In the Roman Rite, the washing of feet on Holy Thursday is an option. It may be left out without disturbing the integrity of the Holy Thursday Mass of the Last Supper (otherwise, it wouldn’t be a legitimate option).
Watch now as all sorts of people demand that bishops and priests violate the law because of what His Holiness Pope Francis did last year and plans to do this year. Watch as all manner of clerics hide behind the Pope when they choose openly to break the law and violate their promise to uphold the Church’s laws.
The problem with that is, liturgical law is real law. It must be obeyed.
The Church’s liturgical law is not ambiguous: only males can be chosen for this optional rite, and they should be men: viri selecti. Vir means “man”. Vir cannot, period, mean a female. And despite what Facebook says, there are two sexes, not dozens. Also, you really don’t get to choose which you are. Vir is male.
Also, lest it go unsaid, I am not speciesist, but the Church still limits this foot-washing rite to human beings.
Next, the Pope, who is the Church’s Legislator, can do A, B or C as it pleaseth him to do. If he wants to set aside the law, so be it.
The rest of us, however, are obliged, to obey the law. The ordained made promises at ordination to obey the Church’s laws.
So, we have a couple choices when it comes to the foot-washing rite (the “Mandatum” or “Command” – whence the word Maundy): don’t do the rite, or do the rite properly.
Two main excuses are offered in defense of the abuse of washing the feet of women.
The first excuse is that of “hospitality”. “Hospitality” suggests women must be “included”. Never mind that Mass isn’t that sort of “meal”. In the USA some might obtusely cite a note – having no canonical authority – from the (then) NCCB’s Committee on Liturgy in 1987 which uses this “hospitality” argument.
The second excuse is that of “inclusive” language, to which some of a certain age still cling. Keep in mind that quite a few clerics, of a certain age, haven’t really updated themselves by looking at the most recent edition of the Roman Missal, in English much less in Latin. They are snug in their fading memories that the English words in the now long-obsolete ICEL Sacramentary, “men” and “man”, couldn’t possibly mean “males”! That would be sexist! Again, Latin “vir” means “male”.
To repeat, when the Pope decides to derogate for himself from the liturgical law, that derogation doesn’t abolish the law for everyone else. The law remains.
We priests – and bishops – must obey the liturgical law which we do not have the authority to break or change.
The Church is not lawless. The Church is not merely a display case for people’s passing whims and changing fashions.
When and if the Holy Father wants the law to change for everyone, he will make sure that it is changed for everyone in the proper way and he will let everyone in the world know about it. The Holy Father knows how to change laws and promulgate the changes. Doing something in private on his own doesn’t change the law.
Until the Roman Pontiff changes the law, the law stands.
Men only, or no foot washing at all. Those are the two legitimate options.
Fathers, if you are afraid of the women in your parish, just opt out of the foot washing rite entirely. It is only an option. Fathers, if you don’t want the headaches and complaints and threats and tears and anger and hate-mail and voice-mail and glares and accusations, just say “no” to the foot washing option. Let the Mass be the Mass without the controversy. You are not obliged to violate the law and your promises.
The moderation queue is on. I’ll let quite a few stack up so that you are, initially at least, responding to the issue rather than to each other. Patience.