One of the things that happened then was that the altar 'got turned around.' Instead of the priest facing the altar with his back to the congregation, he was facing the altar, and the folks in the pews.
Some Catholics at the time who had grown up with the older ways and realized that there was something drastically wrong with some of the new practices, like keeping the consecrated Host in a cloth bag between Masses, figured that the priest facing the congregation was just one more bogus notion.
Interestingly, it wasn't. I know about the pre-Vatican II practices at Mass, and the new ones. I sort of like the older traditions. But that's not the way we do it now, in America.
And, that's okay. The Catholic Church takes local culture into account, and I suspect that's part of what was going on in this case. It looks like the locals here really didn't like having the priest face away from them - and, more to the point, might be getting the wrong idea about what was going on.
It's like the ban on liturgical dance in Catholic churches - in the West. Elsewhere, it's a good idea: and encouraged.
Maybe the Church decided that the locals here in America and other places had to have another one of their cultural foibles accommodated, about where to put the priest.
- "Accommodating Indigenous Cultures: Including Ours"
(January 10, 2010)
- "Documents of the Vatican II Council"
- "The Arrangement and Furnishing of Churches for the Celebration of the Eucharist"
Committee on Divine Worship, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
- "The Different Forms of Celebrating Mass"
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops