I Feel His Pain

And I imagine that Boniface could feel mine even though the Tiber separates us.

Boniface explains why conservative or traditional Roman Catholics are worried about Pope Francis and the recent public foot washings are just one example. People prone to view conservatives as folks who don’t care for the poor or oppressed, or who think that critics of the pope are nostalgic for Pius X should think about the actual nature of the papacy. On the one hand, the pope washing the feet of prisoners is no big deal. But doing so on Holy Thursday sends a very different signal, one that shows the pope as Bishop of Rome is neglecting his duties to his own diocese:

The Holy Thursday Mass, which inaugurates the sacred Triduum and which (until 1642) was a holy day of obligation is in a totally different category than, say, a daily Mass. This is why when Benedict XVI wanted to celebrate Mass in the Casal del Marmo, he did so in a daily Mass, not the Holy Thursday Mass, which as part of the sacred Triduum, is of a much more solemn and public nature than a mere daily Mass.

Remember, the pope is also Bishop of the diocese of Rome. This means that for the past three years, the faithful of that diocese have been deprived of access to the celebration of one of the most sacred Masses of the year by their bishop. I admit this is not a huge issue or a monumental scandal – but it is something.

Boniface also explains that foot-washing on Holy Thursday was designed for bishops to serve their clergy (not as a photo op):

It must be remembered that though foot washing in general is a sign of service (cf. 1 Tim. 5:10), the Holy Thursday foot washing in particular is much more than that. Christ did not just wash His disciples’ feet as a sign of service to mankind in general, but of the service the hierarchy renders to the clergy in particular. This is why most liturgical foot washing in the Church’s history has always focused on the bishop’s service to his clergy; priests, canons, deacons and subdeacons have been the recipients of foot washing; this was true of diocesan bishops as well as the pope. It is an ecclesiological ritual relating to the clergy and their superiors, not a general sign of service to mankind.

. . . If the Holy Thursday foot washing is supposed to signify the service of the hierarchy to the Church – and to the clergy in particular – then we can easily understand why it is totally inappropriate that non-Christians should be the recipients of the ceremony. In what fantasy land can a Muslim or atheist in any way represent the Church?

And to the papal supremacists who defend Francis by citing his power to change church law (not doctrine) as he sees fit, Boniface observes that procedures exist for such changes and they don’t include merely breaking existing law:

. . . it seems lost on many that to say one has an authority to change a law is not the same thing as suggesting he can simply break the law. We all understand this. If the Holy Father does not like the current legislation, he has the power to change it. He can promulgate new rubrics or new norms if he so chooses. But for law to be law, this is accomplished by an act of law; i.e., the lawgiver changing the law by an legitimate exercise of his legislative power. The law is not changed by the lawgiver simply breaking the law.

Suppose the speed limit in your town was 30 mph. Suppose your small town Mayor decided he did not like that speed limit. Suppose, on the premise that he was the “supreme authority” in your small town, he just decided to start breaking the speed limit with impunity. How would you react? You would be indignant! You would say, “If the Mayor doesn’t like the speed limit, then change the law, but for heaven’s sake, don’t just break it!”

Since the rubrics for Holy Thursday have not changed, the fact remains that Pope Francis is simply violating the rubrics. You may say the law should change. You may applaud his inclusiveness. You may affirm that he has the power to change the law. But you cannot deny that he is breaking the law every time he washes the foot of a female on Holy Thursday. There’s no other way to explain it.

Aside from the merits of Boniface’s points or what Francis may indicate about the current magisterium, the post is instructive for a couple reasons:

First, Bryan and the Jasons seem to have no awareness of these nuances of significance in the public face of Roman Catholicism. Their conversion is a full-on embrace of Rome no matter what anyone does or says. And because the supremacy of the papacy is crucial to their conversion, they will never be in a position to raise the concerns that Boniface does. Why? Because ultimately their conversion is not about the pope or his infallibility but about their own certainty. It’s all about (not me) them.

Second, Boniface raises concerns about Francis that Old Lifers raise about the Presbyterian Pope, TKNY. Fans of Keller cannot understand critics because TKNY does so many good things that look so lovable and cuddly. But if you take Presbyterianism at all seriously, and ordination vows should suggest a degree of seriousness not to mention an entire chapter in our Confession of Faith devoted to oaths and vows, you might actually see that despite all of TKNY’s good intentions, he isn’t playing by rules that he agreed to follow. Maybe the rules are bad or need to be changed. But breaking those rules doesn’t change them. It only breeds license, an indifference to forms and structures that allows anyone to define Presbyterianism as he or Kathy sees fit.

Update: Pope’s prayers on Easter:

Continuing his blessing Sunday, the pope asked and several times implored God to stop violence in many places of the world — mentioning particularly Iraq and Syria, Libya, Yemen, Nigeria, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, and Ukraine.

The pontiff also asked for “peace and freedom” for men and women “subject to old and new forms of enslavement” and for “peace and liberty” for those who are victims of drug dealers, who he said “are often allied with the powers who should defend peace and harmony in the human family.”

Mentioning Christians suffering persecution, Francis asked: “Jesus, the Victor, to lighten the sufferings of our many brothers and sisters who are persecuted for his name, and of all those who suffer injustice as a result of ongoing conflicts and violence.”

Following with the list of nations suffering violence, the pope also prayed for a “resumed” peace process between Israelis and Palestinians.

But what about Betty Falconi, member of Rome’s St. Clement’s parish, who is going in for foot surgery on Thursday?


16 thoughts on “I Feel His Pain

  1. Papa Frank catches a lot more static in the Catholic press than TKNY does in the — what to call it? — prot-evangelical-“reformed” mediasphere. Why is that? Are trad Cats more serious and informed about their faith than the “Reformed” are?


  2. Cwtt, is TKNY up to 200k followers on TWTR yet? OMG!

    He covered his view of twitter in the last 10 or 20 minutes in the Mark Dever interview, it’s worth checking out. I wonder who the next celebrity presby will be, TKNY will likely hold this mandate for a while yet to come. We reformed could have picked a worse fella, Timmy’s ok, but what am I saying (emoticon).


  3. Thanks for the post, D. Hart. Great stuff.

    One of my good friends (raised Roman Catholic, now Hare Krishna (hare hare krishna hare hare krishna) says his priest when he was growing up had a mirror on the altar so that he could watch the congregation while praying. If anyone came in late, he would restart the Mass from the beginning. Terrifying!

    What happened to those gruff old priests? They might not have been particularly nice, but at least they knew who was in church and who wasn’t – who had confessed and who hadn’t.

    link Fr. Z is old school, though, when helping a brother out with his first Confession in 40 years:

    Don’t gloss over sins.

    Don’t try and make yourself look better so that the priest won’t think ill of you (the priest will already think you are a hero for coming to the sacrament).

    Don’t meander and tell stories. That time you got rollicking drunk with your buddy and sole the enemy school’s goat mascot might be a hilarious anecdote, but this is not the time. Stick to the sins: getting intoxicated, stealing, leading someone else into sin.

    In the end, just do it.

    Just go.

    At the end, say, “for these and all of the sins of my past which I cannot now remember, I am sorry and I beg the Lord’s forgiveness.”

    And mean it.

    There’s no school like the Old School, and Fr. Z’s the ****ing Headmaster.

    I wonder – when’s the last time Papa Frank took somebody in his congregations to task during Confession? If he’s not washing their feet, is he even around to hear their Confession? Maybe Confession, Catholic Guilt, and Mass attendance doesn’t mean as much as it used to be – well, unless there are cameras around.


  4. he isn’t playing by rules that he agreed to follow

    Short list of violations?

    Also, a lot more Catholics than ‘prot-evangelical-“reformed”‘ so I’d expect more critiques of everything any pope does.


  5. Jayster,:

    1) Harboring errorists — Pete Enns.
    2) Being super slippery on approved creation views, see #1.
    3) Planting non-presby churches.
    4) No hard proof but it is believed that his church no longer ordains male deacons so as to make them “equal” to his female “deacs” who cannot be ordained per the BCO. And the head of his diaconate is a womyn.


  6. CW, RC’s are moderns, except for the one’s who aren’t. And even the one’s who aren’t are going to be cynical after seeing the sausage making.


  7. CW, you left off Gospel Coalition, an agency that actually says it does the work of the church. Don’t forget either that TKNY has encouraged work with non-Presbyterian congregations in NYC.

    He duh man.


  8. But there are only 12 people left in the world who think the The Gospel Codependents can do anything wrong or that associating with their neon green glow of awesomeness could be in anyway unhelpful. Seemed like a waste of characters.


  9. A former Protestant’s pain:

    I can guess why the softer versions of Catholicism appealed to so many. It wasn’t just the sixties, liberalism, compromising clerics, and the other reasons often given. Older friends have told me stories of growing up with a harsh, cold version of Catholicism, something out of the stereotypes. They needed to hear the gospel as good news. Priests have told me of the number of people they see who are paralyzed by guilt and the feeling God can’t possibly love them (as well as the ones who feel no guilt at all). They need to hear about the Father who runs to embrace them.

    Still, we need more seriousness. Many of us laymen need it, because we need all the help we can get to seek first the Kingdom of God as Our Lord instructed us and not shuffle along expecting everything to turn out all right anyway.


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