The Sacred Liturgy and the Rule of Belief


In his 1947 Encyclical on the Sacred Liturgy, Mediator Dei, Pope Pius XII attempted to set the record straight – and prophetically so, as we shall see – concerning the true relationship between the sacred liturgy and sound doctrine. He described the issue immediately at hand as follows:

…the fallacious reasoning of those who have claimed … that the Church is obliged to declare such a doctrine sound when it is found to have produced fruits of piety and sanctity through the sacred rites of the liturgy, and to reject it otherwise. Hence the epigram, “Lex orandi, lex credendi” – the law for prayer is the law for faith. (Mediator Dei 46)

“But this,” he tells us, “is not what the Church teaches and enjoins.” (ibid., no. 47) Getting to the heart of the matter, the Holy Father writes:

But if one desires to differentiate and describe the relationship between faith and the sacred liturgy in absolute and general terms, it is perfectly correct to say, “Lex credendi legem statuat supplicandi” – let the rule of belief determine the rule of prayer.

In other words, it’s not so much the case that the liturgy informs the Church as to what is, and what is not, sound doctrine, but rather, one may say, is it the other way around.

The entire liturgy, therefore, has the Catholic faith for its content, inasmuch as it bears public witness to the faith of the Church … the liturgy is also a profession of eternal truths, and subject, as such, to the supreme teaching authority of the Church. (ibid. 47,48)

NB: The entire liturgy of the one true Church of Christ – every aspect and portion of it – is comprised of, and gives witness to, the Catholic faith. This means that unsound doctrine has no place whatsoever in the liturgy of the Church; it is not enough that it be primarily, mostly, or even overwhelmingly comprised of the true faith.

The reason for this is very simple.

“The sacraments and the sacrifice of the altar,” Pope Pius XII reminds us, “[are] Christ’s own actions.” (ibid. 31) Even Sacrosanctum Concilium – the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of Vatican II – for all of its shortcomings, saw fit to affirm that “every liturgical celebration is an action of Christ the priest and of His Body which is the Church.” (SC 7)

As such, the liturgy of the Church is necessarily devoid of falsehood, error, or any such thing as that which may endanger one’s faith.

Yes, I do realize that this is about as basic a Catholic concept as one may ever hope to consider, but evidently far too few have attempted to apply it to our present day circumstances. Perhaps what follows will help readers make the connection.

In clarifying the relationship between liturgy and belief, the Holy Father does not deny that liturgical rites – including those conducted by the heretical communities – serve to form the faith of those who participate in them; they most certainly do as one inevitably comes to believe as he prays.

One notes that as Pope Pius XII wrote, the nightmare known as the Novus Ordo was still several decades away. In other words, he was expounding upon the doctrinal purity inherent to the Traditional Latin Mass, as well as to the other approved rites of that time.

So, how well does the so-called “new Mass” measure up to the teaching set forth in Mediator Dei?

For an answer, we will begin by looking at the official text of the so-called Roman Missal for the Novus Ordo. I will limit myself to just one citation, in this case, taken from the Rite of Christian Burial (aka, the funeral Mass).

During what is called the “Final Commendation and Farewell,” among the options the priest is instructed to pray is the following:

One day we shall joyfully greet him/her [the deceased] again when the love of Christ, which conquers all things, destroys even death itself.

I suspect that many readers have heard this prayer offered at the funeral of an impious individual who was estranged from the Church, perhaps even for many years, and thought to themselves, How dare Father take it upon himself to canonize the dead!

The reason an astute member of the faithful may have such a visceral reaction to this prayer is obvious: Assuring those who mourn that that they will one day “joyfully greet” their deceased loved ones, without qualification, is incompatible with the Catholic faith; it smacks of the once saved, always saved error held by so many heretics.

So much for the entire liturgy having the Catholic faith for its content!

Now recall what was previously stated: Liturgical rites do indeed serve to form the faith of those who participate in them as one inevitably comes to believe as he prays. Given what has been cited from the official text of the Novus Ordo above, we should therefore expect to observe widespread religious indifferentism among its participants.

In other words, the behavior of many who worship in this rite should give evidence to their belief that one can be saved outside the Church; e.g., in any one of the numerous self-proclaimed Christian confessions, non-Christian religions, or perhaps even in no religious community at all. Likewise should we expect to observe a lack of evangelical zeal among many such persons, as if the work of seeking converts to Christ through His Holy Catholic Church is of little or no import, effectively nullifying the Divine Commission. (Mt. 28:16-20)

Who among us can deny that this particular, and erroneous, rule of belief  is evident, not only among vast numbers of the Novus Ordo rank and file, but also a preponderance of the men who constitute the hierarchy of that community, reaching all the way to the top!

(Does the phrase “proselytism is solemn nonsense” ring a bell? If so, note that the man who said it was merely following the lead of his immediate predecessors.)

A similar situation is made evident in the results of a 2019 survey published by Pew Research, which indicated that a high percentage of Catholics in the U.S. do not believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. According to the data, more than one-third (37%) of those who attend the liturgy weekly or more believe in a merely symbolic presence, and this with no distinction being made between those who worship in the Novus Ordo versus the Traditional Latin Mass.

Most Catholic commentators reacted by decrying the poor quality of post-conciliar catechesis, a common lament of both conservatives and traditionalists. In response, the bishops pledged to renew their efforts to teach the Real Presence moving forward.

It must be admitted, however, that the vast majority of post-conciliar priests, bishops and educators have been plainly teaching the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Even the so-called Catechism of the Catholic Church, issued under John Paul II and edited by Christoph Schönborn, treats the doctrine well, with footnotes citing St. Thomas Aquinas and the Council of Trent.

What few seem to have considered is the distinct possibility that the problem isn’t truly catechetical, but rather liturgical. Had Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre been alive to see the Pew survey data, there is little doubt that he would have made the connection. In his famous 1974 Declaration, he wrote:

It is impossible to modify profoundly the lex orandi without modifying the lex credendi. To the Novus Ordo Missae corresponds a new catechism, a new priesthood, new seminaries, a charismatic Pentecostal Church—all things opposed to orthodoxy and the perennial teaching of the Church. This Reformation, born of Liberalism and Modernism, is poisoned through and through; it derives from heresy and ends in heresy, even if all its acts are not formally heretical.

So too would Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, former head of the Holy Office, have recognized the problem. In the Brief Critical Study on the New Order of Mass that he and Cardinal Bacci presented to Paul VI in 1969, it is observed:

The Novus Ordo changes the nature of the offering, turning it into a sort or exchange of gifts between man and God: man brings the bread, and God turns it into the “bread of life”; man brings the wine, and God turns it into a “spiritual drink” …

By suppressing the continual reference to God in the Eucharistic prayers, there is no longer any clear distinction between divine and human sacrifice.

Is it any wonder belief in the Real Presence is so lacking in the Novus Ordo?

Bringing our examination back in line with the teaching offered in Mediator Dei, let us be clear in acknowledging the proper order of things; it is the rule of belief that determines the rule of prayer.

What this means is that the doctrinally unsound proposition noted above – that we shall one day joyfully greet our deceased acquaintances, regardless of how wicked they may have been in life and death, or the true status of their relationship with the Church – doesn’t come from the Novus Ordo, properly speaking, rather, it found its way into that rite because it is the rule of belief  held by the community in which this liturgy is celebrated.

And where precisely does one find this rule of belief  articulated plainly? In the text of Vatican Council II, of course.

The Decree on Ecumenism of Vatican II, Unitatis Redintegratio, states:

The brethren divided from us [schismatics and heretics] also use many liturgical actions of the Christian religion … These liturgical actions must be regarded as capable of giving access to the community of salvation … For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them [the schismatic and heretical communities] as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Church. (UR 3)

The rule of belief  in this case is unambiguous. It establishes the unsound doctrine that membership in the Catholic Church is optional with respect to salvation! This is what determines the rule of prayer for the Novus Ordo Rite of Christian Burial.

Other texts could be cited to demonstrate the conciliar rule of belief  that views all manner of false religions as not only praiseworthy, but also as efficacious unto helping man reach his fulfillment. For the sake of brevity, I will give but one more example:

Buddhism, in its various forms, realizes the radical insufficiency of this changeable world; it teaches a way by which men, in a devout and confident spirit, may be able either to acquire the state of perfect liberation, or attain, by their own efforts or through higher help, supreme illumination. (Nostra Aetate 2)

Yes, you read that correctly; the rule of belief  set forth in this text establishes that Buddhism provides “a way” – the clear implication being that there are many – in which one may confidently acquire “perfect liberation.”

The faith of the Catholic Church, by contrast, is founded upon the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who said, “The truth will set you free. I am the way, the truth and the life.”

At this point it should be crystal clear to all that the rule of belief  that determines the rule of prayer professed in the Novus Ordo is unsound and incompatible with the doctrine of the Holy Roman Catholic Church. As such, the Novus Ordo liturgy bears public witness to a faith that is not Catholic.

In no way, therefore, can the Novus Ordo be considered a Catholic rite.

Bearing in mind the teaching in Mediator Dei cited above, one recognizes the Novus Ordo as a symptom more so than the problem, which is precisely this: The community that established this rite, and within which it is celebrated, is not, as it claims to be, the Holy Roman Catholic Church; it is, therefore, an imposter.

In conclusion, let us end by acknowledging that the non-Catholic liturgy under review has long been known, and properly so, as the “Mass of Paul VI.” This is the same rite that was exclusively celebrated by John Paul II, dubbed the “Ordinary Form” by Benedict XVI, and is presently subject to “the supreme teaching authority” vested in the man known as Francis.

If all that has been said does not cause one to question the true nature of all that proceeded from Vatican Council II, either directly or indirectly, and the identity of those who promote it, nothing will.

aka focus