In another entry concerning a nightmare scenario, blog participant Michael posted an interesting piece of information from the Pont. Comm. "Ecclesia Dei" which, frankly, I had forgotten all about.
A question was raised about who might subsititute for a subdeacon at a High Mass. There was a practice of dressing in a tunic a fellow as a subdeacon, sort of a "straw" subdeacon, as they were nicknamed.
In any event, Michael wrote:
I would like to supply some important information, which won’t be well known. In 1992 (?) on behalf of the Australian Ecclesia Dei Society I sent a dubium to the Ecclesia Dei Commission asking them to clarify the situation about who may act as a substitute for a subdeacon at a Solemn Mass, in the absence of cleric.
Whatever about what might have applied or was practised before the Council, this is the ruling now, as given by the Ecclesia Dei Commission:
A layman who has been instituted with the office of Acolyte may perform the duties of a subdeacon at a Solemn Mass. He performs all the duties pertaining to this office during the Mass but does not wear the maniple.
Obviously, this ruling excludes women and any also layman who is not an instituted acolyte.
This is helpful, if not definitive.
However, I still must raise the specter of the nightmare. The response from Ecclesia Dei may have come in 1992, though Michael was unsure of the date. (Ironically, that would have been issued when I worked in that Commission and I might have even been the one who drafted the letter. I don’t recall it, however. In those days we had a lot of correspondence.)
The official interpretation of can. 230 §2 of the 1983 CIC which says that women may substitute for acolytes came in 1994.
We must remember that a clarification came in a letter in 2001 stating that priests are not compelled to have girls serve at the altar even if their bishops grant permission for them to do so in their dioceses. It is unlikely that anyone organizing a High Mass with the so-called "Tridentine" rite would think to have girls anywhere in sight around the altar.
So, while it is still only the stuff of nightmares, I think the question is still open. In the absence of an available cleric for the role of subdeacon for a "Tridentine" High Mass could a woman substitute under the interpretation of can. 230 §2 of the 1983 CIC??