Holy Thursday: Washing of the feet

What is the current status of the paragraph listed below given the recent changes in the mass? Should women be included or excluded from the washing? How about children not confirmed? Also, for what periods were clerics the ones who had their feet washed?

paragraph 51

The washing of the feet of chosen men which, according to tradition, is performed on this day, represents the service and charity of Christ, who came not to be served, but to serve. This tradition should be maintained, and its proper significance explained.


And the women stayed with him to the end (his mother, his mother’s sister) as well as John. Therefore, I believe women should have their feet washed, too. It was an honor to have it done by my parish priest. We women, too, need to see this humility of Jesus, the Christ, up close and personal. In the early church, there were many deaconesses. And now with the laity again such a help at liturgy, it seems reasonable to me. :slight_smile:

I believe this was just discussed in the “Ask the Apologist”. And the answer was no, women should not be included.

my mistake if it has been recently posted. Could some one please provide a link.

The recent changes in the Mass concern only the Latin->English translation of various phrases (and these changes affect only the English “Novus Ordo” translation). There are NO changes to liturgical practice, either in the English-language liturgy or throughout the world. If you did not attend English-language Mass, you would not be aware of any “changes in the Mass.”

The document you cited (PASCHALIS SOLLEMNITATIS, promulgated by the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship) remains the most recent and specific authoratative worldwide liturgical instruction regarding the practice of washing of feet, and it applies to all Catholics regardless of language. The washing may be performed only by a Bishop or priest (not by a deacon or layperson), and only men are to have their feet washed.

Michael Voris has produced an interesting and informative video on this topic, which touches on the relationship between the washing of feet and the ministry of the priesthood - specifically the ministry of the people whose feet are being washed, not the person doing the washing. This ministry is (usually) symbolic in Catholic rituals, but it is inappropriate (and liturgically abusive) to apply this symbol to persons who are not able to act in such a capacity.

Is it a sinl for a priest to wash women’s feet? What about the women who are being washed, are they sinning by participating?

Without change, Holy Thursday feet washing for example, women of the church would still be just cleaning the churches of the world. Jesus stepped “out of the box” and so did Benedict XVI recently in Cuba, when he had the courage to ask for freedom of religion and openness.
It is time for women to “step out of the box”.
Respectfully submitted to those to disagree with me. :slight_smile:

There is nothing wrong with cleaning the house of God. I have done this a couple of times when i needed to clear my head. By desiring to step out of the box, you seek to disobey the Vatican, the church which the Lord created. It will no longer be the Catholic church but rather a church of personal interest, which is an upside down structure. We exist to love and honor God, not ourselves.

As far a female deacons:



As always, it depends. The liturgy has been so badly abused in some places that priests may not even be aware that washing is reserved to men alone. In such a case, the priest does not sin, because we cannot sin without knowing it.

If a priest knows that it is not allowed and does it anyway as an obstinate gesture of defiance against the legitimate authority of the Church then he sins (perhaps mortally).

What about the women who are being washed, are they sinning by participating?

Same answer - although the laity have a greatly reduced obligation to insure that the liturgy is conducted in the manner that the Church prescribes. But if a layperson is fully aware that such a practice is not allowed then she has no business participating in it (even if the priest is willing).

Our bishop has mandated that only men are to have their feet washed. Jesus, after all, washed the feet of Peter and the Twelve Apostles, not all of the other disciples.

This comes up every year! It’s actually a few days late this year. Yet another discussion about Paschales Solemnitatis. **Bottom line, follow your local ordinary! ** Some (such Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley) as have received permission directly from the Holy See to wash women’s feet on Holy Thursday. I strongly suspect his brother bishops in the USA can use that to gauge the Holy See’s approval.

If I went to an Extraordinary Form Mass, then yes it would definitely be all men for the washing of feet. The last few times I’ve gone to an Ordinary Form Mass for Holy Thursday, the priest did allow for a wide variety of people to go up of various ages & both male and female. Perhaps, the local bishop allowed this where I live.

For what it’s worth, the Priest will be washing women’s feet at our parish. They asked our RCIA class to participate and there will be three women and two men that will have it done. Sadly, my feet are extremely ticklish, so I did not volunteer, as I know I wouldn’t be able to maintain a solomn and reverent composure. :rolleyes:

I have emailed the diocese with the question, but so far no response. The diocese also maintains a website, as most do, where the question may be explained to all visitors.
Under what conditions was Cardinal O’Malley given permision, Do you have links to any documents in that case?

The USCCB issued permission for women’s feet to be washed.
old.usccb.org/liturgy/q&a/general/feet.shtml look down to number 5

Seems to be a question of which body is has authority over the other between the USCCB vs the Vatican.

No, that is not permission (nor does the USCCB have authority to override Mass rubrics in the first place). Please look at how carefully it is worded, and what it actually says:
While this variation may differ from the rubric of the Sacramentary which mentions only men (“viri selecti”), it may nevertheless be said that the intention to emphasize service along with charity in the celebration of the rite is an understandable way of accentuating the evangelical command of the Lord, “who came to serve and not to be served,” that all members of the Church must serve one another in love.
In simpler terms, all it actually manages to say is:
This is against the rubrics, but you can definitely see why people would want to do it.

According to this 2005 newspaper article:
In August 2004, “at the time of the ad limina visit to Rome, the archbishop sought clarification on the liturgical requirements of the rite of foot washing from the Congregation for Divine Worship, which has the responsibility for administering the liturgical law of the Church,” said an archdiocesan statement released in March. “The Congregation affirmed the liturgical requirement that only the feet of men be washed at the Holy Thursday ritual, which recalls Christ’s service to the apostles who would become the first priests of the Church.”

“The Congregation did, however, provide for the archbishop to make a pastoral decision concerning his practice of the rite if such a decision would be helpful to the faithful of the archdiocese,” the statement added. “Archbishop O’Malley has determined that he will participate in a modified rite of foot washing at the Cathedral this year. The participants in the rite will include men and women from the Cathedral parish and from social service agencies providing support to community members in need.”

Incidentally, I am still of the view I expressed here two years ago:
I support obeying the rubric, because it is the rubric and has the force of law. There is no very good theological reason, however, to admit laymen but not laywomen to the ceremony. The ordained versus the non-ordained or bishops versus non-bishops, yes; but if you are going to have laypeople at all, trying to restrict it to twelve men veers off into historical-reenactment territory. Now, historical reenactment is fine, and in fact it can help drive home some of the lessons of the Gospel, but let’s not pretend that it is a theological imperative.

. . .

The sentence does say “men” (viri). However, people should be able to distinguish (1) given the way the rubrics are currently written, should a priest wash the feet of men only, or men and women?, from (2) is the rubric a good idea? should it be written differently?

My own view on (1) is, men only; the rubric is perfectly clear. As to (2), I see no theological reason to go either way, so you’re left with pragmatic concerns. On one hand, restricting it to men helps duplicate the circumstances of the original event, which has a sort of teaching effect; it reminds us that the Church recognizes the distinction between men and women; and it emphasizes that the Church is willing to be “politically incorrect” about the liturgy and does not always bow to modern conceptions of everything. On the other hand, as mentioned above, it shifts the emphasis from the priest’s act of service to the “worthiness” of those people chosen to be served; it’s bad publicity and makes us look sexist for the sake of something with no theological significance; and it may cause women to feel that the Church does not esteem them as being as worthy to be served as men.

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