Much discussed these last days, the Pope disregarded the rubrics surrounding the washing of feet.
Also much discussed, the Pope has rejected tradition in multiple other very visible ways.
Also, widely reported is the Pope’s commentary that the Church should not be inwardly focused.
It is not my intent here to discuss whether the Pope is right or wrong, authorized or not, to do what he has done. Father Z and Ed Peters do an excellent job of summing this up and I recommend you read it. My concern now is elsewhere.
The Pope’s disregard for established law and rubrics coupled with his statements has an effect and I am afraid it is not all good.
I fear that the Pope is inadvertently setting people in the Church against each other.
This is how the Pope’s actions are now being framed in the popular mindset:
If you think that law and rubrics are there for a reason, the reason being the order and good of the Church and the faithful, and you are troubled about the violations then you are part of the problem. You are one of the inwardly focused people that the Pope is trying wrest the Church back from. If you think that law, rubrics, and tradition matter, you are the other–you are the problem. You are not humble and simple like the Pope. You are the past.
If, on the other hand, law, rubrics, and majesty in the worship of God have never been your thing, then life is good. The Pope, by example if not by word, is validating your worldview. You have never really cared about such things and have often violated them. The Pope has just shown that, as you always suspected, these things don’t really matter, that things like law, rubrics, and majesty hinder evangelization and are simply the products of an inwardly focused Church. You are part of future Church.
But this unfortunately sets the good of the Church against itself, truly a house divided. This division makes its way down to the people. Look how quickly that happened forty years ago.
Is it alright, in the name of simplicity, for a Catholic not to go to Church on Sunday as long as he keeps the day holy in some way? Why not?
If you think that abstaining from meat on Fridays is silly and anachronistic and a sign of an inwardly focused Church, can you dispense with it if you abstain from something with more meaning to you? Why not?
Which laws, rubrics, and traditions still matter? Which are still binding?
But see, if you even ask the question, then you are part of the problem and part of the past.
I don’t believe that this is the intent of the Holy Father, but to some degree it is already the result. If Pope Francis continues to show disregard for law, rubrics, and tradition, I fear this dreadful result.
There are many things the Pope can change, law and rubrics among them. If the Pope wishes to change them, he should do so properly. For one thing the Pope cannot change is human nature. Disregard for the law breeds only more disregard for the law.
[Note. I love the Pope and want him to succeed. I think renewed focus on the poor is wonderful and I support it wholeheartedly. But I do not accept, as some would have you believe, that law, rubrics, and tradition must be thrown overboard to achieve this renewed focus on the poor. I don’t think the Pope supports this either, but I fear some of his actions give encouragement to those who do.]