Traditional Mass

Catholic Doctrine vs Modernist 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. However, 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 practice

“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

“for anyone in times of persecution to be compelled to take the communion in his own hand without the presence of a priest or minister is not a serious offense” St Basil of Caesarea Letter 93

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 lays on these conferences the the task of weighing carefully whatever special circumstances may exist there… and should make whatever decisions” Pope Paul VI Memoriale Domini (1969)

Words and gestures


The Offertory prayers of the Mass has been rewritten by copying from post-Apostolic, Rabbinic Passover prayers to avoid sacrificial terms like ‘host’ or ‘consecrate’, replacing them with words such as ‘food’, ‘spiritual drink’; downplaying the nature of the Mass as the renewal of the Sacrifice of Calvary. The founders of Protestantism, Martin Luther and Thomas Cranmer, made similar revisions after declaring that the traditional prayers were “idolatrous” as they represent the Catholic teaching that the Mass is the renewal of Christ’s sacrifice (Martin Luther, Formula missae et communionis pro ecclesia Wittembergensis, 1523).

The Eucharistic prayer was reformed to downplay the Catholic teaching of transubstantiation. The words “Mystery of Faith” was originally subjoined to the words of Consecration to signify the need to believe in the Real Presence of the Blood of Christ (cf. Catechism of the Council of Trent, in opposition to the Protestant denial of transubstantiation). However, the reformed Mass, like Luther and Cranmer, erased that message. Instead, the reform shifted “Mystery of Faith” to another place and added to it an “Acclamation” unrelated to the Real Presence (e.g. “…until You come again”). Indeed, the Consecration prayer was completely merged with the rest of the Last Supper story by removing the breaks both before and after the Consecration prayer. The presider now narrates the text of Scripture word for word rather than pronouncing a prayer formula: this point is underlined in how the Consecration has been renamed as the ‘Narrative’. Doctrinal change was further emphasised by inserting “which will be given up for you” into all eucharistic prayers, after the example of Martin Luther, who used these words found in the Gospel of Luke to claim that Christ was present only in a subjective sense “for believing hearts”, thus denying transubstantiation.

The new Eucharistic prayers, which have mostly superseded the old Canon of the Mass, weaken Catholic teachings even more. Eucharistic Prayer II omits any mention of the word ‘victim’ (of sacrifice), weakening the Catholic teaching of the Mass as the Sacrifice of the Cross. In “Eucharistic Prayer III” the words: “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 are the indispensable element in the celebration (a claim condemned in Auctorem Fidei, Mediator Dei and the Lateran Council IV). 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 unique position of the True Faith as stipulated in the Council of Florence. None of the three 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. They hence undermine the Catholic dogmas of the redemptive nature of the sacrifice, and offering Mass specially for sins and necessities of certain individuals (Council of Trent Dz. 950), a dogma which Protestants condemn.

New prayers were added to support the doctrinal shift, such as “Greetings to the people”, and “Prayers of the Faithful”, emphasising the indispensability of the people in Eucharistic Prayer III. The Protestant modification of the Lord’s Prayer “for the kingdom, the power etc” has also been added, in line with the interreligious content of Eucharistic Prayer IV. Meanwhile, Catholic elements of intercession and acts of contrition (as opposed to the Protestant belief in assurance of one’s salvation) were reduced. The celebrant’s many silent prayers asking to be cleansed from sin, before the Introit, before and after the Gospel, during the Offertory, and before and after Communion, were removed or otherwise diminished. 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 dogma of the Communion of Saints, who invisibly celebrate in the Mass, is now undermined by the removal of the salutations, the final blessing, and dismissal when the priest celebrates without people present.

Spirit of the Liturgy

As mediator between God and man (who lends his hands and tongue to Christ c.f. Mediator Dei), it was the convention for the priest to stand in between the altar and the people, turning to the people when addressing them and turning to face East with the people when praying. This was the practice since the early Church, as dawn represented the coming of Christ, and the turning clearly indicated the mediatorship of the priest. Martin Luther started recommending reversing the direction so that their pastors may “gather around” with the people. In the 1960s this reversal spread to the Catholic Church. The altar rail, which serves to distinguish the roles of the priest and the people, was removed in most churches. In addition, the separate Communion of the priest is merged with the faithful, further watering down the difference between ordained and lay.

the priest acts for the people only because he represents Jesus Christ, who is Head of all His members and offers Himself in their stead. Hence, he goes to the altar as the minister of Christ, inferior to Christ but superior to the people (Pius XII, Mediator Dei)
rather than as a facilitator of a communal event

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 Catholicism and Protestantism. Indeed, the Novus Ordo Missae presents itself as:

  • A mere narration of a past event, as the new texts suggest.
  • A meal rather than a sacrifice (in line with Protestant teachings). 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. The procedures for preserving Particles of the Blessed Sacrament on the priest’s fingers from all profane contact has been eliminated as well.
  • Only a community gathering. Christ is perhaps considered to be morally present but acknowledged minimally in His Sacramental Presence. For instance, in the reformed rubrics of Mass, the Priest’s genuflections were reduced from 16 to 3, 54 Signs of the Cross were removed. 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…

We know that earlier popes added or modified the rites, but never in such a way that one could look at the “before” and “after” and say: these are different things. Paul VI did what no pope had ever dared to do: to change every rite of the Catholic Church, from top to bottom. He even modified six of seven sacramental forms, the most sacred of formulas. Unquestionably, the traditionalists are right to say that this was by no means a “reform” but rather a revolution.

Dr Peter Kwasniewski

A pope would be schismatic… if he were to change all the liturgical rites of the Church that have been upheld by apostolic tradition

Papal Theologian Francisco Suarez SJ (1548–1617), Doctor Eximius

If the pope is able to separate himself without some reasonable cause, but purely by his own will, from the body of the church and the college of priests through the non-observance of those things which the universal church observes from the tradition of the apostles, or because of non-observance of those things which are universally ordained by the ecumenical councils or the authority of the apostolic see, most of all which are ordained for divine worship, …therefore it seems that the pope, by dividing himself in such things with pertinacity from the observance of the universal church, is able to fall into schism. The consequence is good. And the antecedent is not in doubt: because just as he could fall into heresy, so also into disobedience, and a pertinacious non-observance of those things which are ordained to the common state of the church. Whence Innocent says (in c. de consue.) that the pope is to be obeyed in all things, so long as it does not go against the universal state of the church: for in that case {Innocent} says, that he {the pope} is not to be put up with, without reasonable cause.

Cardinal Juan de Torquemada (1388-1468), Summa de ecclesia, lib. IV, pars Ia, cap. xi, § Secundo sic (fol. 196v of the 1489 Roman edition, p. 552 of the 1560 Salamanca edition, and p. 369v of the 1561 Venice edition