The number of Catholics attending pre-Vatican II Latin Masses roughly make up the size of two average French Catholic dioceses, writes Fr. Claude Barthe in the Fall issue of the conservative French quarterly Catholica.
At a time when there are rumors that the use of the Latin or Tridentine liturgy may soon become widely authorized by Rome for those priests who want it, it is of some interest to get reliable statistical data regarding a country which remains one of the main centers of Roman Catholic traditionalism.
There are about 300 places in France where the Tridentine Mass is said every Sunday, and some 400 priests use it. Approximately 190 places of worship belong to the Society St. Pius X (i.e. the followers of the late Archbishop Lefebvre), and about 120 are authorized by local French Catholic bishops, according to provisions made by the Ecclesia Dei Commission for those faithful who wanted to remain in communion with Rome. On average, they are significantly younger than the average “mainline” Catholic priests in the country.
Consecrations of priests in the Tridentine rite currently accounts for about 10 percent of all priestly consecrations in France. This is not surprising if one considers that the Traditional Catholic milieu tends to appeal to very devout families. Out of 61 million inhabitants, there are 2.9 million practicing Catholics in France today. According the best estimates, Traditionalist Catholics make 2 percent of the whole population of practicing Roman Catholics in France.
The Society St. Pius X has about 25,000 faithful attending its Masses every Sunday on French territory, and there are probably more people in the so-called “Ecclesia Dei” places of worship. Fr. Barthe writes that, if the use of the Tridentine rite would be liberalized, one could expect the percentage to reach as much as 5 percent of practicing French Roman Catholics. — By Jean-Francois Mayer
(Catholica, 42 rue Dareau, 75014 Paris, France)