Q. I worry about losing potential converts from the Novus Ordo because of the “Sunday obligation” question. Someone is revolted by the Novus Ordo and starts coming to my Mass. Then some new breed priest tells him that he is “not fulfilling his Sunday obligation” — as if Vatican II types believed in that any more. The potential convert starts to worry.
Do you have any suggestions on how to reassure such people?
A. If your convert already has already arrived at a firm conclusion that the Novus Ordo is irreverent and non-Catholic, you might approach the subject along the following lines:
The modern clergy sometimes claim that going to a traditional Latin Mass at a church not approved by the diocese does not fulfill the Sunday obligation or is a sin.
Implicit in such a statement is the notion that a Catholic is somehow “obliged” to go to the New Mass. This is dead wrong. Your first obligation is to honor God and save your soul. No one can legitimately oblige you to assist at a Mass that both dishonors God through its irreverence and endangers your salvation through undermining the Catholic faith.
As regards “sin,” if you’ve gone to the New Mass for a while, you’ve probably figured out that the modern clergy have just about managed to do away with the idea of sin. If going to the traditional Mass is a “sin,” it’s probably the only one the post-Vatican II clergy still believe in.
Ironically, the modern clergy’s pronouncements on the Sunday obligation are contradicted their own liberalized Code of Canon Law. The 1983 Code states that the Sunday obligation “is satisfied by assistance at a Mass which is celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite.” (Canon 1248.1). A Mass the Church celebrated for centuries, obviously, has no difficulties qualifying as a Catholic rite.
Our situation today is akin to that of Catholics in 16th-century England. Nearly all the bishops and priests in those days had adopted new doctrines — Protestantism — and attempted to impose a heretical new Mass on the faithful. Catholics ignored the innovators’ laws and pronouncements which commanded them to fulfill their Sunday obligation at what was in fact a non-Catholic service. Instead, good Catholics sought out faithful priests who would provide them with a true Catholic Mass and with sound Catholic doctrine.
So too in our own days. Our churches and cathedrals are occupied by a clergy who promote a false doctrine and a non-Catholic form of worship. Like Catholics in 16th-century England, we have no obligation to follow the commands of a clergy which has publicly defected from the faith. However, since we have both the right and the obligation under divine law to sound doctrine and pure worship, we can and must seek out faithful Catholic priests who will provide what we need to save our souls.
(Sacerdoium 14, Spring 1994)