Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre
Rome March 13, 1971
THE FRUITS OF THE NEW MASS
Has the use of the Novus Ordo Missae, the central act of the liturgical reform, produced the salutary results expected of it, or has it had the disastrous consequences that might have been foreseen? The reply to this question will oblige us to consider the circumstances of this singular reform, unique in the history of the Church, and will enlighten us on our duty for the future.
To assess the dogmatic, moral, and spiritual value of this re-form, we must briefly recall the immutable principles of the Catholic Faith on the essential constituents of our Holy Mass: I) "In Missa offertur Deo verum et proprium Sacrificium" (de fide divina catholica definita). Those who would deny this proposition are heretics: "For every Sacrifice there are needed a Priest, a Victim, and a sacerdotal Action by which the Victim is offered." 2) "In Missa et in Cruce eadem est Hostia et idem Sacerdos principalis" (de fide divina catholica definita). 3) " Hostia seu Victima est ‘ipse Christus' praesens sub species panis et vini" (de fide divina catholica definita). Those who would deny these last two propositions are equally heretics.
There are thus three realities needful for the reality of the Mass: 1) The Priest—Sacerdotes, illique soli, sunt ministri (de fide divina catholica), having the sacerdotal character. 2) The real and substantial presence of the Victim, who is Christ. 3) The sacerdotal Action of the sacrificial oblation which is realized essentially in the Consecration.
Let us not forget that it is precisely these three fundamental truths which are denied by Protestants and Modernists. Let us not forget that it is to manifest their refusal to believe in these dogmas that their Masses have been transformed into services, into a eucharistic meal or gathering, where a much greater place is given to readings from the Bible, to the word, to the detriment of the offering and the liturgy of the sacrifice.
Apart from a few slight and accidental advantages, or should we rather say the one advantage that may come from the reading of the Epistle and Gospel in the vernacular, we must sorrowfully maintain that, directly or indirectly, the whole reform attacks these three truths essential to the Catholic Faith. It is not, then, a liturgical reform resembling that of St. Pius V which is in question; it is clearly a new conception of the Mass. The Reformers have made no secret of it. Fr. Bugnini’s normative Mass, as he explained in his lectures in Rome, is simply that defined in Article VII of the Introduction to the Novus Ordo Missae.
Everything laid down in this new order clearly reflects this new conception, which is nearer the Protestant conception than the Catholic. The statements of the Protestants who contributed to the reform illustrate the truth of this naively and sadly: "Protestants can no longer find anything to prevent their celebrating the Novus Ordo." We may therefore quite legitimately ask ourselves whether, as the Catholic belief in the essential truths of the Mass insensibly disappears, the validity of the Mass is not also disappearing. The intention of the celebrant will have a bearing on the new conception of the Mass which, before long, will be no other than the Protestant. The Mass will no longer be valid.
Now, we must be fully persuaded that the Mass is not only the supreme religious act but the source of all Catholic doctrine, the source of faith and of personal, family, and social morals. It is from the Cross, continued on the altar, that there come down to us all those graces which enable a Christian society to live and grow. To dry up that source is to do away with its effects.
These effects, which are the fruits of the Holy Spirit so eloquently described by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Galatians (Gal. 5:22) are on the point of disappearing from society. There is division in all families; religious congregations and parishes are attacked by the virus of disunion. Even bishops, even cardinals have been infected.
The Catholic Mass had, and forever will have, the effect of raising men to the Cross, to unite them in our Lord Jesus Christ crucified, to weaken in them the turmoil of sin which leads to division. If the Cross of our Lord disappears, if His Body and Blood are no longer present, men will find themselves gathered about a lonely and lifeless table. Nothing to unite them will remain. Of that, no doubt, are born the weariness and lassitude which are everywhere becoming apparent; of that, the disappearance of vocations, felt to be bereft of purpose; of that, the secularization and profanation of the priest, no longer conscious of his reason for existing; of that, the desire for the things of this world. Little by little, by reason of his Protestant conception of Holy Mass, Jesus Christ is leaving the churches , all too often profaned.
The concept of this reform, the manner of its publication, with successive editions unduly altered, the way in which it was inude obligatory, sometimes tyrannically as in Italy, the alteration in the definition of the Mass in Article VII without any effect on the rite itself, are all happenings unprecedented in the Tradition of the Roman Church, which has ever acted "cum consilio et sapientia."
They give us grounds for questioning the validity of this legislation and thus conform to Canon 23: "On a matter of doubt it is not permissible to revoke a law, but the recent law should be considered in the light of the former and the two reconciled as far as possible." One thing remains an absolute duty and right: the safeguarding of the Faith. Of this the Holy Mass is the most living expression and the divine source, hence its primordial importance.