Question from Dan on 3/12/2008:
You mentioned recently in an answer to a post that for pastoral reasons some archbishops can wash womens feet on Maundy Thursday.
This is wrong.
I have contacted Fr. Zuhlsdorf at WDTPRS who spoke with the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments just recently. Father was informed that the document Paschale Solemnitas forbids, in every instance, the washing of women's feet on Maundy Thursday.
The rubrics of the 2002 Missale Romanum retain the words, viri selecti, which as you know literally means, "chosen men." "No conference of bishops, individual bishop, or pastor has the authority to change this."
Only men may have their feet washed on Maundy Thursday.
Answer by Catholic Answers on 3/12/2008:
The only published statement we have at this point is the response by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (CDW) to Cardinal O'Malley that an archbishop may make a pastoral decision to admit women to the footwashing ritual on Holy Thursday (source). A phone call between a priest and a representative of the CDW -- as I gather from your report that this was -- does not rise to the same level of authority as clarification on a rubric given to an archbishop by the CDW.
Please understand that I do not personally favor the inclusion of women in this ritual because I think the symbolism of twelve chosen men more fully expresses the historical action of Christ washing the feet of his Apostles. However, my purpose here is not to promote my own opinion or to make my preferences binding on the consciences of others, but to explain what the Church does and does not allow. In this case, it appears that the Vatican is allowing for the inclusion of women in this ritual at the pastoral discretion of a bishop. We may hope though that Rome will at some point choose to more fully address this matter and either definitively affirm the provision of Paschale Solemnitatis for "chosen men" or to definitively set it aside.