The colossal changes sweeping through culture completely upended what is expected in worship services, in both Protestant and Catholic churches. Onto the Post-Christian stage steps Pope Francis. The reaction to his elevation was puzzling, because oddballs like Hans Kung seemed gleeful to see him become Pope. Stories circulated of his friendship with Protestants, but also of his apparent lackluster feelings for Benedict’s revived Latin Mass.
Much has been made of his humility, but at some point I start to wonder if all of your humility is on display for the world to see, is it really humble? And is it a slap in the face to your predecessor? Do you need to refuse the Papal apartment and riding in the Popemobile? They are paid for, you aren’t buying them, so why make such a stir about these things? The priesthood in the Bible was robed in glory, and our services should be glorious, not drab and barren. So are we witnessing a return to the worst of the insane revolution that produced bad buildings and horrible liturgies (akin to the 79 BCP), or is this something else?
There are almost no bastions of tradition, beauty and ceremony left in the world. All has become ugly and commonplace. Monarchies and liturgical churches are a couple of the last redoubts holding out against complete annihilation by the jeans, tee shirts and flip flops crowd. So is Pope Francis going to finish the job that Vatican II started and utterly destroy the sacredness of the liturgical ceremony in his quest for ‘simplicity’? Will he clean out corruption over the sexual abuse scandals? If so, will he also usher in doctrinal innovations that are heretical? From a Protestant point of view, I’d love to see him restore church discipline and excommunicate the Biden’s and Pelosi’s of the world. I see his use of the title “Bishop of Rome” and his moves towards equality with the Cardinals as potentially positive. But if they come hand in hand with a radical agenda of deconstructing the mystery of the liturgy and letting the quasi Liberal Protestants loose on the Church in America, this cannot be good.
The Traditionalist blog, Rorate Caeli, has been all over the new Pope. For example, when he washed feet in the prison yesterday for Maundy Thursday, commenters wrote:
In mediaeval times, the Pope originally did in fact wash the feet of twelve paupers (all male, of course). If memory serves, local bishops who practised the custom would either wash the feet of paupers or of their clergy. The original monastic custom was for the abbot to wash the feet of *all* the community.
However, the present Pope’s behaviour is nothing so much as archaeologism tainted with feminism, and one might wish to argue that his proclaimed “humility” is more likely self-will.
They pointed out, correctly, that Jesus washed the feet of the Twelve Disciples, not of unbelievers, and not of women, which raises issues of propriety. They also point this bit of history out:
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. The “Caeremoniale episcoporum” directs that the bishop is to wash the feet either of thirteen poor men or of thirteen of his canons.
Another post points to the Pope’s total disregard for his titles. Further adding to Trad unease, Friar Raniero Cantalamessa preached a sermon today which could be read as a call for taking a wrecking ball to the liturgy:
We know what the impediments are that can restrain the messenger: dividing walls, starting with those that separate the various Christian churches from one another, the excess of bureaucracy, the residue of past ceremonials, laws and disputes, now only debris.ﾠ
In Revelation, Jesus says that He stands at the door and knocks (Rev 3:20). Sometimes, as noted by our Pope Francis, he does not knock to enter, but knocks from within to go out. To reach out to the “existential suburbs of sin, suffering, injustice, religious ignorance and indifference, and of all forms of misery.” As happens with certain old buildings. Over the centuries, to adapt to the needs of the moment, they become filled with partitions, staircases, rooms and closets. The time comes when we realize that all these adjustments no longer meet the current needs, but rather are an obstacle, so we must have the courage to knock them down and return the building to the simplicity and linearity of its origins.”
On the positive side, Francis continued to attack relativism, saying:
It is what my much-loved predecessor, Benedict XVI, called the ‘tyranny of relativism’, which makes everyone his own criterion and endangers the coexistence of peoples. And that brings me to a second reason for my name. Francis of Assisi tells us we should work to build peace. But there is no true peace without truth! There cannot be true peace if everyone is his own criterion, if everyone can always claim exclusively his own rights, without at the same time caring for the good of others, of everyone, on the basis of the nature that unites every human being on this earth.”
The things that I would really like Rome to reconsider are probably not going to change: Scriptural fidelity, policy on icons, Purgatory, indulgences and Mary’s position. If the “reforms” of Francis are an attack on ceremony and terrible innovations that liberal theologians are pining for, then it is not favorable for any of us who take fidelity to Christ seriously. A reform that made the Roman Catholic Church into a Magisterial Protestant Church would be great, a reform that makes it into the present Church of England would be a disaster.