Universae Ecclesiae 28 and “altar girls” for the Extraordinary Form

The Instruction on Summorum Pontificum called Universae Ecclesiae makes it clear that there is to be no service at the altar by females for the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.

UE 28 reads.

28 – Praeterea, cum sane de lege speciali agitur, quoad materiam propriam, Litterae Apostolicae Summorum Pontificum derogant omnibus legibus liturgicis, sacrorum rituum propriis, exinde ab anno 1962 promulgatis, et cum rubricis librorum liturgicorum anni 1962 non congruentibus.

Furthermore, by virtue of its character of special law, within its own area, the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum derogates from those provisions of law, connected with the sacred Rites, promulgated from 1962 onwards and incompatible with the rubrics of the liturgical books in effect in 1962.

Derogate means that things are partially replaced, set aside.  Insofar as the use of the 1962 books is concerned, if there is something that came into law after 1962, and if that thing or practice conflicts with what is in the 1962 books, then those post-1962 conflicting things don’t apply to the use of the 1962 books.  In other words, if there is a conflict, they are excluded.

Despite this, some people are saying that UE 28 does not make it clear that females can’t serve in the Extraordinary Form.  That’s absurd, but that’s what some are claiming.  I suppose they think that if UE 28 doesn’t explicitly mention females, then UE 28 doesn’t forbid them.

Furthermore, those who think that UE 28 still means that Summorum Pontificum permits female service in the Extraordinary Form will ask, “Where in the Missale Romanum does it say that only males can serve?

Under another entry, commentator “GregorD” offered a very helpful piece of information.  WDTPRS KUDOS to him.

In the front of the 1962 Missale Romanum there is a section called De defectibus, “Concerning defects”.  This section talks about problems or, to put it another way, liturgical abuses, which could make Mass illicit or invalid.  For example, if there is a defect in the matter, the bread or wine, Mass could be invalid.  This is important stuff to know.

In Section X – De defectibus in Ministerio ipso occurrentibus… Concerning defects occurring in the Ministry itself.  Here we find this:

Possunt etiam defectus occurrere in ministerio ipso, si aliquid ex requisitis ad illud desit: … si non adsit Clericus, vel alius deserviens in Missa, vel adsit qui deservire non debet, ut mulier; …

Defects can also occur in the ministry itself, if any of the requisites for it be lacking: that, … if a Cleric [Clericus] be not present, or another [alius] serving at Mass, or there be present one who ought not to serve, as a woman [mulier]“;…

Nothing ambiguous about this, but let’s review:

  • UE 28 says Summorum Pontificum derogates from those provisions of law, connected with the sacred Rites, promulgated from 1962 onwards and incompatible with the rubrics of the liturgical books in effect in 1962.
  • In the 1962 Missale Romanum itself we find that females are not to serve.
  • Service by females was permitted by law after 1962, after 1983, as a matter of fact (cf. CIC 1983 can. 230 §2).
  • There is a conflict between the 1962MR and the CIC 1983 can. 230 §2.
  • UE 28 makes it clear that, according to Summorum Pontificum, there are to be no female servers in the Extraordinary Form.

No altar girls in the Extraordinary Form, the TLM, the Usus Antiquior, the old Mass, the Tridentine Mass.  Call it what you will.  No female servers.

FacebookEmailPinterestGoogle GmailShare/Bookmark

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Fr. Z KUDOS, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM, The Drill, Universae Ecclesiae and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

54 Responses to Universae Ecclesiae 28 and “altar girls” for the Extraordinary Form

  1. Maltese says:

    But, Father, I have four daughters?? SO…UN…FAIR!! (As my oldest would say, rolling her eyes) :)

  2. tealady24 says:

    Deo gratias!

  3. Well, that’s pretty clear. So basically, boys from Corpus Christi showing up to serve or not, all girls school or not, my mom and the other sacristy girls were never supposed to be dragged into the role of server. And just to make sure everybody who’d been doing it in 1958 knew it was hinky in 1962, the Vatican folks made sure to specifically include that as a defect in celebrating Mass.

    Again, though, you see where the boom-lowering (or boom-reminder of what was already in place, and that hadn’t been changed, no matter what people were doing here and there) was not passed along to the people. My mom didn’t know about this having been forbidden, which was why she told us about it as something girls were allowed to do back in her day, and which therefore must be still fine as a theoretical possibility.

    On the one hand, I can understand why you wouldn’t want to raise a hullaballoo and humiliate or scandalize girls who had served in good faith. But if girl A is allowed to serve, and then girl B is not, and no explanation or teaching is provided — well, it seems like a bad plan that the reiteration of the regs was shoved under the rugs. Probably part of why girl servers were approved under JPII.

  4. Jim Dorchak says:

    $10.00 says that if it is legal, vaild, or not will not make a hoots difference. This priest will continue to use female servers and there is nothing you or I or anyone can or will do about it!
    Right or wrong $10.00 says he will not change.

    Jim Dorchak
    Qm2ss.blogspot.com

  5. Fr. A.M. says:

    Father, this is an excellent post. Many thanks.

  6. Henry Edwards says:

    Jim,

    How about another $10 that someone will still argue in this very thread that this is “discrimination” against women. Maybe even a priest dating from the period when they seemingly were ordained without visible benefit of prior priestly formation.

  7. Actually, Suburbanbanshee, the “defect” rubric goes back to the promulgation of the Missal in 1570, and almost certainly before that into the middle ages. It was not added in 1962.

    Also, although being a “server” or “altar boy” was/is restricted to males, when no server was present and the congregation was entirely women, it was normal to have a woman in the front row make the servers responses and ring the bell. Some body had to do it As for the water and wine, the priest fended for himself.. I know of several convents where having the mother superior “serve” from the front row was almost habitual: young boys were not great at getting up for 5 am Mass even in the old days . . .

  8. vox borealis says:

    Father Augustine:

    I know of several convents where having the mother superior “serve” from the front row was almost habitual

    Please tell me that was not (intentionally) a pun!

  9. Rich says:

    Let us submit a dubium to the PCED and put the matter to rest.

  10. nemo says:

    Exactly as Fr. Augustine Thompson, O.P. indicates–I attend an FSSP parish and at one daily Mass there were no servers available, so the priest asked me to gives the responses and ring the bells from where I was sitting (front row and to the right, so I could see his hands). The other attendees were a Vietnamese family which fled to the rear, leaving me up front. No problem, as I had studied Latin for half a million years. (When I went to school in the dinosaur days, it was taught in the high schools…) Female servers remind me of priestesses, which is a pagan concept. They are also a HUGE vocations killer.

  11. Jim Dorchak says:

    Henry Edwards………
    I believe you are right.
    Jim Dorchak
    qm2ss.blogspot.com

  12. LUCILIUS says:

    It is the explicit exclusion of female servers in the ‘de defectibus’ is what makes the argument truly air-tight. Is any such mention in the missal to be found either that excludes communion in the hand outright or at least makes explicit the expectation of the giving of communion on the tongue?

  13. Andy Milam says:

    That certainly clears things right up, now doesn’t it….

  14. JohnW says:

    This could all be fixed if the church would say it was a mistake and girls can no longer serve on the Altar. It was not an issue when I was a boy and it should not be an issue now. We had all the boys needed. Now at every parish in America it is mostly girls, I think this should also apply to extraordinary ministers of communion, use an altar rail and have priest distribute communion. I am fifty and hope to see our church be restored to its past glory.

  15. Athelstan says:

    I’ve read the thread on Fr. McCoy earlier this weekend, and no doubt this is the immediate occasion for this discussion. But some people out there have also latched onto the comment made by Fr. Lombardi when he was queried on this point: Asked if altar girls are allowed to serve at a celebration of the Tridentine rite, Father Lombardi said the question was not specifically addressed in the new instruction. (Catholic News Service)

    I very strongly suspect that Fr. Lombardi. God bless him, did precisely what Fr. Z describes: he skimmed the instruction, and didn’t see the words “altar girl” appear in the text, and immediately assumed it does not speak to the point. But Fr. Lombardi won’t be officially interpreting UE. Ecclesia Dei will be (or the Rota on appeal), and they will go with the very obvious meaning of #28. No altar girls.

    I suppose I am not unduly worried about this issue for precisely this reason – but also due to the simple fact that none of the traditional societies would ever dream of doing it, and any diocesan or other non-traditional priests who attempted such a thing would face an immediate massive walkout and fervent official protests from most of their congregations. That did not quite happen in Cambridge, but it is clear that this is a highly unusual and unique situation.

  16. ipadre says:

    Neither are we required the young ladies in the Ordinary Form. Yet, some would is seem as if it were required to have girls. http://www.adoremus.org/CDW-AltarServers.html

    This is the door to more vocations. When boys feel this is not a girls thing again, more boys will again become servers.

  17. One of the things that this controversy demonstrates is that what book or law is in effect or is supposed to be used doesn’t matter much if people are going to disregard it completely anyway. The priest at Fisher House obviously is going to do his own thing regardless of the black and the red. He won’t even bother to use tortuous logic to try to make Universae Ecclesiae say something it doesn’t; he’ll just make believe it doesn’t exist or appeal to some vague “spirit of Summorum Pontificum” or something like that.

    This morning I attended Mass at a parish where the priest isn’t going to care whether the new translation of the prayers for Mass is better, worse, or anything. He didn’t even bother to use the lame-duck ICEL prayers; he just rolled his own Opening Prayer and Prayer after Communion (he didn’t even have the Missal anywhere near him). I doubt that he cares what Summorum Pontificum or Universae Ecclesiae or indeed any Church instructions say.

    Having a paper trail is an important first step, but the paper has to be given life at some point. I just wish we didn’t have to wait for the biological solution to work its magic.

  18. Also, although being a “server” or “altar boy” was/is restricted to males, when no server was present and the congregation was entirely women, it was normal to have a woman in the front row make the servers responses and ring the bell.

    But, Fr. Augustine, notice that the woman was not in the sanctuary.

  19. EWTN Rocks says:

    Andrew, I appreciate your post.

  20. This is a wonderful post Father. Truly something to trump those who want “creativity and equality” in the EF Mass. I remember one priest insisting on Communion in the Hand in an EF Mass. The faithful were up in arms.

  21. Andy Milam says:

    @ Miss Anita Moore OP;

    “But, Fr. Augustine, notice that the woman was not in the sanctuary.”

    That is correct and technically she wasn’t serving the Mass either. She was simply making the responses and ringing a bell, whilst sitting in the front pew. The mandate has never been that Father have a server, but rather that Father have at least one person present, even then, it wasn’t absolutely necessary. It was just preferrable and after a time became a custom to have at least one server present.

    For where two are gathered and all of that…

  22. Andy Milam says:

    @ ipadre;

    “Neither are we required the young ladies in the Ordinary Form.”

    That is exactly right….thank you for pointing that out. I wonder what the “particular reason” is for almost universally allowing this defect to become a normative action to happen? I would love to really know that answer, although I know that a straight answer will never be given. It is just one more of the USCCB’s policies that they have unjustly rammed down the faithful’s throat.

  23. James Joseph says:

    Ladies can do the responses from the altar rail (even if the rood screen is missing).

  24. Bender says:

    **Universae Ecclesiae makes it clear that there is to be no service at the altar by females for the Extraordinary Form **
    quote from UE — **promulgated from 1962 onwards AND INCOMPATIBLE with the rubrics**

    ________________

    Let’s start with the understanding that I have no dog in this fight, OK? But it is rather clear that the automatic conclusion that there is to be no females serving because there were none in 1961, while recognizing “promulgated from 1962 onwards” is totally ignoring those inconvenient words “and incompatible.” In what way shape or form are females or EMHC or any number of other things “incompatible” with the EF except to the extent that those who advocate for the EF want to insist that anything and everything since 1962 is per se wrong. To take that latter reading of UE is to make the “and incompatible” language superfluous and pointless.

    Again, since I love and revere the Holy Mass that the Universal Church prays everyday, the same One Mass wherein the Lord Himself and all the angels and saints in heaven are present, that is, the Ordinary Form of the Holy Mass, what goes on in the EF does not really concern my personal life, but I fail to see — and no one has even made the attempt to demonstrate — how a female server (or EMHC, etc.) is necessarily and per se “incompatible” with the EF. All that has been done to assert that they cannot serve is to ignore the clear language of UE, “and incompatible.”

    [We are dealing with law, here, not with sensibilities or cultural norms, or whether Suzy can do the job well or poorly. Furthermore, your comments are based on the English translation of UE. The law is to be read in LATIN, not in English. Your comment about “incompatible” being “superfluous and pointless” is itself “superfluous and pointless”. It is also wrong. The clear language of US is in Latin.]

  25. Andy Milam says:

    @ Bender;

    “and no one has even made the attempt to demonstrate — how a female server (or EMHC, etc.) is necessarily and per se “incompatible” with the EF.”

    The assumption was that the altar boy was an extraordinary minister to the ordained minor orders. Since minor orders had not the numbers to accomodate every parish, the use of altar boys (men) had to be employed. This is most easily seen in the Solemn Mass where a mature layman could act as “straw” subdeacon when the need forsaw it.

    The incompatibility lies in the fact that the ministry is extraordinary to a situation in which the female is not able to fulfill. It is not logical to have a female do those things which are not proper to her, just as it is not proper to have a male do those things which are not proper to him.

    Logic dictates and it was stated as such earlier in this thread that females would constitute a defect, precisely because they would be fulfilling a role which is ordinarily fulfilled by one in minor orders. If a male can be advanced to those orders then it follows that he can be an extraordinary minister. Since a woman cannot be, it follows that she cannot be an extraordinary minister.

    BTW, I feel the same way about the use of female altar servers and extraordinary ministers of all stripes in the Novus Ordo. Women have a place in the Church, it just isn’t in the sanctuary.

  26. Okay, so let’s summarize.

    1. Originally there were two different jobs: the acolyte or acolyte sub, up on the altar; and the lay responder person, outside the sanctuary/altar rail/roodscreen. (I don’t know what the responder would really be called.)

    2. In some places, priests (unintentionally) downgraded the role of acolyte, by assuming that it wasn’t really different in kind than being a lay responder; so it was okay for women to take the job. Alternately, they believed it was totally okay to treat a woman as a substitute man. (A “straw boy”, if you will.) Thus, women and girls in some places were told to serve. It was illicit and constituted a defect both before and after Vatican II, but priests just went ahead and did it to them anyway.

    3. The minor orders went bye-bye, and so (usually) did instituted acolytes and lectors. So now being an acolyte was seen as a totally lay role by many priests, and there was even less apparent reason not to conflate the role of lay responder with server.

    4. A permission slip indult for the OF was given, possibly just to cover with licitness all the illicit female server activity already occurring. That still stands.

    5. But Universae Ecclesiae says the 1962 Missal rules apply, so that means that you can’t do EF female servers without breaking the law. You could still presumably have lay responders, but most of the time that shouldn’t be needed (and shouldn’t have been needed before).

    6. The whole trouble started long before feminism, and apparently was because not enough boys and men got off their butts, showed up, and acted as acolytes. Also, because priests apparently preferred making do with a handmaid to getting off their butts and getting the male servers to show up, or just taking care of business themselves. All the feminist stuff after that was just a reaction to the reluctant boys and men, frankly. So don’t be blaming the women, although they’ve done their part too.

  27. Banjo pickin girl says:

    From what I read in this blog I must attend the only NO parish in the US with only altar boys (there are about 100 of them), only male readers, Communion served at the rail by priests only! I hope my parish never changes this but times being what they are…

  28. Josephus Muris Saliensis says:

    We await with interest a comment from somone at Fisher House Cambridge, where it is inconceivable that this is not being hotly debated.

    There must be plenty of readers of this blog there…

  29. May I remind you that there are still alot of parents who refuse to let their children (read sons) become altar boys because of the …. ahem… the scandal [That is a bit of a cheap shot.]

    It may have been a very small number of priests who were guilty, but it did leave open the niggling feeling that we are not ever completely sure of the priest’s intentions when it comes to altar boys.

    I’m not saying that the priests who want all boys serving mass do so for impious reasons, but unfortunately you never truly know about anyone until something happens, and then it is too late to be protective.

    So maybe priests should not have any servers at all. Or let the girls serve from the front pew, as the nuns used to do pre VII

  30. Centristian says:

    “Again, since I love and revere the Holy Mass that the Universal Church prays everyday, the same One Mass wherein the Lord Himself and all the angels and saints in heaven are present, that is, the Ordinary Form of the Holy Mass, what goes on in the EF does not really concern my personal life, but I fail to see — and no one has even made the attempt to demonstrate — how a female server (or EMHC, etc.) is necessarily and per se ‘incompatible’ with the EF. All that has been done to assert that they cannot serve is to ignore the clear language of UE, ‘and incompatible.'”

    Coming from my own fallible point of view on this matter, I think you make a good point. It seems to me that to allow females to perform various ceremonial functions (acolyte, crucifer, thurifer, &c) is not so much incompatible with the Extraordinary Form of the liturgy as it is with the traditionalist culture that tends to surround that form of celebration. The practice is incompatible with the sensibilities and expectations of the typical Tridentine Mass-goer, not so much with the Mass itself. If a female can serve Mass in the Ordinary Form, it seems she ought to be able to serve Mass in the Extraordinary Form. That’s the way I happen to see it; others will (adamantly) disagree with me.

    If my pastor came out and said, “okay, alot of you have been asking for it, so I’m going to insert a sung Latin Mass into our Sunday schedule. The only problem is, we can’t just exclude all of our female servers from participation at it–I won’t do that to them–and so we’ll have both male and female servers involved,” my reaction would be one of hearty acceptance of the arrangement. If a couple of girls carrying candles in procession is the price I’d have to pay for a Latin Mass at my own parish, so be it.

    If we’re talking about a priest introducing female altar servers into a traditionalist environment, I would say that to do so would represent an imprudent, pastorally insensitive, and divisive action. Female servers are, I would say, incompatible with a strictly traditionalist congregation. But I doon’t think it follows that because they are incompatible with traditionalist sensibilities they are necessarily incompatible with the Extraordinary Form of Mass. Celebrate the “EF” in an environment that is not traditionalist in character, and suddenly the idea of female servers seems much less impossible.

  31. ALL: Be careful when dealing with the word “incompatible”, which appears in the English.

    The Latin properly rendered says:

    28. Furthermore, since this deals with special law, in regard to the proper matter, the Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum derogates from all liturgical laws, proper laws of the sacred rites, promulgated subsequent to 1962, and not consistent/in agreement with the rubrics of the liturgical books of the year 1962.

    Be careful if you are going to base your thoughts on an equivocal use of a word which isn’t in the text.

  32. Sissy says:

    Centristian:
    [I’m only studying now to become a convert, so someone please correct any error/misunderstanding in what I say.]

    The way I conceptualize the prohibition on females serving in the sanctuary is related to the proper roles of men and women. If the Church is a Bride, then she is female. And if the priests and other servers in the sanctuary are representing Christ in his service and love for the Bride, then they HAVE to be male. There is no such thing as “gay” marriage, so a female can’t enact the duties of the bridegroom, no matter how well-intentioned she or the priest is. The reason it’s invalid has nothing whatsoever to do with “traditional sensibilities” being offended. It’s invalid because it can never be a true representation of reality. Females can’t be husbands, and females can’t play Bridegroom to the Bride.
    That’s how it seems to me. Am I on the wrong track?

  33. Henry Edwards says:

    28. Furthermore, since this deals with special law, in regard to the proper matter, the Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum derogates from all liturgical laws, proper laws of the sacred rites, promulgated subsequent to 1962, and not consistent/in agreement with the rubrics of the liturgical books of the year 1962.

    In other words, it’s not a matter of whether a practice is consistent with anybody’s personal sensibilities (whatever they may be), with the culture of a particular congregation, or “with the EF itself” (whatever that might mean). What matters (under UE 28) is solely whether it’s consistent with the 1962 liturgical books. (E.g., What Do The Rubrics Really Say?)

    So any argument that something is ok for the EF if it’s ok for the OF is quite irrelevant (if not just a red herring). But it also points to the problem rather than the solution. I can’t help conjecturing that our Holy Father’s zeal for restoration of the older form stems from a view that the newer form is now encrusted with so many practices that have crept in piecemeal and come to be allowed, but really ought not be, though their prohibition all at once would at this time be an inorganic discontinuity.

  34. Centristian says:

    “[I’m only studying now to become a convert, so someone please correct any error/misunderstanding in what I say.]”

    I’m only one man with one of several opinions on this subject; far be it from me to attempt to correct your perspective.

    In my own opinion, however…

    “The way I conceptualize the prohibition on females serving in the sanctuary is related to the proper roles of men and women. If the Church is a Bride, then she is female. And if the priests and other servers in the sanctuary are representing Christ in his service and love for the Bride, then they HAVE to be male.”

    The Church disagrees that other servers in the sanctuary have to be male. The Church allows them to be female. Therefore, they do not have to be male. It only seems to me that if the Church allows females to serve in various roles at the celebration of the Roman Rite of Mass according to its Ordinary Form, then one will have difficulty insisting that only males may serve Mass in the Extraordinary Form. Why is it okay for one form of Mass but not another? ???

    “There is no such thing as “gay” marriage, so a female can’t enact the duties of the bridegroom, no matter how well-intentioned she or the priest is. The reason it’s invalid…”

    Apples to oranges.

  35. Fr_Sotelo says:

    Centristian: The section quoted by Fr. Z in “de defectibus” of the 1962 Roman Missal, clearly stating that woman are not to serve Mass in the EF, does not have an accompanying explanation of this discipline. Even the allowance for female servers in the OF Mass was not accompanied with an explanation for this change or departure.

    However, one can read in the lines of Blessed John Paul’s documents of women and see where he wished women to be actively and increasingly involved in pastoral and liturgical roles in the Church. In his “Letter to Women” the Blessed openly criticized the way women were treating previously in the Church and constantly referred to their “feminine genius.” Altar girls could not be far behind his insistence that lay people needed to do more in the Church, and that we needed to think “men and women” whenever we read the term “lay involvement” in Church documents.

    I was personally not surprised at all that he was the Pontiff to allow females as altar servers, seeing how staunchly and with conviction he believed that the Catholic belief in equality of men and women needed to be seen in the liturgy as well as the apostolate. His Roman Curia saw more women involved at various levels than any previous papal administration.

    But to get back to your question of “why?” no female servers at the EF Mass, I think you understand already that the theology of the EF Mass clearly emphasizes the priesthood of the ordained ministry. It is in perfect sync with the spirit of the Counter-Reformation. It is a corrective to the Protestant heretics, clearly showing in ceremony and rubric the dogmas of Apostolic Succession, Transubstantiation, and Holy Orders.

    All liturgical ministry and roles in the EF Mass are oriented in that journey which leads to Holy Orders as a priest. Minor Orders are for clerics only. Clerics are hopefully being inspired to be ordained and offer Mass. Having female servers, who are incapable of entering the seminary and ascending the altar in Minor Orders, does not make sense and goes completely against what the Church wished to communicate when St. Pius V published the Missal.

    The emphasis, theologically and spiritually, of the EF Mass, is very different from that of the OF Mass. I don’t mean to say “bad different” but just “different.” It is not a caricature or put down to call the OF Mass the “Vatican II Mass” even though it did not come from Vatican II, (as the EF Mass was not from Trent but could rightly be said to be “Tridentine” in rubric and spirit). Female servers can be envisioned in a Vatican II theology of the laity and the call for “a thorough reform” of the rites. They are not, however, any part of the spirit of the Counter-Reformation and the Tridentine Mass.

    When Blessed John Paul wisely cautioned and ordered against any mixing of the practices of the two different Missals, he wished that each Mass would be allowed to enrich the Church with its spirit and ethos intact. People who attend the EF Mass need and want to be nourished in the fervor and fire ignited at Trent and calling the faithful to battle and to arms and to warfare against all things Catholic. They don’t need, and it would be quite harmful, to mish mash and mix the practices of a Missal four centuries later into that Missal which accomplished the victories of the Counter-Reformation.

    But besides all this, female altar servers contradict UE which clearly allows the old rubrics to supersede the newer rubrics if the newer contradict the older.

  36. My comment about the scandal was not a cheap shot. It’s a simple statement of truth. Parents no longer completely trust priests. Like it or not, accept it or not, the holy priesthood is not going to be able to live that scandal down any time soon.

  37. Centristian says:

    Fr. Sotelo:

    What a great response; thank you for taking the time to answer my query so thoughtfully.

    I understand the points you make, and the fact that there is an actual prohibition against females serving at the Extraordinary Form of Mass makes the whole discussion academic, but I was at first responding to the suggestion that the use of female servers is ‘incompatible’ with the “EF”, language that Father Z later pointed out was not used in the documents. But that’s where I was arguing from: that it doesn’t seem to me incompatible with the Mass, itself, so much as the traditionalist sensibility. Offer the “EF” in an unsuspecting parish without a traditionalist congregation, and nobody would be offended by the presence of female altar servers. The typical contemporary Catholic congregation is, at this point, accustomed to the practice.

    I am still not wholly persuaded (not that I need to be) that it is a sensible thing to so black-and-whitely declare that females can serve at the altar when Mass is celebrated in the Ordinary Form, but not when it is celebrated in the Extraordinary Form. I have to wonder what the Church should permit in the case of a solemn “Novus Ordo” Mass celebrated ad orientem, in Latin, with chant and polyphony, incense, and Roman vestments. The Church, after all, does not permit females to serve at the altar in the Ordinary Form only when the Mass has a contemporary look and feel to it.

    I don’t like the idea of treating the Extraordinary Form one way and the Ordinary Form another. I know, it’s done every day, everywhere, but that doesn’t mean it’s right. If it’s wrong to have “altar girls” in one form, it’s wrong to have them in the other. On the other hand, if it’s okay to have them in one form, it seems that it ought to be okay to have them in the other.

  38. robtbrown says:

    Fr Sotelo,
    I was personally not surprised at all that he was the Pontiff to allow females as altar servers, seeing how staunchly and with conviction he believed that the Catholic belief in equality of men and women needed to be seen in the liturgy as well as the apostolate. His Roman Curia saw more women involved at various levels than any previous papal administration.

    I was personally surprised because JPII had said more than once that there would be no altar girls. That’s why when, during my Roman years, I heard that permission would be given (some months before it actually was), I didn’t believe it even though the source was excellent. I was told the change was due to a strategy by certain American and German bishops to go to the Cong of Rites (in those days a bastion of liberalism) whenever they were in Rome and bang on the desk. Finally, JPII gave in. Despite his considerable work in the Church he had very little interest in liturgy.

    And I disagree that the EF restriction to altar boys was Counter-Reformation. As we both know, it goes back 100’s of years before Trent.

  39. Banjo pickin girl says:

    Puff, I didn’t think what you said was a cheap shot at all. It is sadly true at one parish I know. Some people have even taken their children out of the parish school out of fear and enrolled them in a parish not too far away.

    This is because a priest there talks about sexual matters at a level that is inappropriate for the children and for the parents this sets off alarm bells whether it should or not. I believe he is simply naive as I find him very compassionate and yet very holy in the confessional. I go to him sometimes for the more embarrassing matters. But his homilies and talks to the schoolchildren really are too much.

    There is about a 4:1 girl:boy ratio of altar servers there. I don’t know how this compares elsewhere in the diocese for suburban parishes. It might have nothing to do with it.

  40. Henry Edwards says:

    Centristian: If it’s wrong to have “altar girls” in one form, it’s wrong to have them in the other.

    Finally! Something on which we can agree unreservedly.

  41. Sissy says:

    Thanks for your reply, Centristian. I have a lot to learn, and I sometimes despair of ever figuring it out. I thought that women were not to serve in the sanctuary in the EF. And I agree with you that if they are not to serve in the EF, they shouldn’t serve in the OF, either.

  42. Fr_Sotelo says:

    robtbrown: You are right, that the restricting of altar service to males only was not introduced by St. Pius V as a response to the Protestant heretics, but existed centuries earlier. The Mass in that time was already clericalized and laity had long been banished from the sanctuary.

    What I should have said was that to understand the prohibition of female servers in the Missal of St. Pius V, we must not forget the context in which that Missal was promulgated. Keeping the liturgy clericalized, and therefore exclusively male, was done on purpose by St. Pius V, since the heretics had reintroduced lay leadership to the liturgy and banished the clerics and priests.

    So, bringing in female servers to the EF not only breaks a medieval custom, but introduces a practice introduced first in Protestant circles, thereby doing what the Counter Reformation wanted avoided at all costs. For those who love the EF Mass, this dishonors St. Pius V and all his cohorts who saw his Missal as a didactic, teaching tool in the battles of the Counter Reformation. Beyond violating some rubric, having laywomen as altar servers introduces doctrinal questions of whether Holy Orders will now be watered down in the EF Mass, as it seems to so watered down in the Novus Ordo.

  43. Fr_Sotelo says:

    Centristian: At the risk of people getting very angry with me, I’ll give you my two cents in response to your comment, which strikes to the heart of the matter (you said, “If it’s wrong to have “altar girls” in one form, it’s wrong to have them in the other”).

    As I see it, both the Protestant heretics and those who forbid female service at the altar in the Missal of St. Pius V, missed the mark, based on their lack of original source documents of the ancient liturgy in the first three centuries. The Protestants thought the liturgy was all laicized, with no clerics, no priests, no sacrament of Holy Orders, which they took to be a later corruption or invention. Later discoveries would show this is false.

    On the Catholic side, we assumed that the liturgy had always been clericalized and male only, and so we continued to banish females and most laity and confer “Minor Orders” on clerics only. Later discoveries would prove that porters, lectors, exorcists, and acolytes were lay people, and that there were deaconnesses, and a huge multiplicity of various rites of introduction, offertory, eucharistic prayers, and communion in the ancient Church. In fact, some of the ancient liturgies bear no resemblance to the Tridentine Mass and have eucharistic prayers which bear no resemblance to the Roman Canon (anaphora of Mari and Addai).

    So, there are bishops, priests, and deacons in the ancient liturgy, which proves the existence of Holy Orders in the ancient liturgies (as opposed to what the heretics said), but there were laity running all over the place as well, even taking Communion to the sick and receiving Communion in the hand.

    Of course, as Catholics we could just say all that was a mistake and the later, clericalized liturgy of the medieval Church was the right way to do things, but that would put us in the awkward position of pointing fingers at Catholics who lived in proximity to the holy Apostles, and in all likelihood did things that were of Apostolic origin. And we know from the history of the ancient Church that having lay people running around and doing things did not stop vocations to the priesthood (and even martyrdom) from flourishing.

    Thus, I defend the move after Vatican II to admit laypeople to liturgical ministries, thereby ordering the conversion of Minor Orders into ministries.

    And my personal opinion is that although Blessed John Paul did say NO to altar girls at first, he got to the point where in his mind, he could not justify this theologically. And so, he gave in. It was either say yes to women serving, or just saying, “let’s banish the laity altogether” because once you allow a lay presence at the altar, there is no Divine Revelation or theology which would mandate that this be a male presence only.

    For Holy Orders, you can have only males. But for lay ministries, there is nothing that would mandate men only from a theological point of view. Even the practical argument of vocations does not always hold water: 99.9% of altar boys never become priests and many seminarians these days never served Mass before going to the seminary.

    And yet, if you are going to use the Missal of St. Pius V, for the enrichment of the Church and the defense of the true Faith, you should use this Missal as it is promulgated. Because if the Novus Ordo in some cases fails to transmit the Catholic Faith with the same efficacy, for whatever reason, and you must turn to the Tridentine Mass for this, then you should offer the Tridentine Mass in the way it has always been offered, to keep the full force of its teaching ability without tinkering and tampering.

    That means I think that theorectically, Fr. Alban has done what seems theologically consistent, but on the practical matter of obedience to rubrics and not tampering with what works, he should not use the female altar servers.

  44. Centristian says:

    Fr. Sotelo:

    Now THAT was a truly great answer; I loved your brief romp through liturgical history. Great stuff.

    With all due respect, however, and fully cognizant of my own deficiencies of knowledge and understanding with respect to the history and principles of liturgy, I disagree with you that the Extraordinary Form of Mass must necessarily exclude females from the sanctuary because allowing them conflicts with the spirit of the Counter-Reformation.

    “They are not, however, any part of the spirit of the Counter-Reformation and the Tridentine Mass.”

    No, I’m sure that’s true, but liturgy does develop over time, as you have pointed out. What was good for 1570 is not necessarily what is good for 1962, or 1983, or 2011. You seem to be saying (and pardon me if I am misunderstanding you), that the “Tridentine Mass” (to use the once commonly-used shorthand) must forever reflect the spirit of Trent (or of the era of Trent, and the sensibilities of that age, or of the Counter-Reformation), therefore the idea of female servers (or laity, at all) at the altar necessarily conflicts with the Tridentine Mass for that reason.

    What if it did not happen that we wound up with two forms of the Roman Rite, however? What if the pre-Conciliar Mass had simply been tweaked rather than superseded by the “Novus Ordo”? It is perfectly reasonable to imagine that there would have been laity at the altar in the roles of lectors, and, ultimately, females serving Mass for the very reasons you give:

    “It was either say yes to women serving, or just saying, “let’s banish the laity altogether” because once you allow a lay presence at the altar, there is no Divine Revelation or theology which would mandate that this be a male presence only.”

    “For Holy Orders, you can have only males. But for lay ministries, there is nothing that would mandate men only from a theological point of view. Even the practical argument of vocations does not always hold water: 99.9% of altar boys never become priests and many seminarians these days never served Mass before going to the seminary.”

    Had there been no “Novus Ordo”, John Paul II’s permission to females to serve at the altar would have been for the Mass that today we call the “Extraordinary Form”, because (a reformed version of) that Mass would still be the ordinary form. Of course, there are probably plenty of people who would argue that today’s ordinary form of Mass IS the reformed version of the Mass that existed before Vatican II (and when it is celebrated properly, that seems like a reasonable position). I think the official Church actually viewed matters in that light before Benedict XVI came out and declared that the Mass, as it was celebrated before the reforms, is a distinct form of the Roman Rite apart from the ordinary form. I very much doubt that Pope Paul VI, for one, would ever have come to Benedict’s conclusion. As far as he was concerned, the “new Mass” is the “old Mass” reformed. That was the whole point of it. It is the reformation of the Mass of the Council of Trent (looking at matters from that perspective).

    However you look at that situation, it seems to me that, either way, Mass is Mass. To quote Henry Edwards quoting me, “if it’s wrong to have ‘altar girls’ in one form, it’s wrong to have them in another.” The expectations of the era in which a particular Missal was published cannot forever be deferred to as though it was that era that was somehow canonized. The Ordinary Form is the Roman Catholic Mass every bit as much as the Extraordinary Form is. If it is somehow wrong to allow females to serve at the altar in one form, surely it cannot be argued that it is okay to permit them to serve in the other form.

    On the other hand, since, as you point out, the presence of laity at the altar is, in fact, traditional (or at least precedented) and women for that reason cannot logically be excluded, I see no logical reason for the prohibition of women from service during a Mass in the extraordinary form. If it is legitimate with respect to Mass in the ordinary form, it seems unreasonable to make it illegitimate with respect to Mass in the extraordinary form.

    Unless, of course, the Church is relying upon pastoral reasons, exclusively, recognizing that the extraordinary form really amounts only to a concession to traditionalists, and therefore it must always be celebrated the way they expect it to be celebrated, since it is, after all, for their benefit, and for their benefit, alone.

  45. Igne says:

    Centristian, Do we love tradition or traditionalism? [A fair question.] If it were the case, as some traditionalists devoutly seem to desire, that the extraordinary form were for their benefit and for their benefit alone that would be tragic and obviously contrary to His Holiness’s definition of the extraordinary form as the extraordinary form of a single Roman Rite. It may be asserted that ‘causa finita est’ on the matter of female altar servers, but the curter those assertions about this are made the more inclined I am to believe that it’s traditionalism talking, and not tradition. We’ll see how UE is actively interpreted by the body that has the authority to interpret it.

  46. Centristian says:

    Sissy:

    “Thanks for your reply, Centristian. I have a lot to learn, and I sometimes despair of ever figuring it out.”

    You and me both.

  47. MichaelJ says:

    Later discoveries would prove …

    Father, if I may be so bold, I would urge caution here. More often than not, in my experience, modern research into ancient Christian practices is an agenda driven conclusion in search of supporting evidence.
    I am sure, for example, that we can find instances of ancient Catholics receiving Communion in the hand. This does not however, answer the question of whether it was seen at the time as a normal acceptable practice, and does not indicate whether it was common or a localized aberration.

  48. DallasCarter says:

    First time posting here :) I live on Oahu with my family, I work from home, hike, surf, and own two pairs of nice clothes for Mass. The rest consists of board shorts, flip-flops, and tank tops :) (It gets HOT here!)

    I prefer the Mass in the Usus Antiquior and I was initially excited about UE when it came out. I am, however, bit concerned about possible ambiguous renderings of UE 19 and several other paragraphs. Im glad there is recourse to the PCED to adjudicate. . . .

    The theological implications of allowing female servers at any Mass flies in the face of the perennial tradition and teaching of the church. Much like ‘Eucharist in the hand’ I think the allowance of female servers has been grossly abused.

    I have a question about UE 28 and Fr. Z’s conclusion that SP and UE make ‘clear’ that females are not to be altar servers at the TLM because I do not think that it does make it clear. . . How do you differentiate what is covered by UE 27 vs. UE 28 ? What belongs to “provisions connected with sacred Rites” (28)? What to the “ecclesiastical discipline” (27)?

    “27. With regard to the disciplinary norms connected to celebration, the ecclesiastical discipline contained in the Code of Canon Law of 1983 applies.

    28. Furthermore, by virtue of its character of special law, within its own area, the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum derogates from those provisions of law, connected with the sacred Rites, promulgated from 1962 onwards and incompatible with the rubrics of the liturgical books in effect in 1962″

    There is a ‘fundamental’ question that is addressed when discussing female altar servers. Canon law almost purposely does not deal in depth with matters of liturgical rubric. I really really WANT to believe that UE 28 definitively infers no female altar servers but I need someone to show me why the issue of ‘female servers’ is covered under UE 28, even in the ‘De Defectibus’, as part of the ‘law connected with the sacred rites’ (UE 28) as opposed to the more fundamental ecclesiastical discipline (UE 27), by which bishops are still bound to the 1983 CIC.

    It is true that there is a conflict between the 1962MR and the CIC 1983 can. 230 §2.

    But im not sure that matters. If CIC 1983 can. 230 §2. is addressing ‘ecclesiastical discipline’, which I believe it is, then ‘female servers’ remains allowed juridically with the bishops who allow it for his diocese, etc.

    Please, someone, show me why I am incorrect here. [The answer lies, I believe (as if my first answer wasn’t convincing in itself) in the fact that the male sex is assumed in the rubrics as well as De defectibus.] I honestly want to be wrong. I think CIC 1983 can. 230 §2. was a bad move. But I do not think UE 28 makes it clear that, according to Summorum Pontificum, there are to be no female servers in the Extraordinary Form.

  49. Fr_Sotelo says:

    MichaelJ: I am no fan of Communion in the hand. Never have been. And in regards to agenda driven research, I agree and also urge caution. For instance, you seem to question whether Communion in the hand was normal in the ancient Church, perhaps assuming that the evidence lies in favor of Communion on the tongue in the first three centures.

    And yet, there is no evidence whatsoever that Communion was received on the tongue in the ancient Church. Zilch. Nada. None. The authors we have, the drawings, the poems of Christian antiquity, etc. only mention Communion in the hand well past the fifth century. Even the grave of Pectorius, discovered in an ancient Christian cemetery and dating from as late as 400AD speaks of Christians receiving the “Fish” (the Eucharistic Jesus) “in the palm of your hands.”

    Unfortunately, the agenda driven articles I have poured through on this subject have all been written by people who are against Communion in the hand, purporting to cite evidence against it (even to where St. Basil’s quotes are truncated and misinterpreted) while still not being able to present one single bit of evidence that the ancient Christians received Our Lord on the tongue. This, of course, is polemical and dramatic–let’s attack the idea of Communion in the hand, and hope people notice we don’t have any evidence at all that people received directly on the tongue.

    Even when we are against something, and I am against Communion in the hand, we should still be honest with history, archeology, and the first hand sources.

  50. Fr_Sotelo says:

    Centristian to Fr. Sotelo: You seem to be saying (and pardon me if I am misunderstanding you), that the “Tridentine Mass” (to use the once commonly-used shorthand) must forever reflect the spirit of Trent.

    Yes, you are right, Centristian, up to a point. The EF Mass, for me, encapsulates and exudes a certain spirit which embodies the ideals of Trent: 1) Religion is not fun and games, and so Mass is Calvary before it is a banquet 2) The Church cannot exist and grow without Holy Orders 3) Holy Orders is by nature ordered to propitiatory sacrifice 4) Clerics are at the altar as Christ, in order to lead in an active way, to offer, to give, while the laity are there as Holy Church, His Bride, to receive and be nourished by this service, in a passive way. 5) The liturgy as heaven on earth should have a timeless quality to it, and resist the changes of the world, as the believer out in the world is also in resistance, holy warfare.

    But the EF Mass does not serve the Church by “being Trent” or even “being the warfare of the Counter Reformation.” Rather, Trent and the Counter Reformation serve the Church in every age by proposing certain ideals, a certain spirit, which lead the laity to evangelize, to save souls, and to do it with urgency, with order and discipline, with sobriety. The EF Mass is a form or vehicle for this spirit, but it is a more clericalized form or vehicle. As a more clericalized form of the liturgy, it should not have female altar servers.

    The OF Mass is less clericalized, and celebrates more the role of lay ministry, and so can accomodate female altar servers without being untrue to its spirit.

  51. Centristian says:

    Father Sotelo:

    Thank you for your reply. Thank you, too, for your insights offered in the previous post with respect to the reception of holy Communion in the hand and the historical precedents of the practice. I enjoy reading anything pertaining to the history of the Roman Rite.

  52. EWTN Rocks says:

    Father Sotelo,

    Right now, I’m glad the OF Mass is available and can accommodate female altar servers. Like many of my fellow parishioners, I’m not ready (liturgically or spiritually) for the EF Mass to be the only option.

  53. robtbrown says:

    Fr Sotelo,

    I had this almost written once, but lost it.

    1. I am leery about liturgical references to the Early Church. For the first 300 years of her existence the Eucharist was celebrated in private homes homes (house churches). I do not consider such circumstances suitable for producing any kind of a model for Eucharistic celebration—even though the public opposition (incl intermittent persecutions) produced a certain natural discipline, IMHO, it is much like the underground masses that were said in the old Soviet Empire. I knew an underground bishop from the SU who came to Rome after the Soviet fall. He had worked as an engineer, had been ordained and consecrated in an abbreviated rite in the middle of the night, and had never said mass in vestments, always in secret. He did not consider those years any kind of liturgical model. (I once asked him whether he thought the Communists knew that he was priest. He shook his head no, then took with his index finger traced a line from just below one ear across his throat to just below the other ear.)

    With the Edict of Milan there began to be public buildings that were dedicated churches. Not before then could any kind of formal concept of liturgy begin to emerge.

    2. It is true that VatII emphasized the laity, but I think it was more of a re-emphasis. The orders founded in the Middle Ages (and the houses using the Rule of Benedict) had lay groups closely associated with them–they were not considered third class Catholics. But most, if not all, of the Counter Reformation clerical orders (incl the Jesuits) lacked any lay association (and women’s branch). And this approach spread from the religious orders to the diocesan Church.

    The new concept of the laity is to be found in Opus Dei, which is not inclined to altar girls and Communion in the hand.

    3. We agree on the magnitude of JPII’s contribution to the Church, and I think he was unique (maybe even a bit idiosyncratic) to the point that no one else was equipped to have done what he did. That having been said, it’s fairly well known that was not very interested in liturgy and disagreed publicly with Cardinal Ratzinger on it. Apart from JPII’s role in the fall of the Soviet Empire, he was more inclined to improving overall Church discipline, ending Liberation Theology, re-establishing the prominence of the papacy, reaffirming Church doctrine of faith and morals, and working for European Unity (cf fall of the Soviet Empire).

    4. Perhaps his greatest contribution (other than bringing Cardinal Ratzinger to the SCDF), however, was that he was an oak against the storms against doctrine and outlived most of the big time liberals, all the while naming the Cardinals who would then vote for Papa Ratzinger.