The Ark of Salvation is not a dinghy

I’ve seen a number of articles about the traditional Latin Mass (TLM) lately, touting the increase in the number of parishes offering TLM. This article at 1P5 says the number of regular TLMs in the nation of Poland went from 5 in 2007 to 58 in 2021. That’s an 11-fold increase. It’s also a very small number for an entire nation, especially one where most of the population is at least nominally Catholic.

Similarly, in the U.S., a survey of TLM parishes found good growth, but low overall numbers. The U.S. is over 20% Catholic, which means tens of millions of Catholics. And the growth in that survey was from 59 to 75 parishes with average attendance at each Mass increasing to nearly 200 persons.

You cannot fit millions of Catholics into these small numbers of Masses. The Church has over a billion members worldwide. In the U.S., there is a strong conservative political/social subculture that feeds into the TLM subculture. So it seems like the traditionalist culture is growing, and it is, but there is a hard ceiling to how much it can grow.

The TLM advocates fantasize about a Church with only the TLM in the Latin Rite. They constantly denigrate and make false accusations against the Novus Ordo. And even those who say they support both forms, as the talk about the TLM, they clearly see it as far superior and the NOM as of no real value (just something they are stuck with). But most Catholics will not attend the TLM. For one thing, it has become attached to a far right conservative culture that demands far right conservative views on every issue.

Example: Timothy Gordon, well-known traditionalist and a TLM-only advocate, decided to accept Vatican II’s teachings as part of the indefectible Magisterium (hopefully, I have stated his position correctly). And he was ostracized by Taylor Marshall, and that was the end of the TnT YouTube show. He may have lost many followers on social media, due to this modest and clearly faithful change of position.

Point: you cannot offer salvation to the world if your version of the Ark of Salvation is a dinghy. The TLM and the culture that has grown up around it, like moss on a large granite rock, cannot suffice as the Mass for most Latin Rite Catholics. It is not suitable for most persons:
* the TLM is largely controlled by conservative priests
* it is closely associated with a far right subculture
* the culture rejects the Magisterium and replaces it with the majority opinion of traditionalists
* most persons do not wish to learn Latin; it is a needless obstacle to salvation to reject learning Latin to be able to understand the Mass and worship God
* it is too formal for many persons’ aesthetics

It doesn’t matter if the TLM is more traditional or supposedly more beautiful than the NOM. The NOM is a better fit for most of the members of the Church and most of those we would wish to convert to Catholicism.

The entryway to the Ark of Salvation should not have a series of hoops to jump through: first learn Latin; now accept a long series of conservative and ultra-conservative ideas that are not part of the Gospel; and next, fight against the recent Popes and Councils (while claiming to be the “most faithful”).

The TLM and its culture cannot grow to the extent of being suitable for most or all Latin Rite Catholics. It is not sufficient as the vehicle of salvation for new converts, nor for those who are struggling with whether or not they should remain in the Church, nor for many others.

The growth in the TLM is tiny compared to the billion Catholics in the world, and the billions more to whom the Gospel is addressed (in the hopes they will convert). The TLM only advocates are like persons in a lifeboat, attacking the main ship. They are like persons in a dinghy, trying to convince everyone on a cruise ship to join them.

The Novus Ordo Mass is well suited for its task, that of bringing people to worship God on Sundays, holy days, and even daily Mass. The TLM is a family heirloom, which appeals to a small minority of Catholics. And unfortunately, it has become associated with grave errors on doctrine and discipline, as well as rebellion against the Popes and Councils.

Pope Francis was right to restrict the TLM, and is right to seek to suppress it, as it is no longer being used as a way to save souls, but rather as a way for heretics and schismatics to gather supporters.

There are some persons who attend the TLM and who support Vatican II and the recent Popes. But the culture that controls the TLM, for the most part, has rejected the Magisterium and has refused to obey or accept teaching/correction from Pope Francis. That is not the path of salvation.

The traditionalist culture has largely gone astray from the true Faith, replacing Popes and Councils with the teachings of the culture itself. Suppressing the TLM, for a limited period of time, may help to correct that culture.


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5 Responses to The Ark of Salvation is not a dinghy

  1. Mike says:

    Hey Ron,

    Thanks for all the effort you put in to this blog. It’s helping a lot of people. Your arguments are sound and seem irrefutable…for the people who recognize Francis as Pope. Do you have any, or would you consider some material for people who don’t even recognize him as Pope? Such as sedevavcantists and now a growing movement of Benedict is still Pope theorists.

    There are many very confused Catholics getting swept up in these movements. I would love it you could take on and refute Ann Barnhardt writings the way you do with Taylor Marshall etc.

    I realize it’s basically a full time job defending Pope Francis these days and can understand why you don’t want to get bogged down on the more fringe ideas, but I appreciate your logical and respectful way of presenting arguments, which is getting rare in this world, and would love to see you “take down” some of these theories.

  2. john says:

    There have been regular revisions of the Mass over the years, the revision of the Mass in 1962 was only current for 3 years (up until 1965): it certainly doesn’t have a unique claim to be “the traditional Latin Mass”. The Mass was revised in 1965 and then again in 1970. The revision of 1970, a Mass written in Latin (but allowed to be celebrated in any language for which an approved translation exists), is part of the same tradition, as Francis made explicit in Tradional Custodes. The 1970 revision was intended just to make licit what had already become quite widespread practise (e.g. a fuller participation by the congregation, with the readings and propers in the vernacular); to allow other parts also to be in the vernacular (with the expectation some Latin would be retained); and to expand the number of bible readings (as well as allowing some of the Eastern anaphora to be used). It really was not the revolution that the extremists on either side claim it was.

  3. John says:

    outstanding article! I love the dinghy/steamship anaogy…i have worked up a similar analogy for sedevacantists using the Titanic. But your main point is that the Catholic Church is a Universal Church – it has to accommodate the entire world – bringing in everything and everybody and God will sort it out to form a beautiful mosaic without contradictions and perfectly consistent – that is obviously going to require a lot of nuance which can be easily misunderstood. I have found great peace in Luke Ch 5 v1-11 – the crowd is pressing in on Him – there are two boats – Jesus gets into the boat belonging to SIMON, and they go out a SHORT distance to teach them. When He finishes teaching, does He have Simon lower the nets right there in the shallow waters for the easy catch? NO!! He tells Simon to put out into the DEEP waters – go to the unknown, get out of your comfort zone, where you are going to pull in all kinds of things along with the fish, including some bad stuff, but God will take care of that. Wedon’t need to worry about it – The Church is indefectible – we only need to stay in Simon’s boat with the Lord.

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