Friday, 22 April 2011

The Holy Thursday Foot Washing - Is the point being lost because of legalism?

It is ironic that commemorating the setting for Jesus' new commandment of love has become an occasion of hurt and division in the Catholic Church.

My wife and daughter complained to me after the Holy Thursday service that there were no women selected for the foot washing. What could I say? All I could do was defend our local clergy and say that their hands are tied because the rubrics, the little red instructions in the missal, talk about selecting men. OK, they said. Then why are nearly all of the men selected old or middle aged white men? Why was there nobody there that youth or young adults could relate to? Other than our fiend Eric, why were there no people of colour? Good questions. I don't know why. Why?

For pastoral considerations the foot washing is optional at this service at the priest's discretion. I have always loved it but I think it is coming under siege - with justification. This is not the first time I have heard these objections. Ingrid's and Judith's remonstrations were pretty meek and mild compared to some of the charges that I have heard from some very impassioned and hurting women. There are many who see this as yet another point where women are made to feel like second class citizens in the Catholic church. I foresee that as the groundswell of antagonism towards the "men only" rule keeps growing, and grow it will, that this will become a point of division in the Church with many women, especially young women and their partners, opting not to go to mass on Holy Thursday, and many priests opting to leave the Mandatum, the foot washing, out of the Holy Thursday liturgy if it is going to cause such pain and division in their congregations.

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