A while back I posted an ASK FATHER Question Box query about the rising of used altar linens by a priest before the linens are sent to be laundered. It is a good question, because it touches on our sense of the sacred.
A canonist friend sent the following pertinent information:
I had some time to look into the issue of washing altar linens.
Among the information I found out is that, lay brothers of the Order of Friars Minor who were entrusted with the charge of the sacristy, by papal privilege, could handle the sacred vessels and perform the first washing of the corporals and purificators. In addition, the privilege of doing these first washings were usually granted to brothers and sisters of religious institutes that follow the Rule of St. Francis who serve as sacristans in their chapels.
Then, with the momentous motu proprio, Pastorale munus, Paul VI, in 1963, granted a whole bunch of faculties to diocesan bishops. One of those faculties (#28) was,
“Permittendi clericis minoribus, religiosis laicis, necnon piis mulieribus ut pallas, corporalia et purificatoria prima quoque ablutione extergere possint.”
It seems that non-religious laymen and impious women are still prohibited from doing the first washing.
The drama builds.