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Friday, November 8, 2013

What Has Happened to the Catholic Mass?

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Why Does This  Lutheran Service Why Does This Lutheran Service

A Letter from a Recent Lutheran Convert

Dear Folks at The Remnant:

I've been a lurker to your website for a while, and a subscriber to your fine newspaper for a few months now. Your paper has been a continual source of clarity and....well, sanity. 

You mentioned in a recent YouTube shtick (it was with Matt and Ferrara), that you were going to devote future YouTube conversations to the problem of the New Mass. It made me think of my own case.



I'm a recent convert to Catholicism from 'confessional' (read: traditionalist) Lutheranism, and it's been disillusioning being on this side of the Tiber. Being raised confessional Lutheran, I of course know my Lutheran catechism very well (I could probably recite most of it by memory even now), and for that reason, I find the Paul VI Rite bizarre. In the New Mass, there's nothing particularly Catholic-specific about the content of the orations. If anything, it seems rather 'neutral' and 'happy' in tone, in that not only is it purged of Catholic-specific dogma, but references to sin, death, hell, Satan's works, and the warring angels, have been omitted. 

By comparison, my old Lutheran Mass's orations were chalk full of allusions to this 'hard' stuff. 

Moreover, some of the words in the new Mass's Canon—including the 'Blessed are you Lord' prayer, strike my former Lutheran ears as doctrinally suspect. My Lutheran friends find that prayer especially weird, and they argue that it cheapens the Real Presence. I have a hard time disagreeing. At the very least, no confessional Lutheran pastor would ever say such a prayer before the consecration in a Lutheran Mass. No. Way.

Compare this with the Traditional Latin Mass—the Mass that Luther objected to and which was the foil for my own childhood catechesis. Most prayers in this older Mass contain doctrines and ideas that are highly offensive to my former Lutheran ears—propitiatory sacrifice, the merits of the saints, purgation, etc. All over the place in the changing orations of this Mass, you find ideas and doctrines that make me think, "Yeah, there's no way I could pray this as a Lutheran. Way too Catholic." I hardly ever think that when I read/hear the orations of the new mass.

Add to this the fact that the Old Mass has that great Eucharistic Prayer in the Canon ("Accept, O Holy Father, Almighty and Eternal God, this spotless host...), which is totally offensive to Lutherans. That prayer, of course, was axed from the New Mass. 

Bonkers, from my perspective. I just don't get it. So there's a weird irony for this former confessional Lutheran.

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Certainly, a confessional Lutheran has to avoid the old Mass like the plague, in that it is chalk full of doctrines that are, for a Lutheran, Catholic-specific (read: heretical). Then again, the Paul VI rite is also unsuitable for Lutheran worship; but ironically, this isn't because it contains Catholic-specific dogma (because it doesn't), but because it it's too soft on sin, hell, the warring angels, and the evil work of Satan. 

Then, of course, there's the way a new Mass is 'celebrated'. Some of my old Lutheran friends talk about how the Catholic church 'jumped the shark' at Vatican II, and it shows in the way the new Mass is offered.

Imagine a confessional Lutheran kid today, learning his catechism, visits a Novus Ordo Mass for the first time. In addition to hearing the 'neutral' and 'happy' prayers, this young Lutheran kid will see things he's never seen before in his own Lutheran church: people standing for communion receiving in the hand, chatty and irreverent priests and laity, ad-libbing, altar girls, lay readers (including women), disposable hymnals, lay administers of communion, priests walking around the sanctuary during the sermon, and loud and obnoxious cantors (singing a lame responsorial psalm from the pulpit, no less!).  

He'll also notice that, as compared to his own Lutheran church that sees Zwingli as an enemy, the Catholic church he is visiting seems purged of icons and crucifixes. Moreover, here at the Catholic church, none of the men have suits and ties on, and everyone is talking before Mass begins. And yes: lots of bad, bad, idiotically bad, insultingly horrendously bad, dear-God-how-is-it-possible-for-it-to-be-this-bad? bad, music. Insanely bad. Our young Lutheran visitor finds it odd that he knows by heart more hymns by Thomas Aquinas than these Catholics do.

At any rate, our young Lutheran visitor is sorely confused after attending his first Catholic Mass. As it turns out, his little confessional Lutheran church is by far the most 'conservative' and 'traditional' church in town. 

Most strangely, our young Lutheran visitor finds the Catholics to be heretics. Yet, these Catholics don't want to return the compliment. 'Oh, same difference!' they say to him. 

Now, back to the fact that you guys are a source of sanity for me. As a convert (who gets the 'same difference' line constantly upon mentioning that I'm a convert), I'm always interested to get Catholic opinion on these changes. But on most major Catholic blogs and media outlets, the answer I get is that I'm a 'radical traditionalist' simply because I suggest that there are huge discrepancies between the two Masses, or because I don't understand why they would introduce such lame music, or because I think that the new Mass is doctrinally weak. Thing is, I don't usually attend a traditional Latin Mass. It's too far away. And anyway, I'm new to this Catholic thing. I don't really know what it means to be a traditionalist. I'm still learning. 

I'm just wanting people to see that something really weird is going on in the prayers of the new Mass. Given that I'm new, I figured I'd be able to get some easy answers to my confusions from seasoned Catholics. But no one seems to care...even if they agree with me (and they usually don't). The issue, I'm told, is with me. I've been told that I'm a heretic, moreover, because I don't accept the idea that everything is totally fine. 


What a relief to find The Remnant! You seem to be saying many of the things I'm thinking. It's nice to know my intuitions aren't off base.  At any rate, I thought of this all, given your mention of a talk on the Mass in a future YouTube broadcast. 

Best, and thanks for what you do. Sorry for writing a book here.

...A Remnant Reader




Last modified on Friday, November 8, 2013