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Women and Footwashing

Women and Footwashing April 4, 2012

I tremble to post this correspondence since it will probably earn me another 15 minute hate from Pewsitter, but what the heck!

A reader writes:

I just heard that a local parish in my town will have “the washing of the feet”; actually it seems to be a disappearing aspect of the Triduum from those that I have attended (just as midnight Mass for Christmas seems to be disappearing – which may depend on the Diocese). I haven’t seen the washing of the feet in a long time at the Triduums I have attended. Right now I live in a diocese that has an overwhelming majority of liberal Catholics and priests. So I asked the question “Will women be participating, i.e., getting their washed?” The response was an incredulous “Yes, of course. Why not?”. I said that would not be Biblical, since Jesus did this (according to the Gospel of John) for the Apostles, the first priests – at the first Eucharist where no women were present for a reason. Women today are trying to place themselves in roles under liberal priests that are, in my mind’s eye, just trying to act out their overused desire for feminist victory.

I realize this is not phrased diplomatically, but I do intend on retiring and leaving this Diocese. There is only one conventional Catholic church in the Diocese. We even had Scott Hahn speak at our parish this year!

This is one of those things I don’t worry much about. I leave such matters to the bishops and they seem to say that it’s permissible for women to have their feet washed in the US.

I’m skeptical the custom has changed in parishes due to rebellion. I suspect it’s just a natural tendency toward inclusiveness coupled with the rather typically loose Catholic attitude toward coloring outside the lines. This is largely a matter of custom, not law or apostolic tradition and customs tend to reflect the culture in which they live. Ours is an egalitarian culture. Look no further than that for an explanation. And it would appear the bishops are not going to the mat over it but are recognizing that cultural difference.

At my own parish (not a liberal one) we’ve had the washing of the feet for as long as I can remember: and women have always been a part of it in having their feet washed. That’s not due to some covert plot to ordain women. It’s been because off what the USCCB document says: the “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.”

I’m glad you had Scott out to speak. He’s the bee’s knees!

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