Before we begin, know this:
– First, it’s not possible to do justice to a topic such as this in a couple of videos and a handful of blog posts. Those who really want to come to a fully informed understanding are going to have to dig deeper than that.
Even so, this is going to be, by necessity, a lengthy post, so grab a cup of coffee (or a cold beer or whatever suits your fancy) and settle in, this is going to take some time.
– Secondly, my purpose in this post is to explain more fully the argument put forth by the SSPX (and others) as I understand it. It’s going to be up to individual readers to educate themselves further, to evaluate the Society’s argument for what it actually is, and then to decide its merits for themselves.
– Lastly, under discussion here are matters concerning a liturgical crisis the likes of which the faithful have never experienced; ever, in nearly 2,000 years!
It’s simply not possible without great effort to fully form one’s conscience and intellect in this environment so each might serve as a reliable guide in determining how best to respond. Along the way, we can well expect sincere Catholics, each and every one a victim of the same crisis, to disagree with one another.
For many of the commenters here, this post may have a “preaching to the choir” feel.
Please understand, however, that commenters are but a small fraction of our readership. A large number of readers do not necessarily consider themselves “traditionalists,” but they are agitated enough by the crisis at hand to visit this space (and most certainly others) in their search for answers.
With this in mind, I’m going to be somewhat meticulous in spelling things out (as best I can anyway); perhaps even a bit more so than necessary for some of you.
OK, with all of that having been said, Michael Voris did his best to get his viewers incensed over the following comment made in the video by Fr. McDonald:
The New Mass is to be completely avoided as they understand it is an offense against God.
Voris, in his attempt to incite outrage, is treating this as a clarion call for all Catholics to avoid the New Mass completely, telling his viewers:
You are instructed not to go to Mass on Sunday if you must go to a Novus Ordo, New Mass..
That’s not entirely so. I can tell you firsthand that this is not how Society priests counsel individuals who currently participate in the Novus Ordo.
In my experience (and that of close friends), SSPX priests realize that sincere people have been led astray by their sacred pastors for a very long time. They know that many of us simply don’t know what we don’t know, and so they provide gentle guidance without compromising the truth.
If you’ve had a different experience and wish to use that as an excuse for sticking your fingers in your ears and blubbering “lalalalalalalala” so as to not even consider the possibility that there may be some merit to the Society’s position on the new Mass after all, so be it.
Incidentally, a friend of mine, also named Mike, wrote to me in the aftermath of Voris’ latest rant to say:
I’m sure he (Voris) would be delighted to know that an FSSP priest has forbidden me — because it’s a danger to the Faith — from attending a new Mass.
I am certain that my friend isn’t alone; so let’s not pretend that SSPX priests are the only ones that understand the Novus Ordo as an offense against God to be avoided; even if they are unique in being willing to invite persecution for speaking their convictions in public.
In any case, there’s an important qualifier in Fr. McDonald’s statement that Michael Voris overlooked; namely, “as they understand it…”
Later in the video, the nature of that qualifier is made plain when Father states (with the words printed onscreen), “Knowledgeable Catholics should avoid the New Mass.” [emphasis added]
Did you get that?
He said knowledgeable Catholics.
Please allow me to break this down further for those who as yet don’t fully grasp what Fr. McDonald is saying here and why.
This, incidentally, is a service that people like me are compelled to provide since Voris is apparently scared to death to allow the Society to provide its own detailed explanations on this complex topic firsthand.
Maybe that will change. We’ll see…
Look, all concerned (His Vorexcellency included) recognize the importance of avoiding, for the good of our souls, any activity that we understand to be an offense against God. That’s just plain Catholic common sense.
If one understands the Novus Ordo as be offensive to God, why would they participate therein? (We’ll examine the excuses momentarily.)
It’s important to note that sincere people often, in ignorance, engage in activities that are, objectively speaking, an offense against God; unaware that they are participating in something that should be avoided.
What happens in such instances?
Many if not most of us know firsthand that God, in His benevolence, does not cease to pour out His grace upon such persons; on the contrary, He continues to bless them and call them ever closer to Himself, even as they engage in an activity that they really should avoid.
When we see evidence of this either in our own lives or that of others, we must be careful not to confuse God’s generosity toward individual souls with His approval of their activities. One does not necessarily follow the other.
It would be wrong to conclude that the blessings bestowed upon this individual soul are an indication that the Lord has deemed the Rock-n-Roll Mass inoffensive, and furthermore, that we would do well to celebrate them more often.
This kind of mistaken logic is commonly applied in support of all manner of liturgical deviations that, objectively speaking, are offensive to God.
This same line of argumentation often surfaces in conversations about the Novus Ordo in general, as those who frequent it (or in the case of priests, celebrate it) are often quick to become defensive, as if the very real blessings that may have been received therein (or dispensed therein by the priest acting in persona Christi) are being discredited. They are not.
It’s important to be clear on this point:
To say that the new Mass is an offense against God (an admittedly stunning proposition) is not tantamount to declaring that those who participate therein have not been blessed in the process, much less, subjectively speaking, that they are personally guilty of offending God.
In other words, if you frequent the Novus Ordo, it’s not all about you, sweetheart, so stay focused; the present discussion primarily concerns the rite itself.
Continuing with our analogy, imagine that this guitar playing young man eventually comes to understand that the Rock-n-Roll Mass is indeed an offense against the Lord, even as he recognizes the good that came to him and others via their participation therein.
He then has a decision to make:
Does he continue participating in those Masses in spite of their offensiveness in order to secure for himself whatever blessings may remain, or does he avoid it?
The answer is obvious enough; he must avoid that Mass completely.
This is an illustration of what Fr. McDonald stated, “The New Mass is to be completely avoided as they understand it is an offense against God … Knowledgeable Catholics should avoid the New Mass.”
Of course, we all know that Fr. McDonald wasn’t talking about the Rock-n-Roll Mass specifically (which, incidentally, may be entirely valid) but more broadly of the Novus Ordo itself.
The million dollar question then is this: Is the Novus Ordo Missae, objectively speaking, an offense against God?
I realize that the question alone is enough to take one’s breath away. It’s a terrible thing to consider, but don’t allow your emotions to stifle your intellect; stick with me here.
Often, the mere suggestion that the new Mass could possibly be an offense against God invites yet another question:
How can this Mass be an offense against God given that it is valid, which means that the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of His Son is offered to Him in atonement for our sins therein, and furthermore the Most Holy Eucharist is truly confected and received by His people in this Mass?
We might summarize the arguments expressed herein (essentially the same that were put forth by Michael Voris in his Boretex) as follows – the Novus Ordo cannot be an offense against God because:
A) It is valid
B) It is the true Sacrifice of Christ offered to Our Heavenly Father
C) The Most Holy Eucharist is truly confected and received therein
D) It has been approved by the popes; i.e., it is given to the faithful by the Church
Let’s begin by addressing yet another question that lies at the heart of much of this discussion:
Is it possible for something (in this case, the new Mass) to contain that which is both exceedingly good (the true Sacrifice, the Eucharist made available, therefore pleasing to God), and yet also that which is truly bad (an offense against God and therefore displeasing to Him) at one and the same time?
The answer is yes, one thing may contain that which is both pleasing and offensive to God; the finest and most appropriate example imaginable being the shedding of Our Lord’s Precious Blood on Calvary – the same Sacrifice that is offered in an unbloody manner at Holy Mass.
Clearly, the Crucifixion was the greatest offense against God ever committed, and yet it was also the most pleasing of all offerings ever given to God – the same that yielded the greatest blessing ever to be bestowed upon mankind.
Another example is death. Imagine a devout and holy woman dying and leaving behind small children. Her death is at once good (in her passing into eternal bliss) and bad (in leaving her children motherless).
With this in mind, it must be acknowledged, at least theoretically at this point for the sake of proceeding, that the new Mass need not be either entirely pleasing, or entirely offensive to God; it can be both.
To arrive at a more specific answer to the objections raised above to the idea that the new Mass may be an offense against God, it is necessary to remind ourselves that the Novus Ordo is entirely unique in the life of the Church.
Our conservative friends have long recognized this truth as summarized so very clearly by Cardinal Ratzinger who said:
“One cannot manufacture a liturgical movement … but one can help contribute to its development by striving to reassimilate the spirit of the liturgy and by defending publicly what one has thus received … What happened after the Council was something else entirely: in the place of liturgy as the fruit of development came fabricated liturgy. We abandoned the organic, living process of growth and development over centuries, and replaced it–as in a manufacturing process – with a fabrication, a banal on-the-spot product.”
This being the case, those who wish to grasp the reality of the new Mass must view it for what is truly is – a “fabrication” that is best understood as a departure from that which is normal in the life of the Church; namely “the organic, living process of growth and development over centuries” that brought about the so-called Traditional Latin Mass. (For expedience sake, we’ll refer to it as the TLM.)
As such, any discussion of the Novus Ordo that does not include at the very least a basic understanding of that which it supplanted will lack the perspective necessary for uncovering the truth.
Now, I realize that many readers have but a limited understanding (and perhaps even no firsthand experience) of the TLM. This, however, need not render their reading here fruitless.
By all means, come to know the Mass of Ages (as it is also called) more deeply moving forward, but for now it will suffice to recognize that the TLM, the Roman rite codified by Pope St. Pius V in 1570, after having existed in the same substantial form for more than 1,000 years; the rite repeatedly praised for its Heavenly perfection by the Saints, the Doctors of the Church and the popes throughout the ages, in part, for its efficaciousness in communicating the Catholic faith in all integrity via its magnificent sacred signs, both collectively and individually, forming the faithful in such way as to exemplify the principle lex orandi, lex credendi…
This rite contains absolutely nothing whatsoever that could in any way be considered an offense against God.
If there should be any who find this statement disagreeable, it would perhaps be best for that person to leave now; to fast and to pray and to beg the Lord for a sensus Catholicus – an authentic Catholic sense.
For those who remain, with this most acceptable premise as an agreeable starting point, let’s consider one of Voris’ retorts:
Sure, there are abuses that occur in the New Mass owing to all kinds of issues that we point out here on the Vortex all the time. But those abuses are just that — abuses.
The suggestion here is that the Novus Ordo – meaning, the rite itself – when done by the book, is devoid of any offense against God.
This simply is not true as the statement from Cardinal Ratzinger – one that all but the fringe leftwing accepts as true – makes rather plain.
To say otherwise is to say that God is not offended by a “banal on the spot [liturgical] product” that was not only “fabricated … as in a manufacturing process,” but was also forced upon the faithful in place of that rite that had been faithfully handed down throughout the ages and very rightly received the glowing praise of so many Saints.
The very notion is positively ludicrous!
More specifically as to the content of the Novus Ordo, ask yourself:
Is it reasonable to consider an “offense against God,” a rite, the contents of which (meaning the letter of the missal) reveals very clearly that it was created by deliberately stripping away from the most venerable rite that it supplanted, by force, many of those sacred signs that are known to cause Protestants discomfort (which is often the spark that leads to their conversion) with respect to the sacramental priesthood, the Mass as a true Sacrifice, and the propitiatory nature of said Sacrifice?
One with a truly Catholic sense can hardly deny that such a rite is indeed an offense against God.
This rite would be an offense against God if it only effectively reassures Protestants in their errors, but the Novus Ordo doesn’t stop there; it also leads Catholics to adopt those errors as well!
Obviously, such a rite, which has the effect of leading souls away from the fullness of faith and the one true Church, is a grave offense against the Lord.
Only the truly ignorant (the ubiquitous presence of whom is understandable given the degree to which our churchmen have misled us over these past 50 years) or the deliberately evil (which is another matter altogether) will deny that this is precisely the case with the Novus Ordo; not due to deviations from the missal (otherwise called liturgical abuse), but because the rite itself is crafted in such way as to have precisely the effect outlined above.
The results of the Novus Ordo are in, folks. It’s not a riddle as yet unsolved. The evidence is all around us; the majority of Catholics in our day, including many a daily Communicant, have a Protestant understanding, not just of the Mass, but of many fundamental doctrines of the faith.
Lex orandi, lex credendi isn’t just a slogan; it’s a reality.
Consider yet another aspect of the Novus Ordo wherein the offensiveness to God is entirely plain; the Mass of Christian Burial. (Please follow the link for details.)
Would a rite that when followed strictly “by the book” assures survivors that they will see their deceased loved one in Heaven (something that none of us can know), thereby discouraging them from offering Masses and making sacrifices for the good of the departed person’s soul, be rightly considered offensive to God?
Of course it would!
Well, this too is part and parcel of the Novus Ordo Missae; not thanks to abuse, but thanks to the missal itself.
At this, let’s consider (or recap as the case may be) individual points A – D raised above in defense of the Novus Ordo.
A) It is valid
This argument betrays both ineptitude and hypocrisy when it is offered by those who, like Michael Voris, readily admit that the Masses offered by the SSPX are valid, and yet have no problem saying that they must be avoided.
Either “validity” is the be all end all, or it’s not. Well, the truth is, it’s not.
Validity, in fact, is a very low bar, one that does not necessarily render the rite inoffensive to God (as has already been demonstrated), and this in spite of its merits.
B) It is the true Sacrifice of Christ offered to Our Heavenly Father
Indeed, but as noted above, the Crucifixion is also the true Sacrifice, and yet the greatest offense against God ever committed. The assumption that the presence of the true Sacrifice necessarily equates to the absence of offense against God is, therefore, demonstrably false.
C) The Most Holy Eucharist is truly confected and received therein
Indeed, and yet, as we have already established, one is not free to participate in that which offensive to God, simply in order to avail oneself of a good. (Ends justifying means.)
The moral obligation to avoid that which is offensive to God, in spite of the availability of good, might also be well illustrated if we consider the example of Catholic participation in a Protestant Bible study.
While one might derive real blessings in such a setting, a program such as this – one that necessarily draws souls away from the one true Church – is undoubtedly an offense against God. It therefore must be avoided by those who recognize it as such, if for no other reason than the risk of leading others to do the same, thereby putting their relationship with the Church and their understanding of the true faith in jeopardy.
The new Mass is very much the same.
At this, let’s spend a bit more time on the topic of the Eucharist, as many sincere Catholics seem to believe that our ability to receive Holy Communion trumps all other concerns.
If we take this near exclusive focus on the Eucharist to its logical conclusion, we arrive at a point where the rite itself loses all importance, in which case one is tempted to see a Communion service or a sick call as the equal of Holy Mass. We know, however, that this is not true.
At this, let’s consider the precept concerning Holy Communion. The new Catechism states:
“You shall humbly receive your Creator in Holy Communion at least during the Easter season.”
Is it possible to uphold this precept while avoiding participation in the Novus Ordo?
For most of us, it certainly is, even if not without effort; either by finding a TLM, or perhaps a Divine Liturgy of the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches.
If such is not possible, the question remains, are we then to participate in that which is offensive to God simply in order to uphold a precept?
We’ll explore this question in detail when we discuss the Holy Day obligation below.
D) It has been approved by the popes; i.e., given to the faithful by the Church
This is an important topic; one that reflects some misunderstanding as to the Novus Ordo’s character.
First, approval by the pope doesn’t necessarily mean that no offense against God is present. If nothing else, that has become entirely evident in the post-conciliar period.
There isn’t a Catholic worthy of the name (Voris included, I presume) that doesn’t plainly recognize that these events were offensive to God, in spite of having been approved by the popes and celebrated by the popes (John Paul II and Benedict XVI – the former even being presented to the world as a “Saint”).
That leaves the suggestion that the Church would not give to her children a rite – the Novus Ordo – that is offensive to God.
This topic deserves more treatment than I can give it here, but know this:
“The Church,” meaning, Holy Mother Church who nurtures her children in the faith by preserving and passing down, in all integrity, that which she has received from her Founder and Head, did not give the Novus Ordo to the faithful; ultimately, Paul VI did.
There’s a tremendous difference.
Revisit, if you will, Cardinal Ratzinger’s characterization of the new Mass. In it, he contrasts the new rite with the TLM – the latter being the product of “the organic, living process of growth and development over centuries.”
This pedigree suggests that the Traditional Mass – the long-held, well-established Supreme lex orandi of the Church – has a dogmatic quality to it, similar to those doctrines that have always been held by the faithful, upheld by the popes, and taught by the bishops in union with him throughout the centuries.
The Novus Ordo Missae enjoys no such pedigree, nor does it enjoy the “dogmatic” quality that goes along with it; the same that ensures the absence of any offensiveness to God.
It is, after all, just as Cardinal Ratzinger said, a fabrication of mere men; as such, one errs in presuming to attribute to the new rite those qualities that are rightly expected of that which is given by “the Church” as Holy Mother.
Now let’s address our Sunday obligation.
These liturgies, even without what may be properly considered an abuse, effectively serve to confirm those who wrongly believe that homosexual activity is acceptable, and even laudable, in the eyes of the Church and the Lord.
These Masses are entirely valid and the Eucharist is truly confected and made available therein. And yet, I am certain that Michael Voris would readily affirm that such a Mass is an offense against God that one should avoid.
Now, what if this “gay friendly” Mass was the only one available to you in order to fulfill your Holy Day obligation, what then?
I suspect that many Catholics, not knowing any better, might hold their nose and participate in the rite, albeit with disgust, in spite of knowing that the Lord is being offended therein, simply in order to fulfill their obligation.
This should be easily recognized as a classic case of upholding the letter of the law while failing to uphold what is far more important, the law of love that necessarily prevents us from taking part in anything that offends Our Blessed Lord.
The well-formed Catholic who applies his intellect to this terrible situation would be compelled to consider whether or not it’s in keeping with the spirit of the law (and the law of love) to believe that God, who desires that we should glorify Him with our entire lives, out of love for us and for our own good, would obligate us to participate in something that clearly offends Him?
The answer, of course, is no, He would not.
The Sunday obligation is not an item to check off of a to-do list. It is given to us as a gift. It is a call to enter into that which renders unto God the worship that He is due, which of course is devoid of any offense against Him – something that cannot be said of the Novus Ordo.
With all of this taken into consideration, even those who are as yet unable to draw the same conclusions that are drawn here, the same that I understand to be reflective of the SSPX position, may at least understand why a priest, motivated by a sincere love for Our Blessed Lord and for the souls in his care, might say that those who understand the Novus Ordo as an offense against God should avoid it, even on Sundays and Holy Days.
In conclusion, I urge you to read, if you’ve not already, the treatment of the new Mass given by Fr. Daniel Themann, SSPX, published at Catholic Family News.