24 January 2017

Novus Ordo hosts being administered at a Traditional Mass: the Problem

For a Mass to be valid, the celebrant has to "intend to do what the Church does". So, if a priest does not believe in Transsubstantiation and the Sacrifice of the Mass ... and even perhaps openly says so ... is his Mass 'invalid'? It seems common sense, yes? How on earth can he intend to celebrate the Mass if he does not believe in the Mass? I can understand the anxieties people have. And it is very wrong, as Fr Zed often and rightly points out, for clergy by their clerical tomfoolery to put the plebs sancta Dei into such states of anxiety. But help is at hand. Read on.

This anxiety does deserve an answer. It deserves an answer based not upon modern or trendy theological speculation but upon the settled teaching of the Church, upon which she has for centuries acted when doubts or worries have arisen. And the locus classicus here is S Robert Bellarmine*, de Sacramentis in genere chapter 27 paragraph 8. (My translation.) As you read it, remember that Bellarmine was not writing during a period of cosy and iffy ecumenism, but when the Reformation controversies were raging at their height.

"There is no need to intend what the Roman Church does; but what the true Church does, whatever that True Church is. Or what Christ instituted. Or what Christians do. Because these all amount to the same thing. You ask: What if someone intends to do what some particular and false church does, which he himself believes to be the true one - for example, the church of Geneva; and intends not to do what the Roman Church does? I answer, even that suffices. Because the man who intends to do what the church of Geneva does, intends to do what the universal Church does. For he intends to do what such-and-such a church does, because he believes it to be a member of the true Universal Church, granted that he is mistaken in recognising the True Church. For the error of the minister about the Church does not take away the efficacy of the Sacrament. Only defect of intention does that."

'Geneva', of course is a reference to the stamping ground of the great heresiarch John Calvin. Bellarmine means that, provided the celebrant is a validly ordained priest and uses real wheaten bread and real wine, the only thing that invalidates his 'Mass' is if he deliberately says to himself  "I do not intend to celebrate the Lord's Supper". And that is infinitely improbable. Father Daft is much more likely to think that his own totally wonderful understanding is closer to the mind of the Lord in his Supper than are the 'views' of those boring 'establishment' clergy. The more grossly misguided his opinions are about what the 'Supper' really is, the more humanly certain it is that Fr Daft really does intend to celebrate it. And, says Bellarmine, that is a sufficient intention.

In reality, just about the only way a 'trendy' priest is likely to be able to invalidate a Mass is if he does not use Bread and Wine (but, for example, out of a misunderstanding of 'Inculturation', uses rye cakes and cider or rice bread and saki). Apart from that risk, there is nothing for the devout and orthodox layperson to worry about. After all, if mere doctrinal error, or improper ritual, were sufficient to invalidate a Sacrament, one would never have any certainty that any Sacrament had not been invalidated by the celebrant's own silly doctrinal mistakes or his personal whimsies. And the Sacraments are Christ's Sacraments, valid by virtue of his promise. Christ is true to you.

So if, by misjudgement, you were present at a Mass where (I imagine an improbably extreme case so as to put the point I'm making beyond doubt) the priest wore jeans and made up a lot of the prayers himself and Sister A strummed on a guitar and Sister B stood beside Father and pretended to concelebrate and the altar was a plywood coffee table and some floosies did a belly dance at the Offertory ... then, wotta mistaka to maka by going there in the first place, but having done so you should kneel and worship the True Body and the True Blood of Christ, because they are truly present.

And do not be anxious about receiving Communion in a church where both forms of the Roman Rite are in use; do not bother about hosts consecrated at a novus Mass having been mixed up in the Tabernacle with those consecrated at a Traditional Mass. Because    
                            THE BODY OF CHRIST IS THE BODY OF CHRIST.

                                                        Realiter et substantialiter. 

          And the Mass is the Mass, whatever the rite, however perverse its celebrant may be.

And so it is not right to call any Mass "EVIL". The smoke of Satan may have got into the celebrant's lungs, but his Mass is still the august and adorable oblation of the Divine Victim. God's power is stronger than the perversity of Man or the machinations of the Evil One. That is God's infallible guarantee. Because he loves you.


* !542-1621, a vigorous and successful opponent of Protestant heresies. Canonised 1930; declared a Doctor of the Church in 1931.


- said...

sorry to hear about your injury, Father; but that you are (mostly) recovered. glad also to see you are posting again in your inimical wise & witty style! any words of guideance for one is exploring the Ordinariate path?

peregrinusto said...

Our prayers are answered for your recovery and now for your contributing again through your blog.

Thanks very much for these reflections on the validity of the Mass - helpful to many.

I was not able to access the link to your recent posts on ordination. I am to celebrate priestly ordination for the Ordinariate at Notre Dame Basilica in Ottawa, Canada on Dec. 14 and for my retreat would be pleased to have your thoughts.

With best wishes and prayers from the colonies.

Adrian said...

Good to see you back, Father. And thank you (and S. Robert Bellarmine) for some much needed sanctified common-sense.

austin said...

How good and bracing. One should take two with breakfast.

Joshua said...

Fr O: "Inimical" or "inimitable"? - surely the latter!

- said...

oops! yes, the latter ... thanks for the corrections ... apologies, father

Fr Barry Tomlinson said...

It reminds me of Article 26 of the Anglican '39 Articles'


ALTHOUGH in the visible Church the evil be ever mingled with the good, and sometimes the evil have chief authority in the Ministration of the Word and Sacraments, yet forasmuch as they do not the same in their own name, but in Christ's, and do minister by his commission and authority, we may use their Ministry, both in hearing the Word of God, and in receiving of the Sacraments. Neither is the effect of Christ's ordinance taken away by their wickedness, nor the grace of God's gifts diminished from such as by faith and rightly do receive the Sacraments ministered unto them; which be effectual, because of Christ's institution and promise, although they be ministered by evil men.

B flat said...

subzinIam so very pleased that you are able to continue teaching Father. Very sorry about your injury, I wish you augmented recovery of health, strength, mobility, and - PLURIMOS ANNOS!
Thank you for this very timely and helpful posting.

Anonymous said...

Fr. your intellect is blessed greatly and you know answers from history that are more than a little helpful. Give me and others who might be uncomfortable with the Eucharistic Host at this moment. The wheat we eat today is it truly the finest wheat when is is so modified by the agribusinesses. Wheat at the time of Christ Jesus was or had only two chromosones, today at the last count it has 80 and in some fashion I understand it multiplies itself with each suceeding generation of growth. There was some attempt to measure gluten and it was found to be very high. No one has yet to publish what it is in today's wheat. This would point out why so many of us are allergic to the Host. What do you think. I must admit that when ever I hear the gift of finest wheat hymn i wonder if it is anymore.
I look forward to your correction of my thoughts.

Joe Oliveri said...

In this connection, see also the Response of the Holy Office to the dubia concerning the Methodist Baptisms in Oceania (1872) -- a determination that every Trad worth his salt should be familiar with.

Welcome back, Fr Hunwicke!

Delia said...

I hope you don't mind answering this question, Father, which is a bit off topic. When visiting an Anglo-Catholic church, perhaps looking at the architecture, what should one do if there is a tabernacle and a red lamp? Genuflect or not? Given that Anglican orders are invalid, the answer should be not, but what if the particular priest was validly ordained through that legitimate succession (can't remember what it is called)? Not that one would necessarily know, of course. Hitherto I've compromised by bowing my head, but I should be grateful for authoritative guidance. Thanks!

Fr John Hunwicke said...

Dear Delia

I'm not sure I can give authoritative judgements! By the way, In Anglican churches the tabernacle or aumbry light is white, not red (I think that was what the pre-conciliar rules actually prescribed, but I've never checked it).

Personally, I don't genuflect if the notice board has revealed to me that the Minister is a woman! I do otherwise, leaving any dubieties to God.

Best wishes

John Hunwicke

Delia said...

Many thanks, Father!

Genty said...

I wonder, Father, whether Fr. Daft mightn't be so daft in declining to celebrate the Lord's Supper. He might prefer to hold that he is celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass; the unbloody sacrifice, rather than the meal. It's the skewing of the meaning of the Mass which has led us into all sorts of confusion.