2017-10-11

500 Years of Revolution

Introduction:
The intended audience here is my fellow Catholics, especially those who may be confused by protestant error. I have chosen to focus on one particular heretical monastic priest as the subject. His errors and the errors he helped to give birth are still strong today almost 500 years later.  I am not a Historian.  I have sketched out a chronological history (gathered from multiple sources) as an attempt to better understand some of the events that helped to spark off the protestant revolt. If there are clarifications or corrections, please feel free to provide them.


Chronological Events Related to Martin Luther:
1501: Luther is 22 years old, and enters the Augustinian monastery in Erfurt.
 
1507: Luther is ordained to the priesthood.
 
1509: Luther is at the University of Wittenberg (which was founded in 1502, and has roughly 80 students).  He was recalled to Erfurt later that year.
 
1512: Luther is back at Wittenberg, and was admitted to the doctorate.
 
1512: Same year, the Fifth Lateran Council begins.
 
1515-March-31:  Pope Leo X issues a Papal Bull granting plenary indulgences for those contributing to the rebuilding of the new basilica of St. Peter's in Rome.  (This in of itself was not an abuse of Indulgences.)
 
1517: The close of the Fifth Lateran Council.
 
1517-October-31: Luther writes the "Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences" (The 95 Theses) Luther places the 95 Theses on the church door (An academic challenge to disputation). Luther also provided this with a letter to the archbishop. (Now we are outside of academia... The archbishop submitted them to his councilors at Aschaffenburg and to the professors of the University of Mainz. The councilors were of the unanimous opinion that they were of an heretical character, and that proceedings against the Wittenberg Augustinian should be taken. This report, with a copy of the Theses, was then transmitted to the pope.)
 
1518-January-20: 300 Dominicans in Frankfurt hold a disputation concerning the 95 Theses during their regional chapter meeting. John Tetzel (a Dominican Monk, and preacher for Indulgences) participates and presents an academic 106 Anti-Theses. (Tetzel argues that Luther's attack is not just on the abuse of indulgences, but on the penitential system of the Church itself, and on the doctrine of ecclesiastical authority.) From this meeting through March, Luther works to provide a response to Tetzel. This response was not in the realm of academia, but into the public.
 
1518-February: Pope Leo X asks the head of the Augustinian order to convince Luther to stop spreading his ideas.
 
1518-March: Luther publishes a “Sermon on Indulgences and Grace”, a small book presenting the ideas of the 95 Theses for popular consumption.  The book serves as a response to specifics points of Tetzel’s criticism and it places an erroneous attack on the three part division of penance as "scripturally unfounded". The book also stresses good works and sincere repentance over indulgences, with Luther wrongly criticizing indulgences as non-scriptural.  The book declares the Catholic clergy as being greedy and wasting money on St. Peter's Basilica when it could be better spent on the poor in their own neighborhoods.
 
1518-April: Tetzel responded with a published point-by-point refutation of Luther’s book “Sermon on Indulgences and Grace”, citing heavily from the Bible and important theologians.
 
1518-May-15: Luther publishes "Sermon on the Power of Excommunication" in which it is contended that visible union with the Church is not broken by excommunication, but by sin alone.The inflammatory character of this sermon, fully acknowledged by Luther, only strengthens suspicions of his lack of good faith.
 
1518-May-30: Luther publishes his “Resolutions” (detailed explanation of the 95 Theses) explaining his understanding of indulgences and penance. A copy is sent to the Bishop of Brandenburg with a request to send it on to the Pope. (It was sent).  This bishop counseled Luther to abstain from all further publication.  Luther responded with obedience at the time.
 
1518-August: Early in the month Luther is requested to appear in Rome by the pope. This is a hearing, not an academic activity. He responds that such a trip could not be undertaken without endangering his life. Luther seeks the help of Emperor Maximilian and Elector Frederick to have the hearing and judges appointed in Germany. The university sends letters to Rome and to the nuncio sustaining the plea of "infirm health" and vouching for Luther's orthodoxy.
 
Johann Eck (a friend of Luther at that time, and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ingolstadt) writes a private refutation of the explanation of the 95 theses, and highlights and provides commentary on the problematic passages. This refutation was done at the request of the Bishop of Eichstatt. A transcription reaches Luther, Luther is upset by it, Eck attempts to calm tempers in a letter of explanation. Luther responds with his own private letter, and the debate becomes public.
 
1518-October-11: Luther meets with Cardinal Cajetan (Papal Legate / representative of the Pope. Dominican, philosopher, theologian, and exegete.)  in Germany for the three day long hearing. From the Catholic Encyclopedia article on Luther: "Cajetan came to adjudicate, Luther to defend; the former demanded submission, the latter launched out into remonstrance; the one showed a spirit of mediating patience, the other mistook it for apprehensive fear; the prisoner at the bar could not refrain from bandying words with the judge on the bench. The legate, with the reputation of 'the most renowned and easily the first theologian of his age', could not fail to be shocked at the rude, discourteous, bawling tone of the friar, and having exhausted all his efforts, he dismissed him with the injunction not to call again until he recanted."
 
1518-October-31: Luther returns to Wittenberg on the anniversary of the 95 Theses.
 
1518-November-28: Luther sends an appeal to Pope Leo X and to an ecumenical council.
 
1519-January-05: Luther meets with Karl von Miltiz (papal nuncio) to work on an end to the controversy. At one point Luther concedes to be silent on the matters if his opponents were, complete submission to the pope, to publish a plain statement to the public advocating loyalty to the Church, and to place the whole case in the hands of a delegated bishop. (It is also stated in some sources that Luther was allowed by Miltitz to make it plain that he would not recant his position as a compromise to the other concessions.)
 
1519-March-03: Luther writes to Pope Leo X: "Before God and all his creatures, I bear testimony that I neither did desire, nor do desire to touch or by intrigue to undermine the authority of the Roman Church and that of your holiness."
 
1519-March-05: Luther writes to George Burkhardt: "It was never my intention to revolt from the Roman Apostolic chair."
 
It seems from late winter of 1519 through the Spring, Luther has reformed his ways. However this starts to unravel with the next quote, and into the summer.
 
1519-March-13: Luther writes to George Burkhardt: "I am at a loss to know whether the pope be antichrist or his apostle."
 
1519-Summer: Eck and Karlstadt (colleague of Luther) plan to hold a disputation (the Leipzig Debate) of topics related to Luther’s doctrines in a public forum.  Many attempted to dissuade the disputation from taking place. Luther had pledged to remain silent on the subject, but made efforts to encourage the debate. Luther was invited to the debate and participated. Topics ranged from Papal Supremacy to Infallibility of Ecumenical Councils to Purgatory.  This “academic exercise” seems to have induced Luther to double down on his errors. Eck's debating skills led to Luther's open admissions of heresy. Luther declared that sola scriptura was the basis of Christian belief, that the Pope had no power as he was not mentioned in the Bible, and condemned the sale of indulgences to the laity to reduce their time in purgatory, as there was no mention of purgatory in the Bible.  Over the next several months Luther’s erroneous doctrines (as noted in his writings and publications) are solidified:
 
  1. The Bible is the only source of faith; it contains the plenary inspiration of God; its reading is invested with a quasi-sacramental character.
  2. Human nature has been totally corrupted by original sin, and man, accordingly, is deprived of free will. Whatever he does, be it good or bad, is not his own work, but God's.
  3. Faith alone can work justification, and man is saved by confidently believing that God will pardon him. This faith not only includes a full pardon of sin, but also an unconditional release from its penalties.
  4. The hierarchy and priesthood are not Divinely instituted or necessary, and ceremonial or exterior worship is not essential or useful. Ecclesiastical vestments, pilgrimages, mortifications, monastic vows, prayers for the dead, intercession of saints, avail the soul nothing.
  5. All sacraments, with the exception of baptism, Holy Eucharist, and penance (but they do not confer grace in the Catholic sense), are rejected, but their absence may be supplied by faith.
  6. The priesthood is universal; every Christian may assume it. A body of specially trained and ordained men to dispense the mysteries of God is needless and a usurpation. The state has supreme power in all church appointments.
  7. There is no visible Church (consisting of the just alone) or one specially established by God whereby men may work out their salvation.
     
1520-Spring: Eck takes Luther’s published works and doctrines to Rome for examination and discussion.
 
1520-July-10: Luther hears word that a papal bull is being prepared.  In response he is quoted as saying: "As for me, the die is cast: I despise alike the favour and fury of Rome; I do not wish to be reconciled with her, or ever to hold any communion with her. Let her condemn and burn my books; I, in turn, unless I can find no fire, will condemn and publicly burn the whole pontifical law, that swamp of heresies"
 
1520-July-15: Exsurge Domine was written.  It formally condemns 41 propositions from Luther’s works, ordered the destruction of the books containing the errors, and summoned Luther to recant within sixty days or receive excommunication.  Eck was appointed to publish the Bull in Germany. Eck’s appointment was not received well by Luther, his supporters and other German Catholics alike. Enforcement of the ban on Luther's writings fell to the secular authorities.
 
1520-October: Luther Sends the pope a copy of “On the Freedom of a Christian”.  In this book Luther developed the erroneous concept that as fully forgiven children of God, Christians are no longer compelled to keep God's law; however, they freely and willingly serve God and their neighbors. Luther also further develops the error of justification by faith alone.
 
1520-December: Luther publicly sets fire to the Exsurge Domine in Wittenburg.


1521-January-03: Luther is formally excommunicated by Pope Leo X in the bull Decet Romanum Pontificem.
 
1521-April-21: Luther appears before the Diet of Worms.  Eck presented copies of Luther’s writings laid out on a table and asked if the books were his, and whether he stood by their contents.
 
Luther’s response:  "Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen."
 
Eck’s response to Luther: "Martin, there is no one of the heresies which have torn the bosom of the church, which has not derived its origin from the various interpretation of the Scripture. The Bible itself is the arsenal whence each innovator has drawn his deceptive arguments. It was with Biblical texts that Pelagius and Arius maintained their doctrines. Arius, for instance, found the negation of the eternity of the Word—an eternity which you admit, in this verse of the New Testament—Joseph knew not his wife till she had brought forth her first-born son; and he said, in the same way that you say, that this passage enchained him. When the fathers of the Council of Constance condemned this proposition of John Huss—The church of Jesus Christ is only the community of the elect, they condemned an error; for the church, like a good mother, embraces within her arms all who bear the name of Christian, all who are called to enjoy the celestial beatitude.”
 
1521-May-25: Edict of Worms declared Luther an outlaw, banning his literature, and required his arrest. It also made it a crime for anyone in Germany to give Luther food or shelter. It permitted anyone to kill Luther without legal consequence.
 
General Thoughts:
I can understand those who might read this history and find themselves sympathizing with some of Luther’s actions. It is true that indulgences were abused, and that Luther was against it.  There are some who might make the conclusion that the corrupt members of the Church who were taken to task by Luther, had it out for him to protect the illicit scheme they had in place. A further conclusion might be made that the beating Luther took in attacking the indulgence abuse pushed him into his greater errors.  If only the abusers had given more consideration, Luther might have been a Catholic hero, or even a Catholic saint who reformed the Church in a time of corruption.  Maybe he is a Catholic hero… through his disobedience and revolutionary stance against those who deformed Christ’s Doctrine.
 
Those conclusions are not reality, and I hope that I am only presenting a strawman.  I propose instead, that many of the characters noted as attackers of Luther (Pope Leo X, Tetzel, Cajetan, Eck), recognized a problem early on.  They saw something strange in his writings, and heard something off in his speech. They took a harsh reading of Luther’s works because they read in them what Luther intended, and heard what he said for the error that it was. Luther’s works were justifiably suspect.
 
St. Thomas defines heresy as "a species of infidelity in men who, having professed the faith of Christ, corrupt its dogmas [...] The right Christian faith consists in giving one's voluntary assent to Christ in all that truly belongs to His teaching." Luther is by this definition a person who fell into heresy.   Those Catholics today which might be tempted to propose that Luther was sound in his doctrines, also fall into this definition.
 
Scandal is a word or action evil in itself, which occasions another's spiritual ruin.  Scandal is divided into active and passive. Active scandal causing one to sin through our actions or omissions. Passive scandal is the sin which another commits in consequence of active scandal.
Both active and passive scandal is seen throughout this situation, and parallels should be considered when modern prelates are caught in immoral practices, or have openly taught things against Christ and their office.
 
While Indulgences were in fact being abused (active scandal), this is not where Luther’s objections stopped, nor was it the heart of his personal error. He interpreted Sacred Scripture with his own efforts instead of with the Church. Luther was attacking the penitential system of the Church itself, and the doctrine of ecclesiastical authority.  He did not stop with the 95 theses, but continued in his errors on purgatory, salvation, the nature of man, and the authority of the Church and other things that have lead many souls on the path to damnation.
 
Aided by the printing press and academic system of the time, the speed at which this all took place was very fast.  Imagine how much faster problems are disseminated in our “technologically advanced” times!  There are even accounts of “fake news” during the 1500s that influenced situations surrounding Luther.  Luther expressed his errors, given opportunity to change his convictions, and ultimately was corrected by Pope Leo X himself.
 
Pray for those who struggle with the errors of Luther. Pray for those who follow an ill-formed conscience.  Pray for those who struggle to understand papal infallibility.  Pray for those who have taken scandal, and for those who are giving it.
 
Online Sources:






2015-08-28

Thoughts on God as Fire

I was researching something (verifying that I accurately remembered that Seraphim are the highest choir of angels) when I found this attributed to Saint Thomas Aquinas regarding the nature of the name "Seraphim":

"The name "Seraphim" does not come from charity only, but from the excess of charity, expressed by the word ardor or fire. Hence Dionysius (Coel. Hier. vii) expounds the name "Seraphim" according to the properties of fire, containing an excess of heat. Now in fire we may consider three things.

"First, the movement which is upwards and continuous. This signifies that they are borne inflexibly towards God.

"Secondly, the active force which is "heat," which is not found in fire simply, but exists with a certain sharpness, as being of most penetrating action, and reaching even to the smallest things, and as it were, with superabundant fervor; whereby is signified the action of these angels, exercised powerfully upon those who are subject to them, rousing them to a like fervor, and cleansing them wholly by their heat.

"Thirdly we consider in fire the quality of clarity, or brightness; which signifies that these angels have in themselves an inextinguishable light, and that they also perfectly enlighten others."

Since the Seraphim would not be their own source of "Illuminating Fire," it's logical that this property is derived not just merely from God per se but due to their relative spiritual proximity to God. In other words, because they are the highest angels they exhibit more of the qualities of God: in this case the piercing, penetrating, brilliant, radiating fire.  This would correspond with an idea I've had that the Fire of God is everywhere in eternity and that it's the disposition of one's soul which determines whether this penetrating and illuminating fire is glorification or damnation. It sure gives a concreteness to the notion that the souls in hell damn themselves more than God sending them there of His volition.

It would also suggest that the ranks of hell are "geographically inverted" from the way we think of it: that the higher (less severe) levels of hell are mystically farther from God such that the intensity of God's Fire affects them less than those who are closer/at the deeper levels of hell... and that attaining certain Sacramental characters (Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders) puts a leash on damned souls, preventing them from fleeing further from the Divine Fire than souls lacking those characters.

Another consideration: the highest of angels, being closest to the source of the illuminating Divine Fire, in communicating this perfection to the other angels... was the Light Bearer (Lucifer). This would also explain why the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts are always pictured as being on fire, and it makes me wonder if martyrdom by fire is the most glorious way to exit this mortal coil.

Lots of food for contemplation here and it makes me wonder if this Truth is why every human being is inexplicably drawn to stare at a campfire... because at a certain level we know we're seeing a glimpse of the most fundamental Truth there is.

2015-07-27

Men vs. Women -- FIGHT!

As if the differences God gave us -- and the craziness of our culture and times -- wasn't enough, cordial relations between young Catholic men and women have to suffer the onslaughts of idiots and mouth-breathing cretins from time to time as well.

This morning I saw the following post in my Facebook timeline:

"If girls that come from Traditional Catholic families were as great as they think they are, they'd all be married."

I don't envy the position of young traditional Catholic women today.  For the most part the prospects of those called to marriage suck. There are so few financially established young men who are looking to marry that they pretty much have their run of the field in selecting a potential wife. (Of course a guy in that position is established in more than his finances... he's more selfish and insistent on getting his way than he realizes but marriage will awaken him to this reality in short order.)

I will grant that some -- not all, but SOME -- young Catholic women, if they aren't married by 23, develop a bitter resentfulness that they were made to wait for their man to come along when they "should have been married and having babies" for the last five years. This is a very unattractive attitude and I know of one guy (who was closer to 30 than 25) who dated (and later married) a 19 year old girl "because she didn't have the 'why am I still single?' bitterness that the 25 year old women in the parish have."

That said, there are issues on both sides of this gender debate (because Original Sin, duh!) and any man who has the audacity to blame the women for his plight in not finding the perfect wife is an idiot and a jerk.  And if he has the audacity to say something like the quote above, either on Facebook or in real life, you women should be THANKFUL that he's unmasked himself as an unworthy loser... he just saved you the trouble of having to date/court him (or worse yet, marry him!) before learning his true colors (mostly yellow, but I digress).

If you're still reading this, dear boys and girls, and you get nothing else from this little article, memorize the following: if you do manage to find that elusive "perfect dream spouse" then don't forget that marriage is a vocation undertaken in the shadow of the Cross of Christ Crucified, and it's going to royally suck at times.  Marriage is a VOCATION and it is how worldly idiots like us are purged of our attachments, vanities, and selfishness and converted into Saints.  Make no mistake: even the best marriages are like purgatory on earth at times: seize those opportunities to get your purgatory done now rather than later... and another secret if you're inclined to listen: if you can handle those times with good humor and a smile while helping your spouse during those hard times then your spouse will think all the more highly of you and do their utmost to be their best for you (it's something called a win-win: look it up).

The only other advice I would give dating/courting couples (aside from "courtship is overrated") is to find someone who laughs and can make you laugh, because that will make the hard times so much easier to take.

2014-03-03

Please forgive me...

For if you will forgive men their offences, your heavenly Father will forgive you also your offences. (Matthew 6:14).

For many Catholics, Lent has is already underway. Eastern Catholics refer to today as "Clean Monday". Liturgically, Clean Monday and thus Lent itself, begins on the preceding night with Forgiveness Vespers, which culminates with the Ceremony of Mutual Forgiveness, at which all present ask one another for forgiveness. The emphasis on forgiveness helps the faithful to go deeper than change of diet and application of ecclesiastical regulation. (The idea is not to avoid these practices, but to avoid hypocrisy.)

Forgiveness, being central to our Faith prepares us to go before our Lord.

With the beginning of Lent upon us, I ask God and you for the forgiveness of all my offenses conscious and unconscious, voluntary and involuntary. I am sorry for all that I did, and all that I did not do, in failing to fulfill my responsibility to holiness and Christ-like behavior in my conversations, friendships, and duties toward God and you.

Please forgive me, I am a sinner.

2013-05-07

Angels and Snakes: How they fit in with Divine Providence

It seems that I have earned myself a new label. Not only am I your run of the mill anti-semitic-prudish-rad-trad-chauvinistic-sinning-meat-eating(except on Fridays)-Catholic ... I am also a Providentialist! (I have no idea where to put that in my ever growing hyphenated list of qualifications.)

Why is this label fitting for me? No, I do not I sit around all day expecting God to fill the fridge, and buy my kids their clothing. It is not because I expect my bank account to have enough money in it to pay the bills while I waste away on the social networks. I do not fail to set an alarm expecting God to send His angels to wake me up when He wants me to get up. I do not let snakes bite me and expect... well... that might be some other thing people do.

I am a "Providentialsist" because my wife and I are not in any serious (by our own estimation, or as defined by the Church) situation where we need to postpone the potential for having children, and we thank God for this blessing. This situation is not our doing, but God's.

As far as name-calling is concerned, this one is odd. (I suppose many of them are.) At the root, It suggests one who depends on Divine Providence. (who doesn't?) However. It is used in a way that hints that we are tempting God with our actions. Acting without "prudence" and due care for the future well being of my family.

My wife and I love each other dearly. We love our children. We are not perfect, and don't have it all figured out, but there is nothing wrong or sinful with trusting God and working with Him towards the welfare of our souls, and those of the Children he has given us. The Catholic Church bolsters us in these choices, and I am thankful for that too.


2013-04-12

Future Sellout Elected to Lead SSPX "Strict Observance"


Fr. Joe Pfeiffer, leader of the SSPX-SO
Pfeiffer (above) denies he's unpopular
with the priests of the SSPX-SO.
Pfeifferville, KY (TradNewsNetwork) -- According to an SSPX-SO press release, Father Joseph Pfeiffer has been elected as the first leader of the so-called "Society of St. Pius X of the Strict Observance" (SSPX-SO) by his fellow priests, and has announced a Pacific Tour to bring former SSPX priests and laypeople into the organization.  This recruiting tour, however, is already being met with suspicion by fellow SSPX-SO priests.  "We don't trust him -- we are self-sufficient the way we are, we don't need to grow the organization" said one priest who asked we not use his name. "How can we be sure these new recruits aren't spies trying to infiltrate us? This sounds like a complete sell-out of the principles on which we were founded!"   Another priest questioned Pfeiffer's leadership agenda of "growing the SSPX-SO organization" as a failing of the group's core mission to criticize Bernard Fellay and the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX). Paraphrasing Saint Bernard of Clairvoux, the priest rhetorically asked "What good is the leader of the SSPX-SO if he's not barking at the SSPX?"

Pfeiffer dismisses reports of dissension and is asking for complete transparency at each of his organization's venues. "Communications are to be open, unambiguously antagonistic of [Bishop] Fellay, and our Mass locations are to be made publicly known."  Pfeiffer asserts that Fellay has used "Communist tactics" in attempting to scare the priests and supporters of the SSPX with threats of reprisals should they consider supporting the SSPX-SO.  This message will be at the heart of his Asian tour, which will begin at the end of April 2013 and include appearances in Australia, India, and Singapore. Pfeiffer indicated that other venues will be added as traditional Catholics in other countries request a visit (Catholics interested in a visit from Fr. Pfeiffer are advised to visit the SSPX-SO's MySpace page and leave a comment).

"I'm excited about this tour and hope to greatly expand our organization" Pfeiffer said. He will need to act fast. According to unnamed sources there are already plans afoot to launch a new organization dubbed the "SSPX-SO-SO" whose goal would be the "conservative, non-evangelical preservation of sacred tradition" though all SSPX-SO priests contacted for comment claimed not to know anything about such plans.

2013-04-01

Washing the feet, of the gentler sex, on Thursday

Dietrich von Hildebrand asks the question: "Does Catholic orthodoxy and filial submission to the Vicar of Christ require one to hail every practical decision of the Holy Father?" There are Catholics who answer this question with a strong resolved: "Yes, and those who do not hail or praise every practical decision of the Holy Father are acting against orthodoxy." I believe this unfortunate conclusion is founded on a common misunderstanding of papal infallibility and on some well-intentioned but misguided respect of the one who holds this Holy Office.

It is ridiculous to 'hail' or 'praise' some action of the Holy Father only because it is an action of the Holy Father. It is also ridiculous to condemn some action of the Holy Father because it is an action of the Holy Father. It just does not make any sense. It is unreasonable. While I know that examples do exist, I do not believe the later scenario happens nearly as frequent as the former. (That is only my observation, and not something I would argue very strongly on if challenged.)

If the pope were to modify or adapt some legal requirement for this or that, you should not say, that modification is good because the pope did it. Knowing this modification has come from the Holy Father, you might first choose to seek a good reasonable explanation. You might resolve to state that you do not have enough information to understand the decision made. In the end if there is a judgment to be made, you would state that it is good or unfortunate because of something having to do specifically with the change itself. You would not base the judgment simply on the fact that the pope made the modification. (I hope it is clear what I took three paragraphs to say.)

So to the topic. I should confess that while I knew of the foot washing -- of the gentler sex -- by the Holy Father... I have ignored the topic completely -- until today. For whatever reason I choose to read G+ as my first activity after consecrating my day. Much of this post comes from my participation in a discussion on the Holy Thursday washing of feet.

Some facts (by which I mean that I do not think they are debatable):
1) There currently (at least before Thursday) exists a law that directs the washing of feet to take place with men only.
2) This law is an example of such a law that the Holy Father has authority to change.
3) The Holy Father washed women's feet without formally changing the law.

Now, I honestly do not know if this law in this specific circumstance can be changed simply by the action of the Holy Father. I suspect that good canon lawyers might even have some disagreement on the subject. I had an opinion... but I am not a canon lawyer, and I am fairly sure that my opinion was wrong.

What I will say is that I find it unwise that the Holy Father, who as supreme legislator could have formally changed this law -- didn't -- before performing an action (licitly or illicitly) that was contrary to the law as written. I say it is unwise because even if the Holy Father's action is within the law, the fact remains that the contrary is still "on the books" and confusion has resulted. Those who disobediently went against the law, acting as their own pontiffs for years, point to the Holy Father's action to support their disobedience. Many who have defended the law are now set in confusion. The defense of "caritas ante lex" with references to our Lord and the Pharisees only serves to cloud the subject further. All the while... the importance of Holy Thursday seems left the dust.

Please note that I did not say it was "unwise because Pope Francis did it." (I also have not offered judgment on the washing of 'non-viri' feet!) I hope that if one were to explain why they believe it was a good idea to forgo a formal change before the action, that they also provide more than "it is good because Pope Francis did it." For those of you who do not think I can love our Holy Father and find this practical action unwise -- please read Dietrich von Hildebrand's response to the question above: Belief and Obedience: The Critical Difference

If the pope intended to change the law, it seems that it would have been better for him to change law prior to performing the action. He could have done this but from what I know, he did not. To date Fr. Lombardi has given comment, but I think more (read better) explanation could be given. Hopefully more explanation comes long before next Holy Thursday. 

Edit: Fr. Byers provides some thoughts and addresses some commentary that I should have read before writing this post.