Thursday, March 28, 2013

Pope Francis washes the feet of inmates in juvenile prison

ROME – Since he was elected leader of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis has proved many times over that he wants to break away from clerical privilege, come down from St. Peter’s throne and act as a humble servant of the faithful.

And on Holy Thursday he reinforced the idea that he will champion social outcasts and the poor by washing the feet of a dozen young inmates in a juvenile detention center.

The washing of feet is an important religious rite on Holy Thursday -- the day Christianity celebrates Jesus’ Last Supper ahead of his crucifixion -- as it re-enacts Christ’s humble gesture toward his disciples before the meal.
Read the rest here.

Predictably the traddies are having a stroke over this. Seriously, take a look at some of the commentary over at Rorate (here and here). The Pharisaical legalism is breathtaking. In fairness I am a little disturbed by this Pope's reputation (which seems to be accurate) for having little regard for liturgy. But neither did John Paul II.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is wonderful. I'd be willing to live with some liturgical laxity in our Orthodox Church if we could see a wee bit of Christ like behavior from our Bishops here in the US. I hope they are burning with shame right now - I know that I am.

Alice Linsley said...

Ditto, Anon.

Teena Blackburn said...

Washing the feet of (non-Christian) women is a pretty serious liturgical abuse within the context of the Holy Thursday Mass. I don't question his motives. I question his discernment and his commitment to liturgical norms. Lex orandi, lex credendi. It may seem like a small thing, but it isn't.

Fr. Benedict Crawford said...
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Samn! said...

Regarding the idea of the pope doing things like this "for show", isn't that the point? That is, once someone is in an office like this, isn't their role to symbolically model Christian behavior?

Fr. Benedict Crawford said...
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Anonymous said...

I can see this both ways: flouting the liturgical law of one's own church is certainly troubling; but the pope's insistence on leaving the sheep safe at home and heading for the margins for the rest is provoking. Is it significant that he went out to them? I mean, he didn't try to do this at St Peter's - I assume he could have done?

Teena Blackburn said...

The fundamental issue is the Liturgy is NOT a tool for evangelism (primarily), nor is it primarily for those outside Christianity. The Liturgy is for the household of faith-it assumes the people there are believers. Of course one should show compassion, be evangelistic, go to the margins, seek to show Christ to everyone and bring everyone to Christ-but the Liturgy is not the tool that does that. It's not a photo-op nor is it a political or social statement.

CJ said...

I don't have a dog in this fight, and I admittedly enjoy an occasional round of "Laugh at the Traddies," but in this case I'm on their side.

There are dozens of ways he could show solicitude for the least of these without breaking his church's rules. Were there no soup kitchens or blood banks that could've used a pair of hands? Even if he specifically wanted to "hug the leper" he could've helped turn some bed-ridden patients or emptied some bed pans.

Unlike Jesus healing on the Sabbath, he broke the rules for no practical purpose, when there were plenty of practical ways to help that wouldn't have run afoul of the rubrics. Seems like a bizarre choice.

Apostolus said...

"It's not a photo-op nor is it a political or social statement."

Not knowing the truth, I would prefer to think that it wasn't rather than assume that it was.

Teena Blackburn said...

It has to be something other than what the Mandatum means in the context of the rite. I don't know what the Pope was thinking, but he wasn't true to the rubrics, and in his actions he changed the meaning of the ritual. As I said, the Liturgy is not for the evangelization of non-believers. What could possibly be the symbolic meaning of washing a non-Christian woman's feet in this context? Whatever good thing he meant to do, that's NOT what that particular ritual is for. I assume then, he was trying to make some other sort of statement.

Fr. Benedict Crawford said...
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solzemli said...

Pope Francis was able to garner a fair amount of media attention from this act because Christ-like love and humility is always shocking and moving. The liturgical rubrics are important, but in this case would have failed to inspire the sort of emotions that the pope’s actions did. Thank God that during this holy time Pope Francis was able to give the whole world a glimpse of Christ’s love.

Anonymous said...

"What could possibly be the symbolic meaning of washing a non-Christian woman's feet in this context? "

Really, this says it all: if you can't discern what the symbolic meaning of this action might mean, then I guess it would be best to just let this thread die. But surely you recognize the symbolism of Christ washing even the feet of Judas?

Teena Blackburn said...

Don't be rude. I can easily guess the symbolic meaning of his act, and in any other context I would think it lovely. My question is asking what it could mean given that it takes place in a context that already has a spelled out meaning. The mandatum is tied to Christ's washing the feet of his disciples-it is tied to the foundation of the Eucharist and the sacramental priesthood. That's why the symbolism of washing a non-Christian woman's feet is so terribly, terribly, "off." The act is not compatible with the given meaning of the ritual. There is much need of Christ's love and compassion in the world-you just don't need to do violence to the meaning of set liturgical acts in order to accomplish that, and , in fact, treating liturgical acts as if they can be altered at whim is damaging. Anyone who has lived through decades of horrible liturgy because of the "make it up as you go along" attitude of many clergy should know this. There is no contradiction between liturgical integrity and the compassion of the Lord. Fidelity to the integrity of set liturgical rituals is also a sign of humility and a manifestation of love for Christ and his Church.

Tawser said...

As an ex-Catholic (now Orthodox) let me suggest what this might mean for the people in the pews. Priests who like to turn the Mass into an exercise in improvisational theater now have the papal example as ammunition in support of their antics. And priests who, despite the objections of "progressive" Catholics, have attempted to uphold the idea of liturgical law, have been stabbed in the back by the "Supreme Legislator." As others have said, we are back to the '70s and the heroic efforts of Catholics over the past 50 years to restore dignity and order to the Mass have been rendered null. The sound you hear is that of the Roman Rite expiring. Again. And to my Catholic friends who are wondering when I intend to go "home," I respond, "When the Vatican freezes over."

Fr. Theodore Phillips said...

If the Pope or any other clergyman wishes to wash the feet of prisoners, the sick, unbelievers, and yes, women, it would be more effective to do it in another context, perhaps before a shared, non-liturgical meal.

Even at a purely social level(never mind theological level)doing this in the context of the Maundy Thursday Liturgy causes discomfort. I have to wonder (and perhaps the Muslim guests did, too): What "meaning" does it convey when you wash someone's feet (an act of welcome as a prelude to sharing a meal) and then exclude them from the meal itself? This is, of course, presuming he did not offer the Muslim women Holy Communion, which I have not seen reported.

I respect the Pope's intentions, and agree that many of our American Orthodox Bishops should ponder them in their own ministries, but I also suspect this particular expression of the good intentions was ill-advised.

It isn't for me to question or judge his "humility." I have enough to worry about given my own lack of that virtue. But he has given the impression of either not understanding, or deliberately contradicting the meaning of the liturgical act (which is about preparing the Apostles to take on the mantle of self-sacrificial servant leadership, which is sealed in the Eucharist over which they are to preside in love). In the liturgical context - no less than the social context - the "washing" is preparatory to the "eating," i.e. Holy Communion. When its fulfillment is denied, the washing itself loses most of its meaning and becomes simply a "gesture." I hope that the Pope (and my own bishops) could do better than that.

Fr Theodore

Anonymous said...

Fr. Z has an interesting take on this.

http://wdtprs.com/blog/2013/03/what-is-pope-francis-really-saying/


Anonymous said...

"The sound you hear is that of the Roman Rite expiring."

Uh. OK. Folks say that every 500 years or so.

Anonymous said...

The rite itself is optional, in the Latin rite, so no the Pope did not break any rubrics, and no he is not going to ordain women.

This is just about service, not priests.


He is saying a pox on both your houses. Nobody wins. My views are somewhere in the middle so This is fun!


Savvy