[1] The law of the Lord is perfect

This is the original version of a letter to the editor of my diocesan newspaper that has now been published. Hopefully I have provided for all local references, but — as a book I’m trying to read now might say — “the reader” should be able “to discover the gist of [my] arguments”.

DEAR EDITOR: The liturgical change decreed on 20 21 January by the Holy Father via the Congregation for Divine Worship (CDW) was like a birthday gift to me, albeit a day early, but not for the reason which may be presumed. Allow me to explain.

During Christmas Crazy crooned [1] that “the birth of our Saviour…was the end of the law”. I objected to this among family, who replied suggesting that he was only looking for a rhyme. The same dynamic is present in the Holy Father matching the law to its practice.

[1] See 0:34 & 1:51

Don’t get me wrong – legislation is his prerogative and I respect it, which is the reason for considering this instance to be a gift. On Holy Thursday last year, in a letter to the head of the CDW, I raised the possibility of eliminating the restriction on the Washing of the Feet to men.

To be clear: this is not me taking credit or anything of the sort. Rather: I bring this up because on Easter Sunday I submitted to the [diocesan newspaper] an opinion on how the Liturgical Commission interpreted said restriction in that day’s issue.

Again, don’t get me wrong: this is not me ‘toting’ (to use our parlance) [2] because I was not published. Rather: now I am picking back up on the problem I tried to point out then by way of comparing liturgical rubrics and the Code of Ethical Political Conduct.

[2] As in to hold “it” against someone

Both systems each serve something which is bigger than us and in which we hopefully believe, but by nature one stems from its thing while the other must be grafted to its. [3] This makes one better than the other, yet we were bending the law of worship that needed no mending.

[3] Liturgical rubrics serve God and the Code serves the country (or democracy); I identify these “things” later.

How credible, then, or how genuine could the call have been to follow the Code and even to legislate it? This is all the effect of antinomianism [4] – ignorance, disregard or contempt of the law – and is the opposite of mercy, unless the ignorant are instructed.

[4] A view learned from and shared with Dr Edward Peters

In the old rubric “men” could not be interpreted “in the inclusive sense” because it translated the Latin viri, which refers to adult males. Even so, the Pope’s example to the contrary – legitimate as it was – could not change the law or allow exceptions to it for others.

If he could know this, having “seen it fit to change the rule” only now, why couldn’t we? Previous Popes followed the law: why didn’t we do likewise? Regardless, “I have given you example” is what Christ said, not his Vicar, in washing the feet of men – of his Priests.

That said, and it only scratches the surface, a final word about the change, despite its legitimacy, should go to the dynamic mentioned earlier. Just as Crazy diminished doctrine for rhymes, the Holy Father has toned down tradition for the times.

Positive change was only promised in the Code, even if it had been legislated, but tradition, especially in the form of the liturgical rubrics, inspires it. Still, God and our country alike are bigger than we, who were disorderly [5] to dumb down their moralities and even their laws.

[5] Here I was thinking of 1 Cor. 14: 33.

Mindful also that God is greater than our country, I have always said that lawlessness – and its presence among us – is due to lack of respect for our worship. If we could treat rubrics as mere guidelines (i.e. options) the same logic can and will apply itself to other kinds of law.

At the end of my Easter Sunday opinion I said “let my tongue cleave to my mouth” (Ps. 137: 6) if this were not true. But even mutes can pray that, given these Christmas-timed downward motions [6], we could face the looming abyss and see another resurrection (revival), Easter people that we are.

[6] Here I was thinking of The Spirit of the Liturgy (Ratzinger).


See also the commentary which the Secretary of the CDW, Archbishop Arthur Roche, provided in L’Osservatore Romano on the liturgical change. Apparently it is entitled “I have given you an example”.


Newspaper opinions on foot-washing change


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