Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Equality of Washing Feet

Ruth, my wife, jokes that I give Pope Francis a lot of air time. It's true, I like the guy, especially after Pope Benedict.  has issued a decree revising the rules for the traditional foot-washing ritual on Holy or Maundy Thursday, saying the rite should no longer be limited to men, but also include women and young girls and boys. This might seem to be a "no-brainer" for most of us, but the logic (?) of the Roman Catholic church is that Jesus' disciples were men and therefore, since he only washed the feet of men, this should be the practice of the church.

Pope Francis has already broken with this tradition himself, washing the feet of women as well as men in a prison last year. But he is now making this the official stance of the church, and conservatives are not happy. In the announcement mention is made of revised understanding of the related biblical texts about the Last Supper. For years now scholars have suggested that if this was truly a pesach or Passover meal, women and children would have been present as well. Excluding women and children from the supper and subsequently from foot-washing would be historically inaccurate. Of course, if you allow women to have their feet washed, what might be next? This could be the slippery slope to women as priests. God help us all!

I am inclined to shake my head in bemusement at all this, but Roman Catholics still make up the majority of the world's Christians. Whatever Pope Francis does to move toward equality, whether liturgically or practically, really does matter.

What is your reaction to this news?


Judy said...

But thinking Christians belong to the United Church! Do we want quality or quantity?

Frank said...

In a somewhat related note: A friend of mine attended an service/ceremony, in an eastern orthodox tradition, honouring a family milestone event. His brother-in-law, seated in front, turned around and said to him:
"Welcome to the twelfth century".