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Pope's foot-wash a final straw for traditionalists

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has won over many hearts and minds with his simple style and focus on serving the world's poorest, but he has devastated traditionalist Catholics who adored his predecessor, Benedict XVI, for restoring much of the traditional pomp to the papacy.

Francis' decision to disregard church law and wash the feet of two girls — a Serbian Muslim and an Italian Catholic — during a Holy Thursday ritual has become something of the final straw, evidence that Francis has little or no interest in one of the key priorities of Benedict's papacy: reviving the pre-Vatican II traditions of the Catholic Church.

One of the most-read traditionalist blogs, "Rorate Caeli," reacted to the foot-washing ceremony by declaring the death of Benedict's eight-year project to correct what he considered the botched interpretations of the Second Vatican Council's modernizing reforms.

"The official end of the reform of the reform — by example," 'Rorate Caeli" lamented in its report on Francis' Holy Thursday ritual.

A like-minded commentator in Francis' native Argentina, Marcelo Gonzalez at International Catholic Panorama, reacted to Francis' election with this phrase: "The Horror." Gonzalez's beef? While serving as the archbishop of Buenos Aires, the then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio's efforts to revive the old Latin Mass so dear to Benedict and traditionalists were "non-existent."

Virtually everything he has done since being elected pope, every gesture, every decision, has rankled traditionalists in one way or another.

The night he was chosen pope, March 13, Francis emerged from the loggia of St. Peter's Basilica without the ermine-rimmed red velvet cape, or mozzetta, used by popes past for official duties, wearing instead the simple white cassock of the papacy. The cape has since come to symbolize his rejection of the trappings of the papacy and to some degree the pontificate of Benedict XVI, since the German pontiff relished in resurrecting many of the liturgical vestments of his predecessors.

Francis also received the cardinals' pledges of obedience after his election not from a chair on a pedestal as popes normally do but rather standing, on their same level. For traditionalists who fondly recall the days when popes were carried on a sedan chair, that may have stung. In the days since, he has called for "intensified" dialogue with Islam — a gesture that rubs traditionalists the wrong way because they view such a heavy focus on interfaith dialogue as a sign of religious relativism.

Francis may have rubbed salt into the wounds with his comments at the Good Friday procession at Rome's Colosseum, which re-enacts Jesus Christ's crucifixion, praising "the friendship of our Muslim brothers and sisters" during a prayer ceremony that recalled the suffering of Christians in the Middle East.

Francis also raised traditional eyebrows when he refused the golden pectoral cross offered to him right after his election by Monsignor Guido Marini, the Vatican's liturgy guru who under Benedict became the symbol of Benedict's effort to restore the Gregorian chant and heavy silk brocaded vestments of the pre-Vatican II liturgy to papal Masses.

Marini has gamely stayed by Francis' side as the new pope puts his own stamp on Vatican Masses with no-nonsense vestments and easy off-the-cuff homilies. But there is widespread expectation that Francis will soon name a new master of liturgical ceremonies more in line with his priorities of bringing the church and its message of love and service to ordinary people without the "high church" trappings of his predecessor.

There were certainly none of those trappings on display Thursday at the Casal del Marmo juvenile detention facility in Rome, where the 76-year-old Francis got down on his knees to wash and kiss the feet of 12 inmates, two of them women. The rite re-enacts Jesus' washing of the feet of his 12 apostles during the Last Supper before his crucifixion, a sign of his love and service to them.

The church's liturgical law holds that only men can participate in the rite, given that Jesus' apostles were all male. Priests and bishops have routinely petitioned for exemptions to include women, but the law is clear.

Francis, however, is the church's chief lawmaker, so in theory he can do whatever he wants.

"The pope does not need anybody's permission to make exceptions to how ecclesiastical law relates to him," noted conservative columnist Jimmy Akin in the National Catholic Register. But Akin echoed concerns raised by canon lawyer Edward Peters, an adviser to the Vatican's high court, that Francis was setting a "questionable example" by simply ignoring the church's own rules.

"People naturally imitate their leader. That's the whole point behind Jesus washing the disciples' feet. He was explicitly and intentionally setting an example for them," he said. "Pope Francis knows that he is setting an example."

The inclusion of women in the rite is problematic for some because it could be seen as an opening of sorts to women's ordination. The Catholic Church restricts the priesthood to men, arguing that Jesus and his 12 apostles were male.

Francis is clearly opposed to women's ordination. But by washing the feet of women, he jolted traditionalists who for years have been unbending in insisting that the ritual is for men only and proudly holding up as evidence documentation from the Vatican's liturgy office saying so.

"If someone is washing the feet of any females ... he is in violation of the Holy Thursday rubrics," Peters wrote in a 2006 article that he reposted earlier this month on his blog.

In the face of the pope doing that very thing, Peters and many conservative and traditionalist commentators have found themselves trying to put the best face on a situation they clearly don't like yet can't do much about lest they be openly voicing dissent with the pope.

By Thursday evening, Peters was saying that Francis had merely "disregarded" the law — not violated it.

The Rev. John Zuhlsdorf, a traditionalist blogger who has never shied from picking fights with priests, bishops or cardinals when liturgical abuses are concerned, had to measure his comments when the purported abuser was the pope himself.

"Before liberals and traditionalists both have a spittle-flecked nutty, each for their own reasons, try to figure out what he is trying to do," Zuhlsdorf wrote in a conciliatory piece.

But, in characteristic form, he added: "What liberals forget in their present crowing is that even as Francis makes himself — and the church — more popular by projecting (a) compassionate image, he will simultaneously make it harder for them to criticize him when he reaffirms the doctrinal points they want him to overturn."

One of the key barometers of how traditionalists view Francis concerns his take on the pre-Vatican II Latin Mass. The Second Vatican Council, the 1962-65 meetings that brought the church into the modern world, allowed the celebration of the Mass in the vernacular rather than Latin. In the decades that followed, the so-called Tridentine Rite fell out of use almost entirely.

Traditionalist Catholics who were attached to the old rite blame many of the ills afflicting the Catholic Church today — a drop in priestly vocations, empty pews in Europe and beyond — on the liturgical abuses that they say have proliferated with the celebration of the new form of Mass.

In a bid to reach out to them, Benedict in 2007 relaxed restrictions on celebrating the old Latin Mass. The move was aimed also at reconciling with a group of schismatic traditionalists, the Society of St. Pius X, who split from Rome precisely over the Vatican II reforms, in particular its call for Mass in the vernacular and outreach to other religions, especially Judaism and Islam.

Benedict took extraordinary measures to bring the society back under Rome's wing during his pontificate, but negotiations stalled.

The society has understandably reacted coolly to Francis' election, reminding the pope that his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, was told by Christ to go and "rebuild my church." For the society, that means rebuilding it in its own, pre-Vatican II vision.

The head of the society for South America, the Rev. Christian Bouchacourt, was less than generous in his assessment of Francis.

"He cultivates a militant humility, but can prove humiliating for the church," Bouchacourt said in a recent article, criticizing the "dilapidated" state of the clergy in Buenos Aires and the "disaster" of its seminary. "With him, we risk to see once again the Masses of Paul VI's pontificate, a far cry from Benedict XVI's efforts to restore to their honor the worthy liturgical ceremonies."

by Anonymousreply 4904/01/2013

For God's sake, unclutch your rosaries.

by Anonymousreply 103/30/2013

[quote]But by washing the feet of women, he jolted traditionalists who for years have been unbending in insisting that the ritual is for men only.

I'm with the traditionalists on this.

by Anonymousreply 203/30/2013

I'm afraid this is the entire point.

[quote]"What liberals forget in their present crowing is that even as Francis makes himself — and the church — more popular by projecting (a) compassionate image, he will simultaneously make it harder for them to criticize him when he reaffirms the doctrinal points they want him to overturn."

by Anonymousreply 403/30/2013

[quote]The Vatican is probably handing out these stories.

Exactly! And the Vatican's press office probably started this thread. You can see their fingerprints all over it.

by Anonymousreply 503/30/2013

They should be worried about his foot fetish.

by Anonymousreply 603/30/2013

[quote]Traditionalist Catholics who were attached to the old rite (of saying the Mass in Latin)

The mass hasn't been said in Latin in nearly 50 years. For someone to be attached to that they would have to be in their 60s or older (probably much older) Who cares what they think? They are old. They are going to die soon. It is completely illogical that the Church should move backwards to please a tiny fraction of people while at the same time turning off any newcomers.

by Anonymousreply 703/30/2013

Benny wanted to bring back the Latin Mass and re-establish ties with Opus Dei, but the scandals got to him.

by Anonymousreply 803/30/2013

Many of the traditionalists are actually quite young and have huge families. My godmother, who is quite liberal politically (supports gay marriage), attends mass at different churches locally. One has a Latin Mass. It's the mass she heard as a kid and she likes it for that reason. She's aware of the parish's conservatism, though, and marvels that families with a choice have 6, 7, 8 children when she and her generation did everything it could to keep from over-reproducing.a

by Anonymousreply 903/30/2013

I'm trying to be openminded about certain religions- the way I want them to be openminded about my life. But damn, kissing feet? Preventing birth control? "Confession"?

I wasn't brought up in any religion so all that "eating the body of Christ" and "get 20 virgins when you die" stuff makes me just sad.

by Anonymousreply 1003/30/2013

Pope Francis needs to get with the program and start dressing like a Pope, not like the local parish priest.

by Anonymousreply 1103/30/2013

Jesus don't give a shit!

by Anonymousreply 1203/30/2013

[quote] wash a final straw for traditionalists

Oh really? A final straw? What are they going o do now that their backs have been broken? Become baptists?

by Anonymousreply 1303/30/2013

His actions will bring more Catholics back to church, but don't be surprised if he dies in his sleep. And sooner rather than later.

by Anonymousreply 1403/30/2013

Why do they keep electing these men who have one foot in the grave? Would it be such a horrible thing to have a 40 year old, handsome and charming Pope? I mean, it is all entertainment and showmanship at this point, right?

by Anonymousreply 1503/30/2013

The Papacy is for life, at least it's supposed to be. When they elect a doddering old pope, it's because they want someone in the office for a short term only.

by Anonymousreply 1603/30/2013

Yes, resigning the Papacy is such a time honored tradition. *rolls eyes*

All of this is bullshit.

by Anonymousreply 1703/30/2013

r15, if you keep electing older men, you'll be likely to retain traditionalism and conservativism. That's why the Kremlin used to always bring in old men as the General Secretary of the Communist party (after brezhnev, Andropov, then Chernenko) and why they shot themselves in the foot when they brought in a comparatively young guy, Gorbachev. It's the younger guys who want to shake things up and who can outlast the older guys who want to keep things the same.

by Anonymousreply 1803/30/2013

Can you imagine, a pope who acts like Jesus and cares for the poor and sick. OMG the shame of it!

by Anonymousreply 1903/30/2013

Right, R19?

I'm actually really liking this guy.

by Anonymousreply 2003/31/2013

Seriously, R19 & R20? He's not really washing the feet of anyone in need of footwashing. It's all posing in order to create an *image* of caring.

by Anonymousreply 2103/31/2013

No one needs their feet washed in this day and age R21 but people who wore sandals 2,000 years ago in the desert would have understood the kindness of the gesture. It's a symbolic act that imitates Christ's actions and shows humility. Do you expect him to include some nail trimming and reflexology for it to have meaning?

by Anonymousreply 2203/31/2013

Traditionalists are the Republicans of the church: rooted in the 16th century and the trappings of an imperial papacy. They had their hero in Benny, replete with his red Pradas and caring more about changing the responses in Mass than prosecuting pedophiles or caring for the poor. Now there is a pope who pays his own bills, wears plain black shoes, and cares for the poor. They hate him.

by Anonymousreply 2303/31/2013

It was an embarrassment when he wore the same outfit and hat he wore as a Cardinal at his installation Mass as Pope.

by Anonymousreply 2403/31/2013

[quote]It's a symbolic act that imitates Christ's actions and shows humility. Do you expect him to include some nail trimming and reflexology for it to have meaning?

I would expect him to do something that actually has meaning and that actually benefits another person. Washing an inmate's feet is just using them for his own gain. It does not show compassion in anyway. It's pure marketing.

by Anonymousreply 2503/31/2013

I have to admit Pope Francis is very likeable. I can't believe he went back to personally pay his hotel bill after his election. And now I hear he's continuing with his habits from Buenos Aires refusing to live in the papal palace and choosing a modest room at the vatican hotel? How different is he from Benedict?

by Anonymousreply 2603/31/2013

He is very likeable. Too bad about that phobe-y shit.

by Anonymousreply 2703/31/2013

Francis is the Marc Rubio of Popes. Slightly more accessible face, same old rotten soul.

by Anonymousreply 2803/31/2013

Last straw? He only won the pageant last week.

by Anonymousreply 2903/31/2013

Serbian Muslim? Serbians are Orthodox Christian. Maybe the girl was Albanian.

by Anonymousreply 3003/31/2013

[quote]No one needs their feet washed in this day and age [R21] but people who wore sandals 2,000 years ago in the desert would have understood the kindness of the gesture.

If he wanted to send a meaningful message for today's times, he'd be bleaching ani.

by Anonymousreply 3103/31/2013

I heard the ermine-rimmed red velvet cape is on sale on Italian eBay. Can someone who speaks Italian let me know where the bidding stands?

by Anonymousreply 3203/31/2013

He is the Pope now and needs to start acting and dressing like one. If he didn't want to do that, than he shouldn't of taken the job.

by Anonymousreply 3303/31/2013

The real fun and games are about to begin. Rumor has it that any day now the new pope is gonna clean house when it comes to the Vatican bureaucracy

by Anonymousreply 3403/31/2013

I'm just glad he hasn't been making weekly anti-gay dictates like Benedict and John Paul II did.

by Anonymousreply 3503/31/2013

I don't think that the Pope doesn't care about the poor, but this is his major PR push for whatever ends he seeks. Diminishing the stench of the pedophilia and gay bribery scandals are probably at the top and small gestures help with the public. Now whether he has sufficient cache to do anything major like removing an entrenched bureaucracy is another thing. He's an outsider which means he may lack the connections to the foot soldiers and henchmen he needs. There will be intrigue...

Sadly, the last papal butler got in a heap of trouble for "Vatileaks" so we probably won't be hearing much about the palace machinations.

by Anonymousreply 3603/31/2013

Well, it's kind of missing the point, though, R33.

The Pope isn't supposed to be a fashion plate and surrounded by finery.

The Pope is indicating that this position isn't what that is about. There must be substance not just style.

He needs to impress no one. Everybody know the Catholic Church is beyond rich. To show it off, frankly, is just vulgar. That is one of the reasons that people have turned away.

All those riches while they could be helping the poor with it.

by Anonymousreply 3703/31/2013

We have a cassock troll.

by Anonymousreply 3803/31/2013

[quote][bold]than[/bold] he shouldn't [bold]of[/bold] taken the job.

Oh, dear! Oh, dear!

by Anonymousreply 3903/31/2013

I'm waiting for the big scandal to break over PopeNazi. Where is it? I don't buy the sick-old excuse for leaving the position.

by Anonymousreply 4003/31/2013

You missed it, R40.

by Anonymousreply 4103/31/2013

Here's hoping to another schism!

by Anonymousreply 4203/31/2013

Even as an x-catholic, him washing the feet of a muslim was just too fucking much.

Sorry, Muslims really need to be called on their shit.

by Anonymousreply 4303/31/2013

The foot washing is ridonculous and laughable.

by Anonymousreply 4404/01/2013

He is usually washing little boy penis so this was a nice change.

by Anonymousreply 4504/01/2013

"Washing" it with his mouth, R45.

by Anonymousreply 4604/01/2013

I wonder if the traditionalists are itching for a schism..and soon? They bitched about Pope Benedict leaving too quickly instead of "manning up" and now they are already branding this newcomer as "trouble". They seem to be like the Michelle Bachman/Palin/Tea Partiers: my way or the highway.

by Anonymousreply 4704/01/2013

"Roman" Catholics need to realize there is not One Church. The RC administrators and many people in the pews like to throw around the 'one billion worldwide' figure. But, if you count the people who use birth control, don't go to mass, etc.., that number drops considerably (and accurately). RCs should face the truth and have orthodox, reform, and conservative groups. Then they can all honestly follow whatever rules suit their sub-collective fancy.

That said, Francis is a breath of fresh air.

by Anonymousreply 4804/01/2013

This is out of order. Pope Carter was supposed to come BEFORE Pope Reagan.

by Anonymousreply 4904/01/2013
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