You know those deals in bookshops? 3 for the price of 2, a carryover from supermarkets but always a difficulty in books. You go in to buy a specific book as I did in Easons today and it has a 3for2 label on it and suddenly you have a quandry - do you fall for the marketing ploy or do you stubbornly resist and only buy the book you want while quietly fuming that somehow you are being short changed by the shop?
Electing a Pope is like that. We all have the qualities we want in a Pope - holiness, intellect, patience, a hard man, a good manager, a great speaker, a man of prayer. No one person can have all those qualities and we usually prioritise. You pick one, and then you have to look for other qualities. And sometimes you get things you wouldn't have picked if you'd a free choice. We loved Benedict for his teaching, his fidelity, his creativity, his love of liturgy, his humility. But we had to take his history which the press always misunderstood. We had to take his not really getting on top of his staff and perhaps being overly loyal to them.
With Pope Francis we get a lot of good things too. Perhaps someone not afraid to tackle his staff - but that means someone who might refuse to wear a mozzetta or even a stole. We get a simple preacher, with a clear direct message, but perhaps his writing won't be so good. We get a love for the poor and a sense of the real need for new evangelisation and a Church cut to fit that cloth. There is a thin line between determination and stubborness as I know only too well and we'll have to see where Pope Francis falls - I hope on the right side.
Lots of you have asked me about his washing of the feet of girls and muslims. My views are mixed. In terms of the process, I think the Pope, as supreme legislator for the Church, should respect his own laws and if he wanted to change them he should have changed them, not simply ignored them (Creative Minority Report takes the same line). Only he has the power to change the liturgical laws but there is a process. He could have done that very simply on Spy Wednesday. By breaking his own laws he has rather left the door open for other priests to break the laws for the usual "pastoral reasons". So the priest in Newry who thought it a good idea to celebrate Mass wearing a soutane and red chausable (no alb) because Down were in the All-Ireland might claim the right to do so.
That said, on the issue itself, I think it is right and proper to open up the so called mandatum ceremony to women. "But Jesus only washed the feet of the twelve apostles" you cry in protest at my descent into quasi-liberal madness. Indeed He did. And He only gave Holy Communion to the Twelve. Are we to presume that only men may receive Holy Communion? Only bishops?
The mandatum ceremony re-enacts a scene from John's gospel - but not in the same way that the Mass re-enacts the Last Supper and sacrifice of Calvary. We are not doing something sacramental. What was the purpose of what Jesus did? It was to show that those in authority - himself, the Twelve, monarch, bishops and priests - are there to serve those whom they have authority over. So it makes sense for a bishop, including the Pope, to wash the feet of twelve of his priests. But for a priest in a parish, it makes more sense for him to wash the feet of a range of ordinary parishioners, including women and even non-Catholics.
There, now it only took me five minutes to write that - that's what Pope Francis should have written on Spy Wednesday when he change the rules.
By the way - my 3 for 2 books - Department 19: Battle Lines; The Maleficent Seven; and Light.