Below is Jimmy Akin's observation, in part, on the situation. Go to his blog link at the end of this post to read all of his observations. The comment I have on this Akin excerpt is that the Vatican texts, which I have seen, never use the word "only" when refering to males in the rite. Otherwise, I think Akin is making unassailable common sense observations in this excerpt about the real situation before us. Here is the Akin excerpt:
Although the Church’s official texts use language that indicates only men (Latin, viri) can have their feet washed on Holy Thursday, the situation today is more complex. In 2004, the new archbishop of Boston, Seán O’Malley, was criticized for varying from the practice of his predecessor, Cardinal Bernard Law, and washing only the feet of men. He explained that this was what the law required but said that he would query the Holy See about the matter.
In 2005 the Boston Globe reported:
O’Malley promised to consult with Rome, and yesterday his spokeswoman said the Congregation for Divine Worship, which oversees liturgical practices, had suggested the archbishop make whatever decision he thought was best for Boston.
“The Congregation [for Divine Worship] affirmed the liturgical requirement that only the feet of men be washed at the Holy Thursday ritual.” However, the Congregation did “provide for the archbishop to make a pastoral decision.”
Cardinal O’Malley then included women in the foot-washing rite. This sequence of events created a situation that was significantly muddier than existed before. If the archbishop of Boston was allowed to make pastoral exceptions to the rule, it would be difficult to argue that other bishops could not do the same in their dioceses. This had the effect of creating a doubt as to what the law requires. According to the Code of Canon Law, “Laws, even invalidating and incapacitating ones, do not oblige when there is a doubt of law” (CIC 14).
Until such time as the Holy See clarifies the matter, it appears that the law provides that only men are to have their feet washed in the ceremony but that the local bishop can choose to include women in his diocese if he deems it the best decision pastorally.
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Blogger: And so the Bishop of Rome did. Surely, in the centuries of development of the Western legal tradition, someone must have penned the adage: Res prima, lex secunda, Reality first, law second (or "law attending"). Maybe, that is a Latin way of saying what someone likely said in Aramaic: "The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath." The beauty of law is how it makes sense of and lends coherence to the facts and realities of life. This view of law is not anti-nomian ("against law"), but rather anti-positivist by looking at the context, practice, purpose, and intent surrounding the bare words of a command.
Moreover, when we look at the rubric or liturgical rule at issue, we see that, from the beginning, the rite of foot washing is an option directed to be used "where a pastoral reason sugggests it" (see U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops link) --hence, a pastoral expansion permitted by Rome to include women is in keeping with the original intent of introducing the rite in the first place.
Here is another blogger applauding the Pope's actions: http://street-called-straight.blogspot.com/2013/03/popes-radical-footwashing-ceremony-is.html
Read more from Akin: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/10-things-you-need-to-know-about-holy-thursday/#ixzz2P2qK5UPm