Father Themann: Deficiencies of the New Mass
Father Daniel Themann, SSPX • Angelus Press Conference, 2014
Deficiencies of the New Mass
Father Themann at the Angelus Press Conference
By John Vennari
“There is nothing in the renewed Mass that can really bother the evangelical Protestant."
So said Protestant Minister Max Thurian, who was a member of the Consilium that drafted the New Mass, which is now in virtually every parish and religious house worldwide.
The New Mass – Novus Ordo Missae – is ecumenical in its construction and Protestant in its orientation. It is the most tangible expression of the Vatican II revolution, affecting every Catholic directly and deleteriously.
Thus the Angelus Press chose the “The Mass: the Heart of the Church” as the theme of its 5th Annual Conference, held in Kansas City, MO, the weekend of Oct. 10-12, 2014.
Twelve speakers dealt with the Mass according to various viewpoints (see photos on page 19). Here we present a detailed synopsis of the lecture given by Father Daniel Themann, SSPX, titled “What is Our Objection to the New Mass?”
“A Striking Departure …”
Father Themann delivered an objective, structured, well-reasoned critique of the Novus Ordo, primarily based on the General Instruction of the Roman Liturgy. This was the document that was used to unleash the New Mass onto the Catholic world.
Marking the Protestant nature of the New Mass, Father Themann explains that the true objections to the New Mass cannot be based on any personal preference, but rather on the deficiencies and anomalies inherent in the New Mass, both doctrinally and liturgically.
The doctrinal shortcomings are clearly laid out by Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci in their 1969 letter to Paul VI that accompanied the Critical study of the New Mass written by a group of Roman theologians, working under the direction of Archbishop Lefebvre (otherwise known as “The Ottaviani Intervention”).
Here Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci warned, “The Novus Ordo Missae 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 22 of the Council of Trent.”
The Society of St. Pius X, says Father Themann, “whole-heartedly subscribes” to this realistic assessment of the New Mass.
Father Themann examined the New Mass according to four points:
1) How the New Mass came about;
2) The New Rite itself (its words, liturgical gestures, or lack thereof, etc.)
3) The General Instruction of 1969 that forms the Preface of the New Missal, which gives the “theological basis” of the New Mass;
4) The motives and explanations of those responsible for the New Rite.
We will not report extensively on each of the points, but focus on Father Themann’s exposition of the General Instruction and related topics. Before this, however, it is important to relay a key point that explains how the New Mass itself constitutes a danger to the Faith.
“When looking at the new rite itself,” says Father Themann, “we must remember that liturgy can only express the faith in a liturgical way, i.e., through prayers, gestures, and other symbols. It does not express the faith by direct statements like, e.g., a catechism question or an ecumenical Council. A direct doctrinal statement might be sufficient to express the doctrine in question. But since a liturgical rite does not express the faith through precise dogmatic propositions but rather by a collection of signs, one prayer or one gesture is not sufficient to express the doctrine in question. It is the ensemble of prayers and gestures that come together, which coalesce into an expression of doctrine. Liturgy requires a certain multiplication of gestures and words – as well as consistency of expression – in order to make clear that this is being signified rather than that.
“This is crucial to keep in mind,” he continues, “because we do not criticize the New Mass because it explicitly denies a point of doctrine. We criticize it because the New Mass has so altered the ensemble of signs which constitute a liturgical rite that it could just as easily express non-Catholic doctrine – and not because of a haphazard sloppiness on the part of its creators but by a very deliberate intent and a skillfully devised execution which corresponds to an un-Catholic but consistent system of thought.”
In his critique, Father Themann does not focus on the validity of the New Mass. As he explains, “For a rite of Mass to be considered good, it is not enough that it have the minimum elements necessary for validity. For a rite of Mass to be considered good, it must express the Catholic Faith.” And it is here – the proper expression of the Catholic Faith – where the New Mass fails.
Father Themann pointed to chief truths of our Faith regarding the Mass that must be kept in mind in order to contrast the true Mass with the Novus Ordo. The Mass is:
1) A real sacrifice,
2) In which Christ is truly present as a Victim of the sacrifice,
3) Who is offered for the glory of God and in propitiation for our sins,
4) By an ordained priest who alone, as the instrument of Christ the High Priest, has the power to consecrate the bread and wine.
The New Mass confuses and obscures these central Catholic elements of the Mass, as we will see.
From Council to Novus Ordo
After reiterating the fact that the progressive element at the Council gained the upper hand almost from day one, that the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy was drawn up in a progressivist framework, and that after the Council the same liberals who drafted the document would be given the authority to implement it, we come to Paul VI’s Apostolic Constitution Missalle Romanum of April 3 1969, and then a “corrected” General Instruction issued on November 18 the same year.
The original “General Instruction” contains the true principles and ideas that constitute the new Mass. Thus by examining this General Instruction, we learn the real nature of the Novus Ordo.
The General Instruction
We will here quote Father Themann directly.
“A reasonable place to begin,” he explains, “is the very definition of the Mass which is contained in the original version of the General Instruction. This definition drew more controversy and criticism than any other statement and was, therefore, very soon modified. Nevertheless, the insight it provides into the new rite is of permanent value:
“The Lord's Supper or Mass is the sacred assembly or congregation of the people of God gathering together, with a priest presiding, to celebrate the memorial of the Lord. For this reason Christ's promise applies supremely to such a local gathering together of the Church: 'Where two or three come together in My name, there I am in their midst.' (Mt 18:20)”
“Three things may be noted immediately:
“First, the Mass is defined as a gathering not as a sacrifice – and, furthermore, a gathering which is a supper and a memorial. This part of the definition corresponds to a first pattern, which is clearly discernible throughout the new rite and the General Instruction (e.g. nn. 8, 48, 55d, 56) although it is foreign to a Catholic understanding of the Mass. There is an unmistakably marked shift in expression from the Mass as a propitiatory sacrifice to the Mass as a memorial meal.
“But the Council of Trent clearly teaches that the Mass is a sacrifice while it never mentions that the Mass is a meal. Furthermore, Pius XII, in his encyclical Mediator Dei, explicitly condemns the theory that the Mass is essentially both a sacrifice and a meal. On a practical level, it is obvious that the Mass is not essentially a meal because, while Catholics are obliged to assist at Mass every Sunday, they have never been obliged to receive Communion every Sunday. If the Mass were essentially a supper, the faithful would have to communicate since to attend a meal without eating is to not take part in the meal.
“Second: Note in the definition the glaring absence of any reference to the Real Presence. This cannot be a mere oversight, however unpardonable, because an alternative manner of presence is explicitly mentioned; namely, the purely spiritual presence of Christ common to any gathering of the faithful 'Where two or three come together in My name, there I am in their midst.' (Mt 18:20). Here we find the second pattern which will be everywhere in the new rite – a denial of the Real Presence which is, in the words of the Ottaviani Intervention, ‘both tacit (not explicit) and systematic.’
Third, The role assigned to the priest is that of presider. The unique role of the priest as instrument of Christ the High Priest, acting in the person of Christ, and vested with powers which flow from the priestly character alone is completely ignored. Here is the third pattern – a deliberate obscuring of the difference between the ordained priesthood (which is independent of the congregation and implies active sacramental power) and the priesthood of the faithful (which is only a power in the passive sense of being able to receive benefits from the sacramental actions of the ordained priest).
“Do not be overwhelmed by having to remember all three of these patterns in order to understand the New Mass because, unfortunately for the Church, but fortunately for your memory, these three patterns are absolutely linked and interdependent. Here is the key point:
“If the New Mass shifts the emphasis of expression from propitiatory sacrifice to memorial meal, then it will necessarily de-emphasize the Real Presence of the Victim and the role of the priest. A sacrifice requires a victim and a priest. A meal requires neither.”
“The Dead End of post-Tridentine Theories of Sacrifice”
Father Theeman detailed how the Protestant spirit operates in the “Introductory Rites,” the “Liturgy of the Word,” the new “Offertory” prayers, the new “Eucharistic Prayers” (including Eucharistic Prayer #1), and the “Communion”.
A couple of quick examples:
The Offertory Prayers of the Novus Ordo are written in the spirit of Martin Luther who detested the notion of the Mass as Sacrifice. Luther especially despised the traditional Offertory as “an abomination” since from the Offertory onward “everything stinks of oblation.” Thus the Offertory prayers of the New Mass emphasize the aspect of a meal while the propitiatory nature of the sacrifice is deliberately hidden. He quotes Father Emil Joseph Longeline, an original member of the Consilium, who boasted:
“In the [original] 1969 General Instruction on the Missal, an ecumenically-oriented sacramental theology for the celebration of Mass emerged... Despite the new 1970 edition forced by reactionary attacks [from conservatives] – but which avoided the worst, thanks to the cleverness of the revisers – it leads us … out of the dead end of the post Tridentine theories of sacrifice ...”
Thus the Offertory prayers of the Tridentine Mass were not simply changed, they were abolished. This too was admitted by Father J. M. Patino, another member of the Consilium, who rejoiced:
“We have gone from an offertory in the strict sense of the word to a simple presentation of gifts which will become 'the bread of life and the cup of salvation'”
Another example of the Protestant spirit integral in the New Mass are the four “Eucharistic Prayers”. The first, which is called the Roman Canon, most closely resembles the Tridentine Mass, but it is actually quite different. We have a structure that obscures doctrine.
“In the Tridentine Mass,” says Father Themann, “the words of Consecration are clearly set apart from the rest of the text to emphasize that they belong to an action taking place in the present and are not merely to a story about the Last Supper. In the Novus Ordo Missae, these words of Consecration are seamlessly blended into the ‘Institution Narrative’ (this term is actually found in the General Instruction). The emphasis has shifted from a sacramental and sacrificial action performed now, in real time, to a remembrance or memorial of a past event.”
Also, the words “the Mystery of Faith” are stricken from the Consecration in the New Mass, is moved to after the Consecration and applied to various mysteries of Christ’s life that have nothing to do with Transubstantiation. Instead, the congregation recites “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again,” of three other “mysteries of Faith” that are acceptable to Protestants; including the odd acclamation that “Christ will come again,” even though Christ became present on the altar.
Alfons Cardinal Stickler noted the ”elimination of the mysterium fidei from the Consecration formula can be considered as the symbol of the demystification and thus the humanization of the nucleus of the Mass.”
Father Themann went on to explain other problems with Eucharistic Prayer #1, including the various ways in which Christ’s real presence is deemphasized on the altar, such as the reduction in the number of genuflections (14 down to 3), and the drastic reduction of the sign of the Cross over the Victim down to 1; the Tridentine Mass had 33.
Special attention was drawn to Eucharistic Prayer #2, which is called the “Canon of St. Hippolytus”, though the New Mass’ version is substantially shorter than that of the 3rd Century saint.
Further, St. Hippolytus, who eventually was reconciled to the Church and died a martyr, spent most of his life as an anti-pope. It was during this delinquent period that he composed his canon, “precisely against the Roman Rite as it was practiced by his rival – the true Pope”.
Though Father Themann did not mention it, I believe it was Michael Davies who pointed out that Eucharistic Prayer #2 is the one most loved by Protestants. And because it is the shortest, it is the one said most frequently in parishes.
Along with other disturbing observations, Father Themann notes the change in rubrics that undermine belief in the Real Presence (and introduces sacrilege):
• Elimination of the purification of the priest's fingers over the chalice.
• Priest may now touch things with his fingers before they are purified.
• No purification of any kind is required if a host is dropped.
• Communion is no longer received kneeling and the General Instruction recommends that the faithful sit for their thanksgiving.
Father Themann continues, “From what has been said, it should be clear that the New Mass was designed with a doctrinal agenda – an agenda that a Catholic in good conscience cannot espouse. The goal of the Consilium was precisely to produce a liturgical rite that did not clearly express Catholic teaching on doctrines pertaining to the Mass. That it succeeded, with the help of six Protestant ministers who acted as consultants, requires no more proof than the word of Protestants themselves who have declared that the New Mass expresses nothing contrary to their own creeds and would be suited to their own worship: ‘There is nothing in this renewed Mass that can really bother evangelical Protestants’.” – (Max Thurian, Protestant Minister and Member of the Consilium).
The Fruit of Modernism
Father Themann then quoted Msgr. Klaus Gamber, the liturgical scholar and author of the book The Reform of the Roman Liturgy. Noting that Msgr. Gamber was not exactly a “traditionalist” Catholic, Father Themann recited a litany of devastating quotes from Gamber about the New Mass, the four most prominent being:
• “The publication of the Ordo Missae of 1969, however, created a new liturgical rite. In other words, the traditional liturgical rite had not simply been revised …”
• “Instead of a fruitful renewal of the liturgy, what we see is a destruction of the forms of the Mass which had developed organically during the course of many centuries. Added to this state of affairs is the shocking assimilation of Protestant ideas brought into the Church under the guise of the misunderstood term 'ecumenism'”
• “Most significant however is the shifting emphasis in the New Mass to that of being a communal meal in the Protestant sense, the deliberate de-emphasizing of the purpose and function of the Mass as a sacrifice.”
• “Obviously, the reformers wanted a completely new liturgy, a liturgy that differed from the traditional one in spirit as well as in form … Liturgy and faith are interdependent. That is why a new rite was created, a rite that in many ways reflects the bias of the new (modernist) theology. The traditional liturgy simply could not be allowed to exist in its established form because it was permeated with the truths of the traditional faith … The real destruction of the traditional Mass, of the traditional Roman rite with a history of more than 1,000 years, is the wholesale destruction of the faith on which it was based …”
Father Themann noted the absurdity of calling the true Latin Mass the “Extraordinary Form” while calling the Protestantized Novus Ordo the “Ordinary Form”. He also observed, again quoting Gamber, that the spirit at work in the New Mass was not only Protestantism, but also Modernism. Gamber writes:
“Much more radical than any liturgical changes introduced by Luther, at least as far as the rite was concerned, was the reorganization of our own liturgy … One thing is certain: the new (liberal) theology was a major force behind the liturgical reforms.”
And again from Gamber,
“Liturgy and faith are interdependent. That is why a new rite was created, a rite that in many ways reflects the bias of the new (modernist) theology.
Lack of the Due Good
What, then, are we to think of the New Mass?
The New Mass, says Father Themann, is not simply “less good” than the Tridentine Mass, it is “not good”. It is radically deficient, as it lacks the good that should be there. As such, speaking in philosophical terms, the New Mass is evil, as there is the lack of the due good.
Father Themann explains, “An apple which is rotten would be called ‘no good’ or ‘bad’ because it lacks the integrity which an apple is supposed to have – and, for that matter, which an apple needs to have it in order to be fit for human consumption. This is precisely what the Society [of St. Pius X] claims about the New Mass. It is ‘bad’ or ‘evil’ because its words and gestures, taken as a whole and even in some of their details, intentionally render obscure the very doctrines concerning the Mass which the Council of Trent formulated so clearly and which the Mass of the Roman Rite must therefore naturally express.”
All of this and much more, including the answers to various objections, was detailed in Father Themann’s fine lecture.
Published in the November 2014 Catholic Family News
From Angelus Press Conference 2014. CD set available
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