The decision by Pope Francis to allow women to participate in the Lenten foot-washing rite has inflamed the so-called liturgy wars, and appears to be the latest in the conservatives’ dissatisfaction with the Pontiff, reports Crux.
Reaction was fast and furious from some Latin Mass enthusiasts and people disenchanted with liturgical changes arising from Vatican II.
Pope Francis himself has already included women in the ritual, which is based on the story of Jesus washing the feet of his 12 apostles, every year since his 2013 election as pope.
As some noted last Thursday, the situation boils down to the Pope: “They criticised @Pontifex for breaking the rules when he washed women’s feet. So he changed the rules,” tweeted prominent commentator Austen Ivereigh.
But this change shouldn’t cause major waves in the United States, as many bishops here have permitted priests to include women in the service for decades, and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops gave the practice its tacit approval in 1987.
Not all bishops have permitted the practice, however. Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin, for example, continued to prohibit women from being part of the ritual – until yesterday.
While he said in an earlier statement that he accepted the Pope’s new rule “with loving obedience,” he pointed out that priests could stick to business as usual, or even drop the ritual altogether if they didn’t want to include women.
Priests in his diocese have the option “to include women in the washing of the feet … to follow the traditional practice of washing the feet of men, who in this dramatic ritual represent the Twelve Apostles [or] to omit the ritual of the washing of the feet altogether.”
“Thankfully it is optional. So I will never perform the rite again,” Fr Bede Rowe, a priest based in the United Kingdom, wrote on his personal blog.