“A Foot Washing Jesuit”


April 1, 2013 by Ron Madson

“There is a natural order to this world, and those who try to upend it do not fare well”  –Cloud Atlas

I have never had anyone even attempt, let alone actually wash my feet.   In fact I do not think anyone has ever touched my feet—well except I have this vague, haunting memory of my older sister painting my toenails when I was a child.   Even though we have the story of Jesus’ feet being washed by a woman and then He himself washing the feet of his disciples, I do not recall ever seeing any public display of someone washing someone’s feet until this past week.

Italy Vatican Pope

In what traditionalist are calling the “final straw” of leading his church even further astray in just a few weeks into his Papacy, Pope Francis chose to go to a Juvenile Detention Center and there personally wash and even kiss the feet of twelve inmates.   Because they were minors we did not see their faces but we saw their feet.   We are told that two of the twelve were women, one even a Muslim, a couple North Africans and I even saw one foot had tattoos.  Not to pat myself on the back too much, but it was just a couple of weeks ago that I speculated that if the Catholic church chose to convene in the unmanageable pursuit of revelation through prayer and fasting in choosing their leader rather than engaging in either the scripturally endorsed lottery system (Acts 1:26) or the new and improved Lord directed death queue process of the only true and inerrant church, that maybe, just maybe, the G&A church might unwittingly choose someone who does not understand the proper order of things (https://themormonworker.wordpress.com/2013/03/07/pope-prophets-filling-the-shoes-of-a-fisherman/).

It does not take a first class apologist or a team of Maxwell Institutionalists  to illustrate how this new Pope is leading his church into even  greater mists of darkness and error—but the fat pitches keep coming so I can’t help but try to hit a few of his obvious mistakes out of the park by contrasting each of his acts with what we have come to know is the Lord’s proper order of things in “italics.”

The very night that Pope Francis became the new Pope he emerged from the loggia of the St. Peter’s Basilica without his Sunday’s best (red cape, mozzetta, etc.).  Instead he showed up in a simple white cassock (“Church members are encouraged to wear their BEST clothing as a sign of respect for the Savior” —LDS Spokesman 12/11/12)  This would be the equivalent to a Bishop showing up to a sacrament meeting in jeans and a T-shirt or worse the horror of a RS President showing up to church in pants (I believe He(Jesus) also desires us to dress appropriately…we know that when Sunday dress deteriorates that everyday attire, attitudes and action follow –L. Tom Perry April Gen. Conf. 2011)

Pope Francis with his blatant disregard for his Sunday best appearance in church matters is a part of his overall behavior that just might set back Christianity a good two thousand years.   Could you imagine our Church leaders officiating in blue jeans or without a tie—much less Jesus ignoring the dress code of his day? (“Through your dress and appearance you can show that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ and that you love Him”  –Strength of Youth 2012).

But it gets worse,

Another sign of  Pope Francis leading his church astray from pure Christianity came when he refused to sit on his Chief Seat when addressing and receiving the sustaining vote of the Cardinals  (“The one who presides in a meeting must sit on the stand; we arise when a presiding leader enters a room; each leader are to enter and depart a room by seniority”-BKP).  Instead he came down to their level and just stood there as an equal—not demanding or commanding any special order to demonstrate his authority over them (“if you have a concern do not go to the General Authorities; and Revelation in the church is vertical.”—more BKP).  This may seem like a small thing, but boyd oh boyd it is not. (“The Unwritten Order of Things” by Elder Packer 10/15/96—Enough Said!!) (Note:  We have even advanced in the gospel to the point that our Apostles eat from their chocolate box by seniority–Elder Perry)

 How can leaders expect to command obedience to their authority if the place themselves either on equal or, even worse, in a servant capacity to their subjects?

While the two aforementioned acts by this Pope could be explained away by his inexperience and lack of “grooming” to be a leader, this Pope’s washing the feet of those obviously unworthy of such an honor is unmistakably as sign of being clueless as to the nature of such a sacred rite.

If this new Pope had any real spiritual knowledge and discernment he would have known that “washing of feet is a holy and sacred rite that is not done before the world or for worldly peopleand it is reserved for those “who believe and obey the gospel thereby making themselves worthy.”  (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, Elder McConkie).  He would have also known that “the ordinance of washing of the feet is to be done in holy places for those who make themselves worthy” (Ludlow, Companion Study of D&C) and not in a Juvenile Detention Center —of all places!

Did this Pope even consider which inmates at the prison to bow down before and then wash and kiss their feet?   Did he know beforehand that one of the inmates (Muslim girl) was not even a believer in Jesus?  Did he realize that one had tattoos on his/her feet?  For all we know that same inmate might have had two sets of earrings in his/her ear and not just one—thus rendering him/her not even worthy to associate with much less wash his/her feet.  Did he even check that out before rewarding him/her with not only his association but with such an honor?   Did he consider that when he washed the feet of two young girls he was breaking with past Papal tradition of only washing men’s (Cardinals and not Nuns) feet that he was sending a not so subtle message that women should be treated as equal before God in such high honors and privileges?   I do not believe he was thinking at all, or if he was, he sure showed a lack of spiritual maturity in understanding that acts of such love and acceptance are conditional on obedience (“Divine Love cannot be characterized as unconditional”—Elder Nelson Gen Conf. 2003).   If we were to extend such blessings and honors without the individual having earned through their obedience such privileges and acts of love and acceptance, then why would anyone ever need to repent of their sins—or in this case the crimes that landed them in prison?

While the preliminary acts by Pope Francis may be disconcerting, the reality is that as soon as he gets used to wielding power and authority, his radical Jesuit order tendencies of focusing on the poor, the least and outcast should naturally and predictably subside soon enough.  He will be forgiven these early indiscretions as long as he learns the one secret to the establishment of any great religious institution of our day: “there is no other way” that a great church can thrive other than building splendid houses of worship with careful investing in the profitable ventures this world offers while teaching the needy and poor among them “self” reliance. It cannot be built upon a “fish and loaves” model where everything the corporate church/empire holds is sold and given to the poor.

But what if Pope Francis gets carried away and actually starts selling all his church assets and giving it to the poor, or if he in Jesuit humility publicly confesses his church’s past and present sins upon the truly defenseless, or if he begins to seek reconciliation with Jews, Muslims, Intellectuals, Feminists and others enemies of the Church?  Such subversive acts by any church leader would cause him to lose his Chief Seat in short order or else his church would collapse and “great must be the fall thereof.”

So some free advice to Pope Francis:  Get with the Program! Put on your Sunday best, ascend to the throne or at least a red velvet chair, do not spend your church’s capital, have your PR people screen your statements, and for heaven’s sake if you have a need to wash feet then make sure the recipients are the worthy elite and it is done in holy places.   The world is watching.

12 thoughts on ““A Foot Washing Jesuit”

  1. wayfarer says:

    Ron, great article. I have been fascinated with the great teaching of the washing of feet as administered on Maundy Thursday. The object lesson in John 13, of the Lord and Master humbling himself in a style of leadership that serves those led is miles away from the ritualistic purity rite spoken of in LDS doctrine. I have attended Maundy Thursday masses where this is done, and Pope Francis is taking it truly to a new level. The “Maundy” in the name refers to the latin “Mandatum novum” – “a new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another, as I have loved you”. The washing of feet, especially of those who apparently are not ‘worthy’ is deeply symbolic of a type of divine leadership unapparent in the world and church. We need more of it.

    • Ron Madson says:

      Wayfarer–thanks for the information regarding “Maundy Thursday.” The “especially not worthy” is the point that Jesus repeatedly made and that is why this Pope’s first washing of feet of those in prison is particularly significant.

  2. vikingz2000 says:

    This, almost Juvenalian satire doesn’t get much better. Great post.

    • Ron Madson says:

      I had to look up the definition for “Juvenalian” satire. Does the word “juvenile” find its origin in “Juvenalian”? If so I plead guilty. Here is the definition for “Juvenalian” satire that I found: Juvenalian satire, named after the Roman satirist Juvenal (late 1st century – early 2nd century CE), is more contemptuous and abrasive than the Horatian. “Juvenalian satire addresses social evil through scorn, outrage, and savage ridicule. This form is often pessimistic, characterized by irony, sarcasm, moral indignation and personal invective, with less emphasis on humor. Strongly polarized political satire is often Juvenalian.” Pretty strong stuff so the “almost” Juvenalian is an accurate adjective I suppose.

    • Ron Madson says:

      Wow a Margaret Young sighting at the Mormon Worker, and a compliment. Is this one of your April fool jokes? I suspect not, so drop by anytime and give your two cents.

  3. JR says:

    Many of us have been watching the new developments in the G&A Church (BRM) with increasing interest and wondering when the GAs would begin to get uncomfortable with their ivory towers and the silken cords around their necks.
    The world truly is turning upside down.
    Jeans and flannel shirts in Sacrament mtg sounds pretty good to me!
    Perhaps we can even begin to remember to mention Jesus more than just at the end of prayers!

  4. It’s kind of creepy seeing this old man kissing the feet of minors given the scandals the RCC has been having with charges of the molestation of minors.

  5. Dan says:

    Only mentioning Jesus at the end of prayers, what a great point to make! Seriously, its the only time I hear about Jesus it seems.n Otherwise its “your eternal salvation depends on you making these meeting.” (referring to sacrament, priesthood/relief society/sunday school) Can you imagine any of our illustrious GA’s performing christlike acts such as this Pope has? Lokks like the new Pope has been more christlike than Monson or any other GA has been in how many years? Also, the thing that makes my blood boil more than anything that this blogger mentions is love being conditional according to a 2003 lds conference. That Elder pisses me off more than anyother ever. Every child can tell you love by its definition is unconditional and if there are conditions to it then whatever it is it is not love. The term unconditional doesnt seem to have existed in biblical hebrew so Jesus says things like “love your neighbor as yourself, love your enemy.” “My disciples will be known by their love.” He didn’t say by their dress, their pants or dresses, the clean shaven classic boys cut wearing cookie cutter members did he? He said by their love. And I see more self-agrandizing, self-serving attitude than christlike humility such as the Pope has displayed. I know their are good examples of GA’s but good lord we need theologians in our leadership instead of business men!

  6. LDSDPer says:

    well done–

    comments interesting, too–

  7. I usually take much interest in the actions of leadership in faiths other than my own, especially in regards to their own teaching. However, I find this slightly weird. At first skimming, I thought, “oh, that’s nice, the Pope is being symbolic and re-enacting teachings of the Savior.” And then I thought…”Wait…the Pope is being symbolic and re-enacting teachings of the Savior…in a really weird way.” I don’t think he has a complete misunderstanding of the doctrines taught in the New Testament, but I think that this act definitely was not thought through in context with the meaning of the teaching. As you said, the Savior washed the feet of those who followed His teachings. That’s not to say that these inmates aren’t believers, but I think the Pope confused “loving the sinner, hating the sin” and “serving all” and the principles of forgiveness and the Atonement with the actual act of washing feet. Now, if he was kissing feet to say, “I love you and forgive you” (as confession is part of forgiveness in Catholicism), then apostolic kudos to the story. But otherwise…yes, weird.

  8. […] ‘A foot washing Jesuit’ (Ron Madson, The Mormon Worker) […]

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