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January 25th, 2016

Foot Washing

Pope Francis’ changes to the  (optional) footwashing ceremony on Holy Thursday—or Maundy Thursday to British readers—have stirred up quite a bit of controversy. A lot of people object to the inclusion of women, because  the original apostles were 1) all men and 2) all  bishops. Some journalists have already noted that the concession will be regarded by feminists as another step on the road to priestesses. If so, it is a tactical blunder as well as a liturgical monstrosity.

The media appear not to have spotted that the Holy Father’s statement makes it clear that only the faithful—which can only  mean Christians or perhaps even just Catholics—may be included.   Why, then, I wonder, did he wash the feet of a Moslem woman last Holy Thursday? It will be interesting to see whether, having already broken the established rule last  year, in Holy Week 2016 he breaks his own reformed decree  and again washes the feet of an infidel. Maybe the decree was just carelessly drafted.

If I were a parish priest I think I would now drop the ceremony altogether. Within a couple of decades, I predict, 90 per cent of all  foot washees  will  be women. Most men find the whole thing a bit embarrassing.

I’m glad the Pope’s decree doesn’t apply to the old Latin liturgy.

Perhaps the best way to cope with this latest papal aberration is light heartedly, like the always-amusing Eccles blog:

Pope  Francis introduces hair-washing rite for women

Pope Francis has shocked traditionalists with this week’s 29th change to Catholic teaching and practice – introducing the rite  of hair-washing for women on Holy Thursday

.pope washing hair

‘Hmm… those look like nits to me.’ The Pope washes a man’s hair.

First reports suggested that the change would involve the washing of women’s feet, although many women find this offensive, not least the implication that their feet are anything but clean and fragrant. However, the original letter signed by Cardinal Sarah (who, paradoxically, is not a woman, as far as we know) was in error: in fact this year, priests will be expected to offer a permanent wave to devout Catholic women.

hair wash for woman

The Vatican-approved rite is demonstrated at the Rosica hair salon.

There is some debate about the scriptural authority for head-washing (foot-washing was traditionally regarded as being for men only). Proverbs 25:22 does insist, ‘Thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the Lord shall reward thee,’ but this is not a formal recommendation, as the next verse says ‘Don’t try this at home, folks!’

More relevant is Jeremiah 9:1, ‘Who will give water to my head, and a fountain of tears to my eyes?’ which is pretty conclusive, and seems also to be warning against getting shampoo into the eyes of the faithful.

too much foam

A possible side-effect of ritual hair-washing. No need for a mantilla!

Advice to priests reading this blog: VATICO clerical suppliesTM are offering a new product ‘Wash, pray’n’ go’, which is recommended for use in the Novus Ordo hair-washing rite. Buy now while stocks last!

When I was about eight years old, we sang our own version of Land of Hope and Glory:

Land of Soap and Water,

Mother washed my feet,

Daddy cut my toenails

Then sang me to sleep.

Somewhere in central Europe, I understand, there is a Pentecostal  Church of the Foot Washers.  Their main and distinctive ceremony is to wash one another’s feet because of Our Lord’s injunction to the apostles: that just as He had washed their feet, they should wash one another’s.


January 12, 2015

From ‘Schism’ to ‘Problem’

Hibernicus, organiser of the Irish Catholics Forum, has responded generously and  positively to my objection to the use of the word “schism” as applied to the Society of St Pius X.  He has changed the title of the thread to “The SSPX Problem in a Nutshell”.  He states quite rightly that the status of the SSPX is highly problematic and that we should all hope and pray for their reconciliation.

Nevertheless, a possibly unworthy thought still occurs to me. Under the present pontificate, the Church faces very many  problems of which the SSPX is surely not the most serious.  Personally I would find it difficult to argue that Bishop Bernard Fellay has done more damage to the Church than the present Holy Father.

Alaisdir Ua Séaghdha, another contributor to the Irish Catholics Forum, while conceding  that the SSPX is not in schism (“yet”), says  there is certainly a “schismatic atmosphere” around them.  My understanding of schism is that it is a  sin, which one has either committed or not committed. Who am I (or Alaisdir) to judge?

January 8, 2016

Phwoar and Peace

A few days ago I was watching a tedious piece of cinematic hagiography about Abraham Lincoln. Most of it was devoted to politicking over an Amendment to outlaw slavery. I stayed with it to the end, believing rather naively that it could only improve. It didn’t.

There seems to be a conviction among film, television and theatrical producers, on both sides of the Atlantic, that the best way to keep audiences happy is to provide a large ration of smut and obscene language in every script, no matter how anachronistic and inappropriate it may be.  In Lincoln this even took place in mixed company, and even on the lips of the President himself—who, I understand, was  really a rather strait-laced character. The most bizarre example of this was when Lincoln is regaling his cronies with a joke,  on these lines…

Shortly after Independence, an American ambassador was being entertained  to dinner at the house of a great English Lord. When he retired to the privy, he found on the wall a picture of George Washington. When he returned to the table, the ambassador  commented to his host that this was an excellent cure for constipation, for what better way could there be to scare the s**t out of an Englishman?

Ha ha.

The joke should ring a bell with anyone familiar with François Rabelais’ Gargantua and Pantagruel.  In the original, written over 300 years previously, it  is King Louis XI of France (I think)  who responds to a call of nature in the palace of King Henry VII of England. There he finds a picture of “the great oriflamme of France” (see below). On encountering King Henry, he responds in almost exactly the same words as Lincoln’s ambassador. (The oriflamme, in case you are wondering, is a long, sacred banner of red silk on a lance, received by early French kings from the abbot of St Denis  when they were starting out for war.)

 Image result for oriflamme

But to return to my thesis. The same principle of “dirtying down” occurred in the  first episode of War and Peace  on BBC television last Sunday.  In Tolstoy’s marathon novel two characters, brother and sister Hélène and Anatole Kuragin are quite unusually devoted to each other. In this series, they are portrayed as actually having an incestuous relationship. In one preview I read, it was argued that this was merely making explicit what could only be hinted at in the book. Television people call this being “edgy”.One reviewer argued this was quite OK because it might encourage some viewers actually to read the novel. On Twitter, one wag has rechristened the series  “Phwoar and Peace”.

A final example. In a recent televised adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Niggers (now, perforce, renamed And Then There Were None in order to avoid any offence) there was quite a bit of mild porn and lots of unChristie-like obscene language.