Abandonment of Tradition is the Problem

By Tony Capobianco

Delivery of the Keys to St. Peter by Raphael. This work is in the public domain.    {{PD-US}}

Delivery of the Keys to St. Peter by Raphael. This work is in the public domain. {{PD-US}}

The loss of belief in the Real Presence in the Most Blessed Sacrament, the widespread use of contraceptives, acceptance of the sins of the flesh, the destruction of the family, the breakdown of society, the loss of belief in Hell and the existence of the Devil, the rejection of the perennial doctrines of the Church in favor of immanentism, rampant diabolical disorientation, and a sorrowful worldwide apostasy from the Truth are all examples of the tragic consequences due to the abandonment of Tradition. The level of diabolical disorientation is currently so high that many Catholics look down upon traditional Catholics as though they are similar to radical Muslim fundamentalists. Most non catholics wrongly believe that the Catholic Church is a merely human organization made up of theologically liberal and conservative catholics as if there were different denominations within the Catholic Church. This false idea is relatively new and it is an error of the 20th century. Unfortunately this error has even been spread through much of the human element of the Church and tremendous confusion has spread along with it. Throughout the history of the Church, one was either Catholic or a heretic. Every religion is a tradition but only the Catholic Faith has been divinely revealed by God and has been continually transmitted intact by the Magisterium of the Church through the guidance of the Holy Ghost from generation to generation. Tradition is the way in which the Deposit of Faith is passed on to each successive generation. Tradition derives from the Latin word “tradere” which means to hand over or to pass over to someone else. This transmission of the Deposit of Faith from generation to generation is guaranteed to continue until the return of the Lord on Judgement Day. The guaranteed transmission of the Deposit of Faith, whole and intact, does not mean that every bishop in a particular age will teach and pass on the Faith in its entirety. Since the Catholic Faith has been and is passed on by the means of Tradition, it is obvious how inherently problematic an abandonment of Tradition would be. This article will focus on two questions: 1.) What are some examples of the abandonment of Tradition? 2.) What have the consequences of this abandonment been?

Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, Lex Vivendi.

Lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi is an ancient Latin idiom which means the law of praying is the law of believing is the law of living. Therefore according to this ancient Latin maxim if we were to change the way in which we pray then consequently the way that we believe and live will also change. When Pope Paul VI promulgated the Novus Ordo Missae it was an unprecedented shift in the liturgy. The Novus Ordo or the New Mass was a seismic event from which the Church is still reeling from the subsequent aftershocks. An interesting thing about the aftershocks which follow earthquakes is that the aftershocks can in fact be of a greater magnitude than the original quake. Much has been written about the differences between the Novus Ordo and the Latin Mass and for the purposes of this article, I will only touch upon a few of the differences. Many folks believe that the New Mass is simply the ancient Latin Mass with the main difference being that the New Mass is simply said in the vernacular with the priest facing the people instead of facing Liturgical East. Such a belief is incorrect. Many of the prayers from the Latin Mass have been removed from the New Mass and in addition many liturgical options have been given for priests to choose from in the celebration of the New Mass. These liturgical options offered in the Novus Ordo Mass have a tangible affect on the faithful around the world as these liturgical options shape the faithful’s perception of Church unity or disunity. For example, one parish church might include the Kyrie and the Apostles Creed in the Novus Ordo while a neighboring parish church might omit the Kyrie for a different option and they might recite the Nicene Creed instead of the Apostles Creed. One pastor of one parish church might use Eucharist prayer #1 while another pastor might use Eucharistic prayer #2. One parish church might use the musical accompaniment of an organ while another parish church might use the musical accompaniment of a guitar. Depending on where you assist at Mass, the Mass can appear to be part of an entirely different religion. Mass being said in the vernacular along with many liturgical options detracts from the Catholicity or that is to say the universality of the Mass. Within the Latin Church there was a unity in the way that Holy Mass was said for many centuries. The Holy Latin Mass was said in Latin and the rubrics for the Mass were very strict and as a result a Catholic from one country could assist at Holy Mass in a foreign land with a foreign language and they would feel at home at the Mass because it was largely the same Mass universally. In fact the Latin Mass was largely the same throughout different generations and as such, one could assist at Mass and feel connected to St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Alphonsus Ligouri, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Robert Bellarmine as one takes inspiration in knowing that you are enjoying the Mass that helped make them great Saints. The Latin Mass therefore provides a unity that transcends both time and place. Lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi. The law of praying is the law of believing is the law of living.

While it is possible to find a reverent Novus Ordo Mass that emulates the traditional Latin Mass as much as is possible while being bound to the new rubrics, it is however much more common to come across Novus Ordo Masses which deviate from the traditional Latin Mass in a stark manner. When encountering the Novus Ordo Mass, observing deviations from the traditional Latin Mass are the rule rather than the exception to the rule. One such deviation from tradition is that the Novus Ordo Mass is commonly said “versus populum”, which is Latin for toward the people. This orientation of the liturgy seems to be anthropocentric or a man-centered style of worship. In contrast to the versus populum orientation of the priest commonly found in the Novus Ordo Mass is the liturgical orientation of the priest in the traditional Latin Mass called ad orientem. Ad orientem is a liturgical orientation in which the priest faces the Tabernacle or liturgical east. What’s the big deal? Isn’t Mass more accessible to the people if it is said versus populum/facing toward the people? Isn’t it rude if the priest has his back turned away from the faithful during the Mass?

The liturgical orientation of the priest is absolutely a big deal. The versus populum or orientation in which the priest faces the people rather than the Tabernacle (which is where the True Presence is located and this fact is made known by the sanctuary light) suggests that the priest is in a dialogue with the faithful and this visual can blur the reality that a true sacrifice is taking place as Our Lord’s sacrifice on Calvary is being re-presented in the Mass. When the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is said ad orientem it is very clear that neither the priest nor the faithful present are the center of worship. The liturgical orientation of ad orientem visually conveys that the priest as a spiritual father is leading the people in sacrifice and worship to and of the One True God. God is the center of the Holy Mass and ad orientem makes it easier for both the priest and the faithful to focus and worship Almighty God. Therefore Mass is made most accessible when the liturgy clearly reinforces what the Church teaches about the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and when it enables the people to focus and meditate upon Christ’s Passion and death as He triumphantly conquered sin and death on the cross. If one were to suggest that it is rude for the priest to turn his back on the faithful during Mass, I respond that it is infinitely more rude to turn one’s back away from Our Lord and God Who is really present in the Tabernacle. The theological virtue of Charity orders things rightly and this order ought to be applied to not only our individual lives but also to the liturgy of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. If the liturgical orientation of Mass seems to be anthropocentric or man-centered rather than God-centered why would we be surprised if people were to become relativistic and more susceptible to the heresy of Modernism? Pope St. Pius X called the heresy of Modernism the synthesis of all heresies. Lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi. The law of praying is the law of believing is the law of living.

Further deviations from the traditional Latin Mass and the custom of receiving the Most Blessed Sacrament is commonly found when attending the Novus Ordo Mass of Pope Paul VI. Rather than being an exception to the rule, it has become the rule when distributing Holy Communion that the Most Blessed Sacrament is distributed by lay people, called “extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion”. In the traditional Latin Mass the extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion were deacons. In addition to the novelty of lay people distributing the Most Holy Eucharist, this Most Blessed Sacrament is received by the faithful while standing and in their non consecrated hands. Visually this conveys a most sorrowful and theologically problematic message. Routinely we see lay people with non-consecrated hands distributing the Holy Eucharist into the un-consecrated hands of other lay people. Again, visually this creates the perception that nothing spectacular is happening here. Visually we see people lining up as if they are about to receive an order from the cashier in a McDonalds. If a non Catholic witnessed this, would they really believe that we believe what the Church teaches regarding transubstantiation and the Real Presence? When unconsecrated hands touch what the Church has always taught is really and truly the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, does such a scene visibly reaffirm or detract from this Dogma? If we really believe in the Real Presence, how can we not kneel before Our Savior as we humbly receive Him under our roof?

That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth:

[11] And that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father.
— (Philippians 2: 10-11)

What is perceived through the sense of sight has a powerful affect on our imaginations and on our thoughts. The manner in which we outwardly behave with our bodies tells a story to the people who see our actions. If I tell someone that I believe that a grenade is deadly but if I fail to flee from a grenade when one is thrown at me, does my behavior in this instance reaffirm or contradict what I purported to be my belief? If I were to profess the definition of gravity and my belief in gravity, would it not be madness for me to walk off of the face of a cliff as if there was a bridge to walk across? Therefore if these physical examples of contradicting what we believe through our bodily actions demonstrate a disconnect with a material reality, how much greater is the disconnect when the contradiction concerns matters of Faith, worship, and spiritual realities? Lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi. The law of praying is the law of believing is the law of living.

Nouvelle théologie which is French for "new theology" was a school of theology which arose in the mid twentieth century. This rather pretentious sounding name was actually created by the theologians within this so called new school of theology. How can there be a spontaneously fabricated “new theology”? What pray-tell was wrong with traditional theology? If such a fabrication of a “new theology” were possible would it not imply that the fabricators of said new school of theology thought themselves to be if not greater but at least equal to Doctors of the Church, St. Augustine, St. Bonaventure, and St. Thomas Aquinas? It is interesting that both the Nouvelle théologie and the innovators clambering for a new Mass to replace the ancient traditional Latin Mass rose during the mid twentieth century. The twentieth century saw many revolutions, politically, violently, morally, and spiritually. The so called sexual revolution overturned centuries of customs regarding human sexuality and this hedonistic revolution led to divorce & remarriage, contraception, abortion and an unprecedented attack upon the family. One wonders how the ordinary Magisterium thought that implementing so many radical changes to the liturgy and theology during such a time of unprecedented upheaval was a wise and prudent decision. As Christendom was being overthrown around the globe and the faithful lived through terrible wars both materially and spiritually the bishops and the post conciliar popes permitted a seemingly never ending sea of change to take place within the life of the Church. Changes to the reception of the Holy Eucharist, the fabrication of a new Mass and a new theology, the addition of a new mystery to the Holy Rosary, the implementation of a new breviary, a new liturgical calendar, the addition of a new ecumenism, the removal of altar rails, the remodeling of churches to have a more modern architecture, the laxation of fasting laws, and the refusal to teach various Church doctrines all contributed to giving the faithful the sense that EVERYTHING was changing and could be changed. The faithful now saw churchmen offering them a new Mass, a new Rosary, a new catechism, a new theology and this constant barrage of novelty for all intents and purposes eclipsed Tradition. Clerics routinely ceased teaching about Hell, the Devil, the four last things, mortally sinful acts, Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus, the Social Kingship of Christ, the sources of infallibility, the dangers of the heresy of Modernism. These various changes in both the Church and the world gave the faithful the impression that everything was subject to change. If everything is subject to change, what role would Tradition now have? The twentieth century saw more radical changes to virtually every aspect to life within the Church and how the Faith was taught and lived than in any previous century. Virtually the only constant for these past several decades has been change. Lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi. The law of praying is the law of believing is the law of living.

In conclusion, the nearly wholesale abandonment of Tradition leads to apocalyptic consequences. What has the fruit of the introduction and implementation of all of these novelties been? We have recently learned that about 70% of Catholics no longer believe what the Church teaches of the Holy Eucharist. Is it merely a coincidence that this sorrowful increase in lack of belief in the central Sacrament of the Catholic Faith has happened just a few decades after the introduction of a new Mass and new customs regarding how the Most Blessed Sacrament is both distributed and received? Or is this evidence that abandoning traditional customs and liturgy has disastrous consequences? The radical changes to nearly every facet of the Catholic’s life has also led to the plummeting of vocations to the priesthood and to the religious life. Since Tradition is the mechanism by which the Sacred Deposit of Faith is passed down from generation to generation it is obvious that an abandonment of that mechanism leads to confusion and most tragically it potentially leads to apostasy. The abandonment of Tradition has caused many sincere Catholics to be confused as they no longer know what to believe any longer. When Traditional Church teaching is not preached and when the infallible doctrines of the Church are not professed by the bishops and the priests then it creates a vacuum for the Father of Lies to attempt to fill. Unnecessary deviations from Tradition have opened the door to discord, confusion, and diabolical disorientation. The Devil is the author of rebellion and discord. If St. Thomas Aquinas or Pope St. Pius X walked into the average catholic church today, would they even recognize it as Catholic? If the answer is no, how could this plethora of novelties be deemed to be a good thing? The Novus Ordo Mass can, with effort, be said reverently but to accomplish this the Magisterium will have to promulgate more specific rubrics which emulate the traditional Latin Mass as closely as possible. Eliminating lay people as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, returning to the liturgical orientation of ad orientem, reestablish altar boys, and mandating that Holy Communion be received on the tongue while kneeling at the altar rail are all things that the Pope could decree tomorrow in an attempt to restore elements of Tradition which have been lost. Yet while these things alone will not remedy the current crisis they would be a good start at doing so. The fact that the traditional Latin Mass and the custom of receiving the Holy Eucharist on the tongue while kneeling was the rule for many centuries is a sign that God was pleased with these traditions. In time, I believe that the Lord will fully restore the ancient traditional Latin Mass to once again become the ordinary Mass of His One True Church. To restore unity of belief amongst the human element of the Church sound authentic and Traditional doctrine must be boldly and clearly professed. The preaching of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition has power and it is a power given by the Holy Ghost. The preaching of the Deposit of Faith is powerful because it is the divinely revealed Truth, revealed by Almighty God. Recovering Tradition is absolutely vital. It is an imperative. It won’t be easy but anything worthwhile is rarely easy. A good place to start the recouping of Tradition is in the recovery of the traditional Latin Mass as we conclude with the ancient Latin maxim lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi. The law of praying is the law of believing is the law of living.