Liturgy as a Mask over the Sins of the Faithful

Sometimes a parish will have serious problems in the clergy, parish leaders and other laity, problems such as: lack of faith in doctrine; lack of prayerfulness; turning aside from self-denial, contrition, and Confession; shallowness of spirituality; excessive influence of sinful secular society; lukewarm devotion; pride and mistreatment of others, misuse of power, gossiping; and many other such things. And when this happens, this spiritual disease shows itself by certain symptoms. Among these symptoms is disorders in the form of the Mass. (Now this is not the most common way that such problems manifest themselves, but the topic of this article is the liturgy.)

These liturgical disorders can be misrepresented by the internet, which can find the few worst cases of bad liturgy, and then spread the knowledge of those cases very widely. So if one priest one time in one place on the planet holds a soccer-themed Mass, or a Mass with balloons and a clown, or the use of profane types of dancing around the altar, then it is seen in video via the internet by millions of persons. Without the internet, only the relatively few persons at such a one-time disordered Mass would have seen it. I have to wonder if it is better not to show such videos. On the one hand, people need to know that such problems exist. But on the other hand, it exaggerates the extent of the problem when the much more common case is an orderly Novus Ordo Mass.

But my point for this article is that such disorders in the Mass are the symptoms, not the disease. When a patient has a serious disease, the doctor cannot merely treat the symptoms and ignore the underlying cause, that may harm the patient gravely, if it goes untreated. So it is wrong to propose as a solution to the many alleged problems of the Novus Ordo Mass that we should simply change to another form of the Mass, the traditional Latin Mass, where every point of form is tightly controlled.

This puts the symptoms behind a mask. It leaves the disease untreated.

Why do you think such problems occur at a Novus Ordo Mass? It is the sinfulness of fallen human persons. And to respond by ignoring the sinfulness, and simply cover the problem by tightly controlling the form of the Mass, is like allowing a wound to fester beneath a decorated bandage.

At TLM parishes, they don’t have as many liturgical problems, because the form of the Mass is precisely controlled. But are the members of those parishes not still sinners? Then they have the underlying problems, but it just doesn’t show itself in disorder in the Mass.

And the result is these TLM parishes where there are no symptoms of spiritual illness in the form of the Mass. But underneath this mask, there are still sins and errors. In some TLM communities, there is heresy and schism. They reject the authority per se of the Church, the Popes and the Councils to teach or correct them. The Magisterium is replaced with the conservative or traditionalist subculture. They refuse to accept any non-infallible teaching or decision of discipline that is contrary to the majority opinion of their TLM community. They exalt the exterior points of form in the Latin Mass to the point of real idolatry. They believe a large set of fables about the Church: on Vatican I and on Vatican II, on Pope Francis (his election, his interior state, his teachings), on the recent Pope Saints, and they utterly reject the NOM.

So the TLM is not a real solution to the problems that sometimes occur in the Novus Ordo Mass.

The Novus Ordo Mass is at its beginning, just as the TLM was in the 600s A.D. The NOM needs additional development. There is some room for improvement, such as in the choice of hymns. But turning the NOM into another strictly controlled liturgical service is not a solution to the problem.

The spiritual problems that result in problems in the Novus Ordo Mass, including problems with the hymns (which reflect a superficial spirituality), are not solved by the TLM. The problems remain; they are simply not displayed in the Mass. The solution is to address all of those problems. And do not tell me the fable that the adherents of the TLM are more faithful. They just have a different set of grave spiritual errors.

{23:5} Truly, they do all their works so that they may be seen by men. For they enlarge their phylacteries and glorify their hems.

Excessive concern for each precise point of liturgical form is an component of Pharisaism. The problems that spread among the traditionalist Catholics are serious. And one is not more faithful by being more conservative, nor by being a supporter of the TLM.

If one prefers the Traditional Latin Mass, that is fine. The form of the Mass has no grave errors. However, there are also no grave errors in the Novus Ordo Mass, unless errors not approved by the Church are introduced. For the Church is indefectible. And so She could not have approved, disseminated, promoted, and used the Novus Ordo Mass for many decades, by vast numbers of the faithful, if it were a grave error.

Some conservatives talk about the benefits of the priest facing away from the people, instead of toward the people. If you think one way is better than the other, that’s fine. But then these types of opinions become exaggerated to the point where facing one way is treated like dogma, and facing the other way is treated like a grave error. Such an exaggeration is heresy. For it is dogma that the Church is indefectible, that the Roman Pontiff has the charism of truth and of never-failing faith, and that the Apostolic See is without blemish. So there are no gave errors in the decisions of the Popes and Councils on doctrine or discipline.

This is what happens in TLM communities. “Our way is better.” Maybe. To some extent, in some ways. And then better becomes best, and best becomes the only way, and the Novus Ordo Mass is rejected like a rabid animal. You cannot hold the opinion that the Novus Ordo Mass, nor any of its approved points of liturgical form are grave errors. That is contrary to the Faith.

The Church is indefectible.
The Roman Pontiff has the charism of truth and of never-failing faith.
The Apostolic See is unblemished by any grave error.
No Ecumenical Council can err gravely on doctrine or discipline.

So the Church, the Pope, and his exercise of the Keys of Peter in the Apostolic See cannot have erred gravely in the Novus Ordo Mass. Perhaps that form of the Mass could benefit from some changes over time. No form of the Mass in this life is perfect. There is no Mass in Heaven.

But imposing on every parish a strict form of the Mass, like the TLM, merely hides the spiritual problems in the parish that cause the liturgical problems in Novus Ordo Masses. Then the use of the TLM tends toward the errors of rejecting anything outside of that strictly-controlled community. And eventually even Popes and Councils are rejected, as they are outside of traditionalism.

So it is not good, at this point in time, for the TLM to spread to more parishes. Where there are liturgical errors in the Novus Ordo Mass, address the underlying problems. Don’t just cover those problems by making the priest say the Novus Ordo in strictest form. I mean, yes, have the priest say the Mass in its correct form. But don’t think that you’ve solved the problem.

Save the Liturgy, Save the World

No. If every parish has only the TLM (in the Roman Rite), that does not save the world nor, necessarily, the Faithful who attend Mass. Imposing a strict set of exterior rituals does not change the underlying problems that lead to “clown Masses” as they say. You are simply covering the symptoms of larger problems.

All the elements of the Gospel and the Catholic faith have their respective places in the path of salvation. Merely offering a tightly-controlled liturgy does not save souls, not necessarily. And those who fall in love with the TLM are emotionally in love with the exterior form of the Mass. That is not the infused virtue of love. They are not in love with Christ.

When you attend a particularly badly done Novus Ordo Mass: adore the Eucharist, pray the Rosary, listen to the Scripture readings and the Sermon, seek to become closer to Christ, despite the errors, and that will show you have true love for Christ. Refusing to go to Mass unless every exterior point of liturgical form is to your liking is hatred of Christ.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.

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3 Responses to Liturgy as a Mask over the Sins of the Faithful

  1. M. Jean-Paul Benoist says:

    My dear Friends,

    We don’t must to cofundar Pastoral and Theological.

    However, no judging, but Patience.

    God is the Sole Master!

    A sinner.

    We must praying the Holy Rosary.

  2. john says:

    Francis is specific that the NOM Mass is a contiuation of the tradition and that the NOM Mass is not a new Mass. And this has always been the position of the church, and always will be. The 1962 Mass has no greater claim to the tradition of the Roman Rite Mass than any other version of the Mass in the Roman Rite. And the 1970 Mass is a continuation and evolution of that tradition: it is the “traditional Latin Mass”.

    • Ron Conte says:

      The essentials of the Mass must be distinguished from the non-essentials. Consider the Last Supper. Was it lacking anything because it did not have the externals of the TLM or the NOM? In the last days, Mass will be held in secret. Sanctuaries will all be closed. There will be no singing or incense or vestments or hardly any of the externals or non-essentials, due to the severe persecution of Christianity worldwide in the years before Christ returns. So the highest form of the Mass is the Last Supper and then the Masses, stripped to bare essentials, held in secret and in danger of death, during the days before Christ’s return.

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