Insight into the poor state of catechism among many Novus Ordo Catholics

Examining a poorly [non] catechised Roman Catholic friend’s critique of the 2011 changes to the Ordinary Form of the Roman Mass (also known as the Mass of Pope Paul VI or the “Novus Ordo Missae”, the New Order of Mass):

A typical Novus Ordo Mass (Mass of Pope Paul VI). Note the celebration is versus populam (

A typical Novus Ordo Mass (Mass of Pope Paul VI). Note the celebration is versus populam (“facing the people”) as opposed to ad orientem (“to the east”).

In January 2012, my friend Malinda (Mindy) Nafziger published this piece which she titled “The New Mass: Anti-Catholic Ideals?” on her blog Cor Ad Cor Loquitur (“Heart Speaks to Heart). She is a very kind person who, prior to graduating, was active in the Roman Catholic Novus Ordo (Ordinary Form) choir at American University. She taught Sunday school for a number of years, having been blessed by her parish priest to do so. She is someone who is always there for her friends, and in critiquing her piece, I keep that in mind. Here is the post in question:

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The New Mass: Anti-Catholic Ideals?

Hey there everyone. As you all know, I studied abroad last semester and have been away from this blog because of that. I’m writing today about the new changes to the Catholic mass. After you read this, I would love your comments!
I have several issues with the new translation of the mass. The way we went about making the changes hurt the cause of being the universal church we claim to be. Let’s start with the beginning. The priest says “the Lord be with you” as a form of greeting to the congregation. The logical thing to say when someone gives such a greeting is “you too” or, as it were, “and also with you.” We once believed as Catholics that the priest was our advocate, and therefore one of us. Human. With the change to “and with your spirit,” we place the priest on a different level. He is no longer our advocate, but a different spiritual being we cannot comprehend or relate with on a personal level.
The changes don’t stop there. The Penitential Rite places Catholic guilt out in the open. “through my fault, my fault, my most grievous fault”?! We get it. We have found fault with the Lord.  We don’t need to repeat the fact that we sinned through our own fault a hundred times to feel bad for what we’ve done. Doing so makes it seem like we are hopeless for our own salvation. Christians supposedly believe in hope and salvation for all people equally through Jesus. This guilty rambling seems to say “salvation for the worthy but not for me, I’m too guilty.” but even this isn’t the biggest flaw in the new mass.
When I have talked to people about the new mass and mentioned my final argument as to why it’s not Catholic, many people have not even noticed this change. When the priest lifts the cup and is telling the story of the Last Supper, he used to say “…this is the cup of my blood, … It will be shed for you and for ALL so that sins will be forgiven.” Now, the words are “…this is the chalice of my blood, … It will be shed for you and for MANY for the forgiveness of sins.” MANY?! What?! Not the Jesus I know. Not the Jesus I learned and taught about in Sunday school. Jesus didn’t pick and choose who to die for and who to leave to rot in hell. He died so we wouldn’t. I asked a priest about this, who shall remain nameless, and he said “well, this is implying that some people won’t get in.” Sorry, father. I don’t believe in that. And neither should this church. I’m pretty sure Jesus didn’t change His mind on us from heaven this last year. “Catholic” means “universal.” It’s time we started acting like it.
Here is my response:

Hi Mindy,
Thanks for your thoughtful post. I hope you’ll let me share my own thoughts here.

You write, “Catholic” means “universal.”” It actually doesn’t. Just to give you the context of where I’m coming from, I took a semester of biblical Greek at Scotland’s University of Edinburgh Divinity School.
During my studies there, I learned that the word “universal” is a really inaccurate Latin corruption which evidently didn’t translate the original Greek well. κατα ολος, “Kata holos”, is a Greek composite (katholikos) which means ‘according to the whole”, literally “by the total”. This refers to the wholeness, the internal unity and truth, of the orthodox (correct) faith.
Catholic doesn’t mean “universal” as in something that applies to everyone. Rather, it specifically refers to the wholeness and internal unity of the faith of the early Church as those beliefs held by orthodox (right-believing) Christians against the early heretics. This is why the first Church ecumenical councils were called, and why the Nicene-Constantinopolitan creed was produced (AD 325-381): as a rebuttal to several major Christological heresies. Thus, the statement of faith is just that: it’s intended as a proclamation of our beliefs, the most basic teachings of the Church.
You also mention that you don’t like the reintroduction of “And with your spirit” in the people’s response to the priest. This response was used exclusively for the entirety of the Church’s history before the introduction of the Novus Ordo Missae in English. “And with your spirit” is still used in all non-English language Catholic liturgies today. “Y con tu espiritu”, “E con tuo spirito”, etc.
The Eastern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians around the world also use only “And with your spirit”. So actually, the response “And also with you” is something that *only* English-speaking Catholics used, along with mainline Protestant denominations. Why is this, that the Ordinary Form of the Catholic Mass in English started using a Protestant-inspired response to the priest’s greeting of peace? You may not know this, but the Vatican Commission that was charged with implementing the New Order Mass in English-speaking countries had several Protestants on it who served in an advising capacity.

So if you want to talk about the universal witness of the Church, the response “and also with you” is a departure from that universal witness. You contend that “The logical thing to say when someone gives such a greeting is “you too” or, as it were, “and also with you.” While that is correct in ordinary day conversation (“peace dude!”), the Eucharist is not an ordinary experience– at least, it’s not meant to be. A priest isn’t just a guy you say “you too” to, or else, what is the point of having priests? (This falls into the Lutheran argument of the ‘priesthood of all believers’).

You write, “We once believed as Catholics that the priest was our advocate, and therefore one of us.” The priest very much is still our advocate, which is why, when we wish peace to his spirit, we are honoring in him his dignity as a priest, a servant of God set apart by his ordination, as someone whose soul is wrapped up in love of God and love for us.

It is your view that “With the change to “and with your spirit,” we place the priest on a different level. He is no longer our advocate, but a different spiritual being we cannot comprehend.” I’m very surprised by these words, since I actually feel the opposite. By referencing the spirit of the priest, we are reminded that all existence has a spiritual dimension.

If you respond “and also with you”, this greeting basically implies that the priest is just another “guy”, and this casualness reduces the reverence offered to God by the respect we give to the office of the priest who offers the Eucharistic sacrifice with the people (laos) for the whole Church, living and departed.

By wishing peace to your priest’s spirit, you are actually addressing a much higher spiritual dimension than you would by saying “and also with you”, which, colloquially, could be substituted with “You too, buddy!”

You’re in the Mass, the divine liturgy where bread and wine are miraculously, mysteriously transformed into Christ’s body and blood. When we partake of the Eucharist, thus, we imbibe Christ, we partake directly of our Saviour. In this atmosphere, to me at least, why would we not speak only in a spiritual mindset, when we are in the direct presence of our God?

Just some food for thought.

Peace in Christ,

-Ryan

Reflecting on this exchange with my old friend, I am struck by something: the near complete contrast or separation between the “Spirit of Vatican II” as manifested through my friend’s words, and what the documents of Vatican II, even in their vagueness, authorize, recommend, and insist upon. There is no conclusive evidence that the Council Fathers at Vatican II wanted to create the Novus Ordo Mass.  Vatican II documents stressed the importance of maintaining Latin in the Mass and the “Pride of Place” of Gregorian Chant.  There are no documents dedicated to removing the sacredness and the breaking of the continuity with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass of all ages.  But because of the ambiguous wording, modernists and “progressive” Catholics were emboldened and the liturgical revolution happened. It is immensely disturbing to many Orthodox that these abuses and alterations took place at all, but what is most disturbing is that many of these alterations were explicitly blessed by Pope Paul VI when he published the Novus Ordo Missae. It is telling that the New Mass of Pope Paul VI (published in 1969) came four years after the closing of the Second Vatican Council (1965); the Council never authorized the development of a new rite, yet it was done all the same with full papal blessing.

In practice, and as my friend’s words reveal, the Novus Ordo Missae, as normally and most commonly celebrated, has unfortunately incorporated and allowed for a variety of Protestant theological elements, especially in the atmosphere of the worship and the sheer scale and scope of so many ancient prayers greatly simplified or entirely omitted. Eucharistic Prayer II, in the New Mass, can be said by all the people and priest together as if they were all concelebrating the mass together like Protestants believe. The community becomes very important at the expense of the priest’s sacredness as a “set apart” ordained minister of Christ and at the expense of emphasizing the oblational nature of the Mass. In contrast to this imbalance in the Novus Ordo, the Orthodox Divine Liturgy carefully maintains the sacrificial language of the Eucharist while making clear that everything that is offered is in the third person plural, a communal, corporate offering in which the clergy and laity alike supplicate God and offer to Him “this spotless, unbloody sacrifice”– e.g. the use of phrases such as “We offer thee…”, “We praise thee”, “We worship thee”.  A notable departure from the pre-Vatican II Tridentine Mass and earlier Roman rites is that in the Mass of Pope Paul VI the ancient Roman prayers of purification and absolution at the foot of the altar are entirely missing, and, similarly, there is no absolution of sins given by the priest at the beginning of the Mass; now, everyone says it together with the priest. Thus, it becomes unclear in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite: just who is doing the absolving? Before, only the celebrating priest or bishop pronounced the absolution because only a priest or bishop acting in Jesus’ place and by His grace and authority can absolve sins. Instead, today in the Novus Ordo, the celebrating priest says these prayers with the people, implying that lay people have a role in effecting their own absolution without the sacramental grace conferred by a priest or bishop.

While, on one hand, the communal nature of the Eucharist tends to be over-emphasized in the New Roman Mass, the sacrificial aspect of the Mass has been deliberately well hidden. The ancient Roman marble or stone altars of sacrifice bearing relics of saints were removed and a wooden table/altar is used often without any relics of the saints built into the altar. Our Orthodox practice of requiring an antimension to be placed upon every altar — into which relics of saints are sewn along with the local bishop’s signature conferring his approval of the altar for Eucharistic oblations — helps us avoid such tragedies as the use of unconsecrated altars. Canon II of the Mass of Paul VI has only one word that implies the idea of sacrifice and instead a “community meal” gathering has been emphasized. Before the New Mass, people understood that the Holy Mass was Calvary re-made present among us, truly a holy oblation, as we Orthodox understand our Divine Liturgy.

My biggest concern with the Mass of Paul VI/Novus Ordo is how it represents such a rupture in the historical and liturgical life of the Roman Church. Liturgy develops very gradually over a long period of time. The Holy Liturgies of antiquity were inspired by God and handed down (traditio) through the generations; in contrast, the Mass of Paul VI was created in an extremely brief period. True liturgy passes and carries on from generation to generation by adding and subtracting small elements over centuries and centuries; in contrast, the New Mass marked a huge rupture from organic Catholic tradition as it was essentially created by the Concilium and Pope Paul VI.  His Mass is a clear breach with the past; truly divine liturgies alter slowly and gradually over time, and are not created in a short span of time by men.

As one Catholic friend of mine said to me earlier today, “many individual Catholics – especially in the Americas and Europe – have been tainted by the liberal theologians that have distorted Catholic teaching since the 1960s. Also – lex orandi, lex credendi – with so many OF Masses not being done according to rubrics, the loss of piety, etc. – many individual Catholics do not believe what the Church teaches. I have no idea, of course, how many Orthodox are afflicted by this, but I’m guessing it’s a smaller percentage.”

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2 thoughts on “Insight into the poor state of catechism among many Novus Ordo Catholics

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