Eschewing liturgical protocol can cause some real world problems…

 

There are some on the Catholic left who are chortling in response to the “Good News” that Pope Francis washed the feet of 12 prisoners, aged 14-21—and two them, female prisoners—on Holy Thursday. The question they are in a frenzy about concerns how best to interpret this liturgical statement.  After all, the ritual calls for “viri” (i.e., “men” as in males). They are wondering: Is Pope Francis signaling something positive, namely, greater “inclusion” and “diversity” in the liturgy than has been customary during the past two pontificates?

According to The Telegraph, Pope Francis told his first general audience this past Wednesday:

Holy Week challenges us to step outside ourselves so as to attend to the needs of others: those who long for a sympathetic ear, those in need of comfort or help.

 

Eschewing protocol—stepping outside of ourselves and our comfort zones—is something Pope Francis apparently intends to do.  But, did the Pope step “outside of” or “beyond” liturgical protocol at the Holy Thursday liturgy? After all, one the two women whose feet he washed, one was a Serbian Muslim.

 

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Some  on the Catholic right have been guarded in their evaluation of this Pope’s early ministry.  More traditional, liturgically conservative Catholics  have expressed concern about the new Pope’s approach to the liturgy, in particular.  The footwashing of the Serbian Muslim woman will heighten their level of discomfort.

More important than the liturgical statement Pope Francis may have intended to telegraph is that, in doing so, he may have overlooked, neglected, or disregarded, if not violated Muslim law.

According to the Code of Ethics for Muslim Men and Women—Rules Related to Socializing:

The Rules of Touching

193 – Rule: Body contact is not allowed with one who it is not allowed to look at, and every kind of touching of the body to any part of the other one’s body is haram and one must refrain from this; unless it from on top of the clothing and it is without the intention of lust. ABGKLMS

 

While the Pope may have intended this particular footwashing to be “a positive sign” in the life of the Serbian Muslim inmate whose foot he washed, strict Muslims may take offense.

Like Pope Benedict XVI, it may not be long before Pope Francis finds himself being challenged by an Imam who issues a fatwa.  In October 2006, Pakistan’s Jamaat-ud-Dawa has issued a fatwa asking the Muslim community to kill Pope Benedict for his “blasphemous” statement about Prophet Mohammad:

The Jamaat-ud-Dawa has declared death to Pope Benedict and said that in today’s world blasphemy of the Holy Koran and the Prophet has become a fashion….Prominent Jamaat leader Hafiz Saifullah Khalid said that in the present circumstances, jihad has become obligatory for each Muslim. Muslims are being declared terrorists and our battle for survival has already started. The Muslim world has rejected the Pope’s apology and decided to continue protests and demonstrations in big cities.

 

Eschewing protocol can be refreshing and prove reinvigorating.  It can be a sign of love and respect, fulfilling the spirit of the law” rather than living according to the “letter of the law.”

In retrospect, it can also cause unintended problems.

 

 

To read the article in The Telegraph, click on the following link:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/the-pope/9960168/Pope-washes-feet-of-young-Muslim-woman-prisoner-in-unprecedented-twist-on-Maundy-Thursday.html

To read the Muslim Code of Ethics rules of touching, click on the following link:

http://www.al-islam.org/a-code-of-ethics-for-muslim-men-and-women/6.htm

To read the about the fatwa issued against Pope Benedict XVI, click on the following link:

http://in.rediff.com/news/2006/oct/03raman1.htm

29 Responses to Eschewing liturgical protocol can cause some real world problems…

  • There is much that we do in charity that will offend someone. If we worry about this nonsense when trying to serve God, where will we be?

  • I’m sure Pope Francis or any pope is going to say things contrary to Muslim belief. Muslim will probably place guilt on the woman for not refusing to participate. On this matter, the foot washing, the press will happily give him cover. They will focus their reporting on the washing of women’s feet as it is a useful tool to divide Catholics, the last power on earth standing in the way of their social agenda.

    In regards to the pope washing the feet of women, I cannot entirely embrace the idea. It is in contradiction to church instruction, but the pope has latitude. But, he is also setting an example for others. So, is he saying it’s ok to break with liturgical norms when it feels right? (Note: Many America parishes sadly already do this.)

    As Jimmy Akin at National Catholic Register has pointed out, the Bible text refers to disciples. While “disciples” has meant more than the apostles, it seems in this text it’s the apostles who are present. Jesus’ hour is coming, and he is readying his priests. On the night priesthood is established, Jesus giving his men some pastoral training.

    It is true this is a call to serve others, but it is deeper than a call to service. Jesus, who is a model for his priests, is preparing his men to be models for others. To interpret this passage as another “serve one another” message is to water it down. This event took place at a special time in a special place John’s gospel with a special audience.

  • I doubt if Pope Francis was intending to send any great signals by washing the feet of the female juvenile delinquents. My guess is that he is learning what life is like as Pope, where everything one does is subject to microscopic analysis. I suspect that he likes this feature of papal life as little as most of his predecessors.

  • From my understanding, the norm is to have twelve men unless there’s permission from the pope. I think we can assume he gave permission. Besides, didn’t Jesus attend to the Samaritan woman at the well?

  • Fr. Z posts an excellent comment containing an analysis by the canonist, Ed Peters, concerning the “legalities” involved. Well worth reading.

    http://wdtprs.com/blog/2013/03/have-we-entered-an-age-of-a-new-gnosticism/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+wdtprs%2FDhFa+%28Fr.+Z%27s+Blog+-+What+Does+The+Prayer+Really+Say%3F%29

  • “…..strict Muslims may take offense.”
    Gosh, that would be a first.

    As Kyle Miller points out, veering from the norm on this is pretty common in American parishes, so I’m not sure the Pope’s actions will have a noticeable ripple effect. Considering the actual gospel act being commemorated, I think washing the feet of twelve seminarians would remove all quibbles. Hey, let me dream :)

  • Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, not those of Barabbas, St. Dismas, Mary Magdelene, the Samaritan woman, or, (I’m shocked!) the Blessed Virgin Mary.

    From whence does Pope Francis come up with that “crap”?

    Maybe I’m not doing enough reading.

    Here’s what I see in Pope Frank’s early reign: silence on the salvation of souls.

    Why should he be different?

  • The greater insult to Islam (other than touching a Moslem woman) is the appearance of attempting to proselytize Moslems to Catholicism. According to wikipedia (Apostasy in Islam) the ordinary penalty for apostasy in Islam is death both to the former Moslem, and apparently, the person importuning (i.e. to press or beset with solicitations; demand with urgency or persistence) the Moslem to convert to Catholicism.

    I can not believe how out of touch with reality the last two popes have been regarding Islam. Benedict’s statements about Islam at Regensburg caused rioting in Pakistan and other places and the death of a Catholic nun, as I recall.

    On a positive note to conservatives, if Francis were a true liberal, he would be strictly and scrupulously observant of the tenants of Islam out of deference to Moslems and flippant and careless about Catholicism.

    Jesuits, such as Pope Francis, are not famed for liturgical rigorism seeing the liturgy as a side-show or warm-up act to their main event, i.e. preaching at Mass or teaching in the classroom.

  • Question: If Jesus was concerned what other “faith” organizations might do when he reached beyond their laws, their customs and their rules, what would we have missed in the process?
    Pork defiles oneself……what comes out of man defiles, not what goes in.
    Samaritan’s are the lowest of the low, yet Jesus teaches us in parable not so.
    Pope Francis may cause unintended problems, true.
    To the Sanhedrin Jesus was “the” problem.
    I guess Pope Francis is in good company.

  • There’s good analysis per Sacred Scripture in this afternoon’s post at Holy Souls Hermitage Blog.

  • Pat-
    I liked the analysis from HSH.
    Thank you for sharing.

  • There is much that we do in charity that will offend someone. If we worry about this nonsense when trying to serve God, where will we be?

    So trying to avoid causing needless offense– nevermind possible harm in leading others to ignore rules just because– is “nonsense.”
    What a charitable notion.

  • “I doubt if Pope Francis was intending to send any great signals by washing the feet of the female juvenile delinquents. My guess is that he is learning what life is like as Pope, where everything one does is subject to microscopic analysis. I suspect that he likes this feature of papal life as little as most of his predecessors.”

    He certainly had to know this was going to cause a stir, ignoring liturgical law (which as pope he has the perogative to do) amongst Catholics and including a Muslim girl. This law has been flouted by parishes here in San Diego for as long as I can remember, as I am sure it has in many American dioceses. This will only seem to give them the aircover to continue violating that law, regardless of teh fact that just because the pope can do it. it doesn’t give them permission to do so.

  • I doubt Francis was very much out of his comfort zone.

    The rule about No girls allowed in the foot washing ritual is probably one that could be changed as a concession to our current cultural limitations–the change might do some good and little harm. But it has not yet been changed, and it may be unseemly for the Pope to exempt himself from it (although I rather doubt he thought of it in that way).

    We probably should not hyperventilate over minor matters, but if we do have a liturgy, we should do it right. What is the real example being set here? As someone once said (in effect): if we are cavalier about little things, how can we expect to be listened to about the great?

    (I’d be a little surprised if there is much Muslim blowback from this, but neither had the problem occurred to me; maybe the Monk is on to something.)

  • While the Pope may have intended this particular footwashing to be “a positive sign” in the life of the Serbian Muslim inmate whose foot he washed, strict Muslims may take offense.

    Let ‘em.

  • Foxfire, with respect, charity includes thinking well of others until they evidence bad intent. I have none so you are needlessly picking a fight.

    Cultural sensitivity is a complicated subject. Giving intentional offense may, indeed, be uncharitable. What about offense being taken where none was intended? Surely that is uncharitable?

    It is nonsense to expect that others will strictly apply a particular groups norms. The touch stone is intent.

  • “Author: Art Deco
    Comment:
    While the Pope may have intended this particular footwashing to be “a positive sign” in the life of the Serbian Muslim inmate whose foot he washed, strict Muslims may take offense.”

    Pope Francis engages in an intemperate and ill considered gesture (washing the foot of a Moslem female) and now Catholics in Moslem countries must be killed to avenge the insult to Islam according to Sharia law. I guess you can insult Islam all you want as long as you don’t live in a country, such as Italy, which has not totally converted to Islam, yet!!! Pope John Paul II found out otherwise when a Moslem bullet found him.

    I read somewhere that all but six of the 50 juveniles at the kids prison are Moslems. Ten of the 11 boy foot-washing recipients were Moslem. The Pope was offering a Catholic Mass for a bunch of Moslems who did not want him there.

    Please, Holy Father, don’t be niave about “the World” and Moslem behavior.

  • David, you are quite wrong about giving “no reason”– you respond dismissively to valid, well-argued concerns and abuse charity to attack those who disagree with you, and when called on it you abuse it again to make baseless accusations.

    “Charity” is not a hammer, and it’s quite annoying to see it used that way more often than not.

    Charity is loving, and there is nothing loving about curling your lip at the idea of not needlessly trampling someone’s toes.

  • Wow, Foxfire! You sure assume the worst in a guy!

    Let’s try this again…

    I meant no offense to the Motley Monk or anyone else for that matter.

    Our culture has formulated an unworkable and nonsensical standard that is displayed all around us. “Nonsense” was the wrong word and I appreciate your pointing that out. Let us say instead that the standard being applied is “unworkable.”

    Islam is no more a monolith than Christianity. The cultural and religious variation is huge and it is unworkable to expect those who are not part of one’s particular group to apply the standards of that group.

    The touch stone is intent because nothing else is workable.

    When a man intends to offend, we are free to be offended but it is uncharitable to assume the worst in others. We should begin by assuming they meant well and failed to connect than that they meant to offend.

    That is, I maintain, the heart of charity in human interactions.

    So, i acknowledge that I foolishly chose the charged word “nonsense,” but I meant nothing more than I said and no ill intent at all.

  • Wow, Foxfire! You sure assume the worst in a guy!

    Hardly. I go off of what you actually wrote. That it bears no resemblance to what you explain you meant to convey is not an effect of my “assuming the worst.”

    Amusingly, you take offense. Kind of proves the point.

    The touch stone is intent because nothing else is workable.

    You prove that it isn’t workable– twice, now, you have tried to mind-read my intent, and made false accusations based off it. Before bothering to explain what you were trying to do, even.

    That someone didn’t mean harm doesn’t do any good if there is harm done– as Mr. Horton points out, this lack of thinking twice could cost lives.
    Including that of the girl whose feet he washed.

  • I think its good the pope’s doing things differently. It’s a sign of humility and authentic servanthood when people engage in such actions. I don’t think anyone seriously intent on service worried about the implications of the acts. As a protestant, I really don’t see anything wrong with female ministers. I know certain change can be good. Other types of change can signal degeneration. It depends on the type of change being implemented. We know from the scriptures that many women were involved in frontline ministry early on. We also know St. Paul wrote some things against women doing certain tasks in the church, perhaps in certain contexts. But it would be nice if the new pope can introduce some change for the better. Every so often that’s necessary or things grow stagnant.

  • Sir, I appear to have offended you t some time in the past and for that I am sorry. I do not remember all that I have written so all I can do is apologize. If you share with me the particular offense, perhaps I can make amends.

    My e-mail is dspauldi@temple.edu.

    With regards to the problem posed by the Motley Monk, i began badly by using the charged word “nonsense.”. The aubstance of the quick comment was not, to my mind, wrong though and, looking back at it, it fits seemlessly into my later responses.

    I wrote “there is much that we do in charity that will offend someone. If we worry about this nonsense when serving God, where will we be?”. Please walk with me a bit and hear me out.

    Cultural sensitivity is a constraint to evangelization where it cordons off whole segments of people from hearing the Word nd experiencing Christ. In the Motley Monk’s post I heard an echo of America’s unwillingnss to engage others for fear of offending. It may well be that this was not the Motley Monk’s intent and that I displayed an hypersensitivity to the issue.

    I am human and saw the post theough my particular lens.

    “There is much we do in charity that offends” is true, isn’t it? China bars the importation of Bibles except though official channels and entirely bars religious works other than the bible that don’t have the government’s approval. Surely it is more charitable to share the Word, even thoguh it offends the State than to sign off China’s people as being beyond our reach?

    “There is much we do in charity that offends” isn’t an uncharitable statement, is it? Surely it is charitble to call our brothers and sisters out on their sins when they are receptive to that message? I have, thanks be to God, been saved by the timely intervention of others. Is it charitable to let those receptive to the truth wallow rather than sharing the Word and experience of Christ?

    “There is much that we do in charity that offends” is true as applied to this particular situation too, isn’t it? The girl in question is a Moslem and a prisoner. Surely these facts suggest that she needs help. Is it charitable for His Holiness to withhold the experience of washing her feet from her merely because a group of Moslems oppose his doing so? Can it possibly be right to let a soul perish out of deference to an unknown and unnamed person who may, conceivably, somewhere, be offended by that Christian act?

    I say “intent is the touch stone” because this flwed creature called “Man” can be bound by no other measure. Nothing, however well it works out, turns out as we planned. If the effects are the measure of our lives then we are all doomed for we are all failures. No, my friend, we are bound to do our best with the right intention. We can do no more.

    I assume His Holiness intended to save souls and, ven if it should cause millions their lives, I will not call that deed “evil.” so long as his intent was pure, it was a good deed, worthy of our warm regard.

    We are brothers Foxfire and I am not offended by your characterization. I am saddened that my choice of words caused you to become angry at this wonderful time of year. I am sorry for having chosen my words so recklessly and take the disagreement on my head, for I initiated it.

    I debated whether to reply this evening or not. I do not with to have the last word in this and pray that you will take that privilege.

    I am going to sleep and pray that Providence smiles upon you as the dawn breaks and the Risen Christ renews the Earth.

    May God Bless and Keep you,

    David

  • And, again, you demonstrate that “intent” is useless. Even when I clearly explain what I am objecting to, and why, you persist on telling me that I am doing it for another reason, wrap yourself in outrage and offense, and refuse to listen to what is said, let alone respond to it.

    Of special interest is your response to the girl’s life possibly being put in danger– “oh, that’s just someone else’s response, it should be ignored so she can have the experience.”
    That is… words fail me. As anyone here could attest, that isn’t a common occurrence.

    I am not a “Sir,” and I am not going to waste my time on an email when you cannot be bothered to read what I write here and respond to actual points made, rather than the reasons you feel like projecting.

  • David,
    I read what you wrote and I think you are charitable regardless of how anyone else interprets what you wrote. It seems clear that you intended no offense, apologized for possibly causing offense, offered the last word,wished peace, and offered prayer. You set a good exampleto follow.
    Peace+

  • Yikes, Foxfier. Go ahead and act more Catholic than the pope if you must, but no need to be so prickly about it. Geesh.

  • Foxfier & David-
    Peace be with you and your families.

  • Pope Francis engages in an intemperate and ill considered gesture (washing the foot of a Moslem female) and now Catholics in Moslem countries must be killed to avenge the insult to Islam according to Sharia law. I guess you can insult Islam all you want as long as you don’t live in a country, such as Italy, which has not totally converted to Islam, yet!!! Pope John Paul II found out otherwise when a Moslem bullet found him.

    I think if it bothers you, you can stew quietly and stop making an obnoxious nuisance of yourself.

  • Folks, this back and forth is unseemly on Easter, so I am closing down the comments on this post.

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