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News » Deep End

Between the Toes

Pope Francis loves to wash girls' feet



In his most significant break with tradition yet, Pope Francis washed and kissed the feet of two young women at a juvenile detention center—a surprising departure from church rules that restrict the Holy Thursday ritual to men. —The Associated Press, March 29, 2013

Although the special costume theme was corsets at the immensely popular Fetish Ball, held on the night before Easter, a large number of fetishists came attired in papal regalia, complete with robe, miter, chasuble, mozzetta and red shoes.

“Every year, we get a few pope fetishists, for sure,” said Phil Podowitz, a regular attendee at the Fetish Ball. “And, of course, you’ve got your boot fetishists, stiletto fetishists, orthotic-insert fetishists, flip-flop fetishists, sandal fetishists, ballet-slipper fetishists, even your golf-shoe fetishists. Of course, all the footwear fetishists may or may not have a fetish with regard to actual feet, which are inserted into all the varieties of footwear.

“What made this year different was all the acting out going on, what with the pope fetishists going around and offering to wash and kiss the feet of every young woman in sight,” said Mr. Podowitz.

“It seemed pretty harmless, and most of the gals were OK with it, maybe because they figured the guys in the pope outfits were just performing some sort of holy ritual. As for the popes, maybe they happened to read in the paper about the real pope washing and kissing the feet of young women, even young women with foot tattoos. Who knows, maybe they thought, ‘Hey, if the Pope can do it, so can I.’ ”

Pope Francis’ departure from the traditional Holy Thursday foot-kissing ritual by including young women as well as old priests has been met with disapproval on the part of conservative functionaries in the Holy See’s Congregation of Divine Worship.

“Riding around on buses and listening to old Tony Bennett songs on his iPod is one thing, but the pontiff’s foot-kissing hobby is quite another,” said one disgruntled high-ranking monsignor in the Curia. “He’s starting out his papacy on the wrong foot, as it were.”

In fact, there has already been some whispering that Pope Francis is taking advantage of his holy office to indulge his passion for foot-kissing, however innocent it might be. One long-time papal observer is having none of it. Dr. Aldeni Ensernos, who holds the Guido Sarducci Chair of Theology at the University of Florence, is a great defender of Pope Francis, whom he got to know as a seminary student back in the late ’50s in Argentina.

“Jorge—excusa, I mean, His Holiness Papa Francisco—has been washing and kissing feet for as long as I can remember,” Dr. Ensernos said. “In the old days, we would be walking through Buenos Aires, you know, whether the fashionable Recoleta, the bohemian San Telmo or the touristy tango-tormented neighborhood of La Boca, everywhere we walked and chatted about the mysteries of transubstantiation, suddenly Jorge would be moved to wash and kiss the feet of some young female. His favorites were the tango dancers, who were mostly grateful to have their tired tootsies so artfully ministered to.

“And never once, I swear by St. Ignatius, was Jorge moved by any other passion than service, service of the sort rendered by Jesus when he was walking the dusty streets of Jerusalem, where, owing to the nature of footwear at the time, as well as the general lack of podiatrists, people’s feet were in a miserable state, especially young females who insisted on wearing fashionable high-heeled sandals.”

Dr. Ensernos paused to calm himself down before continuing.

“Nevertheless, there is a well-accepted continuum ranging from foot-kissing of the service sort and foot-kissing of the fetish sort. I grant you that in the human somatosensory cortex, there exists much neighborly cross-communication between neurons governing organs of generation and neurons responsible for foot pleasure. Therefore the prevalence of foot fetishamente. All the more reason to give credit to young estudiante Jorge and now old Papa Francisco for kissing feet without giving pleasures of the flesh to himself.”

In other news, the General Authorities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in response to all the attention Pope Francis is receiving for his foot-washing activities, are currently drafting a statement to address persistent rumors about the Church’s own history of foot-washing, specifically so-called “second anointings,” which the Brethren contend were merely a matter of practical hygiene, not sacred guarantees of eternal godhood.