Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Be Not Afraid of Licitly Approved Liturgies: Why Traditional Catholics Should Avoid Illicit Tridentine Masses

The four marks of the Catholic Church are: One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. Likewise, I would say that the four marks of every Catholic Christian, in relation to Holy Mother Church, ought to be: trust, faith, obedience, and humility. These are the four marks which separate so-called Traditionalists from those who submit to the authority God placed above us in the Magisterium. This shines through in regards to the liturgy. St. Augustine once wrote, "Obedience is, in a way, the mother of all virtues." There are, unfortunately, many Catholics today who call themselves "traditionalists" but approach the decisions of Holy Mother Church with a hermeneutic of suspicion, the same way liberals approach the Scriptures. In regards to the liturgy, Catholics have to be very careful that the liturgies they attend are offered within the good graces of the Church. Otherwise, one may be subject to a spirit of dissidence. The Church, in her wisdom, has given us the Ecclesia Dei indult, which allows Catholics who prefer the Tridentine Rite to attend this liturgy, all the while remaining faithful to the Holy Father. And yet, there are some who are so horrified by anything that is touched by the Magisterium since Vatican II that they willingly decide to attend Tridentine Masses offered illicitly by disgruntled priests who are in schism with Rome.

I had the experience of attending a Tridentine Mass offered by an "independent" priest near my home in Southern CA, in which during the homily the priest proceeded to inform us that the Novus Ordo Missae was a sacrilegious service, and that the Indult Mass was a compromise with sacrilege. The Holy Spirit immediately threw up a red flag in my heart, and I never went back to that priest again. I had just left the dark world of sedevacantism ("Protestant," vigilante Catholicism) in which the only Magisterium I had to listen to was me, myself, and I. I was desperately in search of a Tridentine Mass which was offered by a priest who recognized the pontificate of John Paul II (may he rest in peace). What I encountered was priest after priest who saw John Paul II essentially as a heretic, Vatican II as the greatest burden God has ever sent us, and the Novus Ordo as blasphemy to Almighty God. I thought to myself, "This is what constitutes true traditionalism? I might as well go right back to sedevacantism!" I knew intrinsically that it is inconsistent to say, "I am a trusting, faithful, obedient Catholic," and in the next breath say, "But I can not trust anything the Church has given us since Vatican II." That is inconsistent.

I remember that the main argument which initially attracted me to the sedevacantist theory a couple years ago was the argument from Trent's infallible statement regarding liturgies of the Church. The Twenty-Second Session of the Council of Trent stated, "The holy council... has resolved with the unanimous consent of all to condemn and eliminate from holy Church by means of the following canons whatever is opposed to this most pure faith and sacred doctrine. Canon 6: If anyone says that the canon of the mass contains errors and is therefore to be abrogated, let him be anathema. Canon 7: If anyone says that the ceremonies, vestments, and outward signs which the Catholic Church uses in the celebration of masses, are incentives to impiety rather than stimulants to piety, let him be anathema." I was so convinced that the Novus Ordo was a stench to God's nostrils, and thus concluded that the Pope who promulgated that liturgy could not be a true Pope. Now, here I was, listening to priests who claimed to be obedient and in union with the Holy Father but at the same time were trying to convince us that the Holy Spirit took a nap during 1970 when the Novus Ordo was promulgated. In no way could I support such an idea, and yet I knew I was still deeply devoted to the Tridentine Mass. This is when I encountered the Indult, and I would encourage all so-called "traditionalist" Catholics to consider this as well if they find themselves attracted to the Tridentine liturgy.

This leads to a point that I wanted to make. I have attended Indult Masses in which, afterwards, I hear parishioners bashing the Novus Ordo. I quickly remind them that, to be a consistent and obedient Catholic, we must stand firm and hold fast to the canons of Trent, or we must resort to sedevacantism and subconsciously believe that Christ failed in His promises to always be with His Church. It is one thing to oppose liturgical abuse; it is quite another to oppose the liturgy itself. Opposing liturgical abuse means that the abuse is what we are upset with, not the actual liturgy. The difference between Catholics who attend illicit and schismatic Tridentine Masses and Catholics who attend licitly approved Tridentine Masses is that one group consists of cafeteria Catholics (but to the right wing of the Church) while the other group consists of simply obedient Catholics. Obedient Catholics ought to avoid priests and bishops who seek to instill into our minds feelings of resentment, anger, hostility, and disobedience to Holy Mother Church in her doctrines, disciplines, and approved liturgies. Obedient Catholics who prefer the Tridentine Rite ought to have no fear whatsoever in attending an Indult Mass, since it has the blessing of the Church behind it and, as a result, is fully and wholly valid and licit at the same time. The best of both worlds, rather than the best of one world (many so-called "traditionalists" seem to not care if the Masses they attend are illicitly celebrated).

As Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) said on the 10 year anniversary of Ecclesia Dei in Rome, "If the unity of faith and the oneness of the mystery appear clearly within the two forms of celebration, that can only be a reason for everybody to rejoice and to thank the good Lord. Inasmuch as well all believe, live and act with these intentions, we shall also be able to persuade the Bishops that the presence of the old liturgy does not disturb or break the unity of their diocese, but is rather a gift destined to build-up the Body of Christ, of which we are all the servants." So, my brothers and sisters in the faith, let us not fear the Novus Ordo (properly celebrated) nor let us fear the Tridentine Mass (when celebrated licitly in union with Rome), but rather let us be on guard against so-called "traditionalists" who have gradually lost faith and obedience in the authority that God placed above us.