Friday, September 28, 2018

Traditional Latin Mass vs. Novus Ordo, Part 7: Conclusion

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
Part 5: Liturgical abuse
Part 6: The new Divine Office and sacraments

The Novus Ordo Mass, Divine Office, and sacraments are therefore inferior in form to the traditional liturgies. Sacred tradition is one of the fundamental pillars on which the Church is built. The traditional Latin Mass was constructed over more than a thousand years of sacred tradition, the devotion of the faithful, and the divine guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Novus Ordo completely disregards all of this. It represents a striking break with tradition. The fact that Church leaders have the authority to make these changes does not mean that the changes are prudent, pleasing to God, or beneficial for the faithful. I argue that they are none of these things. In addition to the break with tradition, there are several other key traits of the Novus Ordo that make it inferior to the traditional Latin Mass, Divine Office, and sacraments:

  • The Novus Ordo has a horizontal focus instead of a vertical focus. The people have a more prominent and central role than God. The priest even turns his back to the crucifix and tabernacle to face the people during the Mass.
  • The infallible truth of the Catholic faith has been marginalized. The Novus Ordo no longer reflects certain key parts of the faith, for example:
    • The Novus Ordo Mass does not feel like a sacrifice. Nearly all mention of a sacrifice has been removed. There is no longer an Offertory, but rather a Preparation of the Gifts.
    • The Blessed Sacrament is no longer treated as divine. Much of the reverence given to the Blessed Sacrament, such as the priest keeping his forefingers and thumbs joined, has been abolished.
    • A lot of veneration of saints is abolished. Most of the saints were removed from the Confiteor and the new Eucharistic Prayers. In addition, we did not mention this previously, but many feasts of saints were either removed from the calendar or made optional.
  • Many of these compromises on matters of faith represent Protestant sentiments creeping into the liturgy.
  • The dignity of the priesthood is diminished by delegating the priestly roles to the laity. In particular, lay people are now allowed to distribute Communion, a role traditionally reserved to the ordained.
  • Instead of the Church's sacred and universal language of Latin, the liturgies are now usually conducted in the vernacular, which makes the liturgy more casual and introduces the problem of translation.
  • The Divine Office is much shorter and does away with ancient traditions, such as the hours of Matins and Prime and singing all 150 psalms in a week.
  • The Novus Ordo censors the Word of God in the Divine Office and the nuptial Mass by removing whatever does not appeal to Modernist sentiments.
  • The rubrics of the Novus Ordo are extremely vague and poorly written. This has led to the false idea that the rubrics are optional, and it has opened the door to all sorts of liturgical abuse. It has also made it very difficult and frustrating to describe the Novus Ordo liturgy accurately in this series of articles.

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list. However, given these facts, one cannot reasonably deny that the Novus Ordo is inferior and damaging to the faithful.

One of the core principles of Catholic liturgy is lex orandi, lex credendithe law of prayer is the law of belief. This means that the liturgy must reflect the Catholic faith. This is perhaps the most basic standard of quality for a liturgy—whether or not it actually represents the religion it purports to profess. The traditional Latin Mass, Divine Office, and sacraments all beautifully represent the Catholic faith in a way that could only be constructed by divine guidance. This is part of why the Mass is so essential to the Catholic religion. When Catholicism was persecuted in England under Queen Elizabeth I, the authorities targeted the Mass. Many holy martyrs willingly died to defend the traditional Latin Mass.

The Novus Ordo, on the other hand, does a very poor job of reflecting the Catholic faith. It fails the principle of lex orandi, lex credendi. As we have seen, the Novus Ordo Mass better reflects Protestant and Modernist sentiments than the Catholic faith. In fact, the Novus Ordo Mass is almost indistinguishable from Anglican and Lutheran liturgies. If one of the English martyrs who died to defend the traditional Latin Mass saw the Novus Ordo Mass, he would not recognize it as the Mass that he died to defend. He might recognize it as the Anglican worship that he died to defend against.

A Mass that does not reflect the true Catholic faith cannot possibly be the best choice to foster the true Catholic faith in the hearts of people. In the years since the Novus Ordo was introduced, there has been a gradually worsening crisis in the human element of the Church. The Catholic population has been steeply declining throughout North America and Europe. According to a study by Georgetown University, in 1965, 65% of Catholics attended Mass most Sundays. In 2013, only 24% of Catholics attended Mass most Sundays. In addition, many Catholics are either uneducated in the faith or willfully reject the faith. Nearly half of Catholics do not believe in transubstantiation.

Vocations to the priesthood and religious life have also been seriously hurt. In 1965, there were 58,000 priests in the United States. In 2013, there were 38,800. In 1965, there were 994 ordinations to the priesthood in the U.S. In 2013, there were only 511. In the Archdiocese of Seattle, there are currently 115 priests and 144 parishes. Many priests have to serve multiple parishes, because there are simply not enough priests.

Meanwhile, the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP), a society of priests who exclusively offer the traditional Latin Mass, has been flourishing. The FSSP around the world is about the size of a large diocese. In 2017, it had 287 priests and 150 seminarians. This past May, twenty-one new priests were ordained for the FSSP. This fall, twenty-eight men are beginning their studies at the FSSP's two seminaries. While the average age of priests in the United States is 63, the average age of FSSP priests is 38. The typical FSSP parish on a Sunday morning is packed with lots of families, children, and adults of all ages. Other traditionalist societies have similar results.

All this is to say that God is taking care of his Church. The Novus Ordo Mass is declining, and the traditional Latin Mass is thriving. Jesus said, “By their fruits you shall know them” (Matthew 7:16). The fruits of the Novus Ordo Mass are lower Mass attendance, weakened faith, and far fewer priests. The fruits of the traditional Latin Mass are thriving parishes with strong faith and many vocations to the priesthood. It is clear, then, which form of the Mass is more pleasing to God and more beneficial for the faithful.

Fortunately, since the Novus Ordo was introduced, there have been large groups of people who realize its critical faults and adhere to the traditional Latin Mass. They form the traditionalist movement, which keeps the traditional Latin Mass alive. Unfortunately, the great variety of such groups can make it difficult to discern which parishes that offer the traditional Latin Mass licitly. The entire history of the traditionalist movement is a story for another time, but there are three main categories into which traditionalist groups fall.

The first category comprises those groups who are obedient to canon law and in good standing with the Pope. Most prominent among these groups is the FSSP. I personally attend an FSSP parish. Another such group is the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest (variously abbreviated ICRSS, ICRSP, or ICKSP). In addition, some ordinary diocesan priests offer the traditional Latin Mass. Diocesan Latin Masses can sometimes have problems stemming from the priest's or the faithful's unfamiliarity with the traditional form of the Mass, but in general, they are fine to attend. If you live in the United States, you can find a directory of Latin Masses in good standing with the Pope here.

The Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) comprises the second category. They are similar to the FSSP, and they accept the authority of the Pope. However, they have always had a rocky relationship with Church authorities. Most notoriously, in 1988, their founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, ordained four bishops against the Pope's orders. Since then, the SSPX has existed in a sort of legal gray area. Their Masses are perfectly fine Catholic Masses that will fulfill one's Sunday obligation (a fact that the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, the Vatican's commission for matters related to the traditional Mass, has explicitly affirmed), and since 2015, it is even okay to go to an SSPX priest for confession, but I would caution against making an SSPX parish your regular parish.

Comprising the third category are those groups who have taken it upon themselves to declare all of the Popes since Vatican II to be formal heretics and thus not true Popes. This position is known as sedevacantism. There are several problems with it, but the biggest is that the average Catholic does not have the authority to declare the Pope a heretic. In fact, declaring the Pope a heretic and starting a new sect that purports to be the true Church is not a new concept in history. It is Protestantism. One may disagree with the Pope's decisions, but fidelity and obedience to the Pope are not optional. For these reasons, I must advise against attending Masses offered by sedevacantist communities. Notable sedevacantist communities include the Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen (CMRI), the Society of Saint Pius V (SSPV), and many small, independent communities. Like Protestantism, sedevacantism is very divided and sectarian.

To summarize the various traditionalist groups (and note that this is not an exhaustive list):

Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP)
Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest (ICRSS/ICRSP/ICKSP)
Traditional Latin Mass at a diocesan parish
Probably good
Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX)
Proceed with caution
Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen (CMRI)
Society of Saint Pius V (SSPV)
Independent sedevacantist communities

As I mentioned in the first part of this series, the Novus Ordo is still a valid Mass. It is still a participation in Jesus's sacrifice on the Cross, and the bread and wine are still transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. The Novus Ordo Mass may even inspire faith and devotion in the faithful. Furthermore, the Popes and other Church officials who have promoted the Novus Ordo Mass always had and continue to have legitimate authority in the Church. Popes St. John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, St. John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis are all valid Popes, with the full authority of the Successor of Saint Peter and the Vicar of Jesus Christ. I am not a sedevacantist in any way, shape, or form. The Novus Ordo happens to be an inferior form of the Mass, but it is still a valid Mass.

In 2 Thessalonians 2:14, St. Paul exhorts the Christian faithful to “hold the traditions you have learned.” The traditional Latin Mass is exemplary of the Church's sacred tradition. It is a beautiful display of the Catholic faith that has kindled the devotion of thousands of saints. I strongly urge all of my readers to find a parish that offers the traditional form of the Mass, because it is much more effective at uniting one's soul to God than the Novus Ordo. Our ultimate goal is to become saints, and the traditional Latin Mass is an indisputably better means toward sainthood than the Novus Ordo Mass.

New terms
  • lex orandi, lex credendi “The law of prayer is the law of belief,” meaning Catholic liturgy should reflect the Catholic faith.
  • Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP) – A prominent society of priests who offer the traditional Latin Mass, Divine Office, and sacraments while maintaining a positive relationship with the Holy See.
  • Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) – A society of priests similar to the FSSP, except that they have a very difficult relationship with the Holy See.
  • sedevacantism – The false position that all Popes since Vatican II are heretics and not true Popes.

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