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A Brief Guide To Traditionalist Schismatics

1/19/2004 - 9:37 AM PST

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by Matt C. Abbott

Since the time of the Second Vatican Council and the changes it brought, a considerable number of disaffected traditional Catholics have joined schismatic sects such as the Society of St. Pius X (founded by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre) and the sedevacantists (who believe, for dubious reasons explained later, that the Chair of Peter is currently vacant).

While there are certain peripheral differences between these traditionalist sects, they share the same common denominator: the exclusive use of the Tridentine Mass and the rejection of Vatican II.

The angry traditionalist fringe blames Vatican II for causing the current crisis in the Church. They claim that the changes decreed by the Council are heretical; hence, it was a false council and “true” Catholics should not assent to its teachings. But there is an obvious problem with this argument: It has been the traditional teaching of the Church that an ecumenical council is guided by the Holy Spirit and thus protected from error. In the words of Pope Pius IX, in a letter to the Abbott of Solesmes: “. . . the Ecumenical Council is governed by the Holy Spirit. . .”; “. . . it is solely by the impulse of this Divine Spirit that the Council defines and proposes what must be believed. . . .”1

Therefore, the faithful are obliged to assent to all of the decisions and decrees of Vatican II as interpreted by the continuous living authority of the Church.2 The main arguments used by schismatic traditionalists to illustrate the “invalidity” of the Novus Ordo Missae (New Order of Mass) are: mysterium fidei (mystery of faith) has been deleted from the words of the consecration and “for all” has been substituted for pro multis (for many). They believe these changes are tantamount to heresy. But, once again, there is not much weight to these arguments.

The words “mystery of faith” are not found in any of the scriptural accounts of Our Lord’s institution of the Eucharist; they are not found in other formulas of consecration recognized as valid by the Church; and hence, they are not required for a valid consecration.3 Also, nothing heretical is being asserted by the use of the words “for all men” in the consecration formula, for Christ died “for all” (2 Cor. 5:15). Traditional Catholic theology has always distinguished between the “objective redemption” of all men by Christ and the “subjective redemption,” whereby the grace merited by Christ on the Cross actually proves fruitful only in the case of those who cooperate with his grace and achieve salvation.4

The inclusion of the words “for all men” in the consecration formula no more implies heresy that all men will necessarily be saved than the previous formula “for you and for many” necessarily implied the opposite heresy (Jansenism) that Christ did not give himself for the redemption of all. The consecratory formula of the Mass is not, in the nature of the case, the place where the Church’s full doctrine is, or could possibly be, expressed.5 Since the phrase “for all” is proven not to be heretical, it therefore in no way invalidates the Novus Ordo Mass.

Of course, the aforementioned explanations should not be necessary since the only words needed to make the consecration valid are “This is My Body” and “This is My Blood.” And the only other requirements for the Mass itself to be valid are valid matter (bread and wine) and a validly ordained priest (with the intention of confecting the Sacrament) to celebrate the Mass.

The Declaration entitled Instauratio Liturgica, dated January 25, 1974, and issued by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, should have clarified (though it did not with the traditionalist fringe) any confusion over many of the renderings in the vernacular version of the Mass:6

The liturgical reform which has been carried out in accordance with the Constitution of the Second Vatican Council has made certain changes in the essential formulae of the sacramental rites. These new expressions, like the other ones, have had to be translated into modern languages in such a way that the original sense finds expression in the idiom proper to each language. This has given rise to certain difficulties, which have come to light now that the translations have been sent by episcopal conferences to the Holy See for approval. in these circumstances, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith again calls attention to the necessity that the essential formulae of the sacramental rites render faithfully the original sense of the Latin “typical text.” With that in mind it declares:

When a vernacular translation of a sacramental formula is submitted to the Holy See for approval, it examines it carefully. When it is satisfied that it expresses the meaning intended by the Church, it approves and confirms it, stipulating, however, that it must be ...

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