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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Is The TLM Destroying The Faith?

Pew Research has come out with its latest numbers on the state of the Catholic Faith (and other faiths) in the United States. The numbers are not pretty (they also may not be reliable: see here). Catholics have dropped three full percentage points between 2007 and 2014.

Now, some websites have attributed this failure to "FrancisChurch" and the "erroneous" doctrine promoted by John Paul II's New Evangelization. But, there is another way to look at this data.

After all, Summorum Pontificum, the letter which made clear that priests were free to use the Roman Missal to celebrate Mass, was released in July, 2007 and became effective on the Triumph of the Cross, September 14, 2007.  So, the Pew numbers are actually tailor-made to take a quick look at how well the Traditional Latin Mass has helped bring people into the Church.

This is especially true given that not every area of the country lost Catholics. Two states, Indiana and North Carolina, experienced no net change in Catholic population (highlighted in yellow in the chart below). Five states, Alabama, Arkansas, South Carolina, New Mexico and Washington, actually had net gains in Catholic population percentages since 2007 (highlighted in green in the chart below).

So, if the TLM was changing hearts and minds, if it was bringing people to the Faith or to deeper Faith, we would expect to see states with high numbers of TLM parishes experiencing a renewal of Faith, while those states with few or no TLM parishes experiencing net losses in Catholic population percentages.

Sadly, the Pew data doesn't break down the Catholic population changes on a diocesan level, but merely on a state level. Still, that should be granular enough to show at least some effect. I used a popular TLM website to determine how many TLM parishes were in each state. The site indicated that some of the parishes listed no longer offered the TLM, but did not indicate in what year the TLM ended.

As a result, I used the most conservative measure I could to favor the TLM parishes - even if a parish discontinued the use of the TLM (and many did), I counted it as being active during the full seven-year period of this study.

Why? Well, due to the inherently attractive nature of the TLM, I assumed no TLM parish would have shut down due to lack of interest. Undoubtedly, the bishops who shut down the TLM Mass offerings in these parishes did so only because they couldn't stand the tremendous competition the TLM parishes offered to the spiritually inferior Novus Ordo Mass. Besides, the TLM is so powerful that even a little of that marvelous Tridentine grace should go a long way, right? Thus, we can safely assume that if the TLM was offered in the diocese for even a short time, that glow would continue to reverberate through the diocese for a while after (whether SSPX parishes have this effect would constitute a separate study).

So, that having been said, let's look at the numbers. The 2007, 2014 and Change columns are expressed in percentages, the # of TLM Parishes/State is the raw number of parishes offering the Latin Mass in each state.

The correlation coefficient at the end of each section is a number between 0 and 1 (or -1) that expresses the effect the TLM has on the state.

A positive number indicates the presence of the TLM correlates with more people being attracted to the Catholic Faith in the region, a negative number indicates the presence of the TLM correlates with people being driven away from the Faith in that region. The bigger the number, the bigger the effect. Negative numbers are given in red.

Region 2007 2014 Change # TLM
# of TLM Ended % TLM ended
Illinois Midwest 32 28 -4 25 3 12
Indiana Midwest 18 18 0 9 2 22
Iowa Midwest 25 18 -7 7 0 0
Kansas Midwest 23 18 -5 7 0 0
Michigan Midwest 23 18 -5 22 1 5
Minnesota Midwest 28 22 -6 18 1 6
Missouri Midwest 18 16 -2 10 1 10
Nebraska Midwest 31 23 -8 3 0 0
North Dakota Midwest    na 26    na 3 1 33
Ohio Midwest 21 18 -3 14 0 0
South Dakota Midwest    na 22    na 5 0 0
Wisconsin Midwest 29 25 -4 20 1 5
MIDWEST MIDWEST 24 21 -3 143 10 7
Midwest Correlation coefficient (r): 0.16469292081087
TLM Close Correlation coefficient (r): 0.76024687859368
Connecticut Northeast 43 33 -10 12 1 8
Maine Northeast 29 21 -8 2 0 0
Massachusetts Northeast 43 34 -9 20 4 20
New Hampshire Northeast 29 26 -3 5 0 0
New Jersey Northeast 42 34 -8 18 1 6
New York Northeast 39 31 -8 38 4 11
Pennsylvania Northeast 29 24 -5 28 5 18
Rhode Island Northeast    na 42    na 6 1 17
Vermont Northeast    na 22    na 2 1 50
NORTHEAST NORTHEAST 37 30 -7 131 17 13
Northeast Correlation coefficient (r): -0.12370036292696
TLM Close Correlation coefficient (r): -0.23331413131435
Maryland South 19 15 -4 5 1 20
Delaware South    na 22    na 3 0 0
Alabama South 6 7 1 4 0 0
Arkansas South 5 8 3 6 0 0
DC South    na 20    na 1 0 0
Florida South 26 21 -5 19 1 5
Georgia South 12 9 -3 3 0 0
Kentucky South 14 10 -4 7 0 0
Louisiana South 28 26 -2 17 2 12
Mississippi South 9 4 -5 1 1 100
North Carolina South 9 9 0 12 1 8
Oklahoma South 12 8 -4 4 0 0
South Carolina South 8 10 2 5 2 40
Tennessee South 7 6 -1 8 0 0
Texas South 24 23 -1 24 1 4
Virginia South 14 12 -2 19 0 0
West Virginia South 7 6 -1 6 1 17
SOUTH SOUTH 16 15 -1 144 10 7
Southern Correlation coefficient (r): -0.033749189489198
TLM Close Correlation coefficient (r): -0.23177400592773
Alaska West 14 16 2 3 0 0
Arizona West 25 21 -4 7 0 0
California West 31 28 -3 55 8 15
Colorado West 19 16 -3 6 0 0
Hawaii West 22 20 -2 3 0 0
Idaho West 18 10 -8 1 0 0
Montana West 23 17 -6 2 0 0
Nevada West 27 25 -2 3 0 0
New Mexico West 26 34 8 4 1 25
Oregon West 14 12 -2 6 0 0
Utah West 10 5 -5 2 0 0
Washington West 16 17 1 11 0 0
Wyoming West    na 14    na 3 0 0
WEST WEST 25 23 -2 106 9 8
Western Correlation coefficient (r): -0.014625385914181
TLM Close Correlation coefficient (r): 0.6335175425702
Total Correlation coefficient (r): -0.20800323012833
TLM Close Correlation coefficient (r): 0.064769205954515


Well, that's rather disappointing, isn't it? Only the Midwest region showed the TLM having a positive impact. In every other region, the TLM actually seems to correlate to a negative impact on the Catholic Faith. For the nation as a whole, the use of the TLM is associated with the loss of Catholic Faith.

The correspondence is actually worse than the numbers indicate because New Mexico has an outlier condition which is not reflected in the chart. New Mexico is home to the Las Cruces diocese, which had absolutely no TLM recorded as being offered in the diocese at all. That's right - one-third of the state was apparently completely lacking in Latin Masses during the survey period. Yet that same state experienced an 8 percentage point increase in Catholic population, the largest increase in the nation.

Similarly, North Dakota's Bismarck diocese had nothing in it, and Mississippi's only diocese closed down the only Traditional Latin Mass it had. We don't have a 2007 for North Dakota, so we don't know how that closure affected the state's Catholics, but Mississippi experienced a 5% loss in that seven year interval. Was Mississippi's loss due to the opening or the closing of the TLM Mass?

Well, again, look at the correlation coefficients.

In the Midwest, closing a TLM parish actually increased the probability that the percentage of Catholics would increase, and by quite a large margin. 0.76 is a great correlation.

In the Northeast, opening TLM parishes dropped the Faith, but closing the TLM parish dropped it twice as much. This is the only area that shows withdrawing the TLM as having a worse effect than making it available.

In the South, the opening a TLM parish was bad, but closing it was seven times worse.
In the West, opening a TLM parish dropped the percentage of Catholics, while closing the TLM parishes actually increased the probability that Catholics would retain their Faith.

For the nation as a whole, there is very little positive or negative effect created by closing a TLM parish.

So, can we conclude that the use of the TLM is a net positive for American Catholics?
Well, further, more granular study could certainly be done. But given the numbers in this first pass through the Pew data, it's hard to see how that conclusion could be drawn.

I did a similar analysis of SSPX parishes which tends to confirm the effects found with the TLM parishes. Interestingly, from a national perspective, the existence or absence of an SSPX parish has essentially no effect on overall Catholic identity - an absence that would be expected, given that the dioceses are likely to at least report somewhat favorably on a TLM in communion with the local bishop, but would remain totally silent about TLMs not offered in communion with the bishop.

For those who wish to argue that the TLM is producing vocations, don't forget this article or this one. And why might the TLM be destroying the Faith? How dare you ask? 


S said...

So, can we conclude that the use of the TLM is a net positive for American Catholics?

Duh - can we conclude that Mass is a net positive?


Flambeaux said...

Well played, good sir. :D
An interesting analysis guaranteed to tweak a few noses.

Ann said...

I don't know if it can be concluded that the TLM is a positive or negative influence on the Faith. There are many reasons a parish would close, not the least of which is the local Bishop doesn't want it there. But, I never thought the TLM would bring more non-Catholics into the Faith. I always thought of it as an alternative to the Novus Ordo for current Catholics. I would think it would be more attractive to current Catholics who are not happy with the way the Novus Ordo is celebrated and so they switch to a TLM parish. That would not be a net gain or loss in Catholic population. I think it is a stretch to think a non-Catholic who has had no experience with ritualized liturgy would be attracted to the TLM. There are many people who think it is an either/or for the TLM and the Novus Ordo. I don't feel that way. I can appreciate the positives for both, when they are both celebrated correctly. I think the reason we are losing Catholics is poor catechesis and leadership within the Church. A watered down Catholicism is not attractive to anyone, but then neither is a rigid and judgmental one. And, some of the TLM people I know fall into the latter category.

S. Armaticus said...

They say that figures are like slaves, one can always beat the truth out of them.

And seeing as we are beating...

Here is something to consider. Benedict ascended to the Petrine throne in 2005 and the Summorum Pontificum was promolgated in 2007. Therefore, the first year that Benedict/SP could influence vocations would be the 2006/2007 academic year. Given that the average priest takes 7 to 8 years to produce, this would mean that this year we can see if there is a Benedict/SP effect.

And guess what? There is a whopping 24% increase in ordinations.

Summa summarum, it is more important for the Church to produce priests since priests evangelize, while no priests equal death.

The kind of death that those progressive mainline protestant denominations are experiencing who took a bigger hit than the Catholic Church did during the same sample period.

Froben said...

As with the whole American Church at one point, New Mexico is on a significantly porous Catholic border. The rise or fall of self-reported numbers of Catholics likely has little or nothing to do with the presence or absence of Traditional Latin Masses in the area.

Or, if you like, you could assume that those dioceses in which the TLM is offered are more ecclesiastically conservative (notice how I didn't say orthodox; please do not pretend I did) dioceses, with higher concentrations of faithful who are sensitive to whatever vaguely liberal intimations "FrancisChurch" is thought to represent. In which case, sad as it might be to contemplate, the decline in Catholics in those areas during the Franciscan pontificate may well be exactly what you have set out to prove it isn't: a reaction to Pope Francis.

On the other hand, the question of what renewal looks like is an interesting one as well. You introduced simultaneously _two_ criteria for measuring this, 1) more people to 2) deeper faith. The second is actually unobservable.

However, as familiar as I am working in the humdrum of on-the-street Catholicism (I am a full time employee of a large Archdiocese), orthodoxy is hardly a prerequisite for self-reported Catholicism.

At the same time, Catholics are inherently traditional creatures who gravitate towards whatever they think is normal. In the past 50 years (well, really 112 years), we have, liturgically at least, systematically eviscerated any commonly-held idea of normalcy or propriety. What anyone thinks is normal, or right, is anyone else's guess, and their reaction to it unpredictable. So, when the bishop tells people whose grandparents would blush at the idea of holding hands during Mass that they are no longer permitted to do so during the Our Father, in return to rubric and ancient custom, they may paint him in dark tones and, resenting his authoritarian ways. But some small number of people in that same place, silently pressured into that gesture against their will, may nonetheless be consoled. And the aggregate, neither resenting nor leaving, may warm up to the new-old way after time.

In fine, these numbers are meaningless both in terms of measuring (in the long term) the alleged effects of the TLM on attendance, and fervency is immeasurable. From my own standpoint, which is not rigorist, the TLM communities, the more solidly they are integrated into normal Catholic life, will help restore a much-needed and long-lost sense of rootedness and normalcy that transcends recent innovation and personal whim, which will hopefully bring about a greater sense of stability in Catholic life. Also, having English Masses and TLMs that get along means we all get to grow in charity and respect legitimate variety.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

If all we had was a correlation to the opening of TLM parishes, what you say might be correct.

But we also have a correlation to the closing of TLM parishes.

In the West, for instance, opening TLM is detrimental to Catholic self-identification, closing TLM boosts it. Looks like a light switch.

Jordanes551 said...

This is all nothing more than a massive Post Bull Hockey Ergo Propter Bull Hockey fallacy. It would never occur to someone with a sensus catholicus that the Church's rare and neglected liturgical treasures are to blame for the decades-old dying of the U.S. Catholic Church that has accelerated in the past few years. It's blasphemous even to suggest such a thing.

Now, you know full well that correlation does not prove causation -- you've said it many times yourself. Yet you still knowingly churn out horse hockey like this.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Facts aren't blasphemous, neither are numbers. I didn't draw conclusions, just pointed out correlations.

When the TLM Mass is regularly offered in certain areas of the country, Catholic self-identification drops. When that same TLM Mass is withdrawn, Catholic self-identification rises.

That's life in these United States.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Furthermore, it seems to me that trads have long held up the post hoc argument about falling vocations and Mass attendance after VC II as if it were a conclusion.

So, are we only to entertain post hoc when it suits the trads, and 86 it when it burns them? Hmmmm....

Proteios1 said...

I don't see this as having ANY value as the questions that arise point out so many WRONG assumptions and leaves far too many unanswered questions. Lets begin:
1. The number of TLM churches doesn't mean they converted all those people. So drilling down to determine which parishes converted how many people (numbers the Church has) would actually answer the question.
2. #1 would tell us the numbers for both types of masses. Therefore, a comparison could actually be made. Rather than a one0sided comparison with great data that doesn't distinguish source.
This reminds me of the sex research of Kinsey. How many men have had sex outside marriage was interpreted as infidelity in marriage. Except he never broke apart those men who had sex before marriage from those who had sex while married. A rather important distinction that would and did make the data tell us the absolute wrong thing. Bad decisions come from bad data.

So before anyone takes an angle, I think both masses are great. I made the mistake of being fascinated by this question and was disappointed in the data gathering and analytical methods as they reach questionable conclusions.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

I didn't make any assumptions.
I just ran some numbers.

If you have the numbers for parish-by-parish conversion, I would love to see them. I can't run numbers I don't have. I can only run the numbers I do have.

The numbers I do have show a correlation, in almost every instance, between the (1) use of the TLM and (2) a drop in Catholic identity and conversion to the Catholic Faith.

Anton said...

The correlations are not significant. For TLM closing in the Midwest, the coefficient of correlation (r) is actually 0.50 when you drop the N/A states, having a coefficient of determination (r^2) of 0.25: TLM closing explains 25% of the variation. (r) for TLM closing in the West is due entirely to California, an outlier. Neither of these results support the conclusion. The greatest coefficient of determination for TLM parishes or TLM parishes closing as a predictor of Catholic exodus is 0.05, explaining 5% of the variation. Notwithstanding the survey error drowns most of the affiliation changes by state.