The following post will address whether traditional Catholics, fully aware of the crisis in the Church, ought to attend Traditional Masses said under the diocese or the Ecclesia Dei Commission. This topic is important because many traditionalists are willing to freely attend Traditional Masses almost anywhere with the justification that “it’s the Mass”. They will often flip-flop between attendance at, for example, an SSPX chapel and a diocesan church for often truly mysterious reasons.
This post is suggested to be read alongside my previous article this week(https://damselofthefaith.wordpress.com/2017/05/01/fssp-german-superior-compromises-on-tradition-in-interview/). I will begin by summarizing some key points from our previous post titled “Errors of Vatican II”:
“In order to obtain a proper perspective on this great crisis in the Church, it is necessary to know precisely its root cause. The root cause is thus: Modernist errors being promoted “underground” since St. Pius X’s pontificate quickly gained acceptance or submission throughout virtually the entire Church as a result of the ambiguities and errors of the Second Vatican Council, the main fruit of which was the New mass.
This can be easily confused, however, because of the common “conservative”(but not fully traditional) Catholic mindset. The “conservative” position essentially proposes that although there are some worrisome statements and ideas spreading in the Church, even now with the aid of Pope Francis himself(or maybe not), Vatican II and the New mass are fine as long as they are both interpreted correctly. At most, there might be a few ambiguous sentences here and there, but a Catholic should simply interpret them correctly. After all, how could the Holy Ghost have allowed error? Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI are recognized as shining examples of orthodoxy; if only the Bishops under them would not have been so liberal.
Surely, dear readers, this may be a good start for a Catholic on the beginning of his journey towards Tradition, but he has not quite arrived at the full truth. The fact of the matter is that Vatican II was convened as a “pastoral” Council, not a dogmatic one. It has no binding, dogmatic force in itself. The Holy Ghost does not necessarily protect such a Council from error, especially if he is shunned by many of its participants. Modernist, Freemasonic errors were in fact proposed by “progressive” clergy and, in the end, included in the Council documents. Every priest, bishop, and cardinal in the world was subsequently under heavy pressure to accept these documents with most of them unfortunately accepting or at least keeping silent. In reality, there were only a few clergy who openly confronted this revolution. Many put themselves under the guidance and training of Abp. Lefebvre, who would form the Society of St. Pius X and establish many traditional monasteries and convents. Others would remain faithful inside the diocesan structures, although often having to perform their priestly duties in a more “independent” manner. All of these brave priests and bishops were constantly under attack for their providential stand. May God bless, reward, and love them forever!
This perspective is also relevant since there are many traditional-leaning Orders in the Church who offer the Traditional Mass and more substantial doctrine, but had to accept all of Vatican II and the New Mass to be received “in full communion with Rome”. On paper, the priests in these Orders cannot protest these errors and must remain, at least for the most part, silent on them.”
The question now to be answered is whether traditional Catholics may attend Masses of priests in this situation. A couple of distinctions should briefly be addressed:
Some diocesan priests unfortunately approve various conciliar abuses straight from the Novus Ordo to be implemented in their Traditional Masses. One common example is the giving of Communion in the hand. Most of these novelties are sacrilegious and objectively a grave offense against God. The situation described here is often hardly better than that of the New mass. Traditional Catholics should definitely avoid attending these Masses, with the exception of passive attendance when allowed.
A few priests have managed to remain in the “official” Church structures and still oppose Vatican II and the New mass. These priests often face heavy persecution from their liberal bishops and are subsequently forced to work “independently” due to illegal “suspensions”, while still remaining attached to their diocese or religious community. Traditional Catholics may usually certainly attend the Masses of these good priests.
What then of the “middle ground” between these two sides? To answer this question, some reliable Catholic sources will be consulted.
First, a general overview from SSPX U.S. District:
The problem with motu proprio Masses
The motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum, officially ended the canonical struggle over the traditional Roman Mass—but is this the end of the fight for the Mass of All Time?
Since the motu proprio of 2007, Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict XVI changed the juridical situation of the Mass stating that the traditional Mass has never been abrogated.
Thanks to this statement, the Mass has been reestablished as a universal law of the Church and can no longer be considered as prohibited or even as an exception: unfortunately, the expression “extraordinary form” used in themotu propio is misleading. Rome pretends that there are now two usages of the same Roman Rite: “both are the expression of the same lex orandi—rule of prayer—of the Church” (n.6).
Cardinal Stickler wrote in 2004 on the intervention of Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci:
The analysis of the Novus Ordo made by these two cardinals has lost none of its value nor, unfortunately, of its relevance…. The results of the reform are considered by many today to be devastating… they discovered very quickly that the change of the rites led to a fundamental change of doctrine.”
And the SSPX seriously questions, if not its validity in principle, then at least the “legitimacy of the Holy Mass or the Sacraments celebrated in the forma ordinaria” (n.19), since it is so difficult, as Cardinal Ottaviani had already noted in 1969, to consider the Mass of St. Pius V and that of Paul VI to be in the same “apostolic and unbroken tradition” (no. 3).
The document is contradictory in that it excludes those priests who are most attached to the traditional Mass and refuse to be bi-ritual. The contradiction is shown also in the exclusion of the old rite of priestly ordination although this point flies in the face of the principle recalled in n. 3 concerning adherence to “the usages universally handed down by apostolic and unbroken tradition.”
Practically-speaking, the bishops continue to limit the celebration of the traditional Mass by seeking to grant a permission which is no longer necessary, oftentimes in addition to other arbitrary conditions. Thus as we pray that the “Mass of All Time” may be given quickly the monopoly it should never have lost in the Latin Church, nevertheless we cannot but give a strong warning against the regular attendance at such diocesan masses under the present circumstances.
Are we not open to the generalization of the old Mass? Yes, of course, but in the terms of the non-ambiguous condemnation of the New Mass and of the errors of Vatican II which is preached boldly over many of today’s pulpits.
We cannot but feel taken aback as we see the two altars, old and new clashing in the sanctuary and the server extinguishing the candles of the Novus Ordo table to light those of the altar behind!
Certainly we cannot counsel our faithful to regularly participate in the Masses celebrated by priests of dubious doctrinal orthodoxy, even when offered reverentially. We must also warn them to not receive Holy Communion from a ciborium consecrated in the Novus Ordo Missae—for this is the Sacrament of unity and we cannot be in union with a theologically-deficient rite! There is also the constant danger of a strange confusion of rite and improper behavior which is so common in the mainstream churches and their accompanying irreverent rites.
For these reasons and so many others which you will easily discover even from occasional visits to your local motu proprio Mass or in talking with “conciliar trads”, why we think it is not advisable to regularly attend the “extraordinary form” offered by the diocese or under the aegis of the Ecclesia Dei Commission. After all, we have not been fighting for over 40 years against the modernist tsunami, only to be washed away by an ebb tide.”
A further explanation from Fr. Peter Scott and Abp. Marcel Lefebvre:
WHAT OUGHT TRADITIONAL CATHOLICS TO DO?
But, you might say, surely we can attend these Masses. They will be traditional Masses. They are not Indult Masses, for they no longer presume a special indult or permission, but are based upon the correct principle that the traditional rite was never abrogated. The Motu proprio itself does not attach any explicit and unacceptable conditions, as did the Indult. This delicate question can be resolved on two levels, one doctrinal and one liturgical. The first consideration is doctrinal. If we have won a battle for the celebration of the true Mass, we have not yet won it with respect to the profession of the true Faith, uncontaminated by the errors of Vatican II. Our attendance at Mass must be a profession of this true Faith, whole and entire. Hence the obligation of assisting at the Masses of those priests who stand up against the errors of Vatican II and refuse the idea of “non rupture”.
The second consideration is liturgical. Benedict XVI assures the Novus Ordo bishops of their ultimate control:“Nothing is taken away, then, from the authority of the Bishop…the local Ordinary will always be able to intervene”. Furthermore, he encourages the assistance at each of the two opposed rites. In fact, he goes so far as to propose that they be mixed in the same celebration, a confusing desecration not even permitted under the Indult: “For that matter, the two forms of the usage of the Roman rite can be mutually enriching: new Saints and some of the new Prefaces can and should be inserted in the old Missal.” The mind boggles at the consequences of such a principle, the practical application of which the Ecclesia Dei commission is supposed to study. The principle of alternating and mixing celebrations seems important to the Pope to establish non rupture between the two “uses”. However, it would inevitably greatly weaken the traditional Faith and the convictions of the faithful. It is for this reason that Archbishop Lefebvre, when giving profound reasons why our faithful ought not to attend the Indult Mass, pointed out that they must not attend the traditional Masses of those priests who still celebrate the New Mass, and who are not determined to combat the evils of the New Mass. These were his precise words in 1985:
“Generally speaking, we counsel the faithful against attending the Mass of those priests who have abandoned the combat against the New Mass. It is much to be feared that one day they will be obliged by their bishop to also celebrate the New Mass, to celebrate both Mass, and even to concelebrate, to accept giving Communion in the hand and of celebrating Mass facing the people. All of these things are entirely repugnant to us, and that is the reason why we counsel the faithful not at attend the Masses of these priests…As for us, it is always the same advice: we think that one ought not to go to these Masses because it is dangerous to affirm that the New Mass is just as good as the old one.” (Quoted in La messe de toujours, p. 431)
These words apply absolutely literally to the situation of Masses celebrated by non-traditional priests in parishes under this Motu proprio. As much good as such Masses will certainly do for those who are still in the NovusOrdo, and as much as we ought to encourage our Novus Ordo acquaintances to request their celebration, so much ought our faithful not to attend, even if they have no other Sunday Mass available. It would be an unacceptable compromise to attend the Masses of priests of the new rite, who celebrate and administer sacraments according to the new rite, or who are at least willing to do so. It would be precisely to cooperate in the Holy Father’s iniquitous policy of a reconciliatory non-rupture, a clever way to mix a little honey with the bitter pill of Vatican II, so that we might swallow it down without even realizing it.
Let not these realistic considerations, however, dampen the gratitude that Bishop Fellay requests that we have towards Almighty God first, and Archbishop Lefebvre second, who have permitted this victory. The Good Lord will bring much more good out of it than we could imagine, and will draw souls to the unchanging truth of Catholic Tradition.”
There may be some exceptions to this general rule. One possible exception might be to encourage a prelate who is literally on the cusp of embracing full Tradition. Some Catholics protest this position, noting that the only Traditional Masses accessible to them from their hometown(long-term) are Motu Proprio Masses. For those in this situation, it is recommended to seek the advice of a trusted Traditional priest and above all to use good Catholic common sense in satisfying their Sunday duty.
Many traditional Catholics will criticize this entire approach, saying that we must tone down any “rhetoric” to be charitable to our traditional brothers. This Sept. 1990 quote from Abp. Lefebvre refutes this objection: “’After all, we must be charitable, we must be kind, we must not be divisive, after all, they are celebrating the Tridentine Mass, they are not as bad as everyone says’–but they are betraying us! They are shaking hands with the Church’s destroyers, with people holding modernist and liberal ideas condemned by the Church. So they are doing the devil’s work.” Charity, yes, but compromise with the ‘conciliar’ church, no!
On this “unity” advocated for, which the SSPX and the Ecclesia Dei Orders already possess in reality, this is an excellent piece by Angelus Press’ Mark Riddle:
“In a recent article, a traditional Catholic blogger made a call for what can only be described as a superficial unity among the two camps in the traditional Catholic movement – those aligned with the Society of St. Pius X, and those aligned with the Ecclesia Dei communities, which themselves grew out of the first camp (in most cases).
We must ask ourselves, first presented with such a call, to what unity is the author appealing? It can’t be a unity of worship – this is present already as both camps celebrate the immemorial Mass exclusively, at least theoretically (though admittedly the understanding and defense of that Mass differs greatly). It can’t be a unity of governance – despite the arguments given against the Society, it is beyond dispute that both sides are firmly in the bosom of the Church, and are in union with the Sovereign Pontiff and the hierarchy throughout the world. Finally, it can’t be a question of the unity of doctrine, because while the defense of the Faith differs in both degree and kind between the two camps, neither accuses the other, at a structural level, of heterodoxy.
So, if the two camps already share the unity of fellow Catholics, and it would be foolish to deny that they do, what kind of unity is sought?
It would seem the unity for which he calls is a sort of détente between the two camps – a “you’re OK, I’m OK” approach to the traditional Catholic movement (term used for lack of a better one). In this concept, both camps are positively ordained by God to the roles which they currently play: The Society to play the role of “bad cop” ever presenting to Rome the Church’s perennial teachings to help prevent further doctrinal chaos, the Ecclesia Dei communities to present to Rome – and the average Catholic in the pew – a picture of the vibrancy of Tradition from within normal canonical life. And yet, this is little more than a false oasis. Take a closer look and as the clouds move and the light shifts, the Edenic vision fades leaving behind nothing but desert sand. It is all an illusion.
While I stated above – and it would be difficult to deny – that both camps share a unity of doctrine – neither ascribing openly or at the organizational level to any non-Catholic doctrine, we must ask – is there a correct approach to the present crisis gripping the Church?
From the founding of the Society of St. Pius X and the affiliated groups aligned for Tradition, there was a relatively coherent and united approach – defend the True Faith against those who would abandon and attack it, even to the point of rebuking prelates, even the Sovereign Pontiff when his actions were objectively opposed to the perennial teaching of the Church.
This defense of the Faith required both this “negative” approach – condemning scandal and error for the sake of the faithful, and constantly, a “positive” approach – promoting the constant teaching of the Church, especially when it came to the rights of Our Lord Jesus Christ, so trampled by ecumenism and religious liberty.
This defense culminated in an earthquake – the canonically illegal and morally reprehensible “suspension” of 1976. But this is the key point. For 12 years, from then until the consecrations of bishops by Archbishop Lefebvre, his sons remained with him. Let us consider the consequences of that for a moment.
These same priests who today reject the validity of the confessions heard and marriages witnessed by the Society, were themselves hearing confession and witnessing marriages, all the while operating under the appearance of a suspension a divinis.
Today, those same priests who argue that the Society acts disobediently, that the Society’s lack of canonical regularity (through no fault of its own) is itself a crime worthy of condemnation, operated for over a decade “disobediently” and “without canonical regularity.”
It was the consecrations that separated them from the Archbishop. Until then they followed him in his fight for the Faith. That was a bridge too far. All good and well – at least from the perspective of the article in question – assuming those same priests maintained their defense of the Faith – warning the faithful of the grave scandal which ever more emanates from the Sovereign Pontiff and the hierarchy who assist him in the Church’s governance.
But that this is not the case is evident to everyone! Where was the public defense of the Faith in light of the later Assisi meetings? Where the cry to the faithful against the erroneous push for religious liberty among the U.S. Bishops? One priestly society in the “Ecclesia Dei camp” even takes its young faithful to the scandalous World Youth Days held every few years[SC- The Author may be referring to this: https://www.remnantnewspaper.com/Archives/archive-2005-1015-world_youth_day.htm ].
Shared parishes, silence on doctrinal matters, participation in diocesan events, money to diocesan ventures contrary to the Faith: the list goes on forever.
To be clear, this is a painful piece to write. I am personally grateful and happy for the work done by the priests of these groups in promoting the traditional Mass, and in exposing many of the faithful throughout the world to the beauties of true Catholic liturgical life. The solid moral foundation offered by these priests is a balm to souls in an ecclesial environment gone mad, but let us at least be honest with one another.
There is no point in pretending that “I’m okay – you’re okay.” The Society and those orders aligned with it have maintained a constant defense of the Faith for 40+ years, weathering the abuse of prelates and false friends, to this day continually attacked for refusing to burn incense in front of the modernist gods of religious liberty, ecumenism, and collegiality. Deo Gratias. It is the will of God, and God will determine when He will end this crisis.
But let us not pretend that soldiers who have gone into a retreat are fighting the same battle as those holding the line. If they were, the situation would be much different.
Please God, the day may soon come when all may stand together in the fight. Today, sadly, that is not the case.”
H.E. Bp. Bernard Fellay: “First of all, all the Ecclesia Dei members understand that if we would not have had bishops, they would not exist. Directly or indirectly, they depend on the Society’s life. That is very, very clear. And now the fruits of their apostolates are totally subjected to the good will of the local bishops. They drastically limit any solid desire to establish traditional Catholic life by limiting the possibilities of the apostolate in that direction. They are obliged to mix with the novelties of Vatican II, the world, and the Novus Ordo. This is the great difference between the Society and Ecclesia Dei groups.
I do see that some Ecclesia Dei groups are getting closer to us. This is definitely not all of them, though.”
A few other highly recommended resources: