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
‘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.
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.
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.