ASK FATHER: Should displaced Catholics attend the Novus Ordo? Wherein Fr. Z rants.

I begin with his peroration…

Perhaps the bishops are not thinking about the liturgy at all, but about the people – whose devotion they envy, and whose moral conservatism they detest. Is that it?

Are they more to be punished because their churches are full? You might say, “Let’s learn from what they do.” You might say, “We should have real music in our parishes also.”

Why are you not pleased by their faith? They believe that you bear them a grudge. Why do you prove them right?

Thus, the concluding challenge to bishops from thoughtful Anthony Esolen at The Catholic Thing about the efficacy of the Novus Ordo as it is actually being used. His peroration is guided by the cruel treatment, inexplicable in large part, by bishops of those who desire the ancient Vetus Ordo.

I start this way because of question that came in.

From a reader…


Should the displaced Catholics now attend the Novus Ordo ? why is is ok for priests to obey orders that are evil that are given by clergy who have no legitimate authority
to issue such orders whose clear aim is to destroy the tradition of the church?

Briefly, I am reminded of the book,  Dominus Est!, that helped to put Bp. Schneider in the spotlight.  He recounts how ancient martyrs died rather than renounce their Faith and the Eucharist because without the Eucharist they simply couldn’t go on, couldn’t live:  sine dominico non possumus.

Did Japanese Catholics, isolated from the institutional church and without clergy manage to hang on for years?  Yes.  They survived but they did not thrive.

I’ve used the “survive/thrive” binomial for decades now concerning the Novus Ordo and the Vetus Ordo, about the old ICEL translation for the Novus and the newer, for how the NO could be celebrated and how it generally is.   The idea is that a grown man can survive on the baby food of pureed carrots, but he won’t thrive.  Something more substantive is called for.   But when you are starving and can’t go on, that jar of pureed carrots looks pretty good.  At least you have that.

CAN’T go to the Vetus Ordo?   You still need the Eucharist.   All the time? Maybe not.  But you do need it.

Let’s go back to Esolen, and start at the top of the piece.

Latin and God’s Holy People

do not attend the Latin Mass.  I believe that the Novus Ordo Mass can be filled with beauty, but that the surroundings, the habits that have grown into prescriptive laws, the ancillary people and their actions, and the problems with the lectionary, especially in its English rendering, make that beauty difficult to attain.

The problem is not that the Mass, as it is in fact celebrated almost everywhere in the English world, fails to be overpowering, like a Beethoven symphony.  We cannot live on grandeur alone.  We must have ordinary bread.  But there’s a beauty to ordinary bread, too, the beauty of what is simple, wholesome, unpretentious.

The old low Mass had that simplicity.  You could say it was not grand, but it did not pretend to be.  What you could never say was that it was ugly, silly, or sentimental.  It was reliable, like a rock.

Cardinals Cupich and Gregory, Bishop Burbidge of Arlington, and others insist that we Catholics shall not be united unless we cause everyone to give up the beauty and power they find in the Latin Mass – for it is there to be found, and even at a low Mass, the quiet power is as solid and confident and firm.


There follows a series of blistering commandments from the theoretical imaginations of men like Gregory, Cupich, Francis, along the line of “We are going to strip away everything you love and find helpful and, dammit, you’re going to like it”.  Read them there and see if maybe that series doesn’t force an involuntary nod, jaw clench and perhaps a watery eye.

My emphases and comments.


I don’t question the validity of the Novus Ordo.  I certainly do question the efficacyeven the fidelity and the sanity of almost everything that has gotten tangled up with the Novus Ordo, which the despisers of the Latin Mass show no sign of wishing to reform.

Take that whole package all in all.  It doesn’t work.  It hasn’t worked.  It’s not going to work, because it runs counter to human nature, because it doesn’t acknowledge the full range of man’s needs as he stands before God, and because, in subtle but pervasive ways, it tends to make religion into a pleasant hobby and God into a hobbyhorse.

I’m referring to the whole thing there, the typical experience of Mass since 1970, and I’m speaking in general terms that do not apply to every parish or, much less, to every parishioner.

I’ve been blessed with pastors who understand beauty, and who keep in mind that God is the focus of our worship and not ourselves.  But innovations that apply generally must be evaluated for their general effect. [The Novus Ordo is exactly such an innovation.  It is, as Ratzinger aptly said, “The liturgical reform, in its concrete realization, has distanced itself even more from its origin. The result has not been a reanimation, but devastation. In place of the liturgy, fruit of a continual development, they have placed a fabricated liturgy. They have deserted a vital process of growth and becoming in order to substitute a fabrication. They did not want to continue the development, the organic maturing of something living through the centuries, and they replaced it, in the manner of technical production, by a fabrication, a banal product of the moment.” Before the pewling papalatrous peanut gallery pipes in about Novus Ordo being a derogatory term, it is exactly the term used at the time of Paul VI. And let it be known that, in Classical Latin, the very idea of something “new” is automatically to be held as suspect.]

Perhaps the bishops are not thinking about the liturgy at all, but about the people – whose devotion they envy, and whose moral conservatism they detest.  Is that it? [I’m convinced that many of the people who are trying to repress the Vetus Ordo are plagued with a particular moral problem, one that allows demons to attach, a sin that cries to heaven.  The prayers of the Novus Ordo were systematically stripped of concepts like propitiation, guilt, sin in favor of hope in eschatological fulfillment in the life to come.  Why? “Because Paschal Mystery… and shut up, you Vatican II hater!  That’s why!”  They are right in claiming that there is a difference in the theology of the Old and the New.  And, if you want to insist on “People of God” and “Paschal Mystery”, and that the Novus Ordo has – at long liberating last – got that, we respond that so does the Vetus, and it is has it better.  Why better? Because in the Novus Ordo the Resurrection aspect of the Paschal Mystery is so emphasized that the rest, Passion and Death, is eclipsed.   Problem: You can’t get to the kind of Resurrection we would prefer without Passion and Death.  Suffering, reparation, propitiation are necessary to obtain the joy of Heaven.   THAT’s what the haters of the traditional Mass don’t want to hear.  It’s like the evils of the “prosperity Gospel” and “rapture Christianity” messages: reward without suffering.  Again and again I say it here.  It’s not just that these tradition suppressors dislike the tradition – and they do – they dislike the people who want it.  Why?  Everything about the Vetus and the people who want it makes them feel guilty about something they are doing, hiding, have done and feel ashamed about.  That’s part of it, not all of it.  The true, pure ideologue is a rara avis.]

Are they more to be punished because their churches are full?  You might say, “Let’s learn from what they do.”  You might say, “We should have real music in our parishes also.”  [They’d rather close a church than have a choir that could handle Palestrina, a schola that could provide the Proper.]

Why are you not pleased by their faithThey believe that you bear them a grudge.  Why do you prove them right?

Questions to be asked, now asked.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Ariseyedead says:

    This article ends with “Esolen’s dubia.”

  2. Like the “Amoris” dubia…we ask the questions as is our right, and in their hubris they studiously ignore us since our opinions and desires don’t matter (but our checkbooks to support their favorite ‘ministries’ (as long as they’re socially acceptable) are certainly of interest)

  3. Orual says:

    Anthony Esolen masterfully sums up all that is wrong with the Novus Ordo environment and the wrong-thinking of Pope Francis and the Bishops. I’ll only add that the dulling effect it has on the faith of Catholics is intentional for many Bishops, but I think you alluded to that already.

  4. WVC says:

    Validity vs. efficacy. Folks who argue that the Novus Ordo is just as valid as the Vetus Ordo are like folks who think a few shots of gin are the same thing as a well made martini. Sure, they both have alcohol, but one can bring peace and joy to a man’s soul, and the other can only get him drunk.

  5. timothyturtle says:

    Why do they want to get rid of the TLM??
    Hint: why did Cain kill Able.

  6. Dominicanes says:

    Legitimate cristism of the NO aside and stating from the outset that the EF and OF can and should exist….I know of many parishes where the OF is celebrated devoutly, with Propers, etc. Palestrina is not necessary, by the way. For some of us that is modern!
    Sure, there are parishes stuck in the insanity of the 70s but that is not the norm anymore.
    Besides, the desire and validity to continue to have the celebration of the EF should be on its own merit not on “how bad the local parish is”.
    If TLM people are questioning whether they should go to the NO than they are on very thin ice and could turn into protestants of another sort.
    Go to an early mass, sit in the back and give praise and worship to God. Forget how it makes you feel. And remember Catholics in other countries who would literally give their lives to be in your place.

  7. Mike says:

    One of Esolen’s best. He’s nailed it.

    I only go to the Vetus Ordo maybe 9 times a year, on Sundays. It’s wonderful. A real experience of the mystery of the Lord’s closeness, to cop a phrase, and his grandeur as well. Weekdays it’s the NO for me, and that, while somewhat lacking in the way it presents mystery, it’s the same mystery of Faith offered for us. Is this ideal? No, it’s not, but I suspect that’s because I’m not an ideal Catholic.

  8. Joe Crupi says:

    Dear Father

    Please answer the second part of the reader’s Quaeritur:

    “why is is ok for priests to obey orders that are evil that are given by clergy who have no legitimate authority
    to issue such orders whose clear aim is to destroy the tradition of the church?”

  9. If no Vetus Ordo, just go to the Novus Ordo. At least at the Novus Ordo you get the joy of unity with other Catholics as the trample Our Blessed Lord underfoot as they and the clergy scatter the particles of Our Lord all over the sanctuary and nave only to later vacuum Him up to be thrown out in the trash. This is where I get off the just go to the Novus Ordo bandwagon. I cannot bring myself to willfully and knowingly commit public sacrilege. Forget its banality. Forget its protestant nature. Forget its insipid verbal ping-pong that masquerades at active participation. Forget is effeminacy. It is the daily repeated sacrilege of that which we claim is the “source and summit” of our Faith that makes me refuse to even step foot in a Novus Ordo parish. They say they believe that the Eucharist is the “body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ Himself” but every single liturgical action says they are liars.

  10. Jim Dorchak says:

    For me it is even more difficult. No vax no Mass for us here in Chile.
    So where do we go for Mass?

    The vax is not required by the Chilean Government for access to a catholic church. Or a Catholic Church for that matter. So it is not a church mandate.

    Can we go to NO Mass? As in NONE, nada? What recourse do we have?
    Can I as a Catholic sue through Cannon Law for the right to attend Mass?
    Can I sue. through Cannon Law, for the right to sacraments?
    I do not know how this works but there is no end in sight. Jim in Chile.

  11. TWF says:

    Your characterization / generalization of “Novus Ordo parishes” is simply not rooted in reality. I’ve been active in many parishes in 4 dioceses in 2 countries, and I’ve never witnessed what you described. Yes, horrible abuses happen, but they’re hardly everywhere.

    At my local cathedral, 6 of the 7 Sunday Masses are Novus Ordo (the 7th is TLM), but even at the NO Masses, the faithful are encouraged to kneel at the altar rail and probably half receive on the tongue. At most NO Masses I’ve been to, an altar server is diligently standing guard to ensure Our Lord is not dropped or taken away.

    These kind of extreme generalizations do not help the traditionalist movement. A “Novus Ordo Catholic” reading your comment may conclude that the entire traditionalist argument is outlandish and dismiss the legitimate benefits of the TLM as a result.

  12. TonyO says:

    TWF, what you describe I have only seen at extremely rare locations in this country. I have assisted at mass at perhaps 100 churches over the past 40 years, across 8 dioceses, fairly well spread out in the US. Of those, perhaps one quarter have had some event, action, or practice which was either an outright abuse that should have resulted in penalties on the priest, or significant offenses to ordinary dignity and reverence that ought to obtain at all masses. (I am not talking about blatant examples of the host being dropped underfoot and ignored, as David asserts with excess hyperbole.) Not surprisingly, I chalk those churches off my list and go elsewhere in the future, so I can’t say HOW OFTEN they have had such events. But while the level and frequency of abuses may have tapered off from the 1970’s, that means the CURRENT 1/4 frequency that I cite is the result of such leveling off, not the old high-water mark. And the mere fact that I continue to encounter it with high regularity whenever I go outside of my known haunts implies, statistically, that it is quite common throughout the US. From what we hear, the situation cannot possibly be any better in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or western Europe.

    Sure, the Church can (and will) survive banal masses that are often said with abusive details…but the same cannot equally be said of all individuals who are forced to frequent such masses: they may end up damned by sins they commit which, had they been enculturated into a better mass, might not have been so easy to hand for them.

    I view the utter, absolute, deafening SILENCE with which the institutional Church resists even mentioning the assertion (by those who are concerned about truth) that the Novus Ordo is not the reform the Council Fathers demanded to represent a grave injustice to those inquirers, and to the whole Church.

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  14. Burton1990 says:

    My question is this. What happens when Pope Francis is faced with the results of his Synod and they match that of the German results? If we assume a couple of things we see our future situation and it is obvious what our concerns will be in the pews. 1st assumption: Latin mass has been banned outright. Therefore I now go to a NO. 2nd assumption: Pope Francis decides that we are going to be a new synodal church and invites homosexuals into church and affirms their behavior to the point that my local NO now has some rainbow flags hanging next to their lovely plants on the altar and our church becomes a promoter of all things gay despite church teaching not actually changing. What should I do father? Go up and rip the flags down? Hold protest outside of mass? How as a follower of Christ do I attack this plague once it has manifested itself in my worship of God? Our attitude towards the NO now, because we have been kicked out of our Latin Masses, is to accept it and offer up our sorrows but the NO is set up perfectly to allow the plague to enter in. I’m struggling here. If our method for approaching the NO is acceptable now, why does it appear at odds with what I should do as a Christian when something worse starts to take place?

  15. Lurker 59 says:


    There seems to be an attitude of “accept the beatings and abuse with meekness” that is rampant in some circles. Part of the problem is not understanding meekness. The other part is not discerning calls to heroic suffering in accepting evils done to oneself from the normative call to live a just life. Suffering in stoic silence isn’t Christian because stoicism isn’t Christian. Following Socrates and drinking the hemlock isn’t Christian. “Battered wife” syndrome isn’t Christian. Permitting priests to spiritual/physically/sexually abuse yourself and/or those in your charge isn’t Christian. The crowns of martyrdom (red or white) are not the normative means to sanctification. I see no evidence that TLM laity are being called to a white martyrdom and I, as a NO, would suggest that those that have that attitude stop. The normative path to sanctification is working out one’s salvation with charity, which includes seeking justice (as well as forgiveness and mercy) when you are being abused.

    You don’t have to “just accept it”. My suggestion would be to really come to terms with your spiritual fathers being abusers who throw rocks when you ask for bread, and find true healing through real forgiveness which includes seeking justice. If I were a TLM, I’d look to the Eastern Churches which suffered the abuses of “latinizations” and see how they sought justice to maintain their traditions and Eastern charisms.

    @TonyO @David @TFW etc.

    My anecdotal experience, having been to parishes throughout the US, is that some form of illicitness is common in the NO. This matches my observational experience from what I hear from others and see posted online. Now whether or not this is from a structural deficiency in the NO, the spirit of the NO, or some pervasive laziness in priests, can be argued over. What cannot is that the product of those three things is a product that glorifies man/community over God much if not most of the time and tends to not engender belief in the Real Presence (I believe that the Pew study said 40% of those that are regular Mass-goers don’t believe).

    Now the problematic product of the NO cannot be directly compared to the high-quality product of TLM because TLM is a persecuted group and therefore comprised only of true believers. It is missing the low end of the spectrum. It is important to always keep in mind that everyone had TLM prior to VII and yet the rot was commonplace and prevalent enough to bring about VII and for the vast majority to abandon TLM. Who is to say that if TLM had the low end of the spectrum if that rot wouldn’t just return? That is something to ponder. Traditionalists have not sufficiently addressed the “what went wrong” and “how do we prevent that from happening again”. Labeling everyone as “modernists” is just a strawman argument.


    @ WVC — “Validity vs. efficacy.”

    Exactly. Way too many people don’t understand that validity is a low bar standard. It is the bare minimum. The strange thing about the post VII Church is that it is wildly excessive in the human element and utterly fixated on low bar metrics (such as validity) when it comes to the vertical elements and glorification of God.

  16. matt from az says:

    As one of the poor bastards that has to suffer through the NO every Sunday, I highly recommend you displaced Traditionalists NOT attend the new mass. It will confirm everything that’s wrong with the church.
    When someone says there is a dead body, you don’t go look in the crashed car, you trust the person who warned you and move on.

    I’m telling you, don’t go to the NO. The carnage is gruesome and not for the faint of heart. The dead are burying their dead.

  17. TWF,

    You must be the luckiest man alive. They may encourage the people to receive kneeling and on the tongue, but if they don’t and the sacrilege happens is that ok? Is it only bad if the music is bad, but now the way in which they handle Our Lord? Also, the 3rd Edition of the GIRM doesn’t require the priest to maintain the discipline of his fingers after the consecration, thereby allowing him to spread Our Lord all over the sanctuary to be trampled upon and vacuumed up.

    Also are they using patins? There was a real reason for this. I personally have been to hundreds of parishes in my life all over the US and Europe and have seen some level of abuse at each and every single Mass I have been to. I would point out the thousands of live streams where you can watch this take place every day, included in the Vatican. If you don’t think this is happening you are blind. BTW, not just the TLM maintains this, but every single other apostolic rite does. Every single Eastern Catholic and Orthodox rite maintains discipline that I have seen. Hell even the high church anglicans maintain it better and all they have is bread.

  18. KateD says:

    The introduction of the new Mass was not successful. It led to many young Catholics of the 60s and 70s leaving the faith. My parents among them.

    They have been disappointed that I became what they tell their friends is “very Catholic”. They do not permit me to talk about the faith in their vicinity. Not a word.

    Then out of the blue my dad, who had been a Latin Mass (I make that distinction for the reader, to my dad the Latin was THE only Mass, there wasn’t a NO Mass) altar boy, said, “You know, the New Mass didn’t happen over night. It took years. It started with just one guitar at one Mass on a Sunday. None of us thought anything would come of it.”

    When I got back up off the floor from the shock of the subject being broken, he, my mom and I had a looooog talk about that time of transition. They are like living time capsules!

    What struck me is that they consistently used the term “new Mass” to describe the NO Mass. And the Latin, to their perception is still just THE MASS. They don’t make a distinction of “Latin” Mass or “Traditional” Catholic. It’s just “Mass” and “Catholic”. This is how it was commonly perceived and referenced at the time of the transition. It is what it is. These are the terms with which we should continue to address the elements of the transition. (I’m not trans-phobic, I just recognize it for what it is…aberrant)

    I have a sneaking suspicion if the TLM were to flourish, many people like them (ie, Bill Murray) would return to the faith. Why, will Pope Francis cast away so many who would be saved by just allowing this to happen organically?!? Francis condemns so many souls to Hell for the accomplishment of HIS agenda…an agenda that clearly stands opposed God’s will as is apparent by the lack of fruit from the NO transition.

    The Liberati of the Catholic Church don’t want us to call it the New Mass or the Novus Ordo, because it highlights there was something before (Truth be told they don’t want us talking about ANYTHING- which, as with what’s going on in US politics, REAKS of CHEYENA!).

    Do not give in to the Liberati attempts to quiet you so that they alone are the voice shaping the language in order to obfuscate what they have done.

    When charismatics talk about tongues and the “language of the angels”, it reminds me that the language of Angels and Saints is the Truth, The Word of God. Keep speaking Truth. By doing that you fulfill the command to spread the Word. Speak it to every nation and faction and DONT STOP! The eternal salvation of souls is at stake. You must not just persevere…but fight for the triumph of Heaven. No small thing.

  19. KateD says:


    I’m happy your experience has been otherwise. My family has seen nothing but carnage. Brutal. It’s what drove us to the real Catholic Mass.

    He’s not exaggerating.

    If we didn’t have small children at the time I would’ve stayed to be at the foot of the Cross as Christ was brutalized at every Mass….I would like to think I would have stood faithful at His feet and not fled and abandoned Him in His suffering as all but one of the Apostles did.

  20. KateD says:

    What are those tidal creatures called that are like little discs of plated armor sort of loosely hanging on to the rocks, but then when you go to grab them they hunker down and grab on tighter and the harder you try to pull them off tue rocks, the more they increase their hold? Once the are locked on, you literally cannot chisel them off. That’s how I feel when they try to move me off my faith, the Rock that Jesus Christ set us upon. I will not be moved and the harder they try to drive me off, I’m gonna double down, triple down, quadruple down,.. My adherence will increase exponentially in response to their efforts…

  21. KateD says:

    I was thinking of the chiton, but perhaps the limpet, with the tensile strength of their teeth of up to 6.5 Gpa, would be the better analogy…lol

  22. WVC says:

    @KateD – but limpet doesn’t sound nearly as impressive. It just makes me think of the Don Knotts movie!

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