By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Another False Cliche to Abandon

This one often makes the rounds in certain Catholic circles: the decline in priestly and other vocations, the decline in Mass attendance, the closing of parishes and schools are due to the rise of the ordinary form of the Mass (for those unfamiliar with this term, the ordinary form is the Mass that you normally hear in English or another modern language at most Catholic churches as opposed to the traditional Latin Mass).

Aside from the logical fallacy of post hoc, propter hoc blatantly present in this cliche (that is, the fallacy that just because event A happened after event B that therefore B necessarily caused A), the cliche is just plain silly to any observer of the nineteen sixties and seventies. The sexual revolution--or better stated, the birth control revolution--led to a rapid distancing of many from traditional Christian practices. This reality hit the Catholic Church hard in terms of celibate vocations and in terms of people fleeing the confessional. That deluge of moral collapse had nothing to do with liturgical updating in the aftermath of Vatican II. It was a moral collapse that would have happened regardless of any liturgical changes. (Certainly, the traditional Latin Mass did not persuade the most nationally prominent U.S. Catholics of the fifties and early sixties--the Kennedys--to reign in their personal behavior. In effect, the behavior of the Kennedys was an elite leading indicator of what would become more common among less elite Catholics as birth control gradually became widely available. The rich did not need to worry about birth control--one way or another, they would cover their tracks.)

It is surely quite ironic (and pleasing to Screwtape) that people blame legitimate liturgical renewal carried on by the Church rather than the Birth Control Revolution for the decline in various measures of Catholic practice. It is like blaming a teacher with better classroom equipment for her students' skipping school to go out boozing.

In fact, one can even more persuasively and compellingly argue that the decline experienced in Catholic practice would have been much worse if the liturgy had not been updated. The traditional Latin Mass would have had an even harder time keeping the interest and attention of people during these tumultuous times. A Mass that more people can more easily understand is an undeniable and obvious liturgical improvement. Blaming that improvement for matters caused by social changes beyond the control of the Church is missing the obvious reality of the late sixties and of the seventies--a reality that is now fully conventional and unquestioned in the West.

(Image used under fair use doctrine)