From a reader…
Hello Father. I recently asked my Pastor if he would ever celebrate the Ordinary Form of the Mass ad orientem. He replied that a dispensation is required from our Bishop. I’ve never heard such a thing. Could this be true? Thanks very much.
No, that is not true.
A “dispensation” implies that there is a law. A diocesan bishop cannot establish a law in contradiction to the Church’s universal laws. Holy Mass can be celebrated ad orientem at the choice of the priest. No permissions are need according to the law. As a matter of fact, the rubrics in the Missal, read properly, assume that the priest is celebrating ad orientem: the indicate when he turns to face the people.
Indeed, the Congregation for Divine Worship ruled on this question in 2000. HERE
Some bishops have – wrongly – made reference to GIRM 299 in their attempts to snuff out or prevent ad orientem worship. Rather, surely some underlings of the bishops have done that, since no bishop would be so foolish as to ignore the CDWs ruling. Nor would they be unaware of the mistranslation of the Latin of GIRM 299 which distorts the meaning of the paragraph.
Sometimes you will see letters of bishops – no doubt penned by underlings – which seem to forbid ad orientem worship for all manner of reasons such as a chimeric “unity” (supremely ironic given the variety of practices and unchecked abuses going on all around them). They may even openly say, “Don’t say Mass ad orientem without my permission”, which doesn’t have any juridical basis at all. However, a careful reading of such letters reveals that they do not establish any policy or legislate anything. They convey the bishop’s wish. Sometimes that wish is couched in fancy language, but that’s what it winds up being: “I don’t like it. I don’t want it. But I can’t make a law against it. So, here’s an ominous legal-sounding letter with subtle threats.”
So, priests are free to celebrate ad orientem.
However, given the fact that a bishop can crucify a priest in a thousand unpleasant ways, many priests aren’t going to opt for ad orientem even though they would be open to it or want to do it. Their rights mean little to nothing in the face of power turned against them.
This is the sad reality.
Hence, in your dealings with this priest, be a little compassionate. Depending on your diocese, it could be that he, personally, would like to accommodate you, but in the background he has concerns with “downtown”, as it were.