A reader read a piece on this blog about the washing of the feet of women on Holy Thursday and decided to approach the liturgy office of his local diocese.
He received this response.
For now I will edit out the location and the names of the people.
The Congregation for Divine Worship should receive a copy of the response for their opportune knowledge. They will I am sure be interested to have this clarified for them.
Pay attention to the issue of "reprobation".
"Reprobate" means to abolish something in a quite severe way so as to make it impossible to appeal to custom even after future violations of law over a long time (as was the case with altar girls, etc. etc.). But we are not talking about "reprobate" here, but "abrogate".
And so they appeal to "custom" so as to override anything Rome has legislated or clarified about the legislation.
February 23, 2009
Bishop XXXXXXXX has asked me to reply on his behalf to your recent e-mail.
In answer to your question ("Should not the May 2008 response from the CDWDS take precedence over the February 1987 article from the USCCB?), the answer is "no." The letter that you reference is a private correspondence, which in the system of Canon Law carries no juridical weight. Father Ward, from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, simply reiterated the content of the law and left its application to the diocesan bishop.
To understand the Congregation’s mind in this matter, it is important to recall that Seán Cardinal O’Malley, OFM Cap, did not wash the feet of women on Holy Thursday when he first arrived in Boston. Subsequent to a private exchange of letters with the Congregation, he changed his practice. In other words, the guidance offered by the United States Conference of Bishops that this is a pastoral issue best resolved by the bishop in his diocese stands as the norm in this country, a norm that has never been reprobated [it has to be reprobated before anyone will believe it should not be done?] by the Vatican (though the Congregation has had ample opportunities to do so). As the USCCB website states, "This is the latest statement of this Secretariat on the question. No subsequent legislation or instructions have necessitated a modification in the statement."
Most importantly, it must be remembered that in the system of Canon Law, the customs of dioceses and parishes must also be respected, as "Custom is the best interpreter of the law" (c. 23). [contra legem custom]
You also asked if reserving the mandatum to men would "present a teachable moment for those who mistakenly believe the Church could ordain women to the priesthood." Again, the answer is "no." [Really? Does he has a crystal ball?] As clearly stated in the 1988 Circular Letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Paschale Solemnitatis, the washing of the feet "represents the service and charity of Christ, who came ‘not to be served, but to serve," (#51). [It has no other reason?] The same emphasis on charity and service, to which all the faithful are called, is found in the 1955 reform of the Holy Week rites promulgated by Pope Pius XII, when this practice was restored. Neither then, nor in any subsequent document, is there any mention of reading into the liturgical enactment of the footwashing a commentary on ordination. [Perhaps violation of the clear Holy Thursday rubrics might send a message too.]
I hope this relieves any anxiety [A weasel phrase. Do you think it did?] that parishes choosing to include women in the mandatum are in any way acting in a fashion contrary to what the Church allows.
Sincerely in Christ,
Director of Liturgy and XXXXXXXX
In the meantime, here is a photo of the rubric on p. 300 of the 2002 Missale Romanum.