If one steps back in time, a cursory glance at the life of Archbishop Lefebvre will prove informative because it shows that we have been here before. The Archbishop’s treatment by the Vatican in the 1970s and 1980s demonstrates conclusively that there was (and there still is) a state of war between the pre-conciliar and post-conciliar Church.
It seems that Rome and SSPX both see the New Mass as representing a new religion (as strongly implied by Cardinal Roche very recently). This new religion, in the eyes of Rome, is desirable to such an extent that they want to suppress the old religion. As Pope Francis has said, the New Mass is the ‘Lex Orandi’ of the new religion. He freely admits to this and the SSPX agrees with this analysis. The difference being that the SSPX promotes the old religion. It is really two sides of the same coin, isn’t it?
Reading many of the statements of Pope Francis one gets the doctrines of the new religion: that the Catholic Church exists merely as a force for good in this world. Indeed, in much of his prolific output, the supernatural – by which I mean death, judgement, Heaven and Hell – barely get a mention.
I hasten to add that if the Church returned to its divine mandate to save souls then the world would become a much better place. But the abandonment of the Old Mass, which I will now refer to as the True Mass, has resulted in the drying up of supernatural grace, leaving a pitiful scrapyard of destroyed institutions, record absenteeism from church and clerical vice. Knowledge of the Faith is at an all-time low to such a degree that even bishops and priests commit basic errors. The enfeeblement of the Catholic Church has also led to the corruption of the world at large, evidenced by record abortions, wholesale immorality and pointless conflicts. Now that God’s law is ignored, the human race is governed by emotion alone and this leads to the denial of independent truth. Every man is now his own god.
I read TLM apologists defending the Mass for all sorts of reasons. Yes, one would be mad not to be affected by its beauty and dignity. Very seldom do these people criticise the Novus Ordo unless they complain about the abuses. The abuses in the New Mass are regrettable but the implication is often present that if the Novus Ordo is said ‘reverently’ then it will be fine to attend it. Of course, one cannot criticise the New Mass without upsetting the bishops whose goodwill is essential for the survival of the True Mass in their dioceses. The main problem with the New Mass is that it was designed by a liturgist who publicly stated that everything had been removed from the ceremony which was offensive to Protestants. Because there is such a focus on the validity of the New Mass, there seems to be a blindness to see that the results have poisoned the Church.
The True Mass contains all the doctrines of the Catholic Church in which Christ sacrifices himself to His heavenly Father at the hands of the priest, who is anonymous. This is the crux of the matter and the diminution of these doctrines in the new rite make it almost indistinguishable from the Protestant communion service. It is the chief prayer of the Church and it is no wonder that the current authorities wish to destroy it, as did the Protestant reformers. It is also noteworthy that every Atheistic government has tried to banish it. The True Mass is a sign of contradiction as Our Lord promised and above all it rains on the parade of the Liberals who are desperate to pursue their own worldly agenda. For them it has to be banned and no effort will be spared to achieve this. The Modernists in the Church are no doubt organising one more final push and I expect that they will completely ban priests from celebrating the True Mass. It is not unreasonable to assume that the current restriction on the use of parish churches provides loopholes which they will plug in the fullness of time.
So Catholics who love the True Mass are now faced with the same dilemma as the Archbishop faced in 1976, except that for Lefebvre it was no dilemma and he saw his Catholic duty as a bishop quite plainly. I can see that there is much anxiety around the statements of Cardinal Roche but perhaps contemplating disobedience is a big thing to ask from priests and faithful for whom the idea of breaking with Rome goes completely against the grain. For so long many, but not all, have criticised SSPX for their ‘schism’ or ‘disobedience’ but now they themselves will have to make the fateful choice. I remember when my wife and I went to our first ‘disobedient’ Mass with SSPX in Bath. The hostility from our family, friends and other Catholics in our former parish was overwhelming. Nowadays abandoning your parish church for an illicit True Mass isn’t so shocking in many places because the Catholic community spirit has been severely depleted thanks to the huge amount of lapsations.
The biggest dilemma faces Priests who, up to now, have said both the Novus Ordo and the True Mass habitually. In the past, the altar might have to be hastily re-covered following a True Mass when the priest would re-enter the sanctuary a few minutes later to celebrate a completely different feast in the new rite. It is hard to understand how the same priest can say both rites if, as the Vatican now asserts, they represent contrary religions. They need our prayers now more than ever.
The prospect of wholesale disobedience, as proposed by a few publications, is unlikely to materialise although I think that a few diocesan priests may wish to soldier on with the True Mass. The point is that they must take action! They must gather their faithful to them and explain what they propose to do and ask their friends to support them through the problems with accessing money, accommodation and chapel facilities. If they do this I know that God will reward them, as he has rewarded countless priests who have done the same thing in the past. It is worth having a look at the short film about Father Oswald Baker, the parish priest of Downham Market. This man was devoted to his priestly duties and his congregation supported him to the full.
I cannot claim to speak for the Society of St Pius X but there could be obstacles for any priests joining the Society: many would possibly be deterred from doing so partly because they would see the lifestyle of SSPX priests as unattractive (there is a lot of driving around as they operate a kind of spiritual ambulance service). But in the United States many priests have found a way of leaving their parishes to work with the Society, gaining moral and spiritual support from the SSPX but without actually becoming members. Perhaps this is the way forward?
Joseph Bevan is the father of ten children and lives in Dover, United Kingdom. He has been a corporate financial adviser for most of his working life and now that all his offspring have flown the nest he is spending his time reading, practising the piano and playing Scrabble with his wife, Clare.