An Examination of the Shocking Similarities Between the New Mass
and Luther's "Mass"
by His Grace Archbishop Lefebvre
February 15, 1975,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I wish to speak
to you this evening about the evangelical Mass of Martin Luther,
and of the striking resemblance between his Liturgical innovations
of more than four centuries ago, and the recently promulgated new
order of the Mass, the Novus Ordo Missae.
Why are such
considerations of significance? Because of the prominent role, according
to the President of the Liturgical Commission himself, accorded
to the concept of ecumenism in bringing about these reforms. Because,
further, if we are able to ascertain that a close relationship does
indeed exist between Luther's innovations and the Novus Ordo, then
the theological question, that is the question of the faith, must
be asked in terms of the well known adage, "lex orandi,
lex credendi"; the law of prayer cannot be profoundly changed
without changing the law of belief.
It is well,
in order to assist our understanding of the present liturgical reforms,
to examine carefully actual historical documents on Luther's reforms.
To grasp Luther's
goal in bringing forward his reforms we must briefly recall the
Church's doctrine with respect to the Priesthood and the Holy Sacrifice
of the Mass.
The 22nd session
of the Council of Trent (1562) teaches that Our Lord Jesus Christ,
wishing His Priesthood to continue after His death on the Cross,
instituted at the Last Supper a visible Sacrifice destined to apply
the salutary effect of His Redemption to the sins of mankind. Christ
therefore, instituted Holy Orders, and choosing His Apostles and
their successors to be the priests of the New Testament, marked
them as such with a sacred and indelible character.
instituted by Christ is performed on our altars by the sacrificial
action of the Redeemer Himself, truly present under the species
of bread and wine, offering Himself as a victim to His Father. And
by partaking at Communion of this Victim, we unite ourselves to
the Body and Blood of Our Lord, and offer ourselves also in union
Thus, the Church
teaches, first, that the Priesthood of the priest is essentially
different from that of the faithful, who do not have the Priesthood
but who belong to a Church which essentially requires a Priesthood.
It is deeply fitting that this Priesthood be celibate, and that
its members be differentiated from the faithful by clerical dress.
essential liturgical act performed by this Priesthood is the Holy
Sacrifice of the Mass, different from the Sacrifice of the Cross
only in that the latter was a bloody sacrifice, and the former is
an unbloody sacrifice. The Sacrifice of the Mass is accomplished
by the sacrificial action of reciting the words of the Consecration,
and not simply by reciting a narrative, or by a remembrance of the
Passion or of the Last Supper.
is by virtue of this sublime and mysterious act that the effects
of the Redemption are applied to the souls of both the faithful
on Earth and the souls in Purgatory. This doctrine is most admirably
expressed at the Offertory of the Mass.
Real Presence of the Victim is thus required, and comes to pass
through the change of the substance of bread and wine into the substance
of the Body and Blood of Our Lord. Accordingly, we are required
to adore the Eucharist and reserve for it the very highest respect,
whence comes the tradition that priests alone distribute the Holy
Eucharist and see to Its custody.
finally, that although a priest celebrates the Mass and takes Communion
alone, yet he performs a public act, a sacrifice equal in value
to any other Mass, and of infinite value to both the celebrant and
the entire Church. Privately celebrated Masses, accordingly, are
highly encouraged by the Church.
The above principles
are the basis of the prayers, the music and the ceremonies which
have made the Latin Mass of the Council of Trent a veritable liturgical
jewel. The Council of Trent's deeply moving doctrine on the Canon,
the most precious element of the Mass, states:
it is becoming that holy things he administered in a holy manner
and of all things this Sacrifice is the most holy, the Catholic
Church, to the end that it might be worthily and reverently offered
and received, instituted many centuries ago the Holy Canon, which
is so free from error that it contains nothing that does not in
the highest degree savor of a certain holiness and piety and raise
up to God the minds of those who offer. For it consists partly
of the very words of the Lord, partly of the traditions of the
Apostles, and also of pious regulations of holy Pontiffs."
(Acts of the Council of Trent, session 22, chapter IV).
Let us examine
the manner in which Luther achieved his reform of the liturgy, that
is implemented the "evangelical Mass", as he himself called
it. Of particular interest in this effort are the actual words of
Luther himself, or of his disciples, with respect to the reforms.
It is enlightening to note the liberal tendencies which inspire
In first place",
he writes "I would kindly and for God's sake request all those
who see this order of service or desire to follow it: do not make
it a rigid law to bind or entangle anyone's conscience, but use
it in Christian liberty as long, when, where, and how you find it
to be practical and useful."(T,C. Tappert, ed., Selected Writings
of Martin Luther, vol. 3,p. 397). "The cult", he continues,
"was formerly meant to render homage to God; henceforth it
shall he directed to man in order to console him and enlighten him,
Whereas the sacrifice formerly held pride of place, henceforth the
most important will be the sermon". (from Léon Christiani,
Du luthéranisme au protestantisme (1910), p. 312)
Luther's Thoughts on the Priesthood
In his work
on privately celebrated Masses, Luther seeks to demonstrate that
the Catholic Priesthood is a creation of Satan. He bases this
assertion On the principle, henceforth fundamental to his thinking,
that what is not in Holy Scripture is an addition of Satan. Accordingly,
for Luther, since Scripture makes no mention of the visible Priesthood,
there can be but one priest and one Pontiff, Christ. With Christ
we are all called to the Priesthood, thus making the Priesthood
at once unique and universal. What folly to seek to limit it to
the few. Similarly, all hierarchical distinctions between Christians
are worthy of the Antichrist; "Woe therefore, to those who
call themselves priests". (Christiani, Ibid., p. 269)
In 1520, Luther
wrote "To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation Concerning
the Reform of the Christian State", in which he attacks the
Romanists and urges the convocation of a free council:
first wall built by the Romanists is the distinction between the
clergy and the laity. It is pure invention that pope, bishop,
priests, and monks are called the spiritual estate while prince',
lords, artisans and peasants are called the temporal estate. This
is indeed a piece of deceit and hypocrisy. All Christians are
truly of the spiritual estate, and there is no difference among
them except that of office... The pope or bishop anoints, confers
the tonsure, ordains, consecrates, and prescribes garb different
from that of the laity. He might well make a man into a hypocrite
in so doing, but never a Christian or a spiritual man... Whoever
comes out of the water of baptism can boast that he is already
a consecrated priest, bishop, and pope, although of course it
is not seemly that just anybody should exercise such office".
(Tappert, Ibid., vol. 1, 23-65)
It was from
this doctrine that Luther concluded against both clerical garb and
celibacy. He and his disciples, in fact, showed the way by marrying.
How many of
the reforms of Vatican II reflect Luther's own conclusions? The
abandonment of clerical and religious dress, widespread marriages
of the religious sanctioned even by the Holy See, the suppression
of distinctions between priest and layman. This egalitarianism is
further manifested in the sharing of liturgical functions formerly
reserved to the Priesthood.
of the minor orders and the sub-diaconate, and the creation of a
married diaconate, have also contributed to the purely administrative
conception of the priest, to the detriment of his essentially priestly
character, Thus one is ordained primarily to serve the community
and no longer for the purpose of offering Christ's Sacrifice which
alone is the justification for the Catholic concept of the Priesthood.
priests in labor unions, or in positions remunerated by the State
similarly contribute to the blurring of distinctions between Priesthood
and laity. In fact, the innovations go much further than those of
grave doctrinal error flows from the first and is founded upon its
guiding principle: salvation comes from faith and confidence in
God alone, and not from good works. thus negating the value of the
sacrificial act which is the Catholic Mass.
the Mass is a sacrifice of praise, that is an act of praise, of
thanksgiving, but most certainly not an expiatory sacrifice which
recreates the Sacrifice of Calvary and applies its merits.
the liturgical "perversions" he observed in some monasteries,
he wrote: "The Principal expression of their cult, the Mass,
surpasses all impiety and abomination in that they make of it a
sacrifice and a good work. Were this the only reason to leave habit
and convent and abandon the vows, it would be amply sufficient".
(Christiani, p. 258)
the Mass, which is meant simply to be a communion, has been subjected
to a triple bondage: the laity has been deprived of the use of the
chalice, they have been bound as to a dogma to the Thomistic opinion
on transubstantiation, and the Mass has been made into a sacrifice.
is, therefore, clearly erroneous and impious", he declared,
"to offer or apply the merits of the Mass for sins, or the
reparation thereof, or for the deceased. Mass is offered by God
to man, and not by man to God". (Christiani)
respect in the Eucharist, since it ought first and foremost to
move one to the Faith, it is fitting that it be celebrated in
the vernacular in order that all may comprehend the grandeur of
God's promise to man". (Christiani, p. 176)
consequence of this heresy was for Luther to abolish the
Offertory of the Mass, which expresses unequivocally the propitiatory
and expiatory aims of the Sacrifice. Similarly, he abolished a major
part of the Canon, retaining only the essential passages as a narrative
of Christ's Last Supper. In order better to emphasize the latter
event, he added to the formula of the Consecration of the bread
the words "quod pro vobis tradetur" ("which
will be given up for you"), and deleted both "mysterium
fidei" ("the mystery of faith") and "pro
multis" ("for many"). He considered that
the passages which both immediately precede and follow the actual
Consecration of the bread and Wine were essential.
the Mass is firstly the Liturgy of the Word, and secondly a Communion.
For us that fact that the current liturgical Reforms have adopted
precisely these same modifications is nothing short of astounding.
Indeed, as we well know, the texts in use by the faithful today
no longer make reference to the Sacrifice, but rather to the Liturgy
of the Word, to the Lord's Supper and to the breaking of bread,
or to the Eucharist. Article VII of the instruction which introduced
the new Liturgy reflected a clearly Protestant orientation. A corrected
version which followed in the wake of the outraged protests of the
faithful remains sadly deficient.
It goes without
saying that, added to these substantial alterations, the large number
of lesser liturgical modifications have contributed further to the
inculcation of Protestant attitudes which seriously threaten Catholic
doctrine: the suppression of the altar stone, the use of a single
altar cloth, the priest facing the people, the Host remaining on
the paten rather than on the corporal, the introduction of ordinary
bread, sacred vessels of less noble substances, and numerous other
nothing more essential to the survival of the Catholic Church than
the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. To play it down is to threaten the
very foundation of Christ's Church. The whole of Christian life,
and the Priesthood, is founded upon the Cross, and upon the re-enactment
of the Sacrifice of the Cross, upon the altar.
TRANSUBSTANTIATION AND THE REAL PRESENCE AS TAUGHT BY THE CATHOLIC
CHURCH. For Luther the substance of bread remains. Consequently,
in the words of his disciple Melanchton, who strongly opposed the
adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, "Christ instituted the
Eucharist as a memorial of His Passion. To adore It is therefore
that Communion is to be taken in the hand and under both species,
which reinforces the denial of the presence of Our Lord's Body and
Blood; it is thus normal to consider the Eucharist as incomplete
under a single species.
we note the strange resemblance between the present renewal and
Luther's Reform. Every recent promulgation on the Eucharist tends
towards a lessening of respect, a retreat from adoration: Communion
in the hand and its distribution by lay men and lay women; the
reduced number of genuflections, which many priests have discontinued
altogether; the use of ordinary vessels and ordinary bread, all
of these innovations have diminished belief in the Real Presence
as taught by the Catholic Church.
but conclude that, principles being inseparable from practice ("lex
orandi, lex credendi"), the fact that the Liturgy of the present
day imitates Luther's reforms leads inevitably towards the adoption
of the very principles propounded by Luther. The experience of the
six years which have followed the promulgation of the Novus Ordo
is sufficient proof. The consequences, of this so-called ecumenical
effort, have been nothing short of catastrophic, primarily in the
area of faith, and especially in terms of the perversion of the
Priesthood and the serious decline in vocations, in the scandalous
divisions created among Catholics the world over, and indeed
in the Church's relations with Protestants and Orthodox Christians.
concepts on the essential questions of the Church, the Priesthood,
the Sacrifice and the Eucharist are irrevocably opposed to those
of the Catholic Church. It was for no idle purpose that the Council
of Trent was convened, and that the Church's Magisterium has spoken
so frequently on these very questions for more than four centuries
It is impossible
in psychological, pastoral and theological terms for Catholics to
abandon a Liturgy which has always been the true expression and
sustenance of their Faith, and to adopt in its place new rites conceived
by heretics without exposing this Faith to the most serious peril.
One cannot imitate Protestantism indefinitely without becoming
How many of
the faithful, how many young priests, how many bishops even have
lost their Faith since the adoption of the new liturgical Reforms?
One cannot expect to offend both Faith and nature and not expect
that these in turn should reap their own vengeance.
In order to
grasp the striking analogy between the two Reforms, it is well worth
reading contemporary accounts of the early Evangelical Masses. Leon
Christiani's descriptions remain vivid:
the night of December 24/25 1521, large crowds began arriving
at the parish church... The evangelical Mass was about to begin;
Karlstadt goes to the pulpit; he is to preach on the Eucharist.
He claims that Communion under both species is obligatory and
that prior Confession is not required. Faith alone matters. Karlstadt
approaches the altar in secular dress, recites the Confiteor,
and begins the Mass proper in the usual manner, up to the Gospel.
The Offertory and the Elevation, that is those parts which express
the idea of the Sacrifice, are omitted. After the Consecration
comes the Communion. Many of the congregation have not been to
Confession and many have not fasted, not even from alcohol. They
approach the Communion table with the others. Karlstadt distributed
the hosts and offers the chalice. The communicants receive the
consecrated bread in the hand and casually drink from the chalice.
A host falls to the ground and Karlstadt beckons to a lay person
to pick it up. The layman demurs, and Karlstadt allows it to remain
where it is for the time being, cautioning the congregation, however,
not to step on it." (Christiani, p. 281-83)
Christmas day another priest in the same district gave communion
under both species to about fifty persons, of whom only five had
gone to Confession. The rest had received a general absolution,
their penance being the recommendation to resist sin.
next day - December 26 - Karlstadt announced his engagement to
Anna de Mochau. Numerous priests followed suit.
In the meantime,
Zwilling, having left his monastery, was preaching at Eilenberg.
He had discarded the habit and was now bearded. Dressed in lay
clothes, he fulminated against privately celebrated Masses. On
New Year's Day, he distributed Communion under both species. The
hosts were passed from hand to hand. Several were pocketed by
the communicants. One lady, while receiving, allowed fragments
to drop to the ground. No one appeared to notice. The faithful
helped themselves generously to the chalice.
On 29 February
1522, Zwilling married Catherine Falki. By this time there had
occurred a rash of marriages of priests and monks. The monasteries
were beginning to empty. Those monks who remained removed all
altars save one, destroyed statues and images and even the Holy
clergy, Anarchy reigned. Each priest celebrated Mass in his own
fashion. It was resolved finally to prescribe a new Liturgy with
a view of restoring order and consolidating the Reforms.
of Mass was set to include the Introit, the Gloria, the Epistle,
the Gospel and the Sanctus, followed by a sermon. The Offertory
and the Canon were both abolished. Henceforth the priest was to
simply narrate the institution of the Lord's Supper, reciting
aloud in German the words of the Consecration, and distributing
Communion under both species. The Agnus Dei, the Communion prayer
and the Benedicamus Domino were sung to end the Mass. (Christiani,
One of the
preoccupations of Luther at this time was the institution of a repertory
of appropriate hymns. With considerable difficulty he was able to
enlist the efforts of lyricists. The Saints feast days were abolished.
Generally, however, Luther attempted to minimize out-and-out abolitions.
He directed his efforts to retaining as many of the ancient ceremonies
as possible, seeking rather to orient their significance toward
the spirit of his Reforms.
Thus for a
time the Mass retained in large measure its external appearances.
The churches retained the same decor and the same rites, with modifications
but directed towards the faithful, for henceforth much more attention
was to be paid to the faithful than formerly, in order that they,
might be conscious of a more active role in the Liturgy: thus, they
were to participate in the singing and in the prayers of the Mass.
And, gradually, Latin gave way definitively to the German vernacular.
Even the Consecration
was sung in German, in these words: "Our Lord on the night
He was betrayed took bread, rendered thanks, broke it and gave it
to His disciples, saying: Take you and eat of this for this is My
Body given up for you. Do this, as often as you shall do it, in
memory of Me. In like manner, when the supper was done, taking also
the chalice saying; Take you and drink of this for this is the chalice
of the new covenant, of My Blood which is shed for you for the forgiveness
of sins. Do this, as often as you shall drink of this chalice, in
memory of Me."
added to the Consecration of the bread the words "which
is given up for you", and deleted from the Consecration
of the wine, the words "the mystery of faith" and
considerations on the Evangelical Mass not reflect our very feelings
towards the reformed liturgy since the Council?
these changes which comprise the new Liturgy of the Mass are truly
of perilous consequence, especially for younger priests. Not having
been nourished with the doctrines of the Sacrifice, of the Real
Presence, of Transubstantiation, these no longer have any significance
for young priests who, as a result, soon lose the intention to perform
what the Church performs. Consequently, they no longer celebrate
on the other hand, even when they celebrate according to the Novus
Ordo, may still have the Faith of all time. For years they have
celebrated Mass according to the Tridentine rite, and in accordance
with the intentions of that rite, we can assume that their Masses
are valid. To the degree, however, that these intentions
disappear, even their Masses may become invalid.
It was intended
that Catholics and Protestants draw closer together, but it is evident
that Catholics have become Protestants, rather than the reverse.
When five cardinals
and fifteen bishops participated recently in a "Council of
Youth" at Taizé in France, how were young people to
distinguish between Catholicism and Protestantism? Some received
Communion from Catholics, others from Protestants.
Willebrands, in his capacity as the Holy See's Envoy to the World
Council of Churches at Geneva, declared solemnly that we shall have
to rehabilitate Martin Luther!
And what has
become of the Sacrament of Penance with the introduction of general
absolution? Is it truly a pastoral improvement to teach the faithful
that, having been granted general absolution, they may receive Communion
provided, should they be in the state of mortal sin, that they take
the opportunity to go to Confession within the following six months,
or year? Who will suggest that this is indeed a pastoral improvement?
What concept of mortal sin are the faithful to retain from this
of Confirmation is in a similar situation. A common rite today is
to pronounce simply "I sign you with the Sign of the Cross.
Receive the Holy Spirit." In administering Confirmation, the
bishop must indicate precisely the special sacramental grace whereby
he confers the Holy Ghost. There is no Confirmation if he does not
say, "I confirm you in the name of the Father..."
reproach me, and remind me, that I confer the Sacrament where I
am not authorized. To them I answer that I confirm because the
faithful fear that their children have not received the grace of
Confirmation, because they have a serious doubt as to the validity
of the Sacrament conferred in their Churches. Therefore, in
order that they might at least be secure in their knowledge of the
validity of the sacramental grace, they ask that I confirm their
children. And I respond to their plea because it appears to me that
I may not refuse those who request that their confirmation be valid,
even if it may not be licit. We are clearly at a time when divine
natural and supernatural law takes precedence over positive Church
law when the latter is opposed to the former, when in reality it
should he the channel leading to it.
We are living
in an age of extraordinary crisis, and we cannot accept its Reforms.
Where are the good fruits of these Reforms, of the Liturgical Reform,
the Reform of the seminaries, the Reform of the religious congregations?
What have all of these General Chapters yielded; what has become
of their congregations? The religious life has all but disappeared:
there are no more novices, no more vocations!
Bernardin of Cincinnati recognized the problem clearly when he declared
to the Synod of Bishops in Rome, "In our countries"
- he was speaking for English-speaking countries of the world
- "there are no more vocations because the priest has lost
his sense of identity," It is essential, therefore, that
we remain loyal to Tradition, for without Tradition there is no
grace, no continuity in the Church. If we abandon Tradition, we
contribute to the destruction of the Church.
I have had
occasion to say to the Cardinals, "Do you not see that the
Council's Declaration on Religious Freedom is a contradiction? Whereas
the Introduction states that the council leaves untouched traditional
Catholic doctrine, the body of the document is entirely opposed
to Tradition: it is opposed to what has been taught by Popes Gregory
XVI, Pius IX, and Leo XIII."
now faced with a grave choice: either we agree with the Council's
Declaration on Religious Freedom, and thus oppose the teachings
of the Popes, or we agree with the teachings of the popes, and thus
disagree with Vatican II's Declaration on Religious Freedom. It
is impossible to subscribe to both. I have made my choice:
I choose Tradition. I cling to Tradition over
novelty which is merely an expression of Liberalism, the very Liberalism
condemned by the Holy See for a century and a half. Now this Liberalism
has penetrated the Church through the Council, and its catchwords
remain the same; liberty, equality and fraternity.
of Liberalism permeates the Church today, though its catchwords
are thinly veiled: liberty is religious freedom; fraternity is ecumenism;
equality is collegiality. These are the three principles of Liberalism,
the legacy of the 18th century philosophers and of the French Revolution.
today is approaching its own destruction because these principles
are absolutely contrary to nature and to faith. There is no true
equality possible, and Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical on freedom
clearly explained why.
If there is no Father where shall we find fraternity? If there is
no Father, there is no God, how then shall we be brothers? Are we
to embrace the enemies of the Church, the Communists, the Buddhists,
And now we
have word that there is no excommunication for Catholics who become
Freemasons. Freemasonry nearly destroyed Portugal; Freemasonry was
with Allende in Chile, and is now in South Vietnam. Freemasons see
it as important to destroy Catholic States. Thus it was during the
First World War in Austria, thus it was in Hungary and in Poland.
Freemasonry seeks to destroy the Catholic nations. What is in store
for Spain and Italy and other countries in the near future? Why
does the Church feel compelled to open her arms to the enemies of
Now we are
bound to pray, to redouble our prayers! We are witnessing an assault
by Satan against the Church, as has never been seen. We must pray
to Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary, to come to our assistance,
for we can have no idea what horrors tomorrow may bring. It is not
possible for God to tolerate indefinitely these blasphemies, these
sacrileges which are committed against His Glory and Majesty! One
need only reflect on the horror of abortion, on rampant divorce,
on the ruin of moral law and of truth itself. It is inconceivable
that all of this can continue without God punishing the world by
some terrible chastisement.
This is why
we must beg God's mercy for ourselves and for all mankind, and we
must struggle, we must fight. We must fight fearlessly to maintain
Tradition, to maintain, above all, the Liturgy of the Holy Mass,
because it is the very foundation of the Church, indeed of Christian
civilization. Were the true Mass no longer to be celebrated in
the Church, the Church would disappear.
therefore, preserve this Liturgy, this Sacrifice. Our churches were
built for this Mass and for no other: for the Sacrifice of the Mass,
and not for a supper, a meal, a memorial or a Communion. Our ancestors
built magnificent cathedrals and churches, not for a meal or a simple
memorial, but for the Sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ which continues
upon our altars.
I count on
you for your prayers for my seminarians, that they may become true
priests, priests who have the faith, in order that they may administer
the true Sacraments and celebrate the true Holy Sacrifice of the
Mass. Thank you.
Courtesy of the Angelus
Press, Regina Coeli House
2918 Tracy Avenue, Kansas City, MO 64109