A Liturgical Autopsy

Eamonn Clark, STL

There is so much to learn about liturgy from Moses and Aaron. What to do, and what not to do. For example, when Moses goes rogue and disobeys God in striking the rock, he makes the whole “liturgy” about him and Aaron, and their power and importance before the people – allegedly to appease them. And it comes about by his effort, his creativity, rather than the power of the word, as God had wanted. Instead of “crucifying himself” with the “rubrics,” Moses “struck Christ,” the bearer of living water, who only needs to be so stricken once, on the Cross… in the liturgy, He provides power in virtue of this singular act. (This symbolic act occurred previously, in Exodus 17:6.) Moses pays for this incident by being forbidden from entering into the Promised Land.

Earlier on, Aaron shirks his priestly responsibility when Moses goes up the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 32) He blames the people for the golden calf which he created, after taking their gold to give them a religious experience which was “comprehensible” to them, which would allegedly get them not to abandon the camp. The people do love it, and they feel great. In Aaron’s zeal for numbers, his tribe, Levi, righteously put to death three thousand idolaters, and those who remained were stricken with plague and made to drink the ground up golden powder of the idol with water from the brook nearby.

These are just a few abstract observations of what NOT to do. It is good for reflection. Liturgical abuse, mind you, is a species of the vice of superstition, on St. Thomas’ account. “[F]alsehood in outward worship occurs on the part of the worshiper, and especially in common worship which is offered by ministers impersonating the whole Church. For even as he would be guilty of falsehood who would, in the name of another person, proffer things that are not committed to him, so too does a man incur the guilt of falsehood who, on the part of the Church, gives worship to God contrary to the manner established by the Church or divine authority, and according to ecclesiastical custom. Hence Ambrose [Comment. in 1 ad Cor. 11:27, quoted in the gloss of Peter Lombard] says: “He is unworthy who celebrates the mystery otherwise than Christ delivered it.” For this reason, too, a gloss on Colossians 2:23 says that superstition is “the use of human observances under the name of religion.” He continues, “On the other hand if that which is done be, in itself, not conducive to God’s glory, nor raise man’s mind to God, nor curb inordinate concupiscence, or again if it be not in accordance with the commandments of God and of the Church, or if it be contrary to the general custom—which, according to Augustine [Ad Casulan. Ep. xxxvi], ‘has the force of law’—all this must be reckoned excessive and superstitious, because consisting, as it does, of mere externals, it has no connection with the internal worship of God. Hence Augustine (De Vera Relig. iii) quotes the words of Luke 17:21, ‘The kingdom of God is within you,’ against the ‘superstitious,’ those, to wit, who pay more attention to externals.” How interesting that it is that St. Thomas accuses liturgical abusers of excessive attention to externals, when usually the accusation is just the opposite.

A video of a mass from a parish “cluster” has been making the rounds on the Catholic blogosphere. I usually don’t like watching such things, let alone commenting on them, but this one is singularly bad. It’s like the morbid curiosity of slowing down to look at a bad car crash. Usually, it might be better to just move along. But if you want to know just how bad the liturgy can be while still being valid (a point I will contest with another commentator), it can be informative to watch such things. Then picking it apart can be its own instructive exercise.

Here’s David Gray’s video commentary. He thinks the consecration was invalid. I do not. It feels like it’s almost worse that it was valid.

I don’t doubt there are many sincere souls who are “along for the ride” in this parish community. I don’t mean to be harsh with them. I also don’t doubt the sincerity of the pastor. He probably really does care for his people and wants their spiritual good, and he has probably been helpful for many people in difficult moments of their lives. But… this is the liturgy of Christ and His Church. It is not the personal property of any particular cleric (even of the pope, by the way…), so there is plenty of criticism warranted, despite any good intentions, which I am sure abound. Clergy don’t have plausibly have the option of pleading ignorance of the law of Christ’s Church, even though some of them should be cut a bit of slack due to terrible formation in seminary. Anyway, let’s get into it, with charity.

I don’t want to make this a big list of “things that I notice are wrong,” as it would be too repetitive, but immediately, at the 0:00 mark, one notices certain oddities which will serve as a kind of overture for the liturgy. First of all, the level of sound – it is LOUD and jarring, drawing attention to Father. He wants to talk to people and have a personal connection. It is about him, and it is about “us.” And the whole thing is not particularly serious, so, we’ll talk about the weather. Meanwhile, he is carrying a crozier (or something like one) – he is not a bishop, but he evidently thinks this symbol of authority looks nice on him. Cue the music….

Blech. Okay, we’ve reached the collect and kyrie, which are by the book. And then, homily #1 begins. Father wants you to know that he is really concerned that you understand what you are about to hear, so he is willing to interrupt the whole mass. Okay… not the worst, but it would be better to write a blog post ahead of time for people to read, or hand out something in the bulletin on Sunday, no? Notice too how “gender conscious” Father is, being sure to mention our “Jewish sisters” before our “Jewish brothers,” and then going out of his way not to imply that God is a “He,” lest some chick feel underrepresented in the Godhead. What ultimately animates such thinking is the refusal to accept both nature and revelation about the sexes. God is “He” because He says so, and because the male sex is archetypally related to act or force, and the female sex is archetypally related to passivity or reception. God is not passive or receptive in any real sense, except in Christ in His human nature – with sanctified humanity, by the way, being the Lord’s mystical bride, the Church.

First reading and Psalm. Fine.

11:42 – here comes homily #2. Father wants everyone to know he is being merciful by not using the long version of the difficult letter to the Hebrews. It’s too haaaaaard for you, you sheep of mine.

Second reading.

14:37 – homily #3. Instructions to be spiritual. Okay, not the worst advice, but without the foregoing interruptions and with better music and more reverent silence, that should be easy enough without the reminder.

Gospel, with some weird ad-libbing before and after. The deacon is vested with whatever strange garment Father is wearing it seems, and has a similarly low opinion of the intelligence of the congregation based on the way he proclaims the readings – like it’s story time in 3rd grade.

Homily #4, the main one. It actually starts out okay, a little too 70’s, but some decent points. And then, unfortunately, comes the whopper, at 24:58 – “Pro-life, pro-choice, whatever our values are, we want to involve others in that process…” Hmm. Seems evil. The homily is a moment to instill values, like warning that those who kill the unborn or support doing such do not inherit the Kingdom of God, which he seems to be really interested in promoting, which is good. Then we hear about a plane ride that Cardinal Cupich had and how people being concerned about a mom carrying her baby means the Kingdom of God is here. Weird. Then something about a birth by a swimming pool. Weirder. Then some navel gazing about the parishes in the cluster and asking for money for the capital campaign. Then some rambling. A story to end, which is actually a charming anecdote, but maybe not anonymous enough. Such homilies are almost like conversations, because the homilist struggles to understand that he is not merely a facilitator of reflection but actually a teacher. If such men were to stop inserting well-intentioned but ultimately condescending mini-homilies everywhere in an attempt to instruct people about what is happening and put all that energy into teaching during the homily instead, it would be better.

37:12 – petitions. A little fluffy but not terrible. I do like that they prayed for police. One kudo earned. Then the stupid sheep are reminded that they need to sit now while the gifts are prepared. Kudo lost.

I don’t think I need to address the impropriety of how the altar linens are… arranged.

Presentation and preparation of the gifts. Extremely casual, since, I think, the attitude deep down is that the main part of the liturgy is over. No fewer than EIGHT chalices, as if that is not excessive… but at least they are using precious metals. One kudo.

41:38 – offertory. Major ad-libbing, again with the needless didactism, to remind people of a point which could have simply been made once in a while in a decent homily on what the Eucharist is. Kudo lost. Oh, and the response makes sure not to make women feel excluded from the Trinity, again.

Homily #5, with a happy birthday wish in there. The point here is to make people feel that they are experiencing something spiritual, I guess. One wouldn’t have to try so hard were the liturgy which the Church demands simply executed to the letter, with more silence, better music, and reasonable accoutrements. Laying underneath of this might be some sort of vague Pelagianism – if we aren’t trying, and we aren’t feeling spiritually and socially included, then we aren’t really praying or worshiping God or “participating” enough.

Preface. Read from the book, but very dramatically, as if it is really about the “experience,” not about simply being present as a sacrifice is being offered.

Then – well, I’m not sure what to call this, it is made up. It is not the Sanctus. It is just a weird song, with WEIRD arm swinging. Back to the point about Pelagianism. Epiclesis, then into the Eucharistic Prayer…

Here, we are coming to the very heart of the Mass – usually, even the most liberal guys don’t mess around with this part. Father does, in this case, throwing in the word “friends” where it does not belong. This is egregious sin, but it does not invalidate the consecration – the Words of Consecration are what make or break the validity as to its form. Those words, “This is My Body,” and “This is the chalice of My Blood,” are said correctly. Even these could admit of some small changes without invalidating the sacrament, as long as the central meaning is clearly preserved (i.e. “This is the cup of My Blood”) – but not without committing mortal sin even worse than messing with the parts surrounding this critical moment.

A lot is going on here. There is again the weird didactism (“Let us bow before our God,”) which admittedly is half-necessary, given that the posture of the congregation and assisting ministers is totally inappropriate. There is the distracting – not engaging – looking around the room by Father. There is the – understandable – nonchalance of the one altar server who is visible (who bears minimal blame).

Then, again, the same stupid made up song with the weird arm movements, with some more minor ad-libbing. Then after an overly dramatic Per Ipsum, we get the same song and arm swinging AGAIN. Really painful. Tell me that this parish has produced a single priestly vocation in the past 20 years, and I would be shocked. Who on earth who grows up in such an environment would say, “I want to give up marriage, a career, and self-direction, to do THIS all day”? Maybe there are a few such people, but they are unlikely to be well-balanced emotionally – or psycho-sexually.

Our Father. At least they didn’t say “Our Parent.” One kudo. Then the “Sign of Peace,” which is supposed to be brief and, well, peaceful, lasts over a minute. Kudo lost.

52:54 – Agnus Dei. You will notice that Father is putting Our Lord into wicker baskets with fabric inside. How thoughtful to put the fabric in, so Christ is nice and comfy, and particles won’t fall out all over the floor. Remember, the main part of the liturgy is long over. And while we want money given away to the parish cluster to fix the floor or whatever, we will carry Christ around in what would be just barely fit to use at a picnic. Okay. The worst part is that they have real ciboria visibly available, made from a precious metal – it is out-and-out intentional use of an unworthy vessel. It’s one thing if you’re celebrating a secret mass in Auschwitz and need to pass around Holy Communion discretely. This is something else. And it shows, as the Gospel reading ironically mentioned, where the heart is, and where the treasure is… Not in the Eucharistic Lord.

Then homily #5, which consists of a bunch of ridiculous COVID stuff, including the insane request to carry the Eucharist back to your seat (because that is safer I guess). I won’t bother going through it. But it fits the bill – the temperament and ideological leanings of those panicked by COVID tend to be of the sort which inform the liturgy we are witnessing. Liberals tend to be stronger in the concupiscible part of their appetite, while conservatives tend to be stronger in the irascible part. Each tendency leads to its own challenges. A post for another time.

54:47 – Ecce Agnus Dei. Made up. Moving on.

Distribution of Communion. Here we find out what all those chalices were for, which was foreshadowed in homily #5. They are just there to look at from far away, with Extraordinary Ministers of – adoration? – picking them up so they can be reverenced. At least the thought of reverencing the Lord’s Most Precious Blood is a good thought, but… it is just a made up ritual and confuses people about what the Eucharist is. “Am I really receiving all of Christ?” (This is a very good argument, among several, not to distribute from chalices to the congregation at all, ever.) At 1:06:59, we get a rather brazen announcement that anyone who wants to waltz up to take Our Lord to someone can come on ahead. I guess as long as you have a wicker basket on hand, you are qualified… I don’t know, maybe the people who come up are legitimately deputed. We should give the benefit of the doubt, but… it is a bad look.

1:08:12 – homily #6. Short, but unnecessary.

Concluding prayer. Then homily #7, which is some kind of announcement about writing on a card that you will love, or something, and then more talk about money. Then a “living eulogy” of some woman in the parish who is not there but has worked there for a while.

Final blessing, made up. With the crozier. Dismissal, made up. Recessional. With a quasi-blessing, from the “crozier,” being put on people’s heads. Yes, you read that correctly. (I, for one, would encourage a return of the virgula poenitentiaria, or penitential wands, but I don’t think that’s what’s happening here.)

Well, that’s it. We made it.

I won’t do another post like this for a long time, maybe ever. The thing is, the more “creative” a liturgy is externally, the less creative it is internally. All that focus, as St. Thomas implies, on externals, distracts one from truly entering into the authentic prayer of the Church. Sin moves away from the infinite horizon of God and His love and moves toward finite creation, so sin is boring. So is bad liturgy, because it is sinful. Even if valid, such liturgy deadens the movement of the Holy Spirit, despite its normal intention to the contrary. Thus ends, then, my liturgical autopsy.

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All of “Grandma’s Lace” – and More

Eamonn Clark, STL

So I was at the mass for the Sicilian clergy-pilgrims a little while ago. Before the bishops went for their meeting with Francis, where he decried the use of “grandma’s lace” in the liturgy, they had a mass at Mary Major. Let me tell you, lace is not the issue. A friend in the sacristy told me there were bishops who didn’t know how to put on an amice… I stood and watched many priests taking pictures during the liturgy. One guy, just in front of me, was wearing an alb whose neckline was hanging very low, almost halfway down his chest, and he had a tab collar shirt that was unbuttoned at the top, with the tab sticking out.

There are two points to lace in liturgy. First, in a place like Sicily, it is very functional: it breathes. Extremely hot weather begs for lace. Second, lace, like incense or chant or any number of things, indicates that something special is occurring… something out of the ordinary… something sacred.

Now, it can be overdone. “More lace, more grace,” goes the derisive mantra. I once was going to a shop to buy some vestments, including a surplice, and in the area of the store I ran across another shop with the same name – it happened to be a lingerie store! “I love lace, but this is too much, even for me,” I quipped. But, just as it can be overdone, it can be underdone. I would suggest that the Sicilians luck out with the heat, giving them the impetus to use fine albs and such; the fact that they aren’t bothering with other items and behaviors of liturgical decorum that are always due gives the impression that they just don’t really care very much about the liturgy, they just care about not sweating to death (this also perhaps explains the low hanging alb, the neglect of amices, etc.).

I was complaining yesterday again about the fake candle phenomenon in Roman churches – even papal basilicas. It’s cheaper and more convenient, but that sort of defeats the purpose. Likewise, wearing all the right vestments in the right way can be uncomfortable – but that is fitting when one is offering a sacrifice. On the other hand, if one is just having a ritual meal… comfort matters much more. It is beginning to dawn on me that one of the most significant changes made to the liturgy after the Council is the offertory… Formerly it emphasized the Mass is a sacrifice, but now it uses a modified Jewish prayer before meals. One wants to be comfortable at dinner… but at a public sacrifice? Maybe it’s worth being drenched with sweat to get it right.

But it also might be worth wearing lace!

The Ottaviani Intervention – TLM vs. NO

Today I present the translated text of Cardinal Ottaviani’s famous intervention regarding the introduction of the Novus Ordo Missae, the missal reformed under Paul VI. As we approach the 1-year anniversary of Traditiones Custodes, it is important that we are increasingly aware of the deeper theological significance of the differences between the TLM and the NO. These are not merely superficial differences, as it might seem to someone sitting in the pews who has not bothered to study these things seriously; it is, however, evident to those priests who celebrate with both missals that the dissimilarities are profound. This study, presented to Paul VI by Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci, is extremely helpful for those looking for a solid introduction to the gulf between 1962 and 1969. It is not taking any cheap shots, as it is easy to do with the new missal by pointing to the worst kinds of abuses… This is a serious theological critique.

For the footnotes and some more information, see the SSPX’s original page on this text here.

Letter from Cardinal Ottaviani to His Holiness Pope Paul VI

Rome
September 25, 1969

Most Holy Father,

Having carefully examined, and presented for the scrutiny of others, the Novus Ordo Missae prepared by the experts of the Consilium ad exequdam Constitutionem de Sacra Liturgia, and after lengthy prayer and reflection, we feel it to be our bounden duty in the sight of God and towards Your Holiness, to put before you the following considerations:

1. The accompanying critical study of the Novus Ordo Missae, the work of a group of theologians, liturgists and pastors of souls, shows quite clearly in spite of its brevity that if we consider the innovations implied or taken for granted, which may of course be evaluated in different ways, the Novus Ordo represents, both as a whole and in its details, a striking departure from the Catholic theology of the Mass as it was formulated in Session XXII of the Council of Trent. The “canons” of the rite definitively fixed at that time provided an insurmountable barrier to any heresy directed against the integrity of the Mystery.

2. The pastoral reasons adduced to support such a grave break with tradition, even if such reasons could be regarded as holding good in the face of doctrinal considerations, do not seem to us sufficient. The innovations in the Novus Ordo and the fact that all that is of perennial value finds only a minor place, if it subsists at all, could well turn into a certainty the suspicion, already prevalent, alas, in many circles, that truths which have always been believed by the Christian people, can be changed or ignored without infidelity to that sacred deposit of doctrine to which the Catholic faith is bound for ever. Recent reforms have amply demonstrated that fresh changes in the liturgy could lead to nothing but complete bewilderment on the part of the faithful who are already showing signs of restiveness and of an indubitable lessening of faith. Amongst the best of the clergy the practical result is an agonizing crisis of conscience of which innumerable instances come to our notice daily.

3. We are certain that these considerations. which can only reach Your Holiness by the living voice of both shepherds and flock, cannot but find an echo in Your paternal heart, always so profoundly solicitous for the spiritual needs of the children of the Church. It has always been the case that when a law meant for the good of subjects proves to be on the contrary harmful, those subjects have the right, nay the duty of asking with filial trust for the abrogation of that law. Therefore we most earnestly beseech Your Holiness, at a time of such painful divisions and ever-increasing perils for the purity of the Faith and the unity of the Church, lamented by You our common Father. not to deprive us of the possibility of continuing to have recourse to the fruitful integrity of that Missale Romanum of St. Pius V, so highly praised by Your Holiness and so deeply loved and venerated by the whole Catholic World.

A. Card. Ottaviani
A. Card. Bacci
Feast of St. Pius X

A Brief Critical Study of the Novus Ordo Missae
by a group of Roman Theologians

I

In October 1967, the Episcopal Synod called in Rome was requested to pass a judgment on the experimental celebration of a so-called “normative Mass,” devised by the Consilium for implementing the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. This Mass aroused the most serious misgivings. The voting showed considerable opposition (43 non placet), very many substantial reservations (62 juxta modum), and 4 abstentions out of 187 voters. The international press spoke of a “refusal” on the proposed “normative Mass” on the part of the Synod. Progressively-inclined papers made no mention of this.

In the Novus Ordo Missae lately promulgated by the Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum, we once again find this “normative Mass,” identical in substance, nor does it appear that in the intervening period, the Episcopal Conferences, at least as such, were ever asked to give their views about it.

In the Apostolic Constitution, it is stated that the ancient Missal promulgated by St. Pius V, July 13, 1570, but going back in great part to St. Gregory the Great and to still remoter antiquity,[3] was for four centuries the norm for the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice for priests of the Latin rite, and that, taken to every part of the world, “it has moreover been an abundant source of spiritual nourishment to many holy people in their devotion to God.”

Yet, the present reform, putting it definitely out of use, was claimed to be necessary since “from that time the study of the Sacred Liturgy has become more widespread and intensive amongst Christians.”

This assertion seems to us to embody a serious equivocation. For the desire of the people was expressed, if at all, when—thanks to St. Pius X—they began to discover the true and everlasting treasures of the liturgy. The people never on any account asked for the liturgy to be changed or mutilated so as to understand it better. They asked for a better understanding of a changeless liturgy, and one which they would never have wanted changed.

The Roman Missal of St. Pius V was religiously venerated and most dear to Catholics, both priests and laity. One fails to see how its use, together with suitable catechesis, should have hindered a fuller participation in, and greater knowledge of, the Sacred Liturgy, nor why, when its many outstanding virtues are recognized, this should not have been considered worthy to continue to foster the liturgical piety of Christians.

Since the “normative Mass,” now reintroduced and imposed as the Novus Ordo Missae, was in substance rejected by the Synod of Bishops, was never submitted to the collegial judgment of the Episcopal Conference, nor have the people—least of all in mission lands—ever asked for any reform of Holy Mass whatsoever, one fails to comprehend the motives behind the new legislation which overthrows a tradition unchanged in the Church since the fourth and fifth centuries, as the Apostolic Constitution itself acknowledges. As no poplar demand exists to support this reform, it appears devoid of any logical grounds to justify it and make it acceptable to the Catholic people.

The Vatican Council did indeed express a desire (para. 50, Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium) for the various parts of the Mass to be reordered “so that the distinctive character of each single part and its relationship to the other part may appear more clearly.” We shall now see how the Ordo recently promulgated corresponds with this original intention.

An attentive examination of the Novus Ordo reveals changes of such magnitude as to justify in themselves the judgment already made with regard to the “normative Mass.” Both have in many points every possibility of satisfying the most modernistic of Protestants.

II

Let us begin with the definition of the Mass given in n. 7 of the Institutio Generalis at the beginning of the second chapter of the Novus Ordo: De structura Missae:

The Lord’s Supper or Mass is a sacred meeting or assembly of the People of God, met together under the presidency of the priest, to celebrate the memorial of the Lord.[4] Thus the promise of Christ, “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them,” is eminently true of the local community in the Church” (Mt. 18, 20).

The definition of the Mass is thus limited to that of a “supper,” and this term is found constantly repeated (nos. 8, 48, 55d, 56). This “supper” is further characterized as an assembly presided over by the priest and held as a memorial of the Lord, recalling what He did on the first Maundy Thursday. None of this in the very least implies either the Real Presence, or the reality of the sacrifice, or the Sacramental function of the consecrating priest, or the intrinsic value of the Eucharistic Sacrifice independently of the people’s presence.[5] It does not, in a word, imply any of the essential dogmatic values of the Mass which together provide its true definition. Here the deliberate omission of these dogmatic values amounts to their having been superseded and therefore, at least in practice, to their denial.[6]

In the second part of this paragraph 7 it is asserted, aggravating the already serious equivocation, that there holds good, “eminenter,” for this assembly Christ’s promise that “Ubi sunt duo vel tres congregati in nomine meo; ibi sum in medio eorum” (Mt. 18, 20). This promise, which refers only to the spiritual presence of Christ with His grace, is thus put on the same qualitative plane, save for the greater intensity, as the substantial and physical reality of the Sacramental Eucharistic Presence.

In no. 8 a subdivision of the Mass into “liturgy of the word” and Eucharistic liturgy immediately follows, with the affirmation that in the Mass is made ready “the table of God’s word” as of “the Body of Christ,” so that the faithful “may be built up and refreshed”—an altogether improper assimilation of the two parts of the liturgy, as though between two points of equal symbolic value. More will be said about this point later.

The Mass is designated by a great many different expressions, all acceptable relatively, all unacceptable if employed, as they are, separately and in an absolute sense. We cite a few:

  • the Action of Christ and of the People of God;
  • the Lord’s Supper or Mass;
  • the Paschal Banquet;
  • the Common participation in the Lord’s Table;
  • the memorial of the Lord;
  • the Eucharistic Prayer;
  • the Liturgy of the Word and the Eucharistic Liturgy;
  • etc.

As is only too evident, the emphasis is obsessively placed upon the supper and the memorial instead of upon the unbloody renewal of the Sacrifice of Calvary. The formula “the Memorial of the Passion and Resurrection of the Lord” is, besides, inexact, the Mass being the memorial or the Sacrifice alone, in itself redemptive whilst the Resurrection is the consequent fruit of it.[7]

We shall later see how, in the same consecratory formula, and throughout the Novus Ordo such equivocations are renewed and reiterated.

III

We come now to the ends of the Mass.

I. Ultimate end. This is that of the Sacrifice of praise to the Most Holy Trinity according to the explicit declaration of Christ in the primary purpose of His very Incarnation: “Coming into the world he saith: sacrifice and oblation thou wouldst not but a body thou has fitted me” (Ps. 34, 7-9 in Heb. 10, 5).

This end has disappeared from the Offertory, with the disappearance of the prayer Suscipe, Sancta Trinitas; from the end of the Mass with the omission of the Placet tibi Sancta Trinitas; and from the Preface, which on Sunday will no longer be that of the Most Holy Trinity, as this Preface will be reserved only to the Feast of the Trinity, and so in future will be heard but once a year.

2. Ordinary end. This is the propitiatory Sacrifice. It too has been deviated from; for instead of putting the stress on the remission of sins of the living and the dead it lays emphasis on the nourishment and sanctification of the present (no. 54). Christ certainly instituted the Sacrament of the Last Supper putting Himself in the state of Victim in order that we might be united to Him in this state but this self-immolation precedes the eating of the Victim, and has an antecedent and full redemptive value (the application of the bloody immolation). This is borne out by the fact that the faithful present are not bound to communicate, sacramentally.[8]

3. Immanent end. Whatever the nature of the Sacrifice, it is absolutely necessary that it be pleasing and acceptable to God. After the Fall no sacrifice can claim to be acceptable in its own right other than the Sacrifice of Christ. The Novus Ordo changes the nature of the offering, turning it into a sort or exchange of gifts between man and God: man brings the bread, and God turns it into the “bread of life”; man brings the wine, and God turns it into a “spiritual drink.”

Thou art blessed Lord, God of the Universe, because from Thy generosity we have received the bread [or “wine”] which we offer Thee the fruit of the earth [or “vine”] and of man’s labor. May it become for us the bread of life [or “spiritual drink.”].”[9]

There is no need to comment on the utter indeterminateness of the formulae “panis vitae” and “potus spiritualis,” which might mean anything. The same capital equivocation is repeated here, as in the definition of the Mass: there, Christ is present only spiritually among His own: here, bread and wine are only “spiritually” (not substantially) changed.[10]

In the preparation of the offering, a similar equivocation results from the suppression of two great prayers. The “Deus qui humanae substantiae dignitatem mirabiliter condidisti et mirabilius reformasti” was a reference to man’s former condition of innocence and to his present one of being ransomed by the Blood of Christ: a recapitulation of the whole economy of the Sacrifice, from Adam to the present moment. The final propitiatory offering of the chalice, that it might ascend “cum odore suavitatis,” into the presence of the divine majesty, Whose clemency was implored, admirably reaffirmed this plan. By suppressing the continual reference to God in the Eucharistic prayers, there is no longer any clear distinction between divine and human sacrifice.

Having removed the keystone, the reformers have had to put up scaffolding; suppressing real ends, they have had to substitute fictitious ends of their own: leading to gestures intended to stress the union of priest and faithful, and of the faithful among themselves; offerings for the poor and for the Church superimposed upon the offerings of the Host to be immolated. There is a danger that the uniqueness of this offering will become blurred, so that participation in the immolation of the Victim comes to resemble a philanthropical meeting, or a charity banquet.

IV

We now pass on to the essence of the Sacrifice.

The mystery of the Cross is no longer explicitly expressed. It is only there obscurely, veiled, imperceptible for the people.[11] And for these reasons:

1. The sense given in the Novus Ordo to the so-called prex eucharistica[12] is: “that the whole congregation of the faithful may be united to Christ in proclaiming the great wonders of God and in offering sacrifice” (no. 54, the end).

Which sacrifice is referred to? Who is the offerer? No answer is given to either of these questions. The initial definition of the prex eucharistica is as follows: “The center and culminating point of the whole celebration now has a beginning, namely the Eucharistic Prayer, a prayer of thanksgiving and of sanctification” (no. 54, pr.). The effects thus replace the causes, of which not one single word is said. The explicit mention of the object of the offering, which was found in the Suscipe, has not been replaced by anything. The change in formulation reveals the change in doctrine.

2. The reason for this non-explicitness concerning the Sacrifice is quite simply that the Real Presence has been removed from the central position which it occupied so resplendently in the former Eucharistic liturgy. There is but a single reference to the Real Presence (a quotation—in a footnote—from the Council of Trent), and again the context is that of “nourishment” (no. 241, note 63).

The Real and permanent Presence of Christ, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, in the transubstantiated Species is never alluded to. The very word transubstantiation is totally ignored.

The suppression of the invocation to the Third Person of the Most Holy Trinity (Veni Sanctificator) that He may descend upon the oblations, as once before into the womb of the Most Blessed Virgin to accomplish the miracle of the divine Presence, is yet one more instance of the systematic and tacit negation of the Real Presence.

Note, too, the eliminations:

  • of the genuflections (no more than three remain to the priest, and one, with certain exceptions, to the people, at the Consecration);
  • of the purification of the priest’s fingers in the chalice; of the preservation from all profane contact of the priest’s fingers after the Consecration;
  • of the purification of the vessels, which need not be immediate, nor made on the corporal;
  • of the pall protecting the chalice;
  • of the internal gilding of sacred vessels;
  • of the consecration of movable altars;
  • of the sacred stone and relics in the movable altar or upon the mensa—when celebration does not occur in sacred precincts (this distinction leads straight to “eucharistic suppers” in private houses);
  • of the three altar cloths, reduced to one only;
  • of thanksgiving kneeling (replaced by a thanksgiving, seated, on the part of priest and people, a logical enough complement to Communion standing);
  • of all the ancient prescriptions in the case of the consecrated Host falling, which are now reduced to a single, casual direction: “reverenter accipiatur” (no. 239);
  • all these things only serve to emphasize how outrageously faith in the dogma of the Real Presence is implicitly repudiated.

3. The function assigned to the altar (no. 262). The altar is almost always called mensa.[13] “The altar or table of the Lord, which is the center of the whole Eucharistic liturgy” (no. 49, cf. 262). It is laid down that the altar must be detached from the walls so that it is possible to walk round it and celebration may be facing the people (no. 262); also that the altar must be the center of the assembly of the faithful so that their attention is drawn spontaneously toward it (ibid). But a comparison of nos. 262 and 276 would seem to suggest that the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament on this altar is excluded. This will mark an irreparable dichotomy between the presence, in the celebrant, of the eternal High Priest and that same Presence brought about sacramentally. Before, they were one and the same presence.[14]

Now it is recommended that the Blessed Sacrament be kept in a place apart for the private devotion of the people (almost as though it were a question of devotion to a relic of some kind) so that, on going into a church, attention will no longer be focused upon the tabernacle but upon a stripped bare table. Once again the contrast is made between private piety and liturgical piety: altar is set up against altar.

In the insistent recommendation to distribute in Communion the Species consecrated during the same Mass, indeed to consecrate a loaf[15] for the priest to distribute to at least some of the faithful, we find reasserted a disparaging attitude toward the tabernacle, as toward every form of Eucharistic piety outside of the Mass. This constitutes yet another violent blow to faith in the Real Presence as long as the consecrated Species remain.[16]

4. The formulae of consecration. The ancient formula of consecration was properly a sacramental, not a narrative one. This was shown above all by three things:

a. The Scriptural text not taken up word for word: the Pauline insertion “mysterium fidei” was an immediate confession of the priest’s faith in the mystery realized by the Church through the hierarchical priesthood.

b. The punctuation and typographical lettering: the full stop and new paragraph marking the passage from the narrative mode to the sacramental and affirmative one, the sacramental words in larger characters at the center of the page and often in a different color, clearly detached from the historical context. All combined to give the formula a proper and autonomous value.

c. The anamnesis (“Haec quotiescumque feceritis in mei memoriam facietis”), which in Greek is “eis tén emèu anàmnesin” (directed to my memory). This referred to Christ operating and not to the mere memory of Him, or of the event: an invitation to recall what He did (“haec… in mei memoriam facietis”) in the way He did it, not only His Person, or the Supper. The Pauline formula (“Hoc facite in meam commemorationem”) which will now take the place of the old—proclaimed as it will be daily in vernacular languages—will irremediably cause the hearers to concentrate on the memory of Christ as the end of the Eucharistic action, whilst it is really the beginning. The concluding idea of commemoration will certainly once again take the place of the idea of sacramental action.”[17]

The narrative mode is now emphasized by the formula “narratio institutionis” (no. 55d) and repeated by the definition of the anamnesis, in which it is said that “The Church recalls the memory of Christ Himself” (no. 556).

In short: the theory put forward by the epiclesis, the modification of the words of Consecration and of the anamnesis, have the effect of modifying the modus significandi of the words of Consecration. The consecratory formulae are here pronounced by the priest as the constituents of a historical narrative and no longer enunciated as expressing the categorical and affirmative judgment uttered by Him in whose Person the priest acts: “Hoc est Corpus Meum” (not, “Hoc est Corpus Christi”).[18]

Furthermore the acclamation assigned to the people immediately after the Consecration: (“we announce Thy death, O Lord, until Thou comest”) introduces yet again, under cover of eschatology, the same ambiguity concerning the Real Presence. Without interval or distinction, the expectation of Christ’s Second Coming at the end of time is proclaimed just as the moment when He is substantially present on the altar, almost as though the former, and not the latter, were the true Coming.

This is brought out even more strongly in the formula of optional acclamation no. 2 (Appendix): “As often as we eat of this bread and drink of this chalice we announce Thy death, O Lord, until Thou comest,” where the juxtaposition of the different realities of immolation and eating, of the Real Presence and of Christ’s Second Coming, reaches the height of ambiguity.[19]

V

We now come to the realization of the Sacrifice, the four elements of which were:

  1. Christ,
  2. the priest,
  3. the Church,
  4. the faithful present.

In the Novus Ordo, the position attributed to the faithful is autonomous (absoluta), hence totally false from the opening definition—“Missa est sacra synaxis seu congregatio populi”—to the priest’s salutation to the people which is meant to convey to the assembled community the “presence” of the Lord (no. 28). “Qua salutatione et populi responsione manifestatur ecclesiae congregatae mysterium.”

A true presence, certainly, of Christ but only spiritual, and a mystery of the Church, but solely as assembly manifesting and soliciting such a presence.

This interpretation is constantly underlined: by the obsessive references to the communal character of the Mass (nos. 74-152); by the unheard of distinction between “missa cum populo” and “missa sine populo” (nos. 203-231); by the definition of the “oratio universalis seu fidelium” (DO. 45), where once more we find stressed the “sacerdotal office” of the people (“populus sui sacerdotii munus excercens”) presented in an equivocal way because its subordination to that of the priest is not mentioned, and all the more since the priest, as consecrated mediator, makes himself the interpreter of all the intentions of the people in the Te igitur and the two Memento.

In Prex Eucharistica III (Vere sanctus, p. 123) the following words are addressed to the Lord: “from age to age you gather a people to Thyself, in order that from east to west a perfect offering may be made to the glory of Thy name,” the in order that making it appear that the people, rather than the priest[20] 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. From this step it would not be surprising if, before long, the people were authorized to join the priest in pronouncing the consecrating formulae (which actually seems here and there to have already occurred).

The priest’s position is minimized, changed and falsified. Firstly in relation to the people for whom he is, for the most part, a mere president, or brother, instead of the consecrated minister celebrating in persona Christi. Secondly in relation to the Church, as a “quidam de populo.” In the definition of the epiclesis (no. 55), the invocations are attributed anonymously to the Church: the part of the priest has vanished.

In the Confiteor which has now become collective, he is no longer judge, witness and intercessor with God; so it is logical that he is no longer empowered to give the absolution, which has been suppressed. He is integrated with the fratres. Even the server addresses him as much in the Confiteor of the “Missa sine populo.”

Already, prior to this latest reform, the significant distinction between the Communion of the priest—the moment in which the Eternal High Priest and the one acting in His Person were brought together in closest union—and the Communion of the faithful had been suppressed.

Not a word do we now find as to the priest’s power to sacrifice, or about his act of consecration, the bringing about through him of the Eucharistic Presence. He now appears as nothing more than a Protestant minister.

The disappearance, or optional use, of many sacred vestments (in certain cases the alb and stole are sufficient—n. 298) obliterates even more the original conformity with Christ: the priest is no more clothed with all His virtues, becoming merely a “graduate” whom one or two signs may distinguish from the mass of people:[21] “a little more a man than the rest” to quote the involuntarily humorous definition by a Dominican preacher.[22] Again, as with the “table” and the altar, there is separated what God has united: the sole Priesthood of the Word of God.

Finally, there is the Church’s position in relation to Christ. In one case, namely the “missa sine populo” is the Mass acknowledged to be “Actio Christi et Ecclesiae” (no. 4, cf. Presb. Ord. no. 13), whereas in the case of the “missa cum populo” this is not referred to except for the purpose of “remembering Christ” and sanctifying those present. The words used are: “In offering the sacrifice through Christ in the Holy Ghost to God the Father, the priest associates the people with himself.” (no. 60), instead of words which would associate the people with Christ Who offers Himself  “per Spiritum Sanctum Deo Patri…”

In this context the following are to be noted:

  1. the very serious omission of the phrase “Per Christum Dominum Nostrum,” the guarantee of being heard given to the Church in every age (John 14, 13-14; 15; 16; 23; 24;);
  2. the all-pervading “paschalism,” almost as though there were no other, quite different and equally important aspects of the communication of grace;
  3. the very strange and dubious eschatologism whereby the communication of supernatural grace, a reality which is permanent and eternal, is brought down to the dimensions of time: we hear of a people on the march, a pilgrim Church—no longer militant against the Potestas tenebrarum — looking toward a future which having lost its link with eternity is conceived in purely temporal terms.

The Church—One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic—is diminished as such in the formula that, in the Prex Eucharistica IV, has taken the place of the prayer of the Roman Canon “on behalf of all orthodox believers of the Catholic and apostolic faith.” Now they are no more nor less than: “all who seek you with a sincere heart.

Again, in the Memento of the dead, these have no longer passed on “with the sign of faith and sleep the sleep of peace,” but only “who have died in the peace of Thy Christ,” and to them are added, with further obvious detriment to the concept of visible unity, the host of all the dead “whose faith is known to Thee alone.”

Furthermore, in none of the three new Eucharistic Prayers is there any reference, as has already been said, to the state of suffering of those who have died, in none the possibility of a particular Memento: all of this, again, must undermine faith in the propitiatory and redemptive nature of the Sacrifice.[23]

Desacralizing omissions everywhere debase the mystery of the Church. She is not presented above all as a sacred hierarchy: angels and saints are reduced to anonymity in the second part of the collective Confiteor: they have disappeared, as witnesses and judges, in the person of St. Michael, from the first.[24] The various hierarchies of angels have also disappeared (and this is without precedent) from the new Preface of Prex II. In the Communicantes the reminder of the pontiffs and holy martyrs on whom the Church of Rome is founded and who were, without doubt, the transmitters of the apostolic traditions, destined to be completed in what became, with St. Gregory, the Roman Mass, has been suppressed. In the Libera nos the Blessed Virgin, the Apostles and all the Saints are no longer mentioned: her and their intercession is thus no longer asked, even in time of peril.

The unity of the Church is gravely compromised by the wholly intolerable omission from the entire Ordo, including the three new Eucharistic Prayers, of the names of the Apostles Peter and Paul, Founders of the Church of Rome, and the names of the other Apostles, foundation and mark of the one and universal Church, the only remaining mention being in the Communicantes of the Roman Canon.

A clear attack upon the dogma of the Communion of Saints is the omission, when the priest is celebrating without a server, of all the salutations, and the final blessing, not to speak of the Ite missa est[25] now not even said in Masses celebrated with a server.

The double Confiteor showed how the priest—in his capacity of Christ’s Minister, bowing downplay and acknowledging himself unworthy of his sublime mission, of the “tremendum mysterium” about to be accomplished by him and of even (in the Aufer a nobis) entering into the Holy of Holies—invoked the intercession (in the Oramus te, Domine) of the merits of the martyrs whose relics were sealed in the altar. Both these prayers have been suppressed; what has been said previously in respect of the double Confiteor and the double Communion is equally relevant here.

The outward setting of the Sacrifice, evidence of its sacred character, has been profaned. See, for example, what is laid down for celebration outside sacred precincts, in which the altar may be replaced by a simple mensa without consecrated stone or relic, and with a single cloth (nos. 260, 265). Here too all that has been previously said with regard to the Real Presence applies, the disassociation of the convivium and of the sacrifice of the supper from the Real Presence Itself.

The process of desacralization is completed thanks to the new procedures for the offering: the reference to ordinary not unleavened bread; altar servers (and lay people at Communion sub utraque specie) being allowed to handle sacred vessels (no. 244d); the distracting atmosphere created by the ceaseless coming and going of priest, deacon, subdeacon, psalmist, commentator (the priest becomes a commentator himself from his constantly being required to “explain” what he is about to accomplish)—of readers (men and women), of servers or laymen welcoming people at the door and escorting them to their places whilst other carry and sort offerings. And in the midst of all this prescribed activity, the “mulier idonea”[26] (anti-scriptural and anti-Pauline) who for the first time in the tradition of the Church will be authorized to read the lesson and also perform other “ministeria quae extra presbyterium peraguntur” (no. 70). Finally, there is the concelebration mania, which will end by destroying Eucharistic piety in the priest, by overshadowing the central figure of Christ, sole Priest and Victim, in a collective presence of concelebrants.[27]

VI

We have limited ourselves to a summary evaluation of the new Ordo where it deviates most seriously from the theology of the Catholic Mass and our observations touch only those deviations that are typical. A complete evaluation of all the pitfalls, the dangers, the spiritually and psychologically destructive elements contained in the document—whether in text, rubrics or instructions—would be a vast undertaking.

No more than a passing glance has been taken at the three new Canons, since these have already come in for repeated and authoritative criticism, both as to form and substance. The second of them[28] gave immediate scandal to the faithful on account of its brevity. Of Canon II it has been well said, amongst other things, that it could be recited with perfect tranquility of conscience by a priest who no longer believes either in transubstantiation or in the sacrificial character of the Mass—hence even by a Protestant minister.

The new missal was introduced in Rome as “a text of ample pastoral matter” and “more pastoral than juridical” which the Episcopal Conferences would be able to utilize according to the varying circumstances and genius of different peoples. In this same Apostolic Constitution we read: “we have introduced into the new missal legitimate variations and adaptations.” Besides, Section I of the new Congregation for Divine Worship will be responsible “for the publication and constant revision of the liturgical books.” The last official bulletin of the Liturgical Institutes of Germany, Switzerland and Austria[29] says:

The Latin texts will now have to be translated into the languages of the various peoples: the “Roman” style will have to be adopted to the individuality of the local Churches: that which was conceived beyond time must he transposed into the changing context of concrete situations in the constant flux of the Universal Church and of its myriad congregations.

The Apostolic Constitution itself gives the coup de grace to the Church’s universal language (contrary to the express will of Vatican Council II) with the bland affirmation that “in such a variety of tongues one [?] and the same prayer of all… may ascend more fragrant than any incense.”

The demise of Latin may therefore be taken for granted; that of Gregorian chant—which even the Council recognized as “liturgiae romanae proprium” (Sacros. Conc., no. 116), ordering that “principem locum obtineat” (ibid.)—will logically follow, with the freedom of choice, amongst other things, of the texts of Introit and Gradual.

From the outset therefore the new rite is launched as pluralistic and experimental, bound to time and place. Unity of worship, thus swept away for good and all, what will now become of the unity of faith that went with it, and which, we were always told, was to be defended without compromise?

It is evident that the Novus Ordo has no intention of presenting the Faith as taught by the Council of Trent, to which, nonetheless, the Catholic conscience is bound forever. With the promulgation of the Novus Ordo, the loyal Catholic is thus faced with a most tragic alternative.

VII

The Apostolic Constitution makes explicit reference to a wealth of piety and teaching in the Novus Ordo borrowed from the Eastern Churches. The result—utterly remote from and even opposed to the inspiration of the oriental Liturgies—can only repel the faithful of the Eastern Rites. What, in truth, do these ecumenical options amount to? Basically to the multiplicity of anaphora (but nothing approaching their beauty and complexity), to the presence of the deacons, to Communion sub utraque specie. Against this the Ordo would appear to have been deliberately shorn of everything which in the Liturgy of Rome came close to those of the East.[30] Moreover, in abandoning its unmistakable and immemorial Roman character, the Ordo lost what was spiritually precious of its own. Its place has been taken by elements which bring it closer only to certain other reformed liturgies (not even to those closest to Catholicism) and which debase it at the same time. The East will be ever more alienated, as it already has been by the preceding liturgical reforms.

By way of compensation the new Liturgy will be the delight of the various groups who, hovering on the verge of apostasy, are wreaking havoc in the Church of God, poisoning her organism and undermining her unity of doctrine, worship, morals and discipline in a spiritual crisis without precedent.

VIII

St. Pius V had the Roman Missal drawn up (as the present Apostolic Constitution itself recalls) so that it might he an instrument of unity among Catholics. In conformity with the injunctions of the Council of Trent it was to exclude all danger, in liturgical worship of errors against the Faith, then threatened by the Protestant Reformation. The gravity of the situation fully justified, and even rendered prophetic, the saintly pontiff’s solemn warning given at the end of the bull promulgating his missal: “Should anyone presume to tamper with this, let him know that he shall incur the wrath of God Almighty and of his Blessed Apostles, Peter and Paul” (Quo Primum, July 13, 1570).[31]

When the Novus Ordo was presented at the Vatican Press Office, it was asserted with great audacity that the reasons which prompted the Tridentine decrees are no longer valid. Not only do they still apply, but there also exist, as we do not hesitate to affirm, very much more serious ones today. It was precisely in order to ward off the dangers which in every century threaten the purity of the deposit of faith (“depositum custodi, devitans profanas vocum novitates.”—I Tim. 6:20) that the Church has had to erect under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost the defenses of her dogmatic definitions and doctrinal pronouncements. These were immediately reflected in her worship, which became the most complete monument of her faith. To try and bring the Church’s worship back at all cost to the ancient practice by refashioning, artificially and with that “unhealthy archeologism” so roundly condemned by Pius XII,[32] what in earlier times had the grace of original spontaneity means—as we see today only too clearly—to dismantle all the theological ramparts erected for the protection of the Rite and to take away all the beauty by which it was enriched over the centuries.

And all this at one of the most critical moments—if not the most critical moment—of the Church’s history! Today, division and schism are officially acknowledged to exist not only outside of but within the Church.[33] Her unity is not only threatened but already tragically compromised.[34] Errors against the Faith are not merely insinuated but positively imposed by means of liturgical abuses and aberrations which have been equally acknowledged.[35] To abandon a liturgical tradition which for four centuries was both the sign and the pledge of unity of worship[36] (and to replace it with another which cannot but be a sign of division by virtue of the countless liberties implicitly authorized, and which teems with insinuations or manifest errors against the integrity of the Catholic religion) is, we feel in conscience bound to proclaim, an incalculable error.

Who led the reform – Bugnini, or the Holy Spirit?

Eamonn Clark, STL

Cardinal-Elect Arthur Roche, Prefect of the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, has given an interview. It is worth reading, primarily for the following paragraph.

So, all that is taking place is the regulation of the former liturgy of the 1962 Missal by stopping the promotion of that, because it was clear that the Council, the Bishops of the Council, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, were putting forward a new liturgy for the vital life of the Church, for its vitality. And that’s really very important. And to resist that is, is something that is really quite serious, too.

Never mind that the Council didn’t itself reform the liturgy, nor that it was never suggested to create a “new liturgy” but simply have a restoration of sorts. The overall attitude/vision of Roche put forward here is congruent with the speech given by Pope Francis in 2017 to Italian liturgists. Anyone who is interested in what is happening right now in the world of Catholic liturgy absolutely MUST (re)read this speech. It is like an intellectual tell-all. This is the speech where he made one of the oddest statements perhaps ever uttered in public by a Roman pontiff: “After this magisterium, after this long journey, We can affirm with certainty and with magisterial authority that the liturgical reform is irreversible.”

The men leading this charge think that the work of the Consilium ad exsequendam Constitutionem de Sacra Liturgia (or just “the Consilium”), the liturgical committee which was commissioned by the Second Vatican Council to implement the document Sacrosanctum Concilium, was inspired by the Holy Spirit.

The claim of inspiration is not about the document, Sacrosancutm Concilium, which is a huge claim on its own, especially given the “pastoral” as opposed to “doctrinal” character of the Council, as Ratzinger/Benedict XVI pointed out;1 it seems very much to be the work of the Consilium which is being claimed to have inspiration. This sort of claim is without any precedent in the entire liturgical history of the Church, as far as I can tell – do correct me if I am wrong. Nobody claims that their liturgical reforms are “inspired” by the Holy Spirit, and traditionally liturgical developments are seen as being “protected” (a weaker influence of the Holy Spirit) only in special cases, like the commemoration of saints or generally the teaching content of prayers when adopted for a long time in a great number of places. What happens in liturgical reforms throughout the ages is that the general custom of the Church, in Her liturgy, is guided somewhat by the Holy Spirit, overall away from the introduction of error and toward the edification of souls, in the long-term – or something very close to this. Because the liturgy is the public worship of God by the Church, it stands to reason that God would be invested in its development and growth towards a form which more and more adequately reveals and instructs about the mysteries which it contains, including through legitimately diverse forms (i.e., the Eastern liturgies). This process, after the Last Supper, has gradually come to occur typically through minor reforms of bits and pieces of the liturgy, done in tandem with the growth of local liturgical customs. As the centuries have gone on, these changes have become smaller and less frequent.

Suffice it to say, what occurred in the late 1960’s at the Consilium was a bit different. The dishonesty of Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, who spearheaded the work of the Consilium, was sufficient to get him banished to Iran by the same pope who commissioned him in the first place, St. Paul VI.

Knowing the history of these things is no longer optional for anyone who is involved in theology, or in public ecclesiastical life.

There is a nice 3-part series being put out right now which I would encourage readers to watch. The first two episodes are out – PART 1, and PART 2. It is not a perfect production – on several levels – but as an introduction to the the old liturgy, the history of the reform, and what exactly is going on right now, it is helpful. One of the gems comes from the second episode, where the textual changes to the liturgy are shown graphically:

The thought that the Holy Spirit has any direct involvement with major liturgical reforms done by committees, let alone inspires such reforms, which is a category that only properly applies to the original writing of Sacred Scripture, is entirely novel. May I suggest that the ideas of some men about how to change the text and rubrics of one slice of the Church’s liturgy (the Latin/Western slice) are not equivalent with the words of Isaiah, or Genesis, or Matthew. The language we use to talk about these things matters. If Scripture is inspired, and the work of the Consilium is inspired, then how do they differ in authority?

Go read Francis’ speech. Pay attention.

For those readers of mine in higher theological studies – especially if you are looking for a good topic for a dogma STL thesis – start considering what the role of the Holy Spirit is in liturgical reforms. One can make various distinctions, such as inspiration vs. protection vs. providence, etc., which would be relevant. It is the most timely sort of topic, and it is sorely needed. This tension is not going to be swept away by the next pope, one way or the other. It will be here for a while. We may as well settle in, and we would be fools not to arm ourselves with knowledge.

We must also pray and fast for our bishops, including our Holy Father, Pope Francis.

1 – “The Second Vatican Council has not been treated as a part of the entire living Tradition of the Church, but as an end of Tradition, a new start from zero. The truth is that this particular council defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as a merely pastoral council; and yet many treat it as though it had made itself into a sort of superdogma which takes away the importance of all the rest.” – Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Benedict XVI), July 13, 1988 (Santiago, Chile)

The Hidden Idolatry in Our Midst

Eamonn Clark, STL

In the past, it has struck me that the sense of sin among even many pious people is skewed in favor of measuring the gravity of sin in terms of its effects rather than in terms of its disorder. The specific example that has come up multiple times relates to the Sixth Commandment, but I will use a slightly different example: the difference between the Eighth Commandment and the Second Commandment. Lying is wrong. But swearing a false oath (perjury) is far, far worse. It is leagues above the most malicious of lies, when such lies are taken by themselves as lies, even though a malicious lie can cause such great damage while one may see no real damaging effect from perjury at all, even most of the time. (By the way, it is perjury that the Second Commandment is really about – not “using bad language,” as is unfortunately taught so frequently.)

Why is perjury so much worse? After all, it is a lie that may or may not have a bad effect, while a malicious lie is designed to harm another and often has such terrible effects. Even taking the cumulative force of the violation of other precepts together with malicious lies as their root (such as the violation of the Fifth or Seventh Commandments), we should note that not only does the Second Commandment rank higher numerically on the Decalogue, at a whopping five places above, but it is actually on the First Tablet. This is because, first of all, it relates directly to our relationship with God and His due honor. Second, following from this, the sin of perjury (“swearing on the Name of God” in a matter which you are lying about) is enormously disordered, much more disordered than trying to harm some mere creature with a lie. When perjuring, one “harms God,” in the way that this is possible. Seeing as the point of human existence is primarily to love God, and that the love of creation is only well-ordered in relation to the love of God first, we can see how a direct assault on the honor of God is much worse than a direct assault on a creature, especially when the sin is the same sort of action. (Sometimes people take false oaths in words without truly meaning to take a real oath – “I swear to God,” etc… This is a terrible habit which must be intentionally rooted out. It is arguably venial sin in itself in the case of mindlessness, but such mindlessness proceeds from somewhere – often a general lack of interest in honoring God and His Holy Name, which reveals a lack of charity.)

Now, onto the real topic for today: the violation of the First Commandment and this sin’s infiltration into the normal lives of so many people. So. Many. People. And no, I do not mean “idolizing sin/money/sex/etc.” I mean real idolatry. Let’s get into it.

One of the few people that St. Thomas specifically names and accuses of sin in the Summa Theologica is the great Roman philosopher Seneca, whom several pages later is relied on, strangely enough, as an authority on gratitude. (Thomas also did not like the Stoics in general, of whom Seneca was a foremost member and representative. In fact, the Stoics are the only group which the Angelic Doctor basically mocks, to my knowledge, for their hypocritical doctrine on the use of pleasure.) The relevant section for us, however, is the II-II q. 94 a. 2 resp., which discusses whether idolatry is a sin.

Thomas quotes Augustine, who himself is quoting Seneca, on the worship of the Roman gods. Here it is: “We shall adore in such a way as to remember that our worship is in accordance with custom rather than with the reality.” Thus spoke Seneca. Well, at least he was honest about what he was doing. Thomas, with Augustine, finds this to be “wicked dishonesty,” especially since Seneca pretended to worship the gods so well that people thought he actually believed.

I was speaking some time ago with a friend about the strange phenomenon of “atheist Jews” who continue to practice the rituals which signify the advent of the Christ. Well, they neither believe in the reality of the Incarnation nor do they actually expect it. It is about custom – a bizarre and grotesque outgrowth of these Jews’ distant ancestors who accosted Jesus for not understanding Judaism because He did not follow the customs they were so fond of. We can say that these ethnic Jews who, unlike their ancestors, do not even believe in God at all, nonetheless pretend to worship God and therefore are in fact idolaters on this account. This is because the outward ritual of the Passover meal, or Succoth, etc., are imbued with a significance so evidently containing the communication of idea of submission, praise, hope, etc. in relation to the God of Israel that these rituals also contain the idea and the objective fact of worship of that very same God. Despite the lack of belief in God, such ethnic Jews pretend to worship Him nonetheless, even if they would insist that they are not doing so. The rites of the old feasts are themselves sufficient to indicate that one is expressing faith and hope in the God of Israel. This is much the same as the Christian lapsi who dishonestly pretended to worship the Roman gods to escape persecution, though those who gave in after much torture certainly have much less guilt than those who were afraid of incurring mild inconveniences. But those who simply outwardly communicate worship (latria) are not only formally giving idolatrous worship (even if it happens to be worship given to the one true God), but it is also, in Thomas’s words, a “wicked falsehood.” (He also attacks the continued observance of the Jewish rites after the age of the Church begins – like that which was promoted by the Judaizers that Paul fought against so vehemently – and though he does not say it is idolatrous, it is nonetheless a “pestiferous superstition.” A wonderful phrase, if I do say so myself.)

And now we come to the real problem. The outwardly devout attendance of Mass on the part of those who lack belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, which, in the USA, is about 70% of self-identified Catholics, including about a third who show up every Sunday. Let us investigate.

Christ and the Eucharist are the same, except for shape (“secondary dimensive quantity”) and thus also according to mode of presence (“sacramental presence”/”substantial presence” as opposed to “local presence”), and they differ in the reason for the unity or “concomitance” of the parts (Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, whether by “nature” directly as with Christ in Heaven, or in virtue of real concomitance resting the power of the word – which subject Lateran IV dealt with so succinctly). This means that to worship the Eucharist is to worship Christ…

…if one believes in the Eucharist as such. If one does not actually believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, what is happening in such a soul at Mass? He is giving the objective signs of latria, adoration, worship, to what are, in his mind, mere bread and wine, not Christ, though he may see these objects as somehow “representing” or “symbolizing” Christ. Therefore, it constitutes formal idolatry, even though materially, unbeknownst to him, it is materially worship of Christ.

That is the thesis. It needs some qualification, so I will now walk it back a few steps. Of course, most people in such a situation have little to no meaningful catechetical formation. They have never been told that the Mass is a sacrifice, that it re-presents Calvary, that Christ is substantially present in the Eucharist, that the state of grace is requisite for a good Communion, that rendering good worship in the Mass is the highest act of moral virtue which one can do, etc. They have instead been formed by the Protestant culture and liturgy which surrounds them, and, unfortunately, have also been formed by the Protestantization of the Catholic Mass which resulted from the reforms after the last Council, coupled with decades of weirdness and sloppiness in the reformed liturgy. So, despite probably having presented themselves for catechetical formation, it has not been given to them. The average Sunday pewster would be able to tell you aesthetic differences between what Evangelicals or Lutherans are doing in their worship and what Catholics are doing in ours, but meaningful theological differences would be a struggle to explain. It is difficult to see how that is entirely the fault of the individual in ignorance.

It is also the case that the formal idolater hardly understands themselves to be offering worship to the Eucharistic species at all. (Once again, one might point to the reforms as a possible root for this shift, along with the experiments of the following decades.) They simply “follow the crowd,” and they don’t think much more about it.

On the other hand, I once had an experience, when assisting in a parish in the USA, of a group of parents who came to have details explained about their children making their first Holy Communion. I think many of them had their kids with them. The meeting was held in a chapel, with a full tabernacle. I distinctly remember sitting there at the end of the meeting in genuine shock and awe as I watched each one of several dozen people exit the chapel without the slightest act of reverence toward Christ in the Eucharist… What is one to make of this morally? It is the opposite of the phenomenon of kneeling, bowing, and receiving Holy Communion at Mass without faith in the Real Presence. It is worship which ought to be given but is not, which is called irreligion, specifically sacrilege (the failure to honor rightly a sacred object). While it is only a minor kind of sacrilege and is done in ignorance, as opposed to burning a church down intentionally, it is still deeply disordered.

Likewise, when real outward signs of reverence are given, it communicates something about what is interior, namely, belief about the dignity of the object reverenced. One cannot get around this. There is a kind of idolatry, even though done in ignorance, in the person who lacks Eucharistic faith but goes through the motions at a Mass. This, too, exposes an immense disorder in the soul, and in this particular case, especially in the intellect, as one is utterly ignorant of the reality of the Blessed Sacrament. It reveals that one does not know how to give worship hardly at all, even when in precisely the right place at precisely the right moment, and even when doing outwardly the precisely correct things, in the context of the highest kind of worship.

This is a crisis. It is a First Commandment crisis. If we cannot get this right, what else matters?

That is the situation. What to do? More preaching on the Mass, and more vigilance exercised over catechesis in parochial environments, indeed can go a long way. However, I propose there are other remedies as well.

  1. Perpetual adoration, or as close as the parish can get to it. A good introduction to what this is, and why it is done, where much teaching can be done, is the set up for the practice itself, which is always sure to bring many blessings to the community. A culture ought to be built up around keeping watch with Our Lord. Eucharistic processions are good too – the more public the better!
  2. Liturgy needs to be celebrated very precisely and very well. This cannot be emphasized enough – the chief way that people learn what the liturgy is all about is by experiencing it. So if it is anthropocentric, they will learn that Mass is about “me” or “us.” If it is done well, they will learn that it is about Christ, specifically about Christ in the Eucharist – not about music, not about the homily, not about “participation” qua “doing stuff,” and not even about community. It is about what is happening on the altar, and our participation in that act of sacrifice, by prayer, presence, and even by palate – though it is only necessary to receive Holy Communion once a year during Easter, and it is, of course, obligatory to refrain when in grave sin.
  3. Priests and other sacred ministers need to exhibit special devotion before, during, and after the Mass. This is closely connected with, and even identical to some extent, with the point about liturgy being celebrated well. If Father doesn’t bother to genuflect when setting up for Mass, why would anyone think of the tabernacle as anything other than a pretty-looking box? If he handles the sacred vessels like ordinary things, why would anyone think something is special about what they contain? And so on. It is also especially helpful for people to see priests praying before and after Mass. In many parts of the world, this is not customary, once again, due to the exertion of cultural pressure from Protestantism. I would suggest that it is often more helpful for people to see Father praying for a few minutes after Mass than to shake hands on the way out the door… But, alas, one must not be too harsh in the violation of custom, and it is frequently the case that people would never speak a word to Father other than at such a moment. However, if there is more than one priest around, he should greet people, while the celebrant goes to pray. After all, as Canon 909 says: “A priest is not to neglect to prepare himself properly through prayer for the celebration of the eucharistic sacrifice and to offer thanks to God at its completion.”

The case of formal idolatry, even if watered down somewhat from the Senecan version, is not a sin without enormous bad effects – they are simply distant from their cause. How many people have stopped going to Mass altogether because they don’t see the need for it? How many people make bad communions? How many people never bother to pray directly to the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, or even reverence Him intentionally, thus depriving themselves and the world of untold amounts of grace? How many people go to non-Catholic churches on some Sundays because they don’t really see the difference? How may people go to Mass a few times a year because of “custom” rather than “reality,” almost like Seneca or the atheist Jews who still observe their ancestors’ feasts out of some kind of nostalgia or sentimentality??? These bad effects come from a lack of faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, an enormous disorder. It stands to reason then that over time, if we heal the root, we fix the fruit.

I know how jarring the use of the word “idolater” is. It is out of care and concern for souls that we ought to use precise language, albeit tactfully. Hopefully, these considerations can move things in the right direction for those who read and have the position to preach, teach, and otherwise influence souls.

Friday Fathers #5 – St. Justin Martyr on the Sacraments

Today we take a look at the famous (but still not sufficiently well-known) passage from St. Justin Martyr’s First Apology (ch. 65-67) which describes the basics of the Christian liturgical system in brief as it stood in the mid-second century, especially in Rome. Especially noteworthy is the proclamation of the universal acceptance of the doctrine of Christ’s substantial (or real) presence in the Euncharist.

The First Apology was written to the Roman Emperor Tatian as an explanation and defense (apologia) of Christian doctrine. Justin had converted to the Faith at the age of about 30. As his name implies, Justin was later put to death for his witness and fidelity to Christian faith, in about 165.

St. Justin Martyr, pray for us!

But we, after we have thus washed him who has been convinced and has assented to our teaching, bring him to the place where those who are called brethren are assembled, in order that we may offer hearty prayers in common for ourselves and for the baptized [illuminated] person, and for all others in every place, that we may be counted worthy, now that we have learned the truth, by our works also to be found good citizens and keepers of the commandments, so that we may be saved with an everlasting salvation. Having ended the prayers, we salute one another with a kiss. There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he taking them, gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and offers thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things at His hands. And when he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all the people present express their assent by saying Amen. This word Amen answers in the Hebrew language to γένοιτο [so be it]. And when the president has given thanks, and all the people have expressed their assent, those who are called by us deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and wine mixed with water over which the thanksgiving was pronounced, and to those who are absent they carry away a portion.

And this food is called among us Εὐχαριστία [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, This do in remembrance of Me, (Luke 22:19) this is My body; and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, This is My blood; and gave it to them alone. Which the wicked devils have imitated in the mysteries of Mithras, commanding the same thing to be done. For, that bread and a cup of water are placed with certain incantations in the mystic rites of one who is being initiated, you either know or can learn.

And we afterwards continually remind each other of these things. And the wealthy among us help the needy; and we always keep together; and for all things wherewith we are supplied, we bless the Maker of all through His Son Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Ghost. And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need. But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration.

A Short Introduction to Canon 915

Eamonn Clark, STL

“Weaponizing the Eucharist” is a phrase I have now unfortunately heard from several clergy, most recently the Bishop of San Diego (1:18:00) attempting to persuade people that the President of the United States (and others), despite perfectly clear, consistent, and efficacious support for abortion, should not be denied Holy Communion. Of course, this relates to the meaning and application of the ever-relevant Canon 915, which describes the conditions for the public reception of the Eucharist.

In this post, I want to give a very brief primer on this severely misunderstood law. (In this task, I rely largely on the great work of Dr. Ed Peters, whose trove of resources on this point can be accessed here, along with other items of interest.) For what it is worth, I am not a trained canonist but have done a good deal of study of this area of the law.

The text of the Canon 915 in the 1983 Code of Canon Law is as follows: “915. Those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.”

For this post, we leave aside the first part of the canon, which is more or less straightforward and is rarely at issue. (Whether such mechanisms should be used with more frequency is a different question, but it is one worth asking.)

So, we shall go through each of the parts of the second part of the canon (“obstinate perseverance/persistence,” “manifest,” “grave,” and “sin”), but first we will look at two other things: first, what the canon does NOT say, and second, what is the relevant proximate context of the canon which is required for understanding its meaning.

What does the canon NOT say? Well, to cut to the point, obviously the canon does not add qualifiers beyond what it actually contains. The word “dialogue” is missing, one can note immediately, though dialogue in the right sense is important indeed. And while the “judgment of a proper authority” can sometimes be quite important and relevant, this relates to a specific phrase already included in the canon (“obstinately persist”) and so the more general judgment of the pastor, the bishop, etc. is actually not very relevant. Perhaps a wealthy “pro-choice” donor to the diocese will cease his donations if he is denied Holy Communion, and the bishop does not like that consequence and judges it would be better not to make this person upset. Well, this is quite unfortunate, and the judgment is wrong. It is not the purpose of the canon to preserve the financial (or political/diplomatic) integrity of a diocese, a parish, etc. These things, while important, sit beneath what the canon obliges, not above it, as is clear from the common sense effects that any sort of public humiliation could possibly have – as if we are only now first discovering “mercy” and “dialogue” and realizing that politicians and wealthy people (and others with influence) can bully or help the Church in various ways, and that this might depend on how such people are treated by the Church, including in the public administration of the sacraments… Of course we are not only first learning about all this. This is very old news. In the most proper sense, the “proper authority” is whoever is functioning in the moment as the minister of Holy Communion, and other judgments are secondary – the canon especially obliges bishops and pastors, but it directly obliges anyone administering the Eucharist in public. As Newman put it, “A toast to the Pope, but first to the conscience.” I certainly understand the squeeze that this puts many people in. But those taking up the grave task of assisting in the distribution of Holy Communion – most of all, clergy – need to gird their loins and be prepared for contradictions. (Coincidentally, this is one more reason to diminish the prolific use of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, especially “on the fly.”)

Note that the word “conscience” is missing, as is “sacrilege.” More on that in a bit, as clearly they do somehow play a role, but they are not the direct concern of the canon.

The two pieces of context which I wish to present here are the following: first, Canon 855 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law, the current Code’s predecessor, which helps us to understand the legal framework out of which the current Code was developed and must be interpreted within to a significant degree. Second, Canon 916, which, as one might expect, immediately follows Canon 915.

Canon 855 of the 1917 CIC reads as follows, with its two sections: “855 §1. All those publicly unworthy are to be barred from the Eucharist, such as excommunicates, those interdicted, and those manifestly infamous, unless their penitence and emendation are shown and they have satisfied beforehand the public scandal [they have caused]. §2. But occult sinners, if they ask secretly and the minister knows they are unrepentant, should be refused; but not, however, if they ask publicly and they cannot be passed over without scandal.”

From this text, we begin to get an idea of what Canon 915 is up to. Let’s look at Canon 916 before drawing our conclusions here: “916. A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or receive the Body of the Lord without previous sacramental confession unless there is a grave reason and there is no opportunity to confess; in this case the person is to remember the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition which includes the resolution of confessing as soon as possible.”

From Canon 916, we see by inference that Canon 915 is not a law binding the would-be communicant, it is a law binding the minister of Holy Communion. The language of Canon 915 is already talking about “admittance,” but 916 helps us to see with precision that the one bound by this law is the minister, not the would-be communicant. Canon 916, on the other hand, binds the would-be communicant.

From these two texts together, we can conclude that there is a distinction between the reception of Holy Communion in private and reception in public. The difference relates to what the 1917 Code refers to explicitly, and the 1983 Code refers to implicitly, which is scandal. Thus, the law is concerned with two things – the soul of the would-be communicant, and scandalizing others looking on at his reception (and even scandalizing the recipient himself). In public reception, in fact, it is the primary concern of the law, as demonstrated by the fact that the 1917 Code requires ministers to cooperate with what he knows with good certitude to be a sacrilegious reception of Holy Communion.

There are two types of scandal to consider here: “imitatio” and “admiratio”… The former is connected with known sins, the latter with secret sins. The scandal of “imitatio” (imitation) is to teach others that a sin is not a sin – or at least not grave sin, in this case – and thus to imitate it, while the scandal of “admiratio” (wonder) comes after a denial of Holy Communion which encourages others to inquire into the motive for that denial, thus creating untold gossip, prying, and possibly the complete ruin of a person’s good name. And, after all, who knows, maybe the person who did some very terrible thing in secret which the minister happens to know about has actually already made confession or at least a good act of contrition (with a grave reason for receiving Holy Communion and no prior opportunity to confess), or was even for some reason not gravely culpable for his sin. However, if his action was public, people already presumably know about it and will not go hunting for information. Thus, the known sin is also typically presumed to be known by the minister as well… thus possibly putting the minister into the role of a teacher of morals.

Now we are ready to look at the individual conditions laid out in Canon 915. Remember, this canon relates to the public reception of Holy Communion only (whereas Canon 916 and its roots in Canon 855 §2 would correspond to private reception), and ALL of the conditions need to be present for the canon to be justly applied. (This is where many well-meaning and “conservative” people can go astray – it is actually quite difficult, outside of a few textbook cases, to meet ALL of the criteria.) We will start with the end and work our way back.

Sin

In morals, “sin” is a voluntary deed, word, or thought against the preceptive will of God. Some might be surprised to know that there is a category outside of morals which “sin” relates to – well, there is, and it is canon law, our present concern. “Sin” in canon law does not actually always mean the same thing as it does in morals, though of course it is connected. Rather, sin in the canonical sense, as used in Canon 915 in particular, corresponds to an outward reality which is able to be judged by onlookers, not a reality of the soul of the individual. More specifically, “canonical sin” is a “moral sin” as judged by people with well-formed consciences that might observe the act. For example, a man takes some hostages in a bank robbery and begins to murder them one by one. A person with a well-formed conscience who sees this act would reasonably assume that this man is committing sin in the moral sense. However, if we suppose that the robber is actually a schizophrenic or has some other serious mental disability, he may actually bear no moral guilt at all. And yet, until his mental condition is made known publicly, thus clarifying his lack of guilt, he would be guilty of the kind of sin which Canon 915 speaks about.

Grave

The sin must be grave. It cannot be venial sin, which is an unfortunate part of everyone’s daily life. It must be sin of the sort which, according to its matter, separates a soul from the love of God. (Recall the immediately preceding point – it is not the concern of Canon 915 whether one is gravely culpable for the sin or not. In the bank robbery example, the act is pretty clearly grave matter, despite the schizophrenic robber’s lack of guilt.)

Manifest

This is where Canon 855 of the 1917 Code is helpful, as it makes this distinction very explicit. In public administration of the Eucharist (and other sacraments by extension), the immediately invisible disposition of the soul of the individual is irrelevant for whether or not they have a claim on the minister of the sacrament to receive it. If we reimagine our bank robbery to have been a heist, in which the pastor of the local parish was involved as a conspirator, the successful heist is a grave sin indeed but one which is unknown as being connected to any given individuals. If Father decides to celebrate the parish’s daily mass the next morning (which is its own problem, as the canon also notes,) and his co-conspirator presents himself for Holy Communion, Father cannot deny him Holy Communion based on their secret crime. It matters not one bit whether there is any realistic chance of there having been confession, contrition, reparation, or even regret. The grave sin is not manifest, it is secret. However, if his co-conspirator arrived at the rectory and asked to receive Holy Communion privately outside of the normal parish mass, there would indeed be grounds for denial – it is a clear sacrilege, unless he has made confession or has some grave reason to receive after a perfect act of contrition (which is not particularly realistic, of course).

Obstinate Perseverance

The manifest grave sin must be intentionally habitual, not a “one off” or some occasional act. Sometimes this comes by implication of the person himself – such as the public contraction of an obviously illicit “marital” union. In the standard sort of case, a person’s manifest grave sin is rightly judged to be obstinately perseverant after an explicit warning given to that same person by the proper authority, such as the pastor or the bishop. (This is where the judgment of the pastor or bishop would be relevant. He may have given a warning with the condition to make public amends by such-and-such a time. So in these cases, those assisting the pastor and bishop in distributing Holy Communion are “off the hook.”) However, some cases are so clearly grave that one or two acts without public reparation or apology would suffice of themselves to constitute obstinate perseverance, without the need for any special decision or declaration from the bishop or pastor. This would seem very much to be the case with voting in favor of intrinsically and egregiously immoral acts, such as abortion, euthanasia, etc. (While such a person perhaps might have some special and secret strategic reason for such voting behavior which would justify his outwardly horrific action, this is truly abnormal and would still exclude the individual from publicly receiving Holy Communion, though not privately. I will explore this strange kind of case in an upcoming book on the topic of voting… Stay tuned.) It could also apply to political symbols being used during the reception of Holy Communion itself (i.e. a “rainbow sash” – and one can even imagine the wearer of such a thing being ignorant of its actual meaning, thus removing subjective guilt but still meeting all of the conditions of the canon).

Practical Conclusions

The claim that merely enforcing the legislation of the Church which sits upon apostolic roots and is primarily aimed at protecting weak souls from being led astray is “weaponizing the Eucharist” is simply absurd. The law is there in part to protect the individual would-be communicant from committing sacrilege (normally), but it is primarily to prevent people from being taught that grave sin is not so bad (including the would-be communicant himself). In the case of pro-abortion politicians, clergy who support “mercy” and “dialogue” over enforcing a rather low bar in the Church’s law actively teach Catholics and non-Catholics alike that the Church does not consider abortion to be particularly sinful, such that one who tries to expand legal rights to abortion by a public vote can still carry on a loving relationship with Jesus Christ, which is the whole center of the reception of the Eucharist. This is false. (Alternatively, the lesson could be that the Eucharist is not that important, or that a good reception does not require the state of grace, etc. – also false.) A clear-thinking adult who deliberately supports the direct killing of the unborn or even deliberately tolerates it as acceptable, cannot be a friend of God and thus cannot receive Holy Communion, at least under Canon 916 by committing sacrilege, even if not barred under Canon 915. We are gravely bound to understand the basic requirements of the 5th Commandment, which includes understanding what a human being is in a basic way. And those who are bound to know well both ecclesiastical and moral law who neglect their duty as shepherds of souls in this respect, as in others, will have to answer for their actions and inactions on the Last Day. It is indeed a terrifying thought to think of what that “dialogue” will look like.

We do not need more “dialogue” here, we need more good instruction and more good examples. We need to focus on saving those who are hovering in the middle of the divide – not on trying to pretend that despite the angry mob’s commitment to egregious sins, we can still find enough common ground to have a healthy ecclesial relationship in the bonds of mutual charity. This was more or less the thinking of St. Paul, for example, when he counsels the excommunication of heretics from even the social life of the Church after one or two warnings. (See Titus 3:10 and especially 1 Corinthians 5 – where is the call for dialogue!?)

There is more to talk about, including but not limited to the extension of the logic of this law to other acts of sacramental administration, but for now I give the last word to Cardinal Arinze… Let us pray for our bishops and our governors, and for the protection of the most vulnerable in our world.

An Abandoned Rite

Fr. Grzegorz Brodacki, O.Cist.

“Holy Mother Church holds all lawfully acknowledged rites to be of equal right and dignity; that she wishes to preserve them in the future and to foster them in every way.” We find this statement in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the last ecumenical council (§4). Here many will say, not without irony, that the subsequent radical reform of the Roman rite (or rather its destruction followed by the creation of something completely new) showed very well what such “preservation in the future and fostering in every way” mean in practice. However, such an abandonment of an existing rite, even though not to such extent and not on the universal level, is not something unprecedented in the history of the Church’s liturgy. In the course of the 17th century the Cistercian Order almost unanimously abandoned its rite of the Mass so as to accept the Roman rite with few features of their own rite.

What were the reasons for which the authorities of the Order decided to stop using the proper Cistercian rite? To answer to that question, we must know something about its history and its character.

The Cistercian Order was founded in 1098 in Burgundy in France out of a desire to renew the monastic life by returning to the literal adherence to the Rule of Saint Benedict. However, while the Rule speaks much about the structure of the canonical hours, it is completely silent about the rite of the Mass. What is more, Saint Benedict does not even indicate how often the Mass should be celebrated in the monastery. So, the first generations of the Cistercian monks had to find other principles to arrange the rite of their Mass. One of the principles was authenticity; they decided to use only renowned sources. This mainly regards the textual layer of the rite. The chant books were copied in Metz which at that time enjoyed the reputation of having the purest Gregorian tradition. Also, the texts of the missal (called at that time the “sacramentary”) were taken from the most respected churches of Burgundy.

Other principles were simplicity and poverty. One can say that properly these two principles shaped mostly the external layer of the Cistercian rite. The substance of the rite – taken from the existing monastic customs and from neighbouring churches – remained intact, but the Cistercians decided to remove or simplify all that they saw as accidental and superfluous.

Let us take a look at a typical conventual mass celebrated every day at a Cistercian abbey. The first difference with respect to the other rites at the time was the scarcity of ministers: for Sundays and feasts the priest was accompanied by a deacon and subdeacon, while on ordinary days even the subdeacon was unnecessary.

Just after the preparatory prayers at the foot of the altar, the ministers proceeded to the preparation of the chalice, but the pouring of the water was reserved to the priest. Once the lesson had been sung, the subdeacon could join the choir to help in singing.

Hauterive

Before the gospel, the deacon asked the abbot for his blessing. After the Credo, the deacon brought the sacred vessels (let us remember – these already contained the wine with water) to the altar, but there was no special offertory prayer other than In spiritu humilitatis. Then, only on feast days and only at this moment, incense was used. The way of incensing was quite curious: the priest traced a circle over the offerings with the thurible, then incensed the right side of the altar, the left one and again the right and the left side of the base of the altar. After that, he gave the thurible to the deacon who in turn incensed the right side of the altar cross and then went behind the altar to the left side to do the same there.

The Canon of the mass was substantially identical to its counterparts elsewhere. It is important however to point out two particularities: first, the elevation of the sacred species was introduced somehow reluctantly and gradually, so it became universal only in the 15th century. Secondly, kneeling was practiced to a limited degree. The community knelt down for the Canon only on ferial days, while the sacred ministers did not kneel ever.

The Pater noster was followed by a series of prayers for peace and, at least at the beginning, for the reconquest of the Holy Land. Also, the way of distribution of the Holy Communion was quite remarkable. The sign of peace was given uniquely to those who were to receive Communion. In conformity with the Rule of Saint Benedict, the monks approached the altar by seniority, they knelt on the highest degree and received the species of bread directly on the tongue. Similarly, kneeling on the left side of the altar, they drank the consecrated wine without touching with their hands the chalice held by the deacon and subdeacon. Then they passed to the sacristan standing between the altar and choir and drank a little bit of unconsecrated wine in order to “purify themselves,” probably from the possible remnants of the sacred species in the mouth.

At this point the role of the celebrant was practically over. He had only to wash his hands at the piscina (i.e. a kind of a little well placed at the right side of the altar), recite the postcommunion prayer, and then could go back to the sacristy, with no final blessing, which is noteworthy. In the meanwhile, the sacred ministers were occupied with purification of the sacred vessels, not upon the altar but at the ministerium (i.e. credence table). The rite of purification was quite complex: it consisted of several ablutions with wine and water and even of licking the paten.

Even this summary description of the Cistercian Mass gives one an idea of the extreme simplicity and sobriety of the medieval rite. However, not only this was its weak point. The situation was even more difficult, since there was no detailed and exhaustive description of its ceremonies. Actually, the medieval Usus contained special chapters speaking about various types of the mass (conventual with two ministers, conventual with one minister, private mass), but those descriptions were anything but complete and satisfying. As long as the Order was vivacious, conscious of the richness of its proper tradition, the new generations of priests were taught the rite by their elders. By contrast, after the Council of Trent, when a new generation of men joined the Order, the sense of the Order’s own identity, expressed in large part by liturgical customs, faded more and more. Those men knew almost exclusively the post-Trent Roman rite which at that time was spreading with astonishing success, enjoyed the authority of the pontiff, corresponded to the spiritual tastes and needs of the epoch and, last but not least, was meticulously described.

We can suppose that all those factors provoked a gradual abandonment of the medieval Cistercian rite. The first step towards its romanisation, made 1611, was a permission to say private masses according to the Roman missal granted to the monks of the Order. To facilitate that new possibility, in 1617 the Roman Ritus servandus was inserted into the new edition of the Cistercian missal, since there was no Cistercian counterpart to it. In the following year the general chapter formally adopted the Roman Ritus celebrandi. Liturgical unrest was in the air. Claude Vaussin, who was elected general abbot in 1645, decided to publish liturgical books that would put an end to the increasing liturgical confusion, and doubtlessly also to the fights between the “traditionalists” and the partisans of the Romeward trend. Eventually, in 1656 under his authority the Breviarium cisterciense juxta Romanum was published, and one year later came the analogous Missale cisterciense juxta novissimam Romani recognitum correctionem. Thus, the traditional Cistercian rite (with the small exception of the Congregation of Castile) ceased to exist. While the romanisation was not total and complete, as there remained, for example, several Cistercian features for the rites of Holy Week, the rite’s substance was henceforth purely Roman.

During the first half of the 20th century there was a considerable renewal of the Cistercian Order in both branches (the Strict and Common Observances) which led at least three monasteries (Hauterive, Poblet, and the now-closed Boquen) to restore the primitive rite that had fallen into disuse, but even those attempts ended in a debacle after the introduction of St. Paul VI’s Novus Ordo Missae.

As we can see, the necessity of protecting the liturgical richness of the Church has not only been urgent in our own times. Undeniably, the abolition of the traditional Roman rite was something unusual in the history of the Church; however, the abandonment of the primitive Cistercian rite shows to us a phenomenon which differed only in scope, not in quality. The lesson that we can take from this is that every liturgical tradition is worthy of protection and cultivation. Nowadays many speak about regionalization, decentralization, and the exaltation of minorities, but few are able to apply these principles to the liturgical life of the Church. If we believe that the Holy Spirit leads the Church and inspires various communities growing in Her bosom to express their faith, their charism, and their way of life, even through liturgical forms, a blind unification cannot be understood as anything other than a big mistake and a deep impoverishment.

Fr. Grzegorz Brodacki, O.Cist. is a priest and monk of the Cistercian Archabbey of Jędrzejów in Poland.