Saturday, April 19, 2014

Detroit Free Press reporter drives wedge between area Catholics over foot-washing ceremony

This public debate over Holy Thursday foot-washing is getting old and tired.  The secular press, and even some in the Catholic sphere, discuss this to the point of detracting from the Mass of the Lord's Supper.  The ceremony involving foot-washing isn't even required and was absent for some period until it was brought back in 1955.  Since there is so much controversy surrounding it, I was not planning to discuss it and I don't care to comment on the prudential decisions of the Holy Father or my Archbishop.   It's not my place.

However, an article appearing in yesterday's Detroit Free Press by Patricia Montemurri was just brought to my attention and since it mentions Assumption Grotto there are things I would like to address.

The article is a perfect example of how foot washing has come to dominate Holy Thursday in the eyes of many inside and outside of the Church.  Perhaps some good would come from suspending the practice again for a time so we can all take stock of the fact that the Eucharist was instituted on Holy Thursday!  I doubt that will happen.

Let's look at that part of the article dealing with Detroit (my intra-text comments bracketed in red).  I'm snipping some text out to save space so read it all there.

At metro Detroit parishes, women have been included in the foot-washing ritual for decades. Detroit Catholic Archbishop Allen Vigneron poured water onto the feet of five women and seven men at the Holy Thursday mass at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral. [This is a prudential decision, following a 1987 USCCB document which varies from what is in the Sacramentary, so no comment]
In 1987, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops urged [???] that women be included in the ritual, and it’s been standard practice in many parishes, although it’s left to the discretion of individual bishops and parish pastors, said Dan McAfee, the Detroit archdiocese’s Christian worship director. 

Since the text of the second paragraph above is not in quotes I do not know what is coming from the reporter and what is coming from Dan McAfee. It may be paraphrased and embellished.  The document does NOT "urge" anything; rather, it tells priests and bishops they MAY deviate from what is in the Sacramentary.  Let's look at the two relevant paragraphs from the 1987 USCCB letter and you will find nothing "urging" anything. Feel free to read the entire letter. Here are paragraphs 4 & 5.

4. Because the gospel of the mandatum read on Holy Thursday also depicts Jesus as the "Teacher and Lord" who humbly serves his disciples by performing this extraordinary gesture which goes beyond the laws of hospitality, the element of humble service has accentuated the celebration of the foot washing rite in the United States over the last decade or more. In this regard, it has become customary in many places to invite both men and women to be participants  in this rite in recognition of the service that should be given by all the faithful to the Church and to the world. Thus, in the United States, a variation in the rite developed in which not only charity is signified but also humble service. [An unfortunate method of getting Church laws changed is to first break a  law until a practice becomes popular, then make it the law.] 

5. While this variation may [?!?!?] differ from the rubric of the Sacramentary which mentions only men ("viri selecti"), it may nevertheless be said that the intention [this is "spirit of" language which was used to introduce many innovations] to emphasize service along with charity in the celebration of the rite is an understandable way of accentuating the evangelical command of the Lord, "who came to serve and not to be served," that all members of the Church must serve one another in love.

Continuing with the Detroit Free Press article, quoting Fr. Perrone:
Some Catholic pastors adhere to a traditional interpretation. [No. It is not "traditional interpretation" to follow Church law]. 
“We’ll have 12 men dressed as apostles and they have their feet washed in the ceremony,” said the Rev. Eduard Perrone, pastor of Assumption Grotto Catholic Church in northeast Detroit. “That’s the tradition in the church and we’ve not deviated from that.”

Looking at how Fr. Perrone was quoted, the first question that popped into my head when I read this was: Did Father get baited asked if he was washing the feet of women this year, without being told it was a story about the Archbishop of Detroit washing women's feet?  I have not talked with Fr. Perrone yet so I do not know, but a young adult altar server who told me of the article wondered likewise.

I find it interesting that Patricia Montemurri decided to zero in on Assumption Grotto, as if she didn't already know the answer to the question. This was just a way to take a jab at people minding their own business on a controversial issue, in one of very few parishes using the 1962 Missal, and attempting to apply public pressure to drive change.

Those who advocate for tolerance do so as long as you don't take notice of their intolerance of those who choose to do what is within their right.     It's unfortunate that other Catholics, especially in the comment box at the Free Press article, would choose to be critical of a practice at Assumption Grotto that is in harmony with Church law and is not criticized by the Archbishop of Detroit or his Christian worship director.  The Pope himself has not criticized those who do not wash the feet of women and in one year's time, he has not made it a point to change the law!  If he wanted to "urge" every priest to include the feet of women in the ceremony, he could have done it with the stroke of a pen!

I keep saying law because it is not a simple rubric; it involves canon law.  The Free Press author quoted blogging canonist Ed Peters (my emphasis in bold).

Edward Peters, a church canon law expert at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, wrote on his blog,, in 2013 that Francis was setting a “questionable example” by washing women’s feet, because a 1988 letter from the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship states that only “chosen men” can be admitted to the ceremony. [I cannot find the specific blog post citing the 1988 letter, but Ed has written extensively on this controversy and you can sift through them all in this search of his blog]
Peters, in an email this week, said he doesn’t oppose women being in the ceremony, he feels that church law should make it clear that it’s acceptable. [Whether one agrees or not on women being in the ceremony, there is the whole problem with violating existing laws without changing them, which causes nothing but confusion, controversy, and quarrels]
“Outdated Church laws should be removed but the system for doing that is not being observed in this area. [Exactly, though I don't agree that this one is outdated].  The current situation, therefore — that of having a law on the books, but one not observed locally or in Rome — breeds confusion about what law is for in the Church,” Peters wrote. [Bingo. So there are at least two problems: One is the question of women in the ceremony, when Christ could have washed the feet of women that night; and secondly, the question of consequences to breaking Church law to observe a particular practice, rather than working to first change the law, if there are grounds for changing them (mindful that the Holy Father has power to bind and loose, and it causes fewer problems when done formally.)]
Odell Roberts, 69, of Allen Park participated in the past as one of the 12 parishioners in the ritual at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral. Cardinal Adam Maida, the archdiocese’s leader from 1990 to 2009, washed her feet. 
“It was very special,” she said.

I'm a woman who pretty much grew up watching women's feet get washed at local parishes on Holy Thursday when I did go, along with many other liturgical innovations.  Truth be told, I don't recall seeing it any other way until I got to Assumption Grotto in 2005.  As a female, I can probe the depths of spiritual lessons during the foot-washing of all males because my active participation in the Mass and liturgical ceremonies is deeply interior and not dependent on "doing" something. In fact, the less I do the more I can participate (contrary to popular belief, I'd rather not be photographing, but do so because it is a service to others who do not have access to this beautiful form of the liturgy).  Inclusiveness doesn't come from being up in the sanctuary; it's a response to God's grace to give my entire being in worship and prayer while observing and reflecting right along with all the other men in the pews not having their feet washed.

Once again, it is so regrettable that we have seen few discussions about the institution of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday.  What a lost opportunity to catechize the faithful on the Eucharist at a time in history when we know people lack a deep understanding.  I know so many Catholics who are just fine with their children and grand-children leaving the Church for other Christian churches and groups, as long as they go to some Church.  Yet, there's no concern for them not having access to the Eucharist and other Sacraments where they go.  People who haven't set foot in a confessional in years go up to Communion in droves. These things are telling our pastors something and we talk about foot-washing?

Something is messed up and it's fruit is confusion, conflict, and quarreling - all amidst an ongoing mass ignorance of the Eucharist.

Photo at top taken at Assumption Grotto on April 17, 2014 at the Mass of the Lord's Supper, during the foot washing ceremony.  Fr. Eduard Perrone, the pastor of Assumption Grotto, using the 1962 Missal, washes the foot of a man. He is joined by the deacon of this Solemn High Mass, Fr. Aidan Logan, o.c.s.o. (hooded); and the subdeacon, Fr. John Bustamante, who is the associate pastor of Assumption Grotto. 

For interesting news items I don't have time to blog on, check out my Twitter Feed: @TeDeumBlog

Te Deum Laudamus! Home

The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church;
it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!

- Diane M. Korzeniewski

Note: The recommended links below are automatically generated by the tool, so they are not necessarily related content.