Posted on 17 July 2016 by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf
If email were rain, I’d be soaked. I was sent an image of a letter sent by Bp. Anthony Taylor of Little Rock, Arkansas, to priests. In this letter, the Bishop says that he “expects” that Mass always be celebrated “facing the people”.
CCWatershed has a good summary of this sad new development and an image of the letter with the relevant text highlighted.
Here’s the problem.
Bp. Taylor cites a letter of 12 July 2016 from the head the USCCB’s liturgy committee, Bp. Serratelli, in the wake of Card. Sarah’s personal plea to priests to say Mass ad orientem. Once again, however, Serratelli cited the English MISTRANSLATION of GIRM 299, incorrectly asserting that 299 says that it is preferable that Mass be celebrated “facing the people”. That is NOT what 299 says.
Based on this error, Bp. Taylor then states that he “expects” that the Ordinary Form will be “facing the people”.
He “expects” that. He can’t mandate or command that. Why?
On 10 April 2000, the Congregation for Divine Worship issued an official response about this matter:
This dicastery wishes to state that Holy Mass may be celebrated versus populum or versus apsidem. Both positions are in accord with liturgical law; both are to be considered correct.
There is no preference expressed in the liturgical legislation for either position. As both positions enjoy the favor of law, the legislation may not be invoked to say that one position or the other accords more closely with the mind of the Church.
In a nutshell, bishops can’t overrule universal laws, including rubrics.