The war on Mass “ad orientem”.

And so it begins.

This just in from a reader…

My bishop (Venice in Florida) has just (via a letter to his priests) forbidden the use of ad orientem in any Novus Ordo Masses with a congregation. He asserts that the Novus Ordo mandates versus populum and that any other interpretation is false.


It would be interesting to see that letter, wouldn’t it.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Pingback: The war on Mass “ad orientem”. – Via Nova Media

  2. Lurker 59 says:

    Bears repeating — TCs attack on TLM really is just opening moves against what remains of Roman and Apostolic elements in the NO.

  3. Chrisc says:

    How interesting! I would be pleased to see the precise wording and the citation from Sacrosanctum Concilium if that is what the bishop is referring to.

    I think time will show that TC is really ordered not to hurting traditionalists, but toward the mutual enrichment crowd. If Francis had wanted to hurt the former, he could have said the TLM is great but doesn’t fulfill ones Sunday obligation. That would have made traditionally minded people go to both liturgies, bitbof course that would spur the discussions of mutual enrichment. Quel horreur! But instead, priests are regulated regarding bination, the masses get moved, they aren’t able to be publicized, etc. This makes it inconvenient, but not impossible for the determined.

  4. B says:

    I suspect the bishop is probably resorting to the bit where he has liturgical authority as head of a diocese to make this decision.

    I’ve been disappointed in “conservative” dioceses since I’m not aware of a single diocesan bishop stand on the fact that Ad Orientem was not forbidden by V2 and promote the proper Mass orientation in all of their parishes. Sure there has been an occasional priest allowed to do so or even a bishop may have offered Mass this way occasionally but nothing more than that.

    If more good bishops had encouraged ALL their priests in the use of Latin and the Ad Orientem direction and offered Mass as V2 had properly envisioned, that would have been grand.

  5. Boniface says:

    During all of this controversy I am seeing a disturbing lack of awareness by many, including among defenders of ad orientem like myself (not so much on this blog, but generally) of the fact that the Novus Ordo Missal ASSUMES that ad orientem is NORMATIVE by default – and it always has. Anyone who has two seconds can crack a copy of the missal open and see that quite clearly for themselves: the rubrics state (in roughly all the same places that it happens in the Vetus Ordo, incidentally) that the priest, “turning to face the people….” or “facing the altar,” shall do or say x, y, z.

    Can a bishop, invoking his general authority over liturgy, restrict legitimate options, such as ad orientem, that are already *built into* the missal itself? I don’t know the answer, but it would seem to be problematic.

    One more thing – how on earth (rhetorical question) did a physical posture so basic and intrinsic to Catholic worship become so quickly politicized around fifty years ago? It’s truly bizarre.

  6. Dave P. says:

    I suppose His Excellency is saying that the Pope Emeritus ‘s preference for ad orientem is false, then? Or that Brompton Oratory and St. Agnes in St. Paul have been getting it wrong the past fifty years? Or that St. John Paul II should never have celebrated his daily Masses the way he did? I suppose these points could be brought up to His Excellency, but I fear that the priest doing so would just find himself in more trouble for his efforts.

  7. Dave P. says:


    Bishop Conley in Lincoln, NE has done much to promote the ad orientem position for Mass.

  8. TonyO says:

    I have (mostly) ceased to be surprised now at just how badly formed and mis-educated most bishops have been. But what’s interesting about this particular failure is that it very likely represents some teacher holding forth an outright, bald-faced lie about the Novus Ordo. Since there is simply NOTHING in the Missale Romanum or the rubrical books stating the Mass should be versus populum, it cannot have started as a “misunderstanding” of an ambiguous point.

    As I understand it, a complete lack of directive in the rubrics stating explicitly that the priest should face the people implies that the priest should be doing what priests had been doing for 1500 years. The rubrics that tell the priest to “turn to the people” at the “Dominus vobiscum” implies (without ambiguity) that he should not be facing them before that moment. There is no rational way to turn these two facts into even so much as DOUBT about which way the priest should be facing most of the time: ad orientem.

    Nor is there even so much as a suggestion in the rubrics of an “option” for the priest on this point. It isn’t one of those zillion items left to the discretion of the celebrant of the Mass. There just isn’t a peg around on which to hang one’s hat for the theory that the Novus Ordo is “supposed” to be said versus populum.

    So, while the bishop (probably) is guilty of nothing more than being badly educated, some teacher in his past is (likely) just a liar. As a teacher myself, I spend a considerable part of my time distinguishing between the elements that are from other sources, and the elements that are my own guesses, opinions, and surmises. Teachers who teach everything (including their own extrapolations of doctrine) as if it were all gospel truth not only damage their students on the individual points, they also cause their students to become falsely dogmatic, even fundamentalists.

  9. B says:

    Dave P: No, Bishop Conley has OCCASIONALLY had Ad Orientem Masses in the diocese of Lincoln. He has not actively promoted this for all the parishes in the diocese. 99.9% of all Masses in the diocese of Lincoln are Masses oriented Versus Populum on a regular basis.

  10. Pingback: VVEDNESDAY EDITION – Big Pulpit

  11. Elizabeth D says:

    Maybe the point is that it’s now canonical to understand that the item about having detached altars was already disingenuous, insofar as it was said to be about solemn incensation only so the more “conservative” Council Fathers would not oppose it too much. Everyone had every reason to know that this was at least a Schrodinger’s cat scenario, insofar as the priest could be ad orientem or versus populum. So it seems like increased possibilities. But not so! If you actually observe the cat, “ad orientem” has to be either alive or dead. Not both.

    (no I do not think that makes sense)

  12. James C says:

    The letter is here:

    Meanwhile the same bishop permits New Age masses:

    Our Church is becoming a total joke! What kind old of Church has “shepherds” that allow all kinds of horrible things but ban good, traditional things with an iron fist?

    How are we supposed to persuade people to join a Church like this?

  13. Ave Maria says:

    My parish has all Masses ad orientem, thanks be to God. We love this stance.

  14. APX says:

    James C,

    That’s some hokey stuff going on in that Mass. I’d like to know where in the GIRM it talks about the “3 Deep Breaths” penitential rite and musical sound effects.

  15. aam says:

    My bishop. Sad. I wonder if most or all of the “offending” priests are at the chuch in Ave Maria?

  16. Fr. Charles A. F. says:

    Two words: ultra vires. Of course, it doesn’t need to be legal to be enforced, and brutally so…

  17. B says:

    James C said “How are we supposed to persuade people to join a Church like this?”

    Ding! Ding! Ding! It has become incredibly difficult to evangelize in these headwinds.

    Maybe the ‘shepherds’ consider the orthodox Catholics are such a minority nowadays that it doesn’t affect the diocesan financial bottom line… Perhaps their idea is to ‘open’ the faith to let all in because that translates to more $$$ and more allowable laxity on their part.

  18. B says:

    At least that thinking is beneficial to the Catholic Church in Germany with their draconian church tax setup.

  19. Uniaux says:

    In that letter, which James C supplied, the final paragraph more or less states: “Therefore priests… should not impose their own private choices when celebrating Mass with a congregation.”
    Makes me wonder: has he given directives for all of the various options permitted in the NO missal? ‘You must use this greeting, this penitential act, this Eucharistic prayer, this memorial acclamation, this secret prayer after the Agnus Dei, etc.’

  20. Kenneth Wolfe says:

    Although I could personally care less about the novus ordo, this letter is very surprising, as that bishop has been quite generous concerning the FSSP in his diocese. Very sad to see. Having said that, based on “ad orientem” being spelled “ad orientum” twice (!) in the letter, I do wonder how much thought was put into the matter, or if was even the bishop who wrote it.

  21. Kenneth Wolfe says:

    * or if it was even the bishop who wrote it

  22. Gaetano says:

    One challenge is the cognitive dissonance the letter engenders by asserting facts that informed people know to be untrue.

    I am at a loss as how to engage the authorities in such a situation. Their position is either woefully ignorant, deliberately obtuse, or intentionally deceptive.

    It is simply impossible offer obedience on this matter in the face of such false & erroneous premises.

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