Okay, on balance, I am impressed with Pope Francis. I think his homily’s are just what we need to hear. They are inspired and beautiful. I admire his courage and simplicity.
But I am uncomfortable with the Pope’s foot washing in the prison yesterday
I’m not the only one. Fr. John Fleming posted this comment on Facebook:
According to a report in The Australian, “Catholic traditionalists are likely to be riled by the inclusion of women because all of Jesus’ disciples were male — the same justification used to explain why only men can be Catholic priests.”
Well, not only traditionalists. The liturgy clearly states that the washing of feet is to be carried out on men (viri selecti). Question: what is the lawmaker doing breaking the law? Seems he has been used to doing this in BA. But by what authority? And if the Pope won’t obey the law of the Church, how can he enforce it? Just asking.
I have not been keen on the reaction over at Rorate-Caeli and the blog’s drum beat of doom and gloom since Pope Francis was elected, but I do think the blog has a point regarding this liturgy.
Of course the optional mandatum is something that, while widely symbolic of the link between Christ and His Apostles, is ruled by pure Ecclesiastical Law, not Divine Law, and, regarding it, the Supreme Legislator can do (almost) as he pleases, even remove its presence from a liturgical environment. As long as there are specific standing rules about it (viri, men), however, even the Supreme Authority is bound to humbly obey them, unless he formally changes them beforehand. It really is not that hard to understand this basic matter of legal logic, is it?
Please, do NOT even think of offering to wash my feet in any Ordinariate liturgy, unless the liturgy has been properly changed and approved. (Then, if approved, I might have to consider getting a pedicure beforehand).
Otherwise, if I see a move towards ‘anything goes,’ I will start saying loudly, “May the Lord receive this sacrifice at THY hands to the praise and glory of His Name etc. . . .” if you get my drift, since I do not like the sudden jarring contemporary English in our Anglican Use liturgy for this part of the Mass (CDF, I hope you plan on fixing that).
And I will go and personally replace the RSV lectionary with a honking King James Bible (with Apocrypha of course). Hey, if even the Pope isn’t obeying the rules, why should I? Grumble, grumble.
The Mass has attracted some criticism, however. In 2012, the detention center housed 251 inmates. Of those, 172 were male and 79 were female. The inmates are Italian and foreign. Some of them come from Africa. This suggests that there are Christians as well as non-Christians housed there. The Vatican’s press office announced that “the pope will wash the feet of twelve of [the inmates], who will be chosen from different nationalities and diverse religious confessions.” And therein lies the rub.
Some Catholics have registered disapproval with the fact that the pope will be washing the feet of women and individuals of “diverse religious confessions.” In their defense, both the Roman Missal and the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (CDWDS) instruct that the feet of men (viri) alone are to be washed. For instance, the CDWDS document Paschales Solemnitatis of 1988 observes: “The washing of the feet of chosen men which, according to tradition, is performed on this day, represents the service and charity of Christ, who came ‘not to be served, but to serve’ (Matt XX: 28).” It adds that “this tradition should be maintained, and its proper significance explained.” On these grounds, some Catholics allege that the pope is abusing the tradition in washing the feet of women, let alone non-Christians.
But, lest one become lost in minutiae, we are talking about the pope, here. The 1983 Code of Canon Law states that “the bishop of the Roman Church, in whom continues the office given by the Lord uniquely to Peter, the first of the Apostles, and to be transmitted to his successors, is the head of the college of bishops, the Vicar of Christ, and the pastor of the universal Church on earth. By virtue of his office he possesses supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church, which he is always able to exercise freely” (1983 CIC c. 331). Of course, there are things that no pope could ever do. For instance, popes can neither ordain women to the priesthood nor consecrate invalid matter at the altar. But we’re talking about an optional rite—the so-called mandatum—and not one of those things.
So, what if the Pope decided to have open Communion, too? (Was there a Mass at the detention centre? Were these selected people invited to the Mass?) I personally liked it when we had open Communion at the Annunciation back in the days it was part of the Traditional Anglican Communion. If you believed in Real Presence you were welcome. Had I been told 12 years ago I was not welcome to receive communion I would probably have been offended and not stayed to become a member and would therefore have missed out on the great catechesis I received as well as eventually becoming Catholic of the Anglican Use. I remember thinking at the time how much I needed Christ’s Body and Blood to help me lead a Christian life and to believe in the right way and that it seemed kind of strange that those outside the Catholic Church were supposed to somehow find that grace to get all cleaned up and believe all the right things before they were allowed to Communion.
But then, part of that catechesis was to start thinking with the Church—(not merely with selected phrases from a particular pope’s encyclicals, mind you!) —and now that that has been drummed into my rebellious heart, I am now of a different point of view, even though I realize these are hard teachings for those who would feel excluded.
Oh, I especially did not like the fact that the people who benefited from the footwashing seemed to be chosen by some kind of focus group sent from the European Union’s Bureau of Political Correctness and Diversity.
Okay, on the plus side, here’s what is good about the liturgy. It’s a sign that the Pope is a servant of all and a sign that all of us, male, female, of whatever race or religion, are made in the image of God. It’s a sign the Pope is a servant of all mankind, not just Catholics. That’s good.