Saturday, September 30, 2006


Probably the craziest religion-oriented website I've ever seen is that of the self-styled "Most Holy Family Monastery" of Fillmore, NY. To hear these folks tell it, they are the only genuine Catholics left on the planet: literally everyone else has fallen into heresy. Some of us have fallen into particularly grave heresies, such as wanting to be friendly to non-Catholics. They have a rather amusing item they refer to as "Heresy of the Week" ("changed on Fridays"!), and this week's "major heresy" consists in the fact that our Holy Father prayed Vespers with some Protestants.

In short, these folks don't even know what a heresy is, let alone who might be guilty of one. The irony, which is most assuredly unintentional, is quite delicious, since these folks are among the arch-heretics of our time.

There is probably no better example of the intellectual resources of this group than this:
In addition to the aberrations and sacrileges that are commonplace at the New Mass, the words declared by the Church to be necessary for a valid consecration have been changed.

Words of Consecration – Traditional Mass:

For this is my Body. For this is the Chalice of my Blood, of the new and eternal testament: the mystery of faith, which shall be shed for you and for many unto the remission of sins.

Words of Consecration – New Mass:

For this is my body. For this is the chalice of my blood, of the new and eternal testament: which shall be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven.
These folks are confusing the ICEL translation of the Mass with the normative Latin text. In the Latin, of course, the text of the so-called "new" Mass is identical to the text they are calling the "traditional" Mass in reading "pro multis" in the text of the Canon. Rather embarrassing for them, but then people like this have neither pride nor shame, so they constitute a rather special sort of group. They go on to complain about the "omission" of the words "the mystery of faith", but I note they have nothing to say about the omission of the word "unto" and the obviously abusive change of "remission of sins" unto the laxitudinarian formula "so that sins may be forgiven". O tempora! O mores! (That was Latin, for all you heretics out there who have never read Cicero in the language in which Almighty God demands that he be read. Of course, he was only a pagan, so if you read him in any language at all that makes you even more of a heretic than you already are.)

I suppose it is not very charitable to poke fun at people like these--it's rather like laughing at a child having a temper tantrum. It's possible, for example, that these people are actually serious about all of this, and that the things they complain about are genuinely upsetting to them. We don't ridicule people who suffer from Alzheimer's, so how on earth can we justify laughing at this kind of nonsense?

The difference, I think, lies in the nature of the kvetching. Someone who is genuinely a lunatic is suffering from mental dysfunction, but these folks are guilty of that knowing obstinacy and lack of humility that characterizes the true heretic who persists in his own private way in the face of overwhelming evidence and magisterial authority to the contrary. It is sometimes difficult to pray for such people--but I suppose we must pray for them as earnestly as we pray for the Richard Dawkinses and Daniel Dennetts of the world. It is a work of mercy, after all.


Michael said...

I suspect the folks at Most Holy Family Monastery know that the Missa Normativa has "pro multis", nevertheless, they are writing in English, for English speakers. The problem extends beyond the English speaking world, too: Spanish has "por todos los hombres", Italian has "per tutti", German has "für Alle", and Portuguese has "por todos homens". Even if the official version of the New Mass accurately quotes our Lord, most Catholics don't hear it that way on Sundays.

Do you believe that "for all" is an accurate translation of the Latin pro multis and the Greek περί πολλων?

Mike L said...

The pro multis issue has been debated for forty years. Here's how I see it, which is pretty much how Michael Davies saw it.

The more literal translation would be "for many." But the modern mind would take that to have the further implication "and not for all." That implication would be incompatible with the definitive teaching of the Church, which is that Christ died for all and his grace suffices for each person's salvation. Accordingly, the ICEL translation glosses the original so as to forestall that implication. I don't like translations that are really glosses, and don't need the gloss to avoid hearing heresy. But as a matter of inescapable fact, most Catholics do need it regardless of whether they know or care about the translation issue.

It certainly does not invalidate the consecration.

Scott Carson said...


I agree with you that glosses, in general, are not as desireable as more literal translations, and I further agree with you that in the present case the gloss, capturing as it does Our Lord's sentiment, does not entail any heresies.

However, all you have to do is to look at the website for the Most Holy Family Monastery, or the comment from Michael above, to see that some folks do think that "pro multis" entails "neque pro omnibus", and it is perhaps salutary to let this one stand in order to avoid that sort of heresy.

Michael said...

It is not my belief that "pro multis" entails "neque pro omnibus". My belief is that Christ did die for all men, but that not all will make it to heaven, and that it was those that will be saved that our Lord had in mind when He said He was shedding His blood "for many". This belief is not a heresy, but is a teaching of the teaching of the Catholic Church found, notably, in the Roman Catechism.

While I do not speak for "Most Holy Family Monastery" or agree with all they write, I think I should point out that you have misunderstood their position as well. A google search for "for all" on their website reveals that they believe, as an article of faith, that "although Christ died for all, yet not all receive the benefit of His death, but those only to whom the merit of His Passion is communicated."

I don't believe that "pro multis" entails "neque pro omnibus", but I do believe that "many" and "all" are different words in English and Latin and Greek and Aramaic. It is presumptuous to assert that when our Lord said "for many" he really meant something else, and even if He did, it would still be a lie to claim He said something He did not say.

Scott Carson said...

Actually, while I appreciate your position, I don't think that I've misunderstood the Monastery position at all, or that I have misrepresented their position, since they take the upshot of all of this to be that the new Mass is heretical. And it's important to note that what they say is that it is the new Mass itself that is heretical, not the new translations of the Mass, so I think your earlier suspicion, that they know the normative form, is probably unfounded.

Since we all agree, apparently, that Christ died for all, and if we agree with the Fathers of the Church that his salvific sacrifice for all had the effect of redeeming mankind as such, and we all agree that it is still possible for individual, particular humans to err, and logically we are forced to admit that "pro multis" does not exclude the meaning "pro omnibus" even though they are, as you so quaintly put it, different words, then I fail to see what the problem is. It is simply irrelevant to this argument to point out that some folks do not respond to Christ's call, and there is absolutely no evidence, either in the text of the Bible or in the teachings of the Magisterium, that when Christ said that he "died for all" he died only for those whom he knew would be saved, nor is there any evidence in either the text of the Bible or in the teaching of the Magisterium that we can know for a fact that all human beings are not, in fact, saved. We have some suspicions, founded on empirical observation, but that is not at all sufficient to warrant the charge of heresy that the morons at the Monastery so ignorantly bandy about.

As Mike Liccione has pointed out, if you are worried about the heretical view that Christ did not die for all, then the dynamic translation is useful, since there is no heretical view that can follow from accepting the ICEL version: it is logically possible that all people are in fact destined for salvation--another infallible teaching of the Church is that we cannot know who is or who is not chosen by God for eternal life based merely on our own fallible observations of their outward behavior.

So you are faced with two possibilities: a literally correct translation that may, in some cases, lead to heretical interpretations of Christ's meaning, or a dynamic translation that is not as literal but that captures the semantic content of Christ's intention, as interpreted by the infallible Magisterium, and that does not lead to any heresies. Contrary to your assertion, it is not, in fact, presumptuous at all to suppose that we can know his meaning, it is rather something that he himself told us we could do through the ministry of his Church. While it is true that some Protestants do not accept the fact that the teaching ministry of the Church gives her the right to interpret Christ's meaning via the infallible Magisterium, I don't see any particular reason why I ought to accept that particular Protestant claim, since it is in itself heretical.

I do agree with you that it is, of course, possible that not all will make it to heaven. That is also a logical possibility. But since we do not know for a fact that not all will, while we do know for a fact that God wills that all make it, there seems to be little reason to get all worked up about this particular issue which, as Mike L. has pointed out, has been argued about for over 40 years. It's worth noting that there are many, many scholars, intelligent people and well trained in logic, philosophy, theology, and classical languages, who do not agree with the interpretation put on this by the folks at the Monastery, while the other side tends to be represented by a very small number of folks who are either not well educated at all or who call their education into question by making very dubious arguments about this relatively minor point. And it is worth emphasizing that it is really beyond the pale to take this minor issue and turn it into a matter of heresy, as evidence for Sedevacantism of all things. Genuine Catholics ought to be ashamed of themselves if they take this stuff at all seriously.

Scott Carson said...

I used some rather strong language in that last post, language that, looking back over it, I fear may have been stronger than I intended. While I stand by the position I staked out there, I did not intend to offend any particular individual--my only motive was to criticize a certain position. If any offense was taken, I apologize.