Rome 25 September 1969
Most Holy Father:
Having carefully examined and presented for the scrutiny of others the New Order of Mass (Novus Ordo Missae) prepared by the experts of the Committee for the Implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, and after lengthy prayer and reflection, we feel obliged before God and Your Holiness to set forth the following considerations:
- The accompanying Critical Study is the work of a select group of bishops, theologians, liturgists, and pastors of souls. Despite its brevity, the study shows quite clearly that the Novus Ordo Missae–considering the new elements widely susceptible to widely different interpretations which are implied or taken for granted–represents, both as a whole and in its details, a striking departure from the Catholic theology of the Mass as it was formulated in Session 22 of the Council of Trent. The “canons” of the rite definitively fixed at that time erected an insurmountable barrier against any heresy which might attack the integrity of the Mystery.
- The pastoral reasons put forth to justify such a grave break, even if such reasons could still hold good in the face of doctrinal considerations, do not seem sufficient. The innovations in the Novus Ordo and the fact that all that is of perennial value finds only a minor place–if it subsists at all–could well turn into a certainty the suspicion, already prevalent, alas in many circles, that truths which have always been believed by the Christian people can be changed or ignored without infidelity to that sacred deposit of doctrine to which the Catholic faith is bound forever. The recent reforms have amply demonstrated that new changes in the liturgy could not be made without leading to complete bewilderment on the part of the faithful, who already show signs of restiveness and an indubitable lessening of their faith. Among the best of the clergy, the result is an agonizing crisis of conscience, numberless instances of which come to us daily.
- We are certain that these considerations, prompted by what we hear from the living voice of shepherds and the flock, cannot but find an echo in the heart of Your Holiness, always so profoundly solicitous for the spiritual needs of the children of the Church. The subjects for whose benefit a law is made have always had the right, nay the duty, to ask the legislator to abrogate the law, should it prove to be harmful.
At a time, therefore, when the purity of the faith and the unity of the Church suffer cruel lacerations and still greater peril, daily and sorrowfully echoed in the words of You, our common Father, we most earnestly beseech Your Holiness not to deprive us of the possibility of continuing to have recourse to the integral and fruitful Missal of St. Pius V, so highly praised by Your Holiness, and so deeply venerated by the whole Catholic world.
A. Card. Ottaviani
A. Card. Bacci
The Critical Study of the New Order of Mass
By Most Reverend M-L Guérard des Lauriers O. P. and sponsored and co-signed by Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani and Antonio Cardinal Bacci
5 June 1969
In October 1967, the Synod of Bishops which met in Rome was asked to pass judgment on an experimental celebration of what was then called a “standard” or “normative” Mass. This Mass, composed by the Committee for Implementing the Constitutions on the Sacred Liturgy (Consilium), aroused very serious misgivings among the bishops present.
With 187 members voting, the results revealed considerable opposition (43 Negative), many substantial reservations (62 Affirmative with reservations) and four abstentions. The international press spoke of the Synod’s “rejection” of the proposed Mass, while the progressive wing of the religious press passed over the event in silence. A well-known periodical, aimed at bishops and expressing their teaching, summed up the new rite in these terms:
They wanted to make a clean slate of the whole theology of the Mass. It ended up in substance quite close to the Protestant theology which destroyed the sacrifice of the Mass.
Unfortunately, we now find that the same “standard Mass”, identical in substance, has reappeared as the New Order of Mass (Novus Ordo Missae) recently promulgated by the Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum (3 April 1969). In the two years that have passed since the Synod, moreover, it appears that the national bishops’ conferences (at least as such) have not been consulted on the matter.
The Apostolic Constitution states that the old Missal which St. Pius V promulgated on 19 July 1570–its greater part, in fact, goes back to St. Gregory the Great and even remoter antiquity (1) was the standard for four centuries whenever priests of the Latin Rite celebrated the Holy Sacrifice. The Constitution adds that this Missal, taken to every corner of the earth, “has been an abundant source of spiritual nourishment to so many people in their devotion to God.” Yet this same Constitution, which would definitively end the use of the old Missal, claims that the present reform is necessary because “a deep interest in fostering the liturgy has become widespread and strong among the Christian people”.
It seems that the last claim contains a serious equivocation. If the Christian people expressed anything at all, it was the desire (thanks to the great St. Pius X) to discover the true and immortal treasures of the liturgy. They never, absolutely never, asked that the liturgy be changed or mutilated to make it easier to understand. What the faithful did want was a better understanding of a unique and unchangeable liturgy–a liturgy they had no desire to see changed.
Catholics everywhere, priests and laymen alike, loved and venerated the Roman Missal of St. Pius V. It is impossible to understand how using this Missal, along with proper religious instruction, could prevent the faithful from participating in the liturgy more fully or understanding it more profoundly. It is likewise impossible to understand why the old Missal, when its many outstanding merits are recognized, should now be deemed unworthy to continue to nourish the liturgical piety of the faithful.
Since the “standard Mass” now reintroduced and reimposed as the New Order of Mass was already rejected in substance at the Synod, since it was never submitted to the collegial judgment of the national bishop’s conferences, and since the faithful (least of all in mission lands) never asked for any reform of the Mass whatsoever, it is impossible to understand the reasons for the new legislation– legislation which overthrows a tradition unchanged in the Church since the 4th and 5th centuries. Since there are no reasons, therefore, for undertaking this reform, it appears devoid of any rational grounds to justify it and make it acceptable to the Catholic people.
The Second Vatican Council did indeed ask that the Order of Mass “be revised in a way that will bring out more clearly the intrinsic nature and purpose of its several parts, as also the connection between them.” We shall now see to what extent the recently promulgated Ordo responds to the Council’s wishes–wishes now no more than a faint memory.
A point-by-point examination of the Novus Ordo reveals changes so great that they confirm the judgment already made on the “standard Mass”–for on many points it has much to gladden the heart of even the most modernist Protestant.
Let us begin with the definition of the Mass. In Article 7 of the General Instruction which precedes the New Order of Mass, we discover the following definition:
The Lord’s Supper or Mass is the sacred assembly or congregation of the people of God gathering together, with a priest presiding, to celebrate the memorial of the Lord (2). For this reason Christ’s promise applies supremely to a local gathering together of the Church: “Where two or three come together in my name, there am I in their midst.” (Mt. 18:20)
The definition of the Mass is thus reduced to a “supper,” a term which the General Instruction constantly repeats. The Instruction further characterizes this “supper” as an assembly, presided over by a priest and held as a memorial of the Lord to recall what He did on Holy Thursday.
None of this in the very least implies:
- the Real Presence
- the reality of the Sacrifice
- the sacramental function of the priest who consecrates
- the intrinsic value of the Eucharistic Sacrifice independent of the presence of the “assembly” (3).
In a word, the Instruction’s definition implies none of the dogmatic values which are essential to the Mass and which, taken together, provide its true definition. Here, deliberately omitting these dogmatic values by “going beyond them” amounts, at least in practice, to denying them (4).
The second part of Article 7 makes this already serious equivocation even worse. It states that Christ’s promise, ( “Where two or three come together in my name, there am I in their midst”) applies to this assembly supremely. Thus, the Instruction puts Christ’s promise (which refers only to His spiritual presence through grace) on the same qualitative level (save for greater intensity) as the substantial and physical reality of the sacramental Eucharistic sacrifice.
The next Article of the Instruction divides the Mass into a “Liturgy of the Word” and a “Liturgy of the Eucharist”, and adds that the “table of God’s Word” and the “table of Christ’s Body” are prepared at Mass so that the faithful may receive “instruction and food”. As we will see later, this statement improperly joins the two parts of the Mass, as thought they possessed equal symbolic value.
The Instruction uses many different names for the Mass, such as:
- Action of Christ and the People of God
- Lord’s Supper or Mass
- Paschal Banquet
- Common participation in the Table of the Lord
- Eucharistic Prayer
- Liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Eucharistic.
All these expressions are acceptable when used relatively–but when used separately and absolutely, as they are here, they must be completely rejected. It is obvious that the Novus Ordo obsessively emphasizes “supper” and “memorial”, instead of the unbloody renewal of the Sacrifice of the Cross. Even the phrase in the Instruction describing the Mass as a “memorial of the Passion and Resurrection” is inexact. The Mass is the memorial of the unique Sacrifice, redemptive in itself; whereas the Resurrection is the fruit which follows from that sacrifice (5). We shall see later how such equivocations are repeated and reiterated both in the formula for the Consecration and throughout the Novus Ordo as a whole.
We now turn to the ends or purposes of the Mass–what it accomplishes in the supernatural order.
- Ultimate purpose. The ultimate purpose of the Mass is the sacrifice of praise rendered to the Most Holy Trinity. This end conforms to the primary purpose of the Incarnation, explicitly enunciated by Christ Himself: “Coming into the world he saith: sacrifice and oblation thou wouldst not, but a body thou hast fitted me.” In the Novus Ordo, this purpose has disappeared:
- From the Offertory, where the prayer “Receive, Holy Trinity, this oblation” has been removed.
- From the conclusion of Mass, where the prayer honoring the Trinity, “May the Tribute of my Homage, Most Holy Trinity” has been eliminated.
- From the Preface, since the Preface of the Most Holy Trinity, formerly used on all ordinary Sundays, will henceforth be used only on the Feast of the most Holy Trinity.
- Ordinary purpose. The ordinary purpose of the Mass is propitiatory sacrifice–making satisfaction to God for sin. This end, too, has been compromised. Instead of emphasizing remission for sins for the living and the dead, the new rite stresses the nourishment and sanctification of those present. At the Last Supper, Christ instituted the Blessed Sacrament and thus placed Himself in It as Victim, in order to unite Himself to us as Victim. But this act of sacrificial immolation occurs before the Blessed Sacrament is consumed and possesses beforehand full redemptive value in relation to the bloody Sacrifice on Calvary. The proof for this is that people who assist are not bound to receive Communion sacramentally (6).
- Immanent purpose. The immanent purpose of the Mass is fundamentally that of sacrifice. It is essential that the Sacrifice, whatever its nature, be pleasing to God and accepted by Him. Because of original sin, however, no sacrifice other than the Christ’s Sacrifice can claim to be acceptable and pleasing to God in its own right. The Novus Ordo alters the nature of the sacrificial offering by turning it into a type of exchange of gifts between God and man. Man brings the bread, and God turns it into “the bread of life“; man brings the wine, and God turns it into “spiritual drink“:
Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have this bread (or wine) to offer, fruit of the earth (vine) and work of human hands, It will become for us the bread of life (spiritual drink) (7).
The expressions “bread of life” and “spiritual drink,” of course, are utterly vague and could mean anything. Once again, we come up against the same basic equivocation: According to the new definition of the Mass, Christ is only spiritually present among His own; here, bread and wine are only spiritually—and not substantially—changed (8).
In the Preparation of the Gifts, a similar equivocal game was played. The old Offertory contained two magnificent prayers, the “Deus qui humanae” and the “Offerimus tibi”:
- The first prayer, recited at the preparation of the chalice, begins: “O God, by whom the dignity of human nature was wondrously established and yet more wondrously restored.” It recalled man’s innocence before the Fall of Adam and his ransom by the blood of Christ, and it summed up the whole economy of the Sacrifice from Adam to the present day.
- The second prayer, which accompanies the offering of the chalice, embodies the idea of propitiation for sin: it implores God for His mercy as it asks that the offering may ascend with a sweet fragrance in the presence of Thy divine majesty. Like the first prayer, it admirably stresses the economy of the Sacrifice.
In the Novus Ordo, both these prayers have been eliminated. In the Eucharistic Prayers, moreover, the repeated petitions to God that He accept the Sacrifice have also been suppressed; thus, there is no longer any clear distinction between divine and human sacrifice.
Having removed the keystone, the reformers had to put up scaffolding. Having suppressed the real purposes of the Mass, they had to substitute fictitious purposes of their own. This forced them to introduce actions stressing the union between priest and faithful, or among the faithful themselves–and led to the ridiculous attempt to superimpose offerings for the poor and for the Church on the offering of the host to be immolated. The fundamental uniqueness of the Victim to be sacrificed will thus be completely obliterated. Participation in the immolation of Christ the Victim will turn into a philanthropists’ meeting or a charity banquet.
We now consider the essence of the Sacrifice.
The New Order of Mass no longer explicitly expresses the mystery of the Cross. It is obscured, veiled, imperceptible to the faithful (9). Here are some of the main reasons:
- The meaning the Novus Ordo assigns to the so-called “Eucharistic Prayer” is as follows:
The entire congregation joins itself to Christ in acknowledging the great things God has done and in offering the sacrifice.
Which sacrifice does this refer to? Who offers the sacrifice? No answer is given to these questions.
The definition the Instruction provides for the “Eucharistic Prayer” reduces it to the following:
The center and summit of the entire celebration begins: the Eucharistic Prayer, a prayer of thanksgiving and sanctification.
The effects of the prayer thus replace the causes. And of the causes, moreover, not a single word is said. The explicit mention of the purpose of the sacrificial offering, made in the old rite with the prayer “Receive, Most Holy Trinity, This Oblation,” has been suppressed–and replaced with *nothing.* The change in the formula reveals the change in doctrine.
- The reason why the Sacrifice is no longer explicitly mentioned is simple: the central role of the Real Presence has been suppressed. It has been removed from the place it so resplendently occupied in the old liturgy. In the General Instruction, the Real Presence is mentioned just once–and that in a footnote which is the only reference to the Council of Trent. Here again, the context is that of nourishment. The real and permanent presence of Christ in the transubstantiated Species–Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity–is never alluded to. The very word transubstantiation is completely ignored.
The invocation of the Holy Ghost in the Offertory–the prayer “Come, Thou Sanctifier”–has likewise been suppressed, with its petition that He descend upon the offering to accomplish the miracle of the Divine Presence again, just as he once descended into the Virgin’s womb. This suppression is one more in a series of denials and degradations of the Real Presence, both tacit and systematic. Finally, it is impossible to ignore how ritual gestures and usages expressing faith in the Real Presence have been abolished or changed.
The Novus Ordo eliminates:
- Genuflections. No more than three remain for the priest, and (with certain exceptions) one of the faithful at the moment of the Consecration
- Purification of the priest’s fingers over the chalice
- Preserving the priest’s fingers from all profane contact after the Consecration
- Purification of sacred vessels, which need not be done immediately nor made on the corporal
- Protecting the contents of the chalice with the pall
- Gilding for the interior of sacred vessels
- Solemn consecration for movable altars
- Consecrated stones and relics of the saints in the movable altar or on the “table” when Mass is celebrated outside a sacred place. (The latter leads straight to “eucharistic dinners” in private houses.)
- Three cloths on the altar–reduced to one
- Thanksgiving for the Eucharist made kneeling, now replaced by the grotesque practice of the priest and people sitting to make their thanksgiving–a logical enough accompaniment to receiving Communion standing.
- All the ancient prescriptions observed in the case of a Host which fell, which are now reduced to a single, nearly sarcastic direction: “It is to be picked up reverently.”
All these suppressions only emphasize how outrageously faith in the dogma of the Real Presence is implicitly repudiated.
- The role of the main altar.
The altar is nearly always called the table (10): “…the altar or the Lord’s table, which is the center of the whole eucharistic liturgy…” The altar must now be detached from the back wall so that the priest can walk around it and celebrate Mass facing the people. The Instruction states that the altar should be at the center of the assembled faithful, so that their attention is spontaneously drawn to it.
Comparing this Article with another, however, seems to exclude outright the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament on the altar where Mass is celebrated. This will signal an irreparable dichotomy between the presence of Christ the High Priest in the priest celebrating the Mass and Christ’s sacramental Presence. Before, they were one and the same Presence (11).
The Instruction recommends that the Blessed Sacrament now be kept in a place apart for private devotion–as though It were some sort of relic. Thus, on entering a church, one’s attention will be drawn not to a tabernacle, but to a table stripped bare. Once again, private piety is set up against liturgical piety, and altar is set up against altar.
The Instruction urges that hosts distributed for Communion be ones consecrated at the same Mass. It also recommends consecrating a large wafer (12), so that the priest can share a part of it with the faithful. It is always the same disparaging attitude towards both the tabernacle and every form of Eucharistic piety outside of Mass. This constitutes a new and violent blow to faith that the Real Presence continues as long as the consecrated Species remain(13).
- The formulas for the Consecration.
The old formula for the Consecration was a “sacramental” formula, properly speaking, and not merely a “narrative”. This was shown above by three things:
- The Text Employed. The Scripture text was not used word-for-word as the formula for the Consecration in the old Missal. St. Paul’s expression, the “Mystery of Faith,” was inserted into the text as an immediate expression of the priest’s faith in the mystery which the Church makes real through the hierarchical priesthood.
- Typography and Punctuation. In the old Missal, a period and a new paragraph separated the words “Take ye all of this and eat” from the words of the sacramental form, “This is My Body.” The period and the new paragraph marked the passage from a merely “narrative”mode to a “sacramental” and “affirmative” mode which is proper to a true sacramental action. The words of Consecration in the Roman Missal, moreover, were printed in larger type in the center of the page. Often a different color ink was used. All these things clearly detached the words from a merely historical context, and combined to give the formula of Consecration a proper and autonomous value.
- The Anamnesis. The Roman Missal added the words “As often as ye shall do these things, ye shall do them in memory of Me” after the formula of Consecration. This formula referred not merely to remembering Christ or a past event, but to Christ acting in the here and now. It was an invitation to recall not merely His Person or the Last Supper, but “to do” what He did “in the way” that He did it.
In the Novus Ordo, the words of St. Paul, “Do this in memory of Me,” will now replace the old formula and be daily proclaimed in the vernacular everywhere. This will inevitably cause hearers to concentrate on the remembrance of Christ as the end of the Eucharistic action, rather than as its beginning. The idea of commemoration will thus soon replace the idea of the Mass as a sacramental action (15).
The General Instruction emphasizes the narrative mode further when it describes the Consecration as the “Institution Narrative” and when it adds that, “in fulfillment of the command received from Christ…the Church keeps his memorial.”
All this, in short, changes the modus significandi of the words of Consecration–how they show forth the sacramental action taking place. The priest now pronounces the formulas for Consecration as part of an historical narrative, rather than as Christ’s representative issuing the affirmative judgment “This is My Body.” (14)
Furthermore, the people’s Memorial Acclamation which immediately follows the Consecration–“Your holy death, we proclaim, O Lord…until you come”–introduces the same ambiguity about the Real Presence under the guise of an allusion to the Last Judgment. Without so much as a pause, the people proclaim their expectation of Christ at the end of time, just at the moment when He is “substantially present” on the altar–as if Christ’s real coming will occur only at the end of time, rather than there on the altar itself.
The second optional Memorial Acclamation brings this out even more strongly:
When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, Lord Jesus, until you come in glory.
The juxtaposition of entirely different realities–immolation and eating, the Real Presence and Christ’s Second Coming–brings ambiguity to a new height (16).
We now consider the question of who performs the Sacrifice.
In the old rite, these were, in order:
- the priest,
- the Church
- and the faithful.
- In the New Mass, the role attributed to the faithful is autonomous, absolute–and hence completely false. This is obvious not only from the new definition of the Mass (“…the sacred assembly or congregation of the people gathering together…”), but also from the General Instruction’s observation that the priest’s opening Greeting is meant to convey to the assembled community the “presence” of the Lord:
Then through his greeting the priest declares to the assembled community that the Lord is present. This greeting and response express the mystery of the gathered Church.
Is this the true presence of Christ? Yes, but only a spiritual presence. A mystery of the Church? Certainly–but only insofar as the assembly manifests and asks for Christ’s presence.
This new notion is stressed over and over again by:
- Obsessive references to the communal character of the Mass.
- The unheard of distinction between “Mass with a Congregation” and “Mass without a Congregation”.
- The description of the Prayer of the Faithful as a part of the Mass where “the people exercising their priestly office, intercede for all humanity.”
The faithful’s “priestly office” is presented equivocally, as if it were autonomous, by omitting to mention that it is subordinated to the priest, who, as consecrated mediator, presents the people’s petitions to God during the Canon of the Mass.
The Novus Ordo’s Eucharistic Prayer III addresses the following prayers to the Lord:
From age to age you gather a people to yourself, *so that* from east to west a perfect offering may be made to the glory of your name.
The so that in the passage makes it appear that the people, rather than the priest, are the indispensable element in the celebration. Since it is never made clear, even here, who offers the sacrifice (17), the people themselves appear as possessing autonomous priestly powers.
From this step, it would not be surprising if, before long, the people were permitted to join with the priest if pronouncing the words of Consecration. Indeed, in some places this has already happened.
- The role of the priest is minimized, changed, and falsified.
In relation to the people, he is now a mere president or brother, rather than the consecrated minister who celebrates Mass “in the person of Christ”.
In relation to the Church, the priest is now merely one member among others, someone taken from the people. In its treatment of the invocation to the Holy Ghost in the Eucharistic Prayer (the epiclesis), the General Instruction attributes the petitions anonymously to the Church. The priest’s part has vanished.
In the new Penitential Rite which begins the mass, the Confiteor has now become collective; hence the priest is no longer judge, witness and intercessor before God. It is logical therefore that he no longer recites the prayer of absolution which followed it and has now been suppressed. The priest is now “integrated” with his brothers; even the altar boy who serves at a “Mass without a Congregation” calls the priest “brother.”
Formerly, the priest’s Communion was ritually distinct from the people’s Communion. The Novus Ordo suppresses this important distinction. This was the moment when Christ the Eternal High Priest and the priest who acts in the person of Christ came together in closest union and completed the Sacrifice.
Not a word is said, moreover, about the priest’s power as “sacrificer”, his consecratory action or how as intermediary he brings about the Eucharistic presence. he now appears to be nothing more than a Protestant minister.
By abolishing or rendering optional many of the priestly vestments–in some cases only an alb and stole are now required–the new rite obliterates the priest’s conformity to Christ even more. The priest is no longer clothed with Christ’s virtues. He is now a mere “graduate” with one or two tokens that barely separate him from the crowd (18) –“a little more a man than the rest”, to quote from a modern Dominican’s unintentionally humorous definition (19).
Here, as when they set up altar against altar, the reformers separated that which was united: the one Priesthood of Christ from the Word of God.
- Finally, there is the Church’s position in relation to Christ.
In only one instance–in its treatment of the form of the Mass without a Congregation–does the General Instruction admit that the Mass is “the action of Christ and the Church“. In the case of Mass with a Congregation, however, the only object the Instruction hints as it “remembering Christ” and sanctifying those present. “The priest celebrant”, it says, “…joins the people to himself in offering the sacrifice through Christ in the Spirit to the Father” instead of saying that the people join themselves to Christ who offers Himself through the Holy Ghost to the Father. In this context, the following points should likewise be noted:
- The many grave omissions of the phrase “through Christ Our Lord”, a formula which guarantees that God will hear the Church’s prayers in every age.
- An all-pervading “paschalism” –an obsessive emphasis on Easter and the Resurrection–almost as if there were no other aspects of the communication of grace, which, while quite different, are nevertheless equally important.
- The strange and dubious “eschatologism” –a stress upon Christ’s Second Coming and the end of time–whereby the permanent and eternal reality of the communication of grace is reduced to something within the bonds of time. We hear of a people of God on the march, a pilgrim Church–a Church no longer “Militant” against the powers of darkness, but one which, having lost its link with eternity, marches to a future envisioned in purely temporal terms.
In Eucharistic Prayer IV the Church–as One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic–is abased by eliminating the Roman Canon’s petition for all orthodox believers who keep the Catholic and Apostolic faith. These are now merely all who seek you with a sincere heart.
The Memento of the Dead in the Canon, moreover, is offered not as before for those who are gone before us with the sign of faith, but merely for those who have died in the peace of Christ. To this group–with further detriment to the notion of the Church’s unity and visibility–Eucharistic Prayer IV adds the great crowd of “all the dead whose faith is known to You alone”.
None of the three new Eucharistic Prayers, moreover, alludes to a suffering state for those who have died; none allows the priest to make special Mementos for the dead. All this necessarily undermines faith in the propitiatory and redemptive nature of the sacrifice (20).
Everywhere desacralizing omissions debase the mystery of the Church.
- Above all, the Church’s nature as a sacred hierarchy is disregarded. The second part of the new collective Confiteor reduces the Angels and the Saints to anonymity in the first part, in the person of St. Michael the Archangel, they have disappeared as witnesses and judges (21).
- In the Preface for Eucharistic Prayer II–and this is unprecedented–the various angelic hierarchies have disappeared.
- Also suppressed, in the third prayer of the old Canon, is the memory of the holy Pontiffs and Martyrs on whom the Church in Rome was founded; without a doubt, these were the saints who handed down the apostolic tradition finally completed under Pope St. Gregory as the Roman Mass.
- The prayer after the Our Father, the “Libera Nos”, now suppresses the mention of the Blessed Virgin, the holy apostles and all the Saints; their intercession is thus no longer sought, even it times of danger.
- Everywhere except in the Roman Canon, the Novus Ordo eliminates not only the names of the Apostles Peter and Paul, founders of the Church in Rome, but also the names of the other Apostles, the foundation and mark of the one and universal Church. This intolerable omission, extending even to the three new Eucharistic Prayers, compromises the unity of the Church.
- The New Order of Mass further attacks the dogma of the Communion of Saints by suppressing the blessing and the salutation “The Lord Be with You” when the priest says Mass without a server. It also eliminates the “Ite Missa Est,” (22) even in Masses celebrated with a server.
- The double Confiteor at the beginning of the Mass showed how the priest, vested as Christ’s minister and bowing profoundly, acknowledged himself unworthy of both is sublime mission and the “tremendous mystery” he was to enact. Then, in the prayer “Take Away Our Sins”, he acknowledged his unworthiness to enter the Holy of Holies, recommending himself with the prayer “We Beseech Thee, O Lord” to the merits and intercession of the martyrs whose relics were enclosed in the altar. Both prayers have been suppressed. What was said previously about elimination of the two-fold Confiteor and Communion rite is equally relevant here.
- The outward setting of the Sacrifice, a sign of its sacred character, has been profaned. See, for example, the new provisions for celebrating Mass outside a church: a simple table, containing neither a consecrated altar-stone nor relics and covered with a single cloth, is allowed to suffice for an altar. Here too, all we have said previously in regard to the Real Presence applies–disassociation of the “banquet” and the Sacrifice of the supper from the Real Presence itself.
The process of desacralization is made complete, thanks to the new and grotesque procedure for the Offertory Procession,
- the reference to ordinary (rather than unleavened) bread,
- and allowing servers (and even lay people, when receiving Communion under both Species) to handle sacred vessels.
- Then there is the distracting atmosphere created in the church: the ceaseless comings and goings of priest, deacon, subdeacon, cantor, commentator–the priest himself becomes a commentator, constantly encouraged to “explain” what he is about to do– of lectors (men and women), of servers or laymen welcoming people at the door and escorting them to their places, while others carry and sort offerings.
- And in an era of frenzy for a “return to Scripture”, we now find, in contradiction of both the Old Testament and St. Paul, the presence of a “suitable woman” who for the first time in the Church’s history is authorized to proclaim the Scripture readings and “perform other ministries outside the sanctuary”.
- Finally, there is the mania for concelebration, which will ultimately destroy the priest’s Eucharistic piety by overshadowing the central figure of Christ, sole priest and Victim, and by dissolving Him into the collective presence presence of concelebrants (23).
We have limited ourselves above to a short study of the Novus Ordo where it deviates most seriously from the theology of the Catholic Mass. Our observations touch upon deviations which are typical. To prepare a complete study of all the pitfalls, dangers, and psychologically and spiritually destructive elements the new rite contains, whether in texts, rubrics, or instructions, would be a vast undertaking.
We have taken no more than a passing glance at the three new Eucharistic Prayers, since they have already come in for repeated and authoritative criticism. The second (24) gave immediate scandal to the faithful due to its brevity. Of Eucharistic Prayer II it has well been said that a priest who no longer believed in either Transubstantiation or the sacrificial character of the Mass could recite it with perfect tranquillity of conscience, and that a Protestant minister, moreover, could use it in his own celebrations just as well.
The new Missal was introduced in Rome as an “abundant resource for pastoral work“, as “a text more pastoral than juridical“, which national bishops’ conferences could adapt, according to circumstances, to the “spirit” of different peoples. Section One of the new Congregation for Divine Worship, moreover, will now be responsible “for the publication and *constant revision* of liturgical books“. This idea was echoed recently in the official newsletter of the Liturgical Institutes of Germany, Switzerland and Austria (25):
The Latin texts must now be translated into the languages of different nations; the “Roman style” must be adapted to the individuality of each local Church; that which was conceived in a timeless state must now be transposed into the changing context of concrete situations, and into the constant flux of the universal Church and its myriad congregations.
The Apostolic Constitution itself, in promulgating the Novus Ordo Missae, deals a deathblow to the Church’s universal language when–contrary to the express wish of the Second Vatican Council–it unequivocally states that “in great diversity of languages, one [?] and the same prayer will ascend, more fragrant than incense”. The demise of Latin may therefore be taken for granted, Gregorian chant–which Vatican II recognized as a distinctive characteristic of the Roman liturgy, decreeing that it “be given pride of place in liturgical services”-will logically follow, given, among other things, the freedom of choice permitted in choosing texts for the Introit and the Gradual.
From the outset, therefore, the new rite was pluralistic and experimental, bound to time and place. Since unity of worship has been shattered once and for all, what basis will exist for the unity of the faith which accompanied it and which, we were told, was always to be defended without compromise? It is obvious that the New Order of Mass has no intention of presenting the Faith taught by the Council of Trent.
But it is to this Faith that the Catholic conscience is bound forever. Thus, with the promulgation of the New Order of Mass, the true Catholic is faced with a tragic need to choose.
The Apostolic Constitution explicitly mentions the riches of piety and doctrine the Novus Ordo supposedly borrows from the Eastern Churches. But the result is so removed from, and indeed opposed to the spirit of the Eastern liturgies that it can only leave the faithful in those rites revolted and horrified. What do these ecumenical borrowings amount to? Basically,
- to introducing multiple texts for the Eucharistic Prayer (the anaphora) (none of which approaches their Eastern counterparts’ complexity or beauty)
- and to permitting Communion Under Both Species and the use of deacons.
Against this, the New Order of Mass appears to have been deliberately shorn of every element where the Roman liturgy came closest to the Eastern Rites (26). At the same time, by abandoning its unmistakable and immemorial Roman character, the Novus Ordo cast off what was spiritually precious of its own. In place of this are elements which bring the new rite closer to certain Protestant liturgies, not even those closest to Catholicism. At the same time, these new elements degrade the Roman liturgy and further alienate it from the East, as did the reforms which preceded the Novus Ordo.
In compensation, the new liturgy will delight all those groups hovering on the verge of apostasy who, during a spiritual crisis without precedent, now wreak havoc in the Church by poisoning Her organism and by undermining Her unity in doctrine, worship, morals and discipline.
St. Pius V had the Roman Missal drawn up (as the present Apostolic Constitution now recalls) as an instrument of unity among Catholics. In conformity with the injunctions of the Council of Trent, the Missal was to exclude all dangers, either to liturgical worship or to the faith itself, then threatened by the Protestant Revolt.
The grave situation fully justified–and even rendered prophetic–the saintly Pontiff’s solemn warning given in 1570 at the end of the Bull promulgating his Missal:
Should anyone presume to tamper with this, let him know that he shall incur the wrath of God Almighty and His holy Apostles Peter and Paul. (27)
When the Novus Ordo was presented at the Vatican Press Office, it was impudently asserted that conditions which prompted the decrees of the Council of Trent no longer exist. Not only do these decrees still apply today, but conditions now are infinitely worse. It was precisely to repel those snares which in every age threaten the pure Deposit of Faith, that the Church, under divine inspiration, set up dogmatic definitions and doctrinal pronouncements as her defenses. These in turn immediately influenced her worship, which became the most complete monument to her faith.
Trying to return this worship to the practices of Christian antiquity and recreating artificially the original spontaneity of ancient times is to engage in that “unhealthy archaeologism” Pius XII so roundly condemned (28). It is, moreover, to dismantle all the theological ramparts erected for the protection of the rite and to take away all the beauty which enriched it for centuries (29). And all this at one of the most critical moments–if not the most critical moment–in the Church’s history!
Today, division and schism are officially acknowledged to exist not only outside the Church, but within her as well (30). The Church’s unity is not only threatened, but has already been tragically compromised (31). Errors against the Faith are not merely insinuated, but are–as has been likewise acknowledged–now forcibly imposed through liturgical abuses and aberrations (32).
To abandon a liturgical tradition which for four centuries stood as a sign and pledge of unity in worship, and to replace it with another liturgy which, due to the countless liberties it implicitly authorizes, cannot but be a sign of division–a liturgy which teems with insinuations or manifest errors against the integrity of the Catholic Faith–is, we feel bound in conscience to proclaim, an incalculable error.
Corpus Domini 5 June 1969
DB: Denziger-Bannwart. “Enchrindion Symbolorum.” 32nd edition. Barcelona, Frieburg and Rome: Herder, 1957.
DOL: “Documents on the Liturgy, 1963-1979: Conciliar, Papal, and Curial Texts.” Translated, compiled, and arranged by the International Committee on English in the Liturgy. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1982
GI: General Instruction on the Roman Missal. “Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani.” 1st edition, 6 April 1969. In Paul VI, “Missale Romanum…Pauli VI Promulgatum: Ordo Missae,” 12-76. 2nd edition. March 1970. Translated in DOL 1391-1731, with variants between 1975 “editio typica altera” and 1st edition provided in footnotes.
PTL: “Papal Teachings: The Liturgy,” selected and arranged by the Benedictine Monks of Solesmes, translated by the Daughters of St. Paul. Boston: St. Paul Editions, 1962.
SC: Vatican Council II. Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy “Sacrosanctum Consilium,” 4 December 1963. Translated in DOL 1-131.
- “The prayers of Our Canon are found in the treatise De Sacramentis (4th, 5th centuries)…Our Mass goes back without essential changes to the epoch in which it developed for the first time from the most ancient common liturgy.
It still preserves the fragrance of that primitive liturgy, in times when Caesar governed the world and hoped to extinguish the Christian faith’ times when our forefathers would gather together before dawn to sing a hymn to Christ as their God…There is not in all Christendom a rite so venerable as that of the Roman Missal.” (Rev. Adrian Fortescue).
“The Roman Canon, such as it is today, goes back to St. Gregory the Great. Neither in East nor West is there any Eucharistic prayer remaining in use today that can boast such antiquity. For the Roman Church to throw it overboard would be tantamount, in the eyes not only of the Orthodox, but also of the Anglicans and even Protestants having still to some extent a sense of tradition, to a denial of all claim any more to be the true Catholic Church.” (Rev. Louis Bouyer)
- A footnote in the Instruction refers us to two texts of Vatican II. But nothing in the texts justifies the new definition, as it is evident from the following: “Through the ministry of the bishop, God consecrates priests…In exercising sacred functions they therefore act as the ministers of him who in the liturgy continually fulfill his priestly office on our behalf….By the celebration of Mass people sacramentally offer the sacrifice of Christ.” Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests “Presbyterum Ordinis,” 7 December 1965, Section 5, DOL 260. “For in the liturgy God is speaking to his people and Christ is still proclaiming his Gospel. And the people are responding to God both by song and prayer. Moreover, the prayers addressed to God *by the priest,* who presides over the assembly *in the person of Christ,* are said in the name of the entire holy people and of all present.” SC 33, DOL 33. One is at a loss to explain how the Instruction’s definition could have been drawn from these texts. We note too how the new definition of the Mass alters what Vatican II laid down in Presbyterum Ordinis Section 5: “The Eucharistic assembly is the center of the congregation of the faithful.” Since the center in the New Order of the Mass has been fraudulently spirited away, the congregation has now usurped its place.
- The Council of Trent reaffirms the Real Presence in the following words: “To begin with, the holy council teaches and openly and straightforwardly professes that in the blessed Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, after the consecration of the bread and wine, our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and man, is truly, really and substantially contained under the perceptible species of bread and wine.” DB 874. Session 22 which interests us directly in nine canons (DB 937a-956):
- The Mass is not a mere symbolic representation, but rather a true, visible sacrifice, instituted “to re-present the bloody sacrifice which [Christ] accomplished on the cross once and for all. It was to perpetuate his memory until the end of the world. Its salutary strength was to be applied for the remission of the sins that we daily commit.” DB 938.
- “Declaring himself constituted a priest forever according to the order of Melchisedech, [Our Lord] offered his body and blood under the species of bread and wine to God the Father and he gave his body and blood under the same species to the apostles to receive, making them priests of the New Testament at that time…He ordered the apostles and their successors in the priesthood to offer this sacrifice when he said, ‘Do this in remembrance of me,’ as the Catholic Church has always understood and taught.” DB 938.
The celebrant, offerer and sacrificer is the ordained priest, and not the people of God or the assembly: “If anyone says that by the words, ‘Do this in remembrance of me,’ Christ did not make the apostles priests, or that he did not decree that they and other priests should offer his body and blood: let him be anathema.” Canon 2, DB 949.
- The Sacrifice of the Mass is a true propitiatory sacrifice, and NOT a simple memorial of the sacrifice offered on the cross: “If anyone says that the Sacrifice of the Mass is merely an offering of praise and of thanksgiving, or that it is a simple memorial of the sacrifice offered on the cross, and not propitiatory, or that it benefits only those who communicate; and that it should not be offered for the living and the dead, for sins, punishments, satisfaction, and other necessities: let him be anathema.” Canon 3, DB 950.
Canon 6 should likewise be kept in mind: “If anyone says that there are errors in the Canon of the Mass and that it should therefore be done away with: let him be anathema.” DB 953. Likewise Canon 8: “If anyone says that Masses in which the priest alone communicates sacramentally are illicit and should be done away with: let him be anathema.” DB 955.
The formulae “God is speaking to his people,” and “Christ is present to the faithful through his own word” (GI 33, DOL 1423) are typically Protestant. Strictly speaking, they have no meaning, since God’s presence in the word is mediated, bound to an individual’s spiritual act or condition, and only temporary.
This formula leads to a tragic error: the conclusion, expressed or implied, that the Real Presence continues only as long as the Sacrament is in the process of being used–received at Communion time, for instance–and that the Real Presence ends when the use ends.
The fact that these liturgies, even in their less solemn forms, last for over an hour and are constantly defined as “awe-inspiring, unutterable…heavenly, life-giving mysteries” speaks for itself. Finally, we note how in both the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom and the Liturgy of St. Basil, the concept of “supper” or “banquet” appears clearly subordinate to the concept of sacrifice –just as it was in the Roman Mass.