The Mass: Has Rome Changed?

While studying Heidelberg Catechism Q/A 80 on how the Lord’s Supper differs from the Roman Catholic mass, I noticed that some say the last part of HC 80 is wrong. They argue that since Rome has changed her official position on the Mass, the last 1/2 of HC 80 should be lopped off. In order to keep this post short, I won’t quote the last part of HC 80 – you can find it on your own, I trust. The main issues are these: is Christ bodily present in the elements, is he re-presented in the elements, and should we worship the elements? [Note: re-presented here means “presented over again;” this is important, because Calvin, for example, said Christ is represented but not re-presented.]

Lets see what Rome says today. The following quotes are taken from Catechism of the Catholic Church (New York: Doubleday, 1995). As an additional note, then Cardinal (now Pope) Joseph Ratzinger was the chairman of this pope-commissioned group to work on the catechism (in 1986).

Part II, Article 3, para. II.1330 The Mass “makes present the one sacrifice of Christ the Savior…”

Part II. Article 3, para III.1333 “At the heart of the Eucharistic celebration are the bread and wine that, by the words of Christ and the invocation of the Holy Spirit, become Christ’s body and blood.”

Part II, Article 3, para IV.1350 “…the bread and the wine are brought to the altar; they will be offered by the priest in the name of Christ in the Eucharistic sacrifice in which they will become his body and blood.”

Part II, Article 3, para IV.1353-4 “…by his [the Holy Spirit’s] power they [bread and wine]…become the body and blood of Jesus Christ…” The institution narrative words “make sacramentally present under the species of bread and wine Christ’s body and blood, his sacrifice offered on the cross once for all.”

Part II, Article 3, para V.1357 “Christ is thus really and mysteriously made present” when the bread and the wine “become” his body and blood.

Part II, Article 3, para V. 1364-7 In the Mass, “the sacrifice Christ offered once for all on the cross remains ever present. As often as the sacrifice of the cross by which ‘Christ our Pasch has been sacrificed’ is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out.” “The Eucharist is also a sacrifice.” “The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross.” The same sacrifice which Christ offered on the cross is “now offered through the ministry of priests.”

Part II, Article 3, para V.1374 “In the most blessed Eucharist…the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained” (emphasis in original).

Part II, Article 3, para V.1378 The people, during the liturgy of the Mass, “genuflect or bow deeply as a sign of adoration of the Lord.” “The Catholic church has always offered and still offers to the sacrament of the Eucharist the cult of adoration, not only during Mass, but also outside of it, reserving the consecrated hosts with the utmost care, exposing them to the solemn veneration of the faithful, and carrying them in procession.”

The “In Summary” section notes this (among others): “Because Christ himself is present in the sacrament of the altar, he is to be honored with the worship of adoration.”

There are quite a few more phrases that are exactly like the above. Also, the Council of Trent (c. mid 16th century) is quoted no less than 8 times in this one section. Though I didn’t list it, the Catholic Catechism also discusses the Mass for the dead. Finally, I noticed in a recent Yakima Times article, that now the “in” thing in Roman churches (at least in Southern Washington) is to have the Mass in Latin again, because “it feels more historical and holy.”

Clearly, Rome has not changed her position on the Mass. HC Q/A 80 needs to stay. Its not exactly “Interfaith,” ECT, or PC material, but “denial of the one sacrifice of Christ” and “condemnable idolatry” still fit.

shane lems

sunnyside wa

7 thoughts on “The Mass: Has Rome Changed?”

  1. I am trying to understand – was someone trying to tell you that Catholics had changed their theology?

    I am also trying to understand the somewhat exhasperated reference to “Finally, I noticed in a recent Yakima Times article, that now the “in” thing in Roman churches (at least in Southern Washington) is to have the Mass in Latin again, because “it feels more historical and holy.””

    I don’t really see how this is (a) pertinent to your thesis that we didn’t change (incidentally, we didn’t) or (b) useful in doing anything but sneering at them for feeling (when in fact those that support the old rite have a preference for it well beyond feelings).

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  2. Asimplesinner – Thanks for stopping by. From your comment I get the impression that you are Roman Catholic (if I’m wrong, please correct me) so I’m sure you will disagree with our (Calvinistic/Reformed) position on holy communion. Nevertheless, I think you will be able to agree with us that it is not correct to say that the Roman Catholic church is teaching something different than it used to regarding its sacramental theology.

    There has been a movement in Dutch Reformed circles in the past 5 or so years to change the wording of Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 80 (you can see a copy of this from the Reformed Confession links to the right). A few years ago a number of Reformed theologians met with a number of Roman Catholic theologians to determine whether or not the Roman Catholic church does in fact believe that in the mass, Christ is offered up to God the Father as an unbloody sacrifice to propitiate his wrath. According to the reports, the Roman Catholic theologians said that what is described in Q&A 80 is not, in fact, what they believe. This led the Reformed folk to suggest that the Heidelberg Catechism should have Q&A 80 removed.

    What Shane has simply tried to do is show that nothing has changed since the Council of Trent regarding the Roman Catholic condemnation of the Reformed position. Granted Vatican II has made some significant changes in the way the Roman Catholic church views those of us in Protestant churches; nevertheless the official dogma represented in the Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent has not been changed and, in fact, by citing the Council of Trent, even this latest catechism helps to illustrate that Roman Catholicism hasn’t changed their position.

    Well, I hope that helps clarify what this post has tried to do. I think we can all agree that if we do, in fact, disagree about a matter, the answer isn’t to pretend that we actually agree and then lead other people to believe that we are really just saying the same thing. Those who don’t know better will have an incorrect understanding of the positions held by both sides of the debate and those who do know better will simply see that dishonest scholarship has taken place.

    Sorry this comment got so long though . . .

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  3. I am not a Roman Catholic I am a Greek Catholic – to save a few key strokes it is just as easy to type “Catholic” on this one. And while you can be certain I do disagree with the Calvinist position, that really isn’t germain to my comment. In fact I DO agree with the thesis of this post! The Catholic Church has NOT changed its teachings.

    On that I very much agree.

    I am still trying to understand I am also trying to understand the somewhat exhasperated reference to “Finally, I noticed in a recent Yakima Times article, that now the “in” thing in Roman churches (at least in Southern Washington) is to have the Mass in Latin again, because “it feels more historical and holy.””

    I still don’t really see how this is (a) pertinent to your thesis that we didn’t change (incidentally you are right – we didn’t change) or (b) useful in doing anything but sneering at them for feeling (when in fact those that support the old rite have a preference for it well beyond feelings).

    I understand the differences. I understand that you are coming to really understand that no, we did not change. I just don’t understand the comment about the Yakima Times article.

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  4. I can briefly explain, asimplesinner. Thanks for your clear question and level-headed comments.

    The reason I quoted the Yakima Times article was because it showed that the trend in RC churches is not to move away from the past, but back to it. Perhaps I should have spelled it out more clearly; the “feels” part was not a cynical critique of mine – I was trying to capture the main thrust of the article.

    Let me know if it still is unclear. Also, I see you agree with the main point of the post. Thanks.

    Shane

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  5. I think I understand Shane… When it comes to the mainstream press and their slant on all things Catholic… eh, you do far better to ask a Catholic. Those of us with an attachment to older liturgical forms don’t have those attachments based on feelings.

    But to be clear, I do agree with your asessment that we have not changed on our thinking (and give you props that you were able to go to source documents to study this for yourself first hand – well done and commendable, sir!).

    Just to be clear, there have been changes in externals of ritual praxis and even shifting of paradigms in the presentation of the Catholic Faith with differing emphasis that in some respects highlights the universiality of it – no one school of thought or presentation captures it all… But if anyone tells you we have changed our dogmas or doctrines since Trent… Well I am pleased to see you are well prepared to disabuse them of such flights of fancy.

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  6. Thanks for the helpful and clarifying words, “asimplesinner.” I am indeed skeptical about the Media’s “take” on religion, so it was only really a secondary source that happened to come across my desk as I was reading the RCC Catechism.

    Have you any opinion on what would make some Reformed/Protestant Christians think that Rome has changed her position on the Mass?

    shane lems

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  7. “Have you any opinion on what would make some Reformed/Protestant Christians think that Rome has changed her position on the Mass?”

    For the most part my first and best inclination and guess as to why many Protestants feel that way is simply this: The focus of many Reformed and other non-Catholic (Protestant) apologetics and points of debate with the Catholic Church has been couched in terms of 16th century terminology and understandings of it that may or may NOT be accurate – we would have to sit down over a pot of cofee or ten and hash some of the terms themselves out.

    When it came to be the case that the same faith was expressed in different modern (as in non-16th century terms) the rhetoric (in the classic sense) offered for four hundred years of these tenants of our faith that were framed in “1500s-speak” may not have seemed as congruent. When the same truths and tenants were expressed in a different fashion, the inclination of some may have been to think this constituted a dogmatic change. It simply did not.

    But honestly, this is only my best speculation as to why other people (of whom I am not one) think or may think the way they do on some matters. It is just a guess, I can’t speak from experience.

    Do you think it plausible or even possible that what certain in some Reformed parties have thought we believed all these years might not have been accurate? That in fact they misunderstood what we were saying in the 1500s and that when they heard us say the same things but in a different fashion that may not have otherwise confirmed their original misunderstandings, that it was they who thought there was a change because the new presentation did not fit their old mischaracterization?

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