Validity, an old chestnut

Last night a friend, Br Tony Jukes SSS, posted a comment on a recent post here with a link to a Youtube video put up by the schismatic Holy Family Monastery in the USA. You can go to that post if you want to find the link to the video in question. Its title gives you all you need to now about its stance:  Why the New Mass and the New Rite of Ordination are Invalid.

After an awful night of hayfever–ruined sleep, I have managed to have a little look at that video this morning. Its narrator, Br Dimond, and his community, I stumbled upon some years back. I do not wish to doubt his sincerity, but I do doubt his theology and understanding of how the Church works.

Not that he has no grounds for legitimate complaint. The post-conciliar Mass of 1969, or <em>Novus Ordo Missae</em>, is the work of a committee, and a highly ideological one at that. It is replete with compromise, ambiguity and a spirit of rationalism that is quite foreign to divine worship. Worship is not so much rational as spiritual. Of course, liturgy is necessarily linked to outward forms, and these are governed by the Church in the light of tradition.

Now, much of the new Mass is difficult to reconcile harmoniously with tradition. Or to put it another way, the Consilium that composed and imposed the new Mass effectively reduced tradition to antiquarianism much of the time, looking almost exclusively to the image of the early Church it had constructed for itself. It seemed to have little time for ritual action, and so consigned most repetitions to the dustbin as “useless”. That is rationalism at work. It is antithetical to the essence of the ritual action of worship. By deciding that many of the actions, gestures and words that had been gradually and organically incorporated within the Latin-rite Mass, and confirmed by St Pius V in 1570, were useless accretions it denied the essential character of liturgy and denied, in effect, the Catholic understanding of Tradition.

The Consilium was able to get its arguments across the line because they accorded so well with the spirit of the 60s. In a world that had not long before endured a horrific world war and lived in a world conditioned by it and enduring the Cold War with totalitarian Communism that was WW2’s legacy, with its omnipresent threat of nuclear holocaust, it was no real surprise that people would look to building a “brotherhood of man” as the basis of peace and security. This, coupled with a secular spirit of rebellion against the authorities that had brought this damocles sword to hang over the world, meant that the ecclesial establishment was subjected to a similar spirit of rebellion, a less violent one that appropriated to itself the name aggiornamento.

So Bro Dimond has much fodder for his cannons. But the bases of his critique seem unsound to me. He effectively denies the authority of the Church to bind and loose in any one generation. He misreads St Pius V’s words in Quo Primum (1570), instituting what we would call now the Usus Antiquor, the Extraordinary Form, or old Mass. So he quotes from it the papal decree that “it shall be unlawful henceforth and forever throughout the Christian world to sing or read Mass according to any formula other than this Missal published by Us”. The “whole Christian world” is a piece of florid rhetorical hyperbole. For the eastern rites were not thereby denied, nor were ancient western rites and forms, such as the Ambrosian rite of Milan, or the rites of the Carthusian or Dominican orders. These were of sufficient antiquity to be allowed to endure. Pope St Pius V was legislating for the Roman Missal, which is not the sum total of liturgy in the Roman Catholic world.

Likewise St Pius V’s equally florid prohibition against any future modification of his Bull, Quo Primum, must be seen in its context. No pope can bind a future pope in matters of ecclesial governance and order. Any dogma enacted by a pope is of course forever binding, but the Roman Missal is not dogmatic in that sense. In fact, as Dr Geoffrey Hull argues in his powerful work, The Banished Heart, it was Trent and St Pius V themselves who laid the groundwork for the post-conciliar liturgical innovations of the 1960s by intruding so comprehensively, as no pope or council had ever done before, into the conduct of the Church’s liturgy.

Of course, this was done with the best of intentions, to safeguard against the abuses that Protestants were seizing upon, sometimes with justification, to attack the Catholic Mass. Likewise, Paul VI and Vatican II were acting in the best interests, as they saw it, of the Church in an increasingly secularised world. In this they both worked in the spirit of Trent! They had the best of intentions, like St Pius V and Trent, but the post-conciliar legislation of both Trent and Vatican II had flaws in their ointment.

Moreover, just as the Protestants were able to point to what were abuses to denigrate the Mass, so too it is easy for Bro Dimond and others to point to the abuses of the new Mass to denigrate it and undermine its legitimacy. Indeed the imagery throughout the video is largely of such abuses (and shocking they are!), and so Bro Dimond reveals himself to be as good a propagandist as the Protestants of the 16th century. And he has shown himself just as ready to do things according to his lights and despite the Church as any Protestant of the 16th century.

This is not the new Mass but an abuse of the new Mass

Ultimately the Church, under the Successor of Peter, has the power to bind and loose in every generation until the consummation of the world. Not everything popes and councils do is guaranteed to be perfect. But Christ never abandons his Church, his Body. So with regard to validity we need to remember the ancient principle of ecclesia supplet, that the Church supplies any deficiency in rite or action if made in good will. And we also need to remember that validity of any sacrament is tied to the intention of the minister to do as the Church does. (I use “minister” because it need not always be a priest, but you would know this of course.)

So Bro Dimond makes much use of Leo XIII’s Apostolicae Curae (1896) which declared Anglican orders null and void because the Anglican ordination rite lacked this intention to do as the Church does when ordaining priests. In the new rite of ordination we see much compromise and minimalism, and it definitely needs revision (it has been, but the revision is not yet in an approved English translation). Yet there can be no doubt that, as the Latin Church’s own rite, it intends to do what the Church does in ordination. Its deficiencies are covered by the principle of ecclesia supplet. Therefore to argue it is invalid is absurd, denying the Church’s power to bind and loose, and that Christ has abandoned his Church.

Likewise the same goes for the new Mass. For all it deficiencies, and its propensity to be so easily abused, it satisfies the minimum required for validity in its form, and as the Church’s own liturgy it obviously intends to do as the Church does and has always done, to renew the sacrifice of the Cross for the salvific nourishment of the faithful. The Church supplies for its deficiencies. Where individual priests or communities move beyond these rites and legitimate options therein (of which, it must be said, there are now far too many!) they have moved beyond the Church’s liturgy into their own self-manufactured one, and so validity then becomes highly doubtful. But that is precisely because they are not following the approved liturgical rites. When we follow the rites and their rubrics we manifest our intention to do as the Church does in the liturgy.

Mass as envisaged by the new Missal

In the current papacy some have decided that a return to liturgical creativity is now legitimate. But I really doubt that Pope Francis would agree. His tinkerings with the washing of feet on Mandy Thursday hardly touch the essence of the Mass, and he shows little desire to depart from the rites of Mass as laid out in the Missal when he celebrates.

As argued in an earlier post, some of the changes introduced in practice are not even required by the modern Missal, such as facing the people during the Eucharistic Prayer. Nor is Communion in the Hand. The modern Missal assumes that the priest is facing East, and that Communion is on the tongue. There was of course permission given for the option to face the people, and an limited indult for Communion in the hand. Both have had dire consequences for the worthy celebration of the modern liturgy, and are foreign even to the new Mass. The failure here is in the pastors not in the Church herself.

This is not actually mandated by the new Mass

Some have a clear idea of the remedy for liturgical abuse and poor attendance at Mass. But the claim that the new Mass and its post-conciliar priests are invalid cannot be part of that solution. The first step surely is to celebrate the liturgy according to the rubrics laid down by the Church, to do in fact as the Church intends to do.

Normal programming will be resumed shortly.


10 thoughts on “Validity, an old chestnut

  1. Try Benadryl for your hay fever. The regular caps that one takes every 8 hours are the best. I know. I’ve suffered all my life and this is the only thing that works. Amazing you can still concentrate to write such good posts. Thank You!


  2. Benadryl actually has an opposite effect on me–leaving me more agitated and unable to sleep at all—but playing with the dose can be a remedy—They make a non drowsy form to be taken during the day—you may want to try that one first to see if it helps with the sneezing, congestion etc…
    And as for all this changing in the service and the mass itself—I think you hit on something there at the end when you talk about how to boost the poor attendance to mass—-when things such as attendance or participation start to wane and take a hit, for whatever reason, as the faithful begin to wander away—those who remain “in charge” become desperate to try and lure the wayward back—thinking that tweaking things, making things more user friendly could be instrumental–bending everything to the whim of the masses—another example of yielding to this culture of the feel good, fun and whatever goes…
    The Church is the last bastion of hope in this world of ours—she need not assume jumping ship can save the drowning..
    Here’s to some rest Father!


    1. Indeed when things go awry we too often seek to change anything but the right thing. Usually that change goes along the path of least resistance.

      Back to get a little more shut-eye (yes, I know it is the afternoon, but I am exhausted). How can such a beautiful time of year have such a sting in its tail?!


      Liked by 1 person

  3. Validity seems like an awfully technical phrase removed from what I’d think are everyone’s highly invested emotions. The mass is hot! It’s sexy! It’s making people get fired up! And to talk about it “validity,” like its some sort of equation


    1. I suspect you are trolling, but in case you are not I can only wonder aloud as to what sort of Mass you attend.

      Validity is a dry subject when seen out of its context, but essentially it is about, as it were, truth in advertising: does it do what it says on the box? In the case of the new Mass: is this the sacrifice of Christ truly re-presented for us and our salvation?

      The answer is yes, and that is important, indeed crucial.



      1. It’s not a troll–I’ve just been around long enough to see and note the difference in how people talk about the mass. I remember oh, well, not even that long ago people wouldn’t know how to speak of a valid mass unless maybe you were some dusty systematic theologian.

        I didn’t mean to offend, I just find it interesting.


      2. You are right that not too long ago the idea of the validity of a Mass would never have entered normal Massgoers’ minds. It was never in question. It was the same Mass as that enjoyed by most of their favourite saints. Their church was part of the Catholic Church. Product and brand were trusted and accepted without thought.

        For most that question would still not enter their minds if only because their local church is still part of the Catholic Church. But for others who think about the changes, their rationale and their actual effects, this question could easily come to mind. This Mass is so different, they might think, and so many Catholics have ceased to go since its introduction, they might ask why. Is this Mass the same product as before in different packaging; or is it a radically new product?

        For these people validity becomes a, well, valid question. The difference is either in the packaging alone, or in the product as well. If the latter, then we have problems. If the former, then we can grit our teeth if necessary and carry on, and hope that the packaging will soon be improved!



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