In his work on privately celebrated Masses, Luther seeks to demonstrate that the Catholic Priesthood is a creation of Satan. He bases this assertion On the principle, henceforth fundamental to his thinking, that what is not in Holy Scripture is an addition of Satan. Accordingly, for Luther, since Scripture makes no mention of the visible Priest hood, there can be but one priest and one Pontiff, Christ. With Christ we are all called to the Priesthood, thus making the Priesthood at once unique and universal. What folly to seek to limit it to the few. Similarly, all hierarchical distinctions between Christians are worthy of the Antichrist; "Woe therefore, to those who call themselves priests". (Christiani, Ibid., p. 269)
In 1520, Luther wrote "To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation Concerning the Reform of the Christian State", in which he attacks the Romanists and urges the convocation of a free council:
"The first wall built by the Romanists is the distinction between the clergy and the laity. It is pure invention that pope, bishop, priests, and monks are called the spiritual estate while prince', lords, artisans and peasants are called the temporal estate. This is indeed a piece of deceit and hypocrisy. All Christians are truly of the spiritual estate, and there is no difference among them except that of office... The pope or bishop anoints, confers the tonsure, ordains, consecrates, and prescribes garb different from that of the laity. He might well make a man into a hypocrite in so doing, but never a Christian or a spiritual man... Whoever comes out of the water of baptism can boast that he is already a consecrated priest, bishop, and pope, although of course it is not seemly that just anybody should exercise such office". (Tappert, Ibid., vol. 1, 2i3-65)
It was from this doctrine that Luther concluded against both clerical garb and celibacy. He and his disciples, in fact, showed the way by marrying.
How many of the reforms of Vatican II reflect Luther's own conclusions? The abandonment of clerical and religious dress, widespread marriages of the religious sanctioned even by the Holy See, the suppression of distinctions between priest and layman. This egalitarianism is further manifested in the sharing of liturgical functions formerly reserved to the Priesthood.
The abolition of the minor orders and the sub-diaconate, and the creation of a married diaconate, have also contributed to the purely administrative conception of the priest, to the detriment of his essentially priestly character, Thus one is ordained primarily to serve the community and no longer for the purpose of offering Christ's Sacrifice which alone is the justification for the Catholic concept of the Priesthood.
Worker priests, priests in labour unions, or in positions remunerated by the State similarly contribute to the blurring of distinctions between Priesthood and laity. In fact, the innovations go much further than those of Luther.
Luther's second grave doctrinal error flows from the first and is founded upon its guiding principle: salvation comes from faith and confidence in God alone, and not from good works. thus negating the value of the sacrificial act which is the Catholic Mass.
For Luther, the Mass is a sacrifice of praise, that is an act of praise, of thanksgiving, but most certainly not an expiatory sacrifice which recreates the Sacrifice of Calvary and applies its merits.
Describing the liturgical "perversions" he observed in some monasteries, he wrote: "The Principal expression of their cult, the Mass, surpasses all impiety and abomination in that they make of it a sacrifice and a good work. Were this the only reason to leave habit and convent and abandon the vows, it would be amply sufficient". (Christiani, p. 258)
For Luther, the Mass, which is meant simply to be a communion, has been subjected to a triple bondage: the laity has been deprived of the use of the chalice, they have been bound as to a dogma to the thomistic opinion on transubstantiation, and the Mass has been made into a sacrifice.
This is central to Luther's theology:
"It is, therefore, clearly erroneous and impious", he declared, "to offer or apply the merits of the Mass for sins, or the reparation thereof, or for the deceased. Mass is offered by God to man, and not by man to God". (Christiani)
"With respect in the Eucharist, since it ought first and foremost to move one to the Faith, it is fitting that it be celebrated in the vernacular in order that all may comprehend the grandeur of God's promise to man". (Chiistiani, p. 176)
The logical consequence of this heresy was for Luther to abolish the Offertory of the Mass, which expresses unequivocally the propitiatory and expiatory aims of the Sacrifice. Similarly, he abolished a major part of the Canon, retaining only the essential passages as a narrative of Christ's Last Supper. In order better to emphasise the latter event, he added to the formula of the Consecration of the bread the words "quod pro vobis tradetur" ("which will be given up for you"), and deleted both "mysterium fidei ("the mystery of faith") and "pro multis" ("for many"). He considered that the passages which both immediately precede and follow the actual Consecration of the bread and Wine were essential.
For Luther, the Mass is firstly the Liturgy of the Word, and secondly a Communion. For us that fact that the current liturgical Reforms have adopted precisely these same modifications is nothing short of astounding. Indeed, as we well know, the texts in use by the faithful today no longer make reference to the Sacrifice, but rather to the Liturgy of the Word, to the Lord's Supper and to the breaking of bread, or to the Eucharist. Article vii of the instruction which introduced the new Liturgy reflected a clearly Protestant orientation. A corrected version which followed in the wake of the outraged protests of the faithful remains sadly deficient.
It goes without saying that, added to these substantial alterations, the large number of lesser liturgical modifications have contributed further to the inculcation of Protestant attitudes which seriously threaten Catholic doctrine: the suppression of the altar stone, the use of a single altar cloth, the priest facing the people, the Host remaining on the paten rather than on the corporal, the introduction of ordinary bread, sacred vessels of less noble substances, and numerous other details.
There is nothing more essential to the survival of the Catholic Church than the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass', to play it down is to threaten the very foundation of Christ's Church. The whole of Christian life, and the Priesthood, is founded upon the Cross, and upon the re-enactment of the Sacrifice of the Cross, upon the altar.