Den kjente (og ikke spesielt konservative) liturgen og jesuitten John F. Baldovin skriver i magasinet America om hva som er fakta og hva som er misforståelsen når det gjelder prestens retning foran alteret, bl.a.:
Turning toward the East, or ad orientem, is technical liturgical language for the priest and people facing in the same direction. The suggestion is nothing new. The decision to allow Mass facing the people has had its opponents since it was allowed shortly after the end of the Second Vatican Council. And more recently it has been championed by none less than Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in his many writings on the liturgy. …
… Opponents of Mass facing the people often point out that the Second Vatican Council’s “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy” contains no provision for the practice. They are correct. The issue was discussed in the commission that produced the document as well as in the debates on the floor of the council. … But shortly after the constitution was approved in December 1963, the first instruction for implementing the reform appeared. “Inter Oecumenici” (1964) stated: “The main altar should preferably be freestanding, to permit walking around it and celebration facing the people. …
The alert reader will observe several things. First, the altar is described as both the place where the “Sacrifice of the Cross is made present” and “the table of the Lord.” … Second, it is interesting to note that facing the people is not mandated. That is, it has never been forbidden, perhaps because too many chapels were built in such a way that having an altar separate from the wall was not architecturally feasible. Nonetheless, the preference is clear that the main altar of a church is to be separated from the wall to make Mass facing the people possible.
Another “fiction” that is sometimes repeated is that the General Instruction presumes that the priest will face East. Critics point to four points in the description of the Mass (Nos. 124, 146, 157 and 165) when the priest is directed to turn towards the people. Two cautions are appropriate here. These directives may be in place to deal with the possibility that the priest can face East, in which case the Instruction makes clear that there are times when he must face the people. But the document does not direct the priest to turn around again to the altar after the prayer over the gifts and the eucharistic prayer—that is, it does not presume that he will be facing East.
One last fact: At the time of Vatican II some argued that the original position of the priest was facing the people. This, too, seems to have been a fiction. All of the evidence we have from the early church shows that facing East whence the Lord was expected to make his final coming was expected. In church building that could not be oriented (e.g., St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome) the priest faced East, which was also toward the people.
Baldovin skriver en hel del mer i denne artikkelen, bl.a. om hvorfor dette spørsmålet er blitt så veldig viktig i Kirken i vår tid: “A reversion to the pre-conciliar position of the priest at Mass would be a profound signal that the forward steps the church took in Vatican II are in question.”