I think that the role of the Extraordinary form of the Mass in the future church in Queensland will be determined by a number of sociological factors happening in the church and wider society. Some of my forecasts and comments on the future church are as follows:
- the Catholic Church will continue to be the only voice of Christianity in the future as the large protestant denominations continue to decline and small growing churches (eg. the pentecostals) reach their ceiling for potential members. The reason I say this on the latter point is that the "fundamentalist" nature of these churches do repel most Australians. They only satisfy some people in certain circumstances.
- In terms of numbers attending Mass on Sunday will plummet when the pre-Vatican II generation, who were conditioned to compulsory attendance at Mass, die off. This includes the "silent" generation and the early baby-boomers. As the temporal activities of the Church expand (ie. schools and hospitals and other social services), the sacramental nature of the Church will continue to decline
- This will be exacerbated by the collapse in the priesthood which on current trends will start to happen after 2011, when the priests from the big seminary days (the Vatican II generation) retire. (It needs to be mentioned that the Brisbane seminary is the smallest of the seminaries in Australia and the only one not growing when the Nigerian seminarians are taken out of the picture).
- The ethnic mix of the active church will change as the Irish-Australian component declines out of the church and migrants from Asia, Eastern Europe and South America, restructure the ethnic mix. The new migrants are committed and orthodox compared to the Irish-Australians. Liberalism will be in decline.
The trend is that the future church in Queensland will be smaller, but will move to a more orthodox and evangelical makeup, due to the ethnic mix and as it comes up against more competition in ideas from the secular world.
All of this makes for what I think will be a positive and fertile ground for the use of the Extraordinary form of the Roman Rite as the future "market" becomes more receptive to its use and find it "useful" for their spirituality.
The biggest challenge is the number of priests. Today in the local church there are hardly any priests who can celebrate the Extraordinary form (and many struggle to celebrate the Ordinary form properly), or who are interested. New priests will need to be found. Given a future where the local seminary may produce an Ordinary form priest once every two years, the reliance on the religious orders and Classical rite communities will be even greater. Again the balance will change with older tired priests being tied to the ordinary form (both in practice and ideology)and younger more enthusiastic priests celebrating in either form or both.
The other question is how the Extraordinary form may exist in a pastoral sense. Personally I feel that other archdioceses have shown the way on this. First, the extraordinary form gets celebrated temporarily in a "borrowed" parish church on an occassional basis. Then as the numbers build up and permanent priests appear, a permanent parish gets established celebrating all the sacraments in the extraordinary form exclusively (eg. St Aloysius or Maternal Heart). The impact post MP, might be that there may be 2 or 3 such parishes in one diocese with these parishes outreaching to other parts of the Diocese. I cannot see a majority of parishes wanting to do both the ordinary and the extraordinary form in one weekend, people will just like to stick with the ordinary form in most cases.
For another example the extraordinary form may exist within the Roman Church similar to Anglo-Catholicism existing within the Anglican Communion. Some parishes in a Diocese may consider themselves as Anglo-Catholic but exist beside more mainstream anglicanism or even evangelicals.
My dream is that Brisbane gets permanent parishes for the Extraordinary form to be celebrated exclusively, not only in the inner city but also the Gold and Sunshine coasts, with priests (both trained by the Archdiocese and by others) roaming to celebrate in the extraordinary form, in more outlying regions wherever communities ask for it. However, it must be kept in mind that it will always be a small proportion of the churchgoing population who want to attend on a regular basis. This said, the numbers of Catholics who want to dip in and try it out is underestimated by the hierarchy. The fact is that it is now an active part of the life of the Church.
Any comments about these scenarios?