Michael Voris vs. the Ordinary Form Mass & Pope Benedict XVI

Michael Voris vs. the Ordinary Form Mass & Pope Benedict XVI November 3, 2015

Original Title: Michael Voris’ Denigration of the Ordinary Form of the Mass vs. Pope Benedict XVI’s 2007 Decrees

Pope Benedict XVI Celebrates Easter - Easter Vigil

Pope Benedict XVI celebrating the Easter Vigil Mass on 7 April 2007 in St. Peter’s Basilica [Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0 license]
The following is a critique of Michael Voris’ video, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Pt. 1. Excerpts follow, with his words in blue.

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29:10 “In the meantime a New Mass is being engineered that almost totally downplays all Catholic worship in favor of a Protestant-friendly approach. This was what was going on in the Church in Rome.”

After making this objectionable statement, Voris then goes on to repeatedly stress that he thinks the New Mass is “valid.” Yes, fine; well and good, as far as it goes. But the above is an atrocious indictment of the worship in the ordinary form of the Roman Rite Mass. It bears false witness. Then he states:

30:07-30:43 “We’re not talking about the validity. We’re talking about: is this authentic Catholic worship? Is this how Catholics worship God? Is this a break from the past, that’s so violent, that you can’t really say this is authentic Catholic worship, as we have understood it? Has the theology behind the Mass been so manipulated and twisted and deformed, that Catholics going to this Mass miss something of the theology, compared to talking about the traditional Latin Mass: the Tridentine Mass? That’s what’s at issue: not, ‘is it valid or not?'”

This, of course, profoundly contradicts what the Church teaches: which is that the Novus Ordo is in continuity with past worship traditions; not a break from it. It’s a development, not a radical corruption. After stating about the Holy Eucharist (Novus Ordo), “it is Jesus,” Voris goes on to pontificate:

31:33 “Is the sacrament valid? Yes. Has your faith been damaged, on the other hand? Yes. . . . We’re talking about, is this authentic Catholic worship; is what’s going on behind the scenes a possible detriment to your faith? That’s the question! . . . is this a danger? What’s going on?”

This is a rather interesting scenario (to put it very mildly). The Catholic worshiper at a Novus Ordo Mass has just gone up to receive Jesus Himself in the Eucharist, yet somehow simultaneously this is not  “authentic Catholic worship” and the same person’s faith has “been damaged” — and the entire surrounding (with nefarious “behind the scenes” shenanigans) is a “possible detriment” to his or her faith? This is as convoluted as it is outrageous. If Jesus is truly, substantially present and has been received by us, what in the world is “un-Catholic” about that? What is lacking?

I guess Voris thinks there are things more important than the Lord of the universe physically coming to us and becoming one with us in Holy Communion. Talk about messed-up priorities! He’s hung up on particular formulas and wording (that are fully, wholly accepted by Holy Mother Church), and in so doing misses the very essence of the whole thing: just like the Pharisees, about whom Jesus said:  “you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith” (Matthew 23:23) and “You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” (Matthew 23:24).

34:21 “In short, the  prayer, the public worship of the New Mass; the question is: is it more Protestant or more Catholic? That is a very, very key question.”

Voris then presents dire observations about the decline in Catholic vocations and participation (attendance at Mass, etc.). But this all begs the question, of course, and is a classic, textbook example of the fallacy of  post hoc ergo propter hoc (“after this, therefore because of this”): as if nothing except the New Mass has caused all these problems. Never mind rampant secularism, the sexual revolution, leftist political nonsense, bad catechesis, declining sexual mores of the general populace, increasingly broken homes, the removal of religion and God from public schools, and a host of other anti-traditional cultural trends.

All is traced to a change in liturgy: so Voris thinks (presupposes in his presentation). Many want to make Vatican II the boogie man for every ill in the Church and society. It sort of plays the role for many (of this mindset), that President George W. Bush plays in the politically liberal mind and mentality: the cause of every ill in the history of the universe. He concludes with a statement (entirely presupposing the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy) that is presented as a self-evident truth that no one could possibly object to:

39:51 “The faith has been eviscerated in these forty years, and the decline has coincided with the New Mass. How you pray, is how you live, is how you believe.”

50:21 “The New Mass stresses the nourishment and the sanctification of the faithful. Old Mass: worship and adoration to the Holy Trinity, the removal of sin. Here?: ‘hey, we’re all nourished and gettin’ along together!’ Two entirely different structures here. . . . The language used in the New Mass confuses nearly every aspect of the Mass: the idea of sacrifice; who’s actually offering the sacrifice . . . with all of these confusions, the very nature of the faith itself is undermined. . . . the former theology is largely dismissed. . . . The question is, what is it substituted with? When that old theology, the Catholic theology is gone, something else is brought in. What is the something else?”

In high contrast, the apostolic letter of Pope Benedict XVI (Voris cites him many times in his presentation), Summorum Pontificum (7 July 2007) stated:

. . . the Second Vatican Council expressed the desire that with due respect and reverence for divine worship it be restored and adapted to the needs of our age. Prompted by this desire, our Predecessor the Supreme Pontiff Paul VI in 1970 approved for the Latin Church liturgical books restored and partly renewed, and that throughout the world translated into many vernacular languages, have been welcomed by the Bishops and by the priests and faithful. . . .

Art. 1. The Roman Missal promulgated by Paul VI is to be regarded as the ordinary expression of the law of prayer (lex orandi) of the Catholic Church of Latin Rite, while the Roman Missal promulgated by St Pius V and published again by Blessed John XXIII as the extraordinary expression of the law of prayer (lex orandi) and on account of its venerable and ancient use let it enjoy due honor. These two expressions of the law of prayer (lex orandi) of the Church in no way lead to a division in the law of prayer (lex orandi) of the Church, for they are two uses of the one Roman Rite.

In his letter to the bishops on the same day, on the same topic, the Holy Father elaborated:

. . . it must first be said that the Missal published by Paul VI and then republished in two subsequent editions by John Paul II, obviously is and continues to be the normal Form – the Forma ordinaria – of the Eucharistic Liturgy.  The last version of the Missale Romanum prior to the Council, which was published with the authority of Pope John XXIII in 1962 and used during the Council, will now be able to be used as a Forma extraordinaria of the liturgical celebration.  It is not appropriate to speak of these two versions of the Roman Missal as if they were “two Rites”.  Rather, it is a matter of a twofold use of one and the same rite.

. . . in many places celebrations were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new Missal, but the latter actually was understood as authorizing or even requiring creativity, which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear.  I am speaking from experience, since I too lived through that period with all its hopes and its confusion.  And I have seen how arbitrary deformations of the liturgy caused deep pain to individuals totally rooted in the faith of the Church.

[in other words, the pope is careful to distinguish corruptions and abuses (“arbitrary deformations”) of the New Mass from the Mass itself, as promulgated by the Church, in a way that Voris does not do at all. For Voris, it is intrinsically corrupt and inauthentic. For Pope Benedict XVI it is as legitimate as the older Tridentine Mass]

. . . the two Forms of the usage of the Roman Rite can be mutually enriching . . .

The most sure guarantee that the Missal of Paul VI can unite parish communities and be loved by them consists in its being celebrated with great reverence in harmony with the liturgical directives. This will bring out the spiritual richness and the theological depth of this Missal.. . .

[again, it is disharmony with “liturgical directives” that is a problem, not the New Mass itself]

There is no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal.  In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture.  What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful.  It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.  Needless to say, in order to experience full communion, the priests of the communities adhering to the former usage cannot, as a matter of principle, exclude celebrating according to the new books.  The total exclusion of the new rite would not in fact be consistent with the recognition of its value and holiness.

We see nothing here of the stark contrast that Voris draws between the two forms of Mass. In fact, the pope decreed that they are “two uses of the one Roman Rite” (extraordinary and ordinary). What Voris separates into wonderful and traditional vs. something that is not “authentic Catholic worship” and “more Protestant” than Catholic: to the extent that the two forms of worship are “two entirely different structures,” the Holy Father regards as “two expressions of the law of prayer (lex orandi) of the Church.”  The pope refers to the “spiritual richness” and “theological depth” and “holiness” of the New Mass. Voris, on the other hand, thinks (rather Luther-or Calvin-like) that the theology it exhibits is “manipulated and twisted and deformed.  

Two vastly different and utterly irreconcilable opinions indeed . . . Now whom shall the faithful Catholic believe?

I mentioned above that Voris cited Pope Benedict often during his presentation in this video (and frequently from his many pre-papal writings). But he distorts the pope’s beliefs by hyper-selective quotation, and doesn’t present its full scope. Dr. Jeff Mirus critiques a very similar attitude and modus operandi among radical Catholic reactionaries:

In recent weeks, several severe critics, opponents and denigrators of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite have claimed that they are simply following the lead of Pope Benedict XVI when he was a cardinal, and they have cited one or more writings of Joseph Ratzinger in which he expressed criticisms of certain aspects of the implementation of the new rite. I want to emphasize that he expressed these concerns in scholarly work, and that, taken in context, it is always clear that Ratzinger as a cardinal was not ill-disposed toward the Novus Ordo. Rather, he was interested in improvements which might be made (no liturgy is perfect) and, in particular, he was opposed to the free-wheeling manner in which some ignored the rubrics when saying Mass, . . .

First, it is absolutely critical to note that the mind of the Church or even of the Pope himself cannot be determined by looking at the writings of a future pope before he became pope. A cardinal’s election as pope does not in any way validate his earlier remarks, none of which were protected in the least by the grace of his later office. . . .

So even if some of Cardinal Ratzinger’s remarks seem very negative in isolation from his entire body of work—or indeed even if it were possible to argue that his whole outlook on the Novus Ordo was negative (which was not the case)—this would tell us nothing about the mind of the Church. No, to learn the mind of the Pope (and therefore something of the mind of the Church) on such matters as the liturgy, we need to look to what the Pope has said while in office.

Second, while in office, Pope Benedict XVI has made his approval of the Novus Ordo clear. He has also made clear that his serious criticisms do not apply to the rite itself but  to the false interpretation of the Missal of Paul VI as something that requires constant experimentation and innovation, as if priests are to superimpose their own improvisations on the official liturgy and, in so doing, frequently substitute the banal for the sublime. . . .

My advice to those who seriously dislike the Novus Ordo is this: Admit your personal preference for the Extraordinary Form if you like; true Catholics should not criticize you for it, even if they prefer the Ordinary Form. Combat abuses of the Novus Ordo where you can; the Church will thank you for that. But do not denigrate the rite itself, as if it is something unworthy or profane, and never imply that the billion Catholics who use and have come to love it are somehow inferior in their Faith.

(“The Mind of the Church on the Novus Ordo,” Catholic Culture, 13 August 2010)

Precisely. We saw the same approach above in his decrees of 2007 regarding the renewed and encouraged use of the Tridentine Mass: concentration on corruptions of a good thing, rather than a thing (the New Mass) itself intrinsically corrupt (as in Voris’ erroneous view).

Revised somewhat and re-titled on 24 December 2012. Revised (terminology) on 12 August 2013.
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