Adversus Populum

It would seem that those who are eager to see the back of Vincent Nichols are to be cruelly disappointed.

The Cardinal has written to his clergy (contrary to a directive from Cardinal Sarah delivered at a recent London conference) strongly discouraging the ad orientem celebration of Mass.

Vincent cites the General Instruction to the Roman Missal para 299 against the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship. Learned Latinists, however, claim that the original Latin text is ambiguous and the English translation faulty.

The matter of celebration ad absidem, moreover, was apparently addressed in a reply by the CDW to a specific query (Prot. No 2036/00/L). The reply goes on:

However, whatever may be the position of the celebrating priest, it is clear that the Eucharistic Sacrifice is offered to the one and triune God, and that the principal, eternal, and high priest is Jesus Christ, who acts through the ministry of the priest who visibly presides as His instrument… It would be a grave error to imagine that the principal orientation of the sacrificial action is [toward] the community. If the priest celebrates versus populum, which is legitimate and often advisable, his spiritual attitude ought always to be versus Deum per Jesus Christum [toward God through Jesus Christ], as representative of the entire Church. The Church as well, which takes concrete form in the assembly which participates, is entirely turned versus Deum [towards God] as its first spiritual movement.

Since the versus populum position is (in respect of the ‘spiritual attitude’ of the priest celebrating) at best ambiguous, whilst the ad orientem posture is pellucidly clear,  the matter would seem to be settled in the Cardinal Prefect’s favour.

But the arguments will no doubt rage on. ‘The Spirit of Vatican II’ is not yet gasping for breath.

Meanwhile, in the Ordinariates (as Cardinal Sarah graciously pointed out), the dispute is a dead letter.


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