QUAERITUR: “pro multis” and validity

From a reader:

I’ve not written to you before, but I’m really looking for some help here.  I am from England.  I go to the Traditional Mass, which I love, at the London Oratory every Saturday and Sunday, and the Latin Novus Ordo in the week, when possible, also at the Oratory.  Very occasionally, when I am away from home, I attend the Novus Ordo in the vernacular.  I recently got a book by Father Paul L Kramer, B.Ph., S.T.B., M. Div., S.T.L (Cand) called "The Suicide of altering the Faith in the Liturgy".  I was very disturbed when I read it.  Trying to find some further advice/guidance, I found your four articles on the ‘Pro Multis’ issue, https://wdtprs.com/category/wdtprs/pro-multis which I read.  Fr Kramer’s book is very worrying to say the least [I think not.]  . . . in light of what you have written in your four articles, what do you make of this paragraph from the book?
"It needs to be emphasised that a Mass which is probably invalid or even probably valid, even if there is a relatively high probability of validity, is totally and gravely illicit, since the Church’s moral doctrine, set forth by Pope Innocent XI (see Footnote) clearly forbids probably valid sacraments.  Thus, it is gravely sinful (in the objective moral order) for anyone to celebrate or attend Mass when the vernacular expression "for all" is used in the consecration of the chalice, since that formula of consecration is not certainly valid . . . "
Footnote:- "In conferring the sacraments, as also in the consecration in the Mass, it is never allowed to adopt a probable course of action as to validity and to abandon the safer course.  The contrary was explicitly condemned by Pope Innocent XI (1670-1676)" – Fr Henry Davis, S.J. Moral and Pastoral Theology, v.3, p27.
I would be grateful for some advice.  I know that you say that the term "For All" doesn’t invalidate the Mass, but I wondered what you made of the above quotation.  Some friends of mine advise that I should go to the SSPX . . . I don’t know what to do sometimes.

What do I make of the quotation?  I suggest that Fr. Kramer has very little standing to make any such interpretation.

Paul VI and John Paul II were Popes.  They were no less Popes than Innocent XI.  They promulgated the post-Conciliar editions of the Missal.  Popes don’t give Holy Church Missals with texts for invalid Masses. You might not like what they promulgated in every respect, but the Masses are not invalid.  You might think that the texts of the previous Missal were superior, but the newer texts are not invalid.

Fr. Kramer’s insinuations were imprudent.

People can argue about whether or not the texts of the Novus Ordo rite of Mass are good, or whether they convey a somewhat different theology than that of the older, pre-Conciliar Missale Romanum.  People can like or not like, for various reasons, the Novus Ordo.  But it is wrong to say that Mass with the post-Conciliar editions is invalid.  To do so implies that you think your own authority is above that of the Vicar of Christ. 

I will be delighted with the new translation of the Novus Ordo is released, with its correct rendering of pro multis, and this tired controversy is put to rest.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in ASK FATHER Question Box, PRO MULTIS, SESSIUNCULA. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Childermass says:

    Someone gave me that book to read.

    The issue that troubled me more was the matter of the *intention* of the priest, whether some priests *intend* to do what the Church does at the consecration.

    My bishop has his cathedral bookshop stocked with books by Charles Curran, Richard McBrien and (!) John Shelby Spong.

    It makes you wonder whether he is in communion with the Church and whether he is a Catholic at all. I can’t imagine what his intention is when he “presides” at the “eucharistic liturgy.”

  2. Lurker 59 says:

    I find several things to be important here. Let me address the most important though. First and foremost its probably a wise thing to stress that the words of consecration are not a magic spell. Its not through a priest’s incantation of specific words in specific ritualistic movement that the bread and wine become truly Christ, but rather it is through the priest’s invocation of the Holy Spirit that Christ truly becomes present. It is not through the priest’s own power but rather it is through the priest, the vicar, singing in harmony with Christ through the Holy Spirit that the eternal sacrifice of the Mass is offered to the Father for the sake of our souls and of the whole world. It is the priest’s privilege and duty to be in harmony with Christ’s sacrifice and this comes about through his person being a mediator for us. We often talk about how the Word is present at Mass in the scripture and in the sacrament of the altar, but we often forget how the Word is present in Mass in the priest and the priest’s allowing of his very person to become a mediator to us. The more the priests says the Black and does the Red, the more he is allowing himself to be an icon of Christ for us.

  3. MichaelJ says:

    It was my understanding that Pope Paul VI did not promulgate the vernacular “version” of the new Mass. In the promulgated version, the words of consecration are correct but have been mis-translated in English. Is this incorrect?

  4. NLucas says:

    MichaelJ, you are correct. The normative, Latin form of the Novus Ordo is “pro multis.”

    IMO, the English translation gives a “back door” mistranslation that still allows the formula for the concecration of the Chalice to be understood in a way that does not imply universal salvation. The ICEL translation says “so that sins may be forgiven,” a conditional statement (may be forgiven doesn’t necessarily mean that they are forgiven). Coupling “for all” with a better translation of that phrase “unto the forgiveness of sins” would be a stronger statement for the concept of universal salvation.

    Another fun speculative discussion is the removal of the phrase “the Mystery of Faith” from the Novus Ordo formula for the concecration of the Chalice, and giving it to the acclamation, which may or may not be refering to the Mystery Of Faith from the TLM Canon.

    Father is right, though. We surely do not have the competency to declare that a version of the Mass is invalid, especially since it has been lawfully given.

    In Christ,

  5. MichaelJ says:

    Thanks for confirming my memory NLucas.

    I do not think that anyone though, (even Fr. Kramer) is actually declaring that the Mass is invalid. Instead, I think he and many others are saying that the english translation is incorrect and remains deliberately so despite statements from Rome saying that it is incorrect.

  6. coeyannie says:

    I struggle with this also. I try to go to the Tridentine Mass on Sunday’s, and sometimes will go to the Norvus Ordo where the priest does say “for many”. He is the only one in the Archdiocese of Mpls/St. Paul who sticks to his guns, as far as I know. Sorry. For some reason, I can’t get it through my head that the words can be changed, even by the Pope, and maintain validity. There really wasn’t any good reason to change it.

  7. RichR says:

    I find it interesting that the competent authority approves the vernacular translation, yet worriers out there create a shadow of a doubt, then claim that it is a grave error to assist at a “likely valid” sacrament. And it’s all based upon their claim that doubt exists. Yet, the competent authority has never claimed that this doubt exists. Yes, they are changing the translation, but is this simply to placate the consciences of the worriers and put an end to this silly argument?

    There’s plenty of other things in the world to lose your head over than playing liturgical policeman….especially when it’s not your job. Try channeling that mental effort into forming a schola or something useful. Leave liturgical policing to the (divinely) appointed authorities. If they screw it up, it’s on their shoulders, not ours.

  8. The key is obedience. Valid Popes have approved the translated text, even though not an ideal translation. “What you bind on earth is bound in Heaven.” Real Catholics obey their Pope and Magisterium. Others obey their opinions. Fr. Z is certainly correct that when this text is translated ideally to “for many” in English (as it was in the EF Missal of 1962), then this scandal should be solved.

  9. MichaelJ says:

    Who is the competent authority? Is it the IECL which rendered the translation or Cardinal Arinze (speaking on behalf of the Pope in November 2006) who stated that the translation was incorrect? The good Cardinal, as I recall, also directed that the correction be implemented within two years.

    See http://www.catholicculture.org/news/features/index.cfm?recnum=47719

  10. RichR says:


    I understand what you are saying, but Rome gave the (bad) translation its stamp of approval, and we both agree they are the final authority. ICEL did not impose this translation on the English-speaking world, the Holy See did. Neither ICEL nor Arinze claimed that the translation rendered the consecration’s validity doubtful. Did ICEL do a crumby job? Yeah. Did Arinze say it should be improved? Yeah. So what? It was Arinze’s congregation (CDW) that approved the translation in the first place.

  11. Childermass says:

    I certainly agree that the author of the book is off his head to pronounce the doubtful validity of the New Mass based on that translation.

    However, obedience doesn’t mean you can’t question. “Pro multis”=”for all” is like saying 1+1=3. They aren’t the same thing—it is *incorrect.* And such should be tirelessly pointed out by the faithful to their shepherds until it is fixed.

    The traditional faithful tend to complain a lot, but honestly, most of them would rather not have to complain. They would be much happier being quiet and not having to worry about the hierarchy forcing upon them incorrect and ideologically-driven translations of the Holy Mass.

    Most of the faithful simply want the shepherds to be *good shepherds*, which includes safeguarding the Mass from bowdlerization and abuse. Unfortunately, they have been dropping the ball for the past four decades.

  12. MichaelJ says:


    I am only trying to point out that Rome’s approval of this translation was *withdrawn* in November 2006. Cardinal Arinze did far more than say that it “should be improved”. He was speaking on behalf of the Pope when he stated that the current translation was incorrect and must be corrected. He even gave a timeline for this to be done, which has since passed.

    That being said, it does not seem unreasonable to recognize that continued use of the known incorrect translation does introduce doubt. While I do not share this opinion, I can easily imagine someone thinking that this could affect the validity, not due to a lack of form, but due to a lack of intent.

  13. Since it’s a slow day, and some readers here may be unaware of the situation, the new Vatican-approved English translation of the consecration formulas reads as follows.

    On the day before he was to suffer
    he took bread in his holy and venerable hands,
    and with eyes raised to heaven
    to you, O God, his almighty Father,
    giving you thanks he said the blessing,
    broke the bread
    and gave it to his disciples, saying:

    In a similar way, when supper was ended,
    he took this precious chalice
    in his holy and venerable hands,
    and once more giving you thanks, he said the blessing
    and gave the chalice to his disciples, saying:

    The approved Eucharistic prayers are available at
    ICEL, with such a wretched history, appears now in its reconstituted version to be doing excellent work, and has completed its English translation of the entire Missale Romanum 2002. Some of the national bishops conferences have seemed to drag their heels on final approval, but the current schedule should lead to printed missals in a couple of years. (Some say Advent 2010; we’ll see.)

    For whatever reason, no part of the new translation may be used in any English-speaking country until the entire missal receives final approvals for use in all.

    Regarding “pro multis” and all that, various authorities have claimed here previously that Pope Paul VI ruled way back when that — even if the priest uses an incorrect translation, mispronounces the words, or even inadvertently says the wrong words of consecration, there is no defect of intent if he intends to do what the Church intends (even if he does not personally understand what the Church intents).

  14. RichR says:


    Thanks for the note. I understand better where you’re coming from.

Comments are closed.