Does it really matter which way the priest faces when he celebrates Mass? For more than 40 years, priests in most parishes have faced the laity as they celebrate the Mass. We have two generations of Catholics who think this was the way it was all along. In fact the priest facing the same direction as the laity has about 1800 years of tradition, if not longer, both in the Eastern Rite and Western Rite of the Church.
The move, almost universally amongst Latin Rite Catholics, after Vatican II to face the people was a part of the theology that emerged that everything that the priest does at the altar should be heard, seen and understood. Any hint of mystery (which the Mass truly is) was to be eliminated to make the Mass intelligible to the laity.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for the Mass being understood by the laity and I do believe that a good number of faithful Catholics prior to Vatican II understood what the Mass was. But it does seem that the call for "noble simplicity" that was actually carried out by subsequent Vatican documents went beyond noble simplicity to "ignoble" simplicity.
But apart from that, having the priest face the people was a very peculiar novelty even if there was a brief precedence for it in the "home churches" of apostolic times.
What is even more disturbing is that the "spirit" of Vatican II (not Vatican II) de-emphasized the priestly character of the priest as acting in the "person of Christ" at the altar and thus as mediator between God and the laity. In fact, the priest represents both the laity and Jesus the High Priest at the altar. His priestly role of offering sacrifice and mediation is essential to the validity of the Mass which he does in the "Person of Christ" and in the name of the laity which he represents in his person as well.
When the priest joined in the same direction as the laity whom he represents at the altar, it didn't matter who the priest was. His particular gifts, his personality, his looks had no bearing on the celebration whatsoever, save his ability to sing and preach. But even with preaching and singing, the laity understood these as secondary to the sacrifice of Christ which the priest offered.
Now with the priest facing the people, his personality is essential in the minds of many. How he looks, comports himself, even his own pious demeanor all are important for what is perceived to be a "good" liturgy. It all hinges on the priest, not his unique role of representing both the laity and Christ, but how he looks and how he acts. In this mindset, the more personality that the priest shows, the more he improvises and makes the Mass his own, the more successful he is at being a "good" presider.
This post-Vatican II novelty, not really intended by Vatican II or even subsequent liturgical documents has led in many parishes and dioceses to the "cult" of the personality. The priest facing the same direction as those he represents at the altar would correct this egregious development in the Church and return all priests at the altar to a more egalitarian brotherhood.