Card. Nichols (Archd. Westminster) v. Card. Sarah about Mass ‘ad orientem’

Recently Card. Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, encouraged priests to begin saying Holy Mass ad orientem.

Of course we all knew that that would not be allowed to stand.

I now see this in the UK’s best Catholic weekly, The Catholic Herald.

Cardinal Nichols discourages priests from celebrating Mass ad orientem

The Archbishop of Westminster has told clergy Mass is ‘not the time for priests to exercise personal preference or taste’  [So, it’s reduced to “taste” is it?  I refer the readership, and His Eminence, to Ratzinger’s The Spirit of the Liturgy.  UK HERE]

Cardinal Vincent Nichols has written to priests in Westminster diocese discouraging them from celebrating Mass facing east.

He issued the message to clergy days after the Vatican’s liturgy chief Cardinal Robert Sarah invited priests to celebrate Mass ad orientem from Advent onwards.

Cardinal Sarah was speaking at a liturgical conference in London.

Following Cardinal Robert Sarah’s appeal at the Sacra Liturgia conference in London, Cardinal Nichols wrote to priests reminding them that, “the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, approved by the highest authority in the Church, states in paragraph 299 that ‘The altar should be built apart from the wall, in such a way that it is possible to walk around it easily and that Mass can be celebrated at it facing the people, which is desirable wherever possible. The altar should, moreover, be so placed as to be truly the centre toward which the attention of the whole congregation of the faithful naturally turns. The altar is usually fixed and is dedicated.’”  [The Cardinal Archbishop cited GIRM 299.  However, he cited a MISTRANSLATION of 299.  That is NOT what 299 really says.  As a matter of fact, even though the Congregation for Divine Worship clarified what the Latin of 299 meant in an official response to a dubium, people still cite the mistranslation.  What does 299 really say?  “Altare maius exstruatur a pariete seiunctum, ut facile circumiri et in eo celebratio versus populum peragi possit, quod expedit ubicumque possibile sit. … The main altar should be built separated from the wall, which is useful wherever it is possible, so that it can be easily walked around and a celebration toward the people can be carried out.” The correct translation hangs on that quod.  More on this below.]

While he noted that the Congregation for Divine Worship had confirmed in 2009 that this instruction still allows for Mass to be celebrated facing east, the cardinal wrote: “But it also ‘reaffirms that the position towards the assembly seems more convenient inasmuch as it makes communication easier’. Thus the expectations expressed in GIRM 299 remain in force whenever the Ordinary Form of Mass is celebrated.”  [First, it really doesn’t “make communication easier”.  Also, “communication” of what?]

Cardinal Nichols said that Mass was not the time for priests to “exercise personal preference or taste”, and “as the last paragraph of the GIRM states so clearly, ‘The Roman Missal, though in a diversity of languages and with some variety of customs, must in the future be safeguarded as an instrument and an outstanding sign of the integrity and unity of the Roman Rite’ (399).”  [Let me simply ask. Has His Eminence also made a dramatic public appeal to priests to obey the rubrics in other respects?  I’m sincerely asking this because I don’t know if he has or not.]

After the Sacra Liturgia Conference last week, Cardinal Sarah paid a personal visit to Cardinal Vincent Nichols.

Meanwhile, [no less an oracle than] Fr Antonio Spadaro, [SJ] a papal adviser and editor of the influential journal La Civiltà Cattolica, has shown his support for Mass facing the people on Twitter.  [So what?  BTW… Spadaro is deeply fascinated with Pier Vittorio Tondelli and he has  studied him and written about him extensively.]

Following Cardinal Sarah’s widely reported comments, Fr Spadaro tweeted quotes from the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, such as: “The altar should be built apart from the wall in such a way that Mass can be celebrated at it facing the people” and “the priest, facing the people and extending and then joining his hands, invites the people to pray.”  [This is a DECEPTIVE.]

Card. Sarah, during his address in which he made his appeal for ad orientem worship, also said:

At this point I repeat what I have said elsewhere, that Pope Francis has asked me to continue the liturgical work Pope Benedict began (see: Message to Sacra Liturgia USA2015, New York City). Just because we have a new pope does not mean that his predecessor’s vision is now invalid. On the contrary, as we know, our Holy Father Pope Francis has the greatest respect for the liturgical vision and measures Pope Benedict implemented in utter fidelity to the intentions and aims of the Council Fathers.

Here’s the problem with the Spadaro blurb at the end.

First, just because an altar is built in such a way that Mass can be celebrated “facing the people” (otherwise known priest and people in a closed circle focusing on themselves), that doesn’t mean that Mass must be celebrated that way.

Second, the current rubrics in the Ordinary Form’s Missale Romanum has the words “ad populum conversus”, which, were Spadaro paying attention to what the Missal really says, means, “having turned around toward the people.”  It means that in Italian, too, by the way.  Note also that the concept of “facing” isn’t included.  In a nutshell, what is behind that “facing” is a directive to the priest to turn around.  That means that the priest wasn’t “facing the people” before.

More about GIRM 299, which was mistranslated.

Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments issued a clarification (Prot. No. 2036/00/L) regarding 299 in the Latin GIRM. That clarification says:

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has been asked whether the expression in n. 299 of the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani [aka GIRM] constitutes a norm according to which the position of the priest versus absidem [facing 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:

Negatively, and in accordance with the following explanation.

The explanation includes different elements which must be taken into account. First, the word expedit does not constitute a strict obligation but a suggestion that refers to the construction of the altar a pariete sejunctum (detached from the wall). It does not require, for example, that existing altars be pulled away from the wall. The phrase ubi possibile sit (where it is possible) refers to, for example, the topography of the place, the availability of space, the artistic value of the existing altar, the sensibility of the people participating in the celebrations in a particular church, etc.

I gave you a correct translation, above.

Finally, about reducing this all to a matter of taste.


There are serious theological and spiritual reasons for chosing the orientation of Holy Mass, one way or the other.  There is nothing shallow about this matter.

Again, I refer the readership to the aforementioned book by Ratzinger, not to mention also Turning Towards The Lord by my friend Fr. Lang. UK HERE   And then there’s the amazing work of Klaus Gamber. UK HERE

Ratzinger, and Lang after him, speak about the eschatological meaning of ad orientem worship.  Not exactly shallow.  Gamber argues that the single most damaging misapplication of the liturgical reforms mandated by the Second Vatican Council was the turning around of altars.  Not exactly shallow.

Cardinal Sarah said: “I ask you to implement this practice wherever possible […] with a pastor’s confidence that this is something good for the Church, something good for our people.”  In his talk, His Eminence laid out his reasons for this appeal to priests.

Card. Nichols has a different perspective. Fine. I would only respond, please, let’s have a real reason for such a perspective.

To reduce the question of orientation of Holy Mass to a matter of “taste” is to avoid the serious questions inherent in the orientation of Holy Mass.

Moderation queue is ON.


The Machine has begun to grind away at Card. Sarah’s credibility.

Spadaro, SJ, sent out a tweet with a photo/image of a communique from the Holy See Press Office. “Chiarimenti… Clarifications on the celebration of Mass.”  It is dated 11 July.


Here is the image itself.   As of this writing I have not found the text on the Holy See’s website or anywhere else.

This says, in effect, that Card. Sarah did not say anything official.  Fine.  He didn’t.  Then it goes a bit off the rails.


Beginning with “Perciò…”

Therefore, it is good to recall that in the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani (GIRM), which contains the norms relative to the Eucharistic celebration and still fully in force, at n. 299 it reads: “Altare maius exstruatur a pariete seiunctum, ut facile circumiri et in eo celebratio versus populum peragi possit, quod expedit ubicumque possibile sit.  Altare eum autem occupet locum, ut revera centrum sit ad quod totius congregationis fidelium attentio sponte convertatur” (namely: [It continues in Italian … which in English is:] The altar is to be constructed detached from the wall, in order to go round it easily and celebrate turned toward the people, which thing is suitable where it is possible.  The altar is then situated in a way so as really to constitute the center towards which the attention of the faithful spontaneously converges”). [End Italian “translation” of the Latin – I will add that separating an altar from the wall doesn’t automatically draw everyone’s attention to it.  For instance, many churches were designed to draw the eye to the main altar, which in the case of many older churches was at the wall.  Also, the Italian “translation” also gets the Latin wrong.  What’s wrong with these people?]  For his part, Pope Francis, on the occasion of his visit to the Dicastery of Divine Worship, mentioned specifically that the “ordinary” form of the celebration of Mass is that which is foreseen in the Missal promulgated by Paul VI, [Yep… and…so?] while that which is “extraordinary”, which was permitted by Benedict XVI [OOPS.  wrong.] for the purpose and the manner explained by him in the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, should not take the place of that which is “ordinary”.  [Look at the Letter which Benedict sent out with Summorum Pontificum. Benedict wrote: “As for the use of the 1962 Missal as a Forma extraordinaria of the liturgy of the Mass, I would like to draw attention to the fact that this Missal was never juridically abrogated and, consequently, in principle, was always permitted. At the time of the introduction of the new Missal, it did not seem necessary to issue specific norms for the possible use of the earlier Missal.”   Note that “in principle”.  De facto, however, because of the fury of hell that bishops would rain down on priests who dared to say Mass in the way it was said for centuries, priests needed permission.] There are not, therefore, foreseen new liturgical directives beginning with next Advent, as some has improperly deduced from some of the words of Cardinal Sarah, and it is better to avoid the use of the expression “reform of the reform”, in making reference to the liturgy, given that sometimes is was the source of misinterpretatations. [Card. Sarah said in his now famous speech “I do not think that we can dismiss the possibility or the desirability of an official reform of the liturgical reform”.  But what could these misinterpretations be?]  All this was mutually expressed in the course of a recent audience granted by the Pope to the same Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship. [The Bolletino of 9 July says that Card. Sarah had an audience. ]

There are a couple of misleading notes in this communique along with an ominous note about the audience.

So, there it is.  The discrediting is in full swing now.

Some of that language seemed vaguely familiar.  I rummaged around and found that in February of 2015 Pope Francis made some off-the-cuff remarks to clergy in Rome.  HERE  You decide.

ASIDE: Am I wrong, or did Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger use the phrase “reform of the reform”?   Either way, I think that Fr. Joseph Fessio (an old student of Ratzinger) popularized it.

Also ASIDE: If we are to abandon the phrase “reform of the reform”, doesn’t that imply that we are to abandon the concept of “reform of the reform” as well?  What, then, would the “mutual enrichment” of the two Forms in the Roman Rite foreseen by Benedict XVI look like?  Wouldn’t that – ironically – make the Novus Ordo into the proverbial fly in amber which many liberals accuse the Traditional Roman Rite of being?

In his talk in London last week, Card. Sarah said in April 2015, Pope Francis asked him “to study the question of the ‘reform of the reform,’ looking at how the two forms can enrich one another.”

In any event, we must keep an eye on Card. Sarah even as we keep him in our prayers.

Moderation queue is ON.


The English of the Communique is out.



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Far be it from me to criticise my eminent namesake, but he’s wrong. Facing the people is the most protestant of all the ‘reforms’ and is, in my opinion at least, the most dangerous to the faith of the people.

    And that is precisely why when a holy man talks about facing the Lord, the hounds of hell leap upon him and try to tear him apart. And sadly, His Eminence is a guide for those hounds.

  2. Mark says:

    First, let me express my extreme anger and sadness at what is happening. This seriously hurts. Second, does this mean that new churches MUST be built with the altar away from the wall? I ask because we will be building a new church where I live in a few years and was hoping to ask if it would be possible to build a beautiful altar against the wall (not sure what the proper phrase would be) like they used to be.

  3. acardnal says:

    Excellent blog post, Father. Replete with good information and resources!

  4. If the Pope told Sarah he wanted the legacy of his predecessor to continue, why is this action being interpreted as the Cardinal being taken out to the woodshed? Nowhere was it ever suggested that there were plans to make this a requirement, but half the Catholic press got a burr in their saddles over it, which is likely to have necessitated the response.

  5. CPT TOM says:

    I fear that Cardinal Sarah is going to have to resort to counter-battery fire in this Liturgy war. It is going to have to be an Instruction or whatever is the strongest kind of legislation with the Pope’s “Okeedokie” on it to get this through. One of my few disappointments with Pope Benedict was the fact that after he did the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, he did not follow up with written liturgical norms to codify the so called “Benedict Arrangement” on the altar, or communion on the tongue, male altar servers. Instead these were left as suggestions or examples. Frankly we are well past the time for mere suggestions. It is time to swing the papal crosier of clue bringing(tm) to apply some “collegial” correction.

  6. scrchristensen says:

    Thank you for your commentary and translation Fr. Z!

    Ad orientem is an area of discussion where the language used reveals much of a person’s opinion on the matter. It is, as such, a fascinating and frustrating topic!

    Fr. James Martin originally tweeted this morning:
    “Whoa. Vatican squashes rumors that said priests were about to be asked to celebrate Mass with backs to people.”

    and he later followed with a FB post that began:
    “This is a rare public rebuttal by the Vatican over something that Cardinal Robert Sarah seemed to imply: that come Advent, Masses should be celebrated “ad orientum,” [sic? my latin is alas quite underdeveloped] that is, facing East, and, therefore in most parishes, with the priest’s back to the congregation.”

    Fascinating, yet frustrating. Such comments are when I put on my imaginary Fr. Z hat and paint with red in my head.

    Thanks be to God for Fr. Z and all those out there who care for such loving attention to detail (and truth).

  7. torch621 says:

    Liberals in the Church seem almost desperate these days to squelch anything that even remotely resembles a reform of the NO. Could we be seeing, perhaps, the last gasp of the liberal wing? One can hope.

  8. Polycarpio says:

    I inherently trust Fr. Z. with Latin translation more than Card. Nichols and Fr. Lombardi. I inherently trust all three reasonably alike on matters of faith, but the clergymen Nichols and Lombardi have greater hierarchical status than Fr. Z., given that one is a cardinal and the other is a public spokesman for the Roman Pontiff. Therefore, my question is, is there some other authority which shows the English translation cited by Card. Nichols and the Italian translation of GIRM 299 cited by Fr. Lombardi to be in error?

  9. lana says:

    it seems to me if anyone thought the directive was mandatory, that they did misinterpret, and the Vatican does have to speak officially to correct that. this explanation is the result of the recent july 9 audience, so that the explanation is being given with the cardinals knowledge, to be considerate.

    i dont see bad news here. i never thought it was going to be implemented all at once. i thought it would be by some brave souls, and I dont see anything here stopping that from happening.

    and so long as no nutties are thrown over it, it should continue to increase. the more nutties and gloom, the less priests will want to try it.

  10. MWindsor says:

    “The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, and bishops against other bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their Confreres. The Church and altars will be vandalized. The Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord.”

    Our Lady of Akita, 1973

  11. lana says:

    Except in Archbishop Nichols’ diocese, of course, where his request should be obeyed.

  12. Cdn Catholic says:

    He’s holy, he’s orthodox, he’s admired by many and he’s papabile. Therefore, he is dangerous to some folk high up there in Rome.

    Kind of reminds me of Saul going after David.

  13. At least they aren’t ignoring Cardinal Sarah. I think it’s time to start writing to our bishops to let them know that there is demand outside of the extraordinary form for ad orientem. In other words, it isn’t just a tiny number of extremists who can be corralled into extraordinary form Masses. It is high time to start reclaiming the ordinary form instead of merely disdaining it. The new translation of the prayers of Mass in 2011 was an important first step; let’s not let it end there. One thing about this pontificate is that there’s no hiding any more; everyone seems compelled to take a public stand, so we know who’s who.

  14. billy15 says:

    I’m finding this whole saga fascinating, and what I find even more fascinating is how there are some out there who are claiming that the Latin text has no bearing on what is happening in the various Churches in the English-speaking world.

    Father, there is a very interesting conversation happening on a fellow priest friend of yours Facebook page between a deacon and a lay man on this subject; the lay man is proposing what I wrote above, and he claims that “Even *if* one accepts Fr. Z’s translation, it does nothing to undo the normativity of the priest facing the people in the Novus Ordo.” I thought I’d bring it to your attention so you could refute some of the thing’s he’s saying, although the deacon is doing a good job rebutting this man’s claims. The conversation can be found here under the comment from “John Paul S.”:

    This man keeps citing page 23 of Cardinal Ratzinger’s “Theological Highlights of Vatican II” to bolster his position that the Latin original, as well as “the French and Swahili translations [of GIRM 299] are irrelevant in this discussion.” I don’t see where he gets that from what’s written here by then-Cardinal Ratzinger:

    Maybe you can shed some light on what he’s trying to get at? Because he claims yours and the Deacon’s positions on this mistranslation is nothing more than projecting one’s intentions and hopes on the matter.

  15. Jackie L says:

    Any advise on how we might ask a pastor if ad orientem celebration of the mass might begin in our parish this advent?

  16. Charles E Flynn says:

    From On Facing East During Mass, by Rev. James V. Schall, S.J.:

    What the Mass is Not

    ?The history of “Mass with the priest’s back facing the people” has been a long and amusing one. Let it be said from the beginning that no priest ever thought that he was celebrating Mass with his back to the people. No priest of any age or place ever said to himself: “Now that I am about to consecrate the Host, I will turn my back to the people.” He and everyone were turning to the Lord. That whole imagery of “back to the people” was dreamed up to promote a theological cause. It wanted the Mass to be understood not what it is, a sacrifice, but a friendly meal. The priest became a host or a “president,” as he is often called. He is a “presider,” awful term. Even worse is it when the priest is seen to be a “master of ceremonies” or an actor, greeting and joshing everyone.

    The Mass is not a one-act play in which the priest takes the part of Christ in a short skit. It is a sacred rite, the way that Christ taught us to be the one proper way to worship his Father. The Mass is not an entertainment designed to keep us alert and amused. The worst effect of Mass with a priest facing the people is that the priest becomes the center of the show. His personality increases when it should decrease. He is the actor who calls attention to himself performing. He is responsible for the action that circles around him. This phenomenon is especially vivid in “theater-in-the-round” churches. The altar should be an altar, not just another table.

  17. kekeak2008 says:

    He’s obviously on to something if his talk caused such an outcry. How wonderful it would be if the Holy Ghost were to choose Cdl. Sarah as our next pope!

  18. iudicame says:

    Now, most certainly, the Holy Father will get on an aeroplane and declare his support for his apostolic brother. In clearest terms no doubt.

    So, move along folks – show’s over…


  19. jhayes says:

    Here’s a report on the press conference by Zenit’s Rome reporter. Unfortunately, of the seven languages in which Zenit publishes, it appears only in the French version:


    In quoting #299, she does link “wherever possible” to the placement of the altar rather than to celebrating versus populum.

    One paragraph:

    Although Cardinal Sarah ‘is still involved with the dignity of the celebration of the Mass”, the spokesman for the Holy See emphasized by this notice that it is up to the Pope to make decisions on liturgical norms. Moreover, in his meeting with the Guinean Cardinal two days earlier, the Pope had made that point, Fr. Lombardi confirmed. No “reform of the reform” in the works regarding liturgy, he [Fr. Lombardi] added.

  20. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Will they put someone who speaks English and can proofread on jobs like this, now that Mr. Burke is succeeding Fr. Lombardi?

    And let’s have the recording with transcription of that audience to which Anonymus has apparently had access before sloppily producing this erroneous communique, as it is obvious that Cardinal Sarah would not agree to such things as the mistaken interpretation of the Latin, and the ignorant use of “permessa”.

  21. thomas tucker says:

    I knew it was too good to be true. ?

  22. iPadre says:

    Like I said on Twitter on Friday: “If CRdinal Sarah asked for clown Masses, they’d start this weekend with no explanation or criticism.”

    I really have to ask, what is everyone afraid of?

    [First, Card. Sarah is a holy man. The argument he made for ad orientem worship is made more powerful by the fact of his own person. If you read his book God Or Nothing, his words about turning Mass back to the Lord are charged with power. I think that most people are afraid of ad orientem worship because it induces the conditions for an encounter with Mystery, the tremendum et fascinans, which is the propaedeutic for confrontation of our fear of death. If we keep our “liturgies” full of distractions, we don’t have to deal with the reason why we are there: Even though the Lord conquered death forever, we still have to die. Mass ought to help to ready us for death. Turning to the Lord, stressing Christ’s Sacrifice, denying the senses and underscoring the apophatic, kneeling and being still in long periods of silence… these are terrible threats. And… it has to be said… he, not just his appeal to priests, scares them.]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  23. MrTipsNZ says:

    “Do not think that I come to bring the peace upon earth: I came not to send peace but the sword. For I come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and the man’s enemies shall be they of his own household. He, who loves father or mother more than Me, is not worthy of Me; and he, who loves son or daughter more than Me, is not worthy of Me. And he, who does not take up his cross and follow Me, is not worthy of Me” (Mt 10: 34-38).

    Pretty much this really. One must hold fast and firm to what is right.

  24. TNCath says:

    Bottom Line: They (the folks running the show) don’t want “Ad Orientem” Masses.

    As we suspected, Cardinal Sarah was expressing his preference, but most of those in charge disagreed, including the Pope.

  25. JabbaPapa says:

    Altare eum autem occupet locum, ut revera centrum sit ad quod totius congregationis fidelium attentio sponte convertatur

    May I point out that this quite clearly suggests that all at Mass, including the celebrant, should turn together towards the altar, given that the celebrant is also part of the congregation and not somehow apart from it?

    Some clever priests whose Masses I’ve attended keep their sitting position so that they may easily be on one side of the altar for the ad populum bits, and on the other (with the congregation — cum populo) when worshiping God.

  26. Robert of Rome says:

    Thank you, Fr. Z, for one of your best posts in recent memory! I thank the commentators here, too.

  27. Orlando says:

    We are swimming against a tide of modernism that will attempt to drown any hint of traditionalism. We must continue fight this current and not get discouraged. Remember the ancient enemy of the Lord hates the Latin Mass and will stop at nothing until it’s banished forever. St. Michael pray for us…

  28. Clinton R. says:

    Poor Cardinal Sarah. Already his attempts to reintroduce the timeless practice of ad orientem in the Church is cut off at the knees. It is not surprising at all. Too many bishops and priests lost their faith long ago, if they ever had it. How would they have any desire to pray to the East, if they don’t even believe in Christ? From the time of Moses, the people of God have prayed facing eastward. Catholics continued this and was the norm until the work of the modernists prevailed following the Council. Think about it. Doesn’t it make sense to pray in the direction of that which is being worshipped? Do not the various religions pray facing in the direction of their object of worship. (ie the Mohammedans praying facing Mecca)? But sadly, Cardinal Sarah apparently has no real authority and his office is in name only. If he had suggested more interfaith or LGBT “Masses”, Cardinal Nichols would certainly have found it more to his “taste”. Modernism/heresy and flat out apostasy rules the Church. The empty churches around the world speak volumes for the arrogance of radically changing the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and introducing the centrality of man into the Sacred Litury.

  29. Pingback: Morning Catholic must-reads: 12/07/16 | CHRONICA

  30. stuart reiss says:

    Dear Polycarpo
    I wouldn’t buy a used car from Cardinal Nichols (I live in the dioces of Westminster )
    But I’ll balance an apple on my head and happily let Fr Z take a potshot at that.

  31. danielinnola says:

    Its not a “last gasp” .. Not by a long shot. I wish it were. They arent going anywhere anytime soon. They are in the ascendant and they know it. Their numbers grow even as the Churches empty out, and the institutions wither on the vine. What you are witnessing is Shock, and indignation. They are surprised that the Old Faith is still capable of putting up such a vicious fight for survival..

  32. St. Rafael says:

    Cardinal Sarah has to publicly respond to Cardinal Nichols. He has to respond to the Archbishop’s letter and reassure priests at the same time publicly for the world to see. Hopefully in some type of open letter.

  33. Kerry says:

    The Archbishop of Westminster has told clergy Mass is ‘not the time for priests to exercise personal preference or taste’.
    Is it the Archbishop’s personal taste to keep his back to Christ?
    In this 2014 Kwasnieski article at NLM,, on rubrics, among other arguments we read:
    “Sometimes the itch to be creative or experimental or spontaneous or informal with the liturgy comes from a mistaken view that this is somehow more humble, more “authentic,” more in keeping with people’s needs on the ground. But I think C. S. Lewis put his finger on what’s really happening here:

    The modern habit of doing ceremonial things unceremoniously is no proof of humility; rather it proves the offender’s inability to forget himself in the rite, and his readiness to spoil for every one else the proper pleasure of ritual. (from A Preface to Paradise Lost, ch. 3”
    Read there also the Aquinas.

  34. Kerry says:

    What the heck, the Aquinas: “Sometimes the one celebrating the sacraments differently [than prescribed] does not vary those things that are essential to the sacrament [i.e., the form and matter], and in that case, the sacrament is indeed conferred; but one does not obtain the reality of the sacrament unless the sacrament’s recipient is immune from the fault of the one celebrating it differently. (In IV Sent., d. 4, q. 3, a. 2, qa. 2, ad 4)”
    Kwasniewski: “That is an astonishing claim: one does not receive the res sacramenti, the very thing the sacrament was instituted to give us, if one embraces the fault of the minister who unlawfully varies even those things that are incidental to the conferral of the sacrament. Such a claim brings into sharp relief the seriousness with which St. Thomas took the liturgical law of the Church, a perspective widely shared by his contemporaries. It is a perspective that, while slowly reviving among us, still has many converts to win.”
    Still has many converts to win; Ahem, God, or nothing.

  35. reflector says:

    We had this discussion a few years ago. I share Fr. Z’s preference for masses celebrated ad orientem, but I think one has to concede that the Latin wording of IGMR 299 is (at least) ambiguous. [No, one doesn’t.]
    Fr. Z’s translation would be the only possible one, if the Latin text read: “Altare maius exstruatur a pariete seiunctum, quod expedit ubicumque possibile sit, ut facile circumiri et in eo celebratio versus populum peragi possit.” In this case, “quod” (“which”) could only refer to the first part of the sentence (exstruatur a pariete seiunctum); and “ut” (“so that”) would give the reason for this placement of the altar. However, the text reads: “Altare maius exstruatur a pariete seiunctum, ut facile circumiri et in eo celebratio versus populum peragi possit, quod expedit ubicumque possibile sit.” As far as I see, there is no way to decide, from a grammatical point of view, whether “quod” refers to the first or to the second part of the sentence. [Nope.]
    There is no general rule that “quod” can only qualify the main clause of a sentence and not a subordinate clause which precedes the “quod”-clause. As the text stands, both interpretations are possible; [No, not really.]
    this could have been a deliberate ambiguity. From a linguistic point of view, the translation should be just as ambiguous as the original text. “The main altar should be built separated from the wall, so that it can be easily walked around and a celebration toward the people can be carried out; this is useful wherever it is possible.” [Nope. Not convincing.]

  36. greenlight says:

    “Frankly we are well past the time for mere suggestions. It is time to swing the papal crosier of clue bringing(tm) to apply some “collegial” correction.”

    Well said, CPT TOM. What’s Latin for “percussive maintenance”?

  37. Mike says:

    As we suspected, Cardinal Sarah was expressing his preference . . .

    It’s no more a matter of preference than of taste. It’s a matter of whether we persist in the effort to heal two generations’ rupture of our sacred liturgy. Such effort will continue to be of limited benefit until we stop characterizing the rupture as the norm.

  38. jhayes says:

    The Bolletino has a revised English translation of the “Clarification”


  39. acardnal says:

    Revisions of revisions of clarifications. Just more ambiguity.

  40. acardnal says:

    Bring back the “Catechism of the Council of Trent” for clarity and certitude. “Let them be anathema!”
    That’s pretty clear!

    And don’t forget the “Baltimore Catechism” as a solid and sure guide.

  41. reflector says:

    Reverendissime Pater,
    si false locutus sum, testimonium perhibe de eo : si autem non false, quid me cædis ?

  42. M. K. says:

    Speaking of the Bollettino, as of this writing (when it would be 5:27 pm in Rome) there is no edition of the Bollettino published for July 12. It’s very unusual for them not to put anything out on a weekday – were their resources so strained by the work of producing the “Clarification” on the evening of July 11 that they had to take the next day off, or does the fact that they have new leadership (Greg Burke) somehow distract them all enough that they couldn’t get anything out today? [There is one now.]

  43. twele923 says:


    I, like you, was not convinced by the Latin itself that Fr. Z’s translation was the only possible one. The CDW response does seem to make Fr. Z’s translation the right one, though without mentioning the “quod” directly. It does seem to me that if the “expedit” clause were meant to refer to the “celebratio versus populum”, the “quod” would have to be a “quae”. Fr. Z, if you see this comment, can you confirm that’s what you mean?

  44. Venerator Sti Lot says:


    Thanks for the update (12 July, 9:17 a.m.) – good to see someone (!) finally proofread it, apparently an English speaker who turned “qualcuno” from the mysterious “someone” (a sort of cartoon superhero? – or was it -villain?) into the idiomatic “some”.

    Now, for a correction of the erroneous content…

  45. Polycarpio says:

    Having boned up on the GIRM 299 translation issue, it seems to me Fr. Z. has the better argument.

    However, numerous translations out there, including on the Vatican website, miss the “QUOD,” which in itself is support that Reflector is on to something:

    SPANISH – Constrúyase el altar separado de la pared, de modo que se le pueda rodear fácilmente y la celebración se pueda realizar de cara al pueblo, lo cual conviene que sea posible en todas partes.

    ENGLISH (USCCB) – The altar should be built separate from the wall, in such a way that it is possible to walk around it easily and that Mass can be celebrated at it facing the people, which is desirable wherever possible.

    ITALIAN – L’altare sia costruito staccato dalla parete, per potervi facilmente girare intorno e celebrare rivolti verso il popolo: la qual cosa è conveniente realizzare ovunque sia possibile.

    PORTUGUESE – O altar seja construído afastado da parede, a fim de ser facilmente circundado e nele se possa celebrar de frente para o povo, o que convém fazer em toda parte onde for possível.

    (BUT SEE, FRENCH [] – Il convient, partout où c’est possible, que l’autel soit érigé à une distance du mur qui permette d´en faire aisément le tour et d´y célébrer face au peuple.)

  46. twele923 says:

    The First Instruction on the Implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Inter Oecumenici, 1964), I have discovered, also seems to support Fr. Z’s reading – though I cannot find the corresponding Latin:

    91. The main altar should preferably be freestanding, to permit walking around it and celebration facing the people.

  47. reflector says:


    Your point strenghens my view that the wording is ambigous. “Quae” would have been clear in one way, a different order of the clauses would have been clear in the other. As the text stands, “quod” can refer to both clauses preceeding it. In the interpretation preferred by Father Z, “quod” refers (not to the word “altare”, but) to the first part of the sentence (“Altare maius exstruatur a pariete seiunctum”); as far as I see, there is no way to exclude the possibility that “quod” could refer instead to the second part (“ut …”).
    Please don’t missunderstand me: I share the view that, for many reasons, ad orientem worship is the better (and much less “clerical”) expression of the idea that the whole church – laymen and priests – has to look and walk in one direction, conversa ad dominum. But to promote this we should not use a weak argument which can be proven wrong rather easily.

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