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Mass in Union with the “Pirate Pope”: Some Questions

Peter or Pirate: No difference?

By Rev. Anthony Cekada

IN MY 2007 article, Grain of Incense: Sedevacantists and Una Cum Masses, I examined at great length the issue of whether a sedevacantist could actively assist at a traditional Mass where a Vatican II pope is named in the Canon of the Mass. On the basis of the dozens of theological, canonical and liturgical sources, I concluded that no, one could not.

In 2014, after the election of Bergoglio, I posted a resumé of my argument entitled Should I Assist at a Mass that Names Pope Francis in the Canon. This explained in simpler terms the points I had made in the original article.

On the face of it, the conclusion should just be a matter of common sense: If you don’t believe that Francis is a true pope, you have no business participating in an act of worship that proclaims he is.

But since the practical application of the principles I outlined would prevent sedevacantists in many cases from assisting at what might be the only traditional Mass offered in their area, I often get questions about the issue. This has increasingly been the case over the past few years, because Bergoglio’s antics have led more and more traditionalists into the sedevacantist camp.

Moral participation in a common action.

I.  Do the Laity in fact “Consent”?

The first series of questions about the conclusions in “Grain of Incense” came to me several years ago from a fellow sedevacantist priest.

The authorities you cite in sections II.B-D refer to the people’s participation in the Mass as a sacrifice offered to God. All they say is that the faithful offer the sacrifice through the priest. You do not cite a theologian who teaches that the layman consents, by his presence, to every accidental detail of the Mass he attends. If you find it, let me know. 🙂

I think you need to re-read the texts I quoted more closely. Specifically, read fnn: 18, 19, 20, 24 (the Pius XII quote is in the text), 26, 27, 28.

These all refer to a true moral participation (a subspecies of cooperation) not just in the sacrifice, but likewise in the actual prayers that commend the sacrifice — “cooperationem seu communem actionem cum alio in orationibus et functionibus cultus.” [cooperation or common action with another person in the prayers and actions of worship]

So, the layman who participates in the Mass actively (in such a way as to satisfy his Sunday obligation and to share in the special fruits of the sacrifice) by that very fact necessarily participates in the all the prayers of the priest — including the una cum. The priest says the prayers, and the laymen participate “in the execution of the act with the principal agent and under his direction.” (Roberti, “Cooperation,” Dict. Moral Theology)

To say the people offer the sacrifice through the priest is an entirely different claim from saying the people participate in every detail of the Mass — including whether the priest says the right Collects, whether he uses the correct name in the una cum clause, whether he is in the state of grace, whether he prays for something sinful in the Memento, whether he makes a sloppy sign of the cross over the oblata, or any one of the thousand other things that can (and sometimes do) go wrong in a Mass. In my limited experience, I have never heard of a moralist who said anything even close to such a claim. In 2000 years of Church history, with all the problems that have occurred during the celebration of Mass, surely it would have come up at one point or another, don’t you think?

First, the authors distinguish between grave and light violations of the rubrics, and those which are imputable or inadvertent. (See Oppenheim, Tract. de Iure Liturgico 2:72, and Prümmer Th. Mor. 3:303ff).

If a priest were to habitually and deliberately violate a preceptive rubric in a grave matter when offering Mass (omitting some of the Offertory prayers, altering the Canon, etc.) the faithful — assuming they were aware of this and understood its gravity — would be obliged to avoid his Mass, because they would be actively participating in his sin. This is simply an application of the general principle on cooperation in the sin of another.

(Over and above the principles already mentioned, even visceral reactions confirm this. There were many times in my youth when I walked out of Masses because a priest perpetrated violated the rubrics and perpetrated some egregious liturgical or doctrinal horror.)

The recitation or non-recitation of the una cum concerns a matter which in itself is grave, and those who insert the name of Benedict in the Canon do so deliberately — sciens volens [knowingly and willingly].

Una cum = wrong Gospel?

On the other hand, the recitation of the wrong Collect or (to limit ourselves to the question of texts, which is the central issue here), omitting the Gloria, chanting the wrong Gospel (as I accidentally did on Saturday) are not in themselves grave matter.

Unlike the una cum, the hapless priest does not recite or omit these texts as the result of due deliberation. Instead, he commits these faults as a result of one of two things:

(1) Error. (“postitivus status animae in quo… habetur notitia falsa, verae rei naturae non consentanea.” — Michels, de Delictis 1:204) [A positive condition of the soul in which.. one has a false and unconsenting knowledge of the true nature of a thing] E.g., he misunderstood what the Ordo said.

(2) Inadvertence. (“status transitorius, in quo id quod habitualiter scimus actualiter, ex distractione vel oblivione, non consideramus.” Ibid.) [A transitory condition, in which, out of distraction or forgetfulness, we do not actually advert to that which we habitually know.] E.g., the server made a mistake, I noticed it, and my eyes lit upon the wrong Gospel text.

These generally excuse Father from moral imputability, and since the matters are not objectively grave anyway, both he and the faithful are off the hook.

But with the una cum, the matter is grave, the act of reciting it is deliberate, and the faithful actively assisting in the Mass, according to the principles set forth above, by that fact participate in the act of the priest.

Proof of exactly what?

II. In Union with a Protestant King?

More recently, an anonymous sedevacantist blogger put up a lengthy post with what he thought was the ultimate gotcha argument against Grain of Incense: In the beginning of the 19th century, Pope Pius VII, he claimed, allowed the phrase pro Rege nostro Georgio to be placed into the Canon of the Mass in England, just after the name of the pope and the bishop in the una cum.

Since George III, obviously, was a Protestant heretic and a pope approved inserting his name — the blogger’s argument went — there’s no real problem for sedes to assist at a Mass where the name of a heretical pope is inserted into the Canon.

The blogger cited no papal decree for his rather astounding factual claim, and nothing to this effect appears in the official Decreta Authenica of the Vatican’s Congregation of Sacred Rites.

The only source the blogger provided was this link, which leads to an 1806 Latin-English missal for the laity,  in which the phrase pro Rege nostro N. (for our King, N.) has been inserted into the Canon. How did it get to be put into a Missal for the laity? Who knows? We certainly don’t have to accept the authority of  its publisher,  P. Keating of Brown & Co., 37 Duke St., Grosvenor Square.

But in any event, as regards the priest’s altar Missal itself, the liturgical commentators are clear: The Missal of Pius V discontinued the mention of the king or civil rulers in the Te Igitur, and the practice was allowed only by way of privilege (as in Spain and Austria), where the ruler was a Catholic.

Caught out on the specific issue of the Canon, the blogger replied that, well, having consulted one of the four thousand books in his personal library, he finds that the Church allowed other public prayers to be chanted for a non-Catholic monarch or president.

Well sure, — but this was in the official’s civil capacity as head of a secular stateAnd in the case of England, this took the form of a prayer chanted after the Mass was over.

The Pope, on the other hand, is prayed for during the Canon of the Mass in his religious capacity as head of the Church.

If the blogger couldn’t figure out that basic distinction, his four thousand books haven’t done him a lot of good. Maybe he should get with the Bergoglio’s environmentalist program and recycle them.

But even after the publication of the first version of this post on September 20, 2017,  our blogger still did not learn his lesson.

So, in a September 25 post, he went on a 1500-word tear against me based entirely on the assumption that the Prayer for the (Protestant) King permitted at Benediction in Canada took place during an “official liturgical service,” thus making (he assures us) an excellent analogical argument for tolerating the naming of a heretic/imposter as Vicar of Christ in the Canon of the Mass.

But all this windbaggery instantly collapses once you learn that, unlike the Mass, Benediction is not considered a true liturgical service.

Pfft. Strike three. And down goes yet another ignorantly made and pompously phrased objection.

And so here we are, ten years after my original article, and despite all the squawking, no one has yet been able to make a credible and coherent case against my arguments.

Active participation by any standard.

III. What about Just Adoration or a Rosary?

Here is another series of questions I received recently from a lay sedevacantist.

I am writing you in hopes of clearing up some confusion which has arisen in my mind and those of others with regard to attendance at ‘una cum’ Masses. At present, I am taking advantage of the internet Masses from SGG Resources and steering clear of the SSPX chapel.

In response to my previous email, you advised me that it would be permissible to make a visit to an SSPX chapel for personal adoration. Additionally, it would be okay to make a confession, but only if it would not create a scandal.

 Father, how could it be wrong to make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament while a ‘una cum’ Mass is being said?

It would be wrong because during Mass such an act connotes active participation.

During my visit, would it be wrong to receive Holy Communion?

Yes, it would be wrong, because reception of the Eucharist constitutes active participation in the rite.

Would it make any difference if, before entering the sanctuary, I would pray for the correction of the inherent wrong of the priest for beseeching our Lord to protect, unite and govern the manifest heretic ‘our pope’ Francis? Silently, I would be addressing my own disapproval by willfully not participating in the dialogue of this Mass but, instead, reciting my Rosary while immersing myself with the Real Presence. Once I concluded my visitation , I would return home and look to receive the graces of the internet Mass.

It would make no difference, because the recitation of the Rosary is one of the approved means of actively participating in the Mass.

If it is wrong being in church within the ‘atmosphere’ of the ‘una cum’ Mass, would it be  wrong for me, though not present in the church, to be at home receiving Holy Communion or Viaticum that has been consecrated during a ‘una cum’ Mass?

Yes — it has been consecrated in a rite that — because it professes communion with a public heretic and proclaims him a preacher of the Catholic faith — is objectively sinful.

 The emergence of the question of the validity of the consecration itself (for me) comes into the area for consideration when the priest participates in this prayerful entreaty for this false ‘pope’. Does the priest really believe this man is pope, or is he just repeating the words of the ‘una cum’ without thinking? Of course, we would never know if the priest is one of the many sedevacantist priests in the Society.

The mental state of the celebrant does not change the objective meaning of the prayers of the liturgical rite, nor can it negate the principles that make it wrong for you, a sedevacantist who has figured things out, to actively assist at the rite.

Father Cekada, maybe I’m making too much of this, but these questions, nevertheless, persist.

 I look forward to receiving your response. 

 I realize that putting these principles into practice is very painful for devout Catholics such as yourself, who do indeed regard the Mass as what Fr. Faber called “the most beautiful thing this side of heaven.” 

But the moral and liturgical principles are what they are, and it’s our duty to apply them. Fr. Faber also said: “Our charity is untruthful because it is not severe; and it is unpersuasive, because it is not truthful… Where there is no hatred of heresy, there is no holiness.”

I recommend you go back and read Grain of Incense again in its entirety.

I had thought for many years that the advice not to attend “una cum” Mass was excessively severe. 

Robert Parsons

But when I looked into the question myself, I discovered that all the evidence from popes, Holy Office decrees, moral theologians, dogmatic theologians, canonists and liturgical commentaries affirmed that the conclusion was correct: that a sedevacantist, who by definition believes a V2 pope is a heretic and a false pope, should not participate actively in an “una cum” Mass, which proclaims the opposite.

The Jesuit Robert Parsons, one of the heroes of Catholic resistance to the Protestant persecutions in England, wrote a whole book entitled “Reasons why Catholics Refuse to Go to Church,” in order to encourage faithful Catholics to avoid worship displeasing to God. We, who (unlike them) do not face the prospect of loss of our lives and livelihoods, should strive to imitate their heroic and uncompromising spirit for the sake of the truth.

Please pray for the grace to be as strong in the practice of the faith as they were!

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