One thing I always did like about Rush Limbaugh (whatever his weaknesses) was his famous slogan "We are winning!" While one may hope, for the sake of American society, that he is right and the political conservatives are winning, we also know that from the secular standpoint there are no such guarantees. Indeed, if anything, history has been most unkind to conservative moral republics, as there have been so very few of them, as opposed to so very many many harsh and tyrannical despotisms and amoral debauchees for emperors.
However, for us who belong to Christ the slogan is quite accurate and to the point since, as Dr. David Allen White once put it, "We know what the outcome will be; we've read the end of the book." Read the Biblical book of the Apocalypse (Protestants call it Revelation). We win, in the end. All who choose not to be with us lose, big time.
At times now, and especially for those of us not living near any of the numerous "hubs" of traditional Catholic activity around the world, being a traditional Catholic can seem quite a lonesome experience. Often we are the only one we know of in town, or at most only our immediate family. While everyone else in town seems to content themselves to sleep in, or go to work or the golf course or any of the variety of local "churches" on a typical Sunday morning, we pile into our car and drive the long distance to a chapel where the authentic Catholic Mass is said, often more than a hundred miles away.
Even more depressing are those times when various unfriendly media (Novus Ordo most commonly, but secular papers and news sources often unconsciously (and unconscionably) pick up and copy such sources without question) mentioning us traditional Catholics, if at all, as though we were some microscopic little sect or group or what have you, something just barely this side of extinct, e. g. "Lefebvrites" or "Lefebvrite movement."
Such hintings (and even worse, occasional "numbers" put forth to bolster that claim) are in fact quite erroneous. The goal is to minimize our importance by suggesting that we are so few as to be of no significance. Granted it does not help that in fact our numbers do in fact fall far short of what they were only a scant 50 years ago when everyone knew what a Catholic was and what Catholicism stood for, whether they agreed with it or not. But are we really so few as all that?
I say not, for there are far more of us than many realize. And we are growing, despite a great number of serious hindrances to our growth which I hope to get to in succeeding articles in this "The Way Back to the Mainstream" series. We traditional Catholics really ARE Christianity's Mainstream, always have been and always will be. It is we who define by our lives and beliefs just what Christ came to do and establish. We are the one lampstand standing in the darkness that is the secular and demonized world, the City which is built on the hill and on the Rock, the Pillar and Ground of the Truth (1 Timothy 3:15). We traditional Catholics, we alone, and no one else.
But first, let me point out that Christianity itself is not and never could be (until after the end of the world) general society's "mainstream." Even at our height of worldly power, in the High Middle Ages when being pope or bishop meant something in terms of even secular power, something even worth stealing or "simony"-ly buying if at all possible, that was only Europe, and not even all of Europe at that. Asia, Africa, China, Australia, and of course the entire both American continents knew little of Christianity, apart from the occasional missionary and some small group of converts in one land or another.
This is what Jesus was referring to when He stated that the gate is narrow and few there are who pass through it. There are far more through history who knew nothing of Christ (or cared nothing) than there are those who belong to Him, at least nominally. And of course even many of those who belong to Him nominally belong instead to their various sins instead. (And perhaps some scattered few, though knowing little or nothing of Christ, nevertheless dedicated themselves to seeking their Creator and living virtuously, observing Natural Law as written on their hearts, and clinging with all their strength to what little Truth as came their way, and so can also find God's mercy.)
However within the Church we know the rules and are given what we need to be able to follow them. We have but to inspect the state of our own soul (something done in preparation for making a good confession) to know what our eternal outcome would be if we died this instant. But what exactly is "the Church"? The word "Catholic" means Universal, and in this context means the greatest body claiming to be Christian. When doctrinal debates and questions were settled in the founding centuries of Christian history, it was always a matter of what the "Catholic" Church was determining, that is to say, the large body as a whole, a clear majority, not necessarily of those presently alive, but of all, including most notably sacred Scripture and the ancient Church Fathers.
Certainly over history this is true. At least ten times as many "Christians" have been Catholics than not, over the course of Christian history, and probably something more like twenty. In know that in Protestant America (or England or Sweden or Norway, etc.) it may seem like Protestantism is and has been much larger than Catholicism, or at least roughly on par, but as we know that is not typical for most of the world, and such nations are not in fact anywhere near the most populous.
At a time when the earth's population was finally passing the three billion mark, Catholics numbered nearly a full third of that, Protestants filling out the remainder of that third, and the other two thirds of the earth's population making no claims of being Christian in any sense of the word. And that goes for the vast bulk of history as well.
But not all. For just as there have been local places where the Church was in the minority (of what claims to be Christian), there have also been some few local times as well. The Arian Crisis was one of those times, when scarcely two soundly Catholic bishops could be found on the face of God's green earth. And while sentiment on the part of many lay persons may well have in some unconscious way favored the Athanasian Trinitarian belief, most went (or at least seemed to have went) with their Arian bishops who, after all, were supposedly the "duly and lawfully appointed shepherds of the Church." The whole world awoke, groaning to find itself Arian.
Obviously, we today are in another such time. So one main source of our "strength in numbers" will have to come from the fact that we traditional Catholics are the only ones in moral, doctrinal, and formal communion with all of those great saints of former eras (and also to come). We alone can truly lay claim to nearly 2,000 years of Christian history as we have been there from the time of Christ whereas all others arose later and have no historic authenticity.
Look in all the history books. We are there. That's us. We suffered and died under the pagan Roman persecutions; we joined Constantine when he realized that in the sign of the Cross he shall conquer; we drove the Arian heretic back to obscurity from obscurity ourselves; our popes crowned Emperor Charlemagne and all Christian Emperors. Our soldiers fought, prayed, and defeated the Muslim infidel at Lepanto; we sponsored the Crusades; we drove the anti-Christians out of Spain; we Christianized Europe and brought Christ to every part of the world. And today, we traditional Catholics are alone the lawful and rightful inheritors of that grand legacy. We, and no one else. It is something to be rightly and justly proud of, but also something to be humbly lived up to, despite our personal failings.
"And therefore we also having so great a cloud of witnesses over our head, laying aside every weight and sin which surrounds us, let us run by patience to the fight proposed to us" - Hebrews 12:1
Some years ago, a noted Catholic writer made an interesting point, in defense of the Catholic Faith as being that of Christ as against all other contestants. Obviously a few new heresies and groups have arisen since that original point was made, and so it must be updated to reflect that, however the point remains as true as ever. It was called:
How Old Is Your Church?
If you are a Lutheran, your denomination was founded by Martin Luther, an ex-monk of the Catholic Church, in the year 1517.
If you belong to the Church of England, your Anglican denomination was founded by King Henry VIII in the year 1534 because the Pope could not grant him an annulment from his true and lawful wife, Catherine of Aragon, with the right to re-marry.
If you are an Eastern Orthodox, your church was taken from the Catholic Church in 1054 when the Pope and an Eastern Patriarch excommunicated each other.
If you are a Presbyterian, your denomination was founded by John Knox in Scotland in the year 1560.
If you are a Protestant Episcopalian, your denomination was an offshoot of the Church of England founded by Samuel Seabury in the American colonies in the 17th century.
If your are a Congregationalist, your denomination was originated by Robert Browne in Holland in 1582.
If you are a Methodist, your denomination was launched by John and Charles Wesley in England in 1744.
If you are LDS or "Mormon" (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), Joseph Smith Jr. started your religion in Palmyra, NY, in 1829.
If you are a Baptist, you owe the tenets of your denomination to John Smyth, who launched it in Amsterdam in 1605.
If you are of the Dutch Reformed church, you recognize Michaelis Jones as founder, because he originated your denomination in New York in 1628.
If you worship with the Salvation Army, your sect began with William Booth in London in 1865.
If you are a Christian Scientist, you look to 1879 as the year in which your religion was born and to Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy as its founder.
If you are a follower of the Church of Scientology, your group owes its origin to L. Ron Hubbard in Washington D. C. in 1952.
If you are a Seventh Day Adventist, Mrs. Ellen Gould White inaugurated your group in the United States in 1860.
If you are a Jehovah's Witness, your religion was invented by "Pastor" Charles Taze Russell in 1874, incorporated 1881.
If you are a worshipper at the Iglesia ni Cristo, Felix Manalo instituted your sect in the Philippines in 1914.
If you call yourself a Mennonite, your movement was named after Menno Simons, a Catholic priest for 12 years, who left the Church to join the conservative Anabaptist wing.
The Amish, started by Jacob Amman around 1693, are just one of many different church bodies within the Mennonite community in the U.S.
If you are a believer at the Vineyard Christian Fellowship, your denomination was started by Ken Guillickson and Keith Green in Santa Monica, California in 1974.
If you are a member of Calvary Chapel, Chuck Smith began your congregation in Costa Mesa, California in 1975.
If you belong to one of the religious organizations known as "Church of the Nazarene", "Pentecostal Gospel", "Holiness Church", "Pilgrim Holiness Church", your denomination is one of the many thousands of new sects and religions founded by men within the past several hundred years.
If you are a Novus Ordo "Catholic," your church spun off the Roman Catholic Church as a result of the 1960's Robber Council, Vatican II.
If you are a Traditional Roman Catholic, you know that your Church was founded in the year 33 A.D. by Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
If you are Jewish, Abraham became the first Jew when God promised him: "I will make you a great nation...". Your religion was founded by God in the Jewish calendar year 2049 (1711 BC), over 3700 years ago. God revealed Himself to the Jews through the Prophets and promised to send a Messiah. Jesus Christ, a Jew from the House of David, came to this world as His only begotten Son in fulfillment of the scriptures.
Now, even in the present, there are more with us than some would deceive us into believing. Allow me to cite an example:
In the January-February 1994 Issue of The Latin Mass, figures were given for the diocese of Campos, who had recently received from the Church a new bishop by the name of Licinio Rangel, to succeed that diocese's last lawful bishop, Antonio de Castro-Meyer, whilst the doppelganger "church" replaced their company man Navarro with some unfortunate nonentity named Corso. In a table attached as a sidebar to the article, the following figures were given:
- Total population in the Diocese of Campos: 732,000
- Catholic [sic] lay people under the jurisdiction of the Diocese: 673,000
- Catholic [sic] priests [sic] in the Diocese of Campos, under the control of Bishop [sic] Joao Corso: 46
- Traditionalist Catholic priests in [the Diocese of] Campos, under the control of Bishop Licinio Rangel: 21
- Traditionalist Catholic lay people in Campos practicing their faith under Bishop Rangel and his priests (estimate): 40,000
To look at the numbers, 673,000 and 40,000, one would have to assume that even in that significant Catholic stronghold, authentic Catholics would seem to be a significant minority, barely one in 16. But one would be gravely wrong, indeed comparing "apples and oranges" as they say, as indeed is at least hinted at in the main text of the same article. That 40,000 was based on the average number of people who show up for Sunday Mass on a typical Sunday morning.
As to that 673,000, that is merely the number of people alive who had been baptized by the Novus Ordo (or by the Church before Navarro brought in his Novus Ordo cronies and took over the Diocese by violent force). Of that number, fully half would not, if interviewed, describe themselves as Catholics. They have become Assembly of God, Mormon, Foursquare Gospel, Brazilian Pentecostal, Jehovah's Witness, or all-out professed atheists. Even all of that 40,000, except for those baptized in the past five to ten years (what - about a thousand or so?), are dually counted in that other figure.
Then there is another solid third of that number who might still list themselves as "Catholic" if asked (for example when signing in as a patient at a hospital or for a national census taking), but who have not "wasted their time" doing anything religious in many years. For such folks as these, "God" and "Jesus" are words spoken only in anger, at such times as, for example, when one drops a bowling ball on one's foot.
Finally, there are those few who do actually attend the Novus Ordo service, even now, knowing what an utter fraud it is. Of these, most are seen only at weddings, funerals, Christmas, or Easter. A typical Sunday morning sees no more than about 8,000 or 10,000 at most, as opposed to the 40,000 plus routinely seen at traditional Catholic Masses. By that far more fair and honest appraisal, Catholics outnumber Novus ordoites better than 4 to 1.
Well, that was Campos, and since then events have changed so these numbers are at least ten years out of date. Since that time however, traditional Catholicism has only grown all the more in numbers, both from the cradle from large devout families, as well as those who stopped going to Church during the feuds and returned once a rather unusual truce was struck up between the Catholics and the Novus Ordoites (but doubtless minus some truly miniscule handful (dozens? hundreds?) who opposed that truce, and even most of them may have found a Catholic Mass elsewhere). But what about elsewhere?
Right now, even today, on a typical Sunday morning in France, there are more bottoms warming pews at traditional Latin Masses than there are warming the pews (or soft theatre chairs) of Novus Ordo services. Christmas, Easter, weddings, and funerals of course it still goes by far the other way, but again, see who is active, who it is that cares enough to go to Church in the first place on a regular and disciplined schedule. Sadly however, both combined would be seriously outnumbered by those who have devoutly attended Muslim services that previous Friday.
So how many are we, worldwide? About 2,000,000 attend SSPX or SSPX-like independent chapels. About a third of those however are seen there only once a month or alternate weeks or even less frequently, as distance and other hardships make the journey unfeasible on a weekly basis for many. Another almost a third of those endure those hardships and make the journey weekly even so, and the remainder live near enough to such a site as to be able to go regularly without undue effort. That is to say, that last more-than-a-third live in or near any one of the several great "hubs" of the SSPX, near a seminary, college, or major priory.
Though the Indult has far fewer priests than the SSPX (I would count a priest/presider who does equal numbers of Catholic Masses and Novus Ordo services as one-half of a Catholic priest), their Masses are as yet still far more widely attended than the Masses of the other groups. But the Indult has little presence outside the United States, Australia, and Europe. So it two has about 2,000,000 regular attendees. I ignore here the fact that some proportion of these Indult clerics may not be validly ordained, but I am going here by intent, which is to do the Catholic thing, rather than by result, which at times falls somewhat short of that ideal through no fault of those who do so.
Finally, the sedevacantist community, both those of the various orders as well as the independent sedevacantist priests taken together, would also number about 500,000, of which just over half are unable to make weekly Mass but nevertheless attend on a less frequent but regular basis.
Another 1,000,000 or so (this group would be the hardest to number) cannot or do not make Mass at all, due to hardship, distance, or canonically pessimistic attitudes which render them unable or unwilling to avail themselves of the Church's Sacraments. But these "home aloners" ought to count as they too hold out exclusively for the authentic Roman Catholic Mass, and do at least pray the Latin Mass prayers for the week each Sunday in their own homes or (rarely) in small groups.
Although the Eastern Rites are beginning to pass beyond the pale in being Novus ordoized, many Eastern Rite Catholics are still real authentic Catholics, true to the historic and authentic Magisterium, and as such a part of us as well, so that adds about 5,000,000 (probably more, but that "more" has been Novus ordoized and, as such, wouldn't count anyway).
So that makes fully 10,500,000 card-carrying traditionalist Catholics all around the world. And we have not even counted the doubtless far more in hiding in countries where the Underground Church is really and truly underground and therefore altogether undocumented. Places like China, Communist and "former" communist nations, Islamic nations, doubtless also have any number of true and practicing Catholics, who are certainly united to us in their sufferings and in their stand for Truth. Given what persecution does for growth of the Church and how every martyr becomes like a seed for many more ready to take his place, the number of real Catholics in these countries could total far more even than those already listed, though they may have little idea what is going on elsewhere, often unaware of even who their own leaders are locally, let alone the fact that their highest leadership rests in our traditional bishops, at the very least, in terms of moral authority. They suffer for what all our traditional clergy stand for, not for what the Novus Ordo presiders (and so forth on up) all fall for. Such could easily number some 35,000,000 or so, give or take 10,000,000.
Finally, there must be at least 45,000,000 or so (give or take 20,000,000) who, though misled into the Novus Ordo, nevertheless remain Catholic-at-heart, who would be with us in a flash if only they knew what we know. These are people who live by the Natural Law written on the hearts of all men by God, observe the precepts and fasts and calendar of the Church to the best of their knowledge and intent, who hanker for authentic tradition, merely tolerating that abuse known as Novus Ordoism due to a sincerely mistaken belief in some obligation to do so. Their loyalty, though tragically misplaced, is nevertheless meritorious, and I have no doubt that Providence will one day transfer it back to where it belongs.
So, far from being some few thousand miscreants who can be ignored by a world increasingly falling into sin and debauchery, we Traditional Catholics are a force to be reckoned with, truly a "sleeping giant." Given that we number anywhere from 60 to 120 million worldwide, how is it that the world has ignored us and brushed us and our moral concerns aside with so little effort? More importantly and directly to the point, what can we do to remedy this situation? Such is the theme of my "The Way Back to the Mainstream" series (to be interspersed with other articles). However, we can start right here by taking solace in what a grand throng we traditional Catholics comprise today, even at what is authentic Christianity's greatest nadir since the Arian crisis.
"And therefore we also having so great a cloud of witnesses over our head, laying aside every weight and sin which surrounds us, let us run by patience to the fight proposed to us" - Hebrews 12:1