Friday, March 29, 2013
"Francis set a bad example by washing the feet of two women"
Alessandro Speciale Vatican Insider March 29, 2013 Alarm bells rang straight after Pope Francis’ election when he presented himself to the world, from the Loggia of the Blessings, wearing a simple iron cross. No red mozzetta and no stole. Eyebrows were raised among traditionalist Catholics who defend the pre-conciliar Latin Mass. The Argentinean Pope’s CV attracted instant criticism from fans of the Tridentine Mass. In an analytical piece published by traditionalist website Rorate Coeli, one Latin American journalist summed up his reaction to Bergoglio’s election as “The Horror”: “Of all the unthinkable candidates, Jorge Mario Bergoglio is perhaps the worst. Not because he openly professes doctrines against the faith and morals, but because, judging from his work as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, faith and moral seem to have been irrelevant to him.” Above all, the new Pope was a “sworn enemy of the traditional mass,” the Latin Mass that is, and apparently forbid the implementation of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum – with which Benedict XVI liberalised the Tridentine Mass as an “extraordinary form” of the Roman Rite - in his archdiocese. Another example, was the piece by Catholic commentator Michael Brendan Dougherty published in the National Post, in which he rashly – just three days after the result of the Conclave was announced - defined Bergoglio’s election as “one more in the pile of recent Catholic novelties and mediocrities.” This is because Pope Francis “falls in line with the larger era of the Church in the past 50 years, which has been defined by “ill-considered experimentation”: “a new synthetic vernacular liturgy…the dramatic gestures and “saint factory” of Pope John Paul II’s papacy, along with the surprise resignation of Benedict XVI.” But hostilities exploded yesterday afternoon, after Pope Francis washed and kissed the feet of two girls – one of them Muslim – during the Holy Thursday Mass celebrated in the Casal del Marmo detention centre for young offenders, in Rome. Pope Francis was accused of setting a bad example and violating Church law, to the extent that Rorate Coeli promptly declared the end of the “reform of the reform” – that is, the return to the more traditional rites and celebrations after the drift, seen by some critics as a path of carelessness and unjustified innovation after the Second Vatican Council – which many expected Benedict XVI to carry through. Ed Peters, an expert on Canon law and a blogger who is famous in the Vatican, naturally did not accuse the Pope of violating a divine directive, but by ignoring it, “what he does do, I fear, is set a questionable example at Supper time.” In 1988 the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments published the Circular Letter Paschales Solemnitatis on the celebration of Easter rites. No. 51 of the circular letter states: "The washing of the feet” is a rite that is only performed on “chosen men”. The original Latin viri selecti is crystal clear on the fact that the chosen ones must be male. A year earlier, the U.S. Episcopal Conference had decreed that although the practice of washing women’s feet was not mentioned in liturgical books, “the intention to emphasize service along with charity in the celebration of the rite is an understandable way of accentuating the evangelical command of the Lord "who came to serve and not to be served.” The question came back into the limelight again in 2005 when the Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Sean O’Malley sparked a controversy because he wanted to open up the rite to women. On that occasion, the Congregation for Divine Worship had explained that whilst the “liturgical obligation” of washing men’s feet alone, remained, local bishops were free to decide otherwise, according to the pastoral needs of his diocese. Then Pope Francis made his humble gesture. Speaking to Associated Press, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi explained that “in a "grand solemn celebration" of the rite, it would make sense to only involve men because during the Last Supper, Christ washed the feet of the 12 apostles, all of whom were male. But in the case of Casal del Marmo “the rite was for a small, unique community made up also of women. It was a specific situation in which excluding the girls would have been inopportune in light of the simple aim of communicating a message of love to all in a group that certainly didn't include refined experts in liturgical rules."