Unmasking the New Mass

by John Vennari

Perhaps the best way to begin a review of The Problem of the Liturgical Reform is to quote from the book's concluding paragraphs:

"The doctrine of the Paschal mystery, with its serious doctrinal deficiencies, is, then, at the origin of the liturgical reform. Certainly, the reformed missal does not deny Catholic dogma outright, but its authors have so oriented the gestures and the words, they have made such significant omissions and introduced numerous ambiguous expressions, and all in order to make the rite conform to the theology of the Paschal mystery and to give expression to it.

"Consequently, the new missal no longer propagates the lex credendi [law of belief] of the Church, but rather a doctrine that smacks of heterodoxy. That is why one cannot say that the reformed rite of Mass of 1969 is 'orthodox' in the etymological sense of the word: it does not offer 'right praise' to God. Equally, one cannot say that the rite of Mass resulting from the reform of 1969 is that of the Church, even if it was conceived by churchmen . . . "And lastly, one cannot say that the new missal is for the Faithful 'the first and indispensable source of the true Christian spirit,' [1] where the Church 'communicates in abundance the treasures of the depositum fidei of the truth of Christ' [2]. [3]"

Strong words? Perhaps. But The Problem of the Liturgical Reform buttresses this conclusion with nine chapters of solid argumentation. These chapters demonstrate the New Mass to be the fruit of a new religion that favors Protestantism, smacks of modernism, and fails to convey the truths of the Catholic Faith on sin, redemption, and the propitiatory nature of the Mass. The book is arguably one of the most important critiques of the Novus Ordo Missae since the Ottaviani Intervention.

Yet the new book differs from the famous text of Cardinal Ottaviani in this way. The Ottaviani Intervention studied the New Mass and found that it "teems with dangerous errors." The Problem of the Liturgical Reform, however, explains how and why those errors got there in the first place. The Ottaviani Intervention studied the effect. The Problem of the New Mass studies the cause. As such, it is a work unlike anything done before.

New Mass, New Religion

The Problem of the Liturgical Reform, a slim volume of only 111 pages, is a theological and liturgical study written by priests of the Society of Saint Pius X. [4] Originally published in French, 17,000 copies of the book have been sent to priests throughout France, where it provoked heavy discussion.

It seems that a great deal of traditional Catholic literature is defensive in nature: articles and booklets that explain "Why we are not disobedient" or "Why we are not schismatic," etc. The need for this literature is understandable due to the fact that traditional Catholics are maligned as mavericks because they practice and believe what the Catholic Church always practiced and believed.

This latest book, however, is refreshing in that it goes on the offensive against the post-Conciliar orientation of liturgy and theology. It asks hard questions, states bold accusations, spotlights flaws, exposes errors, and provides ample documentary evidence that the theology on which the new mass is based is not truly Catholic. The book is composed of three parts:

Part One, that the New Mass constitutes a liturgical rupture with Tradition.

Part Two, that the New Mass is based on a new theology of sin and redemption, which is called the "theology of the Paschal Mystery."

Part Three, the new theology on which the New Mass is based stands condemned by traditional Catholic doctrine, especially by the Council of Trent; In summary, the New Mass is unacceptable because it is the fruit of a new religion.

Part One:
The Reform of 1969: A Liturgical Rupture

The authors analyze the Novus Ordo Missal along with the Institutio Generalis Misallis Romani, which was the General Instruction on the New Mass published in 1969. [It should be noted, though the authors mention it in passing, that the first edition of the General Instruction was so Protestant in orientation that Pope Paul VI had to re-issue a "Catholicized" new edition. Sadly, the revised "General Instruction" was not much better than the first]. [5]

The analysis of the New Mass brings three basic conclusions to light.

1) That the new rite is no longer based on sacrifice, but on a memorial meal, a concept harmonious with Protestant practice.

2) Rather than emphasizing Our Lord's presence in the Priest and in the Eucharist, which is the Catholic focus, the new rite emphasizes Our Lord's presence "in His Word and in His people." This too favors Protestant doctrine.

3) In the new rite, there is a downplay of emphasis on the Mass as propitiation, that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass makes satisfaction to God for sin. Rather, the Novus Ordo emphasizes the Mass as an act of Thanksgiving. Again, this is a shift from a Catholic orientation to one that is Protestant.
The book provides many examples of this new focus. Here we will mention only one, the New Offertory Prayers.

In the Tridentine Missal, the Offertory Prayers express clearly the sacrificial and propitiatory nature of the Mass. It properly conveys Catholic doctrine:

" Accept O Holy Father, Almighty and Eternal God, this unspotted Host, which I, Thine unworthy servant, offer unto Thee, my living and true God, for my innumerable sins, and negligences, and for all faithful Christians, both living and dead, that it may avail both me and them unto life everlasting."

By contrast, the fabricators of the New Liturgy stripped the Offertory prayers of a sacrificial, propitiatory emphasis. This was done, they claim, in order to place "the words of institution of the Eucharist back into their own context which is that of the ritual berakoth of the Jewish meal." [6]

This explains why parts of the new "Presentation of the Gifts" were "borrowed word, for word from the Jewish grace-before-meals;"

"Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made. It will become for us the bread of life."

This pivots away from the Sacrificial character of the Mass and the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Instead, we see the emphasis on a memorial meal and on thanksgiving. Further , the term "It will become for us the bread of life." is deliberately ambiguous. "Bread of life" means different things to different people [likewise with the term "it will become for us our spiritual drink"]. Also, the words "for us" stress a subjective emphasis rather than the objective reality of transubstantiation.

It is not surprising that M. G. Siegvalt, a Professor of Dogmatic Theology in the Protestant faculty at Strasbourg wrote, ". . . nothing in the renewed Mass need really trouble the Evangelical Protestant." [7]

Part Two:
The Principle Behind the Liturgical reform, the Paschal Mystery

Here we come to the most difficult section of the book. The authors lead us into the world of modern theologians, which is not a pleasant place to be. A study of the new theology of the "Paschal Mystery" however, reveals the basis for the three-point shift of emphasis mentioned in Part One.

I) The new theology explains the diminution, not to say suppression, of the notion of propitiation in the new missal.
II) The new theology of "mysteries" accounts for the innovation regarding the notion of Christ's presence in the Mass. That is, the emphasis of Christ's presence in "His Word and in His people" rather than His unique Sacramental presence in the Holy Eucharist.
III) An understanding of the 'sense' which this new theology gives to the word 'memorial,' which explains the abandoning of the sacrificial rite in favor of the memorial meal.

The authors look at writings from the theologians responsible for the liturgical reform, [8] the official post-conciliar texts, along with pertinent sections from Vatican II.

I) The New Notion of Redemption

The section titled "The Passover of the Lord" explains that the "Paschal Mystery" embodies a new way of looking at sin and redemption. This novel approach holds that man's sin is not something that offends God to the point where He requires satisfaction for these sins. Rather, sin injures man and requires man's restoration. According to this mind-set, "man's sin seems to harm only himself and society, without being prejudicial to God."

What then is redemption if not satisfying God's justice for man's sin?

Answer, redemption is the Paschal Mystery revealing God's unbreakable love for us, especially as shown in the Resurrection.

One of the many expressions of this new teaching is found in a 1994 statement from the International Theological Commission. Here the Commission does not hesitate to flirt with blasphemy, as it caricatures God as "merciless:"

"The death of Jesus is not the act of a merciless God glorifying supreme sacrifice; it is not the 'price of redemption' paid to some repressive alien power. It is the time and place where God 'who is love and who loves us, is made visible. Jesus crucified declares how God loves us and proclaims through this gesture of love that one man has conditionally consented to the ways of God." [9]

In short, it means that there is no debt to be paid to God in order to satisfy Divine justice offended by sin. This false doctrine, applied to the new liturgy, results in the propitiatory aspect of the Mass being downplayed or effaced. It also results in the elimination or reduction of prayers asking for satisfaction for sin. Also, since "Redemption is seen as a full revelation of the Father's free and superabundant love for us, the response which the celebration of the liturgy embodies can only be of thanksgiving and petition. The vicarious satisfaction of Christ and His mediation in prayer no longer prove to be absolutely necessary. Such notions have" therefore, been largely removed from the new missal, and notably from the Eucharistic Prayers . . ."

II) Sacrament as Mystery

Next, the book discusses "Sacrament as Mystery," a complex concept from the muddled minds of modern malcontents. In reading this section, especially the quotations from progressivist writers, I was reminded of Flannery O'Connor's comment about how incomprehensible modern theologians can be:

"It was the Theology of Death [by Karl Rahner] I was reading. I finished it but I could read it once a year and still not know exactly what he has said." [10]

Briefly, the authors point out that modern theologians promote a new concept of "mystery."

The new use of the word "mystery" is a disturbing trend since the Council. In 1963, the brilliant theologian Father David Greenstock, writing in The Thomist, warned that modern theologians exerting influence on Vatican II, were deliberately suppressing the precision of scholastic language in order to employ new vague theological expressions. This was done to make way for the creation of a new 'situational theology' to fit the needs of modern ecumenism. [11]

Father Greenstock's warnings were well founded. For example, in 1966, the progressivist Father Joseph Ratzinger rejoiced that in the Council's document Lumen Gentium, "the title of the text no longer referred in scholastic fashion to the 'nature of the Church,' but rather spoke of its mystery." [12]

Here's what's happening. Before the Council, we spoke precisely of the "nature of the Church," which had a strict definition. Now, instead, we speak of the "mystery of the Church." Before the Council, we spoke of the unchangeableness of Sacred Tradition. Today, however, we talk about the "mystery of living tradition." This is a semantic tactic to introduce confusion. The progressivists take our defined certitudes and refer to them as "mysteries." Once they do this, they can do anything they want with the terminology, and open the door to their novel theological concepts. This seems to be the game being played here.

Within this new concept of mystery, the word "sacrament" receives a broader meaning than that of applying strictly to one of the Seven Sacraments of the Church. According to this vague, Protestantized view, a sacrament is something that "makes divine realities present and gives them to man to nourish his faith." [13]

The authors note that this new concept surfaces in Vatican II's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy which seems to apply the vague notion of "sacramental mystery" to Scripture: "He is present in
His Word since it is He Himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are read in the Church." [14]

Again, this new emphasis was not lost on the young progressivist Father Joseph Ratzinger. In his 1966 book, Theological Highlights of Vatican II, Ratzinger wrote the following in praise of the Council's Liturgy Constitution:

"There is and will be a stronger emphasis on the Word as an element of equal value with sacrament." [15]

The new concept of "sacrament as mystery" was one of the main lines of the liturgical reform. As such it explains the following orientation of the Novus Ordo:

Regarding this last point [Mysterium Fidei] the authors spotlight the shift as to where this term is placed in the Tridentine Mass vs. the Novus Ordo.

The traditional missal places the expression Mysterium Fidei amid the very words of consecration. This is done to emphasize the truth of the real presence of Christ brought about through transubstantiation, and also to mark the culminating point of the Mass: "Here is the sacrifice of Christ presented in an immolated state wherein the species of bread and wine signify the separation of His Body and Blood during the Passion." [17]

By contrast, the new missal's Mystery of Faith no longer expresses transubstantiation and the sacrificial consecration. Rather, the words are placed outside of the consecration formula
[that is, immediately after it], and express primarily the Mysteries of Christ's life remembered together. "Let us proclaim the mystery of faith. Dying You destroyed our death, rising You restored our life. Lord Jesus, come in glory."

This part of the New Liturgy is also "pro-choice" in that it offers the celebrant a selection of four new Mystery of Faith formulas from which he may choose, none of which emphasize Transubstantiation. These prayers are now called the "Memorial Acclamation."

For example, Acclamation "A" also centers on Our Lord's life: "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again". Memorial Acclamation "C", however, does not focus on the Mysteries of Our Lord's life, nor on the Consecration, but on a type of Communion: "When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim Your death, Lord Jesus, until You come in glory." All four of the new Mystery of Faith acclamations could be recited at a Protestant communion service. [18]

As the authors note, these changes taken as a whole shift the center of gravity and lay bare the difference in emphasis between the two rites. In the Tridentine Missal, "the Mass is a sacrificial offering of the transubstantiated presence of Christ," while in the Novus Ordo, "the Mass is understood as a memorial of Christ's Passover." [19]

III) The Mass as Memorial

With the sacrificial nature of the Mass undermined, we move to the next major section of the book which explains that the liturgical reform has brought the memorial aspect of the Mass to the foreground. Following the latest notion of "sacrament," the new understanding of the Mass is "the memorial [which] makes present the reality it communicates."

Here, in part, is the new emphasis. Christ instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper which was a Passover meal. Since the Old Testament Passover was a communal action of memorial in the form of a meal, so now, New Testament worship must be a new kind of Passover ritual, a communal action of memorial in the form of a meal. And in the new rite, this memorial is not primarily Calvary represented, but rather a memorial of the entire paschal mysteries from the Last Supper to the Resurrection.

This error is not new. Pope Pius X II took great pains combating it when he insisted that the sacrifice of the Mass is only a memorial insofar as it represents Christ's death on the Cross. [20]

Part Three:
Does the Liturgical Reform Constitute a Dogmatic Rupture
with Tradition?

The authors answer yes!

For these and many other reasons, the authors conclude with the statement with which this review opened:

"The doctrine of the Paschal mystery, with its serious doctrinal deficiencies is, then, at the origin of the liturgical reform. That is why one cannot say that the reformed rite of Mass of 1969 is 'orthodox' in the etymological sense of the word: it does not offer 'right praise' to God."

Tridentine Mass Never Abrogated

At the book's end, the authors explain that it was not their intent to discuss the manifest influence of false ecumenism on the reform, nor to treat of the absurdity of concocting a new liturgical rite by committee, nor to explore the link between the new concept of the Mass and the crisis of identity now sweeping the Catholic priesthood. [23] All of these points could be addressed at length.

Rather, the aim of the book was a fixed focus on the progressivist "theology of the Paschal mystery" that is at the heart of the liturgical reform, [24] and to demonstrate that this new theology stands condemned by traditional Catholic doctrine.

The book closes with a 5-page treatment of the "Canonical Status" of the Tridentine Mass under six headings:

1) The Tridentine Mass has never been abrogated.
2) The Tridentine Mass was not "obrogated."
3) The Tridentine Mass has acquired the status of an immemorial custom.
4) The Missal revised by St. Pius V is protected by an indult. [And here "indult" is given its proper meaning rather than the false use of the word by the fraudulent Commission Ecclesia Dei.] [25]
5) Pope Paul VI's Missal does not have the character of true law.
6) One can in good conscience use the Missal revised by St. Pius V [The Tridentine Missal].

Well Worth the Read

In conclusion, I cannot recommend this book highly enough, even though various sections of the book are not an easy read. The authors present the thinking of trendy theologians whose concepts are difficult to grasp, especially Part II on the "Theology of the Paschal Mystery."

This is not to imply that these "new concepts" are the lofty product of great thinkers with something worthwhile to say. It is rather the opposite. In reading some of their obtuse theories, I was reminded of the story of G.K. Chesterton who once heard a man make an outlandish remark. Chesterton turned to a friend and said, "That statement had to be made by an intellectual. No normal man could be that stupid."

Progressivists, who are kissing cousins to modernists, are usually not as stupid as they are cunning. As Pope St. Pius X warned, the modernists employ the strategy of imprecision and vagueness in their writings. This is why it is not easy to wrap one's mind around their obscure notions, such as their broad interpretations of "mystery" and "Sacrament." It is also why some of their quotations need to be read at least three times before one catches what is said.

Nonetheless, the book is well worth the read. The authors have jam-packed huge amounts of material into a brief 111 pages. On a positive note, the work also contains much doctrinal meat on the Sacrifice of the Mass, many points of which could even be used in catechism instruction [yes, parts of the book will be helpful for homeschoolers].

For those who may struggle with various sections of the book, I encourage them to persevere until the finish. The general conclusion at the end of the book is satisfactorily clear. The Problem of the Liturgical Reform demonstrates that with the imposition of the Novus Ordo Missae, our Church leaders have given their children stones instead of bread.

It is no wonder that Sister Lucy of Fatima, in the early 1970s, warned of the "diabolic disorientation of the upper hierarchy."

1) St. Pius X, moto proprio Tre le sollectiudini of Nov. 22, 1903.
2) Pope Pius XII, Allocution to the International Congress on Pastoral Liturgy, Sept. 22, 1956.
3) The Problem of the Liturgical Reform (Hereafter referred to as PLR), The Society of Saint Pius X, (Angelus Press, 2001), p. 100-101 (Available from Catholic Family News for $11.95 post-paid.)
4) The Problem of the Liturgical Reform should be judged on its own merits, regardless of what a person may think regarding the canonical status of the Society of Saint Pius X. As our readers are aware, we at Catholic Family News are among the tens of thousands of Catholics who do not consider the Society of Saint Pius X to be in schism. Father Paul Kramer, (a Doctor of Sacred Theology) who is not a member of the SSPX, has refuted the charge of schism in his three-part article. . . "Controversy in the Philippines" (CFN, Dec. 1995, Jan-Feb., 1996. Reprint #122 for $2.50 US) Ultimately, the source of Archbishop Lefebvre's difficulties with the post-conciliar Vatican is that he insisted on being faithful to the traditional doctrine and liturgy of the Catholic Church. This is admitted by the Archbishop's friends and enemies alike. For example, the progressivist, ecumenical publication, International Jewish-Christian Documentation Service, which is from a Catholic association "founded in Rome in 1965" admitted that Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre's main "problem" was that he persisted in fidelity to what the 9hurch has always taught in the face of Vatican II's new teachings. The journal said, "Lefebvre's refusal to accept ecumenism originates in clear teachings from the Magisterium: the encyclical Satis Cognitum of Leo XIII (1896); the encyclical Mortalium Animos of Pius XI (1928); the Dec. 20, 1949 instruction of the Holy Office regarding ecumenism. The only ecumenism accepted by Lefebvre and his followers is that which strives for the unconditional return of the members of other confessions to the one Church of Christ, the Roman Catholic Church. This hardened sectarianism is precisely the kind of logic which Vatican II through profound reflection on the nature of the Church refused to accept." (Service International de Documentation Judeo-Chretienne, Rome, English edition from Washington, DC, Vol. XXXII, No.3, 1999, p. 22.) It is revealing that this publication calls the traditional teaching of the Church a "hardened sectarianism." Further, it would be a bit hypocritical for anyone to be scandalized that CFN recommends a book written by the SSPX, especially when the Vatican's 1993 Directory for the Application of the Principle of Norms of Ecumenism, encourages Protestant professors to lecture at Catholic seminaries (#81 ). By contrast, the SSPX is a thoroughly Catholic organization that happens to be in an irregular canonical position-----primarily because of its unswerving fidelity to 2,000 years of Catholic teaching.
5) See Iota Unum, Romano Amerio (Sarto House, 1996), pp. 600-604.
6) Louis Boyer, Eucharistie (Desclee, 1990), p. 109. Quoted in PLR, p. 7.
7) Le Monde, Nov,22, 1967. Quoted from Pope Paul's New Mass, Michael Davies (Angelus Press, 1980), p. 264.
8) i.e., Louis Bouyer, Annibale Bugnini, Odo Casal, Edouard Schillebeeckx, Karl Rahner, Joseph Ratzinger, Aime-Goerges Martimort, Yves de Montcheuil, etc.
9) International Theological Commission, (ITC), Questiones selectae de Deo Redemptore, Dec. 8, 1994, Part IV, Nos. 40 and 42. DC 2143, Aug. 1 1996. (Quoted from PLR, p. 48). The International Theological Commission is a world-wide group of theologians under the auspices of the Vatican's Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine the Faith. The president of the ITC since 1981 is Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.
10) The Habit of Being, The Letters of Flannery O'Connor (Farrar-Straus-Giroux, New York, 1979) p. 527.
11) See "Unity: Special Problems, Dogmatic, Moral" by Father David Greenstock, The Thomist, 1963. For fuller discussion of the contrast between the Thomist Father David Greenstock and the progressivist Father Joseph Ratzinger's Theological Highlights of Vatican II, see "Vatican vs. The Unity Willed by Christ,"  Vennari, Catholic Family News, Dec. 2000. (Reprint #537, available for $1.75).
12) Theological Highlights of Vatican II, Father Joseph Ratzinger, (Paulist Press, 1966) p. 64., emphasis added
13) PLR, p. 67.
14) Sacrosanctum Concilium, 7.
15) Theological Highlights of Vatican II, p.15 (emphasis added).
16) Quoted and paraphrased from PLR, pp. 67-68.
17) Ibid.p.12.
18) The Fourth Memorial Acclamation ("D") is "Lord by Your Cross and resurrection You have set us free. You are the Savior of the world."
19) PLR, p. 12.
20) "Thus the commemorative representation of His death, which actually took place on Calvary, is repeated in every Sacrifice of the altar seeing that Jesus Christ is symbolically shown (per distinctos indices) to be in a state a victimhood." Encyclical Mediator Dei On the Sacred Liturgy by Pope Pius XII
21) Vatican I taught that a Catholic may not disregard defined dogma in the name of the deeper understanding "The meaning of Sacred Dogmas which must always be preserved is-----that which our Holy Mother the Church has determined. Never is it permissible to depart from this in the name of a deeper understanding." (Vatican I, Session III Chap. IV, Faith and Reason).
22) Quoted and paraphrased from PLR, p. 84.
23) If the priest no longer sees himself primarily as one who offers sacrifice then he will not know who he is or what he is.
24) Tragically, on the 25th anniversary of the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, Pope John Paul II, speaking about the main ideas which led to the liturgical reform, stressed the importance of the Paschal mystery: "The first principle is the 'actualization' of the Paschal mystery of Christ in the Church's liturgy." -----Pope John Paull II, Vicesimus Quintus Annus, Dec. 4, 1988, as quoted from PLR, p. 35.
25) Due to the common misuse of the word "Indult," regarding the Tridentine Mass, we will quote this section of the book in its entirety: "Moreover, St. Pius V granted in perpetuity to all priests a specific indult, conceding to them the tranquil enjoyment of their perpetual right to celebrate publicly and privately the rite which he had codified. This indult could not be suppressed without express mention, for 'a universal law does not derogate from a particular or from a special law unless the law expressly provides otherwise' (Canon 20). By its silence on this point, the apostolic constitution of Pope Paul, leaves intact the privilege granted perpetuity by St. Pius V." (PLR, p.106 uses the word "fraudulent" for the Commission Ecclesia Dei because the Commission pretends that a priest needs to be granted a special indult [a special permission] to celebrate the Tridentine Mass. This permission is not needed, as all Roman Rite priests have the permission already. Both Cardini Stickler and Cardinal Oddi have stated openly that they were on a 1986 Papal Commission of Nine Cardinals that concluded that 1) The Tridentine Mass has never been abrogated, and 2) That a priest needs no permission from his bishop to celebrate the Tridentin Mass privately or publicly. Further, in the recent negotiations between the Society of St. Pius X and the Vatican, Cardinal Hoyos, Prefect of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, admitted reluctantly, "Okay, we recognize that the Old Mass is not abrogated and is legitimate, but we can not say it publicly because there will be too much of a rebellion and dificulty with the bishops. We cannot say it publicly." (For Cardinal Oddi's comments, see CFN, Aug., 2 001. For Cardinal Stickler's comments, se CFN, Feb., 1998, p. 3 [Not on line]. For Cardinal Hoyos' comments, see CFN, April 2001.

Reprinted from the September 2001 Issue of Catholic Family News.