Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on Wednesday, Sept. 11. Photo by Paul Haring/Catholic News Service

Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on Sept. 11. 2013. Photo by Paul Haring/Catholic News Service


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

(RNS) On Thursday evening (April 17), in a familiar reprise of an ancient rite, Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wis., will wash the feet of 12 men, all seminarians — a re-creation of Jesus’ action at the Last Supper when he washed the feet of his disciples and, according to Catholic doctrine, formally instituted the priesthood.

That same evening, thousands of miles away, Pope Francis will also observe the Holy Thursday rite, though not in a cathedral like Morlino but at a center for people with disabilities. There he will wash the feet of a number of residents, all lay people and perhaps some of them women and even non-Christians or nonbelievers.

Francis did something similar last year, shortly after his election, when he stunned church observers by traveling to a juvenile detention center outside Rome and washing the feet of 12 young people, two of them women and two of them Muslims.

More than a few tradition-minded Catholics were aghast at the pope’s example and they welcomed Morlino’s effort to hold the line against innovations, at least in his Wisconsin diocese.

“The Church’s law says that only men may be the recipients of this foot washing,” wrote the Rev. John Zuhlsdorf, a scrappy blogger popular with the Catholic right. “Morlino’s guidelines” — that his priests must wash the feet of 12 men or not do the foot washing at all — “do nothing but reiterate the Church’s laws, which bishops and priests are obliged to follow.”

So who’s correct?

Is the pope a dissenter? Or are Morlino and others being legalistic? What does the foot washing ritual represent, anyway?

There are no simple answers to those questions, though the weight of history and custom — not to mention authority — seems to be on the pope’s side.

Giotto di Bondone (1267-1337), Cappella Scrovegni a Padova, Life of Christ, Washing of Feet.

Giotto di Bondone (1267-1337), Cappella Scrovegni a Padova, Life of Christ, Washing of Feet. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)


This image is available for Web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

An ancient rite

Accounts of Christian foot washing rituals go back as far as the sixth century. As Peter Jeffrey writes in his 1985 book, “A New Commandment: Toward a Renewed Rite for the Washing of Feet,” there were generally two forms: the “Mandatum Pauperam,” or washing of the feet of poor people, and the “Mandatum Fratrum,” the washing of the feet of “the brothers.”

Neither were part of the Holy Thursday liturgy, and popes and clerics routinely washed the feet of poor people as a sign of service and humility. In convents, as well, “woman washed feet and had their feet washed,” and they washed the feet of guests and children, said Rita Ferrone, the author of several books about liturgy and a consultant to U.S. dioceses on liturgical matters.

“Foot washing does have a long tradition,” Ferrone said, “and it didn’t exclude women up until 1955.”

That’s when Pope Pius XII simplified the Holy Week rites, a reform that included folding the foot washing ritual into the Holy Thursday Mass before marking Jesus’ crucifixion on Good Friday.

The problem is that back then, Catholic women were not allowed into the restricted space near the altar and, unlike today, they could not have any part in the Mass. So the rule was that 12 chosen men — “viri selecti” in the Latin — would have their feet washed by the priest or bishop.

With that change, the foot washing rite also came to be seen as a kind of re-creation of the Last Supper and the institution of the priesthood.

“The tradition was not to have it be a dramatization of what Jesus did at the last Supper but to be a response to the command to humble service,” Ferrone said.

Modernizing reforms

While the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s ushered in numerous reforms, including of the liturgy, the rule on only washing the feet of men was never addressed.

Prelates and religious dignitaries from around the world fill St. Peter's Basilica as a concelebrated Mass opens the Second Vatican Council on Oct. 11, 1962. Religion News Service file photo

Prelates and religious dignitaries from around the world fill St. Peter’s Basilica as a concelebrated Mass opens the Second Vatican Council on Oct. 11, 1962. Religion News Service file photo

But in the 1970s, in an effort to reflect the new openness of the church, bishops and priests in many dioceses simply ignored the old regulation and began washing the feet of lay people, including women. Sometimes there were a dozen, sometimes more.

Indeed, there is a photograph of Pope Francis, when he was Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, washing the feet of women with babies, some of whom were breast-feeding.

Today, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops acknowledges the letter of the law but stresses that the rite aims to signify both charity and “humble service” rather than a re-enactment of the foundation of the priesthood. It drops any reference to washing the feet of 12 people (the number of the disciples) and notes that “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.”

So in that sense, it is a return to a more ancient tradition, and very much in line with what Pope Francis is doing.

A Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Thomas Rosica, said Tuesday that Francis’ decision to include women and nonbelievers was meant as a gesture “to embrace those who were on the fringes of society.” The official rules, he said, can sometimes be a distraction from “the profound messages of the Gospels and of the Lord of the Church.”

Still, this is the Catholic Church, and rules are rules. Even though a Vatican spokesman last year said Francis’ decision to wash the feet of women and Muslims on Holy Thursday was “absolutely licit” because it did not entail a sacrament, canon lawyer Edward Peters said that Francis set a “questionable example” by ignoring church law.

Peters, a blogger popular with church conservatives and a supporter of the rule, said it would be better to change the rule rather than risk undermining the rule of law by flouting it.

There are, of course, others who would like to see the current rule maintained and enforced the way Morlino does, and not just to maintain good order in the church.

“This is being used by those who wish to make a point about holy orders being reserved to men,” Ferrone said. The debate over the Holy Thursday foot washing, she said, “becomes yet another occasion for people who would like to see women excluded from the sanctuary.”

KRE/AMB END GIBSON

64 Comments

  1. When I was a Christian I always found the foot washing as a great reminder that we must care about the poor.

    But the Christian God’s hatred of women, indeed His disenfranchisement of every woman and His war against her emancipation, is the ongoing disgrace which subverts our best intentions in the war on poverty.

    The single best way to lift a country out of poverty is to EMANCIPATE THE WOMEN. It has worked everywhere it has been tried.

    Priests, Deacons, Popes, Bishops, Cardinals and wackos like Mother Theresa fought against the emancipation of women and IN FAVOR OF POVERTY for centuries.

    The ironies have piled up too high.
    Christianity is at war – not against poverty but in favor of it.
    Religion is the enemy.

    • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

      Can there be anything more narrow-minded and ignorant than debating an issue by referring to people who disagree with you as “wackos” even though the person called a wacko has won the Nobel Prize. Between insulting name calling and a determined effort to silence others, liberals have sunk a long way since I worked on George McGovern’s presidential campaign. (No wonder some of us who remember the golden years of liberal politics want nothing to do with anything labeled “liberal” today).

      • @Deacon John,
        Mother Teresa was evil. And an example of a very bad atheist indeed – the dishonest type found in pulpits across the world. Her speech upon receiving the Nobel Prize was insane and unhinged and her defense of poverty is one of the great blunders in Nobel history.

        But forget that. Who says I’m a liberal?

        I’m only responding to ‘scripture’ where God so hated women he cursed them even after he ‘fixed’ humanity with Noah and the flood. But of course that didn’t work out so well either.

        THE WOMAN HAS NO SAY IN THESE MATTERS WHATSOEVER:

        GENESIS
        2:22 Eve created from Adam’s rib.
        3:16 Eve cursed with painful childbirth and domination by husband.
        4:19 Man marries two wives.
        12:13-19 Abraham prostitutes wife.
        19:1-8 Rape virgin daughters instead of male angels.
        19:26 Lot’s wife turned into pillar of salt for disobeying god.
        19:30-38 Lot impregnates his two daughters while drunk.
        20:2-12 Abraham prostitutes wife – again.
        25:1-6 Keeping many concubines is OK.
        EXODUS
        20:17 Wife as property.
        21:4 Wife and children belong to master.
        21:7-11 OK to sell daughters. Female slaves can be used for sex. Polygamy permitted. Unwanted female slaves can be set “free” without payment of money.
        22:18 Kill witches.

        LEVITICUS
        12:1-8 Childbirth unclean, Women need to make atonement after childbirth.
        15:19-32 Menstruating women are unclean.
        20:10-16 Death penalty for homosexuality and various sexual transgressions.
        21:7 Priests must not marry prostitutes or divorcees.
        21:9 Burn daughters.
        21:13-14 Priest must marry virgin, not “used” woman.

        NUMBERS
        1:2 Census lists only men – women do not count.
        5:11-31 Fidelity test for women only.
        30:1-16 Woman’s vow invalid unless approved by her father or husband.
        31:17-18 Kill all except virgins. Keep virgins for yourselves.
        12 Miriam punished for rebuking Moses.

        DEUTERONOMY
        20:14 Take women, livestock as plunder.
        22:13-21 Stone non-virgin bride.
        22:23-24 Stone rapist and rape victim.
        22:28 Rape victim must marry rapist; rape victim’s father compensated for depreciation of his property.
        25:11-12 Cut woman’s hand for touching foe’s penis.
        24:1-5 Man can “send” wife from HIS house. Man must not marry “used” woman.
        28:18 The FRUIT of your womb will be cursed – some “pro-life” verse!

        JUDGES
        5:30 Women are spoils of war.
        14:20 Samson gives wife to another man.
        16:1 Samson visits prostitute.
        CH 19 Concubine pack-raped and butchered.
        21:10-12 Slaughtered all inc. women and children. Saved virgins for wives.
        21:21 Abducted girls for wives.

        1 SAMUEL
        15:2-3 Attack Amalekites, kill men, women, children and livestock.
        22:19 Kill all inc. infants and livestock.
        21:4-5 Men avoid defilement with women.
        2 SAMUEL
        5:13 David took many wives and concubines.
        CH 13 Ammon rapes his own sister.
        16:21-22 Absalom sleeps with his father’s concubines.
        6:20-23 Mischal punished with bareness.

        1 KINGS
        11:3 Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines.

        2 KINGS
        9:30-37 Brutal murder of Jezebel.

        2 CHRONICLES
        15:13 Put to death unbelievers.
        11:21 Hoards of wives and concubines.

        ESTHER
        CH 1-2 Queen Vashti dethroned for disobedience; setting “bad” example to all other women.

        PSALMS
        51:5 Sinful since conception.
        127:3 Sons are heritage from god.
        137:9 Seizes infants and dashes them against rocks.

        PROVERBS
        CH 5 Beware of wicked women!
        CH 7 More of the above.
        6:24 As above.
        31:3 Do not waste strength on women.

        ISAIAH
        3:16-26 Lord punishes haughty women.
        4:4 Filthy women.
        13:16 Ravish wives, dash infants.
        19:16 Will be like women! (insult to Egyptians)

        EZEKIEL
        9:6-7 Slaughter all including children.
        CH 16 Prostitutes, stoning, promiscuity…
        CH 23 Tale of two adulterous sisters – reads like the script of a pornographic film. I bet you weren’t told this story at Sunday school!

        HOSEA
        13:16 Rip pregnant women, dash little ones. (Another “pro-life” verse!)

        NAHUM
        3:4… wanton lust of a harlot… prostitution… witchcraft.
        3:5 I will lift your skirts over your face!
        3:13… Your troops are all women. (insult to Nineveh)

        MATTHEW
        5:32 Husband can divorce wife for adultery. Can wife divorce husband for the same?
        CH 25 Sexist tale of ten virgins.

        LUKE
        2:22 Mary must be purified after birth of Jesus.
        2:49 Jesus rebukes his mother.

        I CORINTHIANS
        11:2-10… Woman created for man.
        14:34 Women must be silent in churches.

        EPHESIANS
        5:22-24 Wives must submit to husbands in everything.

        COLOSSIANS
        3:18 Wives submit to husbands.
        3:22 Slaves must obey masters in everything.

        I TIMOTHY
        2:11-15 Woman must not have authority – she must be silent. Women can be saved with childbearing.
        5:9-10 Widows should be faithful to husband and must wash saints’ feet.

        1 PETER
        2:18 Slaves submit to masters, even masters who are harsh.
        3:1 Wives submit.
        3:5-6 Sarah calls husband master.

        REVELATION
        CH 17 Destroy great prostitute.
        14:4…they did not DEFILE themselves with women but kept themselves pure

        SUCH IS THE UNBELIEVABLE HATRED OF WOMEN FROM YOUR ‘GOOD’ BOOK.

        WHAT DOES MY BOOK SAY?
        Women should be treated as equals on everything.
        That, SIR, is MY book.

        • @Atheist Max
          I took a random passage from your rant and here’s what it actually reads in the bible:
          COLOSSIANS 3:18
          Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

          and the next passage, 3:19 reads:
          Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them.

          The only thing that enslaves and treats people in an ill manner is a human thing and has nothing to do with what religion they follow. Anyone can take religious text and spin it to their purpose. Which you’ve made a shining example in your post.

          • Actually it says the wife is the slave of the husband and the husband should be a kindly slave-owner. Not as an equal. Not as someone respected in her own right.

            Essentially describing the relationship someone has with a beloved pet.

          • @Kastil,
            Wrong.
            You won’t find one place in the Bible where it says this:

            “Men and Women must be valued equally in every way. One gender must not be favored over the other.”

            People will behave as they believe. THAT IS WHY IT MATTERS.
            Shame on you for thinking otherwise.

        • @Atheist Max,

          If I may dare…
          The effort you have put in composing your post, betrays the deep longing of a soul who has been deeply hurt. I only want you to know that I wish and pray that some day you can find the peace you seek.

          “Viva Cristo Rey!!”
          DHS

          • @Deacon Harbey,
            Yes I am hurt. Look at what I am up against:

            State Legalized Murder of Doctors – South Dakota
            Mandatory Trans-vaginal probes – Virginia Legislature

            Bible preaching in public schools – Steve Green Hobby Lobby Fund.
            Blocking even married people from family planning service – Texas, Kansas, Alabama, Louisiana
            Obstruction of prescriptions – Illinois, Washington

            Discrimination as religious choice -Arizona (SB-1062)

            Anti-Gay laws – Texas

            Anti-women’s rights laws – Texas, Louisina, Virginia

            Biased Counseling laws – South Dakota
            Creationism to replace Science Education: 12 States
            Genital mutilation in the name of God
            Funding of Zionist take over of Palestinian lands
            Funding of Islamic terror to fight Zionism
            Funding of Hezbollah and Hamas

            The religious groups are even working against our U.S Constitution – which already preserves everyone’s religious freedom.

            Religious people don’t understand how and why the separation of CHURCH AND STATE preserves their own religious freedom yet THROUGH THEIR CHURCHES THEY ARE FUNDING ITS DEMISE!

            God? Who needs Him if this is what he has wrought?
            Religious encroachment over our liberties must end.

          • And there is the typical self-satisfied smug response to the atheist. Dismiss them out of hand without bothering to hear what they have to say in order to write them off as just angry louts.

            Topped off with the “I’ll pray for you” line which is passive-aggressive Christian-speak for “go f— yourself, filthy non-believer”

            Harbey, not every Atheist is angry or comes to their belief due to some inner turmoil. It is rather patronizing and insulting to make such assumptions, which was your intention.

          • The unending attack coming at us from Christians is simply unacceptable.
            It isn’t enough that Christians want to push their belief in blood sacrifices on me. If I resist it I am called an angry bigot.

            Christians are attempting to use the very government which protects us all – as a stick against non-believers.

            It only makes me louder.

      • In an attempt to anthropomorphize the creative flux we have unarguably gotten lost. We idealize some aspects of human incarnation and condemn others. Time and the evolutionary process may bring humanity to an understanding of our connection. Humans are mandated by biological mutations to attempt reintegration. Are we trying to connect because we are disconnected from the divine, or do we rationalize a separation based upon survival fears? Which begs the question, “why do we need a god?”

        • @debbie,
          If we could get Christians to understand that evolution is real
          it would be clear to them that separation from any god has not happened
          and is in fact impossible. If God exists we always had God and there is no need to construct any separation stories nor any redemption stories.
          God is a metaphor, an imagined totem, and is completely optional. No price is paid for ignoring Gods of any kinds.

      • samuel Johnston

        Deacon John,
        Try reading Christopher Hitchen’s book on Mother Teresa, “The Missonary Position”. He was not alone in reporting her duplicity. An assistant of hers, a lady who actually cashed the donation checks and handled the money, wrote a scathing report on the operation’s financial dishonesty, all closely directed by Mother Teresa herself.

  2. Why fight over foot-washing? Foot-washing is not what is killing Catholic and Protestant Christianity. Legalized Gay Marriage IS what is killing us. It’s time to step up on that issue, starting with Mr. Pope Francis. But meanwhile, let’s stop fighting on whose feet to wash. Wash them all, no problemo!

    (Umm, please use fresh clean towels, if you folks don’t mind! And wipe good between all them toes too. No more skimping, baby!!!)

    Therefore, I call on all bishops to openly SUPPORT Pope Francis on inclusive foot-washing, and also call on the bishops to openly FIGHT Pope Francis on giving gay marriages and civil unions a free pass. Get those priorities STRAIGHT, (so to speak) !!

    • Civil unions and gay marriages are not killing Christianity. What is killing Christianity is fear of adapting the message of Jesus to the 21st century. To do that, Christians have to become more like Jesus. They have to cut through the slush of traditions that no longer have meaning. They have to re-evaluate their theology to take account of what the sciences teach us about the cosmos, human nature and history.

      When the pope washes the feet of the poor irrespective of gender, age or religion, he is being like Jesus. When he refuses to judge gays, he is being like Jesus. When he shows disdain for the pomp and ceremony and the spin and scripting and straight-jacketing that had become part of the Vatican, he is being like Jesus.

      The kind of Christianity that values its own traditions and authority more than it values Jesus is mercifully dying. Jesus said hard things about religious leaders who enjoyed titles like “father” and “rabbi”, who laid heavy burdens on the backs of the people, who wanted to apply the letter of the law to stone a woman taken in adultery.

      • @Chico889,
        Unfortunately your vision of Jesus is very narrow. But that is typical.

        Jesus was about incitement, confrontation, action and urgency. Not the quiet, meek and mild individual you describe at all.

        “…bring to me those enemies of mine who would not have me as their King, and EXECUTE THEM in front of me..” – Jesus (Luke 19:27)

        In an effort to “do as Jesus did” millions have been killed.
        Love your enemies? Yes! But NEVER love the Lord’s enemies:

        Jesus didn’t forgive his enemies – he sent them to Hell (Mark 16:16)
        Jesus cursed his enemies – “Thou Fools!”, “swine!” (Matt. 23:17)
        Jesus stole things – “untie them” “and bring them to me” (Matt. 21:2-3)
        Jesus destroyed his enemies – “execute them in front of me”(Luke 19:27)
        He didn’t love most of his neighbors, – They are ‘Dogs’!(Matthew 15:26)
        Jesus told people to judge others – “Remove your blessings”!(Matt 10:14)
        He was bigoted – “They are swine” (Matthew 7:6)
        Jesus violently whipped people – attack on the temple (John 2:5)
        He didn’t want peace – “I do not bring peace.”(Matt 10:34)
        Jesus lied to people – “He went in secret” (John 7:8-13)
        Jesus prepared for war – “if you have money, buy a sword” (Luke 22:36-37)

        There are better philosophies that do not involve such nonsense as this.
        Be a loving, patient and curious individual – that is all you really need in this life. And you can’t make other people to love by threatening them with Hell.

        • I believe your idea of Jesus is equally narrow. It is predicated on a literal and rather eccentric interpretation of ancient writings. You make no attempt to contextualise your quotations: neither within their cultural milieu of the times; nor their positioning in the text itself. Neither do you make any attempt to verify the accuracy of the texts themselves. You cite none of the contemporary Christian or non-Christian New Testament scholars who have spent life-times studying the details of Jesus’ times, culture, context, etc.

          Quite predictably, your methodology would allow you to paint just about whatever picture you want to of any given historical figure. Unfortunately, it has no persuasive power whatsoever, except to those who are biblical literalists.

          BTW, I agree with some of the things you say, and you impute to me saying things which I don’t. For example, I agree that Jesus was at times very confrontational, and I pointed to parts of Matthew 23, where this comes very strongly to the fore. That, however, does not mean Jesus was not also meek and mild in other respects. I, for one, certainly agree with you that it is pretty retrograde to threaten people with hell—and I don’t think that is the essence of Christianity, notwithstanding a bunch of texts that you will probably hurl at me. My point is that Christianity is patently in need of rejuvenation based on the reality of who Jesus is, what we are in the 21st century, what science, history, psychology has taught us, etc. Hurling scripture versus around to prove points has little interest to me.

          • @Chico889,
            Do you care about what is true?
            Jesus condemns to Hell those who are not baptized and who do not eat of His body.

            How do you ‘rejuvenate’ (your word) this horrible message for today’s young people?

            Also, is it ethical to allow another person to suffer and die for your benefit? Is that a fundamentally moral message which can be rejuvenated?

            Remember that we are not offered the option of rejecting any of this fundamental philosophy – and that is also hard to rejuvenate.

          • You say I have a narrow, literalist interpretation? Where is your Biblical guidebook on how to tell the difference between metaphor and literal?
            I would like to see it.

            NOT LITERAL? – “Whatever you ask, I will do it for you”

            ABSOLUTELY LITERAL? – “He is risen.”

            ABSOLUTELY NOT LITERAL – “You shall not taste of death before I return”

            LITERAL? – “Be baptized and eat of my body or be condemned to Hell”

            NOT LITERAL: “For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.”

            NOT LITERAL: “I am the door” (Jesus has no door knob nor hinges)

            NOT LITERAL? – “And many prophets rose from the dead and visited the city”

            “If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true.” – JESUS (John 5:31)
            YET!
            “I am one that bear witness of myself” – JESUS (John 8:18)


            WHY ARE ALL THE METAPHORS ALLOWED TO BE MIXED UP WITH THE FACTS?
            OR ARE THEY ALL FACTS? OR ARE THEY ALL METAPHORS?

            Why do you say I am a literalist
            when I clearly can’t figure out which is which?

            The problem isn’t my literalism – it is yours. And how you Christians decide to behave based on YOUR private decisions.

          • @ Atheist Max
            Each of your claims about Jesus ignores totally the intellectual and cultural context in which he spoke and the kind of rhetoric used in those times and in that context. You want to assign a literal interpretation to every single word given in the gospels, irrespective of whether the words accurately report what Jesus said and did, and irrespective of how the words would have been received and understood by his listeners. You interpret Jesus’ words in the same way as hard core US fundamentalist Christians.

          • @Chico,

            “He is Risen”
            If this is not LITERALLY true Christianity is false. The new Testament melts into nonsense.

            “My flesh is meat indeed”
            If this is LITERALLY true Christianity is cannibalism and human sacrifice – discredited cults from ancient times.

            Once you decide whether something is literal or not, you become the author of the Bible and God thinks exactly like you.
            It is one of the most extraordinary con jobs in history.

          • @Chico,
            You acknowledge that when it comes to the Bible the metaphors are mixed in with the ‘facts’ and that the Bible requires interpretation to settle which is a metaphor and which is a fact.
            But in the end, Jesus either existed and did certain things and rose from the dead as MATTERS OF FACT or he didn’t and the whole story is just a metaphor – like Gandalf and the Lord of the Rings.

            “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” (Matthew 21:22). However, this cannot be literally true. Ask any parent whose child has died of cancer and you will understand that this it is IMPOSSIBLE FOR THIS TO BE LITERALLY TRUE.

            Yet a few lines later we read,
            “He is Risen” (Matthew 28:6) and we are told THAT THIS IS LITERALLY TRUE.

            The crisis of the Bible is that there is no way to parse what is TRUE from what is not TRUE. There is no reason to believe any of it.

          • @Atheist Max
            I suggest that you read a little beyond the scholarship of fundamentalist circles. Try authors like Dale Allison (“Resurrecting Jesus” has a masterful essay on the empty tomb & experience of the disciples), Raymond Brown, Albert Nolan, John Robinson, José Pagola (his “Jesus: An historical approximation” is an excellent place to start). Personally, I would not be a Christian if I had not encountered an author called Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who interprets Jesus in a way that seems to me perfectly consistent with the Gospels as well as with science.

            Alternatively, just bash away at the Christianity that emerges from literalism. Perhaps you will make a dent in the self-assurance of fundamentalist Christians who dominate the US South.

          • I read José Pagola’s book not long ago. It is full of wishful thinking.
            And wishful thinking is not good for people.
            Imagining the 1st century is entertaining but it is built on speculation.
            “The 12 Caesars” from the first century is a much better book which reveals the spectacular ignorance common to the people of that age as it was written in that era.
            They truly had no idea about how or why anything happened.

            Religion is superstitious nonsense.

          • “The crisis of the Bible is that there is no way to parse what is TRUE from what is not TRUE. There is no reason to believe any of it.”

            Ah—your first sentence is right, at least in part. Scholars are generally in disagreement about the historicity of the the infant narratives in the Gospels. However, they agree that certain things in the Gospels are indeed true. For instance, few seriously doubt the existence of a Palestinian, Jesus of Nazareth, who preached, caused concern amongst the authorities, and was executed. But for deeper truths about this person, the worst thing to do is to start reading texts that his followers produced (the Gospels) and assigning literal interpretations to everything you read. You have to look at what his followers said, thought, how they behaved, to get some insight into what they thought he meant (and account for the fact that he might not have meant it). I therefore only partially agree with your first sentence.

            But I completely disagree with you second sentence. There are a lot of reasons for believing the overall Christian message—ultimately, because it makes life meaningful and worth living, because it has a rational basis, because it tells you that you are a worthwhile human being even when you mess up. I could go on and on, but unfortunately need to rush off now.

          • @Chico,
            I did ask if you care what is true.
            You answered me in effect by saying ‘no’ – you believe because it feels good to do so, it gives you ‘meaning’ and you are happy to wish that it were true.

            I rest my case.

          • Your cursory dismissal of Pagola’s book contrasts with the 32 reviews on the Amazon website. Thirty reviews give the book 5-stars and 2 give it 4-star. It would be an act of kindness for you to prevent readers from wasting their money on such “wishful thinking” by contributing your own review. I look forward to reading you review on that forum, rather than drag this forum along into the morass of fundamentalist dogmatic atheist that believes all religion to be superstitious nonsense, and believes itself to be not a belief but an unassailable conclusion based on rational logic alone.

          • @Chico,
            Pergola’s book is spectacular in its study of what life was like in the 1st century. I never read a more incisive speculation on what the world must have been like in that era – his descriptions of the Temple for example…and the strong meaning behind it are wonderful and fascinating.
            But that is NOT what is in question. His book is wish thinking – it is a construction and he is biased going into it. In his deft hands Mohammed would be equally convincing as the Prophet of Allah! But it turns out he is a Catholic so Pergola goes in that direction instead.
            Imagining things does not make them real – and that is my point. Pergola has produced a book of beautiful, period FICTION. And I do dismiss it on the question of God – it is not evidence, nor does it provide evidence that God is real.
            Pergola’s book speaks to the extraordinary longing in some that such a god truly existed.

        • Blessed be Jesus

          Hahaha……..I feel sorry for you. My first reading of the Bible made me to know the so called God of reason is present in the Bible. Bible completely explores what happened previously and what is actually happening right now and what is going to happen in the future. To know more about the prophecy in the Bible just visit www.remnantofgod.org. Make a daily visit that is very much appreciable.

          Even if you scoff at that website no matter whatsoever the PROPHECY IS GOING TO BE FULFILLED. Jesus said at the end of the world the knowledge will and so it is increased.

          Yes God already said there are ungodly in the world. So you are there to prove GOD true. You hate Jesus because He already revealed about you.

          Please open your eyes and repent. You are growing hatred towards christianity rather than growing love towards humanity which according to Bible is a murder. Loving others is not a sin, but hating others is a sin. You are just in that sin by hating Jesus. No problem Jesus have that much love that He still loves you even you hate Him.

          We love you too, because of your ignorance and lack of understanding. Ask God and He will give you.

          Your hippocratic theoritical unproven science always failed to explain the blindness with which I was born. And later my God Jesus healed mine eyes that they should not lose sight by the time which doctors said I would loose. So this disproved your science.

          Jesus did not hate humanity that He cast them into hell. Read Bible carefully and you will understand that death is sleep. Casting into hell will be done only on the Judgement day that too not the eternal tormentation but the eternal death. Your liberty causing your brother to suffer committing sins such as stealing,murdering etc.

          To keep your good brother safe God suffers the sinners to death. There is loving of good and hating of sin and wickedness is in it.

          May God help you in understanding !
          Please visit www.remnantofgod.org daily to know the moving hand of God.

      • Well, if Christianity is to “value Jesus” above all else, that’s going to mean valuing the Jesus who is mentioned in 1 Cor. 6:9-11.

        But that’s the Jesus the gay marriage crusaders don’t want Christians to value at all. The gay activists want all Christians to DENY that particular Jesus, to shut up about him, to fall silent and surrender in the face of constant political/legal pressure from the gay marriage bullies.

        Unfortunately, Pope Francis, who has a known history of supporting gay civil unions, has become the first de facto Gay Marriage Pope in the entire history of Catholic Christianity.

        He’ll preach fire and brimstone against capitalism and “bling” in a heartbeat, and fire your bishop by dinnertime if he’s messing up on THOSE issues, but Francis insists on silence and capitulation from Catholic Bishops (and every other Catholic) when it comes to legalized gay marriage. That’s an unexpected, horrific situation.

        That’s why I call for the bishops to support Pope Francis on tiny issues like foot-washing, but to fight Pope Francis — and I mean fight publicly, courageously, even if you get fired for it — rather than allowing Francis to de facto transform the Church of Rome into the Church of Sodom.

        • We obviously disagree about how Jesus might have responded to gay marriage legislation. My sense is that he would have seen it as a civic matter and ignored it. You think differently. I am prepared to leave it at that.

          Note that there are many different translations of 1 Cor. 6:9-11. The original text contains two Greek words “that refer to the passive and active participants in homosexual acts”. Some scholars render that simply as homosexual sex, while others construe it to mean engagement in homosexual prostitution. Either way, the context is in reference to generally loose public behaviour. Apart from homosexuality, everything else mentioned in the text refers to acts which harm someone else (theft, adultery, greed, drunkeness, slander, etc). It does not fully equate to discreet private committed interaction between consenting partners.

          Whatever the case, Paul did not know, as we know, that homosexuality is not chosen, and is not “curable”. Christianity cannot refuse to factor contemporary scientific knowledge about human sexuality into its practice and thinking. It cannot engage in denialism–whether of evolution, human sexuality, or anything else. If it does, it deserves to die.

          • Paul did not know that homosexuality was normal – or that hallucinations are common and often misinterpreted.

            The profound ignorance of these ancient people simply renders their stories ridiculous and useless to us in 2014. It is outrageous anyone gives credence to these ‘scriptures’ of nonsense.

  3. Edward Borges-Silva

    Footwashing is an essentially symbolic act, at least in this day and age; for Catholic traditionalists to be exercised over such a minor issue is a classic example of not seeing the forest for the trees. The act itself is meant as an expression of humility and compassion, something to be extended towards all, even our adversaries.

  4. I had insomnia tonight. But it has just been cured by reading the comments on Holy Thursday foot-washing. Who with an iota of intelligence could possibly get upset about including all segments of humanity in this rite? With a yawn I suggest that it symbolizes this: it requires ” stooping down” from whatever lofty heights we have conjured for ourselves, and for an amazing number of people, this is a bit much. Go Francis!

  5. Edward Borges-Silva

    “Profound ignorance” is the notion that people 2000 years removed from an event or set of circumstances have greater insight than those who were actually there. You (Max) give too little credit to the people of the past, they were no more, or less insightful into human character and motivations than you or I.

  6. John’s gospel on Holy Thursday tells us, “So when he had washed their feet and put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”
    Pope Francis showed us the true meaning of discipleship with service and love. With a simple gesture, as he told the prisoners, “Washing your feet means I am at your service.” It is not about male or female. It is not about Christian, Muslim, or Jew. It’s about following Jesus’ example of love and service.

  7. Lonappan Arangassery

    It might do a lot of good to the readers if we do not mix up issues.
    1. Who said that at the washing of the feet Jesus instituted Priesthood? According to an Early East Syrian author Aphrahates unpolluted by Greek Orient and Latin West, Jesus baptised his disciples by washing their feet.
    2. At the washing of the feet Jesus told the disciple to do the same to others as an act and expression of humility and service.He showed an example. In this sense anybody, including pastors, can at any time wash the feet of anybody irrespective of caste, creed, gender, age, health etc.
    3. Today the washing of the feet on holy Thursday in the liturgy is a ritual re-enactment of a past event through signs and symbols. A sign reveals the reality to the extend it is similar to and depend on the reality. There may perhaps arise a situation in the world that there are no men in the church.
    4. If any responsible pastor is supposed to observe liturgical norms laid down the church. Liturgy is not a private devotion or enterprise or a means to become famous or infamous. Even the supreme Pontiff is only a custodian or regulator of liturgy not creator (SC 22:1)
    3. Christ was not a priest by birth. In fact he was anticlerical. He became a priest when he sacrificed himself on the cross. In this sense every baptised Christian is a priest. One who lives and make sacrifices for the other whether children, life partner, parents, neighbours, the sick, the afflicted, etc. are priests.
    4. If anyone wants to become a priest, let him or her begin to die for the other.

    5. An ordained priest [ministerial priesthood] represents Christ and acts in the person of Christ. To the best of my knowledge Christ was a man, he was neither a woman nor an a-sexual.

    6. However, theologically anyone can hold any administrative post in the Church which has no symbolic and liturgical implications.

  8. Lonappan Arangassery

    Going through certain comments now I understand the meaning of the sayings:
    1. “Devils can quote the Bible”
    2. “Atheists can teach theology”

  9. Did women follow Jesus during His three year ministry? The answer is YES! Were women disciples? A disciple is a follower. All Christians are called to be disciples of Christ! An apostle is one who is called by Christ and sent out by Christ as an evangelist messenger
    Disciple (Christianity)
    In biblical usage, the term “disciple” often means “student” — someone who believes in the person’s message and tries to follow the person’s moral values and teachings. Under such a definition, ALL women and men followers of Jesus could be considered disciples of Jesus, as long as they followed the teachings of Jesus.

    The Great Commission declares; “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe (obey) all things that I have commanded you…”[Matt. 28:19–20a] It is said that Junia, a woman, was an apostle. Roman 16:7. Albeit there is ongoing and controversial debating the name feminine or masculine. There is nothing wrong with the Pope washing the feet of women. Jesus did not look at the rituals or customs of the Pharisee’s or Sadducee’s strict laws. He looked at one’s heart with no gender association.

  10. Francis is right, of course, and Morlino is wrong. Francis is right in not showing any monarchical prejudice toward clergy, and Morlino is wrong in continuing in that tradition of prejudice. The church will not be corrected, steadied, or good until everyone follows the imitation of Jesus as demonstrated by Francis and totally desserts the clericalism demonstrated by Morlino. Church secrecy must also be dumped. What could be more foreign to the ways of Jesus than secrecy? Secrecy is only needed by someone or an organization that has something to hide. What does the church have to hide? What should the church have to hide?

  11. samuel Johnston

    Hi chico889,
    Your notion of giving Christianity credence by using interpretive assistance (flexibility?) fails at the basic Historical level. The almost two century search for the historical Jesus has failed to establish where he was born, where he grew up (no it was not in Nazareth), what sayings and actions are reliably attributed to him, etc. The notorious public execution on a cross certainly did not occur. In short, Christian doctrine bears little relationship to history, at least history as we Moderns understand it.
    Superstition was so widespread in Roman culture, that the Emperor had precise records kept of all lighting strikes on public buildings, presumably because the public saw such things as a sign of divine disfavor. Our ancestors were not stupid, but they were superstitious, and credulous to a degree we would find shocking today.

  12. Canute Tissera

    Atheist Max , I am sorry for you, I will pray for you, I hope God forgives you. Remember when you do meet him, your nakedness will show, Please repent even now, it is not too late, the all forgiving God will forgive you as he did from the cross “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”.
    Oh God , Lord Jesus Christ forgive this ignorant stupid person and allow him the privilege of entering the gates of heaven,

    • @CANUTE TISSERA,

      Some will say it is not Christian of you to call me “ignorant and stupid”.

      But they are wrong. Your position is VERY CHRISTIAN.
      and I agree that to be a Christian you MUST believe it.

      Remember that you must also believe that your God committed suicide for you. He knowingly became a man so he could die – just for you.

    • @Canute,

      If you feel that it is ethical to benefit personally
      from the torture and death
      of another person, I do feel sorry for you.

      May the light of reason shine upon you.

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