The demographic sinkhole opening under the Church

I had an ongoing discussion with a friend who claimed that, one day, the Traditional Latin Mass would be the only Mass left in the Latin Church (sorry, Ambrosian Rite! We weren’t thinking of you, and I guess we were including Dominicans, etc.).   I demurred for a long time.

However, I have come to reassess my thoughts, especially in light of the huge hit the Church in these USA will take in the wake of COVID-1984.  I have long said that a demographic sinkhole was about to open up under the Church here.  The fact is that lots of “nones” will stop even pretending to embrace the family religion.  Also, the inexorable movement of time is applying the “biological solution” to us all.  We will lose a lot of seasoned Catholics and, with them, their financial support.  Their children are already going and gone.

Corona lockdown melodrama has accelerated the opening of the sinkhole.  I suspect that quite a few people who barely went to church will disappear pretty much for good.  I think that a stronger Church and stronger bishops would have made a little difference, however.

That said, I believe that a lot of traditional Masses kept going and traditional priests found creative ways to keep going.

I don’t have the entire survey.  I’d very much like to see it.

However, at the site Catholic Monitor, I saw this.  Some results from a survey about the Traditional Latin Mass conducted by Fr. Donald Kloster.

Take a look at these findings.

Take a look at this:

Fulfill Sunday obligation:
TLM: 99% vs. NOM: 22%

Approve of abortion:
TLM: 1% vs. NOM: 51%

Go to Confession at least once a year:
TLM: 98% vs. NOM: 25%

Approve of contraception:
TLM: 2% vs. NOM: 89%

Support same-sex marriage:
TLM: 2% vs. NOM: 67%

“TLM attendees donate 5 times more in the collection” according to Fr. Kloster.
(Catholic Herald, “Traditional Latin Mass attendees more devout and orthodox, study says,” February 27, 2019)

I still believe that as the sinkhole widens, two main groups will stay strong, those who want Tradition and also those who converts from an evangelical background and some charismatics with sound devotions.  These groups will find each other.  There will be some friction points along the way, but they will begin to integrate.   That’ll be something to see.

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  1. The cohort that approves of contraceptives will just contracept itself right out of existence. There will be no new generations to bring up in the contraceptive ideology. The traditional Mass, on the other hand, is full of young families headed by parents who obviously do not buy into contraceptives.

    Also, modernism in all its permutations has jumped the shark, thanks to the coronapanic. The coronapanic has exposed the utter bankruptcy of the Spirit of Vatican II in dramatic and completely unmistakable ways. I believe it will turn out to be one of the greatest advertisements for tradition the world has ever seen.

  2. bartlep says:

    Interesting numbers. I’m surprised in the TLM group that 1% approves abortion and 2% each approves SSM and contraceptive use.

  3. Cicero_NOLA says:

    The FSSP’s Missive has some additional numbers and analysis concerning the 18-39 year-old set of TLM attendees, including reasons for initially going (hint: not nostalgia).

  4. ChrisP says:

    Indeed, the demographic sinkhole is probably doubling in size year on year.

    I am pleasantly surprised the NOM confession rate is as high as it is.

  5. MarrakeshEspresso says:

    Yes. I’m privileged to be seeing it right now around me in a small way, and it’s delightful and exhilarating.
    What I’m worried about is the response from On High (not that ‘on high’, the other one). I don’t want to paint any more targets on the EF community, but it’s simply a fact that they’re a bit younger, and they’re practising, and other people are not.
    It’s going to get uglier.

  6. JonPatrick says:

    One thing that might turn around the NO church or at least lessen the decline is for them to finally take seriously the homopredator sex abuse scandal. Like issuing the report on former Cardinal Mccarrick which is 2 years overdue. Might bring back those that have left the church in disgust. Although I do agree with Anita Moore’s comment on the birthrates. Of course a few of those children may get sucked in by the world and not stay with the faith but most will plus there are always converts drawn by the beauty and solemnity of the traditional mass.

  7. Jones says:

    I’ve seen people comments about pro life rallies. Whose in there in the trenches with the Catholic’s? The 4+ children having evangelicals. Who’s opposing them? Sometimes their own Bishops and priests. If your church aint cryin’ it’s dyin’. The future belongs to those who show up.

  8. Antonin says:

    Right now the TLM is a small slice of the overall Catholic population. They tend to be more motivated and committees to the faith. When and if it broadens to the wider Catholic population (here comes everyone) we will see if things change.

    There are many broken wounded people out there.People with addictions,, people with mental health issues, people living in generation poverty. Often times these conditions create behaviour that is sinful – living together, promiscuous sex, violence, etc. This in turn leads to family problems, divorce, sometimes forced separation if police are involved in domestic dispute.

    Is the TLM going to be prepared to be such a hospital for sinners….to provide pastoral accommodation (much derided by traditional folks but an absolute essential component is the mercy of Christ)

    I am it so sure. Are seminarians in traditional formation houses being prepared to see and experience a wounded and sinful world or are they being posioned by polemics in the Church and Church politics.

  9. Over the last few years, I’ve pretty much come to the same conclusion– the extraordinary form will actually become the “ordinary” form and the Novus Ordo will mostly die out from lack of interest. I wouldn’t necessarily frame this in terms of EF vs. OF though. I’ve observed that many OF attendees are doctrinally sound, morally orthodox Catholics, and finding a reverent, reasonable OF Mass isn’t impossible if one looks in the right places. We will need a way to welcome those who aren’t ready for the EF for whatever reason, without being as arrogant as those who attempted to suppress the EF in the first place. That’s where traditionalists need to take the high ground. That’s how we can unite the clans, preserve what little unity we have left, and become a small but powerful force in society, politics, and life instead of squabbling amongst ourselves all the time. I think a better way to frame this is “hard-identity Catholicism vs. soft-identity Catholicism.” That leaves plenty of room for the orthodox attendees of reverent OF Masses to breathe as well as not boxing us into the “no changes ever” view that may be tolerable in the short term as a temporary solution but isn’t tenable in the long term and eventually winds up looking unreasonable. Even though sometimes one has to wonder if the end times are here, people have wondered about that many times before and we’re still here wondering, so we need to be cognizant that the Church is in it for the long haul, perhaps many more millennia for all we know.

  10. The Cobbler says:

    The situation may actually be even better than that. What if I told you that any demographic sinkhole is going to work against us, because without it, we will have all those mainstream, Novus Ordo Catholics coming back to the traditional Mass (with its knock-on effects re. faith and morals) eventually. Minority rule is in play. (Do read the link, it’s key to understanding my prediction. It will also help you understand widespread “support” for liberal agendas.)

    Consider: for every aging lib (or bitter Vatican II conservative who “obeyed” and now would be too ashamed to admit they were wrong), there are ten pewsitters who:

    – Say the forms are a matter of preference.
    – Believe in “reform of the reform” without any serious justification of the reform in the first place.
    – Believe you “can’t turn back the clock”, as though the Faith were a clock: without any reason change can only happen in one direction.

    The last gives the game away: they’re just defending the status quo, unwilling to brave the wrath of Susan. And “it’s just their preference” is the definitive attitude of the tolerant majority!

    But my generation has discovered you can set the “clock” to any time you wish. We have none of the baggage of the past battles over Vatican II; or, we don’t need that baggage at any rate. We attend the Latin Mass not because we are angry holdouts still attached to Lefebvre and the Ottiovanni Intervention (though we probably agree with them) but simply because we want what the Church passed down through the millennia.

    We are going to “Ok, boomer” the Novus Ordo into irrelevance.

    You can already see the shift beginning, what some call a “phase change” or a “preference cascade”. Over half of seminarians now desire to learn the traditional Mass. (Even more encouragingly, random traditional Catholic men I meet say it’s not just about liturgical tradition, but also about moral tradition: about how to become virtuous and what that means for society.) There are people I know who attended the Novus Ordo before lockdown and who, once limited to televised Masses, settled on praying along with St. John Cantius! They didn’t have to apostasize or die off: there are as many of us young traditionalists now acting as a good example as there are aging libs acting as a bad example.

    And those aging libs? People say Biden isn’t really running for President, his VP pick is, because he won’t live to see the end of his four years. I give it maybe up to half a decade for Vatican II’s committed defenders to drop below that ~5% needed to impose social influence on the rest of us. Another half decade after that, if not sooner, priests who’ve learned the traditional Mass will make it about as widely available for those of us who want it as the Novus Ordo is. And faced with nominally equal “preferences”, but some who definitively favor tradition and no real threat from the Susans of the world anymore, in ten years the average Catholic will become familiar with the old Mass, even if they have no better explanation for the switch initially than they had justification for their parents’ generation changing the Mass in the first place.

    Take courage: once most Catholics are learning the Church’s traditions again (in only ten years or less), the culture war will get truly interesting.

  11. WmHesch says:

    Are the 2% of TLM attendees who support contraception the so-called “infiltrators” the conspiracy crowd keeps postulating?

  12. The Cobbler says:


    I can’t speak for priests directly, but young men today are becoming more and more aware of the social forces that tear individuals and families apart (heh, like the progressives accused border enforcement of doing: ironic, now that I think about it). I myself have seen that of which you speak up close, too close for comfort. Mercy will be needed, yes; and temperance, fortitude, prudence, justice, and charity.

    Are we prepared? Not yet. But I have at my disposal a thorough understanding of classical ethics (not only the strict moral boundaries, but the “how” of self-mastery), the latest research on motivating people to change for the better (actual science, not just calling an explanation “science” because it’s secular), the willingness to see what is really happening in society (at this point if you don’t question narratives on all sides you’re not paying attention), an aversion to social media and its corrupting influence (not only on the content of one’s thinking but the manner of it), and the awareness that this is fundamentally a spiritual battle in which forgiveness will be key to breaking cycles of evil. I also have browsed the obscure Catholic posters on the internet, the sort who eventually quit to focus on their spiritual life, and know I am not alone in looking at these things! What’s more it seems priests and laity among the “hard identity” factions learn more from each other than ever in modern history.

    Take heart, be not afraid! The Church is even now being made ready. And: let us all, each and every one of us, do our part. AMDG! (Or as the kids are saying these days: Deus vult!)

  13. Ave Maria says:

    The two FSSP parishes in my state have both seen an increase not only in registered parishioners but also in donations! I have relatives and friends at both who relay this information. My parish has a new young vicar who will offer our weekly TLM which will return in July. On Sundays we have parking lot Masses. During the week we have two daily Masses, sitting in every other pew. There are MANY coming and from all over the area as only one other parish is offering Mass and there you have to wear a mask of subjugation. We also have daily confessions and Mass in the church is remaining ad orientem so far. And the people are coming. But on the whole, I think people will not be flocking back to church. They don’t have to! The obligation is removed.

  14. mysticalrose says:

    I am less sanguine about the addition of charismatics. First, because the piety of the charismatic renewal is grounded in emotivism rather than the “rational worship” of traditional piety, they tend to be quite intolerant to anything that doesn’t make them “feel” good. This includes preaching that is more forthright about doctrine.Second, I have found the charismatics that I have encountered to be quite stubborn about their NO preferences — favoring protestant movements (Alpha) and outright detesting the TLM. Granted, this is simply anecdote and not data.

  15. roma247 says:

    I still believe that as the sinkhole widens, two main groups will stay strong, those who want Tradition and also those who converts from an evangelical background and some charismatics with sound devotions. These groups will find each other. There will be some friction points along the way, but they will begin to integrate. That’ll be something to see.

    I would posit that this phenomenon is the #1 reason why the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius–often much maligned by the ultra-traddies–are so pivotal in our times. They are an ideal melting pot for this crowd, and the results speak for themselves. I have visited Traditional parishes all over the US and even abroad, and have rarely found such an incredibly vibrant community.

  16. JonPatrick says: One thing that might turn around the NO church or at least lessen the decline is for them to finally take seriously the homopredator sex abuse scandal.

    This simply won’t happen. Time and again, the Spirit of Vatican II has proven its utter worthlessness as a bulwark against evil. Recall that in April, when the whole world was locked down, and Catholics all over the globe were deprived of Mass and the Sacraments, that was the time the Vatican chose to announce the formation of yet another commission to waste time on the impossible and futile project of creating woman deacons. In their mania to be “relevant” to the modern world, liberal churchmen have succeeded only in making themselves totally irrelevant to real human beings with real trials and tribulations.

  17. Dustin F, OCDS says:

    Is Susan from the parish council related to Karen? She has to be Karen’s mom, right? Karen is the new Susan.

  18. AA Cunningham says:

    The article at he Herald is now behind a paywall but can be read at the following:

    National Survey Results: What We Learned About Latin Mass Attendees

    In addition, Father James Jackson FSSP, who is the Pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Littleton, Colorado, wrote the following back in May:

    “I was wondering what the figures were for the parish during the lockdown so far, and was quite surprised. The parish increased by about 18%. The offertory went up about 9%, not counting some very large gifts. Due to this growth, I’ve decided to get right on the project of extending the church and the replacement of the old pews. This will take a lot of work and time, but we need to start this now. That growth is remarkable. And it may continue.”

    Deo gratias

  19. michele421 says:

    From my time in the Charismatic Renewal, I have to agree with mysticalrose. Some charismatics might be drawn to the TLM, but for many it would be just too quiet. What about the beautiful Byzantine Rite as an alternative to the TLM? Beautiful and reverent, but a little more lively.

  20. iPadre says:

    I agree. The more one becomes infused with the true Spirit of the Liturgy, the Classical Roman Rite, the more everything changes. In the beginning it is difficult, but once you get over the hump there is no turning back. I see that with so many young families. I remember that moment so clearly. It was as if the Holy Spirit threw a switch in my soul, and I could see the TLM with new eyes.

  21. veritas vincit says:

    I would not bet the future of the Church just on the TLM. For us Catholics who grew up with or came into the Church with no exposure to it, there are significant barriers to entering into the Mass in the Extraordinary Form. Reform of the Ordinary Form, “saying the Black and doing the Red,” increased reverence, ditching sappy songs in favor of traditional hymns and even chant, facing the East and using altar rails and increased use of Latin in prayers, will go a long way. There are many Catholics of orthodox belief who would be attracted to a reverent NO liturgy who would be put off by the complexity and all-Latin of the TLM. A missal is optional to follow a NO with the readings and many prayers in the vernacular. Unless you are fluent in church Latin, a missal is a must for the TLM and a struggle (I learned that from attending a TLM so I speak from experience).

  22. Hidden One says:


    My recommendation for those charismatics is to add them to the schola (with appropriate training, of course). A sizable and capable schola will fill a Solemn High Mass or Missa cantata with plenty of beautiful sound… while also providing the newcomers extra opportunities for socializing and relationship-building in the parish hall or elsewhere after Holy Mass.

    Some people, when new to the EF, adjust most easily to the Low Mass. But I think the majority of charismatics probably adjust most easily to more elaborate liturgies with lots of incense.

    For some–not just charismatics–I think that Solemn Benediction is something of a liturgical gateway drug to more traditional forms of the public worship of Almighty God. Why? Smells, bells, unique and beautiful music, a clear focus (one might also say orientation), and it’s short, or at least ends on a high note.

  23. matt from az says:

    No, it’s the people who are there because the TLM is prettier than the NOM, not because it’s truer.


  24. matt from az says:

    Not true. Many of us old timers recommend to TLM newbies that they not use a missal for as long as they need to just get used to it. Using a missal makes it hard to experience the Mass, just as futzing around with your camera too much ruins a trip to the Grand Canyon.
    What generally happens with noobs at the TLM, if they choose to listen to us grouches, is they drop their missals an learn how to ‘just be’ at the TLM. They get used to the physical postures and gestures. They start singing along First with short and simple parts of the ordinary. Kyrie usually first or the Agnis Dei. The Asperges or Gloria. Finally they learn how to sing their parts of the credo, but that takes a while because it’s long and a bit complicated.
    All this with minimal contact with the missal.
    I tend to use the missal at home more than at mass as a preparation for mass. I read the propers and then I don’t feel obligated to “follow along” at Mass.
    The traditional mass is great when you can simply immerse yourself in it. Don’t be an egghead and try to actively participate or know what’s going on in every moment. Overthinking it or trying too hard can make it tedious and detracts from the mystery. Trying to actively participate in the TLM makes the short comingS of “active participation” obviously. It’s like trying to gain salvation through works alone. It just doesn’t work. You gotta let God do the heavy lifting and learn to go along for the ride. You ain’t the driver. That’s tough for moderns to understand.

  25. DeGaulle says:

    Where I am in Ireland, it’s not practicable to attend a Latin Mass. I would like to, but it’s not essentially for the Latin, I have to admit. To me, a NO Mass with the Roman Canon, ad orientem, communion on the tongue with altar rails, proper hymns or chant or else no singing at all, combined with an occasional fire & brimstone sermon would represent a great improvement. I think many priests are too timid to teach true doctrine now, lest they lose their congregation. They’re going to lose these people anyway, and this eventuality might encourage some of them to recommence telling those truths that are less pleasant.

    There are ongoing debates in our diocese about demographic change. The theme is that there will be a shortage of priests, but the laity can fill the gap, a prospect which horrifies me. However, I have a theory that there are enough priests-the decline in vocations is going to be matched to the decline in the number of Catholics. I suggested at our local consultation that the diocese should plan for ridding itself of all its horrible modern churches, keeping the old ones which will survive for much longer periods without expensive maintenance, but this wasn’t seen as relevant. They obviously still think the money’s going to keep coming in. I cannot see, without the punters, where they’re going to get the money, but I would be hopeful that a lack of it will tend to discourage the wrong kind of ‘vocation’.

  26. The Masked Chicken says:

    As far as Latin being an impediment to the TLM, just look at missals as Google Translate in analog :)

    While the TLM may, eventually, become the only Mass, it pains me to think of all of the souls who were baptized Catholic, but who never understood what that means. We don’t want to win this thing by attrition. We want to win by drawing people closer to the Church and the truths taught by the Church. Badly done ecumenism is like an infection that weakens the body and leaves it open for opportunistic attacks. Many people avoid the TLM, I suspect, because there is less room to exercise private judgments about things. It is the loss of a sense of an impersonal objective truth which is, possibly, keeping many people attached to anything from the post-1960’s era that gives them as much freedom as possible to assert their own ideas, whether the ideas make sense or not according to correct Catholic teaching (not that the TLM doesn’t have this, but such people stand out, more).
    Everyone should want all people, especially those who have been misled and are old (affected by the biological purging go come) to find the truth.
    Celebrate the TLM, but if one is not, at the same time, doing something to help spread the truth and correct error to the liberal faction, then one becomes as responsible for anyone who falls into the coming sinkhole as a street crew who could have acted to cover the hole, but didn’t.

    The Chicken

  27. adriennep says:

    No, veritas vincit. Catholics who did not grow up with TLM are MOST likely to be attracted to it by the very nature of mystery, and that includes youth and older converts. We can see perfectly well what has been hidden from us for decades, and we want that. And no, you do not need a Latin missal to follow TLM. Pre-Vatican II Catholics had no choice but to bring their own hand missals, or not. But most Catholics were sufficiently catechized to know what was going on during Mass. It ain’t rocket science. When we attend our local Latin Mass celebrated by a 29-year old, first-year diocesan priest, we often prefer to simply watch and experience the Mass without trying to follow words in a missal. That makes it easier to recognize parts of the Mass and really absorb Latin as well. And good people can and do read their missals outside of Mass, just for fun!

  28. Johann says:

    Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI predicted a smaller, poorer but more faithful Church as a Bishop decades ago. We are seeing that prophecy come true. All the CINO’s and SJW’s will leave the Church, leaving the Trads and old school Catholics to pick up the pieces and rebuild.

  29. PiusV says:

    This article is of fact, I see no one disputing the demographic numbers, and you will know them by their fruits, yes.
    So for the individuals who find it too hard to be disciplined in the Holy Faith, Q: what are your priorities? You do not owe me an explanation, but you do owe our Holy Lord an explanation of how you spend you time. Recall that two allures of protestantism from the demonic is the false lack of responsibility and the heresy of relativism. St. Pius V gave us the “Mass for all time” to work toward salvation, not for convenience or to be voted on.

  30. Ceile De says:

    I think all things being equal, you are right. But I also think the hierarchy will stop at nothing, nothing, to stop this trend. They will ban reception on the tongue, kneeling, ad orientem, chant, they will mandate women “deacons”, they may outright ban the TLM. In the worst case, they will just set a match to the whole place. Their whole lives have been devoted to destroying what they inherited: they are nothing if not committed to finishing the task. They’d rather no church than the old one. And, financially, they’d rather receive big government payouts than never mind how many widow’s mites. I have to say, I do not see a way out. And as for the barque, sure, I’ll stay on board, of course, but if the captain is not one of the pirates, he seems drunk in the wheelhouse, firing holes into the hull. As long as one TLM is said anywhere, these men cannot rest.

  31. Gregg the Obscure says:

    dumbfounded at the exceedingly high rates of approval of eugenics (a/k/a contraception), intergenerational genocide (abortion), and the unspeakable crime against nature in both groups.

  32. michele421 says:

    Hidden One, I’m afraid that my voice in a schola would have even Fr. Z thinking that the St. Louis Jesuits weren’t so bad after all. And no amount of training could ever help.

  33. moconnor says:

    I have to say I am not seeing the end of the NO that so many predict. All churches will shrink as more people convert to the religion of social justice, but there is a constant flow of young adults returning to the Church (in my observation) when they start a family. Also, you would think that Boomers would be the first to leave the Church, but they didn’t. Oh they have created some mischief, to be sure, but the on-the-ground ministries in the parishes are full of them and younger empty nesters. For all the piety I observe from my TLM associates, I don’t see the works of corporal mercy in nearly the numbers I see from the Karens at the local NO parish. These folks are poorly catechized, but there is nothing wrong with their devotion and Christian charity. The future will need them.

  34. matt from az says:

    What I mean by this, Father, is that some people attend the TLM because of aesthetics, not because of doctrine. I have had fellow parishioners who told me they don’t care about what the church teaches, the TLM is prettier than the new mass and that’s why they attend. They are an extremely small minority, as the survey shows, but they do exist.

  35. LiturgyGuy says:

    Here is our follow up survey just released last month and published at my Liturgy Guy site. This time we focused on the young adults attracted to the Traditional Mass:

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