When Pope Francis chose to disregard church law and wash the feet of two young women — a Serbian Muslim and an Italian Catholic — during a Holy Thursday ritual, he made it clear that he would not be helping to revive the pre-Vatican II traditions of the Catholic Church. Traditionalist Catholics have become wary of Francis, and he has given them little reason to think that he will be as conservative as his predecessor, Pope Benedict.
Though he has only been Pope for a short time, Francis has already done a few things to draw the ire of conservative Catholics. Francis received the cardinals' pledges of obedience after his election while standing, as opposed to from a chair on a pedestal as popes normally do. He also has called for "intensified" dialogue with Islam, which some traditionalists see as negative. The new Pope also refused the golden pectoral cross offered to him right after his election by Monsignor Guido Marini, a move which many people did not appreciate, according to Fox News.
When Pope Francis washed the feet of the two women on Thursday at the Casal del Marmo juvenile detention facility in Rome, it was just the latest incident for which the 76-year-old was criticized.
Although he thinks that by participating in the foot-washing incident Pope Francis was setting a "questionable example," conservative columnist Jimmy Akin of the National Catholic Register points out that Francis is the church’s main lawmaker, so he can pretty much do what he wants.
"The pope does not need anybody's permission to make exceptions to how ecclesiastical law relates to him," Akin wrote. "People naturally imitate their leader. That's the whole point behind Jesus washing the disciples' feet. He was explicitly and intentionally setting an example for them. Pope Francis knows that he is setting an example."
The foot-washing of the women is seen as being problematic because it could open the door to women being ordained. As of now, Catholic priests are exclusively male because Jesus and the 12 apostles were men.