If You Look at This Picture…


and see unutterable beauty, you are healthy and normal.

If you look at it and think “Is that a woman? He should not be kissing a woman’s foot!  Why is this person not dressed modestly?  This is attention-seeking fake humility! The Horror!” you are sicker by far than the person whose foot is being kissed.

  • http://www.catholicalcoholic.com Number 9

    did somebody actually say this? you are leaving us hanging here.

    • SouthCoast

      Yes. At some other blogs. *sigh*

  • S. Quinn

    Beautiful. One thing that saddens me, though, is that the mainstream media highlights this kind of thing (especially that photo the other day of Pope Francis kissing a disabled man) as if it were a Franciscan act brand-new to the papacy. I have innumerable photos and videos of JPII and Benedict XVI doing the exact same thing.

    • Roberto

      Amen! And people will probably forget all this as soon as Francis starts insisting on things they don’t like. Thus goes the world, but let’s keep hope up and let’s keep praying for conversions, ours and that of others.

  • freddy

    Not only beautiful, but the artistic merit of this photograph is breathtaking. I would hang this on my wall with other pieces of devotional art. Where did you get this? Is the photographer making prints available? This would even make a lovely parish gift instead of the usual “posed-pope” photo or painting.

  • http://www.mycatholicblog.com Erin Pascal

    When I first looked at the picture, I saw hope. This photo is amazingly beautiful. What Pope Francis did here left me in awe and I felt happy for the kid. Thank you for sharing this. The photo is simply wonderful. :)

    • Susan

      Re: my note above, did you feel the same way – in awe – about the many, MANY times John Paul II and Benedict XVI did this? I am NOT taking anything away from the great beauty and hope embodied in this wonderful picture.

  • Tom

    Beautiful! What a wonderful example for the World.

  • Emil Berbakov

    “The Servant of the Servant of God”

  • bob

    Beautiful. Thank you!

  • vox borealis

    I’m the type of person who looks at this picture and refuses to be positioned by sentimentalism into the false dichotomy the blogger presents. I am truly moved by the beauty of the photo, yet at the same time—assuming the photo is from Holy Thursday and the individual is a woman—I am at least slightly pained that a church leader would ignore a liturgical rubric. A rubric, mind you, that is tied to the formation of the sacramental priesthood, a position that has been under assault and is increasingly not accepted by Catholics over the last couple of generations. Ignoring this particular rubric, brings further confusion. Yet still this is a beautiful gesture and beautiful image. As a both/and Catholic, I look forward to the day when we can have both, rubrical fidelity and additional many moments of beauty and witness such as this, and a time when false dichotomies are not so prevalently employed, and a time when expressing even slight misgivings does not bring about accusations of being a pharisee (which is related to the whole false dichotomy thing).

    • Mark Shea

      Why do you assume it’s from Holy Thursday? Does it look like a Holy Thursday Mass? Why do you make it your business to immediately sit in judgment of a beautiful gesture when you don’t know a thing about it except that it’s a beautiful gesture? Why be in such a hurry to condemn instead of to celebrate?

      • vox borealis

        I don’t assume it’s from Holy Thursday. I only said that *if* that was the case I would feel uneasy about it. The dichotomy you posed strongly implied that it was a Holy Thursday mass because of the reference to the recipient possibly being a woman (“is that a woman?”). Literally the only similar complaints I have heard have involved the washing of women’s feet during the Holy Thursday mass, and so I naturally assumed this is what you were alluding to. I’m just responding to the dichotomy as you presented it.

        • Mark Shea

          No. I said nothing about Holy Thursday.

  • Brian Ortiz

    Mark, one can see the good that then-Cardinal Bergoglio was intending but also be concerned if he violated the Church’s rubrics. As it turns out, the photograph does not depict a Holy Thursday liturgy, but we’ll just have to wait and see what the Pope does next Thursday.

    • Mark Shea

      Or, one can exercise common sense, note that this looks like a hospice and not Holy Thursday, and stop being filled with paranoid fear and acting as suspicious liturgy cop.

      One can also reflect on the fact that he can do as he likes on Holy Thursday and not talk as though somebody died and made us his judge, jury and executioner if he loosens the rubrics. The law was made for man, not man for the law.

      • vox borealis

        One can also reflect on the fact that he can do as he likes on Holy Thursday…

        I’m pretty sure the Church teaches the opposite. But then what do I know, I just try to follow the rules as the Church gives them, not decide that individuals can bend or break them as they (or I) see fit.

        • Mark Shea

          Sigh. Obviously, I don’t mean the Pope can ignore natural law or apostolic tradition. http://canonlawblog.wordpress.com/2013/02/16/what-the-pope-can-do-cant-do-might-do-wont-do/ I mean that the pope can ignore and alter human tradition (such as not wearing a mozetta). JPII had female altar servers at some Masses. This pope may well wash women’s feet on Holy Thursday. If he does, I don’t care. Nor should anybody else.

          That said, we have no reason to think this picture is anything other than beautiful. *Charity* (not to mention common sense) would say, “This doesn’t look like Holy Thursday”. And if memory serves, it wasn’t. It was an AIDS hospice or cancer ward.

          • wineinthewater

            I think most of your comments on this are spot on, but not this one:

            ” This pope may well wash women’s feet on Holy Thursday. If he does, I don’t care. Nor should anybody else.”

            If it is a Holy Thursday mass, then it does matter and we should care. The Mozzetta and the red shoes and whether his pectoral cross attaches to a button are one thing. But if the Pope decides to break liturgical rubrics, that is something else entirely. He is subject to the rubrics – not just customs and small t traditions, but the actual rubrics – as surely as anyone else. Faithful in small things, faithful in large things. Unfaithful in small things, unfaithful in large things.

            I have little attachment to papal protocol (I understand the role it can play, but also see the barriers it can create). But the rubrics of the mass are something else entirely.

            I just thought it was a lovely picture and had a glimmer of a thought that I hoped it wasn’t Holy Thursday mass.

            • Subsistent

              Having been quite favorably impressed by a previous comment (a number of weeks ago) by “wineinthewater”, I’m quite surprised and disappointed that he indicates here that a pope “is subject to the rubrics” as to their juridical binding force on his conscience. For I see no difference in principle between that theory and the now-condemned theory that a pope is subject to a so-called General Council.

              • wineinthewater

                The pope is subject to canon law, to the rubrics, to all the laws of the Church. General Councils do not create laws of the Church. Of course, the pope has the authority to change the laws of the Church (even if he can’t change dogma), but he is always subject to them when they apply to him. As a cleric, he is subject to all the rubrics of the mass. If he wants to do something else, then he needs to change the rubrics.

                Think of what precedent is set when the Holy Father ignores rubrics. If the Pope doesn’t follow them, how is the local parish priest to be convinced they are important? If they aren’t important, why have them at all?

                • Mark Shea

                  And if he chooses to ignore the views of the combox commentariat on his alleged obligations regarding the jots and tittles of canon law?

                  • Blog Goliard

                    He’ll surely be punished as severely as Blessed John Paul II was for exceeding the limit of 120 cardinal-electors.

                    • Mark Shea

                      The punishment of the combox canon law star chamber is, alas, inflicted on itself and those unfortunate enough to get sucked into that hothouse.

                    • wineinthewater

                      The 120 limit is established no where in law that I can see. The pope may be bound by the laws of the Church, but he is not bound by the customs of the Church. A good pastor would only vary from custom for good reason, but he certainly has the right to do so.

                      That is my point. I don’t care if the pope wears red shoes (though I’d prefer he didn’t) or kowtows to all the customary pomp. I do care if he follows the rubrics of the liturgy. I have no reason to believe our good Holy Father will do otherwise. If he does, I’ll be disappointed, but it’s certainly no cause for condemnation or disavowal.

                  • wineinthewater

                    I don’t care much whose views he ignores. In my experience, most combox views can be safely ignored .. mine included.

                    I’ll be honest, I don’t get why it is so outrageous to expect a pope to be faithful to the Church, even in small things. Much of our liturgical practice is ungoverned by rubrics. So go ahead, do what you want for those things. Exercise prudence, but I love the diversity of practice in the Church.

                    But for those things that are governed by rubrics, there is an importance in following those rubrics. I see that as part of true humility, to not see yourself as above those “silly little things.” Why should the pope be so special that should be able to break the laws of the Church when no one else can? If a rubric is truly so unimportant, then the pope should change the rubric, not just break it. As I believe that Pope Francis’ humility is genuine, I imagine it will find expression this way as well.

                    • vox borealis

                      Amen I say to you, wineinthewater.

                • Subsistent

                  Acrually, I think it may be less a matter here of the pope *ignoring* the rubrics than of his *interpreting* them in a special case according to “epikeia”. (See on this the Summa Theol., 2a 2ae, q. 120.)

                  • wineinthewater

                    I’ve no problem with epikeia; I *do* see it as a virtue. I’ve always appreciated the Catholic approach to Canon law: When the law binds, interpret loosely; when the law looses, interpret broadly.

                    I am willing to give most people the benefit of the doubt, and especially would give it to the Holy Father.

                    I’m not some doctrinaire here. I simply expect the Pope to either abide by the laws of the Church, or change them. Really what it comes down to is that I expect the laws of the Church to be meaningful. If there is just reason for the Pope to ignore/break/”transcend” a law, that is a clear sign to me that the law probably needs to be changed.

        • Marthe Lépine

          For some strange reason, I suddenly got reminded as I read this exchange of Jesus healing a man’s hand on the Sabbath…

      • Stu

        “One can also reflect on the fact that he can do as he likes on Holy Thursday… ”

        • Mark Shea

          Sigh. Obviously, I don’t mean the Pope can ignore natural law or apostolic tradition. http://canonlawblog.wordpress.com/2013/02/16/what-the-pope-can-do-cant-do-might-do-wont-do/ I mean that the pope can ignore and alter human tradition (such as not wearing a mozetta). JPII had female altar servers at some Masses. This pope may well wash women’s feet on Holy Thursday. If he does, I don’t care. Nor should anybody else.

          That said, we have no reason to think this picture is anything other than beautiful. *Charity* (not to mention common sense) would say, “This doesn’t look like Holy Thursday”. And if memory serves, it wasn’t. It was an AIDS hospice or cancer ward.

          • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

            I disagree that we shouldn’t care. We should care enough to ask what does the pope mean to say by this and what is the lesson he is giving that may enrich our life in Christ. I know that you probably didn’t mean literally don’t care but you’re in your second generation of fast and loose wordsmithing. You’re very often better than this. Somebody parachuting into this thread wouldn’t know that.

          • Stu

            Actually, I have seen this picture reported as being part of Holy Thursday Mass at an AIDS hospice. Whether it is or not, I don’t know.

            But I echo TM, that making such changes to things that already have deep, established meaning is indeed something we should care about especially if the liturgical rules on the books forbid such actions. Such changes to things with long-standing meaning don’t happen in a vacuum. There are always unintended consequences or those that erroneously read things into the changes that aren’t exactly orthodox. Can the Church change them? Absolutely. But do it right. Don’t simply start to ignore that with which you disagree. Because it won’t take much time before you find everyone else doing the same. That’s just leadership 101.

            Besides, with just a little bit of creativity, we can have it both ways. There is nothing stopping the Church from maintaining the traditional meaning of the Mandatum and then AFTER the Mass continuing such acts. In fact, you might actually make the whole evolution more meaningful.

            • Mark Shea

              The thing is, as Dave points out, it’s actually a fairly recent development that the Pope celebrates Holy Thursday. So the “deep, established meaning” is not really all that deep and established. I refuse to panic if recently coined human customs get changed by the Pope. Life is too short.

              • Stu

                But the practice goes back farther than being part of the revised liturgy and the symbolism that I have mentioned was present before those changes. Regardless, the meaning is present now and that’s what the disciplines of Holy Mother Church reflect now.

                If we want to change them, thne so be it. There is a right way and a wrong way.

                • Mark Shea

                  *We* don’t have any say. If the pope decides to wash women’s feet, it’s up to him. And I don’t much care whether he does or not. Those who choose to sit in judgment of him if he does do so to their loss, in my opinion, since they will only harvest more anger instead of happiness. I will be content either way.

                  • Stu

                    If he does decide to do so, he is going against the rubrics. It is what it is.

                    • Mark Shea

                      Right. And as I note, the rubrics are not the Iron Law of the Universe, as John Paul demonstrated. As I say, I don’t much care myself. Whatever he opts to do is fine by me. He’s the Pope. Who cares what I think?

                    • Stu

                      Then anything goes? Who then decides what is “iron” and what isn’t? That’s a sloppy attitude Mark and it leads to sloppiness all around.

                      When a leader violates the rules, he loses all credibility when he attempts to enforce them. Again, leadership 101.

                      If the Pope wants to change them, then simply do it right. Make the changes officially. I’m not sure why anyone would disagree with such an approach.

                    • Mark Shea

                      Then anything goes?

                      No. As I said, the Pope cannot alter natural law or apostolic Tradition.

                      Who then decides what is “iron” and what isn’t?

                      The Pope. It’s his job. It’s not our job. That’s why we have a Magisterium.

                    • Stu

                      Years ago, I attended a parish that had quite a few and glaring liturgical abuses regularly going on during Mass. I also dearly loved (and still do) the priest. While I certainly did not judge him, it was very easy to judge the rightness or wrongness of the actions on the altar (e.g., consecrating the Precious Blood in a big glass pitcher and then pouring it, etc). I eventually began to discuss the issues with him in a kind way with the rubrics and a copy of Redemptionis Sacramentum.

                      Slowly, he began to change but it was slow going. It appeared as though all was going to be lost when he turned down recommendations from others in the parish that I take over lead of the altar servers. He commented to me that standards I wanted to enforce were just not doable or “too much.” I was not offended, wished him well and thought this would be the sign for me to start attending the EF Mass in the local “big city.”

                      But then Father went on a retreat and during that time, he had a change of heart. He told me that during his walks on the beach, he came to the conclusion that was correct in wanting to be obedient to what Holy Mother Church has given us in the Mass and he got up in front of the entire parish during the next Mass to say that as parish we needed to change some things about our worship and it is through obedience that we will receive the most graces. I was in tears because that was a true sign of humility on his part. It was also one of the best displays of leadership I have ever seen.

                      Of course, I remained in the parish to support him and became the parish MC for him.

                      Liturgy matters.

                  • Stu

                    What better way to show that “anything” does’t go than by leadership through example.

                    If the Pope begins bypassing the rubrics as a matter of practice, others will follow suit. At that point, whatever changes individual priests or Bishops want to make are “their” call unless you think the Pope has time to run around and correct them.

                • Stu

                  From New Advent (Catholic Encyclopedia)…

                  “In the latter half of the twelfth century the pope washed the feet of twelve sub-deacons after his Mass and of thirteen poor men after his dinner.”

                  Again, seems to me that there is room to have both options here. Given it is part of the Mass now, it would be nice to stick with the rubrics and traditional symbolism of Christ teaching his Apostles how to serve the people. After Mass, there could be further acts for the poor.

                  I will further add, that for all I know that is exactly what Cardinal Bergoglio did given media reports are often sloppy.

                  We can have both options here. It’s a “both/and.”

          • http://commonsensecatholicism.blogspot.com Kevin

            Okay childrens, you are all throwing a temper tantrum over something nobody really needs to.

            First, let’s dispense with the obvious. Yes, the Pope can change liturgical laws. He can bind or loose as he pleases.

            Let’s also get the equally obvious out of the way: Having the authority to do something does not make it a good idea, and people can say it is or isn’t a good idea without being less or more Catholic.

            So far so good?

            So let’s calm down here, everyone.

            • http://commonsensecatholicism.blogspot.com Kevin

              Also, Mr. Shea is free not to care.

              Yet really, if liturgy is just changed on the whim, yeah, you really should care. If only because the Church has explicitly said you have the right to an ORDERLY liturgy according to the rubrics.

              If the Pope wants to change the rubrics, he should change them. If he doesn’t, he should also follow that which he sets forth. That isn’t standing in judgement of him. It’s simply saying following the example you bind on other priests is probably good policy.

    • http://themightyambivalentcatholic.blogspot.com/ Steve

      When someone starts worrying so much about whether the church’s rubrics have been violated, I find myself thinking about Jesus curing the blind man on the sabbath. (Oh, how terrible. We’ve got him on this one. What sort of fellow would disrespect sabbath regulations? A troublemaker, that one! Never mind the good he was doing. That’s irrelevant! It’s the REGULATION that matters–not the person who has been brought into closer contact with God’s love!) Fortunately, as sad as that attitude makes me, Pope Francis’s propensity for behaving in a truly Christ-like manner restores much of my faith in humanity and more particularly in the church. God bless our pope. May he be with us for many years.

  • Harry Piper

    Is there any discernible difference between the Pharisee who attacks Jesus for healing on the Sabbath and the Trad who turns his nose up at a clergymen washing a drug addicts feet because “It’s not in the Rubrics?”

    • Harry Piper

      The above’s a bit harsh, and apologies to anyone who feels hurt by it, but I seriously can’t understand how someone can object to the action in the photo above on the basis of liturgical directions.

      • Stu

        Let me help.

        I can separate the act of kindness from whether or not the setting is proper and comment on both accordingly. Kind of like a priest saying Mass (good thing) but doing so in an illicit manner (bad thing).

        I don’t know the specifics of this photo, but IF…IF it is part of Holy Thursday Mass then I would be concerned. I think the Liturgy does not belong to one individual to “do as they like.”

        • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

          If one does not know the specifics of the photo, isn’t the first proper reaction “tell me more”? Information gathering before decision and issuing proper, informed judgments seem to be dead center of traditional Catholicism, or any proper Catholicism in my opinion.

          • Stu

            Concur. I am just answering a question that had a precept already embedded.

            • Harry Piper

              Cheers Stu for a polite response.

    • http://commonsensecatholicism.blogspot.com Kevin

      Pretty easily.

      First, sometimes people take things too far. So yeah, some people act like Pharisees.

      Now the rubrics seem like an insanely small thing. Yet when it comes to following the law, unless its incredibly hard to follow it, you should follow it. Granted, nobody can judge the pope (and he has the right to alter liturgical ceremonies as he sees fit), but I think Pope Francis is looking to lead by example. And a good example of leadership is to not lay a burden on others you will not bear yourself.

      When you follow the rubrics, you responsibly manage those things which are small, which is essential to managing properly things large. The parable of the talents makes that pretty clear. One of the great ways the liturgy instills a sense of simplicity and humility in a priest.

  • Tim in Cleveland

    The comments to this post (and others like it) have inspired a meme: Trad Cat


  • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

    I do not see beauty. I see a proper expression of love and a profound imitation of Christ. So what bucket does that put me in? The act is complex. People can take their own lessons from it. Yes, one can take the wrong lesson but I demur at the idea that there is only one right lesson to be learned.

    • Mark Shea

      Which would matter if I had said there was only one right lesson to be learned. In fact, I was saying there is one wrong lesson to be learned.

      • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

        One of the creepy bit about objectivism that utterly turned me off to it was my observation of the tendency of objectivists to herd around one answer to what I saw as complex situations that had more than one good answer. Now go and reread the responses to this point and how everybody’s clustering around your suggestion of beauty. It’s not a personal failing of yours that I’m complaining about here but it all is a bit too “herdy” in terms of the entire conversation as an emergent phenomenon. The Church is richer and more varied than that and I was striking up a note to recall it.

    • S. Quinn

      Yikes! Splitting up the transcendentals of Goodness, Truth, and Beauty like that? They are one. Acts of love (which fall under the Imitation of Christ) are indeed beautiful ….but again understood as one of the Transcendentals, not as merely aesthetic. Go read some Aquinas, or the first chapter of Balthasar’s “The Gliry of the Lord,” a favorite of Benedict’s, who wrote EXTENSIVELY on beauty.

  • Alyssa

    If you’re trying to get trad Catholics to stop critiquing Pope Francis, I think this is the wrong way to go about it.

    • Mark Shea


      • Alyssa

        Your selective charity makes me think you have a personality disorder. I guess that’s just your style.

        • Mark Shea


          • http://www.thewordinc.org Kevin O’Brien

            You know, Mark, it really is a personality disorder. It’s a form of OCD, this rad-tradism. And Alyssa may very well have it, as may those working so diligently in this combox to turn this into a case of “concern” over our pope who’s been pope for TEN WHOLE DAYS.

            Why can no one see the difference between the pope going out of the bounds of the rubrics to do something emphatically and stunningly Christ-like, and Fr. Dave at St. Somewhere celebrating a clown mass is very bizarre. Context and meaning are totally lost; fear predominates.

            • Stu

              Man overboard!

              Kevin, one can easily recognize the beauty of what is being one here in the picture and still point out that IF it was done as part of the Holy Thursday liturgy then it is objectively a violation of the rubrics. Let’s just be open and honest and call it what it is. No harm in such.

              Further, to want the Pope to set the example of following the rubrics is also not an unreasonable desire from the faithful. It not only provides a good example for his many priests but it truly demonstrates his humility in recognizing that the even he too is subject to the rules of the Church. That is solid and inspiring leadership. It’s textbook.

              Now as Pope, he is free to change the rubrics. Well, if he wants to do that, then do it properly. Change the rubrics THEN follow them. But much more creative (and inspiring) would be to follow the rubrics as is AND then find a way after Mass to do those further acts of charity and humility as found in the picture above. We don’t have to pit the Liturgy against Charity. We can follow the rules AND still carry out those acts of charity.

              But hey, I guess I’m just another guy with a personality disorder as well.

              God Bless.

      • Mike Harrison

        Please, Mark, be gentle with them — imagine the weight of those phylacteries on the heads of the devout members of the Traddery, and the burdens they bear having to watch the one with the authority use it in such a Christ-like, un-Catholic® fashion.

  • ivan_the_mad

    That photo touches me every time. I happily anticipate what Francis’ pontificate will bring.

    Good luck with the paper mitre brigade, Mark.

    • vox borealis

      And again we get name calling. generally the sign of weak argumentation. All some people are saying is that it is not inappropriate to be concerned when clergy, including bishops, ignore rubrics—that is to say, when they are openly disobedient and moreover violate the rights of the laity as laid out in canon law.

      Mark Shea has repeatedly stated here that the pope can do whatever he wants (with respect to liturgy), and that is true (though one might question the prudence of some decision without being a pharisee). But this is not a picture of the pope, right? It’s archbishop Bergoglio doing something.

      And if, IF, IF that something was washing the feet of a woman during the Holy Thursday mass, then he was in violation of the rubrics. And there is nothing wrong with a lay person being concerned about this even if one admits that the gesture entailed a certain beauty.

      Jiminy Crickets, is asking the clergy to simply follow the rules—what they rightly ask us to do—so out there that the request makes one automatically a pharisee or part of the “paper mitre brigade”?

      I think Stu hits the nail on the head, above.

      • ivan_the_mad

        This is over an if??? Paper mitre, indeed.

        • http://commonsensecatholicism.blogspot.com Kevin

          I think it’s more the reaction certain people are taking. i.e. we shouldn’t care about the liturgical rites since they aren’t Apostolic Tradition and can be changed on a whim.

          Oversimplification? So is the whole paper mitre stuff.

          • ivan_the_mad

            Thanks, Kevin, but I’ll stand by my opinion. There wouldn’t be an issue if the paper mitre brigade hadn’t decided on a need to put together a guilty conviction over an “if”. The start is here, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markshea/2013/03/if-you-look-at-this-picture.html/comment-page-1#comment-156592, making an assumption about Bergoglio violating rubric. Don’t like the following thread? Remember what they say about assumptions. You can lay that squarely at the feet of the paper mitre brigade this time.

            Shea’s posts usually have an angle. But he didn’t start this liturgical policing action. That’s vox borealis and the rest of the paper mitre brigade herein.

            • ivan_the_mad

              To be clear, I use the term paper mitre brigade not to lampoon genuine concern over adherence to rubrics, but to lampoon liturgical policing actions based on assumption, as is the case in this thread.

  • SouthCoast

    “What’s the difference between a terrorist and a liturgist?” “You can argue with a terrorist.”

    • Marthe Lépine

      Thank you. At this point of this interminable discussion, we – all of us – were in need for a good laugh! Now I can get to my work and read the rest later…

  • vox borealis

    On a related and interesting note, shifting the topic only somewhat: I’m not sure that Mark Shea is correct that a pope can do whatever he wants with respect to liturgy. Quoting Canon Law:

    “Can. 846 §1. In celebrating the sacraments the liturgical books approved by competent authority are to be observed faithfully; accordingly, no one is to add, omit, or alter anything in them on one’s own authority.
    §2. The minister is to celebrate the sacraments according to the minister’s own rite.”

    So, as I read this, the Church’s own law would prohibit any minister, even the pope himself, from saying mass and, for example, changing the words of the prayers or rearranging the parts or omitting some part of the rite. Now I imagine the pope does have jurisdiction to make such changes, but they would theoretically have be done in a proper fashion (e.g. issuing a motu proprio). Then again, maybe I’m wrong. It would be interesting to hear what a canonist such as Ed Peters says about this. And of course in practice we know that the pope (and also bishops and priests ) pretty much can do whatever he wants, regardless of the technical legalities.

    • Mark Shea

      I’m no expert, but I suspect you’re wrong since, as we know, the Pope has in fact, done things that were not according to canon law. I leave such matters to canonists since, in my experience, people getting upset about them in comboxes is almost entirely counter-productive.

      • vox borealis

        That the pope has done such things is only evidence that he done such things…it speaks not much to the technical “legality” of the acts. But you are correct there is little use in getting upset about it.

        • Mark Shea

          In what court shall the Pope be tried if he does not measure up to the canons of legality according to comboxers?

          • vox borealis

            Well of course, he would not be judge based on what comboxers say, but presumably based on what canon experts would say. In what court would he be tried? I have no idea, and indeed i have no idea if violations of rubrics, which is a canonical offense, rises to the level of a hearing before a tribunal or the like. Really, the question is not particularly important, is it?

            I merely raised an interesting canonical question. Of course the pope (and bishops and priests, too) can get away with doing whatever they want most of the time. I am simply curious if theoretically the pope is bound by the law that he and the Church promulgate.

            I don’t see what’s wrong with posing the question.

            • Mark Shea

              I do. You wind up with a combox commentariat that feels itself anointed by God to constantly criticize the Pope, read tea leaves about the dark significance of beautiful photos, and talk as though they have some right to spread nasty gossip about “The HORROR” of his pontificate within a few minutes of his election. All this sort of crap is slow drip poison. We would be *far* better off if such energy for hand-wringing over trivia were devoted to works of mercy.

              • vox borealis

                Maybe you’re right. But it seems, looking at the discussion presented here, that this frightful combox commentariat is a strawman. Pretty much all of the comments on this thread have been even handed and thoughtful, despite the provocative nature of the initial post.

                I reject your notion that issue (which relates ultimately to liturgy) amount to “trivia,” and I further question your position that popes can basically do whatever they want and are not subject to the Church’s law…and I think that the position has profound ramifications and is certainly not trivial.

                But I am also not angry or handwringing, nor am I spreading gossip, nor am I judging the pope or the like. You wrote a provocative post, aimed (I am surmising) at making loonies at sites like Rorati Caeli look like, well, loonies. That is shooting ducks in a barrel.

                • vox borealis

                  ..that there is this frightful…

                  Anyway, thanks for the stimulating discussion!

              • Stu


                Who are referring to here? You come across as all worked up and shooting high and right. It might be nice for you to remember that there is another human being at the end of those posting here. Why not assume the best in them.

                Wanting the Pope to follow the rules of the Mass doesn’t seem like big demand to me. In fact, it seems fairly reasonable. And if he wants to change them, that’s his call. But doing it on the fly is not the way to go.

                • http://www.thewordinc.org Kevin O’Brien

                  The odd thing about Rad Trads is their inability to appreciate beauty, for beauty depends upon right proportion. Ironic that the OF Mass is very beautiful, but Rad Trads can’t appreciate beauty – nor can they see the forest for the trees.

                  • Stu

                    Except no one here has said that what Cardinal Bergoglio is doing in the picture isn’t beautiful.

                    BTW, I don’t find name-calling “beautiful.” Perhaps there we do disagree.

                    • http://www.thewordinc.org Kevin O’Brien

                      I’m not name-calling Stu. A personality disorder is a personality disorder; the inability to appreciate beauty comes from the inability to appreciate proportion. Rad-trads exhibit both. And I get your denials – you can appreciate the beauty of the picture and you’re only concerned about the integrity of the Mass, but that’s just Wormtongue-speak. The raddies are sowing discord and laying the ground for schism. Their “concern” is simply a form of treason.

                      Do you have legitimate points about Holy Thursday and the rubrics? Of course you do. But the legitimacy of your points pales in comparison to the lack of charity you and the raddies are demonstrating.

                      If anything, Pope Francis is a touchstone for the rad trads. He is their stumbling block. They are showing their true colors in their extreme reaction to this man who is modeling Christ.

                    • Stu

                      “I’m not name calling…Rad-Trads…Wormtongue….raddies…schism…treason…”

                      Kevin, I think you and I were raised with different definitions of “name-calling.” Further, the picture you paint of the points I have raised is grossly out of proportion. I think you entered this conversation with some predisposed notion of conflict that you automatically paint anyone who might have a differing opinion with you as some manner of extreme enemy. Talk about an extreme reaction.

                      Years ago, I rather enjoyed your appearance on Coming Home; the one where you “appeared” as yourself. Funny how people can be different in a combox.

                      But do go on,you were saying something about charity?

    • http://commonsensecatholicism.blogspot.com Kevin

      Actually, on this one, you are wrong. It is advisable that a Pope follow the rules he sets out for priests. Yet he isn’t bound by them, nor can he be judged by anyone on this matter. We don’t have to like it, we can say its a bad idea, but that’s about all we can do. “The First See is judged by no one.” So in this case, Mark is right, there is absolutely no court that would “try” the Pope on violating things.

      Now as far as The Pope not being able to modify the liturgy, Mediator Dei states clearly otherwise.

      It follows from this that the Sovereign Pontiff alone enjoys the right to recognize and establish any practice touching the worship of God, to introduce and approve new rites, as also to modify those he judges to require modification”

      Now how this happens is pretty much up to the Pope. Again, it can be a very bad idea to just change it on a whim. It can cause scandal, lead to a lot more abuses, etc etc. Yet the whole idea that the Pope would be somehow forbidden from these kind of changes, that’s a bridge too far for any Catholic to cross.

      And, all due respect, its crap like this that makes it easier for people to caricature traditionalists. You start out with something perfectly defensible (it is not a good idea to change things on a whim) and head out further than is sustainable. Okay, I know I’m coming across as a bit of a jerk there, but we gotta work on that whole message discipline thing.

      • http://commonsensecatholicism.blogspot.com Kevin

        And just as an anticipation:

        What if someone goes ‘well Kevin, if you grant the Pope such a wide berth, what is to stop the Pope from introducing something heretical into the liturgy?”

        The answer to that is…… The Holy Spirit. This is a case where papal infallability clearly comes into play, since the teachings represented in their liturgy (lex orandi lex credendi) certainly touch upon faith and morals. This is one of those instances where, as Ludwig Ott notes, the Pope is acting as Doctor of the Faith, and hence infallible.

        So while that doesn’t mean everything the Pope does will be a good idea, giving such a wide berth to the Pope to modify rites as he sees fit doesn’t mean we have to worry about anything contrary to faith or morals finding its way into the liturgy.

        The Holy Spirit: Stopping Popes from doing colossally dumb things since 33Ad.

    • Marthe Lépine

      Just a minute here… I have always been under the impression that the Pope was a “competent authority”. Do you mean that he has to call for a vote in an official meeting setting in order to make a decision? Did Jesus ever instruct Peter to take a democratic vote? I do not mean that it is never a good idea to ask one’s colleagues or, in this case, quasi-subordinates their opinion. But to be bound to not do anything on his own because it is not considered by the laity as the “proper” way is something else. I feel that all this discussion is becoming a monumental waste of time.

  • freddy

    Mark, forgive me if I sound like I’m complaining, I know you’re busy, but could you *please* post some sort of photo credit or link for this lovely and moving picture?

    This is one of those pictures that any artist would admit happens in a moment of grace; that years of planning and searching for just the right models, just the right lighting, just the right props could not produce; the kind of image that makes professionals weep.

    And yet these moments happen. Someone stood behind the camera and was ready when the moment happened.

    • Mark Shea

      I don’t know the source.

      • freddy

        Ah, I see. That’s too bad. Thank you so much for your kind reply!
        God bless you!

  • John H.

    Mark, getting back to your original statement: this reminds me of what a Traditionalist priest in Europe said to an American who visited his parish and commented on the “immodesty” of women breastfeeding in Mass. The priest said, “The only person who can look at a woman breastfeeding and think it immodest is a pervert!” So too, the only person who can look at this sublime act of charity and only be concerned with rubrics that may or may not apply is a Pharisee.

    Think of the story of the Good Samaritan. Many read that thinking, “Those evil priests and Levites! How can they pass over this poor destitute soul?!” In reality, those priests and Levites were simply following the Pharisaical “rubrics” if you will. Card. Bergoglio’s gesture does not mean he despises the Rubrics any more than Christ would have despised the Torah. What they both despise is a Pharisaical attitude which would exempt us from loving our neighbor.

    Here’s a challenge to all of you who can’t help but criticize the Pope on these minor details regarding a not-so-ancient custom. Go, wash the feet of AIDS patients; donate all of your discretionary money to others in need; sell your car and take public transportation; sell your house and live in a modest apartment. Then see at that point if you care one internet second about whether or not this picture is of a Holy Thursday Liturgy!

    • Stu

      Don’t forget, “Adopt a child before you criticize a woman who had an abortion.”

      • John H.

        Oh, right. Let’s equate washing the feet of women with murder of innocent life. Go sit down. You need a time out.

        • Stu

          Oh, right, I didn’t equate it.

          I simply showed how your ridiculous line of reasoning is used by others with ridiculous points of view.

          Now go read about avoiding logical fallacies.

          • John H.

            What line of reasoning? There was no “logical” conclusion. It was a challenge to love. You on the other hand clearly equated the horror of abortion with the “horror” of maybe, possibly doing something that is against the rubrics in what maybe, possibly is a Holy Thursday Liturgy. Do you not see how wrong that is? If not, here’s another challenge: see if you can logically explain why what you said was an objectively immoral thing to do.

            • Stu


              If you have ever spent time engaging pro-abortion people, they will often make the charge that until you take the time to adopt an unwanted child, you really don’t have any leg to stand-on to point out the wrongness of abortion. It’s a logical fallacy.

              A similar form of rhetoric would be to say that one has to “Go, wash the feet of AIDS patients; donate all of your discretionary money to others in need; sell your car and take public transportation; sell your house and live in a modest apartment,” before they can point out that an act objectively violates the rubrics.

              We can be for charity and for following the rubrics. No need to create a false dichotomy.

              • John H.

                I don’t know who you are talking to. I never once said a person can’t criticize someone for not following the rubrics. Never even implied it. I said the picture may not depict a Holy Thursday Liturgy. That being so, I would hope fellow Catholics would give our Holy Father the benefit of the doubt in these matters.

                Then I issued a challenge to love and I asked if someone who showed as much charity as the Pope does would immediately look at a picture like that and think “the horror!” without knowing all the facts about it. (I know you don’t know me. But if you did, you would know that I’m actually pretty particular when it comes to Liturgy, and I have the scars to show for it.)

                And finally, you still can’t figure out why equating a picture that does not show any definitive violation of the rubrics with murder of innocent life is problematic.

                • Stu

                  John, we agree. To compare this picture to that of murder of innocent life would be problematic.

                  Thing is, I haven’t done that.

                  Instead I compared your rhetorical device to that of a logical fallacy often used by those who want to shut down discussion about being pro-life. Big difference.

                  The picture may not reflect Holy Thursday liturgy. I too have said as much in these threads. But I have responded to that possibility because:
                  1. I have seen it used and referenced as such in other locations on the web.
                  2. People here have asked “what if” in a hypothetical


                  3. I initially responded to this statement of yours with talks about Holy Thursday Liturgy.

                  “Here’s a challenge to all of you who can’t help but criticize the Pope on these minor details regarding a not-so-ancient custom. Go, wash the feet of AIDS patients; donate all of your discretionary money to others in need; sell your car and take public transportation; sell your house and live in a modest apartment. Then see at that point if you care one internet second about whether or not this picture is of a Holy Thursday Liturgy!”

                  My overall point is that regardless if I have washed the feet of an AIDS patient, donated all of my discretionary money to those in need, sold my car and used public transportation and lived in a modest apartment, it in no way affect my ability to comment on whether violating the rubrics is proper or prudent.

                  Further, to simply want the rubrics of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to be respected does not pit me against charitable acts either.

    • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

      You’re all skipping past the bit where Bergoglio violated anything. First there must be an actual accusation, then you gather evidence, you demonstrate the violation, all that has been skipped. You have a context free photograph that’s a bit of a rorschach test with a Shea spin that cannot help but provoke the traditionalists he persists in tweaking.

      In the absence of context, assume none. The act is what it is, an act of love and compassion for someone who is obviously very ill. I don’t even take it for granted the gender of the person in the wheelchair. Mark’s grasp of the story seems rather suspect, without link or other background information necessary to check things. I suspect he’s taking somebody’s word for what’s going on.
      I tried to hunt down the photo with little luck except for this link:

      The linked article asserts that it’s a boy and that the photo was taken in 2006.
      Facts, it’s nice to have them before jumping to conclusions or trying to stir the pot.

      • http://commonsensecatholicism.blogspot.com Kevin

        Nah, this is the internet. As I put on my blog recently:

        “Internet comboxes are never the place for sanity and rational discourse. Putting them on a Catholic website isn’t going to change things.”

    • http://www.thewordinc.org Kevin O’Brien

      Mark, install a LIKE button here so I can LIKE John H.’s comment. Very well put.

  • Dave P.

    1) My personal preference is that His Holiness follow the rubric regarding the mandatum. John Paul II may have had female altar servers, but only after they were permitted.

    2) My other personal preference is that if His Holiness wishes to wash the feet of women as well as men, he should change the rubric officially. He has the authority to do so.
    3) I realize that my personal preferences carry no weight with His Holiness, and that is, all in all, a good thing.

    4) Nothing has happened yet. He may follow the rubric as written, for all we know.

  • Charlotte

    Just something to ponder.
    It might prompt a little sympathy. I’m not criticizing anybody, so breath deeply before you respond.

  • rd

    and to think, of all the time people have already spent arguing about this, they themselves could have been washing other people’s feet instead.

  • Subsistent

    Even supposing that the pope were subject to the Rubrics of Canon Law, those commenters on this thread who’ve appealed to those rubrics have themselves neglected a key principle of that and of all human law. (And Ecclesiastical law is traditionally held to be a species of human law.) That principle is EPIKEIA, which interprets a statute according to the legislator’s mind albeit not according to the letter of that statute. And the bishop of Rome is competent to thus interpret.

    • Subsistent

      One assumes here that the rubricists on this thread have been impressed by a word *viri*, referring to those whose feet are washed on Maundy Thursday. If that’s how the rubrics read here, the rubricists have a point prima facie, since — distinctly from *homo* (pl. *homines*), which usually means “human/s” in general — *vir* (plural *viri*) usually means “human male/s”. Usually. But not necessarily always; especially in the plural. (Likewise, the Spanish plural *padres* can mean “parents”.) Is it certain that the plural *viri* here in the rubrics means “male”? ’Tis a question of interpretation; and a statute does not bind unless it is certain: “Lex dubia non obligat.”
      Further, even supposing that *viri* here means “males”, does it specify *viri soli*, “males only”? If not, then the maxim of canonists applies: “Where the law does does not specify, neither should we [canonists] specify.”

      • Stu

        I seen much more convincing counters to your interpretation from authoritative sources, not mention tradition of the practice.

        There is a simple solution. The Pope can change the rubrics. Just don’t do it on the fly. That’s sloppy and leads to more sloppiness from everyone. Do it right. Everyone wins.

        • Subsistent

          *My* “interpretation”? “authoritative sources”? Aquinas writes in the Sum. Theol. 2a 2ae, q.60, art. 5, that “it belongs to the same authority to interpret and to make a law”. And of the Church of Christ, His vicar, the bishop of Rome, is supreme lawmaker on earth. Therefore, Pope Francis himself is supreme “authoritative source” of “interpretation” of the rubric here, as to what will happen this coming Thursday evening.

          • Stu

            So if the Pope decided that “wine” now included grape juice on a whim, that would be okay? Or does the word “wine” actually mean something.

            No one doubts the Pope authorities. But there are proper ways of making changes. Doing it on a whim and counter to long-standing norms is not good precedent.

            • Mark Shea

              I don’t understand this discussion at all. Can we not just trust that the Holy Father knows what he’s doing and stop being afraid he’s going to screw everything up? The proper matter of the Eucharist is an aspect of apostolic tradition. It has *always* been wine. He can’t and won’t change that. It is only human traditions he can alter if he chooses. Should he do so, I don’t care. Not my business.

              • Stu


                I don’t understand why you won’t address the real point I am making.

                Have I anywhere said that I don’t trust the Holy Father? Has anyone here said that?

                Have I said that I think he is going to screw things up? Has anyone here said that?

                What was implied above is that the Holy Father can interpret “men” to mean something different than “men” after years of custom and tradition. I think the word “men” actually means something just like I think the word “wine” means something. Further, I think to begin interpreting such words differently, especially on the fly, is not smart and leads to bigger problems in the long run.

                Now what I have suggested, repeatedly…repeatedly…repeatedly, is that if we want to change the rubrics for Holy Thursday, then the Pope should do it formally. What’s wrong with that? And why do we have to characterize such a suggesting in all manner of disparaging ways?

                I have further suggested that the current Holy Thursday rubrics, which call for men only in the foot washing, can be maintained AND additional acts of the charity as depicted in the picture above could be part of something after Mass. What’s wrong with that?

                Instead of civil and good discussion on those points, we get people throwing around insults, mention paper mitres and other such juvenile rubbish. Let’s rise above that. In fact, how about you lead the charge?

                • Mark Shea

                  This entire argument has been totally predicated on “wariness” about the Pope. I don’t get it.

                  • Stu

                    I don’t get why you are attributing such thinking to me. I’m not wary of the Pope. I love him.

                    Now how about actually addressing the REAL points I have made.

                    • Mark Shea

                      Stu: You asked “Have I anywhere said that I don’t trust the Holy Father? Has anyone here said that?”

                      Yes. Someone on this very thread has said he is wary. And Kevin has defended the proposition of being wary. And your questions about “What if the Pope decides to use grape juice” do suggest that you are wary that he might do such an absurd thing and that people who are currently expressing their lack of concern about his celebration of the Mass would then somehow try to justify this. It’s all predicated on fears about nothing. If he alters anything at all, it will be human tradition, not apostolic tradition. I don’t understand all the fear.

                    • Stu

                      No one used the term “wary” in this thread. It’s another thread.

                      More to the pont. I HAVE NOT USED THE TERM.

                      Address me. Address my words. Address my thoughts. Do that and in return I will give you the same courtesy just I always have as both a Catholic and a gentleman. Seems like a charitable way of engaging in discussion and not just argumentation.

                      I brought up the example of wine solely to emphasize that words mean things and that is it. I didn’t offer as a real possibility and I think my follow-on words explain that. If I didn’t do a good job in that, my apologies. But even so, the fact that you didn’t give me the benefit of the doubt if a bit disappointing.

                      You keep asserting that this is a matter fear. It isn’t. It’s prudence. You don’t have experience in leading large groups of men. I may be wrong in that assumption but I believe I am correct. What you say and do around those you lead is very important. You are always in the spotlight and they are always watching what you do. They learn by your example and they being to emulate you. This is especially true when taking command from another individual. Unless your predecessor is a complete bozo, you don’t make drastic changes but instead slowly exert your style. If you begin to casually disregard rules and mandates, even if they are under your purview to change, then you shouldn’t be surprised when your subordinates follow suit. And further, when they do blow off something that is important to you, you have lost the high moral ground in admonishing them. Far better is to humbly submit to those rules you don’t like and then change them in very deliberate and open manner.

                      I love the Pope. I want him to succeed. And I actually have faith that he will not violate the rubrics because he has shown himself to be a humble man. But in response to the hypothetical scenario offered here, I would not want to see him violate the rubrics on Holy Thursday. First, there is no need to pit obedience to the rubrics against charity, as that which we see in this picture can be done outside of Mass. And second, he would be sending a bad message to his many priests about the importance of the Mass not being something that should changed on the fly. And because I love him, that would be how I would advise him IF I were in such a position.

                      Now if he wanted to change the rubrics, then that is certainly within his power to do so. But do it formally and use the opportunity to further teach the flock. Avoid confusion over abrupt changes in course and instead show a deliberate path ahead. It’s smart leadership and it’s actually the pastoral approach.

                      But at the end of the day, there is no reason that we cannot have adherence to the rubrics an displays as shown in the picture. Simply do them after Mass. It’s easy. So easy that I’m not sure why anyone would object.

                    • Mark Shea

                      I was addressing you. I made a mistake about where people were, in a closely related thread, expressing “wariness” in answering your question.

                      I got your point about the wine, but in raising it, you still seem to me to be borrowing trouble. It should have been obvious when I said the pope can do as he pleases that I was speaking of malleable human traditions and not of apostolic tradition. Yet you reacted with horror, as though it was a live possibility that he might change anything at all. The bottom line is, I’m just not worried about and do not care what the Pope chooses to do in liturgy. I don’t think about, I don’t concern myself with it, and I can’t for the life of me see why anybody would. I don’t see the use of fretting over it, I won’t care if he does do something people in comboxes say he can’t. Whatever he opts to do about merely human traditions, it seems to me to be a complete waste of time to get upset at the Pope for doing what he has the authority and power to do–particularly since he hasn’t done anything yet. So this whole conversation mystifies me.

                • Subsistent

                  The rubric that concerns the rubricists on this thread is apparently paragraph # 51 of the document *Paschalis Sollemnitatis* of the Congregation for Divine Worship. Nowhere does it use the phrase “men only”, nor any synonymous expression. Its English version reads — in full — simply: “51. The washing of the feet of chosen men which, according to tradition, is performed on this day, represents the service and charity of Christ, who came ‘not to be served, but to serve’.[58] This tradition should be maintained, and its proper significance explained.”
                  Therefore, the combox rubricists who invoke the letter of the rubrics, are not really keeping to that letter themselves, but are rather adding their own interpretation by adding the idea of “only”.

  • Mary P

    Wow I happened across this thread and I am becoming a Quaker. See you guys in hell, I guess. And God bless Francis, he gives me hope.

  • Caroline

    If the point of the foot washing is to minister to the lowest of the low, then of course the priest or the bishop or the pope should wash a woman’s feet.

    • http://commonsensecatholicism.blogspot.com Kevin

      It’s one of those both/and things. A sign of service and minsitry, but also the sign of the New Covenant High Priest washing the feet of His “lower priests” giving them the perfect example of self-emptying where God becomes essentially a butler. Now has this symbolism been sort of lost since in most areas there aren’t a lot of priests to recreate this? Do the times call for an emphasis on something else? All of these are debateable issues, and if that’s the case, then the Pope should change it. (He could no matter what I or anyone thinks.)

      I think in the end, it is just “if we are going to change, do it according to the books. It is easier that way.”

      I really wish this conversation would’ve not happened until something actually came up, but here we are. Ranjith wasn’t elected Pope and the internet doesn’t move according to my whims.