[Note: This is the second in a series of articles. A proper understanding of the author's intent presumes a reading of the series as a whole. This would include the prelude, which can be found here.]
For those who experience difficulties in having the Traditional Mass celebrated in their locality -- the inclinations of church authorities notwithstanding -- much of that which they encounter may be strictly practical.
It is no secret that many parts of the country face a shortage of priests. We can safely assume that those available have more than enough to do. A return to Catholic tradition, including collective certainty of Her teachings, may alleviate that eventually, but not immediately. In the meantime, the sentiments of one devoted pastor in rural Ohio are neither insincere nor unusual: "I'm already in charge of three parishes, and they expect me to learn the Latin Mass?" In addition to the realities of supply, there are those of demand. Elsewhere in the Buckeye State is Cincinnati, where I was raised. We will use this jurisdiction as a case in point.
The Archdiocese of Cincinnati has an estimated 500,000 baptized Catholics. They are spread out over an area in the southwestern portion of Ohio that comprises nineteen counties. The territory is over fifty miles in length running east to west, and over one hundred miles running north to south. Sitting roughly in the middle is the city of Dayton, where a priest of the Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP) offers the Traditional Mass every day of the week -- at convenient times, and in one location.
Hold that thought.
Of the half million baptized Catholics, let us suppose (for want of a better method) that ONE percent of them would drive for up to an hour to attend the Traditional Mass. That gives us a total of 5,000. However dedicated, they are nonetheless very small in number relative to the whole. With a central location devoted to them on a daily basis, and a second one in another high-population area for Sundays, one would ask if they are adequately served. Five thousand souls produces more than enough for two good-sized parishes. You would think that the number alone would justify making it available in more locations, wouldn't you?
To answer that question poses another: how is either meeting the demand? Well, this writer did a little homework. The Holy Rosary Latin Mass Community in Dayton has about two hundred attendees on average, and the church building they use is about one-third full. Sacred Heart Church in Cincinnati has about three hundred attendees on average for its Traditional Mass, and it is about half full. That would put the number at about five hundred, or ONE TENTH of one percent of the faithful. Both locations are served by the same priest, and both begin before noon. If the attendance were merely to double or to triple, you might have a good case for expansion, ergo the support of another priest. But for whatever reason, it has not, so...
Our discussion also begs the question, as to whether is it reasonable in the first place, to expect people to drive for up to an hour to attend the Traditional Mass. An answer to that question can be aided with some perspective. For Catholics of the Eastern Rites (who make up roughly TWO percent of the Catholic population in the USA), unless they live in either the northeastern states, specifically in blue-collar cities like Chicago or Detroit, such a weekly trek is not at all unusual. Such was the case at the Byzantine Rite parish I attended for many years, when roughly three hundred families in the parish (compared to the five thousand mentioned above) would travel for up to an hour to attend Divine Liturgy.
We can expect a chilly reception from local church officials, for the return of the Traditional Mass to such a locale. This writer has had occasion to encounter them over the years. They are at times disingenuous, if not altogether dishonest. And yet, in spite of many accounts of institutional connivance which our readers are all too happy to share, attempts to hire goons to physically block the faithful from attending either location for Sunday Mass have yet to be reported. This means that stories of "persecution" may be a bit exaggerated. Especially if no one is drawn and quartered.
In a 1983 interview with The Wanderer, the late Silvio Cardinal Oddi said that the Traditional Mass would be restored when people wanted it badly enough. (He said that. I did not.) Perhaps it will ultimately be when ENOUGH people want it badly enough. (Okay, I said that.) There will also need to be priests to celebrate it. That there may be fewer than are needed, and the reasons why, is the subject of the next essay in this series.