At Sapientia, the website of the Center on Religion and Culture at Fordham University, David Gibson has a very interesting piece, “Latin Mass Hysteria.”
Among the misperceptions Gibson takes up is that “Pope Francis is throttling some burgeoning traditionalist revival of a superior form of Catholicism that will reinvigorate the church.” “The idea that Catholics are pining for the Tridentine Rite is the trend story that never dies,” Gibson writes. But “in fact, the numbers show a tiny number of Tridentine faithful whose ranks are not growing, and certainly not globally.” He points out that the United States is home to just six percent of the world’s Catholics but to nearly forty percent of all Tridentines Masses. First Things senior editor claimed in the New York Times that the old Latin Mass is “thriving” in Nigeria, “even though it has precisely one church offering a Latin Mass every Sunday, in a country of 24 million Catholics.” Gibson notes that “a number of commentators, including conservative Catholics who support the Tridentine rite, have been warning about the weaknesses of the growth narrative being told about the Old Rite.” See Gibson’s piece for interesting reports and hard data.
I would offer only this comment to David’s helpful and highly interesting piece. While the number of faithful interested in the pre-Vatican II Mass may be tiny, surely the pope is aware that the number of clergy interested in it is much higher, and is disproportionate to the needs and sentiments of the laity. It would be interesting to know what proportion of younger clergy celebrate the pre-Vatican II Mass, or what proportion of seminarians are supportive of it. Pope Francis’s motu proprio probably reflects his concerns about the state of the clergy.