CLARIFICATION about something false attributed to me regarding “viri selecti”

I was alerted that at the Q&A section of EWTN’s site, a questioner made a claim about me that is not true in the context of a question about the washing of feet on Holy Thursday.

Here is the exchange:

RE: Washing women’s feet on Maundy Thursday
Question from Dan on 3/12/2008:    

Mrs. Arnold,

You mentioned recently in an answer to a post that for pastoral reasons some archbishops can wash womens feet on Maundy Thursday.

This is wrong.

I have contacted Fr. Zuhlsdorf at WDTPRS who spoke with the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments just recently. Father was informed that the document Paschale Solemnitas forbids, in every instance, the washing of women’s feet on Maundy Thursday.  [This is not true.  I have never said that I spoke with anyone in the CDWDS about this matter.  I was not informed by anyone at CDWDS about this matter.]

The rubrics of the 2002 Missale Romanum retain the words, viri selecti, which as you know literally means, "chosen men." [No it doesn’t.  It means "chosen males".  Vir is first and foremost an indication of the sex of the person and only in the second place does it mean man, in the sense of adult male.] "No conference of bishops, individual bishop, or pastor has the authority to change this."  [The last thing is an accurate quote.  But … NB: I wrote – "on his own authority".  If a bishop were to consult with the Holy See’s CDWDS and get some sort of permission, that is a different matter.  However, no one on his own authority can take it upon himself to change the rubrics on this point.]

Only men may have their feet washed on Maundy Thursday.
Answer by Catholic Answers on 3/12/2008:


The only published statement we have at this point is the response by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (CDW) to Cardinal O’Malley that an archbishop may make a pastoral decision to admit women to the footwashing ritual on Holy Thursday (source). [See what I wrote, above.] A phone call between a priest and a representative of the CDW — as I gather from your report that this was — does not rise to the same level of authority as clarification on a rubric given to an archbishop by the CDW.  [Absolutely correct.]

Please understand that I do not personally favor the inclusion of women in this ritual because I think the symbolism of twelve chosen men more fully expresses the historical action of Christ washing the feet of his Apostles. However, my purpose here is not to promote my own opinion or to make my preferences binding on the consciences of others, but to explain what the Church does and does not allow. In this case, it appears that the Vatican is allowing for the inclusion of women in this ritual at the pastoral discretion of a bishop. [This is misleading.  That was an individual instance. It cannot be assumed that any bishop can therefore make this decision.  Also, I suspect that that was an ad hoc permission for Boston, which may not even apply to this year.  That itself might need a clarification.] We may hope though that Rome will at some point choose to more fully address this matter and either definitively affirm the provision of Paschale Solemnitatis for "chosen men" or to definitively set it aside.  [You know… it seems to me that the present law is perfectly clear and that there is no further need of clarification.]

Michelle Arnold
Catholic Answers 


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Ave Maria says:

    We had ONE man and 11 women and girls for the foot washing and, of course,
    anyone else who wished to step up was welcome to do so. Father washed the
    feet of one or two of the volunteers that he called apostles.

    At Communion the two priests sat out and women distributed the Body
    of Christ. The lady shoved the Blessed Host into my mouth; was it to let
    me know she only likes giving Communion in the hand? She waved the Host
    around, perhaps in making the Sign of the Cross first.

    This was not my home parish but I chose to go here as the silliness is
    actually less than the washbowl stations all over the church and the
    giggling and so forth that accompanys the free-for-all.

    I am hoping that next year I will be able to attend a holy and
    reverent Holy Thursday Mass.

  2. Jayna says:

    Is there even any recourse or enforcement of the rubrics in the case that a priest doesn’t follow the accepted form? All of the priests of my parish washed the feet of women last night at mass with, I would assume, the consent of our archbishop (though my pastor doesn’t always follow the rules, so I’m not entirely certain of that) who presumably was not granted the power to do so. Is there any effort to at least censure those who are not faithful to the law or is it just something they let fall by the wayside?

    I think my experience at mass last night was just another example of the curse I suffer for being Catholic in Atlanta, Georgia.

  3. Shane says:

    Ave Maria, my parish had 10 women and 2 men. I am in Boston, and, in spite of what Ms. Arnod wrote, my understanding is that the permission to have women participate is in place; it has been for several years now. The parish I attended last night is one that I had in the past avoided due to the seeming liberalism of the pastor, but there are two new priests there, both of whom I have been very impressed with when I have needed to go there. I expected to perhaps see a woman, but I was shocked to see ten. I stopped paying attention for about the next ten minutes.

    I’m hoping that this was the result of a lay commitee selecting the participants and the priest being unaware of the choices until they stood up to sit down!

  4. Jim says:

    Fr. Z,
    I had the pleasure of attending our Eastern Rite (Ukranian) parish in my town last night. The priest washed the feet of 12 males. This morning, the choir sung Popule Meus by Victoria, in Greek and English. I have not heard the Good Friday reproaches in 40+ years. The comparison between the Novus Order Good Friday services and what they do in the Eastern rite is like the difference between Bud Lite and a fine british stout.

  5. Karen says:

    I attended an otherwise lovely Mass at St. Victor’s in West Hollywood, where two women had their feet washed. There were eleven men in robes on the altar, counting the priest, and the church was full of men. There was no reason for the women other than business as usual in Mahonyland.

    I always find it incredibly distracting. I’m a producer and I wouldn’t cast women to play the disciples. I mean, DUH.

    Having lived in L.A. for a long time, I’ve seen every variation of foot washing from all female children to all illegal aliens. I think what we really need is a new litugical holiday — a big footfest (sometime other than Holy Week) to get it out of everyone’s systems.

    Aside from being distracted, it makes me angry and I don’t like getting angry in the middle of Mass. All I want is access to the Roman,/i> Catholic Church. As I convert, I naively assumed that was what I was signing up for.

    As for the bishops, they need to realize that their PC foot-washing quarrel is with JESUS, not with Rome.

  6. Alice says:

    So, Father, with St Agnes – is it just *more fitting* that the foot washing be done for adult men rather than the altar boys? Is it just getting down to hair-splitting?

  7. Melody says:

    I ended up going to two masses that day because I sing in the choir at the latter one.

    The first (at the abbey) involved the abbot washing the feet of twelve young men, six of which were clearly the newest members of the abbey, and six young students from the school. Long red stools were brought in for them to sit on during the ritual.
    Question: The Abbot emphatically kissed each person’s feet after washing them. Where did this custom originate, or is it something of the abbot’s? I found it very moving.

    The second mass I went to involved setting up chairs and basins in the center aisle and washing an indeterminate number of feet. Total chaos. We had to sing this really sugary hymn called “As I have done for you.” Ack.

  8. Jennifer says:

    Jayna: I think my experience at mass last night was just another example of the curse I suffer for being Catholic in Atlanta, Georgia.

    Jayna, you should go to St. Francis de Sales….it’s an FSSP parish and you will feel your curse lifted. God Bless!

  9. Alice: So, Father, with St Agnes – is it just more fitting that the foot washing be done for adult men rather than the altar boys? Is it just getting down to hair-splitting?

    I am not sure. I suppose that since the Apostles were adults, there is argument for their all being grown men.

    On the other hand, perhaps there is a also value to having altar boys. Such an event leave a huge impression on them at an important time in their formative lives.

    Also, perhaps their smallness and youth might help us to reflect on the dependence bishops and priests have on the High Priest.

    I think there are good arguments on both sides. However, what I think must be avoided is an insistence on men only because viri means “grown up men” only. It doesn’t, which is clear if you are attentive to what the Latin really says.

  10. Mark says:

    I exhort all of you who attend Novus Ordinaria Parishes to make the extra effort and attend Formis Extraordinaria Chapels/Parishes even if the drive is a 100 miles round trip for you. I travel 86 miles round trip to our Chapel. It\’s well worth the time and extra gas money as we approach the $4/gal mark here in the area where I live.

    If my atheist wife wouldn\’t freak-out, I\’d be willing to subsidize your trip on a financial needs basis. :-) We actually do this very thing for one family who\’s round-trip is 160 miles or so.

    Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam!

  11. Does the CDWDS have the competence to rewrite the Liturgy at will, even ad hoc? I don’t think so, unless the Supreme Pontiff has granted the Congregation a standing mandate to ignore what he himself has established by Motu proprio so that they can do whatever they please in the way of political correctness. Unlikely. I’m no canon lawyer, but I’m guessing that if someone in the CDWDS does something like this, it’s not worth anything.

    Anyway, how legit is it in reality if it all makes a parody of the Last Supper and Sacred Scripture, vomiting all over Tradition and the practice of the Church?

    I think we know that some underlings of the Roman Curia, as well as the Cardinal Prefects, will do whatever they want to do, until they are caught and reprimanded, which has happened not infrequently in these years.

    I think the hierarchy should just read the black and do the red, since reading the winds and swaying with them really just isn’t working. As we read the wounds of the Saviour as we kneel near the Cross, let’s wash those feet of His with our tears.

    And don’t forget to say a “Hail Mary” for those priests (especially outside of any zone of “permission”) who refuse to wash the feet of women at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. They can be marginalised to the edge of active ministry for that kind of ‘offense’. Yep, because everyone who is ‘inclusive’ is just that welcoming. Don’t forget, there are also priests who suffer with our Lord, bowing to His wisdom in choosing Judas. The reason for the foot-washing? See John 13,11 — “For he knew who was to betray him. That was why He said, ‘You are not all clean.'”

  12. michigancatholic says:

    I picked carefully and went to a church nearby that had only 12 men and was very reverent. No ladies: no crotch shots. Sorry but that’s my objection, not very profound but very real. No politics and wet socks in my face.

    Usually I forgo the Holy Thursday mass because it’s soooo bad around here, but this year I didn’t. I had to plan but I did it.

    I do have a question: Why is it that we put so much emphasis on the washing of the feet but not so much emphasis on all the other parts of this particular section of scripture, specifically the Holy Eucharist? That mystifies me. [Yes, I know service of one’s fellow man, and even the place of service in the life of a priest, which are conceivably the things this symbol is meant to portray, are important. And yes, I know they’re intimately connected to the reception of the Eucharist. BUT, as any teacher knows, most people get wrapped up in the demonstration and miss the point, and this seems to be no exception to that rule. No exception at all. Sometimes it’s better just to let the main point BE the main point. It’s not like if we omit the little skit, the Eucharist won’t teach the lesson internally–the Eucharist is not just an inanimate “thing” after all.]

  13. michigancatholic says:

    BTW, I have had an aversion to this mass for a long time. I’m a convert and was “invited” to be one of the foot-washees about 18-20 years ago. [I’m female.] I did it but didn’t really understand what I was doing or that it was not allowed in the rubrics. Ignorance.

    Since then I have realized the mess the church is in, particularly in the US. I try to stay out of the politics, especially as I also believe something someone above said: When the local powers-that-call-the-shots are disobedient (and cause ignorant people to err), their problem is with God, not with Rome. So they’d better take it up with Him, sooner or later.

  14. Jayna says:

    Jennifer – I’ve looked into attending a service there. Mableton’s a bit of a hike for me at the moment since I live in Alpharetta, but it will definitely happen some day. I lived in London for about 3 months over the fall and went to the Brompton Oratory (they do both Novus Ordo and the 1962 rite) for masses on a pretty regular basis, so I’m keen to start going again.

  15. Michigan Catholic,

    You ask a great question. It would seem that it being Holy Thursday, the emphasis should be on the part of the scripture that emphasizes the Eucharist. Actually, the Washing of the Feet is an emphasis on the Eucharist. Note that in John’s Gospel there is no institution narrative with its command to “do this in memory of me.” I’ll get back to this.

    So why read from John’s Gospel? Because it is that which preceeds the Passion that will be read on Good Friday. Before the reforms of Pius XII, the other three Passion accounts were read on Sunday(Matthew), Tuesday (Mark), and Wednesday (Luke) of Holy Week and included the Last Supper narrative. (The Last Supper narrative was removed from them in either the Pian reforms or those of John XXIII). John’s Last Supper Narrative and Passion were left to be read on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. Thus, all four Passions were read in order during Holy Week. That’s why John’s Gospel is read.

    Saint John’s account of the Last Supper is the only one to omit the institution narritive. That is why on Holy Thursday we have it in the Epistle from I Corinthians. John is the only Gospel to have an account of the Foot Washing at the Last Supper. Note that it is followed by the command “For I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, so you do also.” Now, Christ was telling the apostles to that they must wash people’s feet. But he was telling them much more than that. The Last Supper, the first Mass, is inseperable from Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. The Mass is the unbloody sacrifice of the cross. Christ was also telling the apostles that they must follow his example in giving themselves completely as he would do the following day on the Cross. So the Washing of the Feet does have a Eucharistic meaning when viewed within the context of the Sacred Triduum which is one continuous celebration (Note that once Mass begins on Holy Thursday there is no dismissal until the end of the Easter Vigil).

    The Washing of the feet is something that has been generally present everywhere for the past 40 years or so. It was not a common thing before the introduction of the Ordinary Form in which it is optional. Up until the reform of Pius XII it was a seperate rite that was usually only celebrated in Cathedrals and Monasteries after the Mass and in a place apart from the church such as a hall. However, as with all the other misinterpretations of “participatio actuosa” it came to be viewed as a way for everyone to participate and we get the current fiasco that has misplaced the emphasis and indeed given the rite an entirely different meaning. It is not so much about service to our fellow man (though that is part of it) as it is about imitation of Christ in his sacrifice of self on the cross freely, lovingly, and totally. By imitating Christ we do give ourselves in service to one another but that is only part of it. What’s sad is that it has, as you say, become the focal point of Holy Thursday’s Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper when it is not. Today it’s what most people remember, whereas in the past what people remembered about Holy Thursday was the gift of the Eucharist and keeping company with Christ as he underwent his Passion.

  16. the warrior says:

    Way to go Father. You showed those moron neo-cons at Catholic Answers a thing or two didn\’t you? ;)

  17. MA says:

    Check out the Raleigh diocese web site, it seems to me that it is a woman who is going to be having her feet washed.

  18. Anna Trad says:

    After reading these replies I thank God that I have easy access to a traditional Parish sanctioned by our good Bishop. This Holy week has been the best one yet. To be able to go to all the Masses and Tenebrae with peace and silence of soul. This has come from many years of work and struggling and we are now reaping the the fruits of our labor. It is well worth organizing and working in your area towards this very goal. You will never regret it.

  19. Gerry says:

    It’s not perfectly clear to me!

  20. Karen says:

    I went to Holy Thursday Mass and became so distracted at the washing of the feet (two women) that I could hardly focus on the rest of the Mass. I think it was because I was so disappointed in the pastor. The pastor is a very orthodox priest, very young, and a very holy priest. On my drive to church, I was hoping he wouldn’t wash women’s feet, and I was pretty sure he would not. What a shock!! I want to ask him why, but don’t know if I should. I don’t know why it bothers me, it didn’t seem to bother anyone else. Of course, the congregation can’t keep still for five minutes. As soon as the Blessed Sacrament was in repose, the chattering started in the pews and it doesn’t stop. Yikes!!!

  21. A Philadelphian says:

    Thanks, Fr. di Lorenzo for the reminder to pray for our priests. Our parish priest managed to pull off washing the feet of twelve young men yesterday and he preached on the relationship between the foot-washing and the cross. I am sure that he has endured much suffering for this by those who are critical. It takes real courage to be a priest these days.

  22. Geoffrey says:

    Regardless of the “theatrics” that occur at my parish, I am thankful that the reason for these sacred days still inspires me, as they should. For some reason, these are the only three days of the year when the nonsense and abuses don’t bother me as much. I am able look beyond that to see the real reason for these holy days, and unite myself with Christians throughout the world, all united in Christ our God. I thank God for that. Deo gratias!

  23. Jayna says:

    Too true, Geoffrey! (I won’t even go in to the theatrics that occured at mass this evening!) Despite the ups and downs of the service itself on Thursday, I found that after I spent the entire evening in the chapel with the Blessed Sacrament (even stuck it out until midnight) that I felt like an entirely new person. Perhaps this will be the encouragement I need to stay just a bit longer for adoration after daily mass.

  24. gravey says:

    California: The congregation lines up and washes each others feet. One after the next, you get your feet washed and then you wash the feet of the person behind you. After the water becomes shallow and taken on a rich brown patina, a fresh basin of water is delivered. Can anyone top that one for disgusting?

  25. Mairead says:

    I was invited by my pastor to have my feet washed (I declined) saying I thought it was only for men only to be told -yet again-I am old fashioned and they couldn’t leave out the women because it wouldn’t be fair

  26. Father Peter J. DiMaria says:

    Dear Father Z:

    Have you seen the following explanation from the US Bishop’s Conference regarding the washing of women’s feet? What authority, if any, do they have on this matter?

  27. Dennis Martin says:

    In my view the footwashing craze originated in the “primitivist” ideology that accompanied the hijacking of liturgical reform in the Bugnini era. I am a convert and grew up among the Dunkers (Church of the Brethren and derivatives) who long practiced footwashing as part of their “love feast” Communion service once or twice a year. They prided themselves on being faithful to the “way it was done in the New Testament” instead of the liturgical corruptions of later centuries. What Catholics call apostolic development of doctrine and liturgy they considered corruption. Of course, the authority for deciding just “how it was done in NT times” was historical “research”–they substituted the authority of historians for the authority of the Petrine office and bishops in apostolic succession.

    They even quarreled different historical readings: was Jesus standing or sitting when he prayed over the bread at the Last Supper? If we are going to imitate what he did, we want to get it “right”? They argued and splintered over these questions. That he was undoubtedly reclining at table never occurred to them in the 1840s. A little knowledge of history is a dangerous thing. Once you hitch your wagon to historical authority, you are condemned to being vulnerable to a new “historian” arising who has a new set of “absolutely certain historical facts.”

    But they were especially proud that they had continued the practice of washing feet whereas it had been lost (so they believed) among Catholics, more importantly, among the Reformed and Lutheran state churches from whom they exited in the early 1700s. They didn’t realize it was still being done in monasteries and by bishops.

    This primitivist urge, which was strong in Bugnini circles is the root of a lot of the silly decisions made during the creation of the 1970 Missal. We will be paying the price for it for a long time.

  28. Francis says:

    As I continue to read about the foot washing issue I hear over and over that only men are allowed. I don’t quarrel with this but when I go to the USCCB web site and read that the USCCB/CDW says “women are OK.” Is it any wonder the faithful and clergy are confused by thos loophole. Here is from their web site (notice how they state “this variation may differ from the rubric…”)

    4.Because the gospel of the mandatum read on Holy Thursday also depicts Jesus as the “Teacher and Lord” who humbly serves his disciples by performing this extraordinary gesture which goes beyond the laws of hospitality, the element of humble service has accentuated the celebration of the foot washing rite in the United States over the last decade or more. In this regard, it has become customary in many places to invite both men and women to be participants in this rite in recognition of the service that should be given by all the faithful to the Church and to the world. Thus, in the United States, a variation in the rite developed in which not only charity is signified but also humble service.

    While this variation may differ from the rubric of the Sacramentary which mentions only men (“viri selecti”), it may nevertheless be said that the intention to emphasize service along with charity in the celebration of the rite is an understandable way of accentuating the evangelical command of the Lord, “who came to serve and not to be served,” that all members of the Church must serve one another in love.

  29. Shane says:

    “As I continue to read about the foot washing issue I hear over and over that only men are allowed. I don’t quarrel with this but when I go to the USCCB web site and read that the USCCB/CDW says “women are OK.”

    Well the CDW didn’t say it was ok, that document doesn’t reference them. The USCCB didn’t say it was ok either, they just mentioned that some folks had done it and then failed to comment on it. Whoever wrote the thing was no doubt trying to “say” it was ok without actually saying it and violating the rubrics. In fact, this is how most Liturgical abuse is sanctioned, without an approval but with a cleverly worded observation that fails to reject *hint hint* the practices.

  30. In effect, the USCCB, as usual, says that they are being disobedient and that they don’t care. They are nice. Anyone who disagrees with them, including the Holy Father, is not nice. Isn’t that nice?

    You can just see the USCCB throwing a tantrum, screaming and pointing, “You’re not nice! You’re not nice!” How pitiful. The trouble is that so much of the rest of the English speaking Catholic world follows the USCCB, which really doesn’t say much about those not in the USA.

    In the footwashing, our Lord God cleaned the disciples of the Satanic presence among the Apostles, that is, with Judas. It is this charity that the successors of the apostles are to carry out on behalf of the Church. This is a great act of charity since such a cleansing among the clergy and bishops is unpopular among those being sent away, and among those who will feel that they are also under threat.

    Just because there are horrific abuses and misunderstandings, these do not mean that our Lord or what He has done is out of date. Maybe people want Him to be out of date, so that they can just get on with their own miserable lives. It’s more comfortable for fallen human nature to have Satan stick around. Otherwise, one might have to be crucified to oneself, to the world. As it is, our Lord lays down our lives with His.

    The question is, do we want Him to do this… Who has the fortitude to clean house with the clergy, I mean, really, all the heretics and apostates, all those leading people straight to hell with their make believe doctrine and make believe morality. Just do it! Wash those feet of the dust of Satan!

    “NO!” comes the answer. “Not the clergy. We’ll get women so that we don’t have to be truly charitable and clean Satan right out of the ranks of the hierarchy.”

    Having women get their feet washed has nothing to do with equality. It’s a utilitarian usage of women by men, again.

    The “THINK before posting” anti-spam word often seen in combox on WDTPRS should be taken up by those posting on the USCCB site as well.

  31. Fr. D says:

    Big Problem: The popular Paulist Press ”Ordo” says: “The group whose feet are washed should represent a cross-section of the local community.” It does not list a source. The problem is that many parishes in the USA use this ”Ordo” since various editions are tailored to the various diocese (even including a necrology of local clergy).

  32. Jordan Potter says:

    In the past, our parish has washed women’s feet in violation of church law, but then we got a solid younger priest who understood that “viri selecti” means men, not women. Last year that priest was transferred,
    and with the priests we have now, the number of liturgical abuses has noticeably increased. One of them even told us to sit for the Passion reading on Palm Sunday. I suspect/hope he got an earful for that, because on Good Friday he let us show respect for Jesus by standing for the reading of the Passion.

    Anyway, rather than take the risk that we’d see women impersonating the apostles on Holy Thursday, we decided to go to the cathedral, where the liturgy is always superb. (The bishop and the pontifical servers turn toward the crucifix and tabernacle for the Confiteor.) Not only were the feet of 12 men washed, but the program for the liturgy explicitly spelled out what was happening during the footwashing and who the 12 men symbolise.

  33. Leetrad says:

    I suppose it’s “legal,” but I don’t like the altar girls idea either. I believe that will result in less vocations for the priesthood.

  34. Emile says:

    ‘Fr Renzo di Lorenzo’
    very well said, thank-you

  35. Thomas says:

    Mark – I drive 150 miles RT, twice a week (once is for choir practice. It’s worth it, believe me.

  36. Thomas says:

    The lady shoved the Blessed Host into my mouth…

    The reason I always go to the priest’s line (when I cannot go to Mass in the Ex. Form). This happens almost all the time, and I just don’t get in that line anymore.

    Once, I had a rather large family as out-of-town guests, and he switched all of them to the priest’s line

    Our mass in Phoenix was absolutely heavenly.

  37. [You know… it seems to me that the present law is perfectly clear and that there is no further need of clarification.]
    Unfortunately that does not seem to be the case. The problem is that it seems most bishops (and priests) will ignore the subtleties of a document that is written in Latin (Perhaps because they have 1) never bothered to read it or 2) never bothered to keep up their Latin even if they were exposed to it at seminary. It is a lot harder for them to ignore a specific clarification on a point, sent by CDWDS, sent in their own language and then (negatively) promulgated by the main stream media.
    I think much of this stuff is pushed at the parish level and father, in the absence of a specific guidance letter from the bishop just lets it happen. I think that more would make an issue of it with their parish liturgists and council members (who are often involved in pushing for such things)if they had a letter from the diocese with a posting in the diocesan newpspaper.
    This comes from bad catechsis and a little nudge from Rome would help a lot, I think.

  38. Federico says:

    Maybe I’m the only one who sees a different kind of problem here. I’d certainly like to hear some priests commenting on the following thoughts.

    This practice (including women in the washing) has been going on for a long, long time in many parishes and dioceses in the US (over 30 years); dioceses and parishes are capable of receiving laws and I’m convinced this was done deliberately. Bishops have been aware but have not stopped (nor condemned) the practice (and, in some cases, they may have provided approval). As a result, I think in these parishes or dioceses the practice has attained the force of law as a custom contra legem (cc. 23-28).

    Let me mention that I even know of a case of a bishop who sought canonical advice on how to approve this custom without appearing too liberal; he was advised to leave it alone, which would grant the custom the force of law after the prescribed 30 years elapsed. The bishop was happy with the advice and went along with it.

    This situation presents a number of problems in my mind. Here are a few:
    1. In a parish where this practice has attained the force of law, a priest cannot refuse to participate (as Fr. di Lorenzo suggested) in such a liturgy.
    2. Only a subsequent law can suppress a custom having attained this status, even if contra legem. Consequently, a pastor taking over a parish where this has happened cannot suppress it (he only enjoys executive power).
    3. A bishop could, by particular law, suppress these customs in his diocese, but he would have to reprobate them to keep them from springing up again.
    4. Where such customs have attained the force of law, the CDWDS is powerless (lacks the authority) to stop them; congregations do not have legislative power. On the other hand, since a universal law cannot revoke a particular custom, only a law from the Holy Father explicitly suppressing the custom and reprobating it would effect the suppression.
    5. Finally, in this places it is no longer proper to speak of abuse. What started out as abuse became an approved custom contra legem sadly enjoying the protection of the law.

    I’m not happy about any of this, but this is the way I see it.

    Any thoughts or comments? Fr. Z or Fr. di Lorenzo?


  39. Franciscus says:

    “California: The congregation lines up and washes each others feet. One after the next, you get your feet washed and then you wash the feet of the person behind you. After the water becomes shallow and taken on a rich brown patina, a fresh basin of water is delivered. Can anyone top that one for disgusting?”

    Where in California did this take place? Down here, lucklily, it wasn’t as bad as last year – only one woman this time! Of course, I’d rather it be all 12 men, but you have to realize only a couple of years ago the parish was in full Modernist bloom. Luckily, Tradition is coming back, slowly but surely – mostly with the support of the very old and the very young.

  40. Custom in a particular Church (diocese) would, I suppose, have to be proven by the offenders since they are the ones acting obnoxiously against the law (however nice they are).

    Sworn testimony that this disobedience was wrought for the required number of years would, I suppose, have to be provided by every parish, oratory, etc., of the particular Church, with all such testimonies (or the vast majority?) going back the required number of years by those who are truthworthy, sworn witnesses. IMHO[!], that cannot be done in any local Church anywhere in the world.

    The bishop may want to declare that all his priests, including any other bishops, including himself, have been knowingly disobedient for thirty some years, or their temporal participation therein, so that there was, in all places, an unbroken chain of disobedience (which must also recieve sworn testimony).

    However, that declaration, IMHO[!], isn’t enough. One person’s declaration does not make a custom. He has to prove his declaration since he is the one who has been derelict in his duty, both concerning others and concerning himself. This proof is especially needed for any contention, such as the attempted coercion of a priest to act against the Universal Law of the Church.

    I’m open to correction. I’m just writing off the cuff, as it were. I’m no canon lawyer (though everyone wants me to be study to be one)!

    What I am, however, is sick of almost no one knowing anything about what happened at the Last Supper and Calvary. There are extremely few laity, priests and bishops who can give a definition of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as being anything more than a nice get together in which we participate by merely DOING THINGS.

    In other words, I’m sick and tired of the “I DO, THEREFORE I AM” pelagianism. I mean, have you ever noticed those who actually push this kind of thing? It’s “I SMILE, THEREFORE I AM”, but without the Christian joy of the Holy Spirit.

    Togetherness and joy come from knowing, together, the Risen Christ, who bears the wounds on His Risen Body. Then, with all the irony and paradox evident, one not only smiles, but laughs. God’s good humour. Oh! Where are today’s Bellocs and Chestertons?!

    God bless!

    On a side note, I don’t know, but do revamped general instructions undo accumulated years of disobedience?

    Do other documents condemning liturgical disobedience, both in general and in particular, approved for publication by the Holy Father, the Supreme Legislator, reset the clock on any accumulated years of disobedience?

    Finally, why doesn’t the Congregation for Bishops just present every terna to the Holy Father with the sworn assurance of each candidate that they will uphold the Liturgical Law of the Church?

    Where’s torque-man when you need him?


  41. Christine says:

    Anybody do handwashing? Immitation of Pilate. I know a parish where that was the custom, and for all I know still is, but I avoid the place.

  42. gravey says:

    It happened in the Oakland Diocese. Pray for Bishop Vigneron.

  43. Kathy says:

    Did anyone see or participate at this Mass in the Detroit Diocese-St. Ambrose Catholic Church in Grosse Pointe Park?
    Churches open doors to more converts

    So children are now allowed to DO the feet washing too? Look at the picture on the right…”Tracey Wyatt of Detroit gets her feet washed by deacon Mike Cummins (*)with John Ryan Dotson, 7, and Charlie Bernas, 8, during a Holy Thursday service at St. Ambrose Catholic Church in Grosse Pointe Park.”

  44. Kathy says:

    Did anyone see or participate at this Mass in the Detroit Diocese-St. Ambrose Catholic Church in Grosse Pointe Park?
    Churches open doors to more converts

    So children are now allowed to DO the feet washing too?
    Look at the picture on the right…
    \”Tracey Wyatt of Detroit gets her feet washed by deacon Mike Cummins (*)with John Ryan Dotson, 7, and Charlie Bernas, 8, during a Holy Thursday service at St. Ambrose Catholic Church in Grosse Pointe Park.\”

  45. Dan Hunter says:

    Catholic Answers on the EWTN Q and A forums has cosistently given incorrect answers to matters of faith and morals.
    The Holy See has forbidden female foot foot washing at all Maundy Thursday Mass’s.

    Hey, I want to become pregnant, but being a male, this is impossible.

    Ut Prosim.

  46. Hoka2_99 says:

    Thank God I attended the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper in the beautiful church of San Clemente in Rome. There was NO washing of the feet!

    The whole business of whether or not women should be admitted to this ceremony should not even merit discussion. It’s a symbolic ceremony for men, because the disciples were men.

    The trouble is that I live in liberal England where women have been included in this thing for years and I’m only accused of rocking the boat if I say anything. Well, the boat of Peter is NOT to be rocked!

    Father: Is it written anywhere that only members of the male sex should be involved in this ceremony? I do hope so. Please tell me where I can read it.

    And – by the way – I’m a woman!

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