Catholic Culture Resources
Catholic Culture Resources

A multi-generational defense of the Mass

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Aug 02, 2023 | In Reviews

As a practical follow-up to Monday’s commentary (Do not panic! God uses evil for good, even in the Church), I should mention Andrew Likoudis’ effort to launch a new edition of his grandfather James Likoudis’ excellent book, The Pope, the Council, and the Mass. Jim co-authored this book with Kenneth D. Whitehead way back in 1981. It was republished with additional material in 2006 by Emmaus Road Publishing. You can acquaint yourself with Andrew and read the early praise for the book here: A Beacon of Christ’s Providential Light in the Post-Conciliar Church.

Beyond haranguing a few of my childhood friends, I started publicly defending the Catholic faith when I went off to college in 1966. I also participated in one of the early Catholic organizations which defended orthodoxy against the rebellion within the Church, Catholics United for the Faith. In the process I met and learned a great deal from James Likoudis, roughly twenty years my senior, who was among the earliest Catholic adults on the side of orthodoxy in the internecine warfare that erupted in the 1960s. We even collaborated on a project or two while I was in graduate school. In any case, Jim always offered good ballast to stabilize my early tendency to go just a little too far in my arguments with others. It took me some time to learn that not everyone who disagreed with me was a blithering idiot. (A later employee, in the small computer consulting firm I once headed, taught me to “never say blithering”, but that’s a tangential tale.)

Anyway, Andrew Likoudis is very interested in preserving and extending his grandfather’s legacy, and in this he is to be strongly encouraged. Meanwhile, I cannot help but notice that even today some Catholics are still tempted to believe that the currently-prescribed Mass for us Western Catholics is invalid, and that some form of traditionalISM (as distinct from a proper grasp of the Catholic concept of Tradition) is the only honorable course for “genuine” Catholics.

That, of course, is spiritually murderous nonsense (never say blithering), but a preference for the Tridentine Mass is not nonsense; it is merely a preference, and one may certainly argue that it is a more spiritually effective ritual for most people—just as one may argue the opposite. It is perfectly acceptable for Catholics to perceive one form of the liturgy as “superior” to another. It is perfectly acceptable to work peacefully toward a greater acceptance and love of that form. But we must be aware that, apart from the bare essentials, this is much akin to arguing at one and the same time over our preferred manner of offering thanks and praise to God and our favorite works of art. There were, in fact, over 200 variant valid forms in use throughout the Church when many of them were suppressed (to the horror of those attached to them) by the Tridentine Rite under Pope St. Pius V.

What will not do at all is for a Catholic to suppose that any liturgical form officially promulgated by the Pope will be spiritually dead—by which I mean invalid—and that the Eucharist is not the Body of Christ when confected through the use of that form.

In any case, any TraditionalISM is inherently an ideological distortion, elevating one aspect over the whole of Catholicism. It was to nip a false Traditionalism in the bud that Likoudis and Whitehead first wrote The Pope, the Council, and the Mass, and its arguments are as valid now as they were when it was first published some 42 years ago—though I am confident that more good material could be added to a new edition.

If you are still struggling with the temptation that the currently-prescribed form of the Mass for the Roman Church is invalid—a temptation which, if indulged, becomes objectively a rather serious sin—then I recommend that you finally read Likoudis and Whitehead’s book, and that you stop listening to those who—slaves to their own personal liturgical preferences and their own personal interpretation of Sacred Tradition—are troubling your confidence in Christ’s promise to be with the Church until the end of time.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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  • Posted by: john.n.akiko7522 - Aug. 04, 2023 9:27 PM ET USA

    One can be a traditionalist and believe that the Novus Ordo is a valid, but inferior form of the mass, open to abuse and banality. An obvious question is: what has caused the tragic eclipse of Western Catholicism in the years since V2. I cannot believe that the changes to the liturgy were not at least major contributors to the subsequent unprecedented apostasy from the faith. And since that seems to be the case, then it was a bad, bad move.

  • Posted by: till8774 - Aug. 04, 2023 7:35 PM ET USA

    Jeff, you learned well from Jim Likoudis! Your article above was "good ballast to stabilize [our] tendency to go just a little too far in our arguments with others". You are great at helping us all slow down, think carefully, and stay with the Church Jesus founded. Thank you so much for your clear thinking and charity toward those who may not agree.

  • Posted by: loumiamo4057 - Aug. 03, 2023 5:58 AM ET USA

    You hit the nail squarely on its round head with this one Jeff. I know that the novus order is a valid mass because the church tells me so. I believe that the Eucharist confected there is truly the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus. I know these things and I accept them. But that doesn't make the novus ordo any less miserable.