One of the primary faults of the conciliar text is that it encourages an exaggerated, and ultimately false, understanding of human dignity; an error that is taken even to the point of asserting a degree of autonomy that man simply does not possess.
As we shall see, this brand of anthropocentrism engenders a threefold revolt against Christ the Eternal High Priest, Christ the Prophet, and Christ the King.
The Declaration on Religious Freedom, Dignitatis Humanae, provides the most stunning example of this encroachment right from its very opening:
A sense of the dignity of the human person has been impressing itself more and more deeply on the consciousness of contemporary man, and the demand is increasingly made that men should act on their own judgment, enjoying and making use of a responsible freedom, not driven by coercion but motivated by a sense of duty.
Had this sentence been subjected to the scrutiny of any one of the pre-conciliar popes, there can be little doubt that he would have objected by reminding all concerned that man must act according to God’s judgment such as it is rendered by Christ the King; He to whom all authority has been given, lest he ultimately find himself judged to be unworthy of eternal life.
What’s more, he most certainly would have pointed out that fallen man is prone to evil; he therefore stands in need of a teacher in order to develop a “sense of duty” toward goodness and truth. This, of course, is precisely the role of Holy Mother Church as she guides the affairs of men in the name of her Founder and Head, Christ the Prophet.
Furthermore, as it pertains to the purpose for which the Declaration is written, religion, he surely would have made it clear that man is utterly incapable of upholding the first demand of justice – namely, to offer unto to God the worship that He is due – apart from the actions of Christ the High Priest such as they are continually carried out in the Church by His sacred ministers.
As it is, Dignitatis Humanae went on to insist that man has the right to freely practice whatever religion he so happens to judge worthy of his participation; worshipping God in whatever manner he may see fit, with the only possible exception being activities that disturb the “just public order” as defined in a purely secular way.
Many of the Council’s defenders readily acknowledge that this represents not just a novelty, but an about face; i.e., it is tantamount to a rejection of that which was once held to be true.
Former priest Gregory Baum (a Council peritus who participated in the drafting of Dignitatis Humanae), for example, pulled no punches in a 2005 interview with CNS:
‘The Catholic Church had condemned religious freedom [as conceived by the Council] in the 19th century,’ Baum stated, speculating that those bishops and theologians who resisted the Murray-inspired text did so because they ‘didn’t want to admit that the Church was wrong.’
Make no mistake, Baum is a pertinacious heretic, but he does well to insist that in order for the Council to be right in this matter, the traditional doctrine must have been wrong.
And what exactly is the primary difference between the two?
The traditional teaching is founded squarely upon the Sovereign Rights of Jesus Christ – Priest, Prophet and King. As such, it stresses mankind’s obligations toward Him and the one true religion that He Himself established for our salvation.
The conciliar approach, by contrast, is based upon an overblown sense of human dignity wherein each individual man is imagined to enjoy religious autonomy; with the emphasis therefore placed upon a supposed license “to act on one’s own judgment” in such matters apart from any obligation to truth.
The right to [religious freedom] continues to exist even in those who do not live up to their obligation of seeking the truth and adhering to it… (cf DH 2)
As the CNS article correctly stated:
This was a sharp departure from centuries of church teaching that complete religious freedom belonged only to the Catholic Church as an institution because it contained the fullness of divine truth.
The conciliar proposition, in other words, represents a new way of believing; so much so that to embrace it is to undergo nothing less profound than a conversion:
Archbishop Wojtyla was “keen on the document” and it “converted him to human rights,” said Baum.
More accurately stated, acceptance of the Council’s treatment of religious liberty demands conversion to a revolutionary idea; namely, the assertion of human rights over and against the Sovereign Rights of Jesus Christ.
Q: And what, sir, would you do if you could be king for a day?
A: Whatever I damned well please!
Indeed, he who enjoys sovereignty has many options from which to choose in life; including as it pertains to what, who and how he will worship.
According to Pope Benedict XVI, writing in an essay that was published by L’Osservatore Romano in October of 2012, this “right and freedom to choose” is precisely what the Council stressed on behalf of man:
At stake [in the Declaration on Religious Freedom] was the freedom to choose and practise religion and the freedom to change it, as fundamental human rights and freedoms.
The suggestion that man enjoys such “rights and freedoms” as these has been rejected many times by the Church as that which is incompatible with the true Faith. For instance, Pope Pius IX condemned the following false proposition as an example of “indifferentism” and “latitudinarianism” in his Syllabus of Errors:
“Every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which, guided by the light of reason, he shall consider true.” (Pope Pius IX, Syllabus of Errors – 15)
[Note: Latitudinarianism is the belief that matters of doctrine, liturgical practice, and ecclesiastical organization are of little importance. Sound familiar?]
Indeed, what the Council proposes in the matter of religious liberty amounts to a revolution; one that demands a new manner of believing.
Lex orandi, lex credendi…
In order for the children of the Church to believe differently, however, the revolutionaries knew very well that it would be necessary for them to pray differently as well; most especially in the Mass, lest the tension between the two impede their conversion to that newchurch wherein humankind would be priest, prophet and king.
Enter the Novus Ordo Missae; a rite fit for sovereign man if for no other reason than the fact that it is readily available in a plethora of styles, with one to suit practically every liturgical taste imaginable; e.g., there are quiet Masses, children’s Masses, contemporary Masses, ethnic Masses, and even homo Masses all within easy driving distance of many Catholics.
The Novus Ordo also provides numerous opportunities for the laity to engage in a little sacerdotal role play should they so desire; e.g., as lectures, cantors and even “Eucharistic ministers.”
This smorgasbord of choices for the post-conciliar Catholic liturgical consumer isn’t just for the laity, mind you, as the priest-celebrant is also invited to assert his “right to choose.” Indeed, the new Mass places any number of options at the celebrant’s disposal; so many, in fact, that he will inevitably put his own personal stamp on the liturgy whether he intends to or not.
The anthropocentrism of the Novus Ordo goes well beyond mere liturgical choices; extending all the way to the very rite itself, and most notably so in the very centerpiece of the Mass.
In the Traditional Latin Mass, the Offertory puts human dignity, the priesthood, and our reliance upon Christ in their proper perspective straightaway as the priest begins:
Accept, O Holy Father, almighty and eternal God, this spotless host, which I, Thy unworthy servant, offer unto Thee, my living and true God, to atone for my innumerable sins, offenses, and negligences, and for all here present; also for all faithful Christians both living and dead, that it may profit me and them for salvation unto life everlasting. Amen.
The very purpose of the Mass is thus established; it is the “spotless” Sacrifice offered in the present moment as propitiation for our sins; the fruits of our redemption made available unto salvation. It is made clear in these words that this is the work of Christ, and what’s more, we are given to know that the priest carries it out in a unique and singular way as he acts in persona Christi.
And why is this Sacrificial offering necessary?
The priest continues:
O God, Who, in creating human nature, did wonderfully dignify it, and still more wonderfully restored it…
Human nature was created with a certain dignity indeed, and yet we acknowledge that this dignity was so diminished by sin as to stand in need of restoration, both once and for all in light of original sin, as well as continually thanks to our personal and “innumerable sins, offenses, and negligences” – a restoration made possible only by the fruits of Our Lord’s Sacrifice on the Cross – the same made present and available in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Furthermore, we can discern in these words the reality that he who draws near to Christ – the Same who both dignifies and restores – enjoys human dignity in a greater degree than he who shuns the Lord and His saving work.
According to Martin Luther, however, the traditional Offertory was an “utter abomination” since “from here on, almost everything smacks and savors of sacrifice.”
This was untenable for Luther given his belief that “faith alone makes righteous and fulfils the law;” as such, he saw no need for, and in fact could not accept, the re-presentation of Our Lord’s Sacrifice such as it is carried out in the Mass.
Let us, therefore, repudiate everything that smacks of sacrifice, together with the entire canon and retain only that which is pure and holy, and so order our mass. (Formula Missa, 1523)
The protestant service would thus be a merely human act, albeit in the belief that Christ would be present “where two or three are gathered in His name.” (cf Mt. 18:20)
According to John Courtney Murray, architect of Dignitatis Humanae, concern for protestant sensibilities played a major role in the matter of religious liberty:
The declaration has opened the way toward new confidence in ecumenical relations and a new straightforwardness in relationships between the church and the world. (John Courtney Murray, Religious Liberty: An End and a Beginning, 1966)
Indeed, these ecumenical aims were well-served by the Declaration on Religious Freedom, and they would be served all the better once the Mass was rewritten in such way as to reflect and reinforce the Council’s anthropocentrism; thus, at the very least, making the rite less objectionable to the protestant.
And so it is that Luther’s directives were duly taken up by Annibale Bugnini and his merry band of liturgical revisionists in the crafting of the Novus Ordo, beginning with the wholesale elimination of the traditional Offertory.
In its place, the new Mass features human dignity on display as the laity-come-priest carry up “the gifts.”
The priest, for his part, now all but disavows his unique identity as he recites two Jewish “Baruchas,” or blessings:
Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this bread [and later, “this wine”] to offer, which earth has given [“fruit of the vine”] and human hands have made [“work of human hands”]. It will become for us the bread of life [“our spiritual drink”]…
The general thrust of these Barucha prayers concern mankind offering something to God, albeit from the gifts of His creation; i.e., these prayers speak of a decidedly human act.
For the Jew living before the coming of the Christ, the Eternal High Priest, this type of liturgical action made perfect sense given the fact that this is all they could possibly do under the Old Covenant. They had no way of entering into the very work of God; much less offering to Him that which is truly worthy.
Even so, their sacrificial offerings had no efficacy unto salvation; they simply served to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah and the New Covenant that He would establish.
For the Protestant, a liturgy wherein mankind offers something to God also makes sense given his belief in sola fide; he thus imagines himself sufficiently righteous as to make an acceptable offering to God on his own without the intermediation of a priest who can act sacramentally on his behalf in the person of Christ.
Such an offering as this is merely symbolic of the soaring dignity that the Protestant is convinced that he presently enjoys as a believer; a dignity that nothing short of unbelief can take away.
“As, therefore, faith alone makes righteous, and brings the Spirit, and produces pleasure in good, eternal works, so unbelief alone commits sin…” (Martin Luther)
It is for this reason that the liturgical revolutionaries saw fit to eliminate from the Mass those elements that communicate the unique and indispensable role of the priest; e.g., the priest’s Confiteor (separate from that of the faithful), his personal Domine non sum dignus, and the Placeat tibi at the end of Mass, just to name a few.
All of this having been said, the Novus Ordo Missae isn’t just an invitation to Protestantism; in truth, it is far more dangerous than that:
It is the lex orandi that begets the false belief that every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which, guided by the light of reason, he shall consider true – the same espoused by the Second Vatican Council – a threefold assault against Christ the Eternal High Priest, Christ the Prophet, and Christ the King, and the gateway to precisely the “indifferentism” and “latitudinarianism” against which Pope Pius IX had warned.