Pope Francis sweeps the membership of the Congregation for Divine Worship

People are beating me black and blue in email asking what I think about the major changes made by Pope Francis to the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments.  As earthquakes rock Italy, earthquake Francis rocked the CDW.

What came to mind after I saw the long list of new names, and the lack of old names on it, was the story in Herodotus of the advice requested of Thrasybulus, the 7th c. BC ruler of Miletus. Periander, tyrant of Corinth, sent a message to Thrsasybulus asking about the secret of his success as a ruler. Thrasybulus took the messenger into a wheat field, drew his sword, and whacked off the tops of the tallest stalks of wheat until they were all the same height.

There’s no question about who is in charge!

Allow me to remind you that Congregations are extensions of the authority of the Roman Pontiff in certain defined areas. The Pope can’t do it all. He delegates his own authority to bodies, such as congregations. It is only logical that he would choose as members of those bodies, such as congregations, those whom he thinks will carry out his will. Of course, being human, they become also very political. They wind up being parking places for prelates or stepping stones for ecclesiastics. They can help and then can thwart. They can push or they can delay. In the Roman Curia, as a matter of fact, cunctando regitur mundus.

So, does it surprise me that Pope Francis has changed up the members of the Congregation for Divine Worship? Not at all. What surprised me was the extent of the change. Usually a Pope will change a few members at a time, leaving some continuity in the congregation. This time, he swept the deck. Along with others, out are Cardinals Pell, Ranjith, Bagnasco, Ouellet, Scola, and Burke. BAM. In are other names from the past, but seemingly on the other end of the liturgical spectrum. Call it “deRatzingerization”.

Not all members of the CDW have been experts on liturgy, by the way. But some are. Congregations also have juridical sections, with a staff of canonists.  A blast from the past comes in the form of a new member, the one time dogsbody of liturgical revolutionary Annibale Bugnini, Archbp. Piero Marini, olim Papal MC. He was the one who inserted to Masses oddities such as the Mexican shaman exorcising St. John Paul II in Mexico. A book came out over Marini’s name a few years back, A Challenging Reform: Realizing the Vision of the Liturgical Renewal. In this thinly veiled attack on Benedict XVI Marini recounts how the members of the Consilium were so excited to get their mandate from Paul VI because they knew that what they were going to do was not only change perennial worship, but also doctrine.

Reason 8 for Summorum Pontificum.

Clearly the “purge”, as Italian vaticanista Marco Tosatti called it, is a signal, just as the selection of new American Cardinals was to Catholics in these USA. The consistory names seem to signal that Pope Francis doesn’t want “culture warriors”. The names of the new CDW members might mean that Francis doesn’t want tradition to be… well… tradition… that’s is, something handed on. What does the Pope want for worship?  That’s a little hard to determine. He is, first and foremost, a Jesuit. They aren’t famous for being deep into liturgy. Quite the opposite. That said, he has kept Benedict XVI’s MC by his side. You can say what you want about his vestment choices – I, for one, am not impressed – but he hasn’t been doing anything weird. He just gets on with things and says Mass.

Cardinal Sarah, the Prefect of the CDW, is going to be even more alone now than he was when quite a few of the old guard were removed from the middle levels of the Congregation. Members of the congregation can’t do much on their own. They can create obstacles for the Prefect.

Keep in mind that Card. Sarah called strongly – not as Prefect, but as a concerned churchman – for priests to begin saying Mass ad orientem again.  Card. Sarah is an impressive and compelling figure.

Tosatti, in his piece wrote (my translation):

With this extraordinary purge (a removal and substitution of this scope are an absolute exception in the praxis of the Roman government), Cardinal Sarah seems to be very alone, and there aren’t appearing any voices who can be liturgically discordant in respond to the dominant politically correct liturgical vector. After having laughed at liturgists with (Anglican) Primate Welby, the Pontiff decided to made some of them weep.

So, what do I think?  Hey!  It’s the Pope’s congregation.  He can use it as he will.  I feel for Card. Sarah, who will now have a harder time as Prefect, with less support from the members of the Congregation than before.  I don’t like the idea of a return to influence, even the tiny dab of influence he’ll have, of Archbp. Marini.

However, this might galvanize some Catholics to get off their backsides and do something in favor of the liturgical revival we so desperately need.   Card. Sarah sent out a clarion call to priests.  Fathers!  Let’s get going!  Moreover, as I have written before, and I now write on the closing day in Rome of the Summorum Pontificum Pilgrimage, Benedict XVI gave us clear and sound liturgical teaching and direction. He gave us the stupendously important tool of the aforementioned Motu Proprio, the “emancipation proclamation” for all the priests of the Roman Rite.  It has been 9 years since SP went into force.  It is time for us to take off the training wheels and ride the damn bike!

Do not be flustered.  Do not be paralyzed with anxiety.  Do not run in circles, panting and tearing at your clothing.  Pontiffs come and pontiffs go.  You, on the other hand, are called to influence your corner of the world according to your vocations, God’s plan for you.  So, form alliances, create a solid group with a vision and goal, discern your tactics to carry out your strategy.  Examine your consciences.  GO TO CONFESSION!  Get to work.  Don’t sit around in your wilted flower bed and wring your hands, waiting for priests to do everything for you.  Not. Gonna. Happen.  YOU have to make things happen.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Si vis pacem para bellum!, SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM, The Coming Storm, The Drill, The future and our choices, Turn Towards The Lord and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. priest up north says:

    While I winced initially over the news, the mandate of continuity and the true implementation of the Council remains the same. I appreciate your assessment Fr. Z. that we need to get up and lead the people to what is true sacred worship, as the modernist types have no defense against well formed members of the faithful who have been lead to worship the Holy Trinity and who will no longer put up with those who worship themselves or their own earthly accomplishments.

  2. Fr. Thomas Kocik says:

    When the Holy Father, Pope Francis, asked me to accept the ministry of Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, I asked: “Your Holiness, how do you want me to exercise this ministry? What do you want me to do as Prefect of this Congregation?” The Holy Father’s reply was clear. “I want you to continue to implement the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council,” he said, “and I want you to continue the good work in the liturgy begun by Pope Benedict XVI.”
    — Message from Card. Sarah to the participants of Sacra Liturgia USA, 1 June 2015


  3. Toan says:

    Sounds bad…so I need to remind myself that “God judged it better to bring good out of evil than to suffer no evil to exist” (St. Aug., Enchirid., xxvii). Even if this is, in itself, evil, good will surely come of it.

    Of course we might have no idea what good that is, or whether it will happen as we walk this earth. One can hope and pray for many things, anyway. Lord, may each of the new appointees to the CDW, especially though a closer association with Card. Sarah, all become canonizable saints.

  4. thomas777 says:

    I have had a similar earthquake in my own little world. This is madness. I work as a secondary school teacher. I was in a meeting with the head of RE who said point blank he would have no problem with an atheist or a Muslim teaching RE in a catholic school, but he would have a problem with an orthodox Catholic. I stopped the meeting and asked him if he wanted his knife back. (He clearly left it in my shoulder blades) to which he only explained that I was not that orthodox. In further comments, he then tried to get me to back down with defamatory comments about people who receive on the tongue. (I took it on the chin for the team. He was actually shocked. He thought I would bend or break to curry favor.)
    What to do when the world is against you? Just because I am a little paranoid does not mean the world is not out to get me. Hopefully, this does not have employment consequences. Better employment consequences then hell in my opinion.

  5. Absit invidia says:

    Perhaps this is the Pope’s way of relegating Card. Sarah

  6. Gilbert Fritz says:

    But . . . are we QUITE sure that ALL the former members have been removed? Could this simply be an addition, not a replacement?

  7. comedyeye says:

    I was told that priests in my diocese along with the bishop feel that saying Mass ad orientem
    would be divisive.

  8. un-ionized says:

    Thomas777, you are doing right. I have been fired in the past and later was glad. Just keep doing what you are doing. If a person is out to get you because of your faith, even if they are in a position of responsibility, you are doing right. Jesus said so.

  9. Maldon says:

    I hate to say it, but much of the blame for this falls squarely on the shoulders of JPII and BXVI who had decades to clean out the stables of the Catholic Church like real men, and instead spent their time doing other things. Yes, they travelled much and wrote many wonderful things, and WYD was amazing for all, but in the end they did not do what was more important, they did not clean up their own house.
    Pope Francis is acting exactly the way a Pope should act who has a real program and wants to actually get things done. When we finally get an active governor as Pope, he has none of the intelligence and wisdom that his wise and intelligent predecessors had, while they had no sense of active government.

  10. SpesUnica says:

    While this can certainly impact the kinds of clarifications and directives which will come from the CDW in the future, it seems to me that the most important factor in the renewal of the liturgy has to do with the training of priests–and the most important factor in that training is the bishops.

    The men ordained in the last (5, 10, more) years are already ordained and are already out in the parishes leading the charge for more reverent liturgy. They can be intimidated (re: “Why Are Good Priests Afraid of Stirring the Pot?”), but I think the cohort is too large to be bullied and silenced, overall. The men in the seminary now seem to me to be mostly more of the same stock, which bodes well for the Church. Are the seminaries going to be cleaned out? I just don’t see that happening. So, my guess would be that, at worst, some of the momentum of the RotR may be slowed, or it simply may not accelerate (like a blanket endorsement of ad orientem OF Masses as some were predicting as recently as a few months ago), but young priests by and large love traditional liturgy, and I don’t expect that to change dramatically in the next several years.

    Would a Pope who has worked for reconciliation with the SSPX really contemplate revoking SP? I just don’t see that, though some are rending their garments, as Father notes.

  11. St. Irenaeus says:

    A couple things:

    First, Ed Condon isn’t sure the names mentioned above have indeed been removed: http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/commentandblogs/2016/10/29/a-purge-in-the-vaticans-liturgy-department-not-quite/

    Second, regarding riding the bike: Some who have tried getting TLMs going simply can’t without priests willing to do it. SP gets ignored and good people given all sorts of reasons why they can’t have it.

  12. Phil_NL says:

    Well, even if this earthquake ends up being equally devastating, I wonder if this isn’t going to create a backlash. Between the conclave that elected Benedict and the one that elected Francis the difference in attitudes, indeed even in the persons involved, cannot have been so great that the college will cheer at wholesale “deRatzingerization”. I reckon His Holiness would do well to consider his strategy if he has longer term ambitions. Adding more energy to a pendulum will also produce a bigger swing in the other direction, eventually. To state it boldly: the Holy Spirit will have a lot of work in the coming years / decade.

  13. I second Irenaeus on this. Do we have a reliable source on this “purge”? Italians, AFAIK, are notorious for spinning the rumour mill.

  14. Spade says:

    “They aren’t famous for being deep into liturgy. Quite the opposite.”

    I’m told there’s only two things that never change in the Jesuits liturgy.

  15. LeeF says:

    This is just more of our cross we have to bear. We cannot avoid it. There will be another pope after this one, and another after that one. The long run leading to eternity is what matters.

    P.S. Did I miss Father’s annual post on All Souls Day/Week plenary indulgences?

  16. Fr. W says:

    I admit that I do not know enough to make a clear assessment of this. But in the spirit of Francis may we continue as before…”in these or similar words.”

  17. stuartal79 says:

    I would like to echo Gilbert Fritz’s question, are we sure this is a removal and not an addition? Ed Condon reported yesterday in the UK Catholic Herald that no one had been removed yet.

  18. CharlesG says:

    I’d be curious to know if the faithful liturgical translations project of Liturgiam authenticam in the other major languages besides English, e.g. French, German, Italian, Portuguese, etc., is now dead in the water.

  19. stuartal79 says:

    This is yesterday’s news, but it indicates there has not been a clean sweep: http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/commentandblogs/2016/10/29/a-purge-in-the-vaticans-liturgy-department-not-quite/

  20. LeeF says:


    For the Germans at least, the bishops defied Benedict when he was still in office and killed the new Sacramentary at the last minute by tabling it at a meeting of their conference. Regarding the Lectionary, I am not sure. They were revising the German translation of the previous Einheitsübersetzung, which the Lutherans participated in for a while before dropping out about 10 years ago. I imagine any new Lectionary would be based on such a revision (which naturally given the liberalism of most of the bishops there includes a fair amount of “inclusive” language).

    The real problem with the German bishops, as I have commented on before, is that any pope does not have the full freedom to impose his own choice if necessary because of treaties between the Vatican and various German states which gives the cathedral chapters a lot more power to avoid an ultimate forced choice.

  21. HighMass says:

    This Latest sweeping makes one very very sad….have been wondering how long it would take for this to happen as we all know it was coming…..

    Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Pray for us…

  22. anilwang says:

    The timing of the purge is suspicious….just a few days before the anniversary of the “Reformation” when the Pope is supposed to make an announcement a Lutheran/Catholic agreement.

    I’m praying that I’m wrong but I suspect the Pope will want a liturgy to reflect that agreement. Lex orandi lex credendi lex vivendi. As the Bugnini reforms show, if you want Catholic to start living as Protestants, you have to change doctrine (or at least the common person’s understanding of doctrine), and to do that you need to change the liturgy.

  23. Pingback: MONDAY EDITION | Big Pulpit

  24. Geoffrey says:

    I felt very defeated when I heard this news, but someone told me something very similar to Fr Z’s own words: “[F]orm alliances, create a solid group with a vision and goal, discern your tactics to carry out your strategy…”

    And on that note, for any readers who might be located within the Diocese of Monterey in California:

  25. Imrahil says:

    Dear CharlesG,

    I’d be curious to know if the faithful liturgical translations project of Liturgiam authenticam in the other major languages besides English, e.g. French, German, Italian, Portuguese, etc., is now dead in the water.

    The thing is that the other languages afaik (and certainly in the case of German) never had the problem of such a grossly deviating paraphrase (no, I’m not saying “translation”) than English had.

    There is one point, the “pro multis”, and the rule is out that the Missals have to be changed as soon as the 2002 missal translation is implemented; nor have I heard the Vatican revoke it. So, what happens is that the bishops are delaying the 2002-translation – until further notice, or so it seems.

    Of course, the Pope could order his German priests to change the words now, by using a pencil to cross the word out and replace it with another if need be, on pain of latae sententiae suspension. But to be fair, Pope Benedict did not do that either.

  26. Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick says:

    Saying in diocesan seminaries: “As confused as a Jesuit in Holy Week.”

  27. discens says:

    As a Christifidelis in the pew I can’t see what all the fuss is about. If a priest wants to stay mass ad orientem and/or in Latin (novus ordo or Tridentine), he can do so. If he doesn’t want so to say mass, or wants to vary, then he can do that too. The ordinary Christifidelis in the pew doesn’t have much say in the matter, except by voting with his feet. Besides, whether mass said ad orientem is better than mass said ad populum is an impossible question to answer. We first need to know what is meant by ‘better’. If ‘better’ means doctrinally correct, then it’s just wrong to say that mass said ad populum is doctrinally incorrect. The magisterium has plainly said it isn’t. If ‘better’ means more effective in sanctifying the faithful, it’s again wrong, since the sacrament sanctifies not the way the priest faces. If ‘better’ means more effective in catechizing the faithful, the claim is impossible to verify. How can we determine whether people were better catechized before the 1960s than they are now? And if we can determine it, how can we determine what the reason is? Saying that the change ot mass ad populum is the reason, or even one of the reasons, looks too much like ‘post hoc ergo propter hoc’ to be persuasive. Besides since there are undoubtedly several reasons, listing them all and then sorting out the effects, joint and individual, of each one will be an endless task. From my own experience in the pew of masses said ad orientem and ad populum, or masses said in English or Latin, I would say the choice between them is a matter of almost complete indifference, and may suitably be left, as the Church has left it, to the predilections of priests and faithful. Pope Francis has got things right. Cardinal Sarah was going off on secondary matters and needed to be set straight. [Gratis asseritur, gratis negatur.] What the world needs from the Church today is not squabbles over ad orientem or ad populum but what Pope Francis keeps talking about: mercy, mercy, mercy. [Pffft. Mercy cannot be opposed to ad orientem worship, not vice versa.] The pope gives the Church her marching orders for the here and now, not this or that cardinal. We have our orders. Let’s follow them.

  28. WVC says:


    Do you know how much blood, sweat, tears, and sacrifice were made by the Church over the letter “o”? You may think that “mercy, mercy, mercy” is all we need (and I thought the Beatles had said it was “love”), but the Church has a long history of believing the details are quite important (homoiousios vs. homoousios). If you don’t understand why there is such an important distinction between ad orientem and ad populum, I have about 10 books on the liturgy I could recommend.

    Whoever aid the “devil is in the details” had it backwards. The devil (i.e. real discord, destruction, and revolution) always seems to come from the folks who cry, “the details don’t matter, what we need is authentic [fill in the blank].” Whether it’s “love” or “mercy” or “historical authenticness” or whatever you like, the mantra rarely deviates.

  29. Robbie says:

    This is terribly disappointing and very troubling news. Decisions like this are why I was very apprehensive when I heard Jorge Bergoglio had been elected as pope. The march towards restoration, albeit a slow march, was stymied in an instant.

  30. Wryman says:

    Kinda hard to get the troops to advance on the front when the general is leading the other way. Just sayin’.

  31. discens says:

    WVC. Gibbon’s notorious “the Church split over a diphthong” is cracking jokes at the expense of truth. You appear to be doing the same. You have to give evidence (evidence that concerns what is right now) that ad orientem will make the difference you and others say it will. Your ten books will mean nothing if they do not give that evidence. From what I have read from others about the effects of ad orientem on the Christifideles, I would say the case is at least unproven and more likely false.

    Wryman. Maybe your troops (and how many troops? — mighty few in my experience) are marching to the wrong front. The battle’s elsewhere. The general has all the necessary information. The troops don’t. I’m going with the general, and I suspect most of the troops are as well.

  32. WVC says:


    I could try to spend lots of my time on educating you on liturgical history, and I could list books by Klaus Gamber, Joseph Ratzinger, Michael Davies, Adrian Fortescue and the like. I suspect it would be to no avail. Here’s the problem with your comment:

    “From what I have read from others about the effects of ad orientem on the Christifideles, I would say the case is at least unproven and more likely false.”

    You are saying, intentionally or not, that the primary purpose of the liturgy is to have “an effect” on the Christifideles, or the people. That never was, is not, and never will be the primary purpose of offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. I cannot possibly provide a better example of how “ad populum” distorts the liturgy than your own words.


  33. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Thank you for the reminder-sketch with details of Archbishop Marini. I’d love to know more about the shifts in usage of ‘culture war(s)’/’culture warriors’, for wars have warriors all round, and Archbishop Marini sounds profoundly like one. To vary Sir Cecil Spring Rice, ‘There is another culture, I hear of every day’ – that of the “dominant politically correct liturgical [et al.!] vector”. Is Mr. Tosatti thoroughly on-target in saying “there aren’t appearing any voices who can be liturgically discordant”, and, if so, can one say who is, by contrast, also or a Marinian level of ‘other-culture warriorship’ gung-ho-ness?

  34. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    or>of [!]

  35. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear discens,

    You wrote:

    “How can we determine whether people were better catechized before the 1960s than they are now? And if we can determine it, how can we determine what the reason is?”

    Ask a random Catholic in the pews to name the Ten Commandments.

    The reason is simple: poor catechesis. Being told that God is unconditionally loving makes it seem like no matter what you do, God will accept you. The lie is that God does not damn us, we damn ourselves. The question is not whether or not God loves us, but whether or not we love God – and we show our love by keeping the commandments. If many can no longer even name the Ten Commandments, how can many people say they love God – and it is their love for God that gets them to Heaven. Turning the tables from looking at our responsibilities to God’s responsibilities (essentially, a Protestant view) is what has brought about much if the problem. Shifting from a straightforeward rules-based catechetics to a vague conscience-based catechetics (all the while leaving out the qualifier, “well-formed,” before conscience) has allowed people to, pretty much, make up Catholicism as they go along. We, badly, need a universal adult education program that is orthodox. I blame the bishops for not doing this.

    The Chicken

  36. discens says:

    WVC. The problem is not with my comment but with the argument that people give for ad orientem over ad populum. I have no difficulty with the claim that the primary purpose of the liturgy is not to have an effect on the Christifideles. But since the Church has declared that the novus ordo and ad populum do not make a difference to the primary purpose of the liturgy [“… do not make a difference…” No, I don’t think so. I can’t recall that any authoritative voice in the Church has said that the orientation doesn’t make a difference.] (if the novus ordo and ad populum did make such a difference the Church would never have approved them), the supporters of ad orientem and the Tridentine cannot, without risk of heresy or schism, be challenging that claim. [You have thrown around in a loose manner a couple of technical terms. Sloppy.]The dispute can only concern some other claim, and the only other claim that is made is that ad orientem and the Tridentine have a better effect on the Christifideles (the Christifideles become more reverent, more pious, better catechized, or the like). I say that claim is unproved and likely false. You have said nothing to show otherwise. [Something you seem not to take into consideration is the apophatic dimension.]

  37. discens says:

    To the Masked Chicken. Thanks for telling me of your experience of Christifideles in the pew. I’m sorry to hear the Christifideles you know are so lacking. However, my point is not about whether the Christifideles now are worse or better than they were before the 1960s but what effect, if any, the change from ad orientem to ad populum had then, and what effect a change from ad populum to ad orientem would have now. I don’t have an answer to the first question. My guess about the second is none or very little. [So, now it’s… guessing.]

  38. WVC says:


    First, I’m glad you don’t have a “problem” with the “claim” that the primary purpose of the liturgy is not to have an effect on the people (I’m sorry, I can’t use the term Christifideles anymore – it just comes across as way to pretentious). Please understand, this is not some “claim” but rather a very settled and unambiguous matter.

    Second, you engage in a little sleight of hand from your previous comments to the latest. You started by saying “Ad Orientem isn’t important because you can’t prove it has an effect on the people.” Now you’ve moved to “The Church has never said Ad Populum impacts the primary purpose of the liturgy and if you disagree you’re a heretic.” And you finish off with a flourish that tries to narrow the options to your hand-selected two options (a.) – agree with me or (b.) – agree with me. I also like how you turn “unproven” to “likely false.”

    Nice try.

    It seems to me that the fellow arguing against thousands of years of liturgical tradition and a host of very learned, educated, and erudite liturgists who have published numerous books on the liturgy to critical acclaim might bear the burden of proof in this case.

    At any rate, I would point out, as I tried in my last comment, that while Ad Populum may not directly impact the primary purpose of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, it sure seems to confuse many of the faithful as to what the purpose is. Your insistence that the most important issue we need to argue about is “the effect on the people” continues to bear out my actual point (and not the pretend point you tried to make up for me).

  39. un-ionized says:

    Discens, When all is said and done I believe I am better off at a reverently done new style Mass than at one where I am perceived to not belong and am treated accordingly. I get all your points. It doesn’t matter whether we agree or not. I’m just a nobody anyway.

  40. discens says:

    WVC. No sleight of hand at all; just clarification of the argument. When people say there needs to be a return to mass ad orientem, the reason typically given is that things are bad because mass is ad populum, and mass ad populum is bad because its effect on the people is bad. You introduced the different point that the primary purpose of the mass is not to have an effect on the people. Correct but not what the discussion was about. Nevertheless I agreed with you on that different point, adding, for good measure (and to forestall objection), that no one who accepts the authority of the Church could say that the novus ordo and ad populum do not serve the primary purpose of the mass. [Which is….?] I automatically assumed you and I would agree here and we do.

    The disagreement concerns what effect on the people was caused by the change to mass ad populum and what effect would be made by a return to mass ad orientem. You have said nothing here to advance the discussion. The splendid liturgical books you mention are irrelevant because they are about the liturgy and not about what would happen to the people now if we returned to mass ad orientem now. [Hmmm… and yet this is about liturgical worship (a larger category than just Holy Mass).] You baldly assert that mass ad populum “sure seems to confuse many of the faithful as to what the purpose is.” That assertion is made time and time again by many people. What I want is evidence to back it up, I mean evidence about cause and effect both now and in the past. Without such evidence the case against mass ad populum is unproved. Indeed if, lacking such evidence, I go by my own experience, I am forced to conclude that the case is likely false. [So, in the end, your experience is your standard. And yet you seem not to accept the experience of others may have a value at least equal to your own.]

  41. WVC says:


    I don’t grant your entire premise, is the problem. You are treating all of this as if it’s some sort of binary experiment. It’s not. There are not controllable variables when you’re dealing with human beings. What, in your eyes, serves as evidence? That people’s souls are rendered more pure? How could I prove that? That they act more in accordance with their faith? Might not you object that this is attributable to some other factor? That their belief in Catholic theology is better/worse – would not you point to catechetics vice liturgy as the culprit? Or do you imagine that there are groups of strictly filtered human beings locked up in cultural, theological, and liturgical control groups with which you can perform explicit and specific measurements?

    There is more in Heaven and earth, discens, than is dreamt of in your philosophy. This is also why sound tradition is preferable to modern guesses, with or without “evidence” to support those guesses.

    Here are certainly thoughts I would suggest in terms of the affect of liturgy on the people:

    1.) – The Church always has and still does recognize there are degrees within the liturgy. From of old there has been maintained a difference between a High Mass, a Low Mass, and a Pontifical Mass. There are differences in the feasts that are celebrated (1st class vs. 2nd class, the Easter Vigil vs. the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Times). Even the label Extraordinary vs. Ordinary form indicates there is an actual difference between the liturgies currently in use within the Latin Rite. Given that the primary purpose of the Mass cannot and does not change (i.e. the Sacrifice of Christ being offered to God), what, pray tell, might the differences between the liturgies be? What could be the reason for putting one form of Mass above another?

    2.) – One should not confuse Actual Grace with the sentimental, warm, fuzzy feeling modern people often mistake as anything other than a sentimental, warm, fuzzy feeling. One does not have to dance and gyrate like they’re at a charismatic service to receive Actual Grace. To what degree is Actual Grace conferred upon the people attending Mass? Is it more or less depending upon the form of liturgy? These are questions you can’t answer with a microscope and test tube. However . . .

    3.) – Consider the number of canonized saints and, even when accounting for historical weighting (i.e. the amount of time attributable to each rite), how does the traditional Mass fair in comparison to the Novus Ordo? Also,

    4.) – Consider the horrible numbers plaguing the Church since Vatican II. Both in terms of raw participation (numbers of priests, religious, and laity are still going the wrong direction according to a recent CARA study) as well as in terms of Catholics who profess any actual knowledge of their faith (a recent study asked Catholics if they believed Christ was present in the Eucharist – the response was not comforting to any friend of orthodoxy). Is this solely because of Ad Populum worship? Did Ad Populum worship play a role? What “evidence” would you use to determine the answer to either question?

    5.) – Being creatures of reason, we can understand complicated things without having to resort to the scientific banality of “evidence” or “get out.”

    Does this mean that the simple act of Ad Orientem will fix/change everything? No, and nobody is professing that. Will it “effect” the people? Who knows? That’s not our job. From what I recall, I believe we’re supposed to first seek the Kingdom of God and a lot of this other stuff will work itself out. If Ad Orientem is more in keeping with the liturgical traditions of the Church and a more clear expression of the actual beliefs expressed in the liturgy, then WHY WOULD WE NOT WANT AD ORIENTEM WORSHIP?

    That’s the question you should be asking.

  42. OldLady says:

    Debate ad infinitum on issues can be distraction, realm of the politician. The cure for everything is to take to prayer and the Sacraments en force! Grassroots, where it all began! Follow the Twelve………

  43. thomas777 says:

    You keep talking about the effect on the people as if this is the reason for the liturgy. Are you aware that the latest GIRM in several places assumes ad orientem posture? It is literally spelled out in black and white in the instruction in several places. To do mass another way is actually against the explicit will of the bishops conference.
    I find some of your arguments hilarious. Are you actually asking for proof that the average pew-sitting Catholic does not know his faith? Stop please I am laughing so hard I may do something involuntary.
    What democratic candidate is paying you to disrupt Fr. Z’s board? or are you paid by several members of the clergy that left the faith a while back and just have not bothered to turn in the cloth yet?
    All of your arguments have been refuted. Come up with a new rebuttal that actually contains substance and stop spinning and restating as if you are the liturgical expert who has simply been misunderstood. You have been given actual reasons why your argument does not work already in several places. Your logic is faulty starting from an incorrect premise. Enough with the spin already.

    Save the liturgy, Save the world.

  44. thomas777 says:

    He is actually suggesting we need “proof” to do what is spelled out in black and white in the General Instruction. Is that actually your argument? Since when does one need proof to do what is correct?

  45. discens says:

    thomas777. One of the rules of disputation is to state correctly the opposing disputant’s position. At no point have I maintained the view that proof is needed to know what is in the GIRM. At every point I have maintained the view that proof is needed to show that mass ad populum has caused the bad things people say it has. [Is that really the question for which you are looking for an answer? If so, your search may be in vain. Even if we could arrive at a commonly accepted list of “bad things” (that’s a bit loose), why do we have to accept that just one cause lies behind them? Sacred liturgical worship is at the very core of who we are as Catholics. And yet there is a constant, simultaneous interchange ad intra and ad extra in how that sacred liturgical worship manifests itself. However: when changes are made to worship, over time changes result in the identity of worshipers. When the identity of worshipers changes, they way they pray changes. That said, there are many factors involved in the changes of sacred liturgical worship and its effect on the worshiper, not the least of which is tied to an indisputable goal of worship, that is, a tranforming encounter with Mystery, about which it is difficult to create syllogisms. In fact, an approach to worship based on tidy arguments seems to miss the point of worship.] It is also desirable in disputation to identify the opponent’s premise that is said to be faulty or incorrect, and to state an alleged refutation rather than merely to say there is one. It is contrary to disputation to consider laughter an argument, and it is the fallacy of ad hominem to attack the person of the disputant rather than his argument. Bad logic may not destroy the world, but it will certainly not save it — or the Church or the liturgy.

  46. katholos says:

    Well, I won’t attempt to offer the following as proof, but for what it is worth . . . I am solidly rooted in the Western Catholic tradition but occasionally I have attended the weekday Divine Liturgy at a local Byzantine Catholic Church. Granting that the Eastern and Western rites of the Catholic Church have their own roots and structure I was nevertheless intrigued that the attendees at those Byzantine liturgies participated fully and with fervor in a church where the priest offers the liturgy ad orientem and the iconostasis represents not a barrier between the people and God but a mystical meeting place between heaven and earth. I recognize that Rome is Rome and Byzantium is Byzantium but in too many Roman parishes that celebrate Mass in the ordinary form the sense of the numinous that I experienced at the Divine liturgy is gone. Yes, we are sent forth to extend Christ’s mercy and love to the world but recall what Moses requests of pharoah, that he let the Israelites go so that they may go and worship the God of their ancestors. If humanity is to fulfill it’s priestly role in leading all creation in worship of the Holy Trinity we need to get the order right. I still remember a popular banner from the 70’s that stated “God is other people.” A wise priest inserted a comma after the word other.

  47. discens says:

    Katholos. I also enjoy the eastern orthodox liturgies as you do. I’m not sure what follows next.

    WVC. What is my entire premise that you don’t grant? I do not begin with a premise but with a question. Lots of people say ad populum is bad and ad orientem is good. I ask why. The answer I’m given is that ad populum has a bad effect on the people and ad orientem a good effect. I ask for evidence, not just evidence of the alleged bad effects but evidence that ad populum is a cause and ad orientem a cure. I am given evidence, but only anecdotal evidence, of bad effects (ill-catechized Catholics). I am given no evidence for the causes and cures, or none that does not smack of the fallacy ‘post hoc ergo propter hoc’.

    Fr. Z’s blog did seem to be a place where I might find answers, especially because of the lauding here of Cardinal Sarah and the distress at Pope Francis’ recent actions. [No one compels you to visit this blog.] Instead, though, I find that people get upset at my asking the question, and my doubting that the evidence I’m looking for is really there. They say intemperate things. I respond calmly asking for logic and evidence. I get more intemperate things. A shocking thought occurs to me: these people on Fr. Z’s blog love mass ad orientem and no doubt go to such masses; these people are poor at logic and lack self-control; [No no… don’t worry. I’m sure nobody will take that as an insult.] is there a connection, I mean does attending mass ad orientem cause poor logic and lack of self-control? Happily this question is easily answered. Just give me evidence of logic and self-control. It’s in your hands. [There are a couple thing that you seem not to take into account. First, this isn’t your blog. Second, if you want to move or persuade, you need to work in a style that will move or persuade the people you are actually writing to, and not some other people.]

  48. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear discens,

    There is nothing that I could say that wouldn’t come off as sounding like criticism and I try to be charitable to my interlocutors.

    That being said, Pope Francis is one pope among many and to quote him and ignore the rest is to disconnect yourself from the living memory of the Church. The Church, currently, accepts either ad orientem or ad populum, fine, but do you know why? Do you know how we got here? Do you know how long it can take to truly resolve even a matter of discipline, if not doctrine? You read the Church, it seems from what I have read of your comments (and, forgive me, if I am wrong) from the eyes of the present, only. This is exactly the sort of disassociation with history which is the result of any social revolution. We saw this during the 1920’s, the 1940’s, during the French Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, the Modernist/Scientism Revolution of the late 1880’s, oh, and during the 1960’s.

    If is not I who have no data from which to argue – it is you, it is the people who argued for ad populum in the first place. You want to know why we don’t have direct data on the effects of ad orientem worship? It is because no one thought to ask. They were so caught up on their misguided opinions that they never bothered to test the theory with any degree of rigor or science. No one commissioned studies or even focus groups. Clearly, they thought they already knew. It was a sociological imposition of a new system based on untested theories. That’s why we have no direct data. It was cargo cult religious sociology of the liturgy of the worst kind.

    We do not have direct data, but we do have indirect data, from historical reports and other, similar psychological experiments. Are you aware of the history of Catholic theology in the 20th- century, of the extensive battle going on? No, there is data to be had. I know, at least in the area that I have expertise in – the history of modern Charismatic theology, of the sorts of games, of the misuse of arguments, of the lack of a true searching for the truth that occurred. Everyday people in the 1960’s didn’t want science. They wanted experiences. They wanted sensations. They got rid of Thomism and replaced it with La Nouvelle Theologie, which is all about experiences.

    It is not the ad orientem people who have no logic or self-control. If you studied any history of the subject, you would know that it was the ad populum people who wanted no science and worshipped experiences. Go study the history of the changes in the liturgy of the 1960’s and you will find your data.

    If you really want the truth about how ad populum changed things, then look at the history. Indeed, the very people who suggested it expected that it would cause change. Indeed, they wanted change. We can’t go back and do the crucial experiments that should have been done back in the 1960’s, but we do know a thing or two about conformity experiments from other psychological venues and we know a lot about the psychology of persuasion.

    All I can say is to be deep in recent history is to see the deeper issues of which ad populum is just a part.

    If you want to really know the answer to your question about the effects of ad orientem vs. ad populum, design an experiment, but good luck trying to get it sanctioned. It seems that no one really wants to know. Such experiments weren’t done in the 1960’s. They won’t be done, now. Thus, despite the fact that we now are wiser from our mistakes in taking psychological experiments at face value, such wisdom, it seems, has yet to be applied to the innovators who brought you the new liturgy.

    The Chicken

  49. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear discens,

    If my last comment comes off as either a personal attack or a little shrill, I apologize. It has been a bad day. I have been dizzy to the point of nearly passing out throughout the day and my frustration at the topic of discussion and my health might have bled through, a bit.

    If you really want a discussion on the issues of what are, in part, the effects of these liturgical changes, which are a part of a much larger sociological change, I would be happy to cite the evidence as we know it, when I am a little more unstable on my feet.

    The Chickeb

  50. The Masked Chicken says:

    I mean a little less unstable on my feet. I seem to be falling over my beak, today.

    The Chicken

  51. Fr. Kelly says:


    I am reluctant to assume bad will, but when you continue to insist that you are misunderstood and misconstrued and at the same dismiss Katholos without even reading what he had to say, I have to wonder.
    (If you had read his post, you would have noticed that he refers to attending weekday Divine Liturgy at the local Byzantine Catholic Church. He was not referring in any way to Eastern Orthodox liturgy.)

    Your characterization of Cardinal Sarah and Pope Francis as being at odds on this are way off too. The so called reprimand of Cardinal Sarah simply did not happen. Cardinal Sarah gave his talk at the Sacra Liturgia Conference in London in July when he called for all priests to prepare their people and begin to celebrate Mass ad orientem as the Church instructs in the GIRM. He further suggests that the first Sunday off Advent would be a good time to do this.
    When he met with Pope Francis afterwards, he clearly did not receive any instructions to the contrary, since when he published the text of the speech, no changes or retractations are indicated.
    The written form of the speech was published after his meeting with Pope Francis.

    The thing to remember is that the Liturgy is essentially God’s gift to us through which He communicates Himself to us in the Sacraments. It is for Him to develop it through His Church, not for us -priests or faithful to take it on ourselves to change it in unauthorized ways. As such the perceived effect of the liturgy on the faithful is not the relevant measure for its success. The relevant measure would be how faithful we are in its implementation.

    The discussion as to whether the priest should be directed ad orientem or ad populum is not about the liturgy in general, but only about the Mass, since it is essentially a question of how he should address the altar during the Unbloody Sacrifice of Calvary is it is re-presented each day.

    All that being said, I have the experience of the past two years where all Masses in my parish have been offered ad orientem and Holy Communion distributed at the Communion rail. These Masses are for the most part in English with, in addition, a once-monthly Mass in forma antiqua.

    When we made the change to ad orientem Mass, there was considerable question and discussion, as you might expect with any such change. But in the end, the transition has gone very smoothly, and I have overheard parishioners explaining to visitors fairly accurately the theological reasons for this orientation. I will cite three comments from parishioners that indicate some of the benefits to the faithful that you are asking for.

    One woman, came up to me after a couple of months with Masses ad orientem. She said “Father, when we switched, I expected I would not like it when you are facing the altar, but now I really love it. It is such a wonderful way to pray together to the Lord”

    One gentleman, echoing several others said, “With you facing the altar, it is so much easier to tell when you are talking to God and when you turn around to talk to us.”

    Another lady who attends daily Mass, asked me about the appearance of the Sacred Host when I elevate it at the Consecration. Apparently, the sanctuary lights create a glow on the host during the elevation. Since I always elevate to full extension, since the instructions tell me to show the Host to the people, the relative positioning of Host and sanctuary lights is virtually unchanged from one side of the altar to the other. However I received questions from her and then from two others about the appearance of the host.
    In my previous 9 years of priesthood, I had never been asked about the appearance of the Host at the elevation. The only relevant change is that the Sacred Host is elevated and displayed without my face appearing right below it framed by my arms as I elevate it. When I was celebrating ad populum, The elevation of the Host would frame my face between my arms just below the Host.
    Whether this is a good or bad thing, it is evidence of the truth that the priests position ad orientem removes him from being a distraction from the Host at the Elevation

    These are not the reason for celebrating Mass ad orientem, but they are examples of how every element of liturgy, even the posture of the priest, can communicate God’s Grace to His people if they are carried on humbly and in obedience to the Tradition of the Church.

  52. discens says:

    Dear Masked Chicken. Thanks for showing some self control. One up to you. Knowledge of the past is important, as you say, and you make quite a number of claims about the past. I have nothing to say about these claims though, if true, they extend far beyond changes in the liturgy (my guess, for what it’s worth, is that changes in the liturgy were effects, not causes, of what happened after Vatican II). [We’re back to guessing, I see. You seem to suppose that “direction” of the cause/effect is only one way.] These claims, however, for all their interest, are at a tangent to my argument. For my focus was on the question what effect the change from ad populum to ad orientem would have now, which is also the focus of Cardinal Sarah as well as of Pope Francis, it would seem. [At the parish where I am on weekends, a change was made to ad orientem worship for all Masses including Novus Ordo. A year or so after that change to exclusive ad orientem worship some phenomena were observed: Mass attendance grew, the average age of the Mass goers dropped. A Communion rail was also installed. More phenomena were observed. Now virtually everyone, except the impeded, kneel at the rail. They virtually all receive directly on the tongue. There is a palpable difference in the … atmosphere… during Communion. While one may respond, “post hoc ergo…”, that would be a dopey response. The changes produced observable results. I have heard of this same cause/effect in other places. It would be silly and, frankly, dishonest not to take them into consideration. Of course I’m only a priest with experience both in Rome and in these USA, who has worked in an among these matters constantly for over a quarter of a century. I had the great good fortune of a pretty thorough Aristotelean and Thomistic grounding back in the day at St. Thomas College in St. Paul, where key faculty members were schooled at Laval in its hay day, with Charles de Koninck. I’ve also spent many years among the Fathers of the Early Church and in ancient rhetoric. I’ve also been involved with discussion on the internet since 1992. By now I’ve developed a pretty good nose for participants. Sapienti pauca.]

    And quite frankly, on this second question I see no evidence that ad orientem as opposed to ad populum makes much if any difference (save the evidence I’ve found in some of the posts here that ad orientem does not seem to be associated with logic or good manners). For this reason, if for no other, I’m with Pope Francis and not Cardinal Sarah. The worthy Cardinal is fighting the wrong battle. Pope Francis isn’t.

  53. discens says:

    Dear Fr. Kelly. Thanks for your comments. However in no way did I dismiss Katholos. I was just puzzled what relevance his remarks had to my argument. As for ‘eastern orthodox’ I was not using it in the technical sense for orthodox Christians in union with the Holy See, but for orthodox generally. My experience, for instance, has been with Greek, Russian, Bulgarian, and Romanian orthodox liturgies. As for what the issue is with Cardinal Sarah and Pope Francis, I was following the thread of these discussions as initiated by Fr.Z’s original post. I see no reason to change what I said. Your remaining remarks are delightful anecdotes about the value of ad orientem, and I applaud them. Whether they tell us anything about the lack of value of ad populum I rather doubt. But that ad populum is somehow bad and ad orientem somehow good is what the whole discussion is about. Little progress is being made on that point. My thanks, nevertheless. [For the sake of discussion, perhaps you will agree that, in the category of things which we call good, some things in that category are better than others. Say, for example, frivolously, a day of bad fishing is still a pretty good day, or else, a midday game at the ball park, even if the game isn’t the best, is still pretty good. The might be said for chocolate. Red wine is more complicated, because if the wine has gone bad, but it can still be said to be wine and not some other substance, it is nevertheless bad wine. That said, I am pretty sure that you would agree that, while a bottle of Santa Cristina is pretty good, a bottle of Tignanello is better by far. Some might object that they like Santa Cristina more than Tignanello because they are not used to tanins, or because it is Tuesday, etc. Fine, it would still be ridiculous, by reasonable standards, to say that Santa Cristina is better wine than Tignanello just because some people who are not as well-schooled in red wine might, at one point, prefer it. Furthermore, we can probably agree that eating nourishing food is a good for us. However, not all foods are equally nourishing. If we, as adults, limit ourselves to eating jarred baby food prepared for the nutritional needs of the still toothless, we will be eating a good food, but not the food that would be better for us to eat. Or else, we could eat “space food sticks” (remember those?), and do better than with the baby food. The sticks might even have different flavors: kidney bean, liver, etc. Many varieties could be available containing all the nutrition an adult needs to survive, at least physically. And yet while the diet of of long-shelf-life, space food sticks or of whatever other minimalist comestible we might conjure up and consume in the harsh white light of a sterile environment, might keep bone and flesh sturdy and strong, would it be possible to agree that such a diet was lacking in some other basic human ways? The sight, smell, and even sound of a perfectly grilled steak, with its rich melting and caramelizing fats, paired not just with Santa Cristina but with Tignanello, with a beautiful presentation, a pleasing knife and not just a utilitarian surgical scalpel, with a cloth on the table, and not hard formica…. these have their own values and effects that are intangible. The nutrition for the body might be the same or even worse than the sticks. But something else, not easily quantified, is nourished. Some things are better than others. While some things really are bad, by the standards of people who know a thing or two, some things are better than other things that are good. Yes yes… quidquid recipitur… fine. The better isn’t the enemy or negator of the good. The better is simply that, better, and it produces different effects.]

  54. katholos says:

    Discens, I am not sure that “enjoy” is the word I would use to describe my experience of Byzantine Catholic worship and thanks to Father Kelly for noting that I was not referring to Eastern Orthodox liturgy, as the Orthodox decidedly do not refer to “our holy ecumenical pontiff the Pope of Rome” as Eastern Catholics do. If the liturgy has been transformational I will know I have been standing on holy ground. I would submit that there is a difference between ad orientem and ad populum. I experienced both pre and post Vatican II, first in my native Europe and here in the U.S.

  55. discens says:

    Katholos. Thanks to you and Fr. Kelly for the clarifications about Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic. My experience has been largely with the former. You are very welcome to submit that there is a difference between ad orientem and ad populum. But what evidence are you submitting? If personal experience, fine. The experience of others is no doubt different (sitting through several hours of orthodox style Sunday liturgies is not easy). Where then are we left? With the personal choice the Church now gives us. But the dispute is that ad populum is somehow bad in its effect on the people while ad orientem isn’t. I’m still waiting to be given the evidence.

  56. WVC says:


    Are you interested in knowledge or self-vindication?

    You didn’t bother to read my post. From what I can tell by your responses, you really haven’t bothered to read anyone else’s posts to you, either. Both the Chicken and Fr. Kelly offered very lengthy and thoughtful responses which you shrug off because they don’t meet your impossibly narrow criteria (the impossible narrowness of which I apparently wasted far too much time trying to explain to you in my last post). However, you do go the extra effort and try your best to implicitly insult the folks here by assuming you must be the only self-controlled and logical cat in this here alley and everyone else illogical and out-of-control.

    To spell it out – your entire premise is faulty. You are doing a very pale imitation of a Vulcan, and all I can recommend is you actually interact with real human beings on a more regular basis. Your position, to paraphrase, is basically “Ignoring all theological, historical, and liturgical considerations, please provide me iron clad evidence that ad populum directly causes any problems whatsoever.” This is an impossible question to answer, period. It’s doubly impossible to answer satisfactorily to someone such as yourself who is clearly predisposed to ignore all theological, historical, and liturgical considerations. You can’t even describe what such evidence would even look like and admit it’s an “endless task” to even try and figure it out. However, that doesn’t stop you from then saying, “however, since my own experience is that it doesn’t really matter, it must not really matter, so let’s just do whatever Pope Francis says and ignore Cardinal Sarah.” So, your logical conclusion is, ignoring all theological, historical, and liturgical considerations, and absent any “evidence,” it’s safe to assume my personal experience is the same as every other persons.

    Even if I conducted a survey for all Catholics asking them if they’ve started acting poorly or losing their faith because of ad populum worship (assuming they would even understand what I meant by ad populum), if you got those surveys would you then flap about saying, “but that doesn’t prove anything, it just proves they THINK ad populum worship caused it but that doesn’t REALLY prove that ad populum worship caused it.” I can’t imagine a scenario where you would actually say, “Yes, this is clearly conclusive proof with regards to ad populum worship.”

    You remind me of the people who wander around demanding explicit and detailed lists of all infallible teachings of the Church, but then immediately start complaining about any single list that is produced because that list hasn’t been infallibly defined.

    You are using the guise of “logic” as a means to resort to name-calling and casual disregard of other people’s points that disagree with your own. You are not presenting a reasonable argument, even though you have fooled yourself into believing it is reasonable. Logic, divorced from all theological, historical, and liturgical considerations, is a thoroughly inadequate tool for understanding human beings and human behavior, and an overweening demand for “evidence” in such a case belies a truly rudimentary framework for reasoning and a lack of understanding of the human condition.

    Or, to put it another way by way of example, please provide evidence that “mercy, mercy, mercy” is actually what the Church needs right now. And none of your Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc arguments. Only true evidence will suffice. I personally haven’t noticed any lack of mercy in the Church’s dealings, so I assume it really has no bearing on the Church’s current mission of evangelization and Pope Francis can safely be ignored on this topic.

  57. PTK_70 says:

    “Shifting … to a vague conscience-based catechetics … has allowed people to, pretty much, make up Catholicism as they go along.”

    You nailed it, The Masked Chicken, just nailed it!

  58. PTK_70 says:

    @discens…If the versus populum posture were bad, I suppose that it wouldn’t be done at St. Peter’s. But can we agree that there is value in the versus CUM populo posture? Fr. Kelly provided some anecdotal evidence of this, I think….the faithful grasp when the priest is talking to them and when he is praying to God, the priest is not a distraction, etc.

    If a group of faithful at your parish requested that one, just one, ordinary form Mass on the Sunday schedule were celebrated versus cum populo, would you object? In other words, do you think that the versus cum populo (i.e. ad orientem) posture is bad?

  59. un-ionized says:

    Discens, I especially appreciate your remark about cause and effect. There is a lot of confusion about that.

  60. discens says:

    WVC. You nicely prove my point. Favoring ad orientem is no guarantee of good manners and logic. [Hang on! You dished it out, above, by insulting your interlocutors. Don’t go all delicate snowflake now when you get some push back (which wasn’t all that hard, frankly). o{]:¬) ]

    PTK_70. I am mystified. How can anything I said possibly make you doubt that I would answer yes to your first question and no to your second two? Whichever way the priest faces is fine by me. I’ll follow the rules and use the permissions of the Church. What I can’t fathom and want evidence for is why people think ad orientem makes so much difference. No one gives me such evidence. [Again, you might start looking at the question from the point of view of the apophatic dimension of liturgical worship.] Fr. Kelly’s anecdotes are, well, anecdotal, and can be matched by anecdotes I’ve heard that go the other way. And what the Masked Chicken says fails to show a causal connection between bad catechetics and ad populum. [As they say, the plural of anecdote is data. If all you are going to do is demand data, then this is over and we can wrap it up and move on. No reasonable person, delving into something so complicated as the connection between worship and The Catholic Thing reduces questions solely to syllogisms or data points. As helpful as they might be, they aren’t everything. Furthermore, this is a blog, not a scientific study produced by a well-funded think tank.]

    Un-ionized. Thanks. At least you understand.

  61. WVC says:


    I’m afraid you’re conflating bad manners with showing you your errors (and, per usual, the “you can lead a horse to water” maxim applies). However, I do find it amusing that you think ad orientem worship’s validity hangs upon people having good manners or not. [C’mon. I don’t think that was his point.] What’s next? Folks who like ad orientem have bad breath, too, so obviously ad populum is just as good. Logic!

    With regard to understanding causality – cause and effect when dealing with human free will is an awfully tricky thing. Anyone who thinks otherwise ought to be commenting on a Calvinist web site instead of here.

    Incidentally, if “mercy, mercy, mercy” is all we need, then why is it Pope Francis who is going out of his way to sweep the deck of traditional-minded liturgists in the Congregation vice letting things remain? Shouldn’t he be instead focused completely on doling out “mercy, mercy, mercy”? Cardinal Sarah hasn’t even used his official office to push any liturgical changes, and your accusing him of being the one stirring the pot? But, hey, Logic!

    Hmmmm . . . . logic. I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

  62. MWindsor says:

    We are living through the Great Apostasy. May God have mercy on us all.

  63. discens says:

    Fr.Z. Thanks very much for your responses. I read them with interest. I particularly liked what you said about the parish you are at on weekends. There you actually give some evidence. It needs to be weighed of course with other evidence from elsewhere, but it’s a start. I am however puzzled as to why you think I insulted anyone. [Because you did.] I described people’s behavior — based on observable features of their posts — and I adverted to certain facts of Church authority. I issued no insults. [Yes, you did. And as the Benevolent Dictator, the Barkeep of the Saloon and Unicus Arbiter Elegantiarum of this blog, that’s that.] Anyway my point is simple. If people want to say that ad orientem is good or better and ad populum bad or worse they had better say why and back it up with relevant evidence. You and Fr. Kelly at least tried to give some such evidence, for which I am grateful. However, as you also say, getting the evidence, or sufficient and fair evidence, is not going to be easy. So in the meantime we should at least conclude that the case against ad populum is unproved. [No, we shouldn’t conclude that at all.] Anyway, this post began with Pope Francis and Cardinal Sarah. Distress was expressed at what Pope Francis did. I wanted to know why, which led to this dispute about ad populum. [YOU started the dispute.] The result of all the comments, including your own, is that the distress is, so far, unwarranted. [You’ve mixed up a couple issues. How Pope Francis governs his Curia is one thing. The issue of ad orientem worship, which I chose to talk about on my blog, may or may not be related to Francis’ latest moves. Your planet’s yellow star doesn’t give me powers to read his mind. I chose to talk about that because I think it is important to talk about… an promote. To my mind, the reasons for and benefits from ad orientem worship are manifold and obvious. Perhaps those of a disputatious bent, with their own notions and tastes will disagree. My hope is that they, who ever they are, will come around. The stakes are too high right now not to do all that we can to revitalize our sacred worship. That’s what ad orientem worship can help to do.]

  64. Tom A. says:

    If it means good bye to the Novus Ordo…

  65. Fr. Kelly says:

    A quick note to congratulate WVC, the Masked Chicken, Thomas777, and Katholos for your generous concern for a fellow Christian who claims to be a learner (discens). I myself entered into the effort to help him as well but now he has revealed himself as an agent provocateur. Having introduced himself as a “Christefidelis in the pews” he finally reveals that he does not make any distinction between Orthodox and Catholic Liturgies, and admits that his “experience has been largely with the former”.
    It is a waste of time and energy to debate matters of Church liturgy and internal governance with one who does not acknowledge the Church’s authority over himself.

    Thank you, Fr. Z for stepping as well. This will be my last post on this matter.

  66. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    discens said (1 yesterday at 1:17 AM), “if […] ad populum did make such a difference the Church would never have approved”. As far as I’ve been able to learn, ‘versus populum ad orientem’ is very ancient where Churches were built with the apse in the west. What evidence is there that ‘ad populum’ was ever anything other than ‘versus populum ad orientem’? What evidence is there that ‘versus populum’ was ever understood as anything other than ‘versus populum ad orientem’: one of the concrete possible varieties of ‘ad orientem’? Just as, where a Church is so built that the apse is neither at the eastern or western end, celebration ‘ad apsidem’ is a notional evocation of ‘ad orientem ad apsidem’, ‘versus populum’ in such a Church could equally be an evocation of ‘versus populum ad orientem’. (I’d be interested in historical data concerning any such notional ‘versus populum ad orientem’ in practice: what do we know, or seem to know?)

    What is the historical evidence of any discussion of a ‘versus populum’ distinct from ‘versus populum ad orientem’?

    Does this, for example, first appear as part of the polemics of various 16th-c. ‘Reformations’? Does it become topical in some historical ‘liturgical movement’ or other? Pius Parsch, for example (in what little I’ve read of him) clearly thinks of ‘versus populum’ in terms of Ordo Romanum I and the practice at St. Peter’s, for example – at least in the first instance. (I’d like to know more about how he discusses any extrapolation – e.g., to notional ‘versus populum ad orientem’.)

    What, if any, official documents of the past, say, 61 years, unambiguously address ‘versus populum’ as something other than (notional) ‘versus populum ad orientem’?

    How many people (a catechesis question?) perceive ‘versus populum’ in terms of one of the forms of ‘ad orientem’? How has it come about, that any fail to see it as such?

  67. Henry Edwards says:

    discens: “Fr. Kelly’s anecdotes are, well, anecdotal, and can be matched by anecdotes I’ve heard that go the other way.”

    I wonder whether you or anyone else could actually cite a creditable anecdote that “goes the other way.” At any rate, in well over a century of attending all kinds of Masses in all kinds of parishes in several different dioceses and regions of the U.S., I’ve never witnessed a situation in which the reverence–in whatever ordinary sense of that word–of a versus populum congregation matched that which is invariably observed in an ad orientem congregation.

  68. WVC says:

    Thank you Fr. Z., and I gladly(!) yield the floor on this one. I think it’s obvious from my last post that I was starting to struggle with maintaining an even keel. Time to take a break from the comment box!

  69. discens says:

    Fr. Z. You say the reasons for and benefits from ad orientem worship are manifold and obvious. I never denied it. [That’s not the impression that you left me.]
    I doubted the claim that ad populum is bad and causes bad (or that there are no reasons for or benefits from ad populum), and that the cure for the bad is ad orientem. [“The” cure is, I think, your phrase.]
    I asked for evidence. Very little evidence has been forthcoming. [I don’t think, on the other hand, that you’ve offered any evidence to the contrary.]
    What has been forthcoming is, for the most part, annoyance, irrelevance, and misinterpretation. Fr. Kelly’s response is the latest misinterpretation. [If you are being consistently misinterpreted by a fairly wide range of people, perhaps the problem lies in your presentation rather than in their apprehension. It’s a possibility.]
    I am a Catholic and attend Catholic mass regularly. I am not an Eastern Orthodox. My experience of Byzantine liturgies (not my experience simpliciter as Fr. Kelly supposes) has been largely with Eastern Orthodox churches and not Byzantine Catholic churches. That’s all. I have, nevertheless, learnt a lot from the discussion, especially about people who write on blogs that favor ad orientem. [And now you return to the ad hominem, the insult. There is no other way to take your interjection of this point just before you say good bye.]
    What I haven’t learnt is why ad populum is so bad and ad orientem so much better, or why we should be at all disturbed by Pope Francis’ recent actions. [It may be that you haven’t tried to learn much. Instead, you’ve looked for what you perceive as flaws in arguments.]
    Salvete. Finis. [Yes, that may be the best position at this point. Vale.]

  70. Father G says:

    Just saw a posting online that Archbishop Piero Marini has suffered a debilitating stroke.

  71. un-ionized says:

    Henry, my former parish would fit your requirements. Facing the people, as reverent as anything. Upper Midwestern capital city.

  72. Lucas Whittaker says:

    There is a word derived from Koine–as well as Classical–Greek that could be useful when pondering the above dissagreement: ???????????? [kalos-ka??at?ós], “at once beautiful AND true”. Beauty has a form. When that form is askew then the truth of the subject in question is also skewed. It might be helpful to ask yourself certain questions, the correct answers to which give meaning to the way that Father faces during the Mass, lending proper form to beauty, whence: speaking to truth. “To whom are the prayers of the liturgy directed?” “Is Father leading us in these prayers, mediating for the gathered ecclesia?” “Is he addressing the prayers to the ecclesia?” “Is Father there to worship WITH us?” “Or is he there to address us?” The correct answer to questions such as these will speak to the beauty and truth of the liturgical reality in question. For example, I might beleive that the cubist paintings of the Spanish artist, Pablo Picasso, are beautiful, but I would have to admit that his human figures do not correctly represent the human form that God imparted to manb therefore the truth is missing from that artwork. Only my preferrence and opinion remain. St. Paul tells us in the epistle to the Romans: “From the creation of the world God’s invisible attributes–His eternal power and divine nature–have been accessible to human knowledge through what can be perceived…” (1:20). The truly beautiful things around us are meant to direct our very being to God. As Aristotle puts it in the beginning of The Metaphysics, “…of all the senses [sight] most enables us to know and reveals many diffetences between things.” He goes on to express that wisdom involves seeking the order of one thing to another. We should take care that what we are accustomed to or find preferrence in does not replace the truth of things.

  73. PTK_70 says:

    @discens…Should you find yourself in America’s northernmost capital city, I’d welcome the chance to move the conversation forward in person in the hopes of forging some sort of consensus or finding some common ground. I have been known to sing in the Cathedral choir.

  74. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    To vary my last comment a bit, I note Maurice Hassett writes in his 1911 “Orientation of Churches” article in the old Catholic Encyclopedia that “the great Roman Basilicas of the Lateran, St. Peter’s, St. Paul’s (originally), St. Lorenzo’s, as well as the Basilica of the Resurrection in Jerusalem and the basilicas of Tyre and Antioch, reversed this rule by placing the apse in the western extremity” and “In the Orient the eastern apse was the rule, and thence it made its way to the West through the reconstructed Basilica of St. Paul’s, the Basilica of S. Pietro in Vincoli, and the celebrated basilica of Ravenna. From the eighth century the propriety of the eastern apse was universally admitted”.

    Is there any evidence that with any Church with east-west alignment, strict ‘ad orientem’ was not the practice – even with, e.g., “the Basilica of the Resurrection in Jerusalem and the basilicas of Tyre and Antioch” – in which cases it was ‘versus populum ad orientem’?

    Is there (to borrow the terminology of Gregory Dix) any form of ‘the shape of the liturgy’, any rite, in which ‘ad orientem’ was not the practice? And what do those with other (Eastern) rites do today – ‘ad orientem ad apsidem’ where apse is east, notional ‘ad orientem ad apsidem’ where the alignment is nothing much like east-west, – and ‘versus populum ad orientem’ where the apse is in the west?

  75. The Masked Chicken says:

    I know that this post became contentious after awhile, but I really was very dizzy last week (I suspect it was low blood pressure), so I could not properly respond about the issue of cause and effect in ad orientem worship, but I spend the entire week thinking about it and I now have a pretty comprehensive answer based on empirical sciences. The question is: is it too late to write anything? Should I let the matter lie until another time? I don’t want to open old wounds, but I have found plenty that has never been discussed, before. Maybe I will write an article, although I have no idea who would publish it.

    The Chicken

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