The ‘Mass of Paul VI’ should be called the ‘Modern Mass’. An edifice is called modern because it is built using the recent or modern techniques. And so is the Mass of Paul VI. To say that “the Mass of Paul VI is modern” is no compliment. Because we are speaking of the Mass, the sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, by whom all things were made, by whom men can be saved, in whom all things will come together at the end of the world. This sacrifice was total, because it was mortal, in a word, a true sacrifice. It was total because it was the accomplishment of the ancient sacrifices and is fitting for the entire period of time that remains until the Parousia. For these reasons, the Church watches with pious care over what Archbishop Lefebvre called the “treasure of the Church,” the Mass, the total, in a way absolute sacrifice that in her eyes is the supreme element of the Church’s treasure.
Modern ideas were born progressively between the 14th and 16th centuries in the Western world, and the Catholic Church has from the start been their principal and avowed enemy. The major problem the Vatican II Fathers faced was rather that of inaugurating a new relation between the Church and the world; they sought to leave the conflict behind them and to establish more than an armistice, a peace based on shared views. We constantly come back to Paul VI’s famous speech at the closing of the Council, and how could we not? It was above all in this speech that he joined hands with modernity. We can therefore affirm without fear of error that the Mass of Paul VI was the liturgical complement to the Church’s adaptation to the modern world: a reconciliation with the modern world.
Modernity is a doctrine on man. It therefore has something to say about his substance, about his intelligence, and about his free will.
- On his substance - modernity magnifies man. In this respect, it is a form of humanism.
- On his intelligence- modernity magnifies reason and science according to modern philosophy.
- On man’s freedom- modernity is an apology for freedom and rights.
It is not just a part of modern thought that goes against Catholicism; it is not peripheral, accidental aspects of it; it is its very nature. There is no misunderstanding, they are two entirely opposite viewpoints. This is exactly what we find in the Mass of Paul VI.
First Reason: Humanism
Maintaining that sin is a reality diminishes the quality of man. The Mass is less a praise of man and more a praise of God. Why is the Mass a sacrifice? Because the Mass is a praise of God’s greatness. The humility required in the Mass is what guided the Church to place the words of the humble centurion on the lips of the priest, then the faithful, just before Holy Communion. As for the New Mass, it mixes the glorification of man in with the praise of God and honours the profane. It is simply out of place. It is also a modern-spirited glorification. Take the new form of offertory prayer. God is spoken of as the God common to all religions. The bread is offered only as bread, as a natural thing, the fruit of the earth and of men’s labor. Man’s work is offered to God. With the New Mass, the tendency is to consecrate the work of men that is worthy to be presented to God, as if our activity could be a sacrifice. We remain standing, speak to God on a familiar tone, and offer our bread.
Second Reason: Intelligibility
Desacralization is the result of humanism and simplicity is the result of rationalism. Both are to be found in the use of the vernacular and the abandonment of many sacred rites. As for the rite itself, the contrast is evident. When dealing with mystery, one uses signs, for mystery is supernatural. In the New Mass, simplicity reigns supreme. With Paul VI, the rite is simplified, everything that surrounds it and all the repetitions are abandoned so that the rite can be understood without any preparation. Paul VI completely disregarded this liturgical principle recalled by the Catechism of the Council of Trent (Ch. 20, 9): “Of these rites and ceremonies let none be deemed useless or superfluous; all on the contrary tend to display the majesty of this august sacrifice, and to excite the faithful, by the celebration of these saving mysteries, to the contemplation of the divine things which lie concealed in the eucharistic sacrifice.”
Third Reason: Free Will, Anarchy, and Creativity
With the New Mass, human freedom is magnified. And in the first place, the standards are drastically reduced. With the old Mass, the 270 liturgical gestures had to be learned very exactly and woe to anyone who strayed from the ritual. Everything was codified by the Church. In our days, this goes against human dignity, and therefore the standards have been drastically suppressed. Today, it is very easy to learn to say Mass. We must point out that these abuses and excesses spread universally, as a property of the Novus Ordo, as if the “Mass of Paul VI” lent itself, by its very nature, to these disorders. They belong to a dynamism which seem to go along the very lines of the liturgy of Paul VI.
It is not to say that the Mass of Paul VI is modern in the strong sense of the word. If it was, it would be an agnostic and atheistic Mass, a Mass that denies the supernatural and miracles, a truly libertarian Mass. But, in his effort to reconcile with modernity that was pursued at Vatican II, Paul VI took this effort all the way by creating a liturgy from scratch. It is necessarily modern. It has nothing to do with an ancient Mass, for modernity dates back to the 16th century! In fact, it has sufficiently incorporated humanism with the reign of reason, intelligibility, simplicity, and freedom in multiple aspects that we can say it has ceased to be Catholic.
Condensed by Fr. TX from “Modernity and the New Mass” by Abbé Philippe Toulza, The Angelus, March April 2020, pp 80-84.