Reading through the comments on yesterday’s post about Cardinal Sarah and the changes to the Holy Thursday foot-washing ceremony, Father RP’s observations stood out. So much so that I want to highlight them here (with my emphasis):
I must confess to having never liked this ritual included in the Holy Mass, though I have never been vehemently opposed to it, as it is the Lord instructing His Apostles in the proper humility befitting the Holy Office to which they were being consecrated to, and the necessary devoted service to one another (of course via Himself) in the Holy Ministry, especially in regard to the advancing of the Holy Gospel:
Romans 10:15: “And how can men preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!”
referencing Isaiah 52:7:
“How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him who brings good tidings,
who publishes peace, who brings good tidings of good,
who publishes salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
Notice that both passages clearly state Men? Our Lord’s washing of the feet of the Apostles was not a tender act of charity to be symbolic for all, but rather a purifying action to prepare those whom He commissioned to bear the Gospel (the Good News) to Israel and indeed to all of the Nations.
The new decree clearly states the entire rite is optional and should not be a spectacle that overshadows the Institution of the Holy Sacrifice and the Holy Priesthood ordained to offer the Sacrifice. I would point out that the washing of non-Christian, indeed anti-Christian feet, and women’s feet while kissing them is indeed a spectacle (please note that the LORD does not KISS anyone’s FEET, rather His feet are kissed in humble gratitude.) The kissing of someone’s feet is a sign of subjection to the one who’s feet are being kissed…the Minister’s of the Gospel of Jesus Christ are not subject to those whom they bring the Gospel to.)
Therefore, I choose to skip it altogether, which is my right according to the Law of the Church and no Bishop has the authority to mandate beyond the Universal Law of the Church.
So, I simply say: No. It isn’t necessary and it is a spectacle that now clearly distracts one from the meaning of the Mass of Holy Thursday: the institution of the Sacrifice of the New and Eternal Covenant and the consecration of the Priesthood who shall Offer the Holy Sacrifice of the New and Eternal Covenant.
A side note, it’s also clear that the ritual to include women is optional, it does not exclude only including men. Unfortunately, some Bishops have been and are notorious abusers of Priests who do not conform themselves to the Bishop’s unlawful authority which seeks to impose above and beyond the Law of the Church herself. No man should deign to wash another man’s wife’s feet, it is unseemly at best. Need I say how unseemly it is for a Consecrated Celibate to do so, or to do so to an unmarried woman? The woman holding her skirt down while father is below it kissing her feet…? That’s proper? No, it isn’t…ever. Pope Francis gets away with it, not every priest shall. If it were something absolutely necessary to carry out the Ministry of Jesus Christ, then so be it, but it isn’t and never has been and never shall be. Like Fr. Fessio said, look for the sexual harassment suit coming to a Church near you. (Am I now required to be so benighted of intellect that I am not permitted to realize that there are unworthy priests who will do this very thing for an unseemly purpose under the guise of charity!? And that there are no women alive who won’t find father’s tender hands (and God forbid lips) upon their feet so gentle and loving and begin to wish that their terrible brute husbands were more like father…and begin to entertain thoughts that could lead to very bad things!? Am I supposed to en-darken myself to the point were I no longer recognize the occasion of Sin as being very real and not a byproduct of a repressive Victorian era? Am I to succumb to the evil of Freud and call it liberation of my psyche and then enforce it upon the sheep?)
Father brings up points — particularly on the feet kissing and its significance — I hadn’t even considered. Nor had I thought of the very serious impropriety of a priest kissing a woman’s feet before Bishop Schneider brought it up, but this really drove it home.
This is a thing that not only should not be optional, it should be forbidden.
God save us from our own blindness to sin and its occasions.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.