Catholic Family News

Is a Reverent Novus Ordo Just as Good?

This week marked the end of the Traditional Latin Mass at Saint Mary Cathedral in Austin, Texas. In a letter dated February 11, 2024 and addressed to cathedral parishioners, Bishop Joe Vásquez broke the news that “the dispensation [from Rome] for celebrations according to the 1962 missal will come to an end on March 19, the feast of St. Joseph.”

Bishop Vásquez explained that, due to the Rescript issued last year, which essentially forbids bishops to dispense from certain provisions of Traditionis Custodes on their own authority (can. 87 §1), he was forced to submit “the case of the celebrations according to the 1962 missal at the Cathedral parish to the Vatican Dicastery for Divine Worship to receive the guidance and direction of the Holy See.” And the “guidance” he received from Cardinal Arthur Roche’s office, not surprisingly, was to shut down the Traditional Mass.

The bishop went on to say that he has “instructed the Cathedral clergy to begin offering the 7:30am and 3:30pm Sunday Masses,” which were formerly a Low and High Mass, respectively, “according to the current edition of the Roman Missal. These Masses will continue to be celebrated in the Latin language and will be celebrated at the Cathedral’s high altar, using the ad orientem orientation. These liturgies will also continue to be filled with the Church’s beautiful treasury of Gregorian chant and sacred music.”

“While this transition may be difficult for some,” he said in closing, “my hope is that you can open your hearts and move forward on this path with faith and trust. I believe we will experience a deepened unity with the whole Church and a greater awareness of the liturgical richness of the ordinary form of the Roman Liturgy,” reminiscent of statements made by Pope Benedict XVI[1] and Cardinal Roche.[2]

In other words, Bishop Vásquez is suggesting that a reverent celebration of the Novus Ordo is just as good as the Traditional Latin Mass, similar to what Pope Francis asserts in his Letter to Bishops attached to Traditionis Custodes: “Whoever wishes to celebrate with devotion according to earlier forms of the liturgy can find in the reformed Roman Missal according to Vatican Council II all the elements of the Roman Rite, in particular the Roman Canon which constitutes one of its more distinctive elements.”

The Ottaviani Intervention

The problem is that this sweeping claim is simply not true, as Cardinals Alfredo Ottaviani (d. 1979) and Antonio Bacci (d. 1971) conveyed in their letter to Pope Paul VI (Sept. 25, 1969), in which they observed that “the Novus Ordo represents, both as a whole and in its details, a striking departure from the Catholic theology of the Mass as it was formulated in Session XXII of the Council of Trent.” Their letter served as an introduction to a detailed theological critique of the New Mass prepared by “a group of theologians, liturgists and pastors of souls,” as the Cardinals noted.

Bishop Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, in his biography of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, provides a helpful summary of the Short Critical Study, as it is often called:

“(1) By suppressing the prayers of the Offertory and the prayers to the Holy Trinity, the propitiatory end of the Mass is passed over in silence. (2) The subtle changes to the words of consecration suggest a simple narration of what Jesus did at the Last Supper and not the actual change of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ by the action of the priest. They remove the emphasis on the actions of the priest to highlight the idea of commemoration in which the ‘priesthood of the people’ comes into play. (3) The suppression of numerous signs of the cross, bows, genuflections, the purifications and care taken with regard to particles of the host, etc. suggest that the presence of Christ in the Eucharist is only real when it is received (in Communion) or that it is only spiritual. (4) Finally, the suppression of the ‘personal’ prayers of the priest along with the other changes dilutes the hierarchical priesthood and the ministry of the priest, who no longer appears to be alone capable of consecrating and offering the Body and Blood of the Redeemer ‘in the person of Christ the Priest.’”[3]

The Short Critical Study ultimately states: “It is evident that the Novus Ordo has no intention of presenting the Faith as taught by the Council of Trent, to which, nonetheless, the Catholic conscience is bound forever.”

Side-by-Side Comparison

In addition to scholarly critiques, a simple side-by-side comparison of the traditional Ordo Missae and the Novus Ordo Missae demonstrates significant textual and rubrical differences. The Latin Mass Society of England and Wales provides just such a comparison on their website.

Below, I will provide some screenshots from the LMS website and comment on some examples of significant differences between the Traditional and New Mass.

From the very beginning, we see that the Traditional Mass is clearly theocentric, with the priest preparing himself to offer the august Sacrifice of Christ by praying Psalm 42: “I will go in to the altar of God: to God Who giveth joy to my youth.” In the New Mass, after the initial Sign of the Cross, the focus is immediately placed on the congregation. Instead of praying to God, the priest greets the people.

In the Traditional Mass, the first time the priest addresses someone other than God is during his recitation of the Confiteor (“and to you, brethren,” meaning the deacon and subdeacon if such are present), which he does alone as the head of his spiritual household, thus leading the way and setting the example for his spiritual children. In the New Mass, assuming the priest chooses to use the Confiteor, which he recites together with the people, it is shorn of all individual invocations of Saints other than Our Lady. If he chooses the third penitential option (“You were sent to heal the contrite of heart”), then neither he nor the people actually confess their sins at all. Concerning these changes, the Short Critical Study notes: “In the Confiteor which has now become collective, he [the priest] is no longer judge, witness, and intercessor with God; so it is logical that he is no longer empowered to give the absolution, which has been suppressed.”

After the Confiteor in the Traditional Mass, the priest once again acknowledges his “iniquities” as he ascends the sanctuary steps and approaches the altar for the first time, beseeching God to make him “worthy to enter into the Holy of Holies,” an allusion to the Old Testament high priest entering the inner sanctuary once a year (cf. Lev. 16) as well as to Christ, “the mediator of the new testament” (Heb. 9:15), entering into the heavenly sanctuary after “having obtained eternal redemption” (Heb. 9:12) by the shedding of His Most Precious Blood.

One of the starkest differences between the Traditional and New Mass is in the Offertory. Whereas the focus in the traditional prayers is clearly on sacrifice and the salvation of souls, the new prayers do not mention either of those essential themes at all. On this crucial point, Bishop Athanasius Schneider provides excellent commentary:

“The Novus Ordo Missae weakens the essential, sacrificial aspect of the Mass. This is most clearly seen in the new Offertory Prayers, which are essentially prayers for the blessing of a meal, emptied of their properly sacrificial meaning. …

The Offertory is meant to point to the Cross, so the Church expresses in a solemn and somewhat drawn-out manner the intentio, i.e., what she intends to do, which is not to carry out a simple meal, but the greatest action, which is the sacrifice of Christ. That is why the Offertory must necessarily express the sacrifice that is to be offered. In the Offertory Prayers of the Novus Ordo Missae, on the other hand, the intentio expresses the aspect of a meal, or banquet. That is why the new Offertory Prayers are dogmatically, doctrinally, and spiritually defective and should be replaced by the ancient prayers, which correspond to the spirit of the universal Church of all times…”[4]

After the Offertory in both the Traditional and New Mass, the priest washes his hands (specifically, his fingers) in preparation for the Consecration. While doing so in the New Mass, he prays a single verse from Psalm 50, while in the Traditional Mass he prays several verses of Psalm 25, as well as the Gloria Patri, followed by the Suscipe Sancta Trinitas, which once again expresses the sacrificial nature of the Mass (“Receive, O holy Trinity, this oblation offered up by us to Thee”). As with the traditional Confiteor, this beautiful prayer also invokes several Saints by name and asks for their intercession.

For well over a thousand years prior to the New Mass, the consecration formula for the wine, in addition to the words of Our Lord, included the words mysterium fidei (“the mystery of faith”). Fr. Michael Fiedrowicz discusses the history and significance of these words in his book, The Traditional Mass:

“The phrase mysterium fidei is itself mysterious in its significance. Probably borrowed from 1 Tim. 3:9, it was introduced into the chalice formula and received multiple explanations. Medieval interpreters of the liturgy understood the word in the sense that the mystery completed in the Eucharist — the transubstantiation of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ — could be understood only by means of subjective faith. As the mysterium fidei does not follow the words of consecration, but rather was inserted into them, the consecration itself is distinctly identified as a mystery of faith.”[5]

When Pope Paul VI introduced what he called “the new rite” in 1969,[6] he insisted that the words mysterium fidei be removed from the Consecration of the Wine and made to “serve as an introduction to the acclamation of the faithful” (Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum) — an acclamation which focuses not on the mystery of transubstantiation, and thus on the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist, but rather on the Second Coming of Christ at the end of time.

On this point, the Short Critical Study notes that “the acclamation assigned to the people immediately after the Consecration (‘We announce Thy death, O Lord, until Thou comest’) introduces yet again, under cover of eschatology, the same ambiguity concerning the Real Presence [as is found elsewhere in the New Mass]. Without interval or distinction, the expectation of Christ’s Second Coming at the end of time is proclaimed just at the moment when He is substantially present on the altar, almost as though the former, and not the latter, were the true Coming.”

Our last example involves the Blessing and Dismissal. In the Traditional Mass, after he addresses the people but before he blesses them, the priest offers a final prayer to the Holy Trinity in which the sacrificial nature of the Mass is once again emphasized. As with the Suscipe Sancta Trinitas (after the Lavabo), the Placeat tibi Sancta Trinitas was removed from “the new rite” by the innovators, as was the Last Gospel (John 1:1-14), a most fitting meditation after the mystery of the Incarnation has been renewed in the Mass.[7]

Notice what is added, however, in the rubrics (words in red) for the New Mass: “If they are necessary, any brief announcements to the people follow here.” As if the words and rubrics of the Holy Sacrifice have not suffered enough damage already, mundane announcements are now allowed to be interjected into the Mass itself — and very shortly after the distribution of Holy Communion, no less, when both the priest and the people should be focused on adoring the Lord Whom they have just received.


Hopefully this brief (and far from comprehensive) comparison has made it clear that a reverent Novus Ordo, though obviously better than an irreverent Mass, is not an adequate substitute for the Traditional Latin Mass — neither for the people who attend nor the priest who offers.[8] Instead of extolling the alleged “liturgical richness” of Paul VI’s New Mass, Bishop Vásquez of Austin and all bishops should take the time to learn the Traditional Latin Mass, as Bishop Joseph Strickland did a few years ago, and come to appreciate it for what it is, namely, the “received and approved” Roman Rite,[9] which every bishop of the Roman Church, including the Pope, is bound to preserve and hand on.

[1] See Pope Benedict XVI’s Letter to Bishops attached to Summorum Pontificum (July 7, 2007), in which he stated, “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.”

[2] See this speech (Oct. 4, 2021) of then-Archbishop Roche, in which he claimed that “the Missale Romanum of Pope Saint Paul VI is the richest Missal that the Church has ever produced together with its Missale Romanum Lectionarium.”

[3] Bishop Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Marcel Lefebvre: The Biography (Kansas City: Angelus Press, 2004), p. 398. For background on when and how the Short Critical Study was prepared, see pp. 396-397.

[4] Bishop Athanasius Schneider with Aurelio Porfiri (trans. Diane Montagna), The Catholic Mass: Steps to Restore the Centrality of God in the Liturgy (Manchester: Sophia Institute Press, 2021), pp. 88-89.

[5] Fr. Michael Fiedrowicz (trans. Rose Pfeifer), The Traditional Mass: History, Form, and Theology of the Classical Roman Rite (Brooklyn: Angelico Press, 2020), pp. 279-280.

[6] Pope Paul VI, General Audience addresses of Nov. 19 and 26, 1969 (see here and herenuovo rito in Italian). For English translations, see Peter A. Kwasniewski, The Once and Future Roman Rite (Gastonia: TAN Books, 2022), pp. 384-391.

[7] For a beautiful explanation of how the Incarnation is renewed in the Mass, see Fr. Michael Mueller, The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (Gastonia: TAN Books, 2023), Chapter 13 (pp. 147-152).

[8] At the same time, I recognize that not everyone who loves and wants to attend the Traditional Latin Mass has access to one in their area (within reasonable driving distance). Thus, a reverent Novus Ordo is the only option for some (if not many) Catholics. Let us pray for a continued increase of Traditional Masses around the globe!

[9] Council of Trent, Session VII, Can. 13 on the Sacraments in General: “If anyone says that the received and approved [receptos et approbatos] rites of the Catholic Church that are customarily used in the solemn administration of the sacraments may be despised or omitted without sin by the ministers as they please or that they may be changed to other new rites by any pastor in the Church: let him be anathema.” (D.H. 1613).

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Matt Gaspers

Matt Gaspers is the Managing Editor of Catholic Family News. He was asked by John Vennari (1958-2017), longtime Editor of CFN and stalwart defender of the Faith, to carry on CFN’s important work shortly before Mr. Vennari’s passing. In addition to writing for CFN, Mr. Gaspers has also been published by The Fatima Crusader, OnePeterFive, and LifeSiteNews. His study and writing interests include theology, Church history, Fatima, Islam, and the spiritual life. He has spoken at conferences hosted by Catholic Family News and the Fatima Center. He and his wife, together with their children, reside in Colorado.

Matt Gaspers

Avatar photo

Matt Gaspers is the Managing Editor of Catholic Family News. He was asked by John Vennari (1958-2017), longtime Editor of CFN and stalwart defender of the Faith, to carry on CFN’s important work shortly before Mr. Vennari’s passing. In addition to writing for CFN, Mr. Gaspers has also been published by The Fatima Crusader, OnePeterFive, and LifeSiteNews. His study and writing interests include theology, Church history, Fatima, Islam, and the spiritual life. He has spoken at conferences hosted by Catholic Family News and the Fatima Center. He and his wife, together with their children, reside in Colorado.