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ROME (ChurchMilitant) - The rise of Catholic traditionalism in Latin America, rooted in the Latin Mass, is rapidly reversing the long march of progressivism and Protestantism.
"We see that traditionally oriented churches and seminaries are increasingly full, especially with young people, while those of progressive orientation, increasingly empty," Juan Migel Montes, director of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP), Rome, told Church Militant.
"Catholic traditionalism is back in fashion," an upbeat Montes said. "This explains the defeat the Left is suffering in ballot boxes everywhere as the social, political and cultural realities linked to a traditional idea of Catholicism are multiplying everywhere."
"In Rome, as in the main South American dioceses of Rio, São Paolo, Buenos Aires, Bogota, Lima and Santiago, Masses in the Vetus Ordo [Old Rite] are mushrooming," he said. "They are teeming with boys and girls and young families. They do not come across to me as sour people or, according to a certain caricature." Montes was alluding to Pope Francis' Christmas address to the Curia, in which many believed he decried traditionalist Catholics as "rigid" and "unbalanced."
"On the contrary, I see them as very enthusiastic and very eager to expand their range of influence among their peers. In fact, I continually see new faces in religious ceremonies. This motivates me to hope well for the future," Montes added.
The Rome bureau chief of TFP, an organization founded by Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira in Brazil in 1960, attributed the leftists' political defeats and some resulting violence and unlawfulness — as has occurred in Venezuela — to the "undoubted growth of traditionalist Catholicism in South America, especially among young people."
In a frontpage article with the Italian newspaper Il Giornale, Montes elaborated on the spurt in the Catholic traditionalist movement:
Right-leaning blogs are multiplying, animated by young and very young people, with millions of followers. New political and cultural groups of conservative orientation are arising. Online conferences of traditionalist orientation are gaining notoriety. Stores of modest clothing are spreading, in open contrast to today's immoral or extravagant fashions. After decades of virtual cultural monopoly of the Left, more and more books are being published and more and more conferences in the center-right area are being held. Sometimes the phenomenon can even be dazzling. For example, polls show 37% of Brazilians in favor of the restoration of the Brazilian monarchy.
Church Militant asked if the Amazon Synod might actually provoke an even greater growth of traditional Catholicism. Montes said that, ironically, the advance of progressivism in the Church — as seen in the so-called "Indian theology" that bears a marxist footprint and undergirded veneration of Pachamama idols — is serving to open the eyes of many people to the depth of the crisis in the Church.
Montes, in fact, attributes the ascendancy of Protestantism to a long history of "preaching from the pulpits, with different accents, of liberation theology. The re-emergence of traditionalism among the faithful," he said, is likely the "result of the 'unintended consequences of intentional actions,' which ordinary people mock with the expression 'the devil makes pots but not lids.'"
Montes also noted that in one of Pope Benedict XVI's trips to Brazil, the pontiff explicitly identified the sociological turn of preaching in the Catholic Church — specifically liberation theology — as the reason why countless Catholics defected to neo-Protestantism. Montes quoted TIME magazine: "The Catholic Church has made the option for the poor, and the poor have made the option for the evangelicals and the pentecostals."
This phenomenon does not occur in traditionalist Catholic circles, where evangelization adheres to the precept of Our Lord to "seek first the kingdom of Heaven and all these things shall be granted unto you," Montes explained. Despite having differing "liturgical sensitivity," he said numerous groups within the Church today "move decisively toward the search for tradition" in every field of life:
[In] the life of piety they practice traditional devotions, especially the Marian one, and are not afraid of introducing themselves for what they are, conservative Catholics, even in the way they dress. In politics, they are increasingly demanding from candidates ... the non-negotiable principles preached by Benedict XVI, that is, the defense of life from conception to natural death, the family founded on the union of two people of different sex and the inviolable right of parents to choose education for their children.
Faithful Catholics can correct the drift occurring within the Church, Montes emphasized, through "forms of devotion, prayer and Catholic witness, in harmony with the traditional Magisterium of the Church — forms that were gradually abandoned and sometimes explicitly denied."
In September, Bp. José Luis Azcona, bishop emeritus of the Marajó Prelature in the Amazon area of Belém do Pará, Brazil, sounded the alarm: "The Amazon, at least the Brazilian part of it, is no longer Catholic," because it has a Pentecostal majority that, in some regions, "reaches 80%."
"Under the pretext of 'intercultural dialogue,' Catholic missionaries no longer evangelize or baptize," he lamented. "However, evangelicals do evangelize and work very hard indeed. While Catholic missionaries talk to Indians about 'deforestation,' 'climate change' and 'integral ecology,' Protestant pastors visit their communities with Bible in hand."
Gabriel Klautau Miléo, creator of the Salve Roma website, confirms the recoveries made by Catholic traditionalism. On Twitter, he posts pictures of Latin Mass churches filled with young people.
"All the photos ... were taken in Belém do Pará, one of the main urban centers of the Amazon region," he writes. "Several friends of mine and their families have returned to Catholicism by [re-]discovering the traditional rite of the Church."
"This is what the Amazon really needs," he notes. "We already have the apostolate of the Tridentine Mass in the two main urban centers of the Brazilian Amazon [Belém and Manaus] and in a city in the interior of the state of Pará [Santarém]."
Archbishop Alberto Taveira Correa, who heads the archdiocese of Belém do Pará, confirms that in his 10 years as archbishop, he can testify to the "growth in vocations" in his own diocese and others.
Brazil's traditionalist Catholic Instituto Bom Pastor (Good Shepherd Institute) is also reporting a boom in vocations, as its "members want to exercise the priesthood in the doctrinal and liturgical Tradition of the Holy Roman Catholic Church, faithful to the infallible Magisterium of the Church with the exclusive use of the Gregorian liturgy in the worthy celebration of the Holy Mysteries."
Montes agrees it is impossible to predict the immediate future. "However, the rise of a mighty movement in traditional Catholic public opinion allows us to have many hopes," he affirms. "These hopes are also based on the promises of Our Lady who, in Fatima, proclaimed the triumph of her Immaculate Heart, after a period of tribulation."