Thursday, September 20, 2018

Traditional Latin Mass vs. Novus Ordo, Part 5: Liturgical abuse

Previous parts in this series:
Part 1: A brief history
Part 2: First half of the Novus Ordo Mass
Part 3: The rest of the Novus Ordo Mass
Part 4: The key differences

In the past few articles, I described the Novus Ordo Mass in accordance with the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. Unfortunately, this is not representative of a typical Novus Ordo Mass. I shall define a liturgical abuse as a violation of rubrics that detracts from the dignity of the Mass. Although they do sometimes happen in the traditional Latin Mass, they are somewhat rare. On the other hand, liturgical abuse is so incredibly widespread in the Novus Ordo that it is rare to find a Novus Ordo without any liturgical abuse. In this article, I will describe the epidemic of liturgical abuse in the Novus Ordo and list some of the most common abuses.

Much of the liturgical abuse epidemic stems from the so-called “spirit of Vatican II. The “spirit of Vatican II” is really a veiled form of Modernism. It is based on very liberal and sometimes even heretical interpretations of the vague decrees of the Second Vatican Council and its aftermath. Many of the legitimate changes to the Mass described in our last article are representative of the “spirit of Vatican II.”

One of its key traits is an undue emphasis on community and people, detracting from the emphasis on Goda horizontal emphasis instead of a vertical emphasis. Examples of legal (and thus non-abusive) practices that reflect this horizontal emphasis are the priest facing versus populum and offering the liturgy in the vernacular.

Another trait of the “spirit of Vatican II” is the diminished importance of the clergy. In the traditional Latin Mass, a Solemn Mass is offered by a priest, deacon, and subdeacon, assisted by male altar servers. In the Novus Ordo, the subdiaconate has been abolished, and there is great flexibility for lay people, even women, to be involved as servers, lectors, and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. This results in the ordained priesthood losing some of its prominence and dignity, and it blurs the distinction between the ordained, sacrificial priesthood and the royal priesthood of all baptized Catholics.

Finally, the “spirit of Vatican II” reduces the importance of the infallible Catholic faith. Unlike previous ecumenical councils, which made doctrinal declarations, the Second Vatican Council was intended to be merely a “pastoral” council. It did not make any pronouncements involving doctrine. In fact, doctrine seems to have been only a secondary concern. Although it never contradicted the Catholic faith, it did a poor job of affirming the Catholic faith. The Novus Ordo Mass does an even poorer job of affirming the Catholic faith, with most of the reverence given to the Blessed Sacrament in the traditional Mass having been removed. When the Catholic faith falls by the wayside in what is supposed to be the Church's most important act, the doors are opened for all sorts of abuse.

As I pointed out, many manifestations of the “spirit of Vatican II” in the Novus Ordo Mass are allowed by rubrics and thus cannot be considered liturgical abuses. However, the rubrics gave priests an inch, and they took a mile. In the traditional Latin Mass, the rubrics are very rigid and prescribe every part of the Mass. Thus, it was generally understood that the rubrics were to be obeyed. In the Novus Ordo Mass, the rubrics are very broad and vague, giving priests plenty of options and leeway. This has led to a pervasive attitude that the rubrics are optional. (I was once even told to “stop attending to divisive propaganda” when I insisted on obeying rubrics.) This is the attitude that has led to all sorts of liturgical abuses. It is completely wrong, damaging to the faith, and contrary to the established tradition of the Catholic Church. Jesus Christ gave the Catholic Church authority in heaven and earth. Her laws, especially the laws of liturgy, are therefore divinely ordained and must be obeyed. There has never been any authority to the idea that rubrics are optional and that the “spirit of Vatican II” can take precedence over Church laws. This idea is patently ridiculous. The fact that it is so widespread is a tragedy.

The standard counterargument against the strict adherence to rubrics is that we should not be rigid and legalistic, and that loving and serving God should take precedence over strict rules. Of course, this sounds wonderful, but there are two major problems with it. The first problem is that it creates a false dilemma. Liturgical laws and rubrics exist to make the liturgy more dignified and to assist, not hinder, our love and service to God. The second problem is that it suggests that laws as a whole are displeasing to God. The first five books of the Old Testament consist of laws that God gave to the Jews. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Thus, rubrics are necessary and divinely ordained, so they must be obeyed.

Let us now consider some of the most common liturgical abuses. I have personally witnessed all of these. Except in the noted situations where the rubrics are ambiguous, they are all violations of rubrics. In all cases, they seriously detract from the dignity of the Holy Sacrifice.
  • The faithful are improperly dressed. It has always been required for the faithful to dress nicely and modestly to Mass. Sadly, t-shirts and shorts are common in many Novus Ordo parishes. Dressing up for Mass is a sign of respect to God, who is present in the tabernacle. Such casual and improper dress indicates a weakening of the faith and a lack of respect for the Blessed Sacrament. Similarly, although it is no longer required by canon law for women to cover their heads, it is still part of the sacred tradition of the Church and commanded by St. Paul (1 Corinthians 11:1‑7). Women rarely cover their heads at the Novus Ordo Mass.
  • There is loud talking in the church before Mass. Before Mass, the people should be praying quietly and preparing themselves to participate in the Holy Sacrifice. Replacing this prayer with conversation is irreverent, takes the focus away from God, and ignores the true nature of the Mass.
  • Various abuses abound with the prescribed vestments. It is unclear from the rubrics whether or not the amice and cincture are required, but in any case, they are both frequently omitted. It is definitely not allowed to wear only a chasuble with no stole, only a stole with no chasuble, or to wear the stole over the chasuble instead of under. The vestments are a symbol of the sacrificial office of the priesthood, and leaving them out or wearing them improperly is part of the Modernist trend of reducing the importance of the priesthood.
  • A lay person invites the congregation to “stand and greet one another in a spirit of fellowship” before the Mass. This is disruptive and inappropriate. Before Mass, we should be praying and preparing ourselves to assist in the Holy Sacrifice and be united with our Lord in Holy Communion. The focus should be entirely on God, not on each other.
  • The sacred music that rightfully adorns the sacred liturgy is often replaced with vulgar, modern, and secular music. This was never envisioned by the Second Vatican Council or by any of the decrees that came after it. Sacred music guides people's minds to heaven, whereas secular music obstructs any attempt to raise the mind to God. In some parishes, electronic and percussive instruments are used, which were explicitly forbidden by Pope Pius XII. Guitars can be a beautiful addition to a liturgy, but the style of music usually associated with guitars is inappropriate for the liturgy.
  • As people approach the altar at the beginning of Mass, even when the Blessed Sacrament is reserved there, they bow instead of genuflecting. This indicates a lower level of respect given to our Lord Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.
  • The Entrance Chant, Offertory Chant, and Communion Chant are left out. It is permissible in the United States to replace them with hymns, but there is no authority for leaving them out altogether. I even talked to a priest who left out the Entrance Chant, and he admitted that it was illicit.
  • After entering the sanctuary but before beginning the Mass, the priest says, “Good morning.” This may seem innocent and friendly, but anything that is not prescribed in the missal is forbidden. Tell the people “good morning” makes the Mass seem like a casual social event, which it absolutely is not. Also, the liturgy already prescribes a greeting at the beginning of the Mass, and it makes no sense to greet the people twice.
  • The Penitential Act is left out and replaced by the Kyrie. The prayer of absolution “May almighty God have mercy...” is then said after the Kyrie. Although one of the options for the Penitential Act is three petitions interspersed with the lines of the Kyrie, it is not permitted to sing only a simple Kyrie in place of the Penitential Act. One of the important characteristics of the beginning of the Mass is seeing ourselves as the sinners we are and asking for God's mercy in preparation for the Holy Sacrifice. Leaving out the Penitential Act in this manner indicates that we do not need to ask for mercy for our sins, which is heretical and severely damaging to the faith.
  • Lectors are improperly dressed. As discussed above, it is important for everyone to be properly dressed for Mass, but it is particularly abusive when someone is serving the Mass as a lector while dressed improperly.
  • The prescribed Responsorial Psalm or Alleluia verse is left out and replaced by a hymn. Fortunately, this is not quite as common as some of the other abuses, but it definitely still happens, and there is absolutely no authority for it. Holy Mother Church gives us liturgical texts for our devotion and for the glory of God, and it is wrong to modify them without permission.
  • Since the Prayer of the Faithful is left to the priest or the parish to compose, it can easily include heretical and abusive sentiments. I have seen many Prayers of the Faithful that included heretical notions regarding inclusiveness, diversity, religious liberty, and relations with other religions. Something has gone very wrong when it is this easy to introduce blatant heresy into the Mass!
  • Instead of “Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father,” the priest says, “Pray, my friends, that our sacrifice may be acceptable...” First of all, “my friends” is less intimate and more casual than the prescribed “brethren” or “brothers and sisters.” The latter implies a stronger unity within the Church. Second, “my sacrifice and yours” refers to two different sacrifices: one offered by the priest as part of his ordained, sacrificial priesthood, and one offered by the congregation as part of their royal, baptismal priesthood. Thus, this abuse diminishes the importance of the priesthood and removes the distinction between the ordained priesthood and the baptismal priesthood.
  • The words of consecration of the Chalice are corrupted. Until 2011, the official English translation of the Novus Ordo Mass incorrectly rendered “pro multis” as “for all” instead of “for many.” Ever after the translation was fixed, some priests still say “for all,” whether out of habit or on purpose. I can confirm that at least one priest in the Archdiocese of Seattle does so on purpose. There are good reasons to believe that changing it to “for all” brings into question the validity of the sacrament. St. Pius V's papal bull De Defectibus states, “If the priest were to shorten or change the form of the consecration of the Body and the Blood, so that in the changing of wording the words did not mean the same thing, he would not be achieving a valid sacrament.” The words “for all” and “for many” do not mean the same thing. The Precious Blood of Jesus does not effect salvation for all, only for the many who seek God's grace. Jesus did not come to save the Pharisees, because they had no interest in his saving grace. Thus, changing the words of consecration to “for all” is a blasphemous corruption of the words of our Lord.
    Our one bit of consolation can be that the consensus among theologians is that only the words, “This is my Blood,” are required for consecration of the Chalice, so “for all” does not invalidate the Mass. The Holy See also issued a decree to this effect. However, the fact that it causes any doubts about validity at all is an indication that there is something very wrong with the practice. Furthermore, changing the words spoken by our Lord and prescribed by the Church is a very serious abuse. The Congregation for Divine Worship's 2004 decree Redemptionis Sacramentum states:
      In an altogether particular manner, let everyone do all that is in their power to ensure that the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist will be protected from any and every irreverence or distortion and that all abuses be thoroughly corrected. This is a most serious duty incumbent upon each and every one, and all are bound to carry it out without any favoritism.
    This corruption of the words of our Lord in his Most Holy Sacrifice is the most severe abuse associated with the Novus Ordo Mass. The fact that it is even possible is a testament to how tragic and dangerous the Novus Ordo Mass is.
  • The faithful pray with hands extended, imitating the posture of the priest. This was done sometimes in the early Church, and it is still done sometimes in the Eastern Churches. In the Western Church, however, this posture is reserved for the priest. The Holy See issued a decree in 1997 affirming this fact. For the people to take up a posture reserved to the priest again undermines the distinction between the priest and the faithful.
  • The faithful hold hands with each other during the Our Father. Holding hands is a novelty that has never had any place in the Catholic liturgical tradition. The rubrics prescribe that the priest extend his hands and the deacon and servers have their hands folded during the Our Father. They are silent on the congregation's posture, but to interpret this silence as freedom to introduce such a novelty indicates, at best, a poor understanding of the liturgy. Holding hands takes the focus away from God and places it on each other, wrongly emphasizing the horizontal dimension instead of the vertical dimension. In addition, it is awkward and uncomfortable for people to be pressured into holding strangers' hands, especially if they are new to the parish or new to Catholicism. The Eucharist is what unites us. It is unnecessary and inappropriate to introduce such a distracting and awkward gimmick in order to display unity. Individual couples or families holding hands might be tolerable, but the whole congregation holding hands is not.
  • The sign of peace degenerates into an awkward handshake festival. The rubrics say that the sign of peace should be offered “in a sober manner” and “only to those nearest.” At some parishes, it is common for people to circulate widely about the room, offering handshakes and making smalltalk with everyone they come across. The priest might even leave the altar to shake hands with parishioners, which is explicitly forbidden. The sign of peace is treated like an intermission instead of a sacred act of preparation to receive the Most Blessed Sacrament. Yet again, the horizontal dimension is emphasized over the vertical dimension, and there is no respect for the Blessed Sacrament exposed on the altar.
  • A massive swarm of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion gathers around the altar to distribute Communion. Extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion are meant to be the exception rather than the rule, hence the term “extraordinary.” They are permitted only in case of necessity, and there should only be the minimum number necessary. Distributing the Holy Eucharist is properly the function of a priest. Having excessive extraordinary ministers diminishes the dignity of the priesthood.
    In addition, it is inappropriate for the extraordinary ministers to gather around the altar, because the altar is the place for Christ and for the priest who works on Christ's behalf. It is not a place for lay people. This also diminishes the dignity of the priesthood.
  • The ablutions are not performed correctly after Communion. Every vessel that has touched the Blessed Sacrament must be rinsed at least with water, which the priest then drinks. In some parishes, this step is skipped. The sacred vessels are not purified at all, but rather simply rinsed in the sacrarium (or even in the sink). This amounts to profanation of the Blessed Sacrament, which carries a penalty of automatic excommunication. Far too many people do not seem to realize that the Blessed Sacrament is our Lord Jesus Christ, whole and entire. If you rinse out a chalice in the sink without performing a proper ablution first, you just poured Jesus down the drain.
  • Generally, the priest improvises and alters the prescribed liturgical text. It is never allowed to change the text prescribed by the Roman Missal, unless the rubrics specifically say otherwise. Vatican II specifically forbade improvisation and creativity in the liturgy. Improvisation shows a lack of respect for the Mass and for Church authority.
Of course, not all of these happen in every parish. However, all of them happen in some parishes, and some of them happen in most parishes. I can count on one hand the number of Novus Ordo Masses I have seen that did not feature some sort of liturgical abuse. Most importantly, none of these are allowed, and all of them are disrespectful and displeasing to God.

To reiterate, the liturgical abuses I just listed are merely the most common ones. Here are some other, less common abuses. None of these are common, but all of them have happened at least once. Some are downright absurd.
  • Water lilies and fish in the baptismal font.
  • Women perform “liturgical dance” in the sanctuary.
  • The sanctuary is decorated with balloons.
  • Bowls of incense are brought forward in procession and placed on the altar, in imitation of pagan rituals.
  • A “clown Mass,” in which the priest and servers dress as clowns and the congregation engages in “sacred laughter.”
  • An “ecumenical Mass,” in which Protestant clergy are invited to participate, as if their worship were somehow equal or even comparable to the Catholic Mass.
  • On at least one occasion, a priest wore a “pussy hat” from the 2017 pro-abortion Women's March during the sermon.
  • Our lovely and talented editor, Mary, once attended a daily Mass at a Catholic school at which a teacher preached to the kids before Mass about the evils of the traditional Latin Mass. Thank God they destroyed the Mass that brought thousands of saints to God!
  • When the Seattle Seahawks were playing in Super Bowl XLIX, one parish decorated the sanctuary with Seahawks apparel. The priest even wore a Seahawks blanket as a chasuble. To be clear, I am a Seattleite and a Seahawks fan, but this is ridiculous.
  • Continuing on the professional football theme, His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, once offered a Mass in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, wearing a Green Bay Packers cheese head instead of a mitre.
Even though none of these liturgical abuses are allowed, when they are so widespread at the Novus Ordo Mass and so rare in the traditional Latin Mass, they become an indictment of the Novus Ordo Mass. There is something seriously wrong with a form of the Mass that invites such varied and repugnant abuse.

New terms
  • liturgical abuse – A violation of rubrics that detracts from the dignity of the Mass.
  • spirit of Vatican II – Modernism.

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