Ever play the game “Risk?” It’s a board game in which you basically try to militarily take over the world. There’s a lot of strategy and planning that you must do. Sometimes you have to be sneaky. You may have to, when you’re trying to invade and take someone’s country away from them, give ‘em the old head fake: Make it look like you’re doing something different than what you’re doing. Trick them, in other words.
I really believe this has happened, in a way, in the Church. The analogy won’t be perfect, but you’ll see what I mean as we go.
There is a battle going on right now in the Church. It’s been going on for a while, but people are really talking about it a lot now. This battle is truly a battle for the soul of the Church. Most of you probably don’t even recognize that it’s going on, understand it or think it’s a big deal. If you don’t recognize it or think it’s a big deal, this is your call to wake up! If you don’t understand it, I’m going to try and explain a little bit in this post of what has been happening in the Church for the last 50-60 years. In fairness, there has always been a battle in the Church. This is nothing new to Christianity.
For example, in the 4th century, there was a bishop (started out as a deacon) named Athanasius. He was pretty much the only bishop in Christendom that stood up against Arianism. He paid dearly for standing up to the heretics in the Church. He was exiled five times during his ministry, mostly for standing up to heretics and his unwavering defense of the true Catholic faith. He is my hero and my confirmation saint.
Christianity has always had its controversies and problems. All those problems have come from the people who claim to be part of the Church. The Church, as founded by Christ, given to the Apostles and passed on to the faithful has never changed. Neither has the practice of the faith. Sure, there have been some things more clearly articulated over time and dogmas defined but the faith has not changed. Neither has the practice of the faith. Again, some things have been adjusted over time, but the practice of the faith and the worship of the Church has remained largely unchanged over the last two thousand years.
Until, of course, the 1950s-1970s.
I want to say this again. The Church (the actual Church) and her worship has remained largely intact and unchanged over the last two millennia.
Don’t believe me? Go to a traditional Latin Mass. What you will find there is the faith once for all delivered to the saints and the liturgical worship of the Church which has remained mostly unchanged since the Mass was translated into Latin from Greek in the 3rd century.
Go to a typical Novus Ordo parish and your experience will not be the same. In fact, I submit to you (I know I say this a lot, but some things need to be said until people pay attention) that they are actually two different religions. Now, as soon as I said that, some of you will be instantly triggered and push back on me. So, what I want to do is give you the words of those in the past who have said this. You can hear from the sources themselves instead of me.
The man most responsible for the liturgical “reform” post Vatican II was Archbishop Annibale Bugnini. He was the secretary of the commission that worked on the reform of the Catholic liturgy after Vatican II.
A quick note here. This is not an attack on Vatican II. While the council had its problems, the documents themselves, while in places a bit ambiguous, are not necessarily heterodox. In fact, one of the documents produced by the council talking about the liturgy said this,
“In faithful obedience to tradition, the sacred Council declares that Holy Mother Church holds all lawfully recognized rites to be of equal right and dignity, that she wishes to preserve them in the future and foster them in every way.”
Pope St John XXIII said repeatedly that Latin was to be retained and given pride of place. I will refer you to the website, https://www.prayinglatin.com/why-pray-in-latin, where you will find plenty of quotes on this.
Back to Bugnini. He was the primary architect of what is now called the Novus Ordo. What was he hoping to accomplish by the so-called “reform” of the liturgy? Well, according to him (March 19, 1965),
“We must strip from our Catholic prayers and from the Catholic liturgy everything which can be the shadow of a stumbling block for our separated brethren; that is, for the Protestants.”
On the surface you may read that and think, ‘Oh that’s nice, he wants to reach the Protestants.’
But let’s look a little deeper. Look at his language.
"Strip” from our prayers everything which can be a shadow of a stumbling block for our separated brethren. First and foremost, if Christ Himself founded the Church (and He did) and the Apostles passed on what He had given them (and they did), is there not then only One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church? Therefore, if there is only One Church, the Protestants are not our brethren. They are truly outside the Church. They cannot be our brethren. It is not possible to be outside the Church and be the brethren of the Church. In fact, it was St. Cyprian who said in AD 251, “No one can have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother.”
Bugnini’s statement is false on its face. Either he was lying about what he was hoping to accomplish, or he was hopelessly lost in what he thinks the Church is. If the Church is One, there is no such thing as “separated brethren.” Either you are in the Church or you are not. Either way, his statement is ludicrous.
Let us consider the Council of Trent. Session VII, Canon XIII states,
“If any one saith, that the received and approved rites of the Catholic Church, wont to be used in the solemn administration of the sacraments, may be contemned, or without sin be omitted at pleasure by the ministers, or be changed, by every pastor of the churches, into other new ones; let him be anathema.” (emphasis mine)
Read that again. And again.
Or, Session XXII, Canon IX of the Council of Trent,
“If any one saith, that the rite of the Roman Church, according to which a part of the canon and the words of consecration are pronounced in a low tone, is to be condemned; or, that the mass ought to be celebrated in the vulgar tongue only; or, that water ought not to be mixed with the wine that is to be offered in the chalice, for that it is contrary to the institution of Christ; let him be anathema.” (emphasis mine)
Let them be anathema.
The so-called reform of the liturgy resulting in the Novus Ordo, according to the Council of Trent, the shining example of Catholic teaching, is anathema. It’s a colossal head fake. Rather than giving us a “new spring” of Catholicism, these revolutionaries spat in the face of the Church and of Her founder, Jesus Christ. They torpedoed the worship of the Church and it has all but destroyed the Catholic Church and Her faith. Whether or not they did it on purpose, you be the judge. The results of their revolution speak for itself. This cannot be said clearly enough.
Even Pope Paul VI, commenting on the new liturgy, said,
“The introduction of the vernacular will certainly be a great sacrifice for those who know the beauty, the power and the expressive sacrality of Latin. We are parting with the speech of the Christian centuries, we are becoming profane intruders in the literary preserve of sacred utterance. We will lose a great part of that stupendous and incomparable artistic and spiritual thing, Gregorian chant.” (emphasis mine)
“We are parting with the speech of Christian centuries, we are becoming profane intruders…” This is the Pope saying this! And yet he let it happen. It’s unconscionable.
Father Joseph Gelineau, an enthusiastic proponent of the postconciliar revolution was at least honest when he said,
“To tell the truth it is a different liturgy of the Mass. This needs to be said without ambiguity: the Roman Rite as we knew it no longer exists. It has been destroyed.” (emphasis mine)
Cardinal Ottaviani, speaking to Pope Paul VI, had this to say about the new liturgy,
“It is evident that the Novus Ordo has no intention of presenting the faith as taught by the Council of Trent, to which, nonetheless, the Catholic conscience is bound forever. With the promulgation of the Novus Ordo, the loyal Catholic is thus faced with a most tragic alternative.” (emphasis mine)
Tragic indeed. To actually be Catholic or to be something else. And what is that something else?
Archbishop Lefebvre tells us,
“The Novus Ordo Missae, even when said with piety and respect for the liturgical rites…is impregnated with the spirit of Protestantism. It bears within it a poison harmful to the faith.” (emphasis mine)
That something else is poison harmful to the faith.
The tragic alternative faced by the Church is whether to be Catholic or not. I know that sounds “out there” or extreme for some of you reading this. Go back and read these words again, some of them from the Pope (or Popes) at the time and from the guy who actually wrote the Novus Ordo. Then, attend both Masses. Sit back and ask yourself this question: What is this Mass communicating to me? All that happens within the Mass is communicating something. Go to both and ask yourself that question and observe. Leave your prejudices and preferences behind. Pray that Christ would show you what He has for you in the Mass.
I know this has been long and you may have to read it in a couple of sittings. But, if you are Catholic, you cannot ignore this. We must reclaim our Church, brothers and sisters. We must turn back to the faith once for all delivered to the saints. We must. If we do not, our Church will become even more unrecognizable than it already is.
May God grant us the grace to turn back!
There have been a couple of distinct times in my life that I can remember having to “go back.” Let me explain.
Once was in college. I was in the Army ROTC program and a part of the Ranger battalion. As such, one of the things we had to learn was “land nav.” That’s land navigation if you didn’t pick that up. Basically, what that means is we had to learn how, given nothing but a map and an objective, how to get ourselves and our unit from where we were to where we needed to go to accomplish our mission. You had to learn how to read a map and the “lay of the land” in order to do so. Getting lost could have, literally, fatal consequences.
Well, I got lost. I was unsure on how to read a compass at the time and how to plot routes to travel from point A to point B. So, rather than ask, I just sucked it up and tried to get it done. And I got lost. My platoon sergeant found me wandering around and said, “Go back to the beginning and start over.” I wasn’t happy about it but I knew I was lost and so I did.
The second time was putting that concept of land navigation into practical use during my time as a trainee police officer. I had to learn how to read street maps in order to get from where I was in the city to where I needed to go. Yes, it was long enough ago that we needed physical maps and didn’t have fancy computers or GPS to tell us where to go. Anyways…
I got lost more than once. My training officers were not amused with lack of attention and inability to do my job. I remember getting lost once and not knowing where I was. My training officer said, “Then go back to the last place you know and start over.”
Sound familiar, right?
Sometimes we just have to go back to the beginning and start over.
I think this is really apropos for the Church today. I feel like, in many ways, the Church has lost her way. She has become confused and is wandering around lost, trying to find her way from point A to point B, not really sure how to get to where she needs to go to accomplish her mission. I think there are a lot of reasons for this and I really don’t have the time or space to discuss them all. But I do want to touch on one that I believe is really important: Tradition. Specifically, tradition in worship.
Some of you reading this were instantly triggered just now when I said tradition and worship. It’s okay, you’ll be fine. Some of you are probably thinking that I talk about this too much and some of you probably don’t care.
We should care because our abandonment of tradition is killing the Church. I know that sounds very dramatic, but I want us to consider some things. I base most of this on anecdotal evidence and personal experience. There are some hard facts that I can and probably will quote but, nevertheless. We look around us and lament about how the secular world is so corrupt and lost and blah blah blah. And it is. The secular world is so corrupt and lost and sick that it’s dizzying to watch the pace at which things seem to be disintegrating.
But the Church is no different. I mean, if we’re being honest.
Ok, so some hard facts first. You can find some of these in Kenneth C. Jones’ work Index of Leading Catholic Indicators: The Church Since Vatican II.
In 1958, 74 percent of Catholics attended Sunday Mass. By 2000, that number dropped to 25 percent. In 1965, there were 126,000 adult baptisms. In 2002, there were 80,000 (keep in mind that the population of the world has increased in these years also). In 1965, there were 58,000 priests. In 2002, there were only 45,000 priests. In 1965, there were 1,575 ordinations to the priesthood and in 2002, there were 450 ordinations to the priesthood. In 1965, 1 percent of parishes were without a priest. By 2002, 15 percent of parishes were without a resident priest.
These numbers could go on and on. One of the most shocking is found in a 2019 study published by the Pew Research Center that found that only 31 percent of Catholics believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
Read that again slowly and let it sink in. 69 percent of our brothers and sisters do not believe when Jesus said, “This is my Body” and “This is my Blood,” He meant it. The overwhelming majority of Catholic Christians in the world today do not believe what Jesus Himself taught about the Eucharist.
And we wonder what has happened to the Church.
To be fair, we are the ones who have allowed this. We, the faithful, are the ones who have not only stood by and quietly went along with the slow decline of the Church, but we have actively participated in it. We are to blame. Jesus hasn’t changed His mind about the Church. The Bible hasn’t changed. God the Father hasn’t changed His mind about how things are to be done, how He is to be worshipped.
We have done this.
So, what are we to do?
To be honest, I think some of this is inevitable. Some of this, I believe, is a purgation of the Church. Some of this God has and is allowing to see who will be faithful. But, other than some of this being God’s doing, most of it is our doing.
So, what are we to do?
I think the answer going forward is to go back. With all my heart, I believe the way forward in the Church is to go back to the faith once for all delivered to the saints. We need to return to the traditional beliefs and practices of the Church as she has been and done from the beginning. And this is not a mystery. We know how to do this, and we know what must be done.
Let’s be honest, we don’t want to. We don’t want to because it will be uncomfortable for us and, truth is, we’re really more about our comfort than we are our holiness. We’re more about the status quo and less about obedience to what Jesus has told us we are to do. We would rather be friends with the world than brothers and sisters of our Lord Jesus.
And we wonder what has happened to the Church.
Let us return, with humble hearts, to the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Let us return to the worship of Christ’s Church as the saints before us worshipped. Let us jettison our concerns and insecurities about how the world views us and prostrate ourselves before the throne of our Lord and Saviour. Let us beg His mercy. Let us bring our sacrifice of praise in a proper and holy way befitting His majesty. Let us sing and pray along with our forefathers in the faith. Demand it of ourselves and our priests and bishops. Make no mistake; this will not be easy and demands great courage of us. Cry out to those who will listen that we want to be part of the Church as she has always been, not as the world has tried to make her.
Sometimes the only way forward is to go back to the beginning.