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January 25th, 2016

Foot Washing

Pope Francis’ changes to the  (optional) footwashing ceremony on Holy Thursday—or Maundy Thursday to British readers—have stirred up quite a bit of controversy. A lot of people object to the inclusion of women, because  the original apostles were 1) all men and 2) all  bishops. Some journalists have already noted that the concession will be regarded by feminists as another step on the road to priestesses. If so, it is a tactical blunder as well as a liturgical monstrosity.

The media appear not to have spotted that the Holy Father’s statement makes it clear that only the faithful—which can only  mean Christians or perhaps even just Catholics—may be included.   Why, then, I wonder, did he wash the feet of a Moslem woman last Holy Thursday? It will be interesting to see whether, having already broken the established rule last  year, in Holy Week 2016 he breaks his own reformed decree  and again washes the feet of an infidel. Maybe the decree was just carelessly drafted.

If I were a parish priest I think I would now drop the ceremony altogether. Within a couple of decades, I predict, 90 per cent of all  foot washees  will  be women. Most men find the whole thing a bit embarrassing.

I’m glad the Pope’s decree doesn’t apply to the old Latin liturgy.

Perhaps the best way to cope with this latest papal aberration is light heartedly, like the always-amusing Eccles blog:

Pope  Francis introduces hair-washing rite for women

Pope Francis has shocked traditionalists with this week’s 29th change to Catholic teaching and practice – introducing the rite  of hair-washing for women on Holy Thursday

.pope washing hair

‘Hmm… those look like nits to me.’ The Pope washes a man’s hair.

First reports suggested that the change would involve the washing of women’s feet, although many women find this offensive, not least the implication that their feet are anything but clean and fragrant. However, the original letter signed by Cardinal Sarah (who, paradoxically, is not a woman, as far as we know) was in error: in fact this year, priests will be expected to offer a permanent wave to devout Catholic women.

hair wash for woman

The Vatican-approved rite is demonstrated at the Rosica hair salon.

There is some debate about the scriptural authority for head-washing (foot-washing was traditionally regarded as being for men only). Proverbs 25:22 does insist, ‘Thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the Lord shall reward thee,’ but this is not a formal recommendation, as the next verse says ‘Don’t try this at home, folks!’

More relevant is Jeremiah 9:1, ‘Who will give water to my head, and a fountain of tears to my eyes?’ which is pretty conclusive, and seems also to be warning against getting shampoo into the eyes of the faithful.

too much foam

A possible side-effect of ritual hair-washing. No need for a mantilla!

Advice to priests reading this blog: VATICO clerical suppliesTM are offering a new product ‘Wash, pray’n’ go’, which is recommended for use in the Novus Ordo hair-washing rite. Buy now while stocks last!

When I was about eight years old, we sang our own version of Land of Hope and Glory:

Land of Soap and Water,

Mother washed my feet,

Daddy cut my toenails

Then sang me to sleep.

Somewhere in central Europe, I understand, there is a Pentecostal  Church of the Foot Washers.  Their main and distinctive ceremony is to wash one another’s feet because of Our Lord’s injunction to the apostles: that just as He had washed their feet, they should wash one another’s.



  1. Maybe the Pope’s counting their hairs (Acts 27: 34)?

  2. There is better news than that !-

    Catholic World News
    Pope to travel to Sweden to commemorate Reformation’s anniversary

    January 25, 2016

    The Holy See Press Office has announced that Pope Francis will travel to Lund, Sweden, on October 31 to take part in a joint Lutheran-Catholic ceremony commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

    Martin Luther made his 95 Theses public on October 31, 1517. The commemorative year begins a year earlier in Lund, the city where the Lutheran World Federation was founded.

    “The LWF is approaching the Reformation anniversary in a spirit of ecumenical accountability,” says Martin Junge, the Lutheran World Federation’s general secretary. “I’m carried by the profound conviction that by working towards reconciliation between Lutherans and Catholics, we are working towards justice, peace and reconciliation in a world torn apart by conflict and violence.”

    “By concentrating together on the centrality of the question of God and on a Christocentric approach, Lutherans and Catholics will have the possibility of an ecumenical commemoration of the Reformation, not simply in a pragmatic way, but in the deep sense of faith in the crucified and resurrected Christ,” said Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

    “The ecumenical situation in our part of the world is unique and interesting,” added Bishop Anders Arborelius of Stockholm, a convert from Lutheranism to Catholicism who grew up in Lund. “I hope that this meeting will help us look to the future so that we can be witnesses of Jesus Christ and His Gospel in our secularized world.”


    Comunicato della Sala Stampa della Santa Sede: il Santo Padre Francesco a Lund, Svezia, per commemorare il 500° anniversario della Riforma, 25.01.2016 (Holy See Press Office)
    Pope Francis to travel to Sweden for joint Reformation commemoration (Vatican Radio)

    • Ah, but there’s even better news than that….(I wish).
      Here’s Eccles’s take on the latest papal plea for forgiveness for Catholic misdeeds:
      “After apologising to the Protestant churches for the persecution they suffered during the Reformation – and most of us didn’t even know that he was personally responsible, so it’s very good of him to take the blame after all these years – Pope Francis has now made the grand apology that we’ve all been waiting for.
      ‘It’s time for me to apologise for the persecution for which I myself am responsible, rather than some long-dead people that I never even knew,’ he said. ‘Therefore I wish to apologise to traditional Catholics for all the persecution they have suffered in the last three years.’
      “The Pope went on to apologise for the treatment of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, for the bullying of Cardinal Burke, and for frightening people with threats to change Catholic teaching on marriage and the family.
      “The Holy Father went on to apologise for all the insults he had come out with on a daily basis, including the notorious ‘self-absorbed Promethean neo-Pelagian’ epithet. He was also very sorry for his ferocious outburst against the Curia in Rome, when he accused them of suffering from ‘spiritual Alzheimer’s’.

      “‘Such rudeness is inexcusable,’ he admitted. ‘As Pope I am supposed to preach love and mercy, but sometimes I simply can’t manage it. But you know how irritating Catholics can be – just because Jesus taught something, and it’s been agreed by the Church for two thousand years, they tell me it has some sort of official validity, and so I can’t change it. You wouldn’t find the Protestants making that sort of mistake!'”

  3. Two references slipped off end of item;-
    Catholic Culture.org
    NOR News Link

  4. I’ve had the following comment from “James”

    And now even still better news !

    We see dissent, disunity and confusion.We see cardinal aligned against cardinal,bishop against bishop. We see open advocacy of heterodoxy, denial of the concept of mortal sin, proposals for admission to the sacraments without conversion, forgiveness without repentance-in other words salvation without the cross. We see an open attack on Church teaching from within her highest offices.

    The Sacred Scriptures declare that loss of the Faith will be one of the signs preceding the End Times. Is this in progress?

    However it happened,Francis is now our pope, for our part we laymen can only pray with devotion,trust in the power and wisdom of God and follow the advice of Raymond Cardinal Burke-“Keep the Faith.”

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