Fr Ray in England is priest at an old Catholic Church in Brighton and considers whether to use the high altar and celebrate mass ad orientem. He decides not to because his diocesan authorities would never allow it.
Now this confuses me. I am no liturgical scholar, nor I am a canon lawyer, but are there actually instructions anywhere that mandate the versus poplulum position for saying Mass? I’m really asking those of you who know more than I do about this. After all, I am a new priest and a convert at that, and I admit to having some gaps in my formation and reading. My question is, “Do the rules allow us to say Mass facing the people or say we must?”
If they merely allow and do not say we must, then why do the rubrics of the Novus Ordo assume that we are facing ad orientem? In two crucial places the rubrics say that the ‘priest should face the people’. One is at the prayer, ore fratres–brothers pray that my sacrifice and yours… and the other is at the ecce agnus dei–behold the Lamb of God. If he is instructed at these two points to face the people, then the assumption is that he has not been facing the people.
I know of one priest who started to celebrate Mass ad orientem and was called on it by his diocesan authorities, but when he explained his position and asked for clarification on where it was mandated that he celebrate facing the people (and not just allowed) he wasn’t given a satisfactory answer. His point was that the universal church allows celebration ad orientem and not even a diocesan bishop can prohibit what the universal church allows or mandate what the universal church prohibits.
I suppose it is a question for Fr Z.
There are no liturgical documents mandating this.Some time back EWTN use to do televised Masses Ad Orientum. There bishop didn’t like this and ordered that nobody could do this in his diocese. The basic fallout from the Vatican was that the Bishop could not prevent priests from celebrating Masses this way. So the Bishop instead told them that they could not do it on a televised Mass and these Masses can be more controlled via the Bishop.
Fr. Longenecker,A point of reference for your inquiry would be the back-and-forth that occurred regarding EWTN’s broadcast of the Mass celebrated Ad Orientem and the eventual opposition of then Bishop David Foley of Birmingham, Alabama. The answer to your question would seem to be that all points concerning what is liturgically permitted are moot once the bishop chooses to “assert his authority.” Raymond Arroyo captures the dispute quite well in his biography of Mother Angelica.On a similar note, some bishops in the United States have prohibited moving the tabernacle back to the center of the church in order to avoid what may be perceived as a “political” statement.Ahh, Church politics.
I see that Brother Jeff and I were operating on the same wavelength.
There are two issues here:1. Does a priest have a right to celebrate Mass ad orientem? The answer is yes.2. Does a parish priest have the right to remove the option of facing the people from other priests by constructing an altar in such a way as to make it impossible?Here the answer is doubtful and would come under the competence of the bishop. Mine would not agree to it.
If I remember right according to Father Z the rubrics in the ordinary form even seem to assume that the priest is saying Mass Ad Orientem at some point.
Fr, your question has been answered already, but I wanted to add a bit of documentation. This is from a response to a dubium by the CDW from 2000: “The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has been asked whether the expression in no. 299 of the Instituto Generalis Missalis Romani constitutes a norm according to which, during the Eucharistic liturgy, the position of the priest versus absidem [facing towards the apse] is to be excluded.The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, after mature reflection and in light of liturgical precedents, responds:Negative, and in accordance with the following explanation.” It is available in full from Adoremus, here: http://www.adoremus.org/12-0101cdw-adorient.html. Also, from the Bugnini era, the most the documents ever said was that v.p. “may” be done; it was never actually mandated. The final relevant thing from Bugnini’s era was Liturgicae instaurationis 12: “All earlier permissions for experimentation with the Mass, granted in view of the liturgical reform as it was in progress, are to be considered as no longer in effect. Since publication of the Missale Romanum the norms and forms of eucharistic celebration are those given in the General Instruction and the Order of Mass.” Since the MR and IGMR assume a.o. worship, the priest certainly has the right to celebrate so. If you’re interested and have access to it, “Documents on the Liturgy 1963-1979” has a number of interesting documents from the Vatican II era. Thank you, Fr, for your blog, I enjoy it a great deal.