This whole thread reminds me of the story of Jesus breaking the sabbath laws by "working" to cure a man of a withered hand....
From Mark 3:1-6
A Man with a Withered Hand.1* Again he entered the synagogue.a There was a man there who had a withered hand.2They watched him closely to see if he would cure him on the sabbath so that they might accuse him.3He said to the man with the withered hand, “Come up here before us.”4Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” But they remained silent.5Looking around at them with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart, he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out and his hand was restored.b6* The Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against him to put him to death.
Satirically - Oh horror of horrors. Jesus broke the Sabbath Law by "working" to cure a man of his withered hand. Would it have been better for the man to live even another day with such a deformity. Apparently, Jesus didn't think so. As soon as Jesus performed this miracle, "the Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against him to put him to death".
Lauren referenced the USCCB >> www.usccb.org
An answer to the following question (to USCCB)..... "My parish liturgy committee has decided to allow both men and women to take part in the washing of the feet at the liturgy on Holy Thursday. I have always heard that only men may have their feet washed. Which does the Church allow?"
In the USCCB answer, the rubric for Holy Thursday, was stated. I will omit it here for brevity, and quote just two points of the USCCB answer that was given (with certain parts in bold (my emphasis):
"2) Because the gospel of the mandatum read on Holy Thursday also depicts Jesus as the "Teacher and Lord" who humbly serves his disciples by performing this extraordinary gesture which goes beyond the laws of hospitality,2 the element of humble service has accentuated the celebration of the foot washing rite in the United States over the last decade or more. In this regard, it has become customary in many places to invite both men and women to be participants in this rite in recognition of the service that should be given by all the faithful to the Church and to the world. Thus, in the United States, a variation in the rite developed in which not only charity is signified but also humble service."
"3) While this variation may differ from the rubric of the Sacramentary which mentions only men ("viri selecti"), it may nevertheless be said that the intention to emphasize service along with charity in the celebration of the rite is an understandable way of accentuating the evangelical command of the Lord, "who came to serve and not to be served," that all members of the Church must serve one another in love.?
It seems to me that in an effort to fully scrutinize and find potential fault with any out-of-the-ordinary or unconventional practices of the new Pope Francis, perhaps the larger lesson of Pope Francis is being completely missed. The previous popes washing the feet of priests or lay men were emphasizing "fraternal charity", Pope Francis, by washing the feet of inmates, men and women, believers and non-believers, is emphasising the "humble service" As the USCCB reference notes ".... the practice (Holy Thursday foot washing) had fallen into disuse for a long time in parish celebrations, it was restored in 1955 by Pope Pius XII". It terms of church history, this practice was only restored in the very recent history (w/in the last 58 years).
Pope Francis's emphasis of "humble service" fits right in with his homily to the 1600 priest in St. Peter's Basilica earlier in the day. See full text of his homily at www.indcatholicnews.com .
Just one of the paragraphs from Francis's homily.... "We need to “go out”, then, in order to experience our own anointing, its power and its redemptive efficacy: to the “outskirts” where there is suffering, bloodshed, blindness that longs for sight, and prisoners in thrall to many evil masters. It is not in soul-searching or constant introspection that we encounter the Lord: self-help courses can be useful in life, but to live by going from one course to another, from one method to another, leads us to become pelagians and to minimize the power of grace, which comes alive and flourishes to the extent that we, in faith, go out and give ourselves and the Gospel to others, giving what little ointment we have to those who have nothing, nothing at all."
Less skepticism of Pope Francis, and more prayer for him would do wonders. Why is the first assumption so often that he has "gone off the rails" rather than thinking... What is he trying to teach us? What can we learn from his example?
A little long-winded, but these are just my thoughts.