By the time you read this article we will have celebrated our first “ad Orientem” Masses. In my last article, I pointed out the mistake that was made that led many liturgists to assume that the Mass until the 5th century was celebrated “versus populum”. Now we know it wasn’t—the first Masses “versus populum” occurred in 1969. There was no real tradition of “versus populum” in the Church, so then it comes as no surprise to find out that this innovation was never even discussed at Vatican II. It was not mandated from the council. It was added in later by those responsible for putting the reforms of the council into action, under heavy protest by the other bishops who belonged to the “plenary” of the Congregation of Divine Worship.
When the new missal came out in early 1969, it seems Blessed Paul VI didn’t investigate it very thoroughly, as a short time later he dismissed Archbishop Bugnini who had led the commission that put the missal together and the new liturgical calendar, and had him sent to Iran as Papal pro-nuncio. It was on June 29, 1972 that Blessed Paul VI made his famous declaration—seeing the havoc that the intentional misapplication of the council was causing in the Church—“Through some cracks the smoke of Satan entered the Church”. Here is a great article Ad Orientem Nunc! .
In the year 2000, Cardinal Schonborn of Vienna wrote to the Congregation of the Discipline of Divine Worship about “ad orientem” and received an affirmative response, in which the authorities in the congregation pointed out that #299 of the G.I.R.M. which seems to mandate the Mass “versus populum” is in reality just a suggestion and either way is licit.