Must Catholics attend the New Mass?

The SSPX's position on the protestantized New Mass is explained, thus demonstrating that according to the Church's teaching, Catholics are not obliged to attend the Novus Ordo as it puts the faith in danger.

This excerpt from the May 2007 SiSiNoNo features a letter of critique from a priest to the editor about the SSPX's position on the New Mass. Within this letter, the priest cites a misrepresentation of the Society's stance while simultaneously affirming that Catholics are bound to attend the Novus Ordo even though it has been "protestantized".

The editor replied in the May 2007 issue clarifying the SSPX's position while citing the Church's teaching about the Sunday Obligation and how the New Mass poses a danger to the faith of Catholics, thus needs to be avoided.

Must We Attend A “Protestantized” Mass?

A letter of inquiry

Reverend Editor,

I have been reading your review... for years. In it, the Novus Ordo Missae is often criticized... but, to my mind, not clearly: your criticisms are too vague, or so it seems. A few years ago... advice was given in your columns to substitute a half-hour (or hour) of meditation, Bible reading, or other pious exercises for attendance at a Sunday Mass celebrated according to the N.O.M., because it is an abnormal Mass. I wrote asking you to prove it, to come out and openly say that all the New Masses are invalid, and then your position would be consistent... nothing can match a valid Mass (which, moreover, is obligatory).

I also said that a protestantized or protestantizing Mass (at the most, if you will, in style, manner, omissions, intentions) is one thing; a protestant Mass is another. There is an abyss between them....

In last year’s September issue of the Courrier de Rome I found an article called “The Good Shepherd, the Wolves, and the Mercenaries,” [The Angelus, January 2007, pp.19-26—Ed.] (containing) an accusation of heresy against the New Mass.

I reread this article seven or eight times and more, hoping to find between the lines a proof of doctrinal error (in the words or in the acts), for such is heresy.

If it exists, it should be specified as clearly as possible, for it involves a very important matter.... The editor, on the contrary, in his commentary, speaks of something else (and he speaks well), but fails to demonstrate objectively the error of heresy. Everything is captured in the anecdote recounted by Archbishop Marini. The thesis is: “the new rite is a heresy”; the proof is: “in the old rite, the celebrant genuflected, he adored the host, he rose, he showed it to the people, then he genuflected again to adore it.” My commentary: Is the whole rite a heresy because of an omitted genuflection? I ask: where is the heresy, the doctrinal error in the words or acts?

...My expectation of a clear statement from the on the [heretical status] of the N.O.M. ...changed into disappointment. I add that I appreciated the rest of the article.... I have written to you impelled by a lively sentiment of Christian and priestly charity.

Very truly yours in the Blessed Trinity.

A priest

The response

Dear Fellow Priest,

First of all, we must remark that in the article in question, the word “heresy” in regard to the New Mass did not fall from our pen, but rather from Archbishop Marini’s mouth; or rather, Archbishop Marini placed it in the mouth of his Lefebvrist interlocutor with the delirious discourse that you quite rightly singled out but which, again wrongly, you attribute to us.

What comes from our pen, on the contrary, is a commentary in which we disavow the “Lefebvrist” thesis, and we put in doubt whether it was ever actually expressed, at least in the terms employed by Marini:

he [Marini] evidently desires to portray all these “Lefebvrists”—as he calls them—as a mass of imbeciles who must be affected by mental problems since they reduce the liturgical reform to a simple question of genuflection...."

And we must say that with you, he reached his objective, at least judging by your letter.

In reality, if the “Lefebvrist” did say something on the subject, he did not say it in the “delirious” manner used by Archbishop Marini. The “Lefebvrists,” who until the last Council rested peacefully in the lap of their Holy Mother, the Church, put in the position of having to safeguard their faith, have been compelled to acquire solid erudition on the differences between the Catholic doctrine on the Holy Mass and the Lutheran doctrine.

One of the principal points is the following: whereas the Catholic Church teaches that, in the Mass, Our Lord Jesus Christ is made truly present on the altar by the words pronounced by the priest at the moment of the Consecration, for the Lutherans, on the contrary, it is not the words of the Consecration but the faith of the faithful present that produces a certain spiritual presence of Christ during the Supper. Hence the change introduced by the ecumenists in the new “Catholic” rite.

In the traditional Roman rite (improperly called the Mass of St. Pius V), the priest, after the first consecration, conscious of holding in his hands no longer bread, but the real Body of Christ, immediately genuflects and adores his God; then, rising, he elevates the consecrated Host and presents It for the adoration of the faithful; finally, after having set It on the corporal, which recalls the shroud and the reality of the divine Body, he adores It again (and he repeats this, mutatis mutandis, for the chalice of Christ’s Blood).

In the Mass according to the new rite, everything has changed: as if nothing were produced by virtue of the words of consecration, the priest, without any sign of adoration, immediately elevates the Host and shows It to the faithful present; then he places It, not on the corporal, but on the paten, and only then does he genuflect (he does the same, mutatis mutandis, for the chalice of Christ’s Blood).

What have the Protestants deduced from such a change? That the Catholic Church has agreed with Luther against the Council of Trent: it is by the faith of the assembly, and not by the words of consecration, that Christ is made spiritually present during the Supper; that is why the priest, in the new rite, first presents the host to the faithful, and only then does he genuflect and adore. Such is the deduction of the Protestants, who, because of this change and others, have no difficulty in employing the rite of Pope Paul VI in their “Supper,” whereas before they held in abomination the “papist Mass,” that is to say, the traditional Roman rite.

The deceived Catholics of good faith, on the contrary, have not understood the gravity of this “ecumenical” change (nor of the others), or else they have overcome their astonishment by telling themselves that ultimately, transubstantiation depends on the words of consecration and not on the signs of adoration, whether their number is increased or decreased. But that does not change the fact that in the new rite there is an objective slide towards the Lutheran doctrine, and an equally objective retreat from the Catholic doctrine of the holy Mass, as Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci observed to Pope Paul VI, and that that runs the risk of “protestantizing” new generations of Catholics.

Dear confrere, now compare what we just explained to the words Marini put in the mouth of the “Lefebvrist,” and you cannot but discern the purpose of his tale—told as journalistic anecdote—to mock and denigrate. It will appear to you as clearly that the ones who were making things up or overturning them were Marini, voluntarily, or even the “Lefebvrist,” who perhaps expressed himself awkwardly (but Marini should have been able to understand), or—why not?—the journalist who let himself be carried away by journalistic license; but in no case can it be us.

Discussion of the new rite of Mass must not turn round its validity or invalidity. The Masses of Orthodox schismatics are also valid, but even so a Catholic is not allowed to attend them. The Masses celebrated during the French Revolution by the “juring” priests were also valid, but Catholics were right to avoid them, contenting themselves to hearing the Mass of a “refractory” priest from time to time.[1]

In reality, as the Catechism of St. Pius X teaches (No. 217), anyone who “without a real impediment” fails to hear Mass on days of obligation commits a mortal sin; otherwise, “[a]ny moderately grave reason suffices to excuse one from assistance at Holy Mass, such as considerable hardship or corporal or spiritual harm either to oneself or another” (Fr. Heribert Jone, Moral Theology, No. 198).

Hence the real problem is not to know whether the Mass celebrated according to the new rite is valid or invalid, but rather to know whether it causes or even can cause spiritual harm to the person hearing it.

It seems to us that the answer to this question is already to be found in your letter, where you speak of the “protestantized or protestantizing” Mass. And even if you would not be convinced of it, this danger was promptly denounced to Pope Paul VI by Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci, with competence in the matter and due knowledge of the thing:

...the Novus Ordo Missae—considering the new elements susceptible to widely different interpretations which are implied or taken for granted—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 erected an insurmountable barrier against any heresy which might attack the integrity of the Mystery."[2]

Now, a “protestantized” (in itself) and a “protestantizing” (for the mentality of those attending) Mass cancels the obligation to hear Mass on Sundays and holy days.

The Church imposes the obligation to hear Mass “in the Catholic rite,”[3] but a protestantized rite cannot at the same time be characterized as Catholic. Moreover, a “protestantizing” rite exposes the faithful to “considerable spiritual harm,” which is one of the strongest reasons exempting from the Sunday obligation of assistance at Mass. And as it involves danger for our own faith and for that of our dependents, for whom we are responsible before God, we must say that whoever is conscious of this danger, insofar as he is conscious of it, far from satisfying the Church’s precept, rather commits a sin against faith [by attending the N.O.M.].

You well know that the believer has above all the obligation to cultivate and protect his faith, for it is the root and the foundation of his eternal salvation, and that is why the natural divine law forbids him to endanger it.[4]

You also know that it is precisely for this reason that the Church has always forbidden Catholics to participate in non-Catholic Masses, even if they are valid. That is why if a Catholic finds himself in an Orthodox schismatic country and he is unable to find a place of Catholic worship, not only is he dispensed from the obligation to hear Mass, but if he participates in the Mass of the schismatics (valid, once again) he is not excused from committing a sin against the faith. And this is so in virtue of divine natural law, that is to say, even if the ecclesiastical laws have changed for “ecumenical” reasons.

...We do not consider the new rite to be heretical, but rather gravely equivocal, and favoring heresy. This rite was in fact elaborated with the discreet (but not too discreet) cooperation of certain “Protestant experts” so that it would be acceptable to both the Catholics and the Protestants.

In 1965, Msgr. Bugnini, who directed the work of the “liturgical reform,” then enjoying the full confidence of Pope Paul VI, announced the “desire” to “strip [from the new rite] everything which can be the shadow of a stumbling block or [even] of some displeasure for our separated brethren; that is, for the Protestants” (L’Osservatore Romano, March 11, 1965). And what were these stumbling blocks and these causes of displeasure for the “separated brethren” if not the rites and gestures that expressed too clearly the Catholic truths refuted by the Protestants and reaffirmed by the Council of Trent (the Real Presence, ministerial priesthood, the sacrificial and propitiatory character of the Holy Mass, etc.)? This was the origin of an equivocal rite susceptible of a double interpretation; a rite that, by obscuring the Catholic truths, allows the Catholic to interpret it in a Catholic manner, and the Protestant to interpret it in a Lutheran manner.

We gave the example above of the priest’s genuflection immediately after the consecration. We could give others. What is of interest to us here is to underscore that everyone is in agreement about the protestantization of the Mass, both modernists and non-modernists. We have already quoted Bugnini (1965). In 1967, L’Osservatore Romano of October 13 affirmed:

The liturgical reform has made a giant step forward and we have drawn quite close to the liturgical forms of the Lutheran Church."

In 1969, in their letter introducing the Brief Critical Study of the New Order of Mass, Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci denounced to Pope Paul VI the price of the ecumenical operation on the Mass: the “striking departure from the Catholic theology of the Mass,” and, the lowering of the “insurmountable barrier” that had been erected by the Council of Trent “against any heresy which might attack the integrity of the Mystery” (as it so happens, against the Lutheran heresy).

In 1978 (on February 26), Archbishop Lefebvre wrote to the Holy Office that the rite is “a catholico-protestant synthesis” and protested:

We want to keep the Catholic Faith with the help of the Catholic Mass, and not by means of an ecumenical Mass, albeit valid, not heretical, but favens haeresim” [favoring heresy].[5]

The convert Julien Green defined the new rite as “a very clumsy imitation of the Anglican office, which was familiar to us in our childhood,” and he spoke of the Mass as “recut, reduced to protestant dimensions.”[6]

Msgr. Klaus Gamber, who is not a “traditionalist” but merely a liturgical expert (Director of Liturgical Sciences at Ratisbonne and honorary member of the Pontifical Liturgical Academy of Rome), in 1979 denounced the “destruction” of the old Roman rite, which had been preserved substantially intact over the centuries and recommended to the universal Church by all the Roman Pontiffs, for “it goes back to the Apostle Peter.”[7]

Finally, leaving aside many other judgments, we reach the testimony of Jean Guitton (the author of Paul VI Secret). On December 19, 1993, during a debate on Lumiere 101 (Radio Courtoisie), he affirmed that:

Paul VI’s intention concerning the liturgy, concerning putting the liturgy into modern languages, was to reform the Catholic liturgy so that it would closely coincide with the Protestant liturgy... with the Protestant Supper."

Later on he said:

...I repeat that Paul VI did everything in his power to bring the Mass—beyond the Council of Trent—into agreement with the Protestant Supper."

At a priest’s protestation, Guitton replied:

The Mass of Paul VI is presented first of all as a meal, isn’t it? And a lot of emphasis is given to the aspect of participation in a meal, and much less to the notion of sacrifice, of ritual sacrifice.... In other words, there was in Paul VI the ecumenical intention to efface—or at least to correct—what was too “catholic,” in the traditional sense, in the Mass, and to bring the Catholic Mass—I repeat—into agreement with the Calvinist Mass."[8]

For Jean Guitton also, the new rite of Mass is “protestantized.” The only difference is that for the neo-modernists, this protestantization is a victory because, as L’Osservatore Romano of October 13, 1967, put it, it is “a giant step forward” in the ecumenical domain, while for faithful Catholics (the “traditionalists”), it is a liturgical revolution that poses very grave problems of conscience not only because the rite is protestantized, but even more because it is “protestantizing.” With a Mass that has been “recut, reduced to protestant dimensions,” wrote Julian Green,

the reality of the propitiatory sacrifice is on the brink of being discreetly eclipsed in the minds of Catholics, whether priests or laymen.... The old priests who have it, so to speak, in their blood, are not going to forget it, and consequently they celebrate Masses in conformity with the Church’s intentions. But what can be said of young priests? What do they believe in?"[9]

My dear confrere, reflect and consider honestly whether the “duty of reparation” is incumbent on us or on those who continue to impose and to defend an “ecumenical” rite apt in time to demolish Catholic faith in the holy Mass.


Translated from Courrier de Rome, October 2006, pp.1-4.


1 The “juring” priests had sworn to be governed by the revolutionary Civil Constitution of the Clergy of July 1790, whereas the “refractory” priests had refused.—Ed.

2 A Brief Critical Study of the New Order of Mass.

3 Roberti, Dictionary of Moral Theology [Italian], s.v. “Sanctification of feasts.”

4 “Faith.”

5 “Mgr. Lefebvre et le Saint Office,” Itineraires, No.233, May 1979.

6 Ce qu’il faut d’amour a l’homme (Paris: Plon, 1978).

7 The Reform of the Roman Liturgy: Its Problems and Background (Roman Catholic Books, Fort Collins, CO).

8 Una Voce, May-June 1994.

9 Op. cit., p.143.