It’s not my religion
We continue our conversation over tea with my curate friend from the local parish with the question of the Mass. With obvious pastoral concern, my friend asked me why I felt so strongly about the New Mass. Why was someone my age, who had never seen the Church before the changes, so “attached” to the older form?
I think I rather surprised him when I passed over all questions of aesthetics and replied, “Because it represents a different religion.”
He had agreed with my first premise that liturgy was a manifestation, in actions and words, of theology. Liturgy was theology in motion; as we pray, so we believe, to paraphrase the old Latin expression. I pointed to several places in the new rite where certain specifically Catholic ideas had been either removed or re-written to mean something different, something Protestant or neo-modernist; something, in short, not Catholic.
My friend was rather taken aback, I think, to hear such a blunt assertion that the thing nearly every Catholic in the world assumes is the Mass, is in fact a jury-rigged, banal concoction deliberately engineered in malice by 1960s revolutionaries specifically for the purpose of de-Catholicising the Church.
In the light of recent events, many Catholics are finding the courage to look unflinchingly at the root causes of the current crisis and are looking for answers. Many who have been shocked by Pope Francis are asking, reasonably, how we got into this situation and how far down the roots go.
The official line about Vatican II – steadfastly adhered to by pope and prelate alike for 50 years – has been that there is no break, no discontinuity between the Church of Trent and the Church of Vatican II. Everything’s fine; nothing to see here. But with Francis we have – thanks be to God – finally dropped this absurd, indefensible pretense. Francis himself makes it glaringly clear that his religion is the religion of the Second Vatican Council, and that this is a departure from – indeed a repudiation and correction of the Council of Trent and all that preceded it.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. If I had had more time, I would have thought to steer my young friend to a document that continues to vex and harry the neo-modernist revolutionaries. It’s the one that caused a delay in the promulgation of the New Mass, as the men who concocted the latter struggled to cover their creation’s nakedness.
Ottaviani saw it coming
“It stunned me almost as much as when I first attended a Traditional Latin Mass and found out how much had been removed and changed.”
“I just read it all in one sitting last night. It has completely opened my eyes. I always knew something was drastically wrong, but now I understand what that means.”
“I can only imagine what people would say if Cardinal Mueller had said anything like this about Amoris Laetitia.”
These are some of the recent comments from various comment boxes around the ‘net by people who have read for the first time a document issued in 1969 by Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani, then-retired head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the theological inadequacies of the new rite of the Mass. Ottaviani, with Cardinal Antonio Bacci, issued a cover letter to a critical analysis by a dozen theologians of the New Rite just before it was officially promulgated.
In what has become known as the “Ottaviani Intervention” the theologians and two cardinals called on Pope Paul VI to reconsider the text of the New Mass that they describe as a “departure” from traditional Catholic theology and, given the parlous state of the Church in our times, “an incalculable error”. The Ottaviani Intervention, in other words, was the first place that the idea appeared that the New Mass was, in effect, embodying an entirely different religion from the Catholicism the world had known to that point. It stands to reason that if theology is the content, the meaning, of a religion, the New Mass was a product of a new, non-Catholic religion.
(A print copy can be purchased here and an online version can be found here.)
The New Rite as a “victory” over Trent
In the first paragraph of his letter, the cardinal comes right out and says it:
“The Novus Ordo 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 XXII of the Council of Trent.”
And he wastes no time explaining why that is going to be a disaster: these canons of Trent that had been “definitively fixed at that time provided an insurmountable barrier to any heresy directed against the integrity of the Mystery.”
The essential premise of the Intervention is that the New Rite of the Mass represents an outright attack by the men who created it on the Catholic doctrine of the Mass as defined by the Council of Trent. It removed language that upheld Catholic doctrine of the Mass as an authentic sacrifice, a renewal in “unbloody form” of the expiatory sacrifice of Christ on the cross, a salvific and efficacious action that pours out grace on the world for the salvation of souls.
This specifically sacramental language was systematically removed from the Mass in the new rite, along with many of the physical gestures like signs of the cross and genuflections, and repetitions that bolstered it. These were taken out explicitly in order to make Catholic worship more in line with Protestant ideas, to whom such concepts were non-starters, deal breakers.
This is also not just some wild, “Rad-Trad” claim, but the justification later given publicly by the people who worked on the new rite. Members of the Concilium who authored the New Rite went on to write articles and books bragging about their victory over the “reactionaries” like Ottaviani who had tried to stop them abandoning Trent, the precepts of which they called a “dead end” when it came to “ecumenism;” these were those Catholic doctrinal precepts that required Protestants unequivocally to choose between Protestantism and Catholicism.
The Intervention’s main points:
- a new definition of the Mass as an “assembly” of like-minded persons, instead of a sacrifice offered to God
- excising of elements focusing on the Mass as making satisfaction for sins
- the reduction of the role of the priest from “alter Christus” to a “presider” or officiator, equivalent to a Protestant minister
- implicit denials of the doctrine of Transubstantiation and the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist
- the reduction of the Consecration to a narrative “commemoration” of the Last Supper
- the introduction of countless liturgical “options” – to be decided on the spot by the priest – thus shattering the unity of Catholic worship and belief
- the introduction of ambiguous and equivocal language, open to personal interpretation
The fact that most Catholics of our time, now two generations removed from the traditional rites, would find these complaints completely unremarkable is a testament to the effectiveness of the liturgical alterations to deform Catholic teaching; “lex corandi; lex credendi. Bugnini came right out and said in his autobiography that the purpose of the entire exercise was to de-Catholicise Catholic worship, and ultimately Catholics themselves.
The Intervention itself rewards the effort of close and attentive reading, including its footnotes. It has, in fact, helped to “Red-Pill” quite a lot of people, including myself. I will not forget the relief I felt when I realized that my uncomfortable feeling that things in the Church (and consequently the world) had gone catastrophically wrong shortly before I was born, was not just me.
Moreover, there were very straightforward and uncomplicated reasons. The situation we are in now is awful, apocalyptic even, but its origins are not at all difficult to grasp once you have seen the data. The consequences of coming to grips with these facts – of “tradding” – can often be life-changing, but by itself the logic is not difficult, nor the data obscure. The only real difficulty lies in accepting that many of the things you thought were true, aren’t.
I’ll confine myself to commenting on a few points, trusting readers to follow the link above to do the rest of the reading.
Some stand-out phrases from the Ottaviani/Bacci letter:
“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 suspicions…that truths which have always been believed by the Christian people, can be changed or ignored without infidelity to that sacred deposit of doctrine…”
“…fresh changes in the liturgy could lead to nothing but complete bewilderment on the part of the faithful…”
For “the best of the clergy,” the New Rite offers “an agonising crisis of conscience.”
Some interesting little factoids from the “Short Critical Study”:
- The New Rite was outright rejected by 43 “non-placet” votes out of 187 bishops at the 1967 Synod of Bishops to whom it was demonstrated ad experimentum. The Intervention tells us that there were “very many substantial reservations (62 ‘juxta modum’), and 4 abstentions” in the vote.
- A well-known periodical, aimed at bishops and expressing their teaching, summed up the new rite in these terms: “They [the Concilium] 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.”
- The New Rite “was never submitted to the collegial judgment of the national bishop’s conferences.”
- Despite the claim made by Pope Paul VI’s Apostolic Constitution promulgating the New Rite, “Missale Romanum,” the laity and lower ranks of clergy “never, absolutely never, asked that the liturgy be changed or mutilated to make it easier to understand”.
- The definition of the New Rite of the Mass – called “the Lord’s Supper” – offered by the GIRM was “the sacred assembly or congregation of the people of God gathering together, with a priest presiding, to celebrate the memorial of the Lord,” to commemorate the actions of Christ at the Last Supper. Entirely excised or presented equivocally are the concepts of, “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’.”
- In the New Rite, the “ultimate purpose” of the Mass – the “sacrifice of praise rendered to the Most Holy Trinity” “has disappeared.”
- Phrases removed from the old Mass are telling: “Receive Holy Trinity this oblation…” “May the tribute of my homage Most Holy Trinity…” 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.”
- “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’.”
- “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.”
- “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.”
- The unique role of the priest who celebrates the Mass is likewise re-defined. “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.”
- “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.”
- The sections of the Mass dedicated to the prayers for the dead have particularly suffered from the Protestantisation, with a hint of the fad for Rahner’s doctrine of the “anonymous Christian” thrown in: “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.
- Many Catholics will not know that the practice of celebrating Mass outside a Church is an invention of the Novus Ordo. Until the New Rite, Masses were ordinarily only allowed in the sacred places intended and set aside for the purpose. Now, “a simple table, containing neither a consecrated altar-stone nor relics and covered with a single cloth, is allowed to suffice for an altar.”
The Intervention’s extensive footnotes are also worth visiting. In one the authors point out that the New Rite and the GIRM are substantially contradicted by Pope Paul VI’s own encyclical on the Eucharist, “Mysterium Fidei”.
Footnote 13: “‘Mysterium Fidei’ amply denounces and condemns introducing new formulas or expressions which, though occurring in texts of the Fathers, the Councils, and the Church's magisterium, are used in a univocal sense that is not subordinated to the substance of doctrine. ‘Not only the integrity of the faith, but also its proper mode of expression must be safeguarded, lest, God forbid, by the careless use of words we introduce false notions about the most sublime realities.’”
The Intervention’s authors conclude with a dire warning:
Today, division and schism are officially acknowledged to exist not only outside the Church, but within her as well. The Church's unity is not only threatened, but has already been tragically compromised. Errors against the Faith are not merely insinuated, but are--as has been likewise acknowledged--now forcibly imposed through liturgical abuses and aberrations. 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.
It is noteworthy that when the Intervention was published no one in the Catholic world had ever seen “altar girls,” Holy Communion given out by lay women into the hands of a standing congregant, the priest facing the people, the tearing out of altars and communion rails, balloons, felt banners, giant puppets, “folk bands,” guitars, tambourines or dancing girls. In 1966, even the most prescient had no idea what was coming: a regime of complete chaos, banal secularization, that would, 50 years later, be considered perfectly normal by nearly all Catholics in the world.
The Novus Ordo Mass is, in fact, about you.
The Novus Ordo has succeeded in so erasing the liturgical memory of the Catholic faithful that it is not widely known that the prayers, and even the particular tones of Gregorian Chant used for the parts of the Mass, were strictly prescribed in the old rite. No priest was ever allowed to simply decide what he felt like saying at Mass on a given morning. We often hear from “conservatives” the mantra, “The Mass isn’t about you.” But in fact, with its dozens of options and the abolition of the ordo, the Novus Ordo Mass most certainly is “about” the priest’s personal preferences, if not those of the parish or national bishops’ conference liturgical committees.
There’s more to Catholicism than “the pope says…”
And here again we see how the current pontificate comes in handy; Amoris Laetitia (et al) has put the final kibosh on such childish responses. No, not everything promulgated by a pope is, ipso facto, Catholic. The last four and a half years have taught us that we must come up with better, more complex, more difficult and more mature answers.
With his recent comments on the “irreversibility” of the modern liturgy, Pope Bergoglio has also made it clear that this includes the New Mass, a foundational part of this “hermeneutic of rupture.” He and his chosen mouthpieces have as much as admitted they are the champions of the “hermeneutic of rupture” Pope Benedict opposed. The New Church, the New Religion, the New Mass – these are not, he has been perfectly clear, the same as the old. And this, ironically, was precisely the thesis of the Ottaviani Intervention – and of the traditionalist movement that followed it and in part flowed from it.
With Francis, and his friends Kasper, Marx, Schonborn, Wuerl, Danneels, Maradiaga, Cocopalmerio, Pinto, et al, and to the intense relief of many of us who have struggled in this conflict, the smiley-face mask has finally dropped. The revolutionaries who have taken the citadel may yet be rolling out the metaphorical guillotines for us, but at least we no longer must endure being told they are doing what they are doing with our best interests at heart. And this, I will maintain to my last day, is the best possible thing for the Church, the only hope we have of saving souls. Ottaviani, Bacci and company were right. Now everyone knows this beyond the slightest possible doubt.
 As the principal fomenter of the current phase of the schism, Cardinal Kasper seems to be taking point on this. He gave a talk recently in which he alleged that with the New Rite and the New Theology – particularly with the advent of Pope Francis and Amoris Laetitia – there was now no difference between Catholics and Lutheran Protestants. Pope Francis had achieved the ecumenical dream, and he has Bl. Pope Paul VI and Annibale Bugnini to thank for it.
 (d. 1971) – one of the great Latinists of the Church who had opposed the imposition of the vernacular in the liturgy during the Council and its aftermath.
 Included in the critique was the New Rite’s explanatory document, the General Instruction on the Roman Missal (GIRM).
 This list comes from a summary by Fr. Anthony Cekada in a booklet on the Ottaviani Intervention, published by Tan Books, 1992
 “La Riforma Liturgica 1948 - 1975” Annibale Bugnini, Rome, Edizione Liturgiche, 1983
 The Intervention notes, “the expressions ‘bread of life’ and ‘spiritual drink,’ of course, are utterly vague and could mean anything.”
 Protestant theology opposes the ideas of living people “offering up” their suffering in union with Christ on the Cross as reparation for their sins, and of praying for the “Church Suffering,” the sacred dead in Purgatory.