By Michael DaviesThe respect that we all owe to the Vicar of Christ cannot obscure the fact that the renewal he is describing here is a fantasy. When the Pope comments on a matter of fact, his words either correspond to reality or they do not, and in this case they most certainly do not. Far from the vast majority of Catholics welcoming the reform with "joyful fervor," the vast majority of the faithful throughout the West no longer assist at Mass at all. Those who were not assisting at Mass before the Council have not been brought back, and in country after country many, sometimes most, of those who were assisting before the Council no longer do so. In countries such as France and Holland, the percentage of Catholics at Mass each Sunday has declined to a single figure. In the U.S.A. attendance has declined from 71 % in 1963 to 25 % in 1993, a decline of 65 %. 36 If we consider this decline in terms of souls rather than bare statistics, it means that twenty-four million fewer Catholics in the U.S. attend Mass now than was the case before the Council. During that period there has been a huge increase in the Catholic population of the United States, and so the picture is far worse than appears to be the case from these bare statistics. The March, 1994 issue of the excellent Australian Catholic journal, A.D. 2000, examines the manner in which a detailed survey of Mass attendance in the diocese of Townsville reflects the overall picture of a collapse of Catholic practice on that continent. The official survey examined in the article was actually entitled "Where have all the people gone." It reveals a figure of only 12% in 1993, which is likely to decline to about 6 % by the year 2000. Commenting on the survey, the A.D. 2000 columnist remarked:
Nowhere in the document is there any hint that the "reforming" policies pursued over the past 20 years in liturgy, religious education, seminary and religious life, biblical studies and moral teaching might be contributors to the disaster represented by the Mass attendance statistics . . . Just how much further Mass attendances must decline in Townsville and elsewhere before botched reforms are halted and admissions of failure [are] forthcoming is not yet clear, but we should not hold our breath.
Is the Holy Father correct in suggesting that we should indeed give thanks to God for what he terms a movement of the Holy Spirit, but which A.D. 2000 correctly terms a disaster? Facts cannot be loyal or disloyal, and the facts concerning the collapse in Mass attendance are, alas, only too true! The reform was supposed to be of particular benefit to the young, but in Britain nine out of ten young high school Catholics who have been nourished by the so-called liturgical renewal have lapsed from the Faith before leaving school, and I am sure that the same dismal story is true of other countries. This is hardly an indication of radiant vitality. It would be interesting to learn precisely where these radiantly vital communities are located-----certainly not in the Pope's own diocese of Rome, where less than eight percent of the faithful set foot in church on Sunday! Far from "the whole of humanity being called into the household of the Church;' as the Liturgy Constitution expected, millions of Catholics are leaving the household of the Church for heretical sects. In Brazil, for example, the country with the world's largest Catholic population, there are now more Protestants worshiping in their chapels each Sunday than there are Catholics assisting at the allegedly radiantly vital new liturgy, which hardly indicates joyful fervor on the part of the Catholic faithful in Brazil, who are leaving the Church for Protestant sects by the millions.
"By their fruits you shall know them"-----Afructibus eorum cognoscetis eos. "Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, and the evil tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can an evil tree bring forth good fruit." [Matt. 7: 16-18]. The assessment of the liturgical reform made by Msgr. Klaus Gamber is radically incompatible with that of the Holy Father, but does not the experience of each of us in the past twenty- five disastrous years make it impossible to deny that Msgr. Gamber is right and the Pope is wrong? It is a perverted concept of loyalty, to which no Catholic is compelled to adhere, that would make us deny that we see what we see, hear what we hear and suffer what we suffer. Msgr. Gamber insists, and correctly so, that what we have experienced is not a renewal but a debacle-----one that worsens with each passing year. He writes,
The liturgical reform, welcomed with so much idealism and hope by so many priests and lay people alike, has turned out to be a liturgical destruction of startling proportions-----a debacle worsening with each passing year. Instead of the hoped-for renewal of the Church and of Catholic life, we are now witnessing a dismantling of the traditional values and piety on which our faith rests. Instead of the fruitful renewal of the liturgy, what we see is a destruction of the forms of the Mass which had developed organically during the course of many centuries. 37