Sunday, March 31, 2013

Did Pope Francis Really Provide Justification For Progressive Catholics?

There seems to be a big concern of Pope Francis' seeming disregard of rubrics, or the bending of the rules at least, and that it will justify the thoughts or actions of those that never held laws or rubrics in high regard to begin with. The fear is that those with a liberal bent or who have a mentality of dissension against Church laws and rubrics will be disposed to say, "See? If the Pope can do it so can I." and feel that they too, can continue to disregard the guidelines and laws of the Church as they have done so in the past. The Pope being what he is, the leader of a billion or so Catholics, does have a great influence over the faithful and should serve as a model of Catholic fidelity and obedience to what has been set forth in the past by the Church, with this I will agree to a point.

Patrick Archbold of the Creative Minority Report posted his concerns of this problem here   and I want to say from the outset that his concern does not seem to be a knee-jerk reaction to this controversy regarding the Pope's washing of women's feet on Holy Thursday. Generally, I've always enjoyed reading his blog and this time, on this subject, it is no different though I do not entirely agree with his fears. His article also provides a link to Father Z and Dr. Edward Peters who discuss the questionable validity of what Pope Francis did. Archbold does not attempt to answer whether the Pope broke the law concerning his actions on Holy Thursday leaving it to the two aforementioned to explain all of that, but he does voice his concern for the example that the Pope may be setting for Catholics.

Archbold examines two camps of thought concerning Church law and rubric and how they are or may be perceived by what he calls the popular mindset. I can only take his definition of "popular mindset" as meaning liberals or progressives within the Church. If I am wrong correct me please. What follows is how he believes the Pope's actions are being framed by them:
If you think that law and rubrics are there for a reason, the reason being the order and good of the Church and the faithful, and you are troubled about the violations then you are part of the problem. You are one of the inwardly focused people that the Pope is trying wrest the Church back from. If you think that law, rubrics, and tradition matter, you are the other--you are the problem. You are not humble and simple like the Pope. You are the past.

This is a no-brainer. This is classic, progressive mind-vomit that we've heard for decades. In other words tradition is bad and those that hold to tradition are dinosaurs that need to succumb to extinction, allowing for a new species of ideas to evolve. The old suppresses the human spirit while new, progressive thought seeks to unshackle and free the oppressed spirit from the big, bad Church and her out of touch doctrines and laws. Archbold continues with his analysis:

If, on the other hand, law, rubrics, and majesty in the worship of God have never been your thing, then life is good. The Pope, by example if not by word, is validating your worldview. You have never really cared about such things and have often violated them. The Pope has just shown that, as you always suspected, these things don't really matter, that things like law, rubrics, and majesty hinder evangelization and are simply the products of an inwardly focused Church. You are part of future Church.
 The following line is the crux of it all and why I am not as fearful as some are concerning the Pope's actions.
 You have never really cared about such things and have often violated them.
Through out human history there have always been people predisposed to doing things that are contrary to acceptable behavior or indifferent as to laws guiding society. No matter what example a leader sets, in this case Pope Francis, people will do things their own way whether the example shown is right and just or wrong and evil. They have their own moral guidelines which they see as superseding all others and set their course in life accordingly without regard to whether their own guidelines are skewed by a selective thought process. The Gospel story of the woman caught in adultery is a perfect  example of what I mean. Everyone agrees that Jesus is merciful and that his mercy was shown to the woman who was presented to Him as an adulteress that according to the Law of Moses, should be stoned to death for her sin. The conclusion of this story was that the Pharisees could not condemn her without exposing their own sin and Jesus also did not condemn her but showed his mercy towards her, sending her off with the admonition of "go, and sin  no more." 

Those with a selective thought process only see our Lords mercy and dismiss his warning of "sin no more" because to them the sin doesn't matter even if she continues in this sin. The only thing that matters to them is their perception of mercy and the lack of being judged by Jesus. Continuing in sin does not matter to them and if one points it out they are being judgmental.  As a matter of fact they will ignore that last line of sin no more as if it isn't pertinent to the story. Using this process they are able to ignore rules or rubrics if you will and merrily continue down their own path fully justified in their minds.

We will never be entirely sure, unless he tells us his reasons, why the Pope thought it more important to place the washing of the women's feet over the rubrics, but I can guarantee you this. His reasons will not be the same as those people that Archbold think will feel justified by the Pope. Those that have always violated the rules  do not and will not need justification. How many popes before Francis washed a woman's feet? None that I know of, yet did their example of following the rubrics stop other priests and bishops from washing the feet of women? Nope. They did what THEY felt was right in their own minds and they will continue to do so no matter what example is set for them.

Patrick concludes with this: highlight is mine.

[Note. I love the Pope and want him to succeed. I think renewed focus on the poor is wonderful and I support it wholeheartedly. But I do not accept, as some would have you believe, that law, rubrics, and tradition must be thrown overboard to achieve this renewed focus on the poor. I don't think the Pope supports this either, but I fear some of his actions give encouragement to those who do]
I wouldn't  go as far as Archbold when he says  that law, rubrics, tradition are being thrown overboard. As I wrote earlier I believe the Pope had his own reasons for doing what he did,  and I also do not believe he would support a wholesale disregard of laws and rubrics, though in this case he did so for reasons known only to him. We live in troubled  times in our faith or lack thereof and the Pope is fully aware of this. He had a lesson to teach Catholics with the washing of the women's feet and we need to try to understand it. I believe he was fully aware of the controversy he would initiate by bending the rules as he did but he obviously thought the lesson was more important than the rule this time. Rule breaking will encourage others to break the rules? Nah, they are already breaking the rules when they want. They never needed encouragement from anyone except those of their ilk.


  1. "How many popes before Francis washed a woman's feet? None that I know of, yet did their example of following the rubrics stop other priests and bishops from washing the feet of women? Nope."

    GOOD point!

  2. Had Pope Francis popped up and asked me, this would have been my reply:

    The Washing of Feet on Holy Thursday is a Liturgical Drama that calls for 12 male actors. Stick to the script and the usual venue: either St. Peter's or St. John Lateran.

    However, if you were to celebrate Mass and wash feet of whoever (and how many others) on another day, this would be less likely to be misunderstood by others, both conservative and liberal.

    My pastor is very much a "say the black and do the red" priest. In fact, he is the rubrical expert for the Eparchy. Therefore when he has on occasion done odd things, such as when he makes a comment on the meaning of a prayer in the Divine Liturgy, I can only assume he has good and serious pastoral reasons for doing so.

    I'm willing to allow the same latitude to Pope Francis.

  3. Jack: "I'm willing to allow the same latitude to Pope Francis."

    And THAT Jack is precisely my point in this blog post and the previous one. Too many Catholics are NOT allowing any latitude at all to this man, the Vicar of Christ. Thanks for the comment.


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