So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Stepping in it. Holy Thursday Foot Washing.

As many already are well aware, Pope Francis has changed the emphasis in the theological orientation of the rite of the washing of feet on Holy Thursday.
“Of course, as supreme legislator, the pope can (in theory) change the (canon) law any which way he desires,” Fr. Fessio acknowledged. “But the prototype is, of course, the Last Supper where Jesus washes the feet not of his disciples, not of people chosen randomly from the crowds but of the apostles, and tells them they should wash ‘one another’s’ feet. That is, ordained ministers should follow this example among themselves. Which is probably why, though the evidence for the rite in the early Church is very thin, we do know that in the 11th century the pope washed the feet of subdeacons. Certainly from the time of Trent (16th century) until 1955, the rite was not part of the Mass.
A balanced article by Diane Montagna at Aleteia conveys a message from Robert Cardinal Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, regarding Pope Francis' permission for women to be included in the foot washing ritual.

Cardinal Sarah makes clear that
Priests are not obligated to wash the feet of women during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday... .
The prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments told reporters in Rome on February 26 that every bishop or priest “has to decide in accord with his own conscience, and according to the purpose for which the Lord instituted this feast." (Let us hope that every bishop and priest takes ample time to properly form his conscience.)
The Pope's decision to permit—NOT to mandate without exception nor to refuse permission to keep the historical image—the inclusion of women in the foot washing rite is an unfortunate missed opportunity to refine Catholics' understanding of the nature of the ordained priesthood.

It is not difficult to imagine that the Holy Father's innovation will lead to confusion about the nature of the priesthood in a way that allows some people to conflate the service of the ordained with Christian service in general to push for the ordination of women to the diaconate and priesthood.
“One thing is certain,” Fr. Fessio said. “There is a ‘symbolic dissonance’ or disconnect. The humility and service of which Jesus gives an example is something every Christian owes everyone. Nevertheless, the historical origin of the example is Jesus’ washing of the feet of his 12 apostles. Trying to make the gesture more ‘inclusive’ than Jesus himself did simply muddles the historical image.”
Then again, truth be told, this Pope—not a professional theologian according to Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith—has emphasized a desire to create a muddle, a mess.
"Make a mess, but then also help to tidy it up. A mess which gives us a free heart, a mess which gives us solidarity, a mess which gives us hope," (Pope Francis) said to the tens of thousands of young people.—Newsweek
A mess which, perhaps more than he intends, tends to create confusion and fuel abuse instead of renewal. The problem is that too many people tend to be lazy and leave a mess of their making a mess for someone else to clean up.

Human communication, especially in this day and age of relativized language, is subject to every manner of distortion and misinterpretation even when spelled out in appropriate detail. Thus,
When permission was given for female altar servers, it was a permission given to bishops, not directly to priests (i.e., if a bishop so chose, he could permit the practice in the diocese). It was clear in the decree that no priest was required to have female servers, even if the bishop had given the permission. How was this treated? Many bishops insisted that the regular use of altar girls be normative for all Masses.


  1. Pretty sure I don't want to know what the directive is in these parts, but I'm also pretty sure I'm avoiding Maundy Thursday at St A's from here on in.

  2. On the first point, given certain associations, I cannot avoid knowledge. On the second point, likewise!


"A multitude of wise men is the salvation of the world(.)—Wisdom 6:24. Readers are welcome to make rational and responsible comments. Any comment that 1) offends human dignity and/or 2) which constitutes an irrational attack on the Catholic Faith will not go unchallenged. If deemed completely stupid, such a comment will most assuredly not see the light of day. Them's the rules. Don't like 'em? Move on.

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