Madison State Journal:
Just a few weeks after his election last spring, Pope Francis stunned papal observers by washing the feet of two women during a Holy Week ritual.Image
The rite — on Maundy Thursday, just prior to Easter Sunday — re-enacts Jesus’ washing of the feet of his 12 male disciples at his Last Supper. Traditionally, popes washed the feet only of men.
Catholic traditionalists believe the men-only rule should remain — at least for everyone below the pope — and many canon lawyers say church law agrees with that position. However, some dioceses in this country had begun including women long before the pope’s example, and a statement on the website for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops says that to include women is “an understandable way of accentuating the evangelical command of the Lord.”
Three years ago, Madison Catholic Bishop Robert Morlino issued guidelines that gave priests the option of either using only men or not celebrating the ritual at all. Given the heightened attention to foot-washing last year, some parishioners thought Morlino might re-evaluate his position.
That has not happened. Brent King, the diocesan spokesman, said priests have the same two options this year — men-only or no ritual. Holy Thursday Mass falls on April 17. Easter is April 20.
As has become his tradition, Morlino will celebrate Holy Thursday Mass at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Downtown Madison, King said, where he will wash the feet of 12 seminarians.
Last year, at least two priests — at Our Lady Queen of Peace in Madison and Nativity of Mary in Janesville — took a pass on the ritual due to the male-only rule.
I think it's interesting that we are getting into this dynamic where no one talks about changing the existing laws or ordinances in the Church, but instead whether they should be ignored or not. The pope is the head of Church law, he can legally do what he wants with his own rite, but those within the Church are still bound to the ordinary laws of the Church. I'm not sure why more people don't say, hey, let's just change the law that says it's male only foot washing. This is also the case with things like enforcement of Canon 915. I'm not reading from the people in the Cdl. Wuerl school of thought that we should change the law, but that it should not be enforced(or that the proper interpretation results in the law not being enforced).