From a reader…
If a lay person is presented with the option to attend either a Novus Ordo Mass or a Traditional Latin Mass, and, in turn,
(a) believes that the TLM is more substantively and consistently reverent to God, and
(b) faces no restraints to attend either (e.g. is not burdened with long driving distances to attend one or the other, is not burdened with family politics), does said person have a moral obligation to attend the TLM?
Or, stated negatively, is it a sin in this situation for said person to attend the Novus Ordo Mass?
Stated more abstractly, if a person is faced with two possible means of worshiping God – one great at expressing reverence and the other poor [poor? not “less ‘great'”?] – is it sinful to choose the lesser option if the person knows which one is greater and is not restrained to perform the greater option?
(Note: I fully recognize and affirm that the Novus Ordo Mass is licit and valid).
Let’s also say that both the Masses are also at one’s territorial parish church and the schedule is convenient for either Mass. Thus, one is also attending one’s proper parish.
All things being equal (distance, schedule, etc.) is it a sin to attend the Novus Ordo if you are utterly convinced that the older, traditional form is superior?
There are so many factors to weigh in these scenarios. There cannot be a one size fits all answer to this theoretical scenario.
However, all things truly being equal (leaving aside the people whom you would meet, etc.), it seems to me that a person would be want to attend that which he thought was the superior opportunity for spiritual benefit. He would want to worship God in sacred liturgy in the best available manner.
If he truly believes that he derives greater spiritual benefit from one form, he, out of desire for that greater benefit, should not be satisfied with what he thinks is merely “okay”.
It seems to me that when it comes to the worship of Almighty God and our benefit in that worship, we should desire the greater rather than the lesser.
Could, then, one sin in choosing the just “okay” when it would be just as easy to choose the “better”?
Yes, I suppose it is possible that one could sin in that choice.
But so much depends on that individual’s state in life and spiritual advancement and all the attendant circumstances that go with daily life that I sense that it is unlikely that one would sin gravely in such a choice. As a matter of fact, I suspect that one might not sin venially in that choice, either.
“Bless me Father, I have sinned. It has been a week since my last confession. These are my sins… I went to the Novus Ordo intentionally, specifically because it is an inferior way to worship God liturgically and because I did not want to derive from the experience all that I might have at the TLM.”
As a confessor, I would have to ask a few questions about that unlikely confession.
“Bless me Father, I have sinned. It has been a week since my last confession. These are my sins… I went to the Novus Ordo, which I think is inferior, but my practice is simply to flip a coin…”
As a confessor, I would suggest that that is a rather cavalier approach to something so important… flippant even.
I know that there are people out there who are trying sincerely to make a determination about which form to attend.
As you consider all the factors, do your best not to pit the forms against each other. Keep your head clear. Also, do not fall into the trap of pitting the people whom you find at one form against the others, or the priests. That road leads to the trap our Lord describes in the parable of the Pharisee and the Pharisee and the Publican in Luke 18.