Cardinal Burke set a very good example yesterday by celebrating the Mass of Ages facing the people. He did so because he was celebrating in the old Roman Basilica of S Nicolas in the Prison, which is oriented so that Facing The People is Facing East.
Facing East is what the Fathers of East and West thought was not only proper but pretty well essential. But I know of no evidence whatsoever that it mattered to them whether, as they faced East, they were facing towards the people or away from the people. It isn't easy to prove negatives, but my instinct is that all the arguments modern traditionalists have dreamed up for the importance of priest and people all facing in the same direction were unknown in the first millennium. I would be genuinely interested to see if someone could falsify this instinct of mine. One reason I write this blog is so that I can test things out.
Sometimes people talk about "the ritual East". That's a natural thing to do when the church concerned is facing neither East nor West, like quite a lot of Catholic churches built in the last few centuries in constricting urban spaces. I don't mind the phrase except when it is being used by someone who is in a church so oriented, and decently so furnished, that he could very easily face East ... but doing so would mean that he was facing the people ... and the top all-important overriding priority in his mind is that he should at all costs have his back to the people ... even if that means he has to face West!!
I should make it clear that what I am talking about is not the horrid corrupt practice of putting a coffee-table as close as possible to the people and then standing facing them, with the altar uncluttered so that they can "see properly". When you celebrate facing East=facing the people in the Roman basilicas, there is very definitely no sense of chummy propinquity. You are under a baldachino; between Altar and Nave there is a confessio keeping the people a great distance away; you are probably up a flight of steps; the big baroque crucifix and candlesticks mean that they can barely see anything. In earlier Christian centuries, there would have been curtains all round (in circuitu) the Altar so that they never saw anything at all!! (Papal benefactors loved to donate the sets of four splendid curtains, and the metal hooks to hold them still survive in some old churches.) That is the nearest Western equivalent I know of celebrating in mystical invisibility behind a Byzantine Icon-screen!
Liberals are infested with their endless petty shibboleths and baseless liturgical fancies and fantasies. We should be careful that we don't have too many of our own quaint little fads.