In two weeks Pope Francis has done more to promote Summorum Pontificum than Pope Benedict did since the day he promulgated it.
After the decision by Pope Francis to wash the feet of two women on Holy Thursday, conservative Catholic priests and laypeople alike will now be looking for ways out of the dilemma posed by the foot washing rite of the Holy Thursday Mass.
The foot washing rite is actually optional, though that fact is little grasped by liberals who impose the options they like as obligatory on those who would prefer to opt out. Liturgical law prescribes that only men (viri in Latin) can be chosen for that rite. Priests who want to adhere to the law will find themselves facing fierce opposition by liberals demanding that women be included. Bishops will be hard-pressed to explain how priests should keep to the liturgical law when the Pope himself flouts it. By including women, the Pope has cast all liturgical laws into the hazard.
Priests who opt to omit the foot washing from Holy Thursday Mass will be seen – paradoxically – as dissenting from the law that clearly excludes women’s feet from being washed. To avoid the dilemma entirely, priests and lay Catholics who wish to see proper liturgical law observed will find a suitable option in the older form of the Roman Rite, the so-called “Tridentine” form emancipated in 2007 by Pope Benedict.
After Summorum Pontificum went into force, a clarifying document called Universae Ecclesiae was issued to help people interpret correctly how how to implement Pope Benedict’s provisions. Universae Ecclesiae says that all customs or liturgical practices not in force in 1962 (such as altars girls, communion in the hand and now, apparently, washing women’s feet), are not to be integrated into liturgies in the older form of the Roman Rite. Priests and lay Catholics who want Holy Thursday without dilemmas and controversies and fights about whose feet can be washed, have the legitimate option of the traditional Roman Missal which is, effectively, bullet proof.
Don’t kid yourselves. Many priests and lay Catholics are upset by the Pope’s move and the dilemma this poses at the local level throughout much of the western Church.
War-weary Catholics are back in the trenches, but they now have Summorum Pontificum. And Pope Francis has done more to promote Summorum Pontificum then Pope Benedict ever did.