Dr. Peters notes that there is ambiguity as to exactly why the rite is restricted to men, and discusses several inadequate explanations. I have one that he didn't mention: it's simply not decent to have women taking off clothes in the sanctuary and having their feet rubbed by a priest. This sounds silly, I suppose, ("honestly, they're just stockings!" you say), but look at it for a moment: the degree to which we are accustomed in western society to seeing women's legs is only of questionable appropriateness at best, and when you consider the location (in church), that appropriateness drops to nil. And women wear skirts and dresses -- which means that you've got to have this woman up in front of the congregation hiking up skirts and sticking out legs and doing their darndest to flash the world, if I may use the expression. (Yes, I know that some women wear pants, but at Mass that's a distasteful oddity that we can't expect to be reflected in Church rubrics.) Then you have the fact that women's leg coverings are so very complicated, compared to socks, and it quickly becomes quite a mess.
Lastly, is it entirely suitable for the priest to be going around to all these women and dousing their feet in water? A guy comes up to your wife and says "hello, you have lovely feet -- may I represent my service to the kingdom of God by washing them?" And what do you say: "here's a rosary, try that instead, chief."
Ok, end of rant.
File Under: Catholic_Stuff, The_Liturgy