Question: May I Ever Assist at the Novus Ordo Missae? Answer: No!

The supreme moral principle is “one ought to do good and avoid evil”.  A secondary principle that follows from this supreme moral principle is that “it is morally illicit to do evil so that good may come about”.  In other words, “a good end does not justify using evil means”.  To understand what constitutes a good versus evil act, we need to look at the three determinants of a moral act – object, end, and circumstances.  The object of the act is that to which the act is willfully directed.  The object constitutes the substance of the act, that is, the object gives the act its species.  In stealing $5 from a stranger to buy food to satisfy one’s hunger, for example, “stealing” is the object.  The end is the purpose for which the act is committed.  In this example, “to satisfy one’s hunger” is the end.  Circumstances are factors surrounding the object of the act.  In this example, “$5 from a stranger” are the circumstances.  All three determinants must be good in order for the moral act to be good.  On the other hand, if even one determinant is evil, then the moral act as a whole is evil.  Since the object of a moral act constitutes the substance of the act, it holds the primary place in assessing the goodness or evilness of the act.  This is so much the case that no matter how good the end or the circumstances, an evil object renders a moral act “intrinsically” evil.  Further note that the object is the “means” used to achieve the “end”.  And as mentioned above, one cannot use evil means to justify a good end.


The three determinants of a moral act do not take into account the knowledge or awareness on the part of the subject of the goodness or badness of the act.  The three determinants deal with the goodness or badness of the act itself and not the guilt of the subject before God.  In regards to the guilt of the subject before God, the three determinants only constitute the “matter” for sin.  It is the subject’s knowledge and awareness of the evilness of the object, end, and/or circumstances that constitute the “form” for sin.  Therefore, an act that is “materially” sinful is not necessarily “formally” sinful.  In other words, one may perform an act that is evil in its object, end, and circumstances and yet not be guilty of sin before God because he was inculpably ignorant of the evil.  This is very important to understand when correcting those who are performing evil acts; judge the act, but leave the judgement of the soul to God.


So what does this have to do with the question of whether one may assist at the Novus Ordo Missae?  Well, if one accepts that the Novus Ordo Missae is “intrinsically” evil, then there can be no end or circumstance, however good, that can morally justify oneself assisting, or giving another the counsel that it is morally licit to assist, at a Mass celebrated using the Novus Ordo Rite.  I want to make clear, however, that it is not the intention of this article to show that the Novus Ordo Missae is “intrinsically” evil.  There are many good books, such as “The Ottaviani Intervention” and “The Problem of the Liturgical Reform”, that show this is the case.  Rather, it is the intention of this article to show:


1) that Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre did teach that the Novus Ordo Missae, as officially promulgated (read “published” for those who believe it was not truly promulgated) by Pope Paul VI, is “intrinsically” evil,


2) what the attitude of a priest who accepts that the Novus Ordo Missae is “intrinsically” evil should be when giving counsel to a person who asks him about the moral liceity of assisting at it.


Another thing that must be made clear from the outset is that Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre did not teach that the Novus Ordo Missae is “intrinsically” evil because it is necessarily invalid or because it contains explicit heresy.  Rather, the Novus Ordo Missae is “intrinsically” evil because of its omissions in unequivocally expressing the Catholic Church’s teaching in regards to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  The very definition of evil is “the privation of a due good”.


Before we begin with quoting Archbishop Lefebvre and the official position of his Society of St. Pius X in regards to the “intrinsic” evilness of the Novus Ordo Missae, let us first read several quotes of others that point to the “intrinsic” evilness of the Novus Ordo Missae, regardless of whether those quoted understood the gravity of what they were saying.


“We must strip from our Catholic prayers and from the Catholic liturgy everything which can be the shadow of a stumbling block for our separated brethren, that is for the Protestants.”
(Archbishop Bugnini, quoted in “Osservatore Romano”, March 19, 1965)


“They (the Protestant ministers) were not simply there as observers, but as consultants as well, and they participate fully in the discussions on Catholic liturgical renewal. It wouldn’t mean much if they just listened, but they contributed.”
(Monsignor Baum, quoted in “The Detroit News”, June 27, 1967)


“With the new Liturgy, non-Catholic communities will be able to celebrate the Lord’s Supper with the same prayers as the Catholic Church. Theologically this is possible.”
(Max Thurian, Protestant Minister of Taize, quoted in “La Croix”, May 30, 1969)


“….. the Novus Ordo Missae ….. represents, both as a whole and in its details, a striking departure from the Catholic theology of the Mass as it was formulated in Session 22 of the Council of Trent. The “canons” of the rite definitely fixed at that time erected an insurmountable barrier against any heresy which might attack the integrity of the Mystery.”
(Letter of Cardinals Alfredo Ottaviani and Antonio Bacci to Pope Paul VI included in “The Short Critical Study of the New Order of Mass” – September 25, 1969)


“Today’s liturgical study has brought our respective liturgies to a remarkable similarity, so that there is very little difference in the sacrificial phrasing of the prayer of oblation in the Series Three and that of Eucharistic Prayer II in the Missa Normativa (Novus Ordo Missae).”
(Dr. Ronald Jasper, Anglican Observer on the Consilium, quoted in the London “Catholic Herald”, December 22, 1972)


“The liturgical reform is a major conquest of the Catholic Church and has its ecumenical dimensions since the other churches and Christian denominations see in it not only something to be admired, but equally a sign of further progress to come.”
(Archbishop Bugnini, quoted in “Notitiae”, No. 92, April 1974, p. 126)


“To tell the truth, it is a different liturgy of the Mass. This needs to be said without ambiguity. The Roman Rite as we knew it no longer exists. It has been destroyed.”
(Father Joseph Gelineau, “Demain la Liturgie”, Paris, 1976, p. 9-10)


“There was with Pope Paul VI an ecumenical intention to remove, or at least to correct, or at least to relax, what was too Catholic, in the traditional sense, in the Mass and, I repeat, to get the Catholic Mass closer to the Calvinist service.”
(Jean Guitton, close friend of Pope Paul VI, quoted in “Apropos” (17), December 19, 1993, p. 8ff)


Let us now read quotes from Archbishop Lefebvre and the official position of his Society of St. Pius X.


“This Mass is not bad in a merely accidental or extrinsic way.  There is something in it that is truly bad.  It was based on a model of the Mass according to Cranmer and Taize (1959).  As I said in Rome to those who interviewed me:  ‘It is a poisoned Mass!'”
(Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1981, quoted in “The Biography of Marcel Lefebvre”, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, 2004, Angelus Press, p. 465)


“Your perplexity takes perhaps the following form: may I assist at a sacrilegious Mass (i.e., one that does not follow the liturgical rules – my note) which is nevertheless valid, in the absence of any other, in order to satisfy my Sunday obligation? The answer is simple: these Masses cannot be the object of an obligation; we must moreover apply to them the rules of moral theology and canon law as regards the participation or the attendance at an action which endangers the faith or may be sacrilegious.


“The New Mass, even when said with piety and respect for the liturgical rules, is subject to the same reservations since it is impregnated with the spirit of Protestantism. It bears within it a poison harmful to the faith.”
(Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, “Open Letter to Confused Catholics”, 1986, Angelus Press, p. 29)


“Q: But does not Michael Davies say that attending the Novus Ordo Mass fulfills one’s Sunday duty? And that Archbishop Lefebvre said the same thing?


“A: When Michael Davies says it, it is because he claims that the officially promulgated Novus Ordo Mass cannot be intrinsically evil, otherwise the Catholic Church would be defectible. When Archbishop Lefebvre said it, he meant that the Novus Ordo Mass is objectively and intrinsically evil, but Catholics unaware of, or disbelieving in, that evil, because of the rite’s official promulgation, may subjectively fulfill their Sunday duty by attending the new Mass. The third Commandment says, thou shalt keep the Sabbath holy, not, thou shalt attend a semi-Protestant Mass.”
(Bishop Richard Williamson, Letters of the Rector of St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary, December 1, 1996)


“Since the expression of intrinsically evil is an extremely strong one, I think it is better to reserve it to the greater evil of the positive expression of heresy, and to keep the expression ‘evil in itself’ to the lesser evil of the omission of the profession of Faith. But one must acknowledge that this omission is in the New Mass in itself, in the Latin original version.”
(Fr. Francois Laisney, from an article entitled “Is the Novus Ordo Missae Evil?”, “The Angelus”, March 1997 Issue)


“The dissimulation of Catholic elements and the pandering to Protestants which are evident in the Novus Ordo Missae render it a danger to our faith, and, as such, evil, given that it lacks the good which the sacred rite of Mass ought to have……


“If the Novus Ordo Missae is not truly Catholic, then it cannot oblige for one’s Sunday obligation. Many Catholics who do assist at it are unaware of its all pervasive degree of serious innovation and are exempt from guilt. However, any Catholic who is aware of its harm, does not have the right to participate. He could only then assist at it by a mere physical presence without positively taking part in it, and then and for major family reasons (weddings, funerals, etc).”
(“Most Frequenty Asked Questions of the Society of St. Pius X”, Fathers of the Holy Cross Seminary, 1997, Question #5 regarding the Novus Ordo Missae)


“The doctrine of the Paschal mystery, with its serious doctrinal deficiencies, is, then, at origin of the liturgical reform. Certainly, the reformed missal does not deny Catholic dogma outright, but its authors have so oriented the gestures and the words, they have made such significant omissions and introduced numerous ambiguous expressions, and all in order to make the rite conform to the theology of the Paschal mystery and to give expression to it. Consequently, the new missal no longer propagates the ‘lex credendi’ of the Church, but rather a doctrine that smacks of heterodoxy. That is why one cannot say that the reformed rite of Mass of 1969 is ‘orthodox’ in the etymological sense of the word: it does not offer ‘right praise’ to God. Equally, one cannot say that the rite of Mass resulting from the reform of 1969 is that of the Church, even if it was conceived by churchmen. And lastly, one cannot say that the new missal is for the faithful ‘the first and indispensable source of the true Christian spirit,’ where the Church ‘communicates in abundance the treasures of the depositum fidei, of the truth of Christ.’ In light of these serious deficiencies, ‘the only attitude of fidelity to the Church and to Catholic doctrine appropriate for our salvation is a categorical refusal to accept this reformation.’”
(“The Problem of the Liturgical Reform”, The Society of St. Pius X, 2001, Angelus Press, para. 122)


“Well, the Society is definitely against the New Mass. We even say that it is ‘intrinsically evil’. That’s a delicate label that needs a little explanation. By this we mean that the New Mass in itself – the New Mass as the New Mass, as it is written – is evil, because as such you find in it the definition of evil. The definition of evil is ‘the privation of a due good’. Something that should be in the New Mass is not there and that’s evil. What is really Catholic has been taken out of the New Mass. The Catholic specification of the Mass has been taken away. That’s enough to say that it is evil. And look at the terrible fruits.”
(Bishop Bernard Fellay, conference given in Kansas City, Missouri on March 5, 2002)


“However, regardless of the gravity of the sacrilege, the New Mass still remains a sacrilege, and it is still in itself sinful. Furthermore, it is never permitted to knowingly and willingly participate in an evil or sinful thing, even if it is only venially sinful. For the end does not justify the means. Consequently, although it is a good thing to want to assist at Mass and satisfy one’s Sunday obligation, it is never permitted to use a sinful means to do this. To assist at the New Mass, for a person who is aware of the objective sacrilege involved, is consequently at least a venial sin. It is opportunism. Consequently, it is not permissible for a traditional Catholic, who understands that the New Mass is insulting to Our Divine Savior, to assist at the New Mass, and this even if there is no danger of scandal to others or of the perversion of one’s own Faith (as in an older person, for example), and even if it is the only Mass available.”
(Fr. Peter Scott, from the “Questions & Answers” section, “The Angelus”, September 2002 Issue)


“Now, even if one wanted to contest the heretical elements of the New Mass, the sole refusal to profess Catholic dogmas quintessential to the Mass renders the new liturgy deficient. It is like a captain who refuses to provide his shipmen with a proper diet. They soon become sick with scurvy due, not so much to direct poison, as from vitamin deficiency. Such is the new Mass. At best, it provides a deficient spiritual diet to the faithful. The correct definition of evil – lack of a due good – clearly shows that the New Mass is evil in and of itself regardless of the circumstances. It is not evil by positive profession of heresy. It is evil by lacking what Catholic dogma should profess: the True Sacrifice, the Real Presence, the ministerial priesthood.”
(Taken from article entitled “Is the New Mass Legit” published on on May 25, 2011, author unknown)


I think these quotes are more than sufficient to demonstrate the position of Archbishop Lefebvre and his Society of St. Pius X in regards to the “intrinsic” evilness of the Novus Ordo Missae.


Now given that a priest, Fr. Smith, accepts this position of Archbishop Lefebvre and his Society of St. Pius X, imagine the following scenario:


Betty tells Fr. Smith that the priest who celebrates the Novus Ordo Missae at the parish she assists at on Sundays in order to fulfill her Sunday obligation rejects the heresies of Vatican II and even preaches against them, without directly offending the local bishop, in his sermons. He celebrates the Mass in Latin with the outmost respect, piety, and devotion, and according to the official rubrics. Furthermore, he celebrates the Mass on an altar with the tabernacle in the middle and he refuses to give Communion in the hand. Because of these good circumstances, Betty believes that her faith is not in danger and that her attendance is not a scandal to anybody else. She does wish that she could assist at a Traditional Mass, but the closest one is a 3 hrs. drive. She is willing to drive to the Traditional Mass at least once every three months, but between Traditional Masses she believes that she will lose her faith if she goes without Mass and Holy Communion every week.


Response #1 of Fr. Smith:


Dear Betty, you seem to be a very sincere person and of good will. I see that you love God and want to worship Him at His Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. You surely have the right intention. The circumstances under which you assist at Mass also seem decent. I can understand your dilemma given the current worldwide crisis in the lack of Traditional Masses. Therefore, so long as your good intentions and the decent circumstances continue to exist, and so long as you continue to sincerely believe that you cannot go without Mass, do whatever you need to keep the Faith. If that means you need to assist at the Novus Ordo Missae, then go ahead. God bless you.”


Response #2 of Fr. Smith:


Dear Betty, you seem to be a very sincere person and of good will. I see that you love God and want to worship Him at His Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. You surely have the right intention. The circumstances under which you assist at Mass also seem decent. I can understand your dilemma given the current worldwide crisis in the lack of Traditional Masses. However, the Novus Ordo Missae is intrinsically evil. Here are the reasons…….Therefore, I cannot in good conscience tell you that it is morally licit for you to assist at the Novus Ordo Missae. I suggest that you try to make it to the Traditional Mass once a month instead of every three months. For the other Sundays, in order to sanctify the day, I suggest praying 15 decades of the Holy Rosary, read the Ordinary and Proper of the Traditional Mass missal for that day, do some spiritual reading, and spend some time in mental prayer. God bless you.”


Response #1 of Fr. Smith is not consistent with his belief regarding the “intrinsic” evilness of the Novus Ordo Missae, whereas Response #2 is consistent with his belief. In Response #1, Fr. Smith is pandering to the subjective state of mind of Betty. He is giving her a response based on her perception and not what he believes to be objectively true.  This is subjectivism.  Without informing her of the truth, he is not helping her to properly form her mind. Rather, he keeps her in the state of error. Hence, it is evil counsel. In Response #2, however, Fr. Smith sympathizes with her situation, but firmly gives her the truth so that she can properly form her mind and consequently make the morally good decision. Hence, his counsel here is good.  Now Betty, armed with the truth, may or may not heed Fr. Smith’s counsel.  Nevertheless, the decision she makes will be between her conscience and God. Fr. Smith, on his part, has done his duty.

3 thoughts on “Question: May I Ever Assist at the Novus Ordo Missae? Answer: No!”

  1. This article has a beautiful clarity. My question is, what did Archbishop Lefebvre mean when he said the the validity of the Novus Ordo Mass depended upon the intention of the priest to transubstantially consecrate the bread and the wine? Would this indicate that there might be a few, very limited exceptions to the admonitions to avoid the Novus Ordo Mass?

    • An invalid Mass is no Mass at all. Archbishop Lefebvre meant that a priest must have the intention to do what the Church does when consecrating the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Our Lord. If the intention is absent, the consecration does not take place. This is not in reference to making exceptions for assisting at the Novus Ordo Missae.


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