My other concern is Mautin’s notion of Christian leadership. If the priest faces the altar as a sign of leadership it means his back is to the people. For a Brit this is culturally rude -perhaps it isn’t in other places. But it codifies a sense of ‘Catch up with me.’ The leader on this model is Moses coming down from Sinai with the tablets, where no-one else has the same level of access to God. It stands for a deeply unreformed Catholicism.
Pastor Dave Faulkner, in his blog post entitled, The Pope, The Latin Mass and Judaism, made a very Protestant (hence, the torturing of Shakespeare’s prose in the title) error with the little tidbit about how a Roman Catholic priest stands.
It is a matter of perspective. If the priest stepped all the way back to the first pew, or even the last pew, or stayed where he was, he and the congregation are looking toward the same thing, God. Part of the Roman Catholic liturgy is that the priest, with his back to the congregation, is putting himself in the same place, subservient to God, as the congregation. God is on one side of the alter, and the priest and congregation are on the other.
Now, from that perspective, who is more arrogant (or rude), the Roman Catholic priest on the “fallen” side of the alter, or the Protestant pastor (or priest if Anglican/Episcopal) who is on God’s side of the alter?
I usually like Dave Faulkner’s stuff as it makes me think. I have a slight (okay, major) issue with many of the Protestant denominations decrying of Roman Catholic practices without (1) understanding or seeking to understand it from a Roman Catholic position, and (2) not have the historical context of knowing that a lot of Protestant practices (how small is this?) were put into place because they were the opposite (or just not like them) of the Roman Catholic practice.
I hope Dave can forgive me for picking on him.