Liturgical Change Is “Afoot” in the Catholic Church

Liturgical Change Is “Afoot” in the Catholic Church

COMMENTARY: Let’s pray that the fraternal love the Holy Thursday foot-washing ceremony is supposed to represent will not be undermined by another agenda

[Neo-Catholic spin in the National neo-Catholic Register by the neo-Catholic president of a neo-Catholic publisher]

by MARK BRUMLEY 01/26/2016

Pope Francis has approved the practice of permitting women to have their feet washed, alongside of men, in the Holy Thursday mandatum liturgical ceremony. Francis himself has included women in the foot-washing rite, departing from the Church’s established practice.

Now, he has revised the norm to allow for it.

The reason for the previous male-only rule? Some have argued the following: Jesus ceremonially washed the feet of the Twelve — all men — at the Last Supper. Masculinity was a key part of their identity as the Twelve, not a triviality. What’s more, the Twelve were consecrated priests at the Last Supper, at which Jesus instituted both the Eucharist and the ministerial priesthood.

The Twelve’s masculinity was part of their priestly identity, too. Thus, Jesus the High Priest washed the feet of his apostles-priests to show them how to exercise priestly authority as service. Today, those whose feet are washed in the Holy Thursday liturgy represent the priestly Twelve and therefore, so the argument goes, they should be men, as the Twelve were men.

But Pope Francis has changed things. Not, of course, unchangeable Catholic teaching on the masculine nature of priestly ministry, which Francis upholds and insists he cannot alter. No, he has revised what the foot-washing ceremony represents: Rather than a ceremony about the male-only ministerial priesthood, the foot-washing ceremony now represents how all disciples should serve one another based on the example of Jesus. After all, the Twelve were disciples as well as disciples with a special role as members of Jesus’ special “leadership team,” the priesthood.

Some will say the stress on disciples rather than specifically priests has always been the way to see the Holy Thursday foot-washing ceremony. The 1955 restoration of the rite as part of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper was, so it is said, understood as representing Jesus’ example of fraternal love, not specifically priestly service. While Jesus did wash the feet of the Twelve, his first priests at the Last Supper and his action had a priestly, consecratory aspect to it; his example and that of priestly service itself also point to how all followers of Jesus should behave, even those who aren’t priests.

Meanwhile, critics of female foot-washing still maintain the importance of seeing the gift of the ministerial priesthood in the Holy Thursday context, whatever more general value the foot-washing ceremony may also have as an expression of Christian love. The ministerial priesthood, being a specifically masculine reality, should be represented by men.

Which, then, is better to stress in the Holy Thursday liturgy, the ministerial priesthood as service or the common call to service of all Christ’s followers?

There’s a lot to be said for the male-only practice, which is still an option under the new norm. In an age when many Catholics are confused, emphasizing the priestly ministry and its masculine nature can help clarify things. Washing the feet of 12 men underscores an essential element of priesthood. Allowing women to have their feet washed may add to contemporary confusion and give some people the false expectation of women’s ordination to the priesthood. Francis himself seems to acknowledge the latter danger by directing priests to explain the change to people.

Some opponents of the change see a bright side: consistency of law and practice. For years, many Catholics have seen, and perhaps participated in, a Holy Thursday foot-washing ceremony featuring both women and men, despite Vatican reminders of the contrary norm. Indeed, some people probably only learned of the previous male-only norm when news broke of the change. Other opponents of change see here only another dark cloud, rather than a silver lining: a reinforcement of the idea that if you don’t like a liturgical norm, just keep breaking it and eventually the Church’s leaders will capitulate. Meanwhile, those who were obedient, often in the face of fierce criticism, may wonder why they bothered.

In any event, despite the official change, for many Catholics, this coming Holy Thursday liturgy’s foot-washing ceremony will be practically the same. Only now the washing of women’s feet will be “legal.” Let’s hope that sound explanations of the change will be forthcoming and further misunderstandings are not. Otherwise, the fraternal love the foot-washing ceremony is supposed to represent may be undermined by another agenda.
Mark Brumley is the president of Ignatius Press.

Read more:

Get AQ Email Updates

7 comments on “Liturgical Change Is “Afoot” in the Catholic Church

  1. [Is this the “other agenda” to which the above National neo-Catholic Register piece refers?]

    Pope Destroys Holy Thursday Mandatum
    Up Next: Married Priests? Lady Deacons?

    by Christopher A. Ferrara
    January 22, 2015

    We have reached the point in this pontificate where if more than a week goes by without Francis dropping another bombshell we are instinctively aware that the next one is overdue. And so it was. Yesterday, Francis imposed upon the universal Church his own disobedience of the Church’s liturgical laws, which goes back to when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires:

    From now on, in the Novus Ordo liturgy, when conducting the washing of the feet on Holy Thursday, the celebrating priest “may” — in the Novus Ordo, of course, that means must —“choose a group of faithful representing the variety and unity of every part of the People of God. This group may consist of men and women, and ideally of the young and the old, healthy and sick, clerics, consecrated persons and laypeople.” The Roman Missal for the New Mass is amended accordingly.

    Just like that, an ancient rite of the Church commemorating the foundation of the sacred priesthood by Our Lord has been converted into a unisex ritual expressing nothing in particular beyond a vague notion of the priesthood as “a ministry of service.” Just look at the photo above in order to appreciate the utter degradation this “reform” imposes on the sacred liturgy: an Archbishop, who is now Pope, handling the naked feet and legs of a scantily clad woman.

    As Joseph Shaw of England’s Latin Mass Society puts it: “The traditions of the Roman liturgy, as preserved in the Ordinary Form, are being stripped away one by one.” So far, the traditional Latin Mass has been spared Francis’ wrecking ball, but don’t count on that situation remaining unchanged.

    One might ask: Given that Our Lord washed only the feet of His male apostles, who were to be His priests, is it not the height of presumption to depart from what God Incarnate did on that first Holy Thursday? Nonsense! That was almost 2,000 years ago, when God was culturally conditioned by a male-dominated patriarchal social order. God is much more inclusive these days, having become, as Francis constantly reminds us, “the God of surprises.” Furthermore, God did not have the benefit of the documents of Vatican II, which, as Francis has noted, “was a re-reading of the Gospel in light of contemporary culture.” And Catholics thought contemporary culture must be assessed in light of the Gospel, to which culture must conform itself in keeping with God’s law. Who knew that the Church had it backwards for more than 1,900 years?

    So what is next for “the God of surprises”? It should be obvious even to the most obtuse defenders of the rapidly disintegrating Novus Ordo status quo that Cardinal Maradiaga wasn’t kidding when he said — or should I say threatened — that Francis “wants to take this Church renovation to the point where it becomes irreversible.” Meaning that he apparently intends to inflict irreversible damage to the Church’s laws and traditions wherever he can pull it off.

    One senses something like the apprehension that attends the first lighting bolt in a thunderstorm: brace for the next one, which will be much bigger, closer to home, louder and more terrifying. The following booms seem likely to emanate from “the God of surprises” at Casa Santa Marta over the coming months:

    ~Some form of permission for public adulterers in invalid second “marriages” [as well as shacking-uppers and LGBTies in their immoral/unnatural sexual trysting] to receive Holy Communion.

    ~Married priests authorized in some locales as the opening wedge for a married priesthood, which apparently will be the subject of the next Synod of Subversion.

    ~Lady deacons.

    ~Sacrilegious intercommunion with assorted Protestants, as just happened at the Vatican following an audience between Francis and a delegation from the lunatical Lutheran “Church” of Finland. The delegation included a pro-abortion, pro-homosexual lady who claims she is a “bishop.” Luther himself would have had this band of heretics burned at the stake, but Francis presented them (including the lady “bishop”) with gifts.

    There is no doubt about it: the Church is being scourged by this pontificate. If only we had had the guidance of the integral Third Secret after the Council, the Church might have avoided the disaster now unfolding before us. Our only recourse now would seem to be an extraordinary intervention by Heaven itself. May Our Lady of Fatima intercede for us, unworthy though we are.

  2. The article isn’t from the National catholic (small “c” intentional) Reporter – it’s from the National Catholic Register, owned by EWTN. It was evident when it stated “There’s a lot to be said for the male-only practice, which is still an option under the new norm.” The heretical NCR which has advocated for priestesses and has condemned “patriarchy” would never say this in print!

  3. “Liturgical Change Is “Afoot” in the Catholic Church”
    Interesting headline.
    The obvious point is that since Vac II there has been almost nothing except liturgical change!
    No matter what spin Rome has put on it, each change has, in one way or another, weakened the Faith.
    Perhaps the most damaging has been Communion in the hand, but the numerous changes have all been damaging. I can’t think of one that has had a positive consequence.
    This latest, is of course, no matter what the Pope says, a sop to the feminist anti man movement. It will drive masculinity even further out of the Church.
    I can’t wait until the General Judgement when these traitors will be asked by God, in front of the whole of creation, why they decided to stop following the example He Himself set at the Last Supper, and chose instead bring in an “improved” version of the Foot Washing. When they start to try and tell God that He didn’t get it quite right it will be interesting to see the bolts of lightening flying about.

  4. Brumley could be a contestant in the verbal gobbledygook olympics, back and forth, up and down. That should serve him well as president of Ignatius Press, Fr. Fessio’s “conservative” outlet that promotes all the heresy of the New Theology.

Leave a Reply