Thoughts on the New Rite of Mass – Fr. Hugh Thwaites, S.J.

A priest says Mass for Italian troops in the mountains of the Tyrol during WW2

A priest says Mass for Italian troops on the italian-austrian front in the mountains of the Tyrol – 1916

[1] I have lifted up my eyes to the mountains, from whence help shall come to me. [2] My help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. (Psalm  CCX)


(In this simply stated but immensely appealing article [below] Father Hugh Thwaites, S.J. states why the Old Mass has become increasingly appealing to him, whilst at the same time the dangers of the New are now increasingly apparent.)

“The dangers in the new rite are not immediately apparent. They are not apparent because Catholics, brought up in the faith, do not know of the attraction Protestantism has for our fallen human nature, how lethal it is, and do not recognise its symptoms…

It seems to me that Protestantism comes easier to fallen human nature than does the true faith. It can seem more attractive. It lets us live lower down the mountain of God. It makes fewer demands on us. It does not call for that total submission of intellect and will that God requires of His rational creatures. It does not call for the “obedience of faith” that St. Paul speaks of.

Someone who had never before smelled phosgene [poison gas] might at first think it a pleasantly sweet smell. Catholics with only a book knowledge of Protestantism might well think, at first encounter and not recognising it as such, “This is very attractive. Why was it all made to look so difficult before?” Having been reared an Anglican, I recognise it and want to keep away.

We all know that there were six Protestant observers who had a hand in the framing of the new rite of Mass. Their finger prints on the finished result are plainly visible to me, though seemingly invisible to many.

One of the main dangers of the new rite is that it presents no built-in bulwark against a gradual slide into a Protestantised liturgy, and thence into Protestantism.

One obvious difference between Catholic and Protestant liturgy is that the Catholic liturgy is sacramental. Christ operates directly, immediately, in each of the sacraments, and in the sacramental sacrifice of the Mass He is always the principal Celebrant.

Protestant liturgy is non-sacramental, ex opere operantis not ex opere operato. When I was an Anglican our liturgy was very reverent, very devout and correct, and was carried out with great decorum. But it all depended on us. There was no sense of anything objectively happening on the altar table – for the very good reason, of course, that nothing did happen on the altar table.

For Catholics, the whole attraction of the Mass is what happens on the altar: the fact that Jesus Christ, at the bidding of one of His priests, takes the place of the bread and wine, and asks us to offer ourselves together with Him to the Father in one, perfect Sacrifice. As St. Robert Bellarmine put it, the Mass is the sacrifice in which the entire Church, in union with her Divine Head, offers herself to the Father.

Protestant liturgy, in the absence of the Divine Sacrifice, offers God the sacrifice of praise, the sacrifice of a humble and contrite heart, the offering of devout hymns. This is good in itself, but it is no substitute for the Sacrifice that God has asked us to offer in memory of Him.

The new rite allows the celebrant to move the style of the liturgy in a Protestant direction…

When people forget about Original Sin, they are unaware of the chronic weakness of our intellect and wills, and of our chronic tendency to slide into error and sin. Our faith needs a frequent input of doctrinally nourishing liturgy if it is to stay pure. The traditional rite of Mass provided this. The new rite does not.

There is nothing wrong with the new rite. Rome cannot feed her children with poison. But the new rite of Mass does not give us what we need. Michael Davies’ analogy is helpful here. If a doctor tells a couple that their child need milk every day, and they give the child only water, the child may not live. There is nothing wrong with water. But if the child needs milk, water may not be enough.

There is no heresy in the new rite. Rome cannot authorise heresy. But the new rite, it would seem, does not give us enough Catholic doctrine to prevent Catholics from unwittingly becoming Protestant in their thinking. As Fulton Sheen put it, “If you don’t behave as you believe, you will end by believing as you behave.” The new rite of Mass is capable of being carried out in a Protestant manner. Given the chronic tendency of our fallen human nature to go for what is easier, our liturgy, in the hands of the ill-instructed, will always tend to a Protestant interpretation. And Catholic liturgy carried out in a Protestant manner will lead the worshippers to Protestantism.

“Where will it all end?” So far as I am concerned, it has ended by my being resolved to offer Mass, as much as possible, in the traditional rite of the Church. This rite exactly expresses my eucharistic faith. The new rite does not. Neither does it nourish my faith. The traditional rite of Mass has nourished the faith of countless Catholics in the years past. Please God it will do the same for me, and for many others, in the years to come.” – (Read the whole article on Thoughts on the New Rite of Mass)

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5 Responses to Thoughts on the New Rite of Mass – Fr. Hugh Thwaites, S.J.

  1. Robert says:

    What we should be seeing is NOT the priest the human but Christ Eternal High priest. The first requiste for the Sacrament of the mass is first the Sacrament of Ordination. The consecrated hands of the priest.
    A Popes Mass is NO greater than a Cure D’Ars actually in many cases the lowly Cure is greater!
    The Holy sacrifice of the Mass NOT supper!! Sacrifice. This is the yardstick valid ordained priest and valid sacrifice of the Mass.

  2. Alan H says:

    Not central to the article, but are you sure that photo is from the Second World War? It looks very much as if it may have been taken during the “guerra bianca” – the fighting between Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empite in the first war.

  3. kathleen says:

    @ Alan

    You are absolutely correct – thank you very much for pointing out my error!

    “Un prêtre dit la messe pour les troupes italiennes sur le front italo-autrichien dans les montagnes du Tyrol – New York Times du 27 février 1916.”
    I had a bit of a search to find where I had originally got the photo from (having stored it in “desktop” for a while), but once found I see it was indeed taken during the First World War, in 1916, and on the Italian-Austrian front. I have since amended the description accordingly.🙂

  4. Wherever the photo is from, it’s an excellent one!

    I’m sorry I have been away from this site for so long as I loved this post!

    Fr Thwaites, pray for us!

  5. johnhenrycn says:

    Ragazzagallese: (and I thought Mississippi was hard to spell!) this article by Fr Thwaites is, I think you know, more than 20 years old and his critique is, therefore, a bit out of date. The Missal and Lectionary we’ve been using these past few years adheres more closely to the original Latin. But that said, can I also say that I personally think some parts of the new versions are wooden? As a lector, for example, I find it very difficult to end my readings with – “The word of the Lord” in a dignified way. It’s a real mouthful. “The Word of God” would be much more cadenced. And just yesterday, reading from the Book of Jeremiah, I came across at least 4 “…says the Lord”. Try saying that quickly three times. You don’t have to have undergone speech therapy as a child as I did to appreciate why I changed those words to …sayeth the Lord.,” which does no violence to the literal meaning, but which is so much easier on the tongue and gentler to the ear. The new English translations may be more literally faithful to the original Latin, but that doesn’t mean they are good English. And unfortunately, a whiff of Political Correctness can still be detected.

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