The Father William Most Collection
Rama P. Coomaraswamy, The Problem of the New Mass
[Published electronically for use in classes taught by Fr. Most and for private theological study.]
(Vexilla Regis Cath. Bookstore, 8 Pond Place, Oyster Bay Cave, N.Y. 11771)
1. In The Problem of the New Mass, Rama P. Coomaraswamy presumes to decide by private judgment what is or is not a substantial change in the form of a sacrament. That is the way Protestants act. It is for the Church and the Church only to decide that. The Church has decided that the New Mass is valid. To attack this shows both disobedience and lack of faith. In what the author would call "the good old days" his booklet would have been automatically forbidden reading under Canon 1399. Today under a milder law it is still, by general moral principles, sinful to propagate this book, for it can be an occasion of sin for those not capable of answering it.
2. It is also guilty of rash judgment. The injunction of Christ: "Judge not" refers not to saying that what is objectively wrong is objectively wrong - it applies to presuming to pronounce on the motives, the interior of the one doing it. That is precisely what this booklet does: it assumes that more than one Pope let a committee deliberately make the Mass invalid.
We distinguish between the Popes - Paul VI, and John Paul II-- and some of the staff. It is just possible that some of staff - not the Popes - have had bad intentions. The author has documented the fact that quite a few specific wordings match those adopted by Protestants in their own worship with a heretical intention. He also cites some Vatican official (named, but I have not the booklet on hand now) who told a petitioner for the Tridentine Mass that the new Mass was a whole new Ecclesiology. That would lead him to think there was heretical intent. In spite of all that, our text is valid, for in itself it can express sound doctrine. The evil wish of some does not change the intention of the Pope and Church. And if even an ignorant priest (one with deficient seminary training, who does not understand the Mass as a sacrifice but only as a meal) intends to do what the Church does, that is sufficient for validity.
More likely there was simply a move in ecumenism, to try to make the Protestants more amenable to our Church. This in itself is laudable, but can cause confusion.
In this connection we need to carefully distinguish three things - doctrine, legislation, good judgment or managing.
As to doctrine: I should believe it because of the promises of Christ. And incidentally, He promised the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church. This booklet claims they have prevailed, by destroying the heart of the Church, the Mass. This is gross lack of faith. We are reminded of the words of the Epistle of James (2:10) saying that if someone violates one commandment, he is guilty of all. - The reason is this: He has denied the authority of the lawgiver, and so violates all. Now we might see something a bit parallel here. If a man believes all but one of the teachings of the Church, we ask: Why is it that he believes those he does believe? It seems it is not faith - for faith would lead him to accept all, not all but one. Therefore, we wonder if such a person has any faith at all. What seems to be faith is apt to be just old time stubbornness.
As to legislation and commands: We must obey unless the command is immoral. The Pope of course has not ordered anything immoral even though this author thinks two Popes have ordered or permitted the destruction of the Mass - which would be grossly immoral. Of course it did not happen!).But some U.S. Bishops have done wrong, in ordering religion textbooks for their schools which either do not convey the faith or even contradict it.
Good judgment or management: Here we look back on the first two items and ask: Is this done with good judgment? There is no promise of Christ, no claim by the Church to protection in it. Past Church history shows many defects in this. So if someone says now that there is a lack of judgment in allowing the potentially ambiguous features of the Mass texts that are mentioned, he is not breaking with the Church. But we must be careful to say no more than that it is a slip in judgment: we must not say the Mass is no longer a Mass .Then the promise of Christ to be with you all days even to the consummation of the world would have failed.
3. The author says that the claim that there is an Aramaic word behind "all" instead of many is just due to Protestant prejudice by J. Jeremias. This is a lack of scholarship. Jeremias is a fine scholar. But leaving him aside, we should know that there is a Hebrew word, rabbim, which means the all who are many. If I would be in a room with three persons, I could say all, but could not say many. We first meet this usage not in J. Jeremias but in the prophecy of Isaiah 53. In verse 6: "The Lord laid upon Him the iniquity of us all. "But then, referring to the same ones, in verses 11 and 12 we find rabbim: "My righteous servant will justify rabbim... he bore the sins of rabbim." Further if one uses a Greek concordance to the New Testament, he finds that absolutely every time St. Paul uses Greek polloi as a substantive, he means all, even though polloi normally in Greek means many. For example in Romans 5:19: "Just as by the disobedience of the one,the polloi were made sinners, so by the obedience of the one man, the polloi will be constituted just." St. Paul clearly means original sin - he does not mean only some contract original sin. He means all. The author says we changed to all to mean all are actually saved. Nonsense. It merely means Christ died for all. Aramaic saggi'in at least at times has the same sense as Hebrew rabbim. The Aramaic Targum on Isaiah 53:11 does use saggi'in. Cf. E. C. Maloney, Semitic Interference in Marcan Syntax, pp. 141-42 (Society of Biblical Literature Dissertation 51, 1981).
As to the statements of a few rather recent Saints (It is not as he claims, that the Church has always said this). They were simply showing how the only text they could think of was fitting. They had no notion of the language problem involved.
4. In the Confiteor, the author seems not to have read the new text of the Mass. On p.12: "we start out with a truncated confession 'to our brothers and sisters.' Post-Conciliar Catholics no longer beseech the Blessed Virgin, the angels and the saints for their prayers." This is simply a lie. The present text reads thus: "I confess to Almighty God [not just to brothers and sisters] and to you my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do. And I ask Blessed Mary ever Virgin, all the angels and saints, and you my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God." Incidentally in the old Mass we did pray to our brothers and sisters: "et vobis fratres."
We turn to other canons and only by mighty straining can the author make them look like no sacrifice:
In Canon 2: "Let your Spirit come [so it is the work of the Spirit, not of the congregation as author charges] upon these gifts to make them holy, so that they may become for us, the body and blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ." So the Real Presence is clearly here.... Then after the Consecration: "In memory of his death and resurrection [compare Canon 1: we celebrate the memory of Christ your Son... his passion, his resurrection from the dead and his ascension into glory] we offer you, Father, this life-giving bread, this saving cup [Canon 1: "the bread of life and the cup of eternal salvation."]
In Canon 3: We ask you to make them holy by the power of your Spirit [again it is the Spirit that does it, not the congregation] that they may become the body and blood of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ [Real Presence], at whose command we celebrate this Eucharist [so we mean to do what He commanded]." After the consecration: Father calling to mind the death your Son endured for our salvation [again, much like Canon 1]... we offer you this holy and living sacrifice... see the Victim whose death has reconciled us to yourself [this is the means of redemption, and so is sacrifice].... Lord may this sacrifice [the one just mentioned] which has made our peace with you, advance the peace and salvation of all the world."
Canon 4: "Father, may this Holy Spirit sanctify these offerings. Let them become the body and blood of Jesus Christ our Lord [Real Presence again]...." After Consecration: "Father we now celebrate this memorial of our redemption, we recall Christ's death, his descent among the dead, his resurrection, and his ascension... we offer you his body and blood,the acceptable sacrifice which brings salvation to the whole world. Lord look upon the sacrifice which you have given to your Church... Remember those for whom we offer this sacrifice...."
No word at all thus far in any canon about a sacred meal. Many times offering and sacrifice, and what is offered is the body and blood of Christ, changed into that by the Holy Spirit, not by the congregation.
5. The quotes given saying the Church cannot change anything refer only to substantial change -- which is to be judged by the Church, not by protestant private judgment. Further, the Church has actually made over the centuries many nonsubstantial changes in forms of sacraments, especially confirmation, penance, anointing.