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?