A Jesuit reacts to Card. Sarah’s request that priests celebrate “ad orientem”

At Fishwrap (aka National  Schismatic Reporter) there is a reaction to the plea made by His Eminence Robert Card. Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship to priests around the world to say Mass ad orientem beginning with Advent.

Here is something that caught my interest:

[Fr. Andrew Menke, associate director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ divine worship office] said that as new editions of the Roman Missal are released, liturgical law is bound to shift, but he doubts anything would happen regarding the direction the priest faces, except perhaps more encouragement of “ad orientem” Masses in future missal editions.

Other experts agreed, saying neither bishops nor Sarah have the right to force priests to celebrate Mass “facing East” until there is an official change to the missal, the official liturgical law. [Who brought up “force”?  Not Card. Sarah.]


Nice tie!

Jesuit Fr. Bruce Morrill, professor of Catholic studies at Vanderbilt University, said the cardinal’s office could issue a directive mandating “ad orientem” Masses without changing the whole missal.

A directive, he said, would require approval from the Vatican and would be released in an official statement from the Congregation for Divine Worship.

This is not official; he was speaking to an annual meeting of an erratic conservative group.  [So, by insinuation, what does that make Card. Sarah?] Those directives don’t happen in speeches and interviews” like those Sarah has given, Morrill said.

I entirely agree.  “Directives… don’t happen in speeches and interviews.”

Speaking of “erratic groups, are Morrill and his Jesuit brethren quick to point out to the press that the Pope doesn’t issue directives or change laws or mutate doctrine in off-the-cuff remarks given in interviews or pressers with newsies or in his daily fervorini?

What immediately popped into my head is a certain remark made by Card. Kasper about what African bishops should or shouldn’t be allowed to tell us what to do.

On a higher note, may I suggest to the readership a close reading of Card. Sarah’s book God or Nothing: A Conversation on Faith?  UK HERE

Read it and then place in the balance His Eminence’s comments about prayer with the reactions about Sarah from the Fishwrapers and sundry Jesuits.

Here is something from Card. Sarah’s book:

The almost constant underground struggle with the political authorities, from the dictatorship of Sékou Touré to the military regime of Lansana Conté, was undoubtedly trying. But these external difficulties were not what was gnawing away at my courage and determination to serve the Lord. Instead, it was the internal struggles that I had to face, that shattered me by showing me with increasing clarity that I was objectively incapable of leading the Church of Conakry.

In order to address the situation, I established a program of regular spiritual retreats. Every two months, I would leave, alone, for a completely isolated spot. I would subject myself to an absolute fast, with no food or water for three days. I wanted to be with God, to speak with him in private. When I left Conakry, I would take nothing with me except a Bible, a small traveling Mass kit, and a book of spiritual reading. The Eucharist was my only food and my sole companion. This life of solitude and prayer helped me to recharge and to return to battle. I think that a bishop, in order to fulfill his role, must do penance, fast, listen to the Lord, and pray for long periods of time in silence and solitude. Christ withdrew for forty days in the desert; the successors to the apostles must imitate Christ as faithfully as possible.

THIS, my friends, is the man who asks priests to say Mass ad orientem.

Sarah God Or Nothing 200

Get a copy for your parish priests along with copies of Turning Towards the Lord: Orientation in Liturgical Prayer UK HERE

And also Joseph Ratzinger Spirit of the Liturgy UK HERE

Moderation queue is ON.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. TNCath says:

    The purple necktie says it all. I wonder when and where (and how often) he says Mass in Nashville? Hmmmm.

  2. The other prominent person featured in this blog wearing a tie as I recall was Fr. Richard McBrien. While anyone who knows me knows I love ties, on a Catholic priest… well, enough said.

    I started Cardinal Sarah’s book last Monday and have found it quite interesting. I am anxious to get to the really good parts, of course.

  3. andia says:

    Not a fan of how he words things, but it does answer some questions about how binding this is. Now if the Vatican chooses to make this mandatory what does mean for those churches where the Altar is situated to make this impossible? Will they need to re-arrange entirely?

    [I wouldn’t waste time worrying about that scenario. That’s not going to happen anytime soon.]

  4. I thought ad orientem was the (widely ignored) norm, even in the new Mass.

    [“Norm” is a loaded word. “Norm” can be both prescriptive and descriptive. But, yes, the rubrics assume that the priest and people are facing the same direction.]

  5. Fr. Morrill just persuaded me to buy the erratic Cardinal Sarah’s book.

    [He’s persuasive.]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  6. Father K says:

    It will not be made mandatory: before facing the people became almost universal, there was always the possibility of Mass being celebrated ‘versus populum.’ Mass ‘ad orientem’ is presumed in the latest edition of the Missale Romanum, eg. rubrics will say, ‘the priest, facing the people says…’ which presumes has not been.

  7. iPadre says:

    I wonder what the North American Martyrs would have to say to Fr. Morrill. Were they a bunch of “erratic conservative(s)?”

  8. Suburbanbanshee says:

    In a church where the altar does not face east, the priest faces “liturgical east,” which is determined by the altar.

  9. Boniface says:

    Hmm, I wonder how many are aware that the Novus Ordo Missal, both in Latin and translation, every single edition from the first to the current one, allows – nay, assumes! – an ad orientem position by the priest, except, as in the Extraordinary Form, the few times when he turns to address the people?

    Perhaps the first item of business is to get this information more widely spread around.

  10. Boniface says:

    By the way, a newly ordained priest friend of mine who only celebrates the OF (has not made time yet to learn the EF but is interested), after celebrating his first public mass (versus populum) and then his first semi-private mass (ad orientem) commented privately on how challening it it is for a new priest, carefully observing the missal to avoid mistakes, while celebrating versus populum to have to actively work against the rubrics in the Novus Ordo missal that expect the priest to be in an ad orientem position for most of the mass!

  11. frbkelly says:

    At our little parish, all Masses have been ad orientem since Gaudete Sunday of 2014. There were no earthquakes when it happened.

    I am a little puzzled by Fr. Menke’s remarks, since we don’t need a change in the Missal for this. The Roman Missal always has, and still does, instruct the priest to celebrate Mass facing the same direction as the people. _It does this by indicating the times when he is to turn to face the people._

    For example, at the Orate Fratres:_ the instruction is _ Stans postea in medio altaris, versus ad populum, … (Then standing at the middle of the altar, having turned to face the people, …)
    and at the Pax: Sacerdos, ad populum conversus, … (the prirest, having turned to face the people, …)
    Again at the Ecce Agnus Dei: Sacerdos genuflectit, accipit hostiam, eamque aliquantulum elevatam super patenam tenens, ad populum versus, clara voce dicit: (The priest genuflects, takes the host, and holding it slightly elevated over the paten, having turned to face the people, says in a clear voice:)
    Finally, at the dismissal: Sacerdos, versus ad populum, extendans manus, dicit: (The priest, having turned to face the people, extending his hands, says:)
    Those are about as clear as instructions get, and yet some seem to think there would need to be a change in law.

    Cardinal Sarah is simply asking us priests to do what the Roman Missal has always told us to do. What is so hard about this?)

    To Fr. K and Anita Moore, OP : The New Missal does indeed presume this as have every other edition ever issued. The Roman Missal has always prescribed Mass celebrated ad orientem.

  12. Benedict Joseph says:

    If he has to drop his dog collar at least chose a shirt that fits properly. I don’t know if the lavender tie is a statement of solidarity with who knows what oppressed group, but a man of his age should probably stick with maybe a navy blue with a red stripe — or go flashy with navy blue and red polka dots.

  13. M. K. says:

    Fr. Morrill is *a Jesuit* but he isn’t speaking for all Jesuits when he offers his opinions. One can find members of the Society of Jesus on the other side of this issue, though they’re probably not likely to be quoted by the NCReporter. As far as Jesuits writing on this topic go, one place to start is this article from 2001 by Frs. Christopher Cullen, S.J. and Joseph Koterski, S.J., [I know Koterski a little. He’s a fine priest and what Jesuits ought to be.] “The New IGMR and Mass Versus Populum,” Homiletic and Pastoral Review (June 2001), which argues against those who were then contending that the rubrics of the Novus Ordo demand celebration versus populum.


  14. Father K says:

    Buried deep in the ‘Rubricae generalis missalis’ of the pre-novus ordo Missal there are directives for the celebrant who is facing the people.

  15. Father K says:


    ‘To Fr. K and Anita Moore, OP : The New Missal does indeed presume this as have every other edition ever issued’ Did you read my comment?

  16. cl00bie says:

    When I first heard this, I had an uncharitable thought: “Now we’ll be able to tell the sheep from the goats by which way they’re facing” :)

  17. robtbrown says:

    Obviously, those directives were for the churches in Europe where the altar was placed between the choir and congregation.

    Which of course raises the perhaps more important point that versus populum was implemented by changing the position of the altar.

    Which raises another point: The changes were effected by innuendo and pressure before the promulgation of the Missal of Paul VI.

    At the Angelicum I once asked a Dominican why they gave up the Dominican Rite. He said the word was that it would be suppressed. They changed, later to see that it wasn’t.

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