Does The New Mass, Validly Offered, Offend God?editor
Whether There Can Be Anything Pernicious in the Worship of the True God?
This question, taken directly from Question 93 of the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas, is answered as such:
“[St.] Augustine in a letter to [St.] Jerome says that ‘after the Gospel truth had been preached the legal observances became deadly,’ and yet these observances belonged to the worship of God. Therefore, there can be something deadly in the divine worship.”
The Angelic Doctor goes on to summarize two ways in which worship directed to the True God is nevertheless evil. As to the first reason, St. Thomas Aquinas illustrates by way of example: “…in this way, at the time of the New Law, the mysteries of Christ being already accomplished, it is pernicious to make use of the ceremonies of the Old Law whereby the mysteries of Christ were foreshadowed as things to come: just as it would be pernicious for anyone to declare that Christ has yet to suffer.” Thus, observing seder meals, religious circumcision, rejecting pork based on religious principles, etc. would now offend the True God.
As to the second example, the saint continues:
“…falsehood 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.”
Consequently, we can say that even valid worship offered by those who do so in a manner contrary to that established by the Church would offend God. This may be the case of a valid Catholic priest who ad libs the Missal and, while validly confecting the Holy Eucharist, mortally sins by intentionally neglecting the rubrics. This would also be the case of a valid Divine Liturgy offered by schismatic groups, such as the Eastern Orthodox who reject infallible dogmas regarding the Blessed Trinity, the Papacy, and Our Lady, amongst others. And this would certainly apply to rituals performed by heretical Protestant denominations who do not follow the Church’s prescriptions, do not offer any valid Sacraments (exceptions aside[i]), and who teach a doctrine contrary to that taught by Christ our Lord.
Can a Valid Mass Offend God?
Taken to the next logical question, we consider if it is possible for a valid Mass to offend God.
In 1969, Cardinal Ottaviani and a number of other theologians and bishops made an important critique after reading the proposed New Rite (see what is popularly known as the Ottaviani Intervention). The new missal had not yet been promulgated and the more egregious liturgical offenses hadn’t even been seen, yet these clerics understood that certain prayers of the Novus Ordo were problematic. They famously stated that the New Mass represents “both as a whole and it its details, a striking departure from the Catholic theology of the Mass” as it was infallibly expressed by the Council of Trent. Moreover, they explained that the New Mass “teems with insinuations or manifest errors against the purity of the Catholic religion and dismantles all defenses of the deposit of Faith.”
Therefore, if there are things which are erroneous or impious – even in a valid Mass – then these evils do offend God. Likewise, if blasphemies or sacrileges are committed – even in a valid Mass – then those evils do offend God. Here we are not speaking of the actual Sacrifice of Christ, which is always perfect and pleasing to God and is present in a valid Mass, but rather those things which are false or evil. This is an extremely important distinction which is rarely given sufficient attention. (Note: Anything false or evil in any Mass, be it in the New Rite, the Traditional Latin Rite, or an Eastern Rite, will offend God.)
Jean Guitton, an intimate friend of Paul VI, wrote:
“The intention of Pope Paul VI with regard to what is commonly called the [New] Mass, was to reform the Catholic liturgy in such a way that it should almost coincide with the Protestant liturgy. There was with Pope Paul VI an ecumenical intention to remove, or, at least to correct, or, at least to relax, what was too Catholic in the traditional sense in the Mass and, I repeat, to get the Catholic Mass closer to the Calvinist Mass.”
And we know that the Calvinists – and all Protestant sects, for that matter – do not have a valid rite of Mass and do not confect the Holy Eucharist.
Holy Mass Is Christ’s Sacrifice
Holy Mass is the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. The purpose of Mass is to be present at the Sacrifice of Christ that is made present again through the priesthood of Jesus Christ. We are present at Calvary. Rather than merely remembering the Passion and death of Christ, we are present at it and partake of its eternal fruits which flow to us from the altar and during the Canon when the priest stands in the place of Christ and offers the Eternal Victim on the Altar to God.
We can further receive grace by partaking of the Holy Eucharist if we are Catholics in the state of grace. This view of the Mass as a propitiatory Sacrifice has been lost in many parishes and replaced by notions of community, where the priest is a presider, and many Catholics falsely view receiving Holy Communion as the purpose of going to Mass, rather than being present at the august sacrifice of the Eternal Victim.
Of course, while any validly ordained priest may consecrate bread and wine using the words of consecration, even while omitting the rest of the Mass (which is done at times in cases of necessity, for instance by priests who are imprisoned and can only smuggle in a small piece of bread and a small amount of wine), this is not the same as promoting and saying prayers that are intentionally deficient with regards to the Faith.
Worship God in Spirit and in Truth
The Faith is not defined by merely external actions. Our Lord Jesus Christ instituted a set of doctrines and established His one True Church as the means of bringing about the conversion of souls and their salvation. He did not institute merely external gestures while telling His disciples to ad lib the rest.
And on the opposite extreme, Our Lord also did not teach His disciples the precise words for Sacramental validity and then tell them that their external postures, garments, and actions were useless since only the internal mattered. Our Faith not only includes heart-felt prayers, works of charity, and pious devotions, but also includes rich liturgical music, elaborate cathedrals, and ornate vestments.
More than mere validity is necessary in the worship of God. If validity was the only basis for whether worship was pleasing to God, Catholics would be able to have their children baptized by an Anglican minister or receive a valid Eucharist from schismatic Greek orthodox priests. Yet, we know that attending the worship of any other denomination is a sin against the First Commandment.[ii]
Consequently, we have an obligation to seek out not only valid Masses but those which are offered according to the Church’s proper rubrics, due reverence, Catholic piety, and authentic Catholic doctrine. In short, we must do our best to attend Catholic liturgies which reflect those three great transcendentals which lead to God: Goodness, Truth, and Beauty.
Is it possible to read the above information and continue to attend the New Mass, without offending God?
[i] Baptisms and marriage may be valid in Protestant denominations. Concerning Baptism, when a Protestant converts to the Catholic Faith the Church ordinarily would recommend a conditional Baptism to be sure.