishop Waltersheid (Pittsburgh), and Bishop Van Johnston (Missouri).
3 He repeatedly insists that supporters of the Traditional Latin Mass “are not exempt from the work of evangelizing.” Yet, Msgr. Pope is unable to name a single serious person claiming that EF lovers should be exempt.