Thursday, March 28, 2013

Holy Thursday - The Pope breaks with liturgical rules

I'm overjoyed, delighted, touched that Pope Francis decided to continue the tradition he started in his home country to wash the feet of juvenile detainees (including women!) in Italy on Holy Thursday instead of what popes traditionally do this day which is, "carry out the foot washing ritual in Rome's grand St. John Lateran basilica.  The 12 people chosen for the ritual were always priests to represent the 12 apostles whose feet Jesus washed during the Last Supper before His crucfixion." 

This act apparently got a Canon lawyer all hot and bothered because he said, "liturgical law expressly limits participation in that rite to adult males, and I have consistently called on Catholics, clerics and laity alike, to observe this pontifically-promulgated law in service to the unity (dare I say, the catholicity) of liturgy (c. 837)."  He went on to say that he found the Pope's actions "inspiring."  But, as a fairly new Catholic, I guess you can find a Christian act inspiring but still know it violates some Church law and be OK with it all.  Huh.

The Vatican spokesman we all know and love, the Reverend Frederico Lombardi said, what I found terribly interesting, "in a 'grand solemn celebration' of the rite, only men are included because Christ washed the feet of his 12 apostles, all of whom were male.

'Here, the rite was for a small, unique community made up also of women,' Lombardi wrote in an email. '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 experts on liturgical rules.'"

Am I reading this right?  If the feet washing on Holy Thursday would have been in a grand solemn celebration, of course we would and should exclude women because Jesus clearly only favored the service of men, the Twelve Apostles.  But, because the new rogue Pope wanted to go to a kiddie prison, we had to wash girl feet because well, we are the one, true Church, heirs to St. Peter, and excluding girls would be majorly inopportune in light of those facts and we should be all about love here (that's what Jesus preached), and besides, there were no Canon lawyers in the jail to stop us.  Or, maybe I'm just cynical this week (in some arenas).  I'm terribly grateful God has given me a lively, happy Holy Week.


  1. "3. Can Pope Francis just do things that aren't provided for in the law?

    Yes. The pope does not need anybody's permission to make exceptions to how ecclesiastical law relates to him. He is canon law's ultimate legislator, interpreter, and executor.

    And it's not uncommon, at least in recent decades, for a pope to make exceptions to the law in how papal ceremonies are performed.
    John Paul II frequently held liturgies that departed from what the Church's liturgical texts provide, particularly when he was making a form of dramatic outreach, and Pope Francis seems to be following in his footsteps."


  2. I really like the article JoAnna linked to above by Jimmy Akin. Another article that I thought put things in perspective is this one by Fr. Z.

    I hope you indeed do have a lively, happy, Holy sarcasm at all.