Saturday, March 30, 2013

Like the poor, we will always have the Pharisees with us

Disclaimer: I am sure on some issues people think I am a Pharisee. They are everywhere ...!

I really like what is emerging with Pope Francis. A pope who is determined - if various actions these past weeks are anything to go by - to transform his role as 'Vicar of Christ' into one in which the emphasis is on genuine, gospel Christ-likeness rather than conformity to rules, regulations and rubrics.

Notably, Papa Francis, traditionally washing the feet of twelve people on Holy Thursday, washed the feet of two women (one of whom is a Muslim). WAIT the rules say the action is intended to be Christ-like in the sense that Christ washed the feet of twelve apostles so the Pope must wash the feet of twelve men (I think I may even have  read somewhere that they are twelve ordained men). NO the pope has said. The Christ-likeness is exemplified in foot-washing as a service to humanity; and women are human. CUE coughing and spluttering into liturgical and canonical "traddies" teacups. As Stuff reports here, the fact that it is the Pope breaking the rules has drawn somewhat casuistical responses. So we read of " canon lawyer Edward Peters, an adviser to the Vatican's high court,

"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 - like many conservative and traditionalist commentators - have found themselves trying to put the best face on a situation they don't like 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."

But is this not the response one expects of (modern equivalents) of Pharisees? Damian Thompson seems to think so!


Papa Francis is challenging his church, and by extension all Christians watching and listening to him, to find the true heart of the gospel in order to live faithfully to Christ. Sometimes church rules, regulations and rubrics assist that faithful living. Sometimes they do not. At risk of being accused of soppy subjectivism I cannot conceive that Christ living in our world today (that is, a multi-cultural, inclusive, anti-hierarchical, non-racist world) would restrict foot-washing in 2013 to male "types" of the apostles. Francis has spoken, infallibly I suggest: the rules are out of date, this is how Christ would act.

Good on him!

Damian Thompson is right (for those who do not know of his writings, a very traditional and conservative Catholic, strongly in favour of Benedict's high church reformist agenda).

Here's the thing: no one needs to be a Pharisee. Those of us who fall into the modern version of the role need challenging as to what is Christ-like and what is not!

For the record: the following observations are made with no attempt to speculate further about (say) the Pope's attitude to the ordination of women; they are also made with the thought in mind that if we understand John's Gospel carefully, then there is no great reason to think that the foot-washing of John 13 was actually restricted to the Twelve, since the Beloved Disciple was in the group and he has strong arguments in favour of his not being part of the Twelve.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

"At risk of being accused of soppy subjectivism I cannot conceive that Christ living in our world today (that is, a multi-cultural, inclusive, anti-hierarchical, non-racist world) would restrict foot-washing in 2013 to male "types" of the apostles. Francis has spoken, infallibly I suggest: the rules are out of date, this is how Christ would act."

Oh Peter, you are such a soppy subjectivist!
You forgot to point out that the Pope's action means the Catholic Church is now going to ordain Muslim women.
As for foot-washing, I don't see a lot of this going on, except (I am told) among Appalachian Pentecostalists.
Bring on the snakes!

Martin

Father Ron Smith said...

Christos Anesti! Alleluia!

Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us, therefore let us keep the Feast: Not with the old leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened Bread of sincerity and truth!

carl jacobs said...

So this story both begs a question and presents a question.

The question presented: Why should there be a Canon Law about whose feet may get washed by the Pope? For you are quite correct. The servant does not choose whom to serve. Man or woman makes no difference - especially given the conversation between Peter and Christ when Peter demurred. To restrict the whole exercise to clergy imposes a criterion where none should exist.

The question begged: Why does this tradition exist in the first place? It demonstrates nothing of humble servitude. It is a staged symbolic ritual where the staging completely vitiates the alleged meaning. This is not actual humility. This is a pretense of humility. True humility does not put itself on display for the lights and the cameras.

carl

Andrei said...

Interesting is it not that a minor controversy over the Pope's actions that upsets a tiny minority of Western Catholics gets so much media oxygen whereas his Easter Homily will go virtually unremarked in the secular media.

Indeed how much ink was devoted to the Pope on Palm Sunday a week ago?

Father Ron Smith said...

"This is not actual humility. This is a pretense of humility. True humility does not put itself on display for the lights and the cameras."

Nor does humility protest through the internet. Humility requires kindness, and the willingness to take a risk. Criticism of other people's humility rarely falls into that category that Jesus set in place;

"They'll know you're my disciples by your love"

"Where charity and love are - there is God"

Pope Francis does what he does because of the Christ within.

What we need to ask ourselves is: 'What loving, risky action towards the meek of the earth have we done that is better than those of others that we are so wont to criticise?'

Christ is risen, Alleluia!

Anonymous said...

Ron's remarks hit the mark. They are persuasive and convincing, and have moved me to renounce my old bigotry and prejudice and sign up with elightened Progress. I feel a great burden has been lifted form my shoulders.

Martinus, apud Damascos,Kal. Apr., MMXIII

Shawn Herles said...

A little friendly nitpicking on a subject dear to me (Southern Appalachian churches and folk religion).

The Church of God with Signs Following, the primary "snake handling" movement in Southern Appalachia, is a Wesleyan-Holiness church, not Pentecostal.

They do practice footwashing as an ordinance as part of the celebration of the Lord's Supper. This practice is common among non-Pentecostal churches of the Holiness or Primitive/Hardshell Baptist variety.

Personally the understanding of footwashing as an ordinance commanded by Scripture to be used in conjunction with the Eucharist makes a lot of Biblical sense to me.

As far as the Pope is concerned, I think what he did was commendable, and his critics are surely missing the point of the practice. I note that one of the objections being raised was that the feet of participants had not been sanitized first. If that is not an example of missing the point I don't know what is!

One thing us sure, this Pope is going to be interesting!

MichaelA said...

I saw no problem with the Pope's way of doing the footwashing. If the RCs are into that sort of ceremony, then so be it

I am however intrigued by the concept of kiwis discussing snake handling.

Peter Carrell said...

Yes, Michael A, NZers speaking about snake handling are talking theoretical nonsense, snakes never being seen here. But Ozzies, I presume, are experts ... :)

Shawn Herles said...

Well for my part I'm a Kiwi-American, and both where I was born and where I spent a good chunk of my preteen life snakes were common. Our house in Georgia backed on to a swamp, so we had two things in abundance, rattlesnakes and alligators.

Both sides of my US family (adoptive and blood) come from Southern Appalachia and were or are Hardshell Baptists, so no snake handlers there, though I apparently one errant black sheep did end up in a COGWSF church.

PS. As in most things the Aussies are amateurs when it comes to snakes compared to the good people of the US South. ;)