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Last updated 6-8-13




The Tridentine Mass

So much is being said about the Pope allowing for the Tridentine Mass to be said with greater permission.  I just wanted to assert what I see is the reality of the situation and clarify some misunderstandings that I keep hearing.



Novus Ordo

First of all, this is not "going back to the old mass" or a first step toward replacing the form of mass that was born out of the second Vatican Council.  Nor does it deny the preeminence of what is the current form of the rite of the Latin Church.  It is simply an allowance for the mass born out of the Council of Trent to be said by any priest who is competent in saying this mass. as long as there is the desire of the people to have it said for them.  This is being done for all those who have a preference for assisting at this mass instead of the Novus Ordo mass. The term Novus Ordo has taken on a negative connotation in recent times especially from the more conservative  members of our Church, and unnecessarily so.  Novus Ordo means New Order, which is the short form for New Order of the Mass. When the Tridentine mass came out of the Council of Trent it was the Novus Ordo of its time, and it had been a much longer time than 400 years before it was altered, so it is nonsensical to assign the fact that it is the "New Order of the Mass", any kind of disparaging disapproval. 

Two Forms of the Same Rite

The Pope said that these are two forms of the same rite. Why? Because there is only one rite for the Latin Church. The Eastern rite Catholics have their own respective forms of mass. Most of them use the St. John Chrysostum rite that they call the Divine Liturgy. The Maronite rite has their version that has been in use since its inception and has not altered. They were the only rite in which there is no Eastern Orthodox counterpart as they were the only Eastern rite to never split from Rome. In the Latin Church, we have only ever had one rite and that is why the Pope said that these are two forms of the same rite, because rite means branch of Church and we are the Latin rite who are Roman Catholic. In fact Latin was the language of the Romans at the time of Christ, hence Latin meaning Roman.  All the other rites of Catholics under the Pope are part of the Eastern rite and say a different mass and they are all legitimate masses. 

What Makes a Mass Legitimate

What makes a mass legitimate?  The Church's approval.  What made the Tridentine mass legitimate, same thing, the Church's approval.  Is there any difference in what made these two masses legitimate. No. None.  The same Church used the same authority to sanction a new form or order of mass. The world's bishops in union with the Pope, the Vicar of Christ, made changes to the form of our liturgy of the mass both at the second Vatican Council and at the Council of Trent.

Is the Tridentine Mass More Holy?

How can one mass be more holy than another?  Is it a different Jesus being transformed from bread on the altar? Is it more sacred? What makes a mass sacred?  The presence of God. Is it a different God present at one than the other? No.  Is it perhaps more reverent at one mass than the other.  That is the real question.  But that depends on how mass is said by the priest and how the people assisting at mass are attentive and prayerful and reverent in their worship at mass. Does the Tridentine mass make people more reverent, or priests more faithful?  No. That is the choice of each individual present. It happens to be that people who have been hurt or disillusioned or disturbed by how priests have offered mass and how congregations worship, altering and deforming and sometimes mutilating the form of mass we have a right to experience at the hands of those who are obligated to give us what the Church prescribes for our liturgies, are often the ones who prefer the Tridentine mass. And it is also the priests who are discouraged at their own lack of authority to have mass said as is, since their pastors and/or liturgy committees and/or music directors and/or parish councils have more say than they do, who have offered to say the Tridentine mass in their respective diocese.  So to say that it is a more reverent mass in itself is a false notion.  It is those who are present, whether it be the priest or those assisting, who make it a reverent mass. And those who have suffered irreverent masses and go to Tridentine masses are usually going there because they want to be reverent at mass so the mass is therefore more reverent.

Why the Opposition?

There are those who misread or misunderstand the Pope and his reasoning and think it is a disrespecting of the present Novus Ordo and a backhanded way of saying that Vatican 2's mass experiment "has failed." Then there are those more liberal people in the Church who think that every change and all things new are for the better and see this allowance for the Tridentine as a "step backward that takes us back to the middle ages as a Church." Then there are also those who have as an agenda to make the Church what they want it to be for themselves. And to do this they feel the need to have control.  They want there to be no more hierarchy.  This way they can influence what they receive from the Church according to what they feel they need. They do not believe that the Holy Spirit guides the Church, they see it as just another organization that needs governing by its members, a democracy of sorts, or more like a company, a business, that if you are on the board of directors you have more say and control, and even better if you can become the CEO. They believe that the Church needs to change along with the times in order to serve the people of each ensuing generation, and this includes for them, theology, morals, Church teaching and everything within the context of liturgy and sacraments.

But God is perfect and has no need to change and cannot change.  Therefore, the Church as His Bride cannot change, or this would constitute adultery on Her part.  I am speaking here of the deposit of faith, what Christ handed on to us.  What God Himself has revealed to us about Himself is to be believed because it is God Himself who is Truth who gave it to us.  The Church's teaching authority preserves this through the Magisterium and has Christ's assurance of infallibility in the giving of the "Keys" to Peter our first Pope.  So when the Church gives us a mass, it is God who gives it to us through His Church, which dispenses His graces as a norm through the sacraments. This does not mean that He only gives graces this way, but ensures that He always does when they are performed according to the proper form.  We have specific form to the sacraments not to deprive us or limit the means of graces we may obtain from them, but to have a certainty that when a sacrament is performed, without any doubt, we are receiving the grace that is signified by the sacrament performed by its minister. 

The Church also needs to preserve the integrity of its liturgy, for as we know each gesture, word, and posture has a meaning and purpose.  If we change these things we change the meaning and purpose of the actions and no longer have what the Church intends. And if we alter things to suit ourselves we alter what the Holy Spirit is trying to give us for a feeble resemblance that can not reproduce the same effects in us as God giving us what He desires for us.  If we do not want what God wants to give us and we only want to give ourselves what we think we need or want, then why try to make everyone else have to do it as well when we could have that by staying home? I can not help but see this as completely ego-centric and an attempt to use the mass as a means to give to self, like people who shop to console themselves, buying toys for themselves to make themselves feel better.  Only it is much worse, much more grave because they are using the mass and the Church, things that truly belong to God and not to any person.  And since the Mass belongs to God, it belongs to he who holds the keys that Christ gave to Peter to discern and decide just how He wants to give us the mass! 

What the Church Intends 

To receive the mass as the Church intends is to receive what God wants to give us. Canon law states that the lay faithful have a right to receive what the Church intends to give in all its aspects and this includes the liturgy of the mass.   So we have a right to the proper translation of the liturgical texts, to hear the responsorial psalm that is in the roman missal and not some song that paraphrases it to the point of it being unrecognizable.  We have a right to not have girls dancing in leotards or secular music. We have a right to receive communion from the ordinary minister of communion, which is the priest. We have a right to not have ushers telling us who we are to go to receive communion from.  We have a right to not have any extraordinary ministers of communion (there is no such thing as Eucharistic minister), when there is not a real need for them. We have a right to not have the words of hymns altered by the musicians who don't like personal pronouns for God being masculine or other words they don't like. We have a right to kneel when the missal states for us to kneel, and we have the right to have missals in the Church so everyone knows when to kneel and all the other proper postures like the profound bow during the part of the creed which mentions Our Lord's birth. We have a right to hear the prayers that the Church gives and not a personal rendition that shows what the particular priest is trying to avoid saying.  We have a right to not feel the person next to us tapping us on the arm because he/she is offended that we did not want to hold hands during the Our Father. We have a right to not have people around the altar during the consecration. We have a right to not hear everyone's personal petitions during the intercessions. We have a right to Holy Water as we enter the Church, even during lent. We have a right to not have to greet the people around us and tell them about ourselves, interrupting the mass as if we need an ice breaker.  We have the right to only give the sign of peace to those immediately around us and not have it last 15 minutes as the entire congregation goes to everyone they know who is present and engages in all sorts of conversation while the band plays 3 songs to drown out the noise of all the people talking. We have the right to a choir or cantor and not a band.  We have a right to the tabernacle being behind the altar and a crucifix above it. We have a right to the Gloria not being sung with a chorus refrain as if it were not a prayer.  We have a right to hear the prayer which is in between the Our Father and the Doxology. We have a right to the memorial acclimation and not a song that somewhat represents the meaning. We have a right to not hear background music during the entire Eucharistic prayer as if we were dining at a restaurant.  We have a right to receive communion on the tongue and not have the priest toss Jesus into our mouths because he disapproves of our not receiving in the hand.  We have a right to not have a play that the teens put on for our intro to the homily.  We have a right to a homily that is in keeping with the teachings of the Church.  We have a right to pray after mass without hearing what people who don't want to stay and pray have to say to everyone around them while still in the Church.  In short we have the right to have the mass offered to us as the Church has given it and intends for it to be given to all, and we have a right to obey the Church even if the priest who is disobeying the Church wants us to obey him, as if he is representing the Church when he is being disobedient.

Why is the Pope Doing This?

It is his hope that by allowing greater use of the Tridentine that those who are tempted to leave the Church for schismatic masses will now go to a mass that is sanctioned by the Church, and that many who have already done so may find in this a reason to come back.  Of course there is also the hope that it will take away the impetus for those who want to have mass their own way, if they see just how many people will prefer a mass that is simply "the mass." I am also sure that he hopes that over time it will assist in eradicating the abuses that have crept in over the years in the average Novus Ordo mass in most diocese in the US and elsewhere in the Latin rite. 

Could This Cause a Split?

Let us make a distinction. In order for this decision to cause a split it would have to be that it is wrong and bad, even sinful and against the Holy Spirit. Good actions and following the promptings of the Holy Spirit and obeying God do not cause evil. We are speaking here of cause and effect. If a split were to result from this over time, it would be because those who leave and no longer follow Rome are already in schism in their hearts.  God did not cause Adam and Eve to sin by giving them a rule they could not follow.  They sinned because Eve believed the serpent and by doing so was in schism with God, separating herself from Him by her disbelief of His word and judging Him to be a liar who only wanted to deprive her of being like Him in knowledge. Division and disunity is not caused by the legitimate and proper exercise of authority, but by the false and erroneous judgment by those to whom it is given to obey legitimate and rightful authority.  If a rightful authority were to abuse his authority and abuse those who were under his authority and try to coerce them to sin, then they have a right to refuse, and this is not rebelliousness but preservation of soul. But to deride their authority without this very cause is to mumble like the Israelites in the desert against Moses. I realize that many who have left the Church to go to schism masses believe that they have been abused by the Church and that is why they believe it is legitimate to go to masses that their Bishop did not grant an indult for under Ecclesia Dei.  But this is not true, it is the persons who used the mass for their own purposes, who through error or intended evil, misused and abused improperly delegated authority, who abused them, not the Church, who always and in every way intends to give us Him, and unadulterated. I understand their grief, but this is the occasion to be martyrs for our faith. To stay in the Church, to suffer when their isn't a mass in town that doesn't do some crazy aberration of the mass, and the Bishop refuses to grant an indult for the Tridentine even though the requirements for it are easily met. Ultimately, to be faithful even if you are the only one who knows to kneel and has the courage to be ridiculed and ostracized for kneeling and receiving on the tongue in your whole parish, because the priests have been telling everyone that they are obeying the Church and you are just a conservative rebel. Ah, to let oneself suffer at the hands of those who are wrong and are persecutors of those who are faithful is the stuff saints are made of. And if we had more saints maybe things would not have gotten so out of hand in the first place. But again I digress. Division and disunity begins the moment someone accepts a lie and falsely judges another in their heart. There is already an overflowing cup of that on every side. If a split were to occur, the seeds of it were planted by all those who tried to steer their own course and not simply obey the Church and all those whose ignorance was not invincible and followed like sheep any voice that spoke as a shepherd without discretion, because their faith was not a high enough priority for them to seek truth.

Ecclesia Dei

Ecclesia Dei should have done what the present Pope is hoping to achieve now.  Why didn't it? Because too many bishops either did not recognize the need or did not want to and feigned that those who desired it in their diocese did not meet the required circumstances needed for the indult to be granted to them.   Pope John Paul the Great told them to be generous with the indult to those were sincere in their desire for the Tridentine mass, especially for those who were attached to it as the mass they grew up with.  But since it also began to have an attraction to young people who found a solemnity in it they could not find in any Novus Ordo mass in their vicinity,  the excuse was used that it did not fit the requirements. And if the bishop was a liberal it was often cited that those who wanted it were not mainstream Catholics but extra conservative fringe groups of people and not sincere in their intentions, essentially being labeled as troublemakers.

The Future

While no one but God knows the future, if one can read the signs of the times one can foresee what will happen if all stays on the present course. First let us all hope and pray that the present Pontiff's good intentions and desired effects of the Apostolic Letter “Summorum Pontificum” come to full fruition, and this action of his brings healing, reconciliation and the unity that is so desperately needed in our Church. But if things stay their present course and the adversary of our souls continues to sow the darnel into the fields of wheat, and the people of God listen more to him than to the voice of God, we will have a more divided Church.  If those who consider themselves conservatives have the attitude of I told you so, and completely abandon all Novus Ordo masses and leave it to the liberals and the ignorant sheep, what will happen to the Novus Ordo mass? It will become the mass of the liberals. And eventually there will be two factions in every parish and two sets of masses, one for the conservatives and one for the liberals.  And that will turn into two parishes in one and the twain shall never meet, as the saying goes.  And if the liberals finally get their mass it could turn into the worst possible scenario for the Novus Ordo mass. A real free for all mass with no limits. It will be up to the bishops and priests to uphold the Apostolic Letter as it is intended by the Pope, to stop this from happening.  But what has been disseminated properly this way coming from the Magisterium in the last 30 or so years? If Vatican 2 had been so, would we be in the present situation?  No. If Ecclesia Dei had been, would we be? No.  So what makes us think that this time will be any different? 

On Certain Questions...

There was a document put out by the Holy See, that was signed by 8 heads of Congregations and Pope John Paul the Great in the year 1997 called, Instruction On Certain Questions Regarding The Collaboration Of The Non-Ordained Faithful In The Sacred Ministry Of Priests.  It was signed by the heads of the congregation for: Congregation for the Clergy, Pontifical Council for the Laity, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith(Ratzinger), Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Congregation for Bishops, Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts.  It was an instruction that stated at its conclusion, "All particular laws, customs and faculties conceded by the Holy See ad experiment um or other ecclesiastical authorities which are contrary to the foregoing norms are hereby revoked." When I heard that this came out I tried to obtain a copy of it, before I had internet service and could print it off the Vatican web site, but I could not find it anywhere in all the publications that usually publish Papal documents. I finally found one in 2000 in an Origins publication. It was without question never promulgated by almost all of the US Bishops in this country.  It wasn't even a blip on any radar for news by anybody in this country except maybe EWTN, but I did not have access to that at that time so I do not know. I was shocked by what was in there.  So much of what is specifically mentioned as not allowed, in that instruction, is still the norm for any Novus Ordo. I won't go into detail here, but it is worth looking into for anyone who wants to know what the Church intends to give us in the Novus Ordo mass. Instruction On Certain Questions essentially though the beginning goes into a theological explanation of the difference between the ministerial priesthood and the common priesthood of all the faithful, what St. Paul terms the "royal priesthood" in the Scriptures.  From this foundation flows what is the proper role of each in the liturgy, as well as other areas of ministry.  It is a very explicit document.

Lay Ecclesial Ministry

EWTN airs extensive coverage of every session of the USCCB (Unites States Conference of Catholic Bishops). I remember watching when there was an interview with the head of the sub committee for "lay ecclesial ministry." This bishop said that they were not creating anything new, simply giving order and organization to the already existing reality of lay ministers and ministries in the Church.  Now the Document that ensued, called Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord, states that it is not proposing norms or establishing particular law.  In other words there is no force of law, nor is it laying down norms for the Church in the US to follow. And yet it is being promoted and promulgated by bishops all over the US as a document that gives us the proper understanding of Church teaching on lay ministry. In fact it goes directly against the Instruction On Certain Questions, mentioned above. For in the Vatican Instruction, it states that no title is to be given to lay people that includes the word minister.  Co-Workers uses language and terminology that at first glance makes it seem in compliance with the Church, but the actual words and their meaning are in direct opposition to the Church.  It quotes the Instruction On Certain Questions many times but uses it in a way not intended by the document itself and certainly not by those who formed it and signed it. It would take too long to go into it here, perhaps in another article later, so I urge all those who may find this difficult to believe, to read Co-Workers for themselves after reading the Vatican Instruction.   In essence, the Bishops of the US have largely ignored the Vatican Instruction and what it states concerning the liturgy of the mass, and are directly opposing the integrity of the Vatican Instruction in what Co-Workers is promulgating concerning lay people in ministry in the Church. It seems to be based on the so called priest shortage.  And that to make up for it we need lay people to take on roles and duties that really belong to priests.  And to justify it, it quotes a canon from canon law that is only meant to deal with the need for parish administrators in areas where no priests are available.  It is quite a stretch to apply this to the daily functioning of parish in which there are not only 2 or 3 priests in residence but many more who live only a few miles away in another parish in an area that has 6 parishes within a 5 mile radius. (I am not exaggerating, I used to live there). Since Co-Workers actually opposes Church teaching, I propose that the reason it states that it is not proposing norms or establishing particular law is precisely because it is against Church teaching and it would then be purporting itself to be in direct opposition to the Church.  There is so much of the document that contradicts the Vatican Instruction that it is impossible to believe that those who drafted it innocently and so completely misunderstood the Vatican Instruction with invincible ignorance.  In fact, since the Vatican Instruction was not even heard of by the vast majority of the people in the pews and not implemented by almost all of the bishops, it leads one to believe that Instruction On Certain Questions was ignored in order to be able to implement Co-Workers. I hope I am wrong, but when Co-Workers comes out only a few years after Instruction On Certain Questions is almost completely ignored by these same bishops, how does one call it a coincidence?

Complimentary Roles

The purpose of the Vatican Instruction is to keep separate the role and functions of priests and lay people, this makes for true and authentic roles that are complimentary.  But Co-Workers seeks to create a sameness and validate the idea that dignity and equality for lay people have to do with being allowed to do what priests do. This takes away complimentary roles and the idea that the lay person's main role is to be Christ's presence in the world, in whatever areas of the world they find themselves in, as is explained by Pope John Paul the Great in the Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici.  It is the wrong message to give lay people, to tell them the best way they can serve Christ is to become professional Church workers, and that their path to holiness consists in becoming pseudo-priests. St. Paul says that we are the body and Christ is the head.  We can not all be the same part of the body as that makes a disfigured body and it can not function properly. 

Authentic Path to Holiness

The path to holiness, according to the canonization process of the Church, is for us to fulfill the duties of our respective states of life perfectly. For lay people then it is within the context of married life if they are married, or as a single person if they are not.  There is state of grace, but there is also grace of state, the grace to fulfill the duties of our own state in life. A person does not necessarily have the grace to perform duties outside of that state. A married person has to first make sure that his/her duties are fulfilled at home before thinking about an apostolate. And an apostolate is a calling from God, not a desire to feel nurtured and nourished spiritually in an environment of like minded people while escaping one's authentic cross given by Christ Himself to make him/her holy.  One becomes holy by embracing the Cross within his state, not by avoiding it, only to embrace a self made cross that He did not give us and is no cross at all but really a self indulgence that fits our desire to not suffer anything that we did not already predetermine.  The crosses we choose ourselves are not from God but originate in our hidden, and sometimes not so hidden, lack of trust and faith in God and His providential care for us, and in a hidden, and sometimes not so hidden, pride that we know better than Him what is best for us; and therefore we barter the grace filled one for a false and ego puffing one that is sometimes also demonic in origin.  A very bad trade indeed, because to use God to serve ourselves will always eventually lead to serving the interests of the devil.

Concluding Thoughts

We can only pray and hope that the bishops of the world, and in particular the US, since the world seems to take its cue from it, will do as they have not recently done, and that is disseminate this Apostolic Letter among all the people of the Church and properly instruct the faithful on what the Pope intends by the document, not to mention do as the Pope instructs in making the Tridentine available to all those who desire it.  We must also pray that all people seek truth, for Jesus said, "all who seek the truth hear my voice." If people seek truth with sincerity they will be led by He who is Truth and will come to know the truth about what God through His Church intends to give us.  And since the Lay faithful have a right to what the Church intends, they should persevere in seeking it from their priests, pastors and bishops and even having recourse to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.  Cardinal Arinze, who is the prefect of the Congregation, has been responsive to correcting misunderstandings and abuses in the liturgy of the mass.

I believe that what the Pope is attempting to do with this Apostolic Letter is a good thing. It will not be the cause of anything bad since it is a good. Vatican 2 was a good thing that was never implemented properly and people have used it for their own purposes to cause evil and harm, particularly by their grave abuses and distortions of the mass.  Therefore, if in future we begin to hear about similar so called "bad fruits" of this Apostolic Letter, it will again be because it was not implemented properly and people abused it making use of it for their own purposes, and not because it is a bad thing. A true good can not cause evil.  If people react to a good act badly and/or are hurt because they do not understand the good act, it still does not make the good act a bad one.

We must wait and see what the bishops do with this.  And in the parishes where there are people who want the Tridentine mass, the now extraordinary form of the Latin rite, will the pastors and priests assist them or hinder them in having their desires fulfilled. I do not think it will take long to see where this is going to go. There are already reports of bishops refusing to allow it in parishes where it is wanted.

May God have mercy on us all.

Br. Mariamartin de la Cruz   SDBV

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