What would it take for Jesus to NOT be present at the Mass?

I’ve read a lot of threads on hear about various liturgical abuses–everything from people not liking the choice of music to more serious offenses like heretical homilies and the like. Often, the advice given is to stay through Mass and take Communion because, no matter how bad it is, Jesus is still present. My question is, How bad does it have to be for it to not be a valid Mass?

One example, a priest not believing in transubstantiation when he say the words of consecration.

I am curious about this too. My understanding is that if the words of consecration are not said correctly, then it isn’t a valid Mass. But I’m not sure how “messed up” they have to be. One time I attended a Mass where the priest said the words backwards - the words for the cup with the bread, and vice versa. After the consecration he looked up and said, “Wait, that wasn’t right, was it? Sorry about that!” but then he continued on with the Mass. I’m sure he intended to do it correctly, which probably meant that he did. This is probably the case with elderly priests too - the words may not be correct but the intent to consecrate is still there, so it still happens.

I have been to one Mass (that I know of) where the priest ad-libbed the words of consecration (he ad-libbed a lot of the Mass). I still received, but afterwards I wasn’t sure if I should have or not. Later that evening I attended another Mass just to make sure I had satisfied my obligation in case the earlier one was not actually a Mass.

Form, intent, and matter. Matter is unleaved (in the West) wheat bread and wine (color doesn’t matter). Form is the words of consecration - which the priest must intend to say correctly, a slip of the tongue doesn’t make it invalid. Intent is that the priest means to consecrate the bread and wine.

However, we cannot judge the priest’s intent so the Church tells us that if the priest is on the altar and going through the motions of Mass, that we can assume his intent is correct and that the consecration is valid.

All the other stuff about music, bad homilies, ugly vestments, high fives at the kiss of peace, etc do not make the Mass invalid.

One thing that we do need to be careful of is that the Mass is also licit. At a regular dioceasean parish this is not an issue, but Masses at SSPX chapels and other “independent” places (ie not approved by the Ordinary/diocesean bishop) are illict and we should avoid going to Mass there.

I don’t think this is correct. The state of the soul or belief of the celebrant does not affect the Presence as it is the sole action of the Holy Spirit. If the Mass is celebrated correctly (pretty much) Jesus comes to us. He probably comes, anyway, because He wants to be with us so much.

People don’t do magic or make anything happen. Not even priests.

You could be right. This happens to be my understanding, however I would welcome other people’s information.

Wait, so the SSPX masses are not valid? I thought they were just especially Latin masses, and there’s been a thread on here about that. Where could I get more info on making sure I go to a valid Latin mass?

Jesus is not present on Good Friday since the altar is stripped and the blessed sacrament is not there.

Good Friday service is not a Mass, so the original question does not apply. Jesus is present in the reserved host in the tabernacle. Jesus is also present because two or three are gathered in his name at the Good Friday service.

Actually, even if the priest does not believe, the Church supplies the defect (because how would you know what the priest believes?) as long as he says or means to say the right words.

From your Bishop. On this issue, do not trust the Internet.

This is not correct. The priest does not have to believe in transubstantiation for it to take place. As a matter of fact, the Lanciano miracle is said to have taken place in the hands of a doubting priest.

A priest only need intend to do what the Church does, not intend what the Church intends. For the most part, this intention is almost always virtually present even if the priest has himself lost faith.

As to the original question, the standard answers: defective form (for the Latin church, these are the words “This is my body. This is…my blood”; defective minister (not an ordained priest), defective intention (the priest consciously says to himself, “I will only pretend to say Mass”), and defective matter (not wheat bread, not grape wine). If any of these are true, the Eucharist is invalid.

Bad homilies and liturgical abuse outside of those mentioned cannot invalidate the Mass, that’s why one ought not to walk out of one if he does not intend to attend another one. Even if the homily is written by Satan himself or the music arranged according to death metal, or the priest dressed in a grass skirt, for as long as the necessary elements are present, it is a valid Mass.

The Church teaches that even if the Priest doesn’t believe in the Real Presence, it still Transubstaintiates. By virtue of His Ordination, the Sacraments flow through the Priest “Ex Opere Operato”. Which applies to the similar question “What if the Priest has a mortal sin on his soul, is it still a valid Consecration?” For us, luckily, yes, for him unfortunatley, no.

Jesus not being present at the Mass is an impossiblity.

If the priest makes Jesus present then it is Mass. If the priest fails to make Christ present, then Mass has not happened.


Okay, by pushing this query toward the end of the spectrum … suppose the priest is very, very bad or has some sort of mental defect and DOES NOT intend to consecrate the bread and wine.

He says the right words and uses the right matter, but he lacks intent. Does the Consecration take place?

This question has been on my mind after reading about the Ohio priest who murdered a nun; according to the article he was involved in satanic activity. Conceivably, someone so depraved might lack intent.

They are in schism, they separated themselves from the Church. Search the forum or just Google.

I would still believe Valid. Remember, when those hands come down onto his head at ordination, He has the Power to work the Sacraments, even if He doesn’t believe in them, because it is CHRIST acting through the Priest. Hence the term, Alter Christus. Ex Opere Operato.

“Lack” can be a bit misleading of a word. The fact that the priest is going through the motions by reciting the prescribed prayers and words of consecration, suggests that he intends, at least at a minimal level, to do what the Church intends. So if the priest thinks to himself, “I’ll plan out my picks for the afternoon football games while I get through these memorized words I’m supposed to say,” my understanding is that the intent is still there and the consecration is still valid.

On the other hand, if the priest has a contrary intent,it is not valid. In my example, the priest might actively think, “Dear Lord, if you’re going to do anything here, do not turn these hosts into your body, but into Doritos for my kickoff party later.” In that case, even with the proper words, the consecration would not be valid.

Lack of faith is a common struggle that priests have, but I think it’s safe to assume that a malicious contrary intent is very rare.

Thank you everyone for your information. The issue I was thinking of but didn’t have the words for was “defective intention”.

That’s even too high a standard which the Church does not require. A priest need only intend to do what the Church does.

This is why even the unbelieving or sinful priest most likely does not even lack sufficient intention because at least virtually, he at least intends to celebrate Mass, and do whatever the Church does. Murdering a nun hardly constitutes withdrawal of intention.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.