By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Wow! Mature and Christian Wisdom on Foot-Washing Issue on the Internet

Dr. Jeffrey Mirus of has written a wise, prudent, and mature analysis of the whole liturgical foot-washing issue. (By the way, if we have to use labels, Dr. Mirus qualifies, in my view, as a Catholic theological conservative.) Here is the link. You will not waste your time reading it. I will quote an excerpt that I found striking, but please read the whole article to get the entire context:

It seems to me that there is ample warrant for permanently changing the liturgical rule which restricts foot-washing to males, as maleness plays no significant role in this context. The priest represents Christ; in washing the feet of those who depend upon him for spiritual good, he demonstrates the essential note of ministerial humility and self-abasement in genuine service. And any person who receives such service is called, in Christ’s name, to do the same for others.
But it remains to be seen whether Pope Francis intends to change this rule. Retaining the restriction has one value; it makes the current liturgical context seem materially more similar to the context of the Last Supper, even though the use of layman [sic] renders the scene theologically dissimilar, and this particular similarity or dissimilarity seems to be essentially irrelevant to Our Lord’s point. It is at least possible that restriction to males has become something of a patriarchal anachronism. It is certainly possible that insistence on this rubric actually now obscures what it was originally intended to clarify. But again, whether the Pope intends to change the norm remains to be seen.
Source Link. (End of Mirus excerpt)
Frankly, my analysis as a non-canon lawyer (although a civil lawyer trained in a secular Roman law legal system) and as a reasonably intelligent Catholic is that in fact the Pope has recognized the discretionary pastoral exception for bishops to include females if a bishop so desires (Canon 26 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law). Notice that there is nothing in any serious discussion of the matter about forcing a bishop to do anything. [N.B.: My analysis assumes that the canon law rules on custom (Canons 23-28) and on official interpretation of law (Canon 16) apply to this liturgical question. If these canon law provisions do not apply to this liturgical question, then the technical requirements of canon law are not binding, although they might possibly be analytically persuasive in evaluating this liturgical matter.]
But Dr. Mirus' reflections give us a great teaching moment about the tendencies toward Pharisaical attitudes that are all too common and seem to blossom on the internet. Reflection, restraint, self-control, maturity, kindness, courtesy, graciousness, yes, even, contemplation--what a wonderful way to approach the matter or any other matter in the future, especially if the matter involves the conduct of the Pope, your Pope. Or are those qualities too much to ask of individuals who identify themselves as devout? The Pope's actions have borne good fruit in unexpected ways for those willing to seize the occasion. Carpe diem.

(The image below showing Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well is in the public domain.)