This is a Catholic Blog. I am a Catholic Woman.

They should be ashamed. 

I watch The Passion of the Christ by Mel Gibson at some point during Holy Week each year. The movie, whatever the much-publicized weaknesses of its producer, is deeply meaningful to me.

This year I ended up watching it late, late Good Friday and early, early Holy Saturday, after my family had gone to bed. Earlier in the day I had shared a meal with one of my dearest friends. This lady is a cradle Catholic who doesn’t analyze the Church, she just believes it. She also uses her computer for work and turns it off. She’s not an internet junkie. Since we are blessed to live in a diocese where the bishops have always allowed women’s feet to be washed along with men on Holy Thursday, she had never encountered the discussions about this that float around the internet.

During our conversation, I told her about the happenings on Public Catholic, including the debate about washing women’s feet on Holy Thursday. When I mentioned that some people don’t think that women’s feet should be washed, she stopped and stared for a moment, then said, “Reaalllllyyyyy?”

It was the first time in all the years I’ve known her that I’ve ever seen this woman, who once thought about becoming a nun, angry over her faith. Why? Because she understood instantly that this attitude put her, as a woman, outside the circle of grace that the servant priesthood and the eucharist are meant to create for all humanity.

I explained it as best I could and moved on to other topics.

Later that night, as I was watching Jesus, standing before the Sanhedrin, something changed in me. Specifically, it was that moment in the film where He is condemned to death and the mob begins spitting on Him, hitting him and pummeling Him. He is surrounded, almost lost in the mob, fists coming at him from every direction. It was, as He said earlier that same evening, “Satan’s hour.”

I wasn’t thinking about my conversation with my friend. I wasn’t thinking about the outrageous attacks on the Holy Father because he had the temerity, by his actions, to include women in the whole of the humanity the Church serves. It was as if all the pieces clicked together by themselves with an almost audible snap.

This blog is a Catholic blog. I am a Catholic woman. 

If you want to put the “teachings” of self-annointed internet magisteriums ahead of the legitimate authority of the bishops and the pope to determine the order of the mass and the liturgy, I can not stop you. But I will not publish you. This behavior is harming my Church, and I will not open my house to anything that furthers it. 

You do not have to love the Holy Father to comment on Public Catholic. But you do have to refrain from disrespecting him, including posting links to those who are trying to make themselves his teachers in the rubrics of the mass.

I am not expert on this, but I’ve read that the girm that these people claim cancels out the teaching authority of the pope and bishops (not to mention the Gospels) was written around 50 short years ago in the 1960s. If I understand it correctly, the bishops have clear authority to modify certain things (including this one) in the girm, as part of their pastoral calling. I’ve read that Cardinal O’Malley of Boston specifically queried the Vatican about this issue after he was appointed to the Archdiocese of Boston and that this was the answer. He subsequently allowed women’s feet to be washed on Holy Thursday.

Presumably, other bishops, who had years more experience in this office than the Cardinal did at this time, already knew this. I know that (then) Bishop Bevilacqua asked the USCCB to clarify this issue as long ago as 1987, and got the same answer as Cardinal O’Malley received from the Vatican later.

I would guess that if I’m aware of this, the self-annointed internet magisteriums of which I speak are also aware of it. Since they’re making what is probably a very good living based on their supposedly superior knowledge of what they imply is the absolute and infallible dogma of the girm, they certainly should.

This fixation on one word and the obvious misogyny that fuels it are both serious problems for the people who are encouraging it. I mean they are serious spiritual problems for them. They are leading people away from obedience to their bishops and the pope in the name of the girm. They are appealing to the dark temptations of self-righteousness and clannish cliquishness that destroy community, limit faith and — worst of all — deny the core message of the Gospels.

I’ve been warned that by criticizing these people I am making myself the target of on-line attacks and defamation. If that doesn’t tell you that they are not of the Lord, then what does? 

They should be ashamed of themselves.

Here is an excerpt from a Washington Post article describing the picayune grievances against the Holy Father by these people. Read it and weep.

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

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

News Coverage: Pope Francis’ First Chrism Mass and Holy Thursday Foot Washing

This video shows news coverage of Pope Francis’ first Chrism mass as Pope and the Holy Thursday mass at which he washed the feet of 12 prisoners, including two young women. I am so grateful to the Holy Father for doing this.

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Pope Francis Washes Feet of Young Inmates, Including Two Young Women

I would guess that the feet washing controversy is settled now.

It appears that Jesus meant the priesthood is to serve all human beings. Or, at least, that’s the message I take away from the simple act that Pope Francis performed at the Casal del Marmo today.

After delivering what sounds like a very clear homily in which he explained the meaning of what he was about to do, he washed the feet of 12 young inmates, two of them female and two Muslims. “I do this with my heart,” he told them before washing their feet.

This reminds me of a line from the movie The Quiet Man in which the bride asked one of her friends, “What manner of man have I married?”

“I’m thinking a far better man than you know, Mary Kate,” the friend answered.

I believe that Pope Francis is a far better man than many of us know.

As for the inclusion of women in today’s foot washing, all I can say is Thank you Papa. 

I. Am. So. Glad. 

From NBC News, (emphases mine):

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ROME – Since he was elected leader of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis has proved many times over that he wants to break away from clerical privilege, come down from St. Peter’s throne and act as a humble servant of the faithful.

And on Holy Thursday he reinforced the idea that he will champion social outcasts and the poor by washing the feet of a dozen young inmates in a juvenile detention center …

… The group of 12 young people who had their feet washed and kissed by the pope included two young women – the first time a pope included females in the rite. The ceremony has traditionally been limited to men, since all of Jesus’ apostles were men.

The young people were aged between 16 and 21 and chosen from different nationalities and religious backgrounds – including two Muslims, according to a Vatican spokesman.   

“It is a gesture of humility and service,” Father Tom Rosica, a Vatican Press Office spokesperson, said before the ceremony.

It teaches that liberation and new life are won not in presiding over multitudes from royal thrones nor by the quantity of bloody sacrifices offered on temple altars, but by walking with the lowly and poor and serving them as a foot-washer along the journey,” he added …

…Speaking to about 1,600 priests who packed St. Peter’s Basilica for Mass on Thursday morning, Francis talked about the need to concentrate on the people they are ministering to.

“We need to go out, then, in order to experience our own anointing (as priests)… to the outskirts where there is suffering, bloodshed, blindness that longs for sight, and prisoners in thrall to many evil masters,” he said. (Read the rest here.)

Chaput: Pope Francis is the Medicine the Church Needs

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Is Pope Francis God’s instrument for leading us away from “tepid Christianity” and “mediocrity in our faith?”


Archbishop Charles Chaput thinks so.


Overwhelming percentages of practicing Catholics are like me — delighted with our new pope. However, there is disquiet in some quarters, mostly from people who loved the symbols of high office which Pope Francis has eschewed. The people I know who feel this way are certainly not “tepid” Catholics. They are far better Catholics than I am or ever will be. They are also people who loved the pomp and feel the loss of it keenly. 


Painful as it is for them, I think that Pope Francis is teaching us a necessary lesson. He is teaching us what the symbols mean. He is pulling back the curtain on the symbolism to show us the reality behind it, and that reality is Christ. “I didn’t come to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them.” Jesus said. In the same way His vicar on earth is not destroying the richness of the Church, he is teaching us what it means.

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We are faced with virulent secularism and aggressively marketed moral and social destruction in the West; violent persecution and death-dealing exploitation, poverty and war in much of the rest of the world.


We need a pope who will preach Christ. I don’t know how to say it more directly than that. This world needs Christ and Him crucified. 


The Church is a church of metaphor and symbol. In some ways, the Church itself is a metaphor. I get that. But, if people focus on the metaphor to the point that they begin to take it literally, then that becomes a kind of idolatry. The symbols and the metaphor all point to the living Christ Who was crucified for our sins and Who offers us the gift of eternal life.

Pope Francis is not only pulling away the curtain to show us what lies behind the symbols, he is talking to us about the realities of the devil and hell. I will write about this more later, but our new pope is not afraid to refer to the “evil one” as the father of lies and the machinator behind many of our worst impulses. 

Archbishop Chaput talks about the “tepid Christianity we find in the northern hemisphere.” I couldn’t agree more. The purpose of this blog is to offer whatever assistance I can in equipping Christians to stand for Jesus. As a catechism-following, Jesus-loving, pro-life Democratic office holder, I have the unique perspective of often having been the much-maligned tip of the sword on social issues. I also have the perspective of one who has seen and experienced the almost militant indifference of Christians to what is happening in the world.

“Tepid” is too kind. Snoozing in our beds and refusing to be wakened is more to the point. I love the liturgy and the mass, not because of the vestments and the beautiful Church, but because it is an hour-long (or 30 minutes long for daily mass) prayer. I love the mass because it re-enacts Calvary, because it takes us to the foot of the cross and then beyond it to our redemption. I love the mass because the healing touch of Jesus is there in the Eucharist.

Holy eucharist

For far too many people, the form has become more important than the reality. People who focus on the form rather than the substance are too often substituting the form for the substance.

All we have to do to turn this world around is follow Christ. To do that, we need a pope, bishops and priests who preach Christ. Pope Francis is doing exactly that. I thank God for him.

Excerpts from Archbishop Chaput’s interview with Vatican Insider are below.


When he was elected Pope, Francis said that he comes from the “end of the world”. What did he mean?

“In our day and age the Gospel is preached in every corner of the Earth. God’s family of faith is one body, one people, intimately connected by the love of Jesus Christ, no matter where in the world we come from. The new Pope is living proof of this. He comes quite literally from the other side of world.”


What is the importance of him being from Argentina? Will the hispanic community play a central role in the Church of the XXI century? What changes will this imply for the U.S. Catholic Church

“Maybe God is telling us that the kind of tepid Christianity we find in the northern hemisphere is no longer vigorous enough to face the challenges the Church is faced with.”


Cardinal Bergoglio is very atypical, in that he never held a position in the Roman Curia, he has never wanted a car or a chef and he takes the bus…What does all this mean in your opinion?
 

“Less is more. Simplicity and humility, when they’re combined with intelligence and courage, make a very powerful medicine for the soul. I think this Pope is just the medicine we need as a Church.”


Why did Bergoglio choose the name Francis? Was it because St. Francis rebuilt the Church of Jesus? Does this mean that the Curia acknowledges that the Church needs to be rebuilt in some way?

“”Repair my house” were the words Jesus addressed to St. Francis from the cross of St. Damian. The issues of reform, renewal and repair: All of these things probably figured into the new Pope’s choice of a name … people have a mistaken image of Francis of Assisi … He was certainly “counter-cultural” - but only in his radical poverty; his radical obedience to the Church; and his radical insistence on living the Gospel fully, including all of its uncomfortable demands. That’s the kind of purity that leads to a genuine rebuilding of Church life …


Liberal groups, particularly here in the U.S., are really concerned about the cardinals’ choice of Pope. Even Cristina Fernández de Kirchner said that his position is reminiscent of medieval times. What you think?

“Words like “liberal” and “conservative” are hopelessly misleading when we speak about Catholic belief. There’s no way of separating love for the poor from love for an unborn child. Defense of the oppressed and marginalized and defense of the family, the nature of marriage and the unborn child spring from exactly the same Catholic commitment to human dignity. There is nothing “progressive” about killing an unborn human child in the womb. And there is nothing redeemably “orthodox” or “conservative” about ignoring the cries of the poor.”

(Read the rest here.) 



The Church and Women

Francis kissing girl s foot

I love this photo. Why? Because it shows our new pope washing the feet of both women and men on Holy Thursday. 

Catholics of a certain stripe look for holiness in anything that diminishes women. Righteousness is wanting to do away with altar girls, ending the service of women readers and extraordinary eucharistic ministers. These same folk are adamant that only people with y chromosomes should have their feet washed by a priest on Holy Thursday.

In each of these cases, they will insist that no, absolutely not, misogyny has nothing to do with their insistence that women’s participation in the life of the Church be diminished to spectator and held there. No. They are only making these claims because their liturgical/doctrinal/moral purity commands that they, “in charity,” do so. 

After all, they tell you, we have a priest shortage, and the precipitous drop in vocations correlates to the use of female altar servers. Ergo, the presence of girls near the altar is what’s causing the priest shortage. As for women readers and female extraordinary eucharistic ministers … well … women, reading Scripture? Out Loud? Near the Altar? And women, touching the Host. Ewwwww. Then there’s the ugliness over foot washing on Holy Thursday. Everyone knows that when Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, He did it as part of instituting the priesthood, and the priesthood is all male. Sooooo … no foot washing of female feet on Holy Thursday.

Notice how these various excuses seek to sidestep the fact that every single one of them is aimed at women? Notice also, that every single one of them is an I-am-more-Catholic-than-the-popism?

Licht

Let’s take these arguments one at a time, starting with everybody’s favorite; altar girls = falling vocations. There is a historical correlation between the time that girls were allowed to be altar servers and the beginning of the drop in vocations to the priesthood. However, correlations are always a bogus argument for cause. Here’s why. A correlation simply shows that two events occur near one another. The Encyclical Humanae Vitae also correlates historically to the fall in vocations. By this logic, I could claim that it was the cause. Or, for that matter, Nixon’s resignation from the Presidency correlates. Maybe that did it.

Correlations do not signify cause.

One possible cause of falling vocations that I can think of is linked to that 400 pound gorilla in the room that unwritten rules say we shouldn’t talk about. The percentage of homosexual men in the priesthood appears to have risen during these years. Homosexuals are a much smaller pool of possible applicants from which to draw vocations than the entire male Catholic population. In addition to that, as the stigma against homosexuality goes away, homosexual men have lots of other options. I am not writing this to start an attack on homosexual priests. I am writing it to explain why blaming the priest shortage on altar girls is nonsense.

Let’s look at the next argument against women actively taking part in the life of the Church: Women near the altar, or touching the host = something unclean. I hardly know how to address this argument. It is so obviously misogynist and, well, crude, that it baffles me how people who believe it can convince themselves to believe it. A woman reading the scriptures is bad? A woman extraordinary eucharistic minister defiles the Host? Did Jesus despise half the people He made? I think not.

Next, let’s go to the question of washing women’s feet on Holy Thursday. You know: Washing women’s feet on Holy Thursday = heresy or some such. To talk about this intelligently, we need to pause for a moment and consider where the custom of Holy Thursday foot washing came from. It began when Jesus washed the disciples feet at the Last Supper. 

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“Do you know what I have done to you?” Jesus asked the apostles after he washed their feet. “I have given you an example to follow.” 

He said this to men who, not so long before, were arguing about who was going to be greatest in His coming Kingdom. They didn’t get it. After three years of watching Him talk to the woman at the well, refuse to condemn the woman taken in adultery, teaching Mary and Martha and obeying His Mother at the wedding at Cana, they still didn’t get it.

He came for the least of these. And in all the world, no one is more consistently the least of these than women. Every society has it’s discriminated against. But no matter who else falls to the bottom of things, in every society, there is also always women who are beaten, raped, murdered, bought, sold and belittled from birth to death.

“Do you know what I have done to you?”  He instituted the priesthood that night, and by washing their feet, he was teaching them to be priests. “I have given you an example to follow,” He told them. 

The people who are so adamant that no woman’s foot should be washed base their argument on the fact that Jesus instituted the priesthood that night. In some translations, the Scriptures say, “… now you should wash one another’s feet.” These folks try to take that literally, without taking it too literally. It means, they say, no women. But, if you really want to be literal about it, it means only the Apostles. Taken that far, we would probably have bishops, washing each other’s feet in a room by themselves and that would be Holy Thursday.

Does anybody think that’s what Jesus intended?

I think that if you want to follow the spirit of the act, you should probably go out on the streets and bring in homeless people, drug addicts and prostitutes and wash their feet. I think what Jesus was trying to tell the apostles — and us — is that they were wrong when they argued over who would be greatest in His Kingdom. They were wrong when they thought that they were following a Teacher Who would give them the power to lord it over all the rest of humanity. He wasn’t making them kings. He was making them servants.

He was also teaching us, all of us who take His name, that we should be servants. Washing feet on Holy Thursday is a testament of humility on the part of the priesthood of Christ. it is an action of profound meaning that tells all of us what the priesthood is and who it serves. When your parish priest goes down on his knees and washes and kisses the feet of twelve of his parishioners, he is acting out the meaning of the priesthood itself. He is demonstrating what in persona Christi means.

“Feed my sheep,” Jesus told Peter. He didn’t say feed my rams. He also didn’t say feed my ewes. He said feed them all, male and female, young and old, weak and strong, without discrimination or turning any of them away.

Jesus Christ is the Lord and Savior of all people, everywhere. In my humble and theologically ignorant opinion, if you don’t “get” that, then you don’t “get” Jesus. If you don’t understand that to your core, then you have never met the Lord I encountered on that day long ago when I said, “Forgive me.”

Do you know what I have done to you, he asked. I have given you an example to follow. 


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