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Friday, May 15, 2015

Is the SSPX Destroying the Faith?

After completing the analysis of the TLM on the loss of Catholic Faith reported by Pew, I decided to see how well the SSPX would stand up to the same analysis. I used the SSPX official website to determine how many chapels, priories and/or missions were in each state and ran the same analysis.

Here are the results. The TLM correlation coefficients are included in each section summary for comparison:

Region 2007 2014 Change SSPX chapels
Illinois Midwest 32 28 -4 1
Indiana Midwest 18 18 0 3
Iowa Midwest 25 18 -7 1
Kansas Midwest 23 18 -5 2
Michigan Midwest 23 18 -5 5
Minnesota Midwest 28 22 -6 7
Missouri Midwest 18 16 -2 4
Nebraska Midwest 31 23 -8 0
North Dakota Midwest    na 26    na 2
Ohio Midwest 21 18 -3 4
South Dakota Midwest    na 22    na 2
Wisconsin Midwest 29 25 -4 2
SSPX Midwest Correlation coefficient (r): 0.23497742473265
TLM Midwest Correlation coefficient (r): 0.16469292081087
TLM Close Correlation coefficient (r): 0.76024687859368
Connecticut Northeast 43 33 -10 2
Maine Northeast 29 21 -8 0
Massachusetts Northeast 43 34 -9 1
New Hampshire Northeast 29 26 -3 0
New Jersey Northeast 42 34 -8 1
New York Northeast 39 31 -8 9
Pennsylvania Northeast 29 24 -5 4
Rhode Island Northeast    na 42    na 0
Vermont Northeast    na 22    na 0
SSPX Northeast Correlation coefficient (r): -0.10998533626601
TLM Northeast Correlation coefficient (r): -0.12370036292696
TLM Close Correlation coefficient (r): -0.23331413131435
Alabama South 6 7 1 0
Arkansas South 5 8 3 1
DC South    na 20    na 0
Delaware South    na 22    na 0
Florida South 26 21 -5 6
Georgia South 12 9 -3 1
Kentucky South 14 10 -4 2
Louisiana South 28 26 -2 2
Maryland South 19 15 -4 0
Mississippi South 9 4 -5 0
North Carolina South 9 9 0 3
Oklahoma South 12 8 -4 2
South Carolina South 8 10 2 1
Tennessee South 7 6 -1 2
Texas South 24 23 -1 9
Virginia South 14 12 -2 3
West Virginia South 7 6 -1 1
SOUTH SOUTH 16 15 -1 33
SSPX Southern Correlation coefficient (r): -0.10397427484838
TLM Southern Correlation coefficient (r): -0.033749189489198
TLM Close Correlation coefficient (r): -0.23177400592773
Alaska West 14 16 2 1
Arizona West 25 21 -4 2
California West 31 28 -3 10
Colorado West 19 16 -3 2
Hawaii West 22 20 -2 2
Idaho West 18 10 -8 3
Montana West 23 17 -6 2
Nevada West 27 25 -2 2
New Mexico West 26 34 8 2
Oregon West 14 12 -2 3
Utah West 10 5 -5 0
Washington West 16 17 1 1
Wyoming West    na 14    na 0
WEST WEST 25 23 -2 30
SSPX Western Correlation coefficient (r): -0.1303215087856
TLM Western Correlation coefficient (r): -0.014625385914181
TLM Close Correlation coefficient (r): 0.6335175425702
SSPX Total Correlation coefficient (r): -0.07158996357425
TLM Total Correlation coefficient (r): -0.20800323012833
TLM Close Correlation coefficient (r): 0.064769205954515

As can be seen, the SSPX data generally confirms the TLM data. In the Northeast, establishing an SSPX chapel isn't much different than establishing a TLM parish. The good news for the SSPX: in the Midwest, establishing an SSPX chapel has a somewhat more positive influence than establishing a TLM parish does in regards to retaining Catholics. But the rest of the news is terrible.

In the South, establishing an SSPX chapel generates about three times the bad will a TLM parish generates. In the West, the SSPX generates ten times the bad will that a TLM parish generates.  Overall, the SSPX has almost no influence on the Catholic composition of the nation.

In no case did the effect of the SSPX outweigh the effect of closing TLM parishes in an established Catholic diocese. Closing a TLM parish in the Midwest or South tended to drive people somewhat further away from the Faith, closing a TLM parish in the Midwest or the West was overwhelmingly a positive move for the Faith.

Apparently, the Midwest initially likes the idea of the TLM (positive correlation with the presence of a TLM or SSPX Mass), but once they are actually exposed to it, the appeal palls and the removal of the TLM is greeted with superabundant joy. [Editor's note: I am from the Midwest, and that describes my reaction to a "T".]

Conversely, neither the Northeast nor the South are initially fond of the idea of the TLM, but once they have it, they like it enough to become disgusted and leave the Faith when the TLM is removed.

The West can't stand it.
At all.

So, there you have it.


Athelstane said...

Hello Steve,

The obvious objection - which I am sure you have considered - is that correlation is not causation.

Let me preface my remarks by making clear that I am not SSPX, nor have I ever attended one of their Masses, nor stepped foot in one of their chapels. When I attend Traditional Masses, it is always in an authorized Mass under the provisions of Summorum Pontificum. I find aspects of the SSPX position untenable.

But that said, one must be fair. There's a need to show just how the correlation here is causational. It would not be sufficient to show that the SSPX presence predated the decline of a diocese (and in any event, nearly every diocese is in marked decline anyway), but you have not done that either. And it's really quite striking that in all the surveys that have been done on this, by CARA or Pew or other groups, no one has ever identified "presence of TLM's" as a causal factor of any note for Catholics leaving the Church.

The more likely explanation is this: The SSPX finds unusually fertile ground in dioceses that are more heavily in the grip of progressive pathologies, especially if there are no licit TLM's on offer. It's a bit of an open secret in traditional quarters that many in the SSPX seem to prefer really bad bishops, because it's easier pickings for them. If you put in place an unusually tradition-friendly or even conservative bishop and regime, the lure of the Society is less powerful, and more limited to those whose issues with the Church go well beyond bad liturgy, bad music, or shoddy catechesis. In many places for many years, the SSPX was the only place where one *could* go to get any liturgy that was remotely traditional.

In any event, in my experience, it's hard to see the larger effect of traditional communities, even ones authorized under the motu proprio. They're completely off the radar for that vast majority of lay Catholics, and even many clergy. Time and again I've spoken with even very active Catholics in various dioceses who had no clue that traditional Masses existed, let alone entire priestly societies and parishes devoted to them. For these liturgies and these communities to exercise an adverse effect on diocesan health, let alone such a powerful one, there would have to be knowledge, at least, that the causal factor exists.

The only time where such an effect comes into being, in my experience, has been within a parish that begins offering such Masses publicly as part of its Mass schedule. At that point, it's harder to miss - if it's your parish. But even then, by and large, there's rarely frictions, especially if the pastor has taken pains to handle it well (and most are well aware of the dangers of having their copy book blotted by parishioner complaints at the chancery). I have made no study of this, but I am struck by the fact that the Diocese of Arlington, near where I live, has the largest number of regular diocesan TLM's (all in regular parishes, with no Ecclesia Dei societies or TLM personal parishes present) of any diocese in North America (1 in 5 parishes by my count), is also one of the healthiest by almost any measure. But there's hardly any other diocese, in any event, with anything like that level of TLM activity for everyday Catholics to have any awareness of.

For the vast majority of Catholics, it's just off the radar. And if they're drifting away from the Church, it's for very different reasons, at least if you believe what Pew and CARA's surveys say.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

True, correlation isn't causation.

So, as a traditionalist, you absolutely reject the idea that the fall in Mass attendance or vocations following VC II has anything to do with VC II or the Novus Ordo, right?

Because correlation isn't causation.

On the other hand, if you insist that it DOES apply to VC II, then exactly the same case can now be made about the TLM.

Pick one.

Jordanes551 said...

Yes, you're right -- because everyone knows that a colossal, unprecedented church-wide event affecting every aspect of Catholic practice and discipline and changing the Church's evangelistic and ecumenical approach couldn't possibly have any adverse effect on the Church, whereas the appearance and disappearance of a few Masses in the traditional Roman Rite attended by a few hundred people here and there is obviously the primary, nay the only thing influencing U.S. Catholics to apostasise or defect by the millions.

Keep on playing with numbers all you like -- you still haven't come within a million miles of proving your blasphemous contention that a small number of Catholics worshipping God in accordance with the age-old rites of the Church is what has been causing Catholics to choose not to worship God any more.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

I'm not contending, I am pointing out correlations. You don't like the correlations. Your emotions do not change the math.

Athelstane said...

Hello Steve,

I'm really wondering whether you're being sincere with this argument, or simply trying to make a point by way of analogy about the difficulty in attributing mass defections from the Church to Vatican II and the New Mass in the way that many traditionalists do. Be that as it may, back to your question:

So, as a traditionalist, you absolutely reject the idea that the fall in Mass attendance or vocations following VC II has anything to do with VC II or the Novus Ordo, right?

Vatican II, it strikes me, is almost beside the point; for that matter, even the 1970 missal itself may have limited value here, too. What we do know is that in the decade following 1964 (when Inter Oecumenici was issued), the lived reality of Catholic life was radically changed throughout the Church. The Mass changed radically in how it was experienced (call the bad aspects mere abuses, if you wish); devotional life as it had been experienced largely cratered; religious orders abandoned habits and communal life (or their orders entirely) in droves; Baltimore Catechisms were abandoned in favor of new catechesis tools; churches were renovated in new ways; the list goes on. What it amounted to was a kind of revolution, and that revolution was near universal, especially in the West. When we see massive dropoffs in almost every measurable category beginning around the mid-60's, it's not implausible to wonder if the revolution (whatever its genesis) has a direct connection with the statistical decline and even collapse of participation in these same regions.

As we both seem to agree, correlation is not causation. There needs to be an additional step of making a connection. There are loads of surveys that have been done on this question, as you know. Most have their limits, relying on leavers to be accurate about their motives post hoc.

Let's look at the Pew Forum survey from 2009 (link: ). The only time the Latin Mass is mentioned as a reason (8% of leavers) is because of its LOSS, not its presence. 26% of converts to Protestantism mention the atmosphere at worship, but there's no clarification about what that means. In the end, Pew seems to reflect what other surveys show: most defectors give as their main reasons some variation 1) that their spiritual needs were not being met, or 2) they could not abide the Church's sexual teachings, including the exclusion of women from the priesthood. How these issues connect with the revolution of 1964-74 still has to be unpacked, but there's certainly not a whiff of any connection with the presence of the TLM, so utterly marginal if indeed nonexistent in the Church these past fifty years - save among those who left because of its loss.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Athelstane, I don't really care what people SAY is the reason for what they did or did not do.

I just ran the numbers and showed a correlation. That's it.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Jordanes, if you think the number of TLMs offered in a diocese is relevant, that is, if you want to argue that a single Mass is not infinite in its effects, feel free.

I will watch with great interest, as traditionalists don't usually make that argument.

Athelstane said...

Hello Steve,

Let's cut to the chase: How does X cause Y? How does the presence of the TLM - or the SSPX - degrade the retention of Catholics in a diocese?

How does this causal relationship work?

Steve Kellmeyer said...

You should also ask me if I've stopped beating my wife - a "yes" or "no" answer should really suffice, correct?

You changed the wording and then attributed the new wording to me.

I don't know how or even if X causes Y. All I know is that X correlates with Y.

In this case, given all the data I have, I know that the use of the TLM correlates with a downturn in Catholic identity and conversion.

As to the causes of why people want the TLM or why it might correlate with the downturn in Catholicity, I don't know.

Jordanes551 said...

"If you think the number of TLMs offered in a diocese is relevant, that is, if you want to argue that a single Mass is not infinite in its effects, feel free."

You either do not understand or believe what the Church says about the efficacy of Holy Mass (regardless of rite) or else you're playing games. Do you really wish to argue that all it takes to cause everything on the planet to instantaneously convert to Catholicism today is the celebration of just one Mass?

The Church believes Christ's death is infinite in its effects, just as Holy Mass is (for it is one and the same sacrifice). Why, then, did not every Jew and Gentile on earth convert within a matters or days or week or just a few years of Christ's death and resurrection? Do you wish to argue that Christ's sacrifice is not infinite in its effects? Well then, if the absence of immediate results being made manifest in this world doesn't mean Our Lord's death is not of infinite effect, why do you think the fact that it takes time for the leaven to work its way through the dough conflicts with the fact that a single Mass is of infinite effect?

"I don't know how or even if X causes Y."

Then you shouldn't argue or even suggest that X causes Y.

Jordanes551 said...

"I'm not contending, I am pointing out correlations."

You're pointing out correlations because you're contending. If you weren't contending, you wouldn't have wasted so much time finding correlations that don't prove anything.

"You don't like the correlations. Your emotions do not change the math."

Nice try. I couldn't care less about the correlations, which even you now admit prove nothing. It's only your contentions that are of concern to me.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

I don't know if X *CAUSES* Y, but I DO know that the TLM *CORRELATES* with the loss of the Faith.

Patty said...

....the title of those post is absurd. What it should read is, "Is Providing Catholics with Access to what the Catholic Faith teaches in practice encouraging them to depart in droves from a practice that is not Catholic now offered at the majority of Catholic Churches."

This grasp at the ludicrous is just another nail in the coffin of the "New Springtime" which came and went in a frigid ice storm.

Patty said...

....the title of this post is absurd. What it should read is, "Is Providing Catholics with Access to what the Catholic Faith teaches in practice encouraging them to depart in droves from a practice that is not Catholic now offered at the majority of Catholic Churches."

This grasp at the ludicrous is just another nail in the coffin of the "New Springtime" which came and went in a frigid ice storm.