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America’s Catholic Church seeing shift toward more conservative ways

Brothers Leven Barton, left, Florian Rumpza, center, and Angelus Atkinson, sing in Latin during Catholic Mass at Benedictine College Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023, in Atchison, Kan. AP PHOTO / CHARLIE RIEDEL

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The story started with a reader reaching out to enterprise reporter Tim Sullivan to tell him about how his parish in Wisconsin imploded when a new conservative priest arrived. From the pulpit, there was greater emphasis on sin and confession, and at Mass, more Latin, fewer altar girls and reintroducing kneeling during communion.  

Sullivan reported what he saw as a shift to an earlier, pre-Vatican-II style of worship. Polling by Catholic researchers shows increasingly conservative younger priests. Liberal Catholics raised in the moderate style were dying off or abandoning the pews. A new generation is more orthodox and conservative, sometimes at odds with the tolerant and open messages of Pope Francis.  

Sullivan went to dozens of Masses and spoke with Catholics in three states. Photo reporting from Charles Riedel and video from Jessie Wardarski made for an impressive visual presentation of the changes as well.  

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