From a priest…
Emboldened by the Pope’s new legislation last year, my pastor is determined to force the small parish which I primarily serve in the cluster to introduce women into the Holy Thursday footwashing rite. [This old thing again… sigh.]
As the celebrant of the small parish’s Triduum, I have wrestled with what to do: Should I quietly omit the mandatum? Or maybe I might refuse vocally and on principle. The bishop himself cannot compel or forbid me from legitimate options, yet, I truly love my bishop and honestly do not want to grieve him.
Or should I grudgingly obey
This is the plight of the assistants. Assistants, or “parochial vicars” as they are sometimes called, have the right to a Christian burial and that is about it.
I ran this by a some trusted priests, one a canonist, a pastor, a vicar general whom I know. They are rock solid and celebrate the TLM. We concur.
You are right: you can’t be “forced” to wash women’s feet. It’s sad that the pastor is trying to push this through onto a community that seems not to want it, and especially through the instrumentality of his assistant who is also opposed to it.
The cleanest option is to drop the optional mandatum rite. That will no doubt get back to the pastor. The effect will be: you “disobeyed,” you are rigid, disobedient, backwards. The pastor, during the last few weeks of your assignmment, might treat you with disdain and talk about you at future clergy gatherings. You could be a faithful hero in some circles, trad scum in others.
Talk to the pastor first.
“Listen Dick, I know you want me to wash ladies’ feet at St. Amphilocius on Holy Thursday, but in conscience I just can’t do it, and here’s why: … I know we disagree on this, and you probably think I’m a horrible, rigid person for sticking to my beliefs, but I hope that you can at least respect my disagreement with you on this matter. Please, respect the integrity of my beliefs and allow me the decency of letting my actions be in conformity with my beliefs. More scotch?”
Respectfully voice your concern and objection privately to the pastor and perhaps also the bishop. State your preference to omit the optional foot washing. Don’t make a public issue of this, however.
If the pastor or bishops insists that you do it, then I think you have to go along with what the pastor decides.
Hang on and be prudent. You will be a pastor of your own parish one day. Learn from this how not to be a pastor, how to be a good pastor, and how to work well with assistants.
Finally, thanks for wanting to do the right thing and in the right way.