MADISON, Wis., September 7, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — A U.S. bishop turned heads toward the "east" last weekend in his diocese and around the world with his announcement that he would be celebrating Mass ad orientem.
Bishop Robert Morlino told parishioners at St. Patrick Church during his homily on Sunday that he would begin in October to offer Novus Ordo Masses facing the altar when he is town. The Diocese of Madison uses St. Patrick and two other parishes as a substitute for the cathedral that burned down 10 years ago. “I'm planning for us in accord to the mind of God," he said.
The local ordinary is one of the first bishops in the Church to respond after a call by Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect for the Congregation for the Divine Worship in Rome, for Masses celebrated in the ancient tradition of facing toward God along with the congregation to become the norm beginning in Advent. That form of worship had been the “common orientation” in Catholic liturgy for more than 1,500 years until the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, when many priests took it upon themselves to turn around to face the people.
“The bishop's announcement at the Cathedral Parish was well received by the congregation there (his intended audience),” diocesan spokesman Brent King told LifeSiteNews in an email. “And with others finding out about it, we have received numerous notes of encouragement both from within and outside the diocese.
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.’”
Altare maius exstruatur a pariete seiunctum, ut facile circumiri et in eo celebratio versus populum peragi possit, quod expedit ubicumque possibile sit.
The BLS translation (which is now the GIRM translation):
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. (Emphases added)
The problem with the GIRM translation is that it gives the impression that it is celebration versus populum which is desirable, rather than the separation of the altar from the wall.
(Fr. Z's) version:
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. (Emphases added)
The Latin does not say that celebrations versus populum are desirable. It says that separation of the altar from the wall is desirable (or useful or fitting) wherever possible. The ut clause explains how far the altar should be from the wall by way of explaining the reason for a separation from the wall. It should be far enough from the wall so that someone can walk around the altar so that if there should be celebration for Mass versus populum the priest will have room.
In other words, since "separated" could technically be only a single centimeter, the paragraph makes the distance a little more specific: far enough so that Mass can be celebrated versus populum. Furthermore, this separation from the wall is not obligatory. It is fitting or useful or desirable wherever it is possible. It is not obligatory. (Neither is celebration of Mass versus populum, obviously.)