Contribution to a discussion…
The Poison of the Novus Ordo “Mass”:
Catholic Theology refutes Neo-Trad Bloggers
If you want to have a stellar example of the warped theology and mental gymnastics you have to embrace in Neo-Traditionalist Wonderland, look no further than the issues being discussed by Mundabor and Louie Verrecchio on whether the “New Mass” (Novus Ordo Missae of Paul VI) is evil and/or sinful to attend. There we have two individuals who use Catholic principles very selectively and/or turn a blind eye to what is right in front of them, in order not to have to embrace that which would otherwise follow necessarily: Sedevacantism.
Here are the posts of the discussion in chronological order — you may want to read them before continuing with our critique below:
- The Novus Ordo and Us (Mundabor / March 15, 2015)
- WARNING: Novus Ordo (Verrecchio / March 17, 2015)
- Is the Novus Ordo a Schismatic Rite? (Verrecchio / March 19, 2015)
Why does it not occur to these individuals to begin with true premises, based on Catholic principles and known empirical facts, and then draw whatever conclusion follows? In the case of Mundabor, an anonymous English blogger who is explicitly anti-sedevacantist, we know that he will reject, a priori, any set of premises that leads to the conclusion that Francis isn’t a valid Pope. This cart-before-the-horse mentality is, alas, all too common among Neo-Traditionalists. They tend to begin with a desired conclusion and then try to find arguments that somehow back up this conclusion, and Mundabor in particular is a perfect example.
So, let’s have a look at what Verrecchio and Mundabor are arguing, each of them coming to a slightly different but still equally flawed conclusion. In essence, the conundrum for the Neo-Trads is this:
- The Catholic Church cannot give what is evil/harmful/sacrilegious.
- The Catholic Church gave us the New Mass.
- The New Mass is evil/harmful/sacrilegious.
- Paul VI was a true Pope.
As you can see, these four theses cannot all be reconciled with one another. Each one of them contradicts at least one other. Therefore, at least one of these statements has to go. Both Mundabor and Verrecchio agree with Statement 1, as they must per Catholic doctrine. But because they also want to retain Statement 4, that only leaves either Statement 2 or Statement 3 to be discarded. Knowing this, Mundabor discards Statement 3, whereas Verrecchio jettisons Statement 2. Both contenders thus take a manifestly absurd position.
Of course, Statement 2 is indeed false — the Catholic Church did not give us the New Mass — but this is because the man who imposed it, Paul VI, was not in fact a valid Pope. Therefore, denying Statement 2 necessarily implies also denying Statement 4, since the Novus Ordo definitely came from Paul VI. Verrecchio, however, wants to retain Statement 4 (as does, of course, Mundabor), and so he comes up with some outlandish justification for why we can hold Statement 2 to be false while holding Statement 4 to be true. We will address this in detail later.
Right now, let’s first review the evidence for Statement 1 by looking at what the Church actually teaches about her own infallibility in her general discipline, that is, in those things that pertain to the external worship of God and the governance of the Church. Take a good look at these quotes and ask yourself if you can seriously apply them to the Modernist Vatican II Sect:
“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 the services of piety: let him be anathema.”
“Certainly the loving Mother [the Church] is spotless in the Sacraments, by which she gives birth to and nourishes her children; in the faith which she has always preserved inviolate; in her sacred laws imposed on all; in the evangelical counsels which she recommends; in those heavenly gifts and extraordinary graces through which, with inexhaustible fecundity, she generates hosts of martyrs, virgins and confessors.”
(Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Mystici Corporis, n. 66)
“…as if the Church which is ruled by the Spirit of God could have established discipline which is not only useless and burdensome for Christian liberty to endure, but which is even dangerous and harmful and leading to superstition and materialism.”
(Pope Pius VI, Bull Auctorem Fidei, n. 78; Denz. 1578)
“[T]he discipline sanctioned by the Church must never be rejected or be branded as contrary to certain principles of natural law. It must never be called crippled, or imperfect or subject to civil authority. In this discipline the administration of sacred rites, standards of morality, and the reckoning of the rights of the Church and her ministers are embraced.”
(Pope Gregory XVI, Encyclical Mirari Vos, n. 9; underlining added.)
“The Church’s infallibility extends to the general discipline of the Church… By the term ‘general discipline of the Church’ are meant those ecclesiastical laws passed for the universal Church for the direction of Christian worship and Christian living… The imposing of commands belongs not directly to the teaching office but to the ruling office; disciplinary laws are only indirectly an object of infallibility, i.e., only by reason of the doctrinal decision implicit in them. When the Church’s rulers sanction a law, they implicitly make a twofold judgment: 1. ‘This law squares with the Church’s doctrine of faith and morals’; that is, it imposes nothing that is at odds with sound belief and good morals. This amounts to a doctrinal decree. 2. ‘This law, considering all the circumstances, is most opportune.’ This is a decree of practical judgment.”
(Mgr. Gerard van Noort, Dogmatic Theology, vol. 2, Christ’s Church; underlining added.)
“The Church is infallible in her general discipline. By the term general discipline is understood the laws and practices which belong to the external ordering of the whole Church. Such things would be those which concern either external worship, such as liturgy and rubrics, or the administration of the sacraments…. If she [the Church] were able to prescribe or command or tolerate in her discipline something against faith and morals, or something which tended to the detriment of the Church or to the harm of the faithful, she would turn away from her divine mission, which would be impossible.”
(Jean Herrmann, Institutiones Theologiae Dogmaticae, Vol. 1, p. 258; underlining added.)
This teaching is not only beautiful but also makes perfect sense. There is no use for a Church that is infallible only in dogmatic teaching (expounded in rare obscure magisterial documents that most people will never read or hear about anyway), but not also in the rites and laws that are imposed upon all the faithful throughout the world, which is where the common man comes into daily contact with his religion. The Church is, after all, the ark of salvation, the divine embassy to which sinners can turn without having to fear for the safety of their souls (cf. 1 Tim 3:15; Eph 4:14). She is where the waters of salvation spring up in abundance, so that sinners may drink and be eternally refreshed (cf. Jn 4:13; 7:37). She cannot turn away from her divine mission: Our Lord assured us that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt 16:18), and Pope Pius XI gloried in “the perfect and perpetual immunity of the Church from error and heresy” (Encyclical Quas Primas, n. 22).
Of course, if you try to apply this to the Novus Ordo Sect, you end up in complete absurdity, because if there is one thing the New Church does well, it is lead souls to impiety, heresy, apostasy, and immorality, and thus to eternal ruin, both in her laws and in her external worship, not to mention her teaching.
So, there can be no doubt that Statement 1 above is correct — the Catholic Church cannot give to her children that which is evil, harmful, impious, or in some other way detrimental to souls, in her universal discipline, in her rites of worship or the external governing of the whole Church. This much is acknowledged both by Mundabor and Verrecchio.
We will skip Statement 2 — “The Catholic Church gave us the New Mass” — for a minute and instead consider Statement 3, that the Novus Ordo Missae is per se harmful, sacrilegious, dangerous, etc. This is denied by Mundabor but affirmed by Verrecchio. On this point, the argumentation is as follows: Mundabor sees himself bound to conclude that the Paul VI worship service is in and of itself Catholic, because the Church cannot give what is evil and he refuses to believe that the New Mass did not come from the Church because he knows that the only way to reasonably maintain such a position would be to say that Paul VI was not a true Pope, and this he refuses to concede because he does not want to be a Sedevacantist. So by the force of deductive logic based on the premises he has made for himself, the English blogger has no choice but to conclude that the New Mass is not harmful to souls. However, this conclusion comes at a dear price: He must entirely refuse the evidence in front of his eyes, the evidence that proves the Novus Ordo Missae to be evil and harmful.
In his post, Mundabor entirely sidesteps any discussion of evidence regarding the spiritual disaster that is the New Mass, focusing instead on denouncing Sedevacantism, which is where any concession regarding the evil of the Novus Ordo would lead him. But this is a rather curious way of defending the Modernist worship service: “The New Mass is good, because you don’t want to be a Sedevacantist, do you?!” (summarizing and paraphrasing Mundabor’s argument). This is the depth of the man’s theology — it’s pathetic.
So what is the evidence regarding the liturgical abomination known as the New Mass? Here is a sample for starters:
- Critical Study of the Novus Ordo Missae by Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci (1969)
- “Work of Human Hands”: How they changed the Mass and why (Video Series)
- The Revised Prayers of the New Mass
- Proof that the Novus Ordo Missae of Paul VI is Invalid
The above links demonstrate clearly that the Novus Ordo rite itself is deficient, heretical, sacrilegious, even certainly invalid at least in the vernacular. Mundabor must deny all this because he refuses to give up his pet thesis that Sedevacantism is false, and everything must bend to this gratuitous belief of his. Is this the way to do Catholic theology? Hardly.
But it gets worse. Not only does Mundabor call the New Mass good, he even insists you have an obligation to assist at it even when liturgical abuse is rampant, that is, when it is not offered according to the rubrics (and it usually isn’t) but when there is open liturgical chaos instead. To justify this aberrant view, our Englishman introduces a completely novel and certainly anti-Catholic principle: You can assist at a sacrilege or false worship as long as it’s valid and you receive Holy Communion worthily. Mundabor says verbatim: “If you have a valid Mass you can attend to, you have a Mass obligation.… do not come on this blog and tell me that you know Christ is there in the miracle of Transubstantiation, but you are too fine a Catholic palate to drink of His blood” — you know, as though Holy Mass were only offered in order to allow us to receive Communion: “If any one saith, that in the Mass a true and proper sacriflce is not offered to God; or, that to be offered is nothing else but that Christ is given us to eat; let him be anathema” (Council of Trent, Session 22, Canon 1).
The obligation to worship God in a worthy manner is dispensed with in this blogger’s theology, as long as you get something: Holy Communion. (Not that it’s actually valid, but he believes it to be.) Can Mundabor quote a Church teaching to this effect, that we can or even must attend a liturgical rite that dishonors and displeases God, as long as a valid Eucharist is confected? Of course he cannot — which is why he doesn’t. Instead, he opts for a Coca-Cola analogy:
With V[atican] II the Church gave us, together with many other mistakes, a second-class Mass. Second-class, not sinful. Second-class, not something that would be even a grave matter to attend.
Speaking of drinks (and letting aside the sacramental aspect at the Mass) we were accustomed to wine. One day, the Church told us wine is a drink for stuffy old people, and Coca Cola is the new drink the Church gives to you: bubbly, fizzly, young, dynamic, in tune with the new times, good for young and old, and apt to have many more people get at the table.
Coca-Cola is sugary, superficial, vastly inferior to wine in everything, pretty much of a child’s drink compared to it. But it can never be a sin to drink Coca-Cola; particularly so, when the Church gives it to you as the standard drink.
Let others argue about this as much as they please. Let other pewsitters allow their pride to have the better of themselves, and their desire for purity to lead them to the rejection of what their Mother gives them. I live in a very simple world, a world in which my sensus catholicus not only rebels, but recoils shivering from the very idea that a layman would know that the Body and Blood of Our Saviour are dished to him, and answers: “no thanks, I think something very wrong is going on here. Actually, my mother is trying to poison me”.
This is all very cute, but it has nothing to do with Catholic theology. For Mundabor, this is a recurring problem: He likes to argue his case not based on Catholic theology but based on an analogy he dreams up from secular life — in this case, likening the New Mass to Coca-Cola and the true Catholic Mass to wine. This is, of course, much more convenient and practical than engaging in the tiresome business of researching and understanding Catholic doctrine. Why would you bother doing this when you can just use your own pseudo-theology instead, right?!
We have reached pseudo-traditionalist Absurdistan, ladies and gentlemen.
With the American blogger Louie Verrecchio, things aren’t that much different. Unlike his English counterpart, Verrecchio does not shy away from accepting reality as it is regarding the New Mass: The rite itself is not Catholic but evil and dangerous. Verrecchio cannot deny the obvious regarding the Modernist worship service, so he asserts, quite correctly, that the New Mass is impious, evil, and harmful, not merely in how it is actually carried out (“liturgical abuse”) but in fact in the very rite itself, the way it is found “in the book.”
So then, how does Verrecchio escape the logic that Mundabor views himself bound by? (Since, when it comes to asserting that the Novus Ordo Sect is identical with the Catholic Church and Paul VI was a true Pope — Statement 4 — the two contenders see eye to eye.) The answer is that Verrecchio denies Statement 2, that the Catholic Church gave us the New Mass. How does he do so, when he also believes that Paul VI was a true Pope and the New Mass obviously came from Paul VI? Answer: He adopts the preposterous argument that somehow the Novus Ordo Missaecame not from the Church but from “weak and sinful men who abused their exalted positions”. Clever!
Which Catholic principle does he use from which to deduce this conclusion? None, of course — he sees himself forced to argue this way only because he “must” avoid the conclusion that Paul VI was not a true Pope, just like Mundabor. So here too we have a classic case of theology done backwards: Start with the conclusion, then reason your way back to absurd premises, in this case, the idea that Paul VI was a true Pope, the sect he headed was the Catholic Church, but still the worship service he imposed somehow did not come from the Pope or the Church. It is insane, and entirely driven by the desire to avoid having to believe that Paul VI was in fact an impostor and the Vatican II Sect is not the Catholic Church.
This idea that even though the Vatican II Sect is the Catholic Church and Paul VI was a true Pope, nevertheless the Novus Ordo “Mass” did not really come from either the Church or the Pope is not new and was advanced, in somewhat different fashion, many years ago by Fr. Francois Laisney of the Lefebvrist Society of St. Pius X. The argument was made that Paul VI’s imposition of the new rite was not valid or at least did not have the force of law, and hence it did not come from the Catholic Church inasmuch as it was never actually mandated. Unfortunately for Fr. Laisney and like-minded Neo-Trads, this argument runs contrary to the facts, as the following article proves:
Indeed, Verrecchio too proves himself to be a follower of the theology of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre (1905-1991) rather than that of the Catholic Church when he conveniently distinguishes “present day ‘Rome’ as understood through the actions of Pope Francis and company” from “‘Eternal Rome’ as understood through tradition as expressed over the course of many centuries” and then asserts that the Novus Ordo rite did not come to us from Holy Mother Church. Oh, how convenient! Which magisterial document does Verrecchio cite or quote that permits this distinction that underlies his argument? None, of course. In fact, Popes Pius IX and Leo XIII taught the exact opposite:
Nor can we pass over in silence the audacity of those who, not enduring sound doctrine, contend that “without sin and without any sacrifice of the Catholic profession assent and obedience may be refused to those judgments and decrees of the Apostolic See, whose object is declared to concern the Church’s general good and her rights and discipline, so only it does not touch the dogmata of faith and morals.” But no one can be found not clearly and distinctly to see and understand how grievously this is opposed to the Catholic dogma of the full power given from God by Christ our Lord Himself to the Roman Pontiff of feeding, ruling and guiding the Universal Church.
(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Quanta Cura, n. 5)
Similarly, it is to give proof of a submission which is far from sincere to set up some kind of opposition between one Pontiff and another. Those who, faced with two differing directives, reject the present one to hold to the past, are not giving proof of obedience to the authority which has the right and duty to guide them; and in some ways they resemble those who, on receiving a condemnation, would wish to appeal to a future council, or to a Pope who is better informed.
On this point what must be remembered is that in the government of the Church, except for the essential duties imposed on all Pontiffs by their apostolic office, each of them can adopt the attitude which he judges best according to times and circumstances. Of this he alone is the judge. It is true that for this he has not only special lights, but still more the knowledge of the needs and conditions of the whole of Christendom, for which, it is fitting, his apostolic care must provide. He has the charge of the universal welfare of the Church, to which is subordinate any particular need, and all others who are subject to this order must second the action of the supreme director and serve the end which he has in view. Since the Church is one and her head is one, so, too, her government is one, and all must conform to this.
When these principles are forgotten there is noticed among Catholics a diminution of respect, of veneration, and of confidence in the one given them for a guide; then there is a loosening of that bond of love and submission which ought to bind all the faithful to their pastors, the faithful and the pastors to the Supreme Pastor, the bond in which is principally to be found security and common salvation.
In the same way, by forgetting or neglecting these principles, the door is opened wide to divisions and dissensions among Catholics, to the grave detriment of union which is the distinctive mark of the faithful of Christ, and which, in every age, but particularly today by reason of the combined forces of the enemy, should be of supreme and universal interest, in favor of which every feeling of personal preference or individual advantage ought to be laid aside.
(Pope Leo XIII, Apostolic Letter Epistola Tua, June 17, 1885)
If you haven’t heard this from the Society of St. Pius X & Co. lately, ask yourself why that is. Really, it is time to stop reading Abp. Lefebvre, Michael Davies, The Remnant, Catholic Family News and The Latin Mass Magazine! Start reading real Catholic theology and magisterial teachings. Hit the pre-Vatican II books yourself. Enough of the propaganda tracts!
Unfortunately, the discussion between Mundabor and Verrecchio is characterized by a lack of appeal to Catholic theology all throughout. It is an emotional shooting from the hip, with some valid reasoning and astute observations added to the process somewhere that is overall, however, entirely lacking in an understanding of the principles involved in resolving a question surrounding religious worship.
For example, Verrecchio asks the following absurd question, based on the novelty introduced by Mundabor that one must attend a sacrilegious liturgy if it is valid: “Should I forgo the Eucharist in order to avoid participation in a poisonous rite, or should I tolerate a poisonous rite in order to avail myself of the Eucharist?”
Although Verrecchio’s answer to this query is quite different from Mundabor’s, nevertheless, like his English blogging colleague Verrecchio doesn’t bother to even attempt to use Catholic theology to come to a resolution of this query. Instead, he too opts for the much more convenient way of using non-theological analogies, as though this were an acceptable way to arrive at theological truth: “To maintain that we are obligated to attend the Novus Ordo nonetheless is tantamount to suggesting that the Church can be likened to a mother who would feed her children broccoli tainted with cyanide simply because that is the only vegetable currently available,” says Verrecchio.
Okay, you two make-it-up-as-you-go-along bloggers, here’s some advice from Novus Ordo Watch, free of charge: How about we stop all the talk about Coca-Cola, wine, broccoli, and cyanide and actually deal with real Catholic teaching for a minute?! What is lacking from all this drive-thru theologizing is Catholic teaching. In fact, in all three blog posts (the one by Mundabor and the two by Verrecchio), not a single Church teaching was quoted anywhere. Not that the mere quoting of Church teaching makes an argument valid or sound, of course, but when attempting to analyze and understand what a Catholic ought to do with regard to the New Mass, there’s just no way around Church teaching. Sure, you can talk about a Coke-serving waiter who’d rather be serving wine, or a mother who offers poisoned broccoli to her children, just don’t trick yourself into thinking that this has anything to do with Catholic theology.
Instead, the correct way for a layman to approach a question like this is basically to look it up in a pre-Vatican II theological manual or catechism. What a concept, right?!
What are we to look up? For starters, we must look at what the Church teaches regarding our obligation to worship God by giving Him true and proper worship, which is enjoined upon us by the First Commandment. Holy Mass, after all, is first and foremost not a way for us to receive something, but an act of worship of Almighty God; in fact, the most excellent and perfect act of worship that exists. Somehow this essential and most important point is entirely absent from our two disputing bloggers — again, because they are not grounded in Catholic theology.
Man’s obligation to worship God being the subject of moral theology, we turn to an authorized pre-Vatican II Catholic manual of moral theology. Here’s what we find there under sins against the First Commandment:
…[T]he sin of superstition may be committed by worshipping the true God in the wrong way or by worshipping false gods….
1. God may be wrongly worshipped either by false worship or by superfluous worship being paid him. Worship of God is false when its meaning is not in accordance with fact, or when the falsehood is in the person who performs the act of worship, as when a layman performs the duties of a priest, or when someone tries to gain credence for false miracles or false relics….
2. Anything in the worship of God which does not tend to his honour and glory, or which is against the ordinances and practice of the Church, to whom the regulation of religious worship exclusively belongs, is superfluous worship and superstition. This sin is committed by attributing an infallible effect to a fixed number of prayers or acts of piety, or to the mere material wearing of the scapulars or medals, or by unwarrantably acting against the rubrics while saying Mass or administering the sacraments or sacramentals of the Church.
(Rev. Thomas Slater, A Manual of Moral Theology, Vol. 1, 5th ed. , p. 140; underlining added.)
This is Catholic theology. Notice how far removed it is from talk about Coca-Cola and broccoli with cyanide.
It is our obligation, then, to worship God, and we must do so with true worship, not with false or superfluous worship. This is the first principle which Mundabor and Verrecchio ought to have utilized in their analysis. Why couldn’t either of them manage to look this up? Why this attitude of “Blog first, ask questions later”?
Verrecchio says to find out if a valid Mass can ever be “poisonous” (which, by the way, is not a theologically meaningful term and entirely vague), “we need only use reason, logic and simple observation”. Notice that apparently “Catholic teaching” is no longer even on the menu of the pseudo-traditionalist cafeteria.
After presenting a tortured analysis, Verrecchio concludes by harking back to his original Lefebvrist contention, framed as a question: “…is it really the case that Holy Mother Church has given the Novus Ordo to us, or did it come from the hands of weak and sinful men who abused their exalted positions?” Sorry, Louie, but if you believe the Modernist Vatican II Sect to be the Catholic Church, then you have no choice but to conclude that the Novus Ordo worship service comes from the Catholic Church, because this convenient but artificial distinction between “the Church” on the one hand and “the sinful men in the Church” is entirely contrived and certainly not backed by any Catholic teaching, which, again, is why none is cited. We are not, after all, talking about the personal conduct of a Pope, which can be moral or immoral, but about the offical acts of a (putative) Pope, in his capacity as supreme legislator and head of the universal Church.
Still, Verrecchio does not leave his position entirely unjustified. To defend the idea that the Novus Ordo did not come from the Catholic Church but only from “weak and sinful men who abused their exalted positions” in the Church, he appeals to Pope St. Pius V’s Apostolic Constitution Quo Primum (1570), to which he claims Paul VI even as a true Pope was bound. This refusal on the part of Paul VI to obey Quo Primum, so Verrecchio believes, made the Novus Ordo Missae a “schismatic rite”, and as the great theological justification for such an absurdity — as though a true Pope could institute a schismatic rite for the entire Church — he presents a video of a 2-hour talk given by the colorful “Fr.” Gregory Hesse (1953-2006), a one-of-a-kind Austrian traditionalist “priest” who always managed to sound convincing while he dished out the craziest pseudo-theological theses that were usually quite unique to him and certainly did not represent the (Vatican II) Church in which he claimed to be an authority.
Alas, a lot of people are easily swayed by externals, and of these Hesse had more than enough. His beautiful traditional garb with all the bells and whistles, the aura of authority he exuded, his eccentric personality, his articulate rhetoric, his knowledge of Latin, the appearance of fine scholarship, the fact that he held two doctorate degrees from the Novus Ordo Angelicum and worked inside the Vatican for a few years, having received his “ordination” in St. Peter’s Basilica… what more could the traditionalist heart desire, right? We may perhaps surmise that if Hesse hadn’t been such a colorful individual — he openly drank wine as much as most other people drink water — his ideas might never have found much traction.
For all those who are so impressed with Hesse they’re about to keel over, here are some sobering blog posts that refute some of the things he has argued:
- The “Error” of Pope Nicholas I
- Various Objections to Sedevacantism Refuted
- Paul VI as “Patriarch of the West”: Another Objection Refuted
- Responding to Bp. Williamson on Sedevacantism
- The Myth of the “Heretical” Popes of the Past
- But haven’t we had “bad Popes” in the past?
- Why the Pope Question matters
In the New Church, this is a recurring phenomenon: Every so often some unique individual who seems to be a friend of the confused conservatives/trads and has “all the answers” appears on the scene — he is dressed up really nicely, puts on a good show, and, voila, the people tend to follow him and accept whatever he says. They will cling to him in relief, treat him as their last hope, and gladly outsource to him their understanding of Catholic theology, if not their entire intellect and will.
There are a few figures like this in the New Church who fill this role in varying degrees and for different audiences. Certainly we may number among them the notorious blogger “Fr. Z”, John Zuhlsdorf, who has a similar cult following, as well as “Fr.” Paul Nicholson, an Opus Dei presbyter who glories in all the beautiful externals as he puts on quite a theatrical show in his YouTube videos, even, if need be, with indecent show titles and gratuitous images of young men with their upper bodies exposed [UPDATE 05-SEP-2016: The videos have since been removed, and Nicholson has disappeared from the internet completely]. It is a sign of the spiritual destruction and despair people experience in the New Church that they cling to individuals and put their trust in them rather than in simply following the teaching of the Church, no matter what inconvenience may result therefrom.
But back to Verrecchio. For him to outsource the justification of his position to Mr. Hesse is rather convenient, of course, but we can demonstrate Hesse’s position to be entirely preposterous. Think about it: Assume for a minute that the Novus Ordo Sect is the Catholic Church (which isn’t true, but that’s what Hesse believed). According to Hesse, the Pope can give to the entire Latin Church a rite of Mass that is not in fact a legitimate Catholic rite (even though the Pope authoritatively decreed it to be) and that is not in fact a revision of the rite formerly in use (even though the Pope explicitly said it was) — and to know this we need to consult an obscure wandering cleric from Vienna whose highest position ever held was that of secretary to an archivist and librarian in the Vatican, and who travels to different countries giving lectures full of arguments that are widely unheard-of and not shared by anyone else. Here we see, once more, the Gallican recognize-and-resist idea at work: Anyone can trump the Pope, as long as what he says sounds convincing and gives justification to what people would like to believe. But this is not how it works in the Catholic Church (which is what they believe the Vatican II Sect to be): When the Pope issues a decree establishing discipline for the entire Church, this is not subject to review, criticism, or validation by anyone, least of all some Vatican librarian’s Austrian secretary.
In any case, Hesse makes the claim that when “Pope” Paul VI decreed in an “Apostolic Constitution” that he was promulgating a “revision of the Roman Missal”, this was not in fact a revision but the establishment of a new “schismatic rite” (Hesse’s words), and when the same “Pope” decreed that his “Apostolic Constitution” was to have the force of law (“We order that the prescriptions of this Constitution go into effect November 30th of this year ”) and that any prior legislation was to be considered superseded (“notwithstanding, to the extent necessary, the apostolic constitutions and ordinances issued by Our predecessors, and other prescriptions, even those deserving particular mention and derogation”), then this is a lie, has no value, does not bind anyone, and must be ignored, apparently under pain of schism. This would mean that a Catholic can no longer take papal legislation and Church governance at face value but must first have things checked by his local Austrian librarian assistant. This is absurdity on stilts.
Alas, such is the state of “traditional Catholicism” today. Unfortunately it is way beyond the scope of this blog post to start giving a full critique of Hesse, which would take quite a while, but suffice it to say, once more, that his outlandish positions were usually unique to him, such as the idea that Vatican II — remember, he believed the Novus Ordo Sect to be the Catholic Church — was not in fact an ecumenical council at all. The absurdity of the whole thing is glaring. There is no way you can say that the Vatican establishment after Pius XII is the Catholic Church but somehow Vatican II was not an ecumenical council. Consult the “magisterium” of the post-1958 period and you simply cannot get around the fact that Vatican II was an ecumenical council, whether you like it or not. It simply doesn’t matter what some wine-drinking know-it-all in impressive clothing said in a video tape.
So, what are we to make of Hesse’s argument that Paul VI (treating him, for the sake of argument, as a true Pope) was bound by Quo Primum, since Pope St. Pius V decreed it to be valid and binding “in perpetuity”? If this claim proves anything, it proves that Hesse didn’t know what he was talking about. In papal legislation of a disciplinary character, the phrase “in perpetuity” simply means that the law being imposed has no “expiration date”, if you will — it does not mean that it can never be changed or rescinded by the competent authority, that is, by another (or even the same) Pope. (This differs essentially from a definition of dogma, which cannot be changed or abrogated by any Pope after it has been made; but dogma refers to what must be believed, whereas discipline refers to what must be done.)
Can we prove this? Yes, we certainly can. For, example, when Pope Clement XIV suppressed the Jesuit order in 1773, he issued a decree in which he declared that this suppression was to be “perpetually valid” (perpetuoque validas) and ordered that it be “inviolably observed by each and every man whom it concerns and by anyone whomsoever it will concern in the future” (Pope Clement XIV, Bull Dominus Ac Redemptor, p. xxix). This rather clear and forceful language did not stop Pope Clement’s successor Pius VII from rescinding the suppression and reinstating the Jesuit order on August 7, 1814, declaring that whosoever would dare to contravene his decree would “incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul” (see Pope Pius VII, Decree Sollicitudo Omnium Ecclesiarum, p. 14). So, Hesse’s argument that true Popes are bound forever by Pius V’s Quo Primum is simply false. (For more on this, see Fr. Cekada’s blog post “Quo Primum: Could a True Pope Change it?”)
Hesse in Rome in 1988, wearing a biretta while working at his desk
— and the bottle of wine always close by (on far right)
One other argument the Austrian “expert” dished up is that Paul VI (again, assuming him to have been a true Pope for the sake of argument) was bound by this infallible declaration of the Council of Trent: “If anyone shall say that the received and approved rites of the Catholic Church accustomed to be used in the solemn administration of the sacraments may be disdained or omitted by the minister without sin and at pleasure, or may be changed by any pastor of the churches to other new ones: let him be anathema” (Trent, Session 7, Canon 13; Denz. 856). Hesse asserts — without any serious evidence — that “any pastor of the churches” includes the Pope himself. In his attempt to sound convincing, he claims that the Latin word used for “any [pastor whatsoever]” by Trent is quiscumque, but not only is this factually incorrect (the word used by Trent is quemcumque, which you can verify here), but the word he claims Trent used — quiscumque — does not even exist in the Latin language at all (a similar word, quicumque, does; perhaps he meant that). Nor is his contention true that the word used by Trent has only one single translation. So Hesse is not just wrong but wrong in triplicate.
The Pope, of course, is not simply “any pastor of the churches” but the Supreme Pastor of the Universal Church, and there is really no reason why the Pope should not be able, allowed, or sufficiently competent to make changes to the liturgical rites of the Church, as long as such changes are not in themselves harmful, dangerous, heretical, or somehow impious; in fact many Popes have made changes to the liturgical rites after Trent and after Quo Primum, including Clement VIII, Paul V, St. Pius X, and Pius XII.
The anti-Modernist American theologian Mgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton, too, was unaware that Trent supposedly forbids even the Pope from changing liturgical rites, because he wrote just before the beginning of Vatican II that the council “can change much of the rite of the Mass” (Fenton, “The Virtue of Prudence and the Success of the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council”, American Ecclesiastical Review 147 [Oct. 1962], p. 263). So we see that even though Hesse’s case may sound convincing and impressive at first, it turns out to be false.
It is actually not difficult to ascertain how wrong Hesse’s claim is about the Pope allegedly not being allowed to change sacramental rites. Once again, all that is required is that one bother to actually look it up. In the popular manual Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Fr. Ludwig Ott observes:
To be distinguished from the essential rites of the Sacraments based on Divine ordinance are the accidental rites, ceremonies and prayers, which, in the course of time, became current by custom or by the positive prescription of the Church, and which have the purpose of symbolically representing the sacramental operation of grace, of expressing the dignity and sublimity of the Sacraments, of satisfying man’s need for external forms of worship and of preparing him for the reception of grace.
(Rev. Dr. Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma [1954; reprinted by TAN Books, 1974], p. 338)
With this distinction in mind, we turn to the very Council of Trent Hesse claims supports his aberrant theses:
It [the Council] declares furthermore that this power has always been in the Church, that in the administration of the sacraments, preserving their substance, she may determine or change whatever she may judge to be more expedient for the benefit of those who receive themor for the veneration of the sacraments, according to the variety of circumstances, times, and places. Moreover, the Apostle seems to have intimated this in no obscure manner, when he said: “Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ and the dispensers of the mysteries of God” [ 1 Cor. 4:1]; and that he himself used this power is quite manifest in this sacrament as well as in many other things, not only in this sacrament itself, but also in some things set down with regard to its use, he says: “The rest I will set in order when I come” [ 1 Cor. 11:23].
This is sufficiently clear, but the definitive refutation of Mr. Hesse’s absurd claims comes from Pope Pius XII himself. In his landmark encyclical on the Sacred Liturgy, the Sovereign Pontiff teaches as follows:
The Church has further used her right of control over liturgical observance to protect the purity of divine worship against abuse from dangerous and imprudent innovations introduced by private individuals and particular churches. Thus it came about — during the 16th century, when usages and customs of this sort had become increasingly prevalent and exaggerated, and when private initiative in matters liturgical threatened to compromise the integrity of faith and devotion, to the great advantage of heretics and further spread of their errors — that in the year 1588, Our predecessor Sixtus V of immortal memory established the Sacred Congregation of Rites, charged with the defense of the legitimate rites of the Church and with the prohibition of any spurious innovation. This body fulfills even today the official function of supervision and legislation with regard to all matters touching the sacred liturgy.
It follows from this that the Sovereign Pontiff alone enjoys the right to recognize and establish any practice touching the worship of God, to introduce and approve new rites [!!!], as also to modify those he judges to require modification. Bishops, for their part, have the right and duty carefully to watch over the exact observance of the prescriptions of the sacred canons respecting divine worship. Private individuals, therefore, even though they be clerics, may not be left to decide for themselves in these holy and venerable matters, involving as they do the religious life of Christian society along with the exercise of the priesthood of Jesus Christ and worship of God; concerned as they are with the honor due to the Blessed Trinity, the Word Incarnate and His august mother and the other saints, and with the salvation of souls as well. For the same reason no private person has any authority to regulate external practices of this kind, which are intimately bound up with Church discipline and with the order, unity and concord of the Mystical Body and frequently even with the integrity of Catholic faith itself.
(Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Mediator Dei, nn. 57-58; underlining added.)
Thus we see that when Trent anathematized the idea that the sacramental rites of the Church could be changed by “any pastor whomsoever”, or new ones could be drawn up, it obviously did not mean to include the Pope himself, the Supreme Legislator, who is not a pastor “of the churches” but of the Church.
Unfortunately for “Fr.” Hesse, all this evidence, which thoroughly refutes his idea that the Council of Trent and Pope St. Pius V bound all future Popes to refrain from making any except the most minor changes to the sacramental and liturgical rites of the Church, destroys the entire basis for his contention that the Novus Ordo Missae is a “schismatic rite” from a true Pope, which in turn was the essential support for his claim that his own 1981 Novus Ordo “ordination” was valid on the grounds that Pius XII’s Apostolic Constitution Sacramentum Ordinis, which would render it doubtful (see PDF here), only applied to Catholic, not schismatic, rites.
Oh well. Exit Mr. Hesse…
Having thus thoroughly demolished the false arguments of Mundabor, Verrecchio, and Rev. Hesse, let us summarize:
At the outset of this post, we presented a conundrum of four statements that cannot all be true because each statement contradicts at least one other. Neither Mundabor nor Louie Verrecchio have managed to resolve it in an acceptable fashion because of their (in the case of Mundabor, stubborn) refusal to countenance the idea that Statement 4 (“Paul VI was a true Pope”) is actually false. This refusal leads, for the American blogger Verrecchio, to outright theological absurdity, whereas it leads for the English blogger Mundabor to a willing suspension of disbelief with regard to the facts about the New Mass.
The only way to resolve the conundrum in a Catholic way is to deny Statement 2 and Statement 4, that is, we must say that the New Mass did not come from the Catholic Church, and this is only because Paul VI was not a true Pope. That the Catholic Church cannot give what is evil is undeniable Catholic doctrine; that the New Mass is evil is a verifiable fact established beyond all doubt. But that Paul VI was a true Pope is neither necessary to believe by any Catholic teaching nor is it established beyond doubt — on the contrary, we have definite proof that he was an impostor. It is, in fact, the only way to keep from having to conclude that the Catholic Church has done the impossible, namely, promulgate a rite of Mass that is harmful to souls.
In short: That Paul VI should have been a false Pope is entirely possible; that the Catholic Church should give her children an evil rite of Mass, or that a Pope’s laws and teachings should be subject to review by an Austrian smart aleck, is not possible.
Our general advice with regard to such theological issues being debated on “traditionalist” blogs is simple: If you wish to adhere to Catholic teaching instead of Lefebvrian fairy tales, bite the painful bullet and look it up yourself: Do the necessary research by consulting approved Catholic books from before Vatican II (so many are now available online for free), rather than listen to people who dream up their own theology in an effort to justify a position they already hold. For them, it is a desired conclusion that drives their acceptance of premises, not the other way around, as it should be. Let this be a red flag to you: When you see no Church teaching quoted or cited and instead are presented with analogies from secular life (Coke, broccoli, a bad father is still a father, a bad captain is still part of the ship, etc.), then you know that what you are reading is probably just malarkey dressed up as Catholicism.
This post you have just read took more than 15 hours to compile. Real research into Catholic theology and magisterial documents takes time — it usually does not permit the cranking out of quick blog posts to impress or satisfy a demanding audience. However, spending the time required to understand things is simply necessary because the subject matter is so important. The Son of God lived, suffered, and died for us so that we would know the truth, which He said would make us free (see Jn 8:32; cf. 2 Jn 1:9).
There is no substitute for the real thing. Don’t exchange your birthright of genuine Catholicism for a lousy pot of bloggers’ lentils.
Image source for all Hesse photos: gregorius-hesse.at
License: fair use