NCReporter whines about Bp. Slattery’s choice for “ad orientem”

From the dissenting ultra-liberal National Catholic Reporter comes this whiny piece jabbing at the Bishop of Tulsa, Most Rev. Edward Slattery, over his choice to offer Holy Mass ad orientem versus when in the cathedral.

Let’s have a look with my emphases and comments.

Okla. bishop no longer faces people at Mass
Aug. 21, 2009
By Kristen May, Religion News Service

Bishop Edward Slattery of Tulsa, Okla., will no longer face his parishioners during Mass, in an effort to “recover a more authentic Catholic worship.”  [This isn’t really an accurate statement, is it.  The Bishop has chosen ad orientem worship when at the altar, for the Eucharistic Prayer, etc.  There are going to many times when he is, yes, "facing the people".]

[Let us now see just how confused this really is….]  Since the Second Vatican Council in the 1960’s, Catholic Mass has been preformed [sic] in the local language and with the priest facing the congregation. [The Council documents say that Latin must be preserved and and the rubrics of the Missale Romanum assume that Mass is ad orientem, but, keep reading…] In a July 2007 decree, however, Pope Benedict XVI offered priests the option of celebrating the so-called “old Latin Mass.”  [Is that what it is called?  And, as I scratch my head, what does that have to do with Bishop Slattery’s decision?  Bishop Slattery is talking about his celebrations of the Novus Ordo.  Still, to be fair, perhaps this whole thing is a result of the gravitational pull we know had to result from the provisions of Summorum Pontificum.]

Slattery, in the September issue of the Eastern Oklahoma Catholic magazine, said Vatican II misplaced the crucial “orientation” (direction) of worship for Catholics.  [Is that what the Bishop said, Kristen?  Bp. Slattery said that Vatican II screwed things up?  I don’t think so.  He actually said that this was an innovation introduced after the Council.]

“The priest faces the people while the people face the priest, even though the Eucharistic prayer is directed to the Father and not to the people,” says Slattery in his From the Bishop article.

Although both the Latin Mass and the Vatican II Mass are currently acceptable within the Catholic Church, the pope does not want to divide the church based on those who face the congregation and those who do not.  [… ?!?… Can anyone tell me what that meant?  Can it be… that… she thinks that the older form, the TLM must be said ad orientem and the Novus Ordo must be "facing the people"?]

Echoing that sentiment, Slattery does not want his congregation to feel slighted by the change of orientation.

“This change ought not to be misconstrued as the bishop `turning his back on the faithful,’ as if I am being inconsiderate or hostile,” he wrote.

The change [Please consider that "the change" was actually the turning around of the altars and Mass "facing the people".  This is a correction rather than a change.] is not being enforced in other Oklahoma parishes. Slattery mentions only that he will revive the forward-facing position at the cathedral in Tulsa.  [And I believe only when he is at the cathedral.  If I read his article correctly, I believe he is making this decision for his own Masses, and not necessarily for the other Masses at the cathedral, though I sincerely hope that is what happens!]

The most interesting thing in this odd little piece is the connection made between Summorum Pontificum and ad orientem worship.

Despite the strange reasoning here, the little article reveals that the Holy Father’s "Marshall Plan" to revitalize our Catholic identity is actually getting some traction… and the liberals don’t like it.

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  1. AlexE says:

    Oh boy… oh the many things running through my mind I ought not post. I hope people of this mindset have the chance to expierence the beauty of ad orientem and have a change of heart. Let’s pray folks, let’s pray…

  2. ‘Sloppy and embarrassing — it’s essentially a string of non sequiturs. They’re only hurting their cause, which should provide comfort to those of us interested in the reform of the reform.

  3. mhittle says:

    The comments on the article itself are very funny- a bunch of misinformed people frantically trying to grasp onto a dying liberalism.

    They keep saying it’s a “step backwards” into the “dark ages.” The dark ages when we had more than sufficient amounts of priests and people actually went to Mass? Oh no!

  4. Agnes says:

    Want some cheese with that whine?

    Turning his back on the people, indeed. What we need are priests who will *lead us to into the Sacred Mysteries*, not showmen.

  5. mpm says:

    Religion News Service: “The only secular news and photo service devoted to unbiased coverage of religion and ethics—exclusively”.

    However, it would seem, without needing to do much research.

  6. Konichiwa says:

    I don’t think the argument, “turning his back on the people” is much good. Wouldn’t the priest be turning his back on the Eucharist in the tabernacle if celebrating Mass versus populum??

  7. priest up north says:

    Brick by Brick – we have to continue to catechize the people of God, which includes calling out the false characterization of ad orientem as “turning his back to the people.” Unfortunately, many good people (and not just the loons) have been taught to express their perception this way. However, when we take the time to explain to them what the term “ad orientem” truly means, along with giving them a visual explanation of what such posture truly says, often times they go “wow!” (Which goes along with all that Fr. Z. has said about “mystery.”)

    Speaking of visual explanation, one of the best and most effective ways I have learned to give a visual explanation of the problems of versus populum is to talk about leadership while walking backwards (facing the people), using such examples as leading a group across the street (walking backwards – because I need to face them…), which shows the absurdity of versus populum as a posture of leadership (among its other problems, like lack of visible focus on the Father, etc.)

  8. ipadre says:

    Let us pray that more Bishops have the same courage as Bishop Slattery and give the priests confidence that there will be no repercussions if they follow suit!

  9. For the Gospel of Life says:

    If you haven’t done so already, please send a kind phone call or letter to Bp. Slattery in support of his promotion of authentic worship.

    Chancery – 918-294-1904
    PO Box 690240
    Tulsa, OK 74169

    It’s amazing the attention our little Diocese has gotten. I’ve always described Tulsa as small (overall, eastern Oklahoma is about 2% Catholic) but very faithful.

  10. RichR says:

    The obligatory “damage control” article by those who are concerned about the direction things are taking.

    You can mop up a spill, but you can’t mop up a tidal wave – and that’s what’s crashing down upon the liturgical scene – thankfully.

    Pray for the Pope and all bishops.

  11. JoeGarcia says:

    For those so interested, there are some interesting discussions on this subject in the blog section of America Magazine’s website, on two separate entries which Fr. James Martin, SJ has written. I trust anyone who goes over there will find these discussion…illuminating.


  12. Paul Q says:

    Instead of dharacterizing ad orientem as the priest “turning his back on the people” how about describing it as the priest “standing with the people” who join him (assist him) in offering Christ’s sacrifice to the Father.


  13. Paul Q says:

    Instead of dharacterizing ad orientem as the priest “turning his back on the people” how about describing it as the priest “standing with the people” who join him (assist him) in offering Christ’s sacrifice to the Father?


  14. Jordanes says:

    More evidence that National Catholic Reporter is not authentic journalism. Just look at how basic fact errors Kristen May worked into her “report.” (i.e. editorial).

  15. Jordanes says:

    “how many basic fact errors,” I meant to type . . .

  16. pattif says:

    My favourite way of explaining ad orientem to people who think it equates to “turning his back on the people” is to ask, “If you were Moses standing on the mountain, addressing God on behalf of the people, which way would you be facing?” The reaction I usually get is, “Oh, yeah….”

  17. NLucas says:

    “Bishop Edward Slattery of Tulsa, Okla., will no longer face his parishioners during Mass…”

    Oh, but he will. Exactly when the rubrics tell him to.

    In Christ,

  18. Greg Smisek says:

    It occurs to me that one example of leaders who often walk backward in order to face their followers, is grade school teachers, who do this, of course, in order to keep an eye on their little dears. What does that say about which posture is more befitting the priest leading those with a “mature, adult faith” (as a certain mindset is wont to claim)?

  19. TJM says:

    What an ignorant writer. I thought the NCR had higher standards than that. I mean I don’t expect to agree with them much but I would expect they
    understand the facts even if they don’t like them. Tom

  20. Mitchell NY says:

    If the Bishop or anyone in that Diocease reads this blog let it be said that the Bishop has given a voice to the silent millions of lay people who wish their own Bishops to do the same. Ad Orientem is one of the biggest losses in the Catholic Mass. Pray for his continued strength.

  21. 4mercy says:

    Or the headline could have read… “Bishop no longer sets his face against the people, now worships with them.”!

    TJM – I am (sadly) not surprised by NCR’s low standards – it is propaganda not journalism.

  22. becket1 says:

    I love how this newspaper ends the article saying “The bishop explains himself in a column in his diocesan newspaper.”. Like he is doing something wrong in the eyes of Roman Catholics. He has to explain himself!. I hope they never have an article on the various Eastern Catholics and Orthodox. They also will also need to “explain themselves to”. This newspaper is clueless in regards to the history of the liturgies. Just like the good old Tablet in the UK.

  23. Gus says:

    To Fr. Z:
    Thanks for posting this article’s link.

    To all:
    If you haven’t yet done so, I enourage you to please go and post your comments at NCR. Not everyone who goes there is a committed Modernist. If we present our perspective in a reasonable and respectful manner we may just blunt some of the Modernist propaganda and help some on the fence to become more orthodox and appreciate more the beauty, truth, and goodness of the Catholic traditional liturgy.

    Pax et Bonum

  24. Sandy says:

    That is a really good one, pattif!! And agreed, 4mercy; I am not surprised either. People with the views in this type of propaganda, er,article, are either those who are dying out or those young enough to have been brainwashed with poor catechesis.

  25. Tradster says:

    Pray that ad orientam becomes universal again soon. I really believe it would put the final nail in the coffin of the women’s ordination issue. I cannot imagine any of those “hey look at me” feminists in their bright, gaudy vestments would pursue ordination if they were unable to make a personal show out of the Mass by facing their audience.

  26. Jeff Pinyan says:

    This is from the 1996 Instruction from the Congregation for the Eastern (Catholic) Churches concerning the liturgical prescriptions of their canon law, Pater Incomprehensibilis.

    107. Prayer facing the east

    Ever since ancient times, it has been customary in the prayer of the Eastern Churches to prostrate oneself to the ground, turning toward the east; the buildings themselves were constructed such that the altar would face the east. Saint John of Damascus explains the meaning of this tradition: “It is not for simplicity nor by chance that we pray turned toward the regions of the east (…). Since God is intelligible light (1 Jn. 1:5), and in the Scripture, Christ is called the Sun of justice (Mal. 3:20) and the East (Zech. 3:8 of the LXX), it is necessary to dedicate the east to him in order to render him worship. The Scripture says: ‘Then the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and he placed there the man whom he had formed’ (Gen. 2:8). (…) In search of the ancient homeland and tending toward it, we worship God. Even the tent of Moses had its curtain veil and propitiatory facing the east. And the tribe of Judah, in as much as it was the most notable, encamped on the east side (cf. Nm. 2:3). In the temple of Solomon, the Lord’s gate was facing the east (cf. Ez. 44:1). Finally, the Lord placed on the cross looked toward the west, and so we prostrate ourselves in his direction, facing him. When he ascended to heaven, he was raised toward the east, and thus his disciples adored him, and thus he will return, in the same way as they saw him go to heaven (cf. Acts 1:11), as the Lord himself said: ‘For just as lightning comes from the east and is seen as far as the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be’ (Mt. 24:27). Waiting for him, we prostrate ourselves toward the east. It is an unwritten tradition, deriving from the Apostles.” (John of Damascus, Expositio accurata fidei orthodoxae IV, 12: PG 94, 1133-1136)

    This rich and fascinating interpretation also explains the reason for which the celebrant who presides in the liturgical celebration prays facing the east, just as the people who participate. It is not a question, as is often claimed, of presiding the celebration with the back turned to the people, but rather of guiding the people in pilgrimage toward the Kingdom, invoked in prayer until the return of the Lord.

    Such practice, threatened in numerous Eastern Catholic Churches by a new and recent Latin influence, is thus of profound value and should be safeguarded as truly coherent with the Eastern liturgical spirituality.

    The recent Latin influence would be that of the past few decades, when the Latin Church “spontaneously” abandoned the centuries old tradition of worshiping facing the east. Reclaiming worship ad orientem is part of the new liturgical movement, be sure of that. Pope Benedict is setting a good example, and other bishops are following suit, including the Bishop Slattery of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

  27. Jeff Pinyan says:

    That didn’t come out right. The three paragraphs after the “107” are from the document. The last paragraph is my brief commentary.

  28. chironomo says:

    A series of NCR anti-traditional talking points, strung together in the guise of an article and signed by a clueless apparatchik who is likely unaware that it is even possible to contain so many misconceptions in such a narrow mind…

  29. chironomo says:

    …the pope does not want to divide the church based on those who face the congregation and those who do not.

    This is rather humorous to try and envision. Who in the congregation is also facing the congregation? Or, perhaps she is suggesting that the Pope considers the ad orientem posture to be the primary difference between the OF and EF liturgies?

    Perhaps Bp. Slattery should consider a “rebuttal” article, though you know what they say about arguing with an idiot…

  30. chironomo says:

    Excuse me… it’s “arguing with a fool…”

  31. irishgirl says:

    Why can’t the NCR get a reporter with some brains to write about the Mass?

    Hey pattif-nice comeback! Good show!

  32. Aaron says:

    The modernists aren’t stupid. They can see that every attempt to correct the Novus Ordo makes it more like the TLM; and if the “reform of the reform” goes far enough it’ll be the TLM, at least in the external ways they’re concerned about like music and women at the altar. That’s why they bring up the TLM in an article that has nothing to do with it; it’s all the same battle against “backsliding” to them.

  33. Rachel says:

    Sometimes I think that the importance of the TLM and the good it could do is exaggerated. Then I see the hysterical reaction on the left, the inexplicable anger and fear that someone, somewhere, might be worshiping the way Catholics did for centuries. And that, more than any other single piece of evidence, convinces me that the TLM really is a big deal and it can change things.

  34. Mike says:

    Konichiwa said, “I don’t think the argument, “turning his back on the people” is much good. Wouldn’t the priest be turning his back on the Eucharist in the tabernacle if celebrating Mass versus populum??”

    The trouble is that you have assumed that the tabernacle is in the middle of the high altar. I suspect that many of the NCR commenters attend parishes where this is not the case.

  35. Gail F says:

    Is the writer actually Catholic? She seems completely unfamiliar with the history of hte liturgy over hte last century. She seems to assume that there are two masses — the “old Latin mass” as she calls it, and the “Vatican II mass” which can only be done one way. The idea that the N.O. mass could be said in Latin never seems to have crossed her mind, much less the idea that the N.O. mass could be celebrated exactly the same way as it is now (in the vernacular, etc.) in any particular parish, but with the priest facing the altar for the consecration.

    The byline identifies her as being from the Religion News Service, which I have never heard of. So perhaps she is some general “religion writer” (although obviously not a good one). That doesn’t explain the editors using such a poorly written article, though. A bias — liberal or conservative — should not keep an editor from recognizing things that are just plain wrong!

  36. Fr_Sotelo says:


    If Bishop Slattery does not write a response to this article, then I hope Fr. Z sends a rebuttal article using the excellent commentaries he has penned here.

    It appears that the NCR is trying to belittle the good Bishop by “Tridentinizing” him, making a caricature of him that conforms to the typical liberal stereotypes. It is obvious that “the reform of the reform” is not so open to reform unless it is in the direction of liturgical abuse and experimentation.

    Kudos to Bishop Slattery for breaking from the business-as-usual agenda of the OF liturgy police. I hope he receives a flood of letters in support of the restoration.

  37. Traductora says:

    I read this morning that Cdl Cañizares suggested the ad orientem position at least for the Consecration, and that this is likely to be approved by the Pope. Don’t know how true it is, but it’s a start.

  38. Girgadis says:

    I went to NCR’s website to read some of the remarks. I was particularly struck by the comments about “going back to the dark ages” and the sneid references to the abuse scandals. Kudos to those who pointed out that in the “dark ages” we had an ample number of priests and the pews were overflowing with worshippers.

  39. lucy says:

    Could you please tell what is the proper way to address the older form of Mass ? I’ve been attending a traditional Mass for about 3 years now, and it seems most everyone is confused about what to call it. I thank you all for your help. I know the terms Extraordinary Form, Latin Mass, the old rite, etc. I just want to know for certain what the proper term is.

  40. AlexE says:

    The best term to use, now is the Extraodrinary Form, for it is the same Mass with two forms, two expressions, it is one rite. To call it the Latin Mass is a misnomer because the N.O. can and ought to be said in Latin. In as much as we are Latin rite catholics,both are the latin Mass.

  41. robtbrown says:

    Liberals accusing those who disagree with them of divisiveness is nothing new.

    Of course, if anyone truly wants unity, then they must favor Latin liturgy (cf. Veterum Sapientia).

  42. Maybe we should start marketing the fact of how the Novus Ordo Mass changed the orientation (as typically celebrated) so that the priest turns his back on God.

  43. Athanasius says:

    [Is that what the Bishop said, Kristen? Bp. Slattery said that Vatican II screwed things up? I don’t think so. He actually said that this was an innovation introduced after the Council.]

    Man, if only he did! Although Ad orientem is not one of those things, unless we chock it up to the “event” of Vatican II.

  44. Hidden One says:

    @Too many

    Ad homines should not be used to defend ad orientem. 1 Corinthians 16:14, after all.


    I look forward to Bp. Slattery’s smackdown of the Distorter! I sure hope it happens.

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