Thoughts on a Thought Experiment

Our senior editor, Drew Belsky, already offered his thoughts on why he chose to run this morning’s piece, which ruffled some feathers. Because I believe that the value in something like this is in the discussion that follows, I’ve decided to give mine as well.

About a week ago, we received an offer from the fellow who runs the website Whispers of Restoration to reprint a piece he had written on the Mass. The author, who writes anonymously due to the nature of his professional work, provides excellent resources to the faithful through both his blog and his education-focused website. We have reprinted him several times before. He does very good work.

In his email, he wrote that his latest post might “help some folks connect the dots a bit.”

I wasn’t able to get to it right away, but pretty soon, I started seeing the post turn up in various places on social media. I clicked on it and was taken for a bit of a ride.

The piece, which we published here this morning under the headline “Shock: Pope to Celebrate New Rite of Mass at Closing of Youth Synod,” creates in the reader an immediate sense of alarm. The author writes:

After wielding what appears for all the world to be a Wiccan stang at the opening Mass of the Synod, the pope has announced that he will celebrate a new form of Mass at its conclusion – a liturgy that priests, bishops, cardinals, and theologians are denouncing as barely recognizable as a Catholic rite.

This is really bad.

Earlier this summer, one of Pope Francis’s advisers elicited justifiably strong reactions after affirming that this pope “breaks Catholic traditions whenever he wants,” welcoming the same as a “new phase” of Church history in which the faithful are no longer to follow Christ per the dictates of Scripture and Tradition, but are rather to be “ruled by an individual” without any moorings at all [1].

In reading the article further, those informed about the liturgical changes that have happened over the past half-century begin to recognize the contours of a rhetorical Trojan horse. Familiar quotes begin to assert themselves, such as this commentary on the new order of Mass from the pope:

We must prepare for this many-sided inconvenience. It is the kind of upset caused by every novelty that breaks in on our habits. We shall notice that pious persons are disturbed most, because they have their own respectable way of hearing Mass, and they will feel shaken out of their usual thoughts and obliged to follow those of others. Even priests may feel some annoyance in this respect. […] This novelty is no small thing.”

This is, in fact, a real comment from the pope on the new Mass. It is, however, not from this pope. It is from Pope Paul VI, taken from his address to a general audience on November 26, 1969, on the eve of the Novus Ordo Missae – the new rite of Mass, known to most people in the contemporary Church as the “Novus Ordo” or the “ordinary form.”

Other clues are sprinkled throughout. The description of Bugnini’s consilium. The quote from the late Jean Guitton, a French philosopher and theologian and well known friend of Pope Paul VI. A critical quote lifted directly from The Ottaviani Intervention. Perhaps most telling of all, we see a clarity of thought in the various quotes that is utterly absent from much of the liturgical discourse (or papal statements) in 2018.

But the author of the piece is careful in his exposition. He does not reveal his conceptual sleight of hand until nearly the end, when he writes:

Let’s try putting that in layman’s terms:

This is happening. Sit down and shut up. Hail the Revolution.

Awake Yet?

If you aren’t already nodding your head with sad recognition and understanding, you may want to brace yourself: for, although accurate, some of the news items above aren’t exactly recent.

The New Mass that Pope Francis will celebrate at the end of the Youth Synod this month was created fifty years ago. It was crafted and imposed on the Church by one of his predecessors – that hapless innovator he now claims to have “canonized,” Pope Paul VI: a man whose sanctity is far from certain, still farther from exemplary(and about as “miraculous” as an inaccurate medical diagnosis), and at whose feet must be laid (among other things) the single greatest catastrophe in Church history: the near total replacement of the Roman Rite of Mass with a novel, modernist construct – an attempted abortion of liturgical tradition.

If you were born after 1965, Paul VI’s impious New Mass – the Novus Ordo Missae – is likely the only rite for the offering of the Holy Sacrifice that you have ever known. It’s just as likely that you were never told its true history (although much of this is now public record, which one might explore here), so you can be forgiven for not walking out of it years ago.

It is at this point that the reader realizes that he has been tricked.

It is important to recognize that the trick is not a malicious one. It is not a lie. Everything in the piece is accurate. Factual. Yet it is designed to appear new, to provide the reader an experience of what it would be like to face such an abrupt and arbitrary change to the liturgy – a change most of us don’t remember, because we were either too young or not even born.

Why We Ran the Piece

The comments on the piece, both here and on social media, have been mixed. Lots of people clearly didn’t read the whole piece, thus missing the reveal. Many of our readers are angry. They feel misled. Some think  the piece damages our credibility as a publication. I understand their concerns, because I entertained them before I let the piece run, and I discussed them with our editor. There’s always a certain amount of risk involved when you try something unconventional.

To be quite honest, I agree that people should be angry. I just happen to think their anger is misplaced. The target of their anger should be those who did exactly what the article describes, not those who found a way to present it in a way that penetrates confirmation bias and allows the reader in 2018 to experience a hint of what Catholics around the world were forced to endure in 1969. The difference between us and the Vatican is that we let our readers in on the gag at the end. The Catholic Church has never woken up from the sick joke that was the liturgical revolt, and many of the faithful left, never to return.

I have been actively engaged in the defense of my faith for 25 years, much of which has been spent online, but as I’ve written about before, I’ve also taught religion classes, led youth groups, and done missionary work for evangelization. No matter what the venue, one area of Catholic discourse that seems to be an interminable quagmire is the debate over liturgy. It’s an argument nobody ever wins. The same arguments and quotes are constantly put on the board. Around and around in circles we go.

Just yesterday, I was accused of being an “elitist” for demonstrating that I believe that the traditional Latin Mass is superior to the Novus Ordo. Dr. Kwasniewski has taken absurd amounts of heat for his recent pieces here and elsewhere demonstrating the dichotomy between pre- and post-conciliar Catholicism, as well as his criticism of the canonization of Pope Paul VI – the very man who perpetrated this crime about which so many people are upset after reading about it and thinking it was happening today. (Many of these same upset people were, ironically, also upset when Pope Paul’s canonization was questioned.)

Trying to get these arguments in front of an audience steeped in the unshakable belief that the argument over liturgy is nothing but a question of personal preference is nearly impossible. There are people who won’t even read discussions about pre- and post-conciliar liturgy. They won’t look at the many books that have been written. They will justify and explain away the imposition of a new rite, the effect on the faithful be damned, and try to portray tradition-loving Catholics as thought-criminals and schismatics.

This has been going on since before I was even born, and I’m about to enter my fifth decade. Something needs to change.

I considered placing an editorial warning at the beginning of the piece, but the entire premise of the exercise is the surprise. There was no way to telegraph the punch and have it connect. I know, because I was subjected to it, too. It didn’t bother me because I appreciate creative approaches to interminable problems.

This particular creative approach will not sit well with everyone, and I understand that. In four years, it’s the first time we’ve ever run something like it, and I don’t see why we ever would again. But we’re in the “redpilling” business here at 1P5, and sometimes we need to mix things up. Same medicine, different delivery method. A thought experiment. A rhetorical exercise designed as one more wake-up call. It’s not going to hurt our feelings if you disagree.

And you know what? The Mass that will be offered at the end of the Youth Synod will be something new. Fifty years is, of course, a blink of an eye in a 2,000-year-old Church with a 1,500-year-old liturgy. But it’s going to be new in another way: the Novus Ordo, by design, is open to infinite variations. It is, in essence, a liturgical blank canvas, upon which the celebrant can project whatever he wants. Like liturgical snowflakes, no two Novus Ordo Masses are exactly alike. Whether it’s liturgical dancing; laser light shows; clowns and circus performers; heretical homilies; or reverence, incense, and chant, there is no end to the number of permutations that this novel rite permits.

No, there’s not a new, institutional form of the new Mass coming – not that we know of. Not yet. Why formalize the perfectly effective chaos we already have? Things right now are pretty perfect for the liturgical “reformers,” because the Mass has been completely relativized. Everyone gets what he wants…unless he wants unity and Catholicity. If you’re in the market for those, you’re up the creek. But you’re also in the teeny, tiny minority, so you’re not a priority.

To be perfectly honest, I hope that at least some of you – particularly those who have never had any emotional connection to the liturgical debate – felt angry for the first time about someone, even if it’s the pope, changing the Mass. Good. Take that anger and focus it. Learn the differences between the two Masses and why they matter. Then take action. Head toward the best, most worthy liturgy you can find, and never go back.

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