Traditional Mass

Catholic Doctrine vs Modern form of Mass

Unchanged Mass of All Time: left, Bologna Missal Initial, 14th century; right, Traditional Mass in St Theresa’s Home, Singapore. More than 10,000 km and 6 centuries apart, yet one identical rite.

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is much more than a simple rite to which we are attached, as many unbelievers reproach us. Holy Mass is our life because Jesus Christ is our life!

Fr Davide Pagliarani, Superior General

In October 1967, a massive unprecedented reform of the Mass was proposed, and it was rejected 105-78 by the Synod of Bishops assembled in Rome. On September 25 1969, Cardinal Ottaviani, Cardinal Bacci, Archbishop Lefebvre and a team of theologians submitted a letter to Pope Paul VI detailing the problems with the reform. Despite this, the reform was still implemented in 1970, and has become the so-called Roman Catholic Ordinary Form of the Mass remaining to this day. Compare Catholic Teaching to these modern practices:

Catholic Doctrine on the Mass

“[T]hose who introduce novel liturgical practices … deserve severe reproof … We instance, in point of fact, those who make use of the vernacular in the celebration of the august Eucharistic Sacrifice. … [O]ne would be straying from the straight path were he to wish the altar restored to its primitive table form. … and consider it more fitting that priests should “concelebrate” with the people present than that they should offer the sacrifice privately when the people are absent. It is superfluous to explain how captious errors of this sort completely contradict the truths stated above. . . . The people … in no sense represent the divine Redeemer and are not mediator between themselves and God. … [To] perform a visible liturgical rite … is the privilege only of the minister who has been divinely appointed to this office. … [I]t is in no wise required that the people ratify what the sacred minister has done” Pope Pius XII Mediator Dei Nov 1947

“however honest, religious, holy, and prudent anyone may be, he cannot nor ought he to consecrate the Eucharist nor to perform the sacrifice of the altar unless he be a priest, regularly ordained by a visible and perceptible bishop… no one can accomplish this sacrament except a priest who has been rightly ordained” Fourth Lateran Council Dz 424, 430

“The proposition … that there is something lacking to the essence of the sacrifice in that sacrifice which is performed either with no one present, or with those present who partake of the victim neither sacramentally nor spiritually, and as if those Masses should be condemned as illicit, in which, with the priest alone communicating, no one is present who communicates either sacramentally or spiritually,–false, erroneous, suspected of heresy and savoring of it.” Pope Pius VI Auctorem Fidei Aug 1794 Dz 1528

“If anyone says that in the Mass a true and real sacrifice is not offered to God, or that the act of offering is nothing else than Christ being given to us to eat … that the sacrifice of the Mass is only one of praise and thanksgiving, or that it is a mere commemoration of the sacrifice consummated on the Cross, but not one of propitiation; or that it is of profit to him alone who receives; or that it ought not to be offered for the living and the dead, for sins, punishments, satisfactions, and other necessities: let him be anathema.” Council of Trent Dz 948, 950

“The proposition … “by recalling it (the liturgy) to a greater simplicity of rites, by expressing it in the vernacular language, by uttering it in a loud voice“; as if the present order of the liturgy, received and approved by the Church, had emanated in some part from the forgetfulness of the principles by which it should be regulated,–rash, offensive to pious ears, insulting to the Church, favorable to the charges of heretics against it…” Pope Pius VI Auctorem Fidei Aug 1794 Dz 1533

Modern form of Mass

“the old rite of Mass lay exclusively in the action of the celebrant; the renewed Order of Mass puts the common action of the People of God at the forefront” German Episcopal Conference Press Office 19/10/1984

“[T]he people, exercising their priestly office, pray for all.” … “[T]he whole congregation of the faithful may be united to Christ… in offering sacrifice” (the mediation of the ordained priesthood is not mentioned) Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani 1969, Art. 45, 54

“[The reformed Mass] lays heavy emphasis upon the aspect of taking part in a banquet, much less on the idea of sacrifice.” Theologian Jean Guitton, Paul VI’s confidante, Dec 19 1993 Radio Courtoise

“The Lord’s Supper or Mass is a sacred synaxis or assembly of the people of God which gathers together under the presidency of the priest to celebrate the memorial of the Lord.” Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani 1969, Art. 7

“Christians gather because … [Jesus] is among us when we gather. … When Christians celebrate their meal with Jesus, they go to the altar. The priest gives them a little piece of bread. They eat the bread.” German Episcopal Conference Imprimatur Catechism Wie wir Menschen Leben ein Religionsbuch: Band 2 Herder 1973 p. 77-78

“With the New Liturgy, non-Catholic communities will be able to celebrate the Lord’s Supper with the same prayers as the Catholic Church.” Max Thurian, one of the six Protestant Ministers who helped reform the Mass (Cardinal Baum, The Detroit News 27 June 1967: “they are not simply there as observers… they participate fully in the discussions on Catholic liturgical renewal”)

Catholic Doctrine on the Eucharist

“To separate the Altar and the tabernacle is to separate two things that of their nature belong together.” Pope Pius XII Assisi Allocution (1956)

“The dispensing of Christ’s Body belongs to the priest … as the consecration of Christ’s Body belongs to the priest, so likewise does the dispensing belong to him. Secondly, because the priest is the appointed intermediary between God and the people, hence as it belongs to him to offer the people’s gifts to God, so it belongs to him to deliver the consecrated gifts to the people. Thirdly, because out of reverence towards this Sacrament, nothing touches it but what is consecrated. … Hence it is not lawful for anyone else to touch it” St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, III, Q. 82, Art. 13

Modern practice

“(It is preferable that) the tabernacle in which the Most Holy Eucharist is reserved not be on an altar on which Mass is celebrated” Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani 2002, Art. 315

When the need of the Church warrants it and ministers are lacking, lay persons, even if they are not lectors or acolytes, can also supply certain of their duties, namely, to exercise the ministry of the word, to preside offer liturgical prayers, to confer baptism, and to distribute Holy Communion, according to the prescripts of the law. CIC 1983 Canon 230 §3

“If the contrary usage, namely, of placing Holy Communion in the hand, has already developed in any place… the Apostolic See entrusts to the conferences the duty and function of judging” Pope Paul VI Memoriale Domini (1969)


Words and gestures

The priest acts for the people only because he represents Christ offering Himself in their stead as their Mediator (Pius XII)
rather than as a facilitator of a communal event

As mediator between God and man, it was standard for the priest to stand in between the altar and the people, turning to the people when addressing them and turning to the cross/altar when praying. Protestanism started the practice of reversing the direction so that their pastors may “preside over the assembly”. Only in the 1960s did this reversal enter the Catholic Church. The altar rail, which serves to distinguish the roles of the priest and the people, was removed in most churches.

Priest’s genuflections were reduced from 16 to 3, 54 Signs of the Cross were removed, mentions of ‘Mary’ were reduced from 17 to 3, mention of the word ‘Saints’ were reduced from 14 to 3, mandatory names of Saints were cut down from 62 to 9.

The Offertory prayers were rewritten by copying from the Post-Christ Jewish Passover prayers, to avoid mentioning sacrificial terms like ‘victim, ‘host’, ‘consecrate’, ‘victim’ and replaced with words like ‘food’, ‘drink’, lessening the sacrificial nature of the Mass.

None of the three new Eucharistic prayers, which have mostly superseded the Canon of the Mass, has any reference to that state of suffering of those who have died or the possibility of a Memento dedicating the fruits of Mass to a particular person. Hence it undermines the Catholic dogma of offering Mass specially for sins and necessities of certain individuals (Council of Trent Dz. 950), a dogma which Protestants condemn. None of the 3 options mention Sts Peter and Paul or any other Apostle.

In “Eucharistic Prayer II” all mention of the Blessed Virgin, the Apostles, Saints, Holy Martyrs, and the Preface’s appeal to the hierarchies of angels is deleted. (“If anyone says that it is a deception for Masses to be celebrated in honor of the saints and to obtain their intercession with God, as the Church intends: let him be anathema” Council of Trent Dz 952)

In “Eucharistic Prayer III” the following words are addressed to the Lord: “from age to age you gather a people to yourself, in order that from east to west a perfect offering may be made to the glory of your name”, the ‘in order that’ making it appear that the people rather than the priest are the indispensable element in the celebration; and since not even here is it made clear who the offerer is, the people themselves appear to be invested with autonomous priestly powers (condemned in Mediator Dei and the 4th Lateran Council).

In “Eucharistic Prayer IV” the traditional prayer for “all orthodox believers of the Catholic and apostolic faith” is replaced with “all who seek You with a sincere heart”, diminishing the position of the True Faith (condemned in Council of Florence).

Some of the elements that make up the New Mass are Catholic: a priest, bread and wine, genuflections, signs of the Cross, etc. But some are also Protestant: a common table, common-place utensils, communion in the hand, etc. The New Mass mixes these heterodox elements alongside the Catholic ones to form a liturgy which would marry the Church and the world, Catholicism and Protestantism, light and darkness. Indeed, the Novus Ordo Missae presents itself as:

  • A meal rather than a sacrifice. This is shown by its use of a table around which the people of God gather to offer bread and wine and to communicate from rather common-place utensils which can be handled by laity, and communion usually in the hand. (Note too the almost complete deletion of references to sacrifice).
  • A mere narration of a past event. The name of the Consecration is changed to “Narration”. The one presiding recounts Our Lord’s words as read in Scripture word for word rather than pronouncing a sacramental formula: the Consecration prayer is merged with the rest of the Last Supper story without any pause in between.
  • Only a community gathering. Christ is perhaps considered to be morally present but ignored in His Sacramental Presence. The people also take over much of what the priest formerly did: the ceaseless coming and going of cantors, lectors, commentators, laymen welcoming people at the door and carrying offerings creating a distracting atmosphere.

Phrases like: “we primarily communicate non-verbally” and “we’re never not communicating something” are very relevant to the celebration of Mass. Every gesture — for example, the speed of movement around the altar; where the priest is standing or sitting, when, and why; how the sacred vessels are treated; whether the priest’s gaze is directed out to the people or modestly downcast — confesses what the celebrant, and the people, believe they are doing.

Why is it that the liturgical reformers seemed so tone-deaf or clueless about the most obvious things in life? Did they not realize that changing the bodily language, the gestures, postures, orientation, custody of the eyes, would effect a sea change in mentality and spirituality?

Or . . . was it that they understood perfectly well, and therefore abolished, piece by piece, one non-verbal language, substituting for it another with a contrary message?

Professor Peter Kwasniewski