I received a question from a reader…. a very long, convoluted question (please keep them short or I just can’t wade through them), and so I edited it:
Dear Fr. Z,
In my home parish we are trying to get some adult men to serve Mass; some of us behind the push want more reverence from the servers and believe that having adults will get that. The idea is that not only will the adults be more reverent but it will give the children someone to imitate and hopefully keep them in line more. My questions arise due to this situation.
… 2) It is the opinion of a rather vocal woman in our parish that adult women can serve as well as adult men. … If there anything we can do about this with the exception of actually having the adult men installed as acolytes?
First, I think a great solution would be if bishops would simply install more acolytes and lectors. This would help to resolve many problems.
I remember visiting a parish, I believe in Texas, where the very smart priest had organized a fabulous cadre of altar boys. Each "level" of service was clearly identified and the older boys helped to teach the younger boys. If a boy went all the way through the cycle, quite a few years, the bishop installed him as an acolyte… I don’t remember if lector was included. Great system.
That is probably not going to happen in many places.
Remember that canon 230 of the 1983 CIC has been so interpreted that females *may* substitute for installed acolytes. It does not give females a *right*. As a matter of fact, the Holy See said that priests cannot be forced to have female servers. It clearly states there ought to be a preference for male servers, especially the service of boys.
Service of females of any age at the altar remains an exception to the rule of male only service.
It is important that when there is resistance to male only service never to accept the premise often underlying the arguments in favor of girls, namely, that this in an “equality” issue. It is not. Service at the altar must not be politicized. The service of males at the altar is also not merely a practical issue, that is, that it helps vocations. The deeper theological point is that service at the altar is, in a sense, an extension of male ordained priesthood and those orders and ministries that lead to it.
No layperson as any right to serve. This is something granted.
What I would like to happen with this thread is for people to speak of their own experiences of shifting the practice at their parish.
I would like to hear from priests who fought the battles and lay people who promoted male altar service.
Let’s keep this entry focused.