The footwashing in the prison

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.

I also did not like this comment from First Things Magazine.

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.

Your thoughts?

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14 Responses to The footwashing in the prison

  1. TACit no more says:

    It seems to me the remark about needing to make a formal change to such a rule beforehand is exactly right. In fact Benedict XVI just did that prior to retirement with regard to the timing of events surrounding the conclave, so it could proceed as has just happened, without this sort of ‘rupture’ occurring. But it also looks like this act by pope Francis has fed into a lull in the news cycle – see for instance the headline even the Washington Times has managed to give this occurrence: “Pope Francis sparks outrage….” A definite attention grabber (but I didn’t read it 😉 )
    I agree the foot-washing-recipient choice sounds like focus group output! That might smack of undue American influence on the Vatican press……hmmmmm….. However it happened, it will probably now necessitate some sort of clarification.

  2. François-Robert Laliberté Fournbier says:

    The Pope is the AUTHORITY and taht is all!!!! Ther canon law was made by men. Lov and charity come from GOD. Who washs the fette of the LORD????? A woman. Point final à la ligne.

    • William Tighe says:

      “Ther canon law was made by men.”

      And promulgated by the Pope, so it is binding upon the Pope, as upon every other Catholic of the Latin Rite, unless and until the Pope alters it.

      • wayfarer says:

        Or unless he dispenses himself from it, which he has the power to do. If he can dispense married priests from clerical celibacy, a dispensation to wash the feet of two women is comparibly a piece of cake.

      • William Tighe says:

        But he didn’t.

  3. Rev22:17 says:

    Deborah,

    Your first quotation: 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.

    This diatribe represents a tragic misunderstanding of the relevant law. In the Catholic Church, whenever there is a disparity between the Latin text of the law and a vernacular translation thereof, it is the Latin text that binds. In the Latin language (and indeed also in each of the so-called “Romance” langages that evolved therefrom), the so-called “masculine” gender is NOT specifically masculine, but rather is also “inclusive” in that it is used for groups of both male and female and, in the singular case, if gender is unknown. the “feminine” case applies only when the use cannot refer to a male. Thus, in this instance, it is the translation to the English word “men” that is flawed, in that it excludes women when the Latin text does not. Either “adults” or “persons” would be a more accurate translation of the Latin text.

    We also need to remember that the legislator who promulgates ecclesastical law, or his successor, is also the authentic interpreter thereof. If there were any doubt, the legislator has made the authentic interpretation clear by his personal actions.

    From your third quotation: 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.

    The press release likely contained an error when it referred to “diverse religious confessions” unless all of the participants were Christians. In a prison in a predominantly Catholic country, it is very likely that non-Catholic Christians don’t have reliable access to a minister of their own denomination, and thus that they would fall within the scope of the canons that permit them to receive the sacraments of reconcilliation, communion, and anointing of the sick from Catholic ministers.

    But having said that, the Catholic church does not regard the mandatum as a sacrament. Thus, there would be no theological problem whatsoever even if some of those teens whose feet the pope washed happened not to be Catholic.

    From the same quotation: 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.

    Alas, this represents the same misunderstanding discussed above.

    You wrote: 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).

    I guess, from now on, you’ll need to get that pedicure beforehand. 🙂

    You wrote: 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.

    I rather hope that those who had their feet washed were chosen by drawing names from a hat or some other equitable method, and thus produced a sample that was representative of the whole congregation.

    The Catholic campus ministry at my alma mater is a thorn in the side of liberal officials in the administration, who don’t like the church’s stance (Natural Law) on moral issues. When circumstances compel them to come to some event, such as a funeral or a memorial service for a deceased Catholic student or alumnus, they see a group of students whose very broad diversity embodies their stated vision of the Institute — all because we are truly catholic as well as Catholic. The papal mass at the prison should likewise be truly catholic as well as Catholic.

    Norm.

    • William Tighe says:

      Norm wrote:

      “In the Latin language (and indeed also in each of the so-called “Romance” langages that evolved therefrom), the so-called “masculine” gender is NOT specifically masculine, but rather is also “inclusive” in that it is used for groups of both male and female and, in the singular case, if gender is unknown. the “feminine” case applies only when the use cannot refer to a male. Thus, in this instance, it is the translation to the English word “men” that is flawed, in that it excludes women when the Latin text does not. Either “adults” or “persons” would be a more accurate translation of the Latin text.”

      This is utterly and totally mistaken, as concerning the word “viri,” which means, and means only, a human being of the male sex. It is, of course, true as concerns the word “homines,” but in the relevant liturgical instructions concerning the Mandatum, it is the word “viri” that appears there, not “homines.” Cf. the distinction in Greek between “anthropos” and “aner.”

      • Dale says:

        Dr Tighe, what a translation really means is unimportant, it is what individuals WANT it to mean that matters. A case in point is the purposeful mistranslation of “et omnium circumstantium” to prove the case for Mass ad populum.

        In the end, it is the Pope who is Law, and he may do as he wishes…at least, as far as I know, there was no dancing Pinocchio puppet during the liturgy, and for that we should be thankful.

  4. Really/ Funny how the word (in English anyway) means ‘male only’ when the issues is exclusion and that it means both male and female in instances where we want it to like inclusive language as in bible translations of problematic verses. So it goes.

    • William Tighe says:

      Nonsense; Norm is mistaken, and so your snarky conclusion from it is without foundation.

    • Rev22:17 says:

      Matthew,

      You wrote: Funny how the word (in English anyway) means ‘male only’ when the issues is exclusion and that it means both male and female in instances where we want it to like inclusive language as in bible translations of problematic verses.

      Rather, contemporary translations of scripture avoid the use of the word “men” when the sense of the original text is inclusive. Indeed, this is one of the reasons why the magisterium holds the use of older translations, including the “Authorized Version” (often called the “King James Version”) to be problematic.

      Norm.

    • Sandra McColl says:

      See Dr Tighe’s comment above about the Latin. In English, ‘man’ is similar to ‘dog’ or ‘horse’–where the generic term is also the masculine, or where the masculine can also function generically. Or, indeed, ‘man’ meaning ‘human’ is like the German ‘Mensch’, while ‘man’ meaning the male is like the German ‘Mann’. The Latin has both a generic term (homo) and a specifically male term (vir), so no confusion arises.

  5. Pingback: The footwashing in the prison | Catholic Canada

  6. Dennis says:

    The response of the Assistant to the Director of the Vatican Press Office, sent today to journalists regarding Thursday’s Mass celebrated by Francis at the Juvenile Detention Center, “Casal del Marmo”.
    * * *
    “In response to the many questions and concerns raised over Pope Francis washing the feet of 12 young people at the Roman Juvenile Detention Centre on Holy Thursday evening, especially that two were young women, Fr. Lombardi has sent me the following information to be shared with you.

    One can easily understand that in a great celebration, men would be chosen for the foot washing because Jesus, himself washing the feet of the twelve apostles who were male. However the ritual of
    the washing of the feet on Holy Thursday evening in the Juvenile Detention Centre in Rome took place in a particular, small community that included young women. When Jesus washed the feet of
    those who were with him on the first Holy Thursday, he desired to teach all a lesson about the meaning of service, using a gesture that included all members of the community.

    We are aware of the photos that show Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, then-Archbishop of Buenos Aires, who in various pastoral settings washed the feet of young men and women. To have excluded the young women from the ritual washing of feet on Holy Thursday night in this Roman prison, would have detracted our attention from the essence of the Holy Thursday Gospel, and the very beautiful and simple gesture of a father who desired to embrace those who were on the fringes of society; those who were not refined experts of liturgical rules.

    That the Holy Father, Francis, washed the feet of young men and women on his first Holy Thursday as Pope, should call our minds and hearts to the simple and spontaneous gesture of love, affection, forgiveness and mercy of the Bishop of Rome, more than to legalistic, liturgical or canonical discussions.”

    So the Divine Mercy may trump legalism. It all sounds so familiar :
    “Ye have heard it said … but I say”
    Once more a man named Francis takes up the words and actions of Christ but , in our day, not il Poverello d’Assissi but rather Peter, the Steward of God’s Kingdom.

    Happy Easter to All!
    Dennis

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