I'm conscious that this isn't necessarily a research level question, but I've asked this question on mathstackexchange, and received no answer. So I'm trying it here.

A usual mantra in field theories is the assertion that *only massless theories can be conformally invariant*. By a *theory* I mean an action $$ S = \int \mathcal{L} \, \mathrm{dVol}, $$ where $\mathcal{L}$ is the Lagrangian density, and the integral is taken over a 4-dimensional Lorentzian manifold with metric $g$. By *conformal invariance* I mean the statement that under the conformal rescaling of the metric $$ \hat{g} = \Omega^2g, $$ the Lagrangian transforms as $\hat{\mathcal{L}} = \Omega^{-4} \mathcal{L}$. Then, as the volume form transforms as $\widehat{\mathrm{dVol}} = \Omega^{4} \mathrm{dVol}$, the action $S$ is invariant, and the theory is said to be conformally invariant.

The usual physics explanation given is that "if a theory is supposed to be conformally invariant, then there cannot exist an intrinsic scale to it, such as mass or a Compton wavelength". Of course, this is a load of hand waving. I guess I don't strictly know what I mean by a *massless* theory. Maxwell's equations, for example, are a massless conformally invariant theory. My guess would have been that the mass of a theory is its ADM mass, but as has been pointed out in the comments, this is a property of a solution to a theory, not the theory itself. So, if $m$ is the mass of a theory, whatever it stands for exactly, and $m \neq0$, why must conformal invariance fail?

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