QUAERITUR: Female altar servers at a TLM?

From a reader:

Is it allowed to have female altar servers at the TLM?

I get this question every once in a while and have answered it in the past.

Allow me to recap.

At present, the 1983 Code of Canon Law, c. 230.2 is interpreted in such a way – a fantastical way, in my opinion, pace Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts – that females can substitute for installed acolytes (who are always exclusively male).  That is to say males always and at times females – in those areas where the bishop permits it and where the priest wants it – can substitute for the officially installed acolyte (an all male ministry).

I concluded a long time ago that, the present law being in force, yes, it would be licit for females to serve at a TLM, but … I wouldn’t give much for the peaceful life of the priest afterward. 

Tar and feathers are tough to remove.

Furthermore, according to the present law, male servers are the norm.  Female servers cannot be imposed on a priest’s celebration of Holy Mass.  Moreover, the local diocesan bishop can decide whether or not female servers will be permitted in his diocese.

Thus, there is no obligation to have female servers at any celebration of Mass in the Ordinary form, much less the Extraordinary. 

That said, the serving roles in the TLM were all actually intended to be taken by clerics.  Male servers of any age would in reality substitute for absent clerics.  The service of any female would be in sharp disharmony with the internal genius of the rite… the genius ritus.

I don’t think it is just to the rite itself, the congregation, or the girls who would serve, to do something that jarring, that aberrant.

So… because we go by today’s law, and not some other law (one in the past or one we would prefer to have were the world a happier place), I would say it is licit, but it would be deeply discordant to the point of being weird.

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  1. JohnMa says:

    There would be a TLM at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, DC if it were not for the fact that the powers that be there have mandated that for the Mass to happen female altar servers must be involved.

  2. doanli says:

    Agree, Father.

  3. Victor says:

    I have a related question:
    As a layman, could I serve as Subdeacon in a Usus Antiquor High Mass?

  4. adt6247 says:


    You could serve as a “Straw Subdeacon”. You would not be serving as subdeacon, per se, but as a stand-in for the subdeacon. Also, there are certain tasks in the Solemn High Mass that you could not perform that a subdeacon does. I don’t remember what they are, but most of it happens during the offetory.

    At my parish, we occasionally use a straw subdeacon, otherwise we would rarely offer a Missa Solemnis.

  5. JohnMa: How do you know that?

  6. Ung Foy says:

    Did I read that correctly? Even at the OF Mass, female altar servers cannot be imposed by the bishop on the priest celebrating Mass? I assumed that if the bishop allowed “Altar Angels” as they are called around here, the priest had no choice. Is that not true? What is strange is that we are always praying for vocations here. Yet, aren’t most priests former altar boys? Most servers here are now girls. It’s as if it happened almost over night. And how many boys of that age will sign up to be “Altar Angels”? You couldn’t have devised a better system for engendering resentment on the part of girls that they can serve at the altar but never be priests and for drying up one source of priestly vocations than if you purposefully set out to do so.

  7. The issue of a “straw” subdeacon is really a different, though not unrelated, question.

  8. Magpie says:

    This must not happen. We have mostly altar serviettes in my parish. It is very jarring.

  9. Magpie says:

    My OF parish I should add.

  10. Ung Foy: You read that correctly.

    Female servers cannot be imposed on any priest.

    In 2001 there was a document from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments "Concerning the Use of Female Altar Servers" (Prot. 2451/00/L – July 27, 2001) which clarifies about the interpretation of CIC 1983 can. 230.2 – a permissive, not a prescriptive interpretation –  that (my emphases):

    In accord with the above cited instructions of the Holy See such an authorization may not, in any way, exclude men or, in particular, boys from service at the altar, nor require that priests of the diocese would make use of female altar servers, since "it will always be very appropriate to follow the noble tradition of having boys serve at the altar" (Circular Letter to the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences, March 15, 1994, no. 2). Indeed, the obligation to support groups of altar boys will always remain, not least of all due to the well known assistance that such programs have provided since time immemorial in encouraging future priestly vocations (cf. ibid.).

    In other words diocesan his Excellency Most Rev. Guido O’Reilly Bishop of Tall Tree Circle cannot force Fr. Jose Chang of St. Ipsidipsy to have altar girls for Mass.   Can. 230.2 is permissive… it allows for female substitution for instituted lectors or acolytes.  It does not require this.  And as male service is the norm, female service being an exception to the norm, priests cannot be obliged to have female altar servers.  Indeed, a pastor of a parish really cannot even force an assistant priest to have altar girls for his Masses either.

    That said, there are the practical difficulties that come from saying "No.", and they are not to be taken lightly.

  11. medievalist says:

    There are rare historical references from the Middle Ages, at least in England, where women served at the altar. I have only seen one such reference in a parish visitation of a bishop from a southern-English diocese, which appeared to be in the context of no other cleric, and no male, and no boy being available for some reason. Apparently the woman made the responses although the entry is brief enough to prevent any knowledge of from where in the church.

    His dictis, this was an incredibly rare historical instance, not something that became a medieval tradition, and not something upon which any modern practice should be built. Moreover, being medieval, I greatly doubt that Fr McBrien et al., should they ever say or encourage the TLM, would use this as a justification because everything from that time was baaaaaaaaad!

  12. Mike says:

    I have attended maybe 7 or 8 TLMs. I have never had a clearer, more uplifting sense of my own lay status. No ladies or altar girls, no “eucharistic ministers” in suits.

    Thanks, Fr. Z for clarifying the “permissive” nature of this canon. How many Tojan horses have entered the City of God by that route, well, only God knows!

  13. “Comment by JohnMa — 7 June 2010 @ 2:12 pm”

    For reasons stated in the good Father’s post, and again in his remarks at 3:16 pm, this directive would be illicit; that is, unlawful. That they are in a position to force their will is not in dispute, but the law does not support them. No parish, no church, no bishop, no BODY, can force female altar servers (or male altar servers, for that matter) on any priest. Those of us who serve, do so entirely at the pleasure of the celebrant.

    For what it’s worth, in the Diocese of Arlington, the indult allowing female altar servers is officially rescinded for the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass, as is communion in the hand (which in my experience is rarely an issue).

  14. TrueLiturgy says:

    I thought you had to be an instituted acolyte to be a “straw” subdeacon? Also, Father, could you expand on the practical with saying no, and a pastoral approach to recinding the offer at a parish for female servers?

    BTW, Diocese of Arlington…w00t! If you are in this diocese, Queen of Apostles in Alexandria has the most licit Mass OF that I know of. One priest doesn’t follow the rubrics, the other 2 do. And they bow to the tabernacle rather than the altar and insist that the servers do as well. When I serve there, they wish me to do so, and so I wonder if I am supposed to be obedient to them, or to the rubics??? One priest has a weird way of purification, wine and water…is this licit? Where does this come from? But one of the best things is seeing no male servers in the Sactuary. EMHCs and lectors are another story. Anyone know of an even better one in the area?


  15. shane says:

    On a related point, can anyone please tell me if I am correct or not in reading this to mean that, under certain circumstances, it’s permissible for women to read the epistle (/substitute as lector) during a dialogue Mass?


    Private Response of the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith
    December 16, 1961
    (Canon Law Digest 6, 153)

    On the 9th day of November last, His Excellency, the Most Reverand Maximiliam de Furstenberg, Apostolic Delegate to Australia, New Zealand and Oceania, submitted the following question to this Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith on behalf of His Lordship, the Most Reverand Launcelot Goody, Bishop of Bunbury:
    Is it permitted in a community of religious, or at a Mass when only females are present, or at a school Mass, when both boys and girls are present, for a female religious, or a schoolgirl to read the epistle or the gospel or both in the vernacular during a dialogue Mass?
    In reply I wish to inform Your Excellency that this Sacred Congregation, after mature deliberation, answers: “Yes.”

  16. swamp_rabbit says:

    So, the question remains, what do we “do” with these girls who are alter servers? In my parish, the girl servers are far more attentive to the rubrics, to proper dress, etc, than the boy servers. I mean, some education for the boys would be great and might clean that up, but still, I don’t like the tone that these discussions take. Many of these girls do an excellent job.
    Now, that may not be at the heart of the discussion, but any thoughts? Seems like a bit of a mess….

  17. kgurries says:

    medievalist, evidently this practice still occurs in some places (including SSPX as far as I am told). When only a woman is present at daily mass — she will assist the priest with the responses, etc. — typically from just outside the altar rail. This seems to be a reasonable and appropriate response to a real necessity — and similar to what you mention from earlier times. If there was no qualified male server present then Mass would proceed with any qualified female “server”.

  18. Jacob says:

    Regarding St. Matthew’s in DC and the last comment on that, I would just reply that while the authorities overseeing the use of the cathedral cannot mandate that a priest has to use female altar servers in his masses, they /can/ mandate who has access to the cathedral for saying mass.

    I cannot corroborate JohnMa’s claim, but that is the scenario that comes to my mind from it.

  19. “Comment by TrueLiturgy — 7 June 2010 @ 4:06 pm”

    Fortescue says that a layman must be at least a recipient of tonsure to function as a “straw” subdeacon. In the current law, the equivalent to that would be “Admission to Candidacy.” In actual practice, even before the 1960s, it was not unheard of, nor was it uncommon in a parish setting, for an untonsured layman to serve in this position. In either case, they would still be prevented from certain ritual actions during the Offertory.

    With respect to …

    “One priest has a weird way of purification, wine and water…is this licit? Where does this come from?”

    … it would depend on what you mean by “weird.” In the traditional form, the priest uses both water and wine to purify the vessels, and for his ablutions, holding his fingers over the chalice as the wine/water is poured. I do not know what exactly is prescribed in the ordinary form.

    As to the practice of bowing as opposed to genuflection, it would depend. If they are holding a cross, candles, Book of Gospels, or other object of reverence, a bow is done instead of genuflecting.

    “Comment by swamp_rabbit — 7 June 2010 @ 4:25 pm”

    That girls of early- or pre-adolescent age are more mature is not a startling revelation. Nor is it a surprise that when girls predominate in this role in a parish, the boys tend to decline — in part out of intimidation, but also because it is no longer seen as a “manly” thing to do.

    The fact is, that the role of altar server has traditionally been associated with the priesthood in a way that other “lay liturgical ministries” are not. Even the 1994 decree permitting female altar servers acknowledges this. Whereas other functions serve the assembly, only the acolyte serves the priest. The “mess” to which you refer can be cleaned up by remembering this.

    Inasmuch as the young ladies themselves are not the object of any attack (I tend to blame their parents for setting them up to begin with), tell me more about this alleged “tone.”

  20. “On a related point, can anyone please tell me if I am correct or not in reading this to mean that, under certain circumstances, it’s permissible for women to read the epistle (/substitute as lector) during a dialogue Mass?”

    Absolutely not, under any circumstance. The most that would be permitted, is for a tonsured layman (more likely one installed to the minor order of lector, or its postconciliar equivalent) to read the epistle. This is not unheard of at a High (not to be confused with Solemn) Mass, for example.

  21. Jackie L says:

    With each passing day the TLM becomes less something for traditionalists, and more something for the whole church. We’d better prepare good answers to this question of altar girls, answers that are charitable and will make sense to the average Catholic. I know many good Catholics who have been encouraging their daughters to serve the NO, or young ladies who choose to serve for all the right reasons. Misguided as they may be.

  22. Supertradmum says:

    A good priest in our deanery tried to do away with NO altar babes. He was horribly criticized and slandered by people in his parish.

    I am totally against the girls in the sanctuary. Here,they wear little sparkling sandals and sometimes matching sparkling tiaras and do look like angels in a Christmas play. The boys do a better job.

    I think the Pope should reverse the rule and also re-establish the lower orders as part of the seminarian steps to the deaconate.

  23. Supertradmum says:

    PS Those good NO parents who are encouraging their daughters to serve could be encouraging them to look into becoming nuns at 18, an age which several traditional and conservative orders take the girls. I am afraid that having these girls become altar babes takes their focus away from being nuns.

  24. introibo says:

    A very good priest in our diocese, Fr. Greg Markey (about whom Fr. Z has written) did away with altar girls in his parish. Period. He instituted a girls’ “club” which included activities related to preparing altar linens and the like. He, too, was criticized all over the place in the secular press for months afterwards. But it all died down, and his parish is known as THE traditional enclave in the diocese.

  25. Gail F says:

    My daughter used to be an altar server, and my son has never wanted to. In my NO parish, about half the servers are girls and half are boys. I don’t know why we have so many boys, unless someone in the parish is recruiting them. Anyway, I did not have a problem with her serving but I also would not have a problem if they changed the servers to all boys. If anyone cares for my OPINION, quite apart from whether something is a good idea or not, I think that some of the opinions about girls expressed here verge on insulting and I can see that many parents would be upset by them if anyone expressed them in a meeting or otherwise in a general crowd. IMHO, stick to whether it is a good idea to have all boys or not have all boys, don’t call the girls “altar babes” or say the parents are bad in some way. To me, the most compelling argument is altar servers as encouraging vocations to the priesthood.

  26. iudicame says:

    “Fortescue says that a layman must be at least a recipient of tonsure”

    Some of us are preordained in this respect – eh Black Hat?


  27. Philippus says:

    Here’s another question:

    Are married men allowed to serve at TLM’s? [Yes, of course they are.] I would love to serve, but I don’t know that I have seen any married men doing that at all.

  28. Supertradmum says:

    May I add that boys at a certain age, do not want to be involved in a group which includes girls. In every NO parish where I have been,the number of boy servers went down with the increase in the number of girls. The idea of boy servers being special and connected to the priesthood is still in the consciousness of most Catholics. I do firmly believe that the womenpriest movement will get some of these young ladies who are used to being on the altar…

  29. Girgadis says:

    Gail F

    Thank you for your comments. It can be so painful to read some of these remarks that insinuate things not so charitable about Catholic girls.

    I grew tired of our former pastor pleading for servers, so 5 years ago, I asked our youngest child to help him out. Despite the fact that she has a reconstructed hip and heart problems requiring two different medications a day, she agreed, even though it sometimes meant kneeling on marble steps and wearing a polyester alb on warm days. When our new pastor arrived and shortly after him, the TLM, I left the door open for him to dismiss her, but he didn’t. In fact, at the risk of commiting a sin of pride, I’d say she is one of the most reliable and attentive servers he has, to the point where she has even taken under her wings some of the younger boys. (she’s like a mother hen, pointing out what to do and where to go next). She has no delusions whatsoever about becoming a
    priest(ess) or serving at the TLM. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that all of the time she has spent in service to Our Lord in this way, especially when it wasn’t always convenient or comfortable for her, has drawn her closer to Him in a way that gives me hope to think she may have a vocation to the religious life. At least one priest has mentioned this to me and we’re both praying that if it’s God’s will, she will be called. When she isn’t assigned to serve at the NO Mass (and that’s rare with so few servers) she looks forward to coming with me to the TLM. She doesn’t own a pair of sandals or flip flops and wouldn’t think of wearing something inappropriate on her feet or her body to Mass, whether she’s serving or not. Meanwhile, any time the boys want to give up their soccer/football/softball/sport du jour, they’re welcome to leave her without an assignment.

  30. Supertradmum says:


    Are the girl servers technically “acolytes”? [No, of course they are not.] What about “sacristy clubs”, which we used to have, where the girls set up the vestments, washed and ironed the linens and cleaned out the candle holders,etc.? Service which is not seen is good practice for being a mum.

  31. Tom A. says:

    At the local NO parish, my oldest son was one of two boys to train for Altar Serving. There were 10 girls. My second son was also one of two boys but only 6 girls that year. There is something terribly wrong with our Catholic culture. It has been infected with Americanism. At the local TLM parish that I go to as often as possible, the Priest personally asked my boys to serve. He is a Priest who understands vocations!

  32. Byzcat says:

    Come to the Byzantine Rite Liturgies. There are no female “altar servers”. We of the Romanian Rite in the US still use the ancient, unmodified Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil with the traditional tones and chants.

  33. C. says:

    My understanding from Reid’s work is that some elements of the earlier Code of Canon Law do apply at the Extraordinary Form, as this was the intent of the legislator in establishing Quattuor Abhinc Annos, Ecclesia Dei, Summorum Pontificum, etc. – the earlier Form, not simply the earlier Missale.

  34. Jahaza says:

    Shane, I’m not sure if you’re making this point or not… but that’s apparently not a matter of women substituting as Lectors, but of them reading in the vernacular while the priest reads in English.

    It’s also a private reply, so as I understand it, it binds only the recipient.

  35. moon1234 says:

    Reading the Gospel and Epistle in the vernacular while the Priest is reading the Epistle or Gospel is an abuse. You see this in the SSPX in France (At least on Youtube.)

    The whole idea of wanting to “Change” or inject things into the TLM just seems odd. Say the Black and do the Red. No reading between the lines or in a different color.

    Priests need to encourage young men to come forward. Parents need to be supportive and encourage their sons. This is not baseball, soccer or the debate team. We are at Mass to worship our Lord, not play meet the sexes.

    This whole business with female altar assistants would NOT be here is the minor orders were not abolished. It is time to bring them back. It is time to have public local vesting ceremonies for Acolytes, etc. Young men need to be seen and recognized for choosing to take on a minor order and discern the priesthood.

    Young women need nuns as role models. They need to see traditional roles for women as an uplifting and positive contribution to the Catholic community. It is sad that women feel the need to fill male roles in the church and abdicate the positions of honor set aside for them.

  36. mpolo says:

    There’s actually nothing stopping conferring the ministry of Acolyte on unmarried men and boys in the current legislation, as far as I know. You could have a public local vesting ceremony as it is. I have been at at least two parishes that had instituted acolytes (in addition to the normal altar servers).

    As someone else has mentioned, the problem with altar girls is less that the altar girls are inappropriate, but that at the ages where boys become altar boys, most boys don’t want to hang around girls. Even when they get older, a boy who is serious about serving at the altar will generally prefer NOT to have girls in the presbyterium with him to distract from the Mass.

    A possible “pastoral” solution would be to separate the lists of male and female altar servers and arrange that each Mass is served by one sex at a time. Formation activities for the servers would also be done separately. Most importantly, we have to go back to recruiting boys for this service. After First Communion or so, we should be inviting them to sign up.

  37. C. says:

    The USCCB Committee on the Liturgy newsletter also recognizes that at the Extraordinary Form, “Only clerics or ‘altar boys’ perform liturgical ministry”.

  38. AnAmericanMother says:


    I think you’re absolutely right. At the age when boys need to ‘get in the habit’ – before the “fumes” take over (that’s gas fumes and perfumes) – they think girls are too awful for words.

    Your suggestion about separate teams does actually work pretty well — our former Episcopal parish organized the altar servers that way. A beneficial side effect was that a bit of friendly rivalry developed between the squads, so that each tried to outdo the others in promptness, precision, and neatness.

    Another solution (that our home parish is using now) is to organize the altar servers along frankly military lines – with strict drill, military rank, promotions, etc. That puts the girly girls off right out of the box and quite a few more fall by the wayside. So the remaining girls (largely from military families!) are very serious about what they’re doing and a little bit on their mettle. My daughter came in late, in the middle of the program, when we converted, but she rose to the rank of colonel and made the Elite squad. She always put her hair up to serve, and she’s tall and thin, so she was never conspicuous among the boys.

    I will say that I can’t imagine why anybody who is attending a TLM would want to have female altar servers, or why a priest celebrating the EF would have it even begin to cross his mind. It just seems like a purely hypothetical speculation.

  39. irishgirl says:

    introibo-bravo to your priest, Father Markey, for taking the bit in both hands and abolishing altar girls!

    Now that’s my kind of pastor!

    I know that Bishop Bruskiewitz in Lincoln does not allow altar girls serve in his diocesan churches. I wonder what will happen when he retires and a new Bishop comes in?

  40. ikseret says:

    There are ways to phase out altar girls.
    One is to be strategic with the scheduling.
    Another is to give all the servers even less to do than normal, e.g., ONLY carry the water and wine to the priest – no incesne, no holding of missal, no processions.
    A third, for pastors, is to introduce Latin into the Novus Ordo. When you remind people of tradition, they will little by little reacquaint themselves with it and notice abberations.

    In my opinion, one of the reasons there are so few boys willing to serve in many places is that serving at the Novus Ordo is neither an art nor a challenge. Boys like challenges. That’s why they play sports; that’s why they like to play soldier. In the traditional Mass, there is a lot of precise military like movements. There are many Latin phrases to memorize. The server must be constantly attentive. If not, everyone will know! It’s an extra incentive for a young boy that taps into the male psyche.
    Compare that with the Novus Ordo where the server is relatively unimportant. He can almost sleep through the Mass until the offertory, and then again afterward. In fact, Mass can be said very easily without a server. It’s totally different with the TLM.

  41. ikseret says:

    On other thing is the moral issue which mpolo hit on.
    Once one hits the age of reason, one can be tempted to unlcean thoughts. And seeing girls at Mass might become very distracting for a young boy who might otherwise be very pious. Remember, boys struggle with their hormones and the effects of original sin and so may seem to shun activities with girls, either because of shyness or as a defense mechanism. They also don’t want to be perceived as doing girly things, but they also are not sure how to interact properly with girls.

    Pastors of souls as well as parents should be concerned for the moral development of their sons. Perhaps St. Johnn Bosco has something to offer as well as St. Dominic Savio.

    We live in a culture which has no concept of occasions of sin. We shouldn’t place an obstacle to young boys’ devotion and focusing on the Mass -either from the pew or the sanctuary – by seeing girls their age serving, especially in a role so linked to the priesthood.

  42. Jahaza says:

    Reading the Gospel and Epistle in the vernacular while the Priest is reading the Epistle or Gospel is an abuse. You see this in the SSPX in France (At least on Youtube.)

    I find the practice to be entirely undesirable, but I’m fairly certain that it’s been permitted. I can’t dig you up a citation until tonight, but feel free to provide a citation that shows it is an abuse.

  43. AJP says:

    Male only altar servers are the ideal, given the connection to priestly vocations, but the “phasing out” of female altar servers is a very difficult issue that needs to be handled with *a lot* of sensitivity. Remember, these are children we’re talking about, often who have become altar servers with very good, pure intentions. They aren’t raging feminazis at their age, but treat them with disrespect, call them names, and assume the worst about their private motivations, and you’ll turn these girls into future Joan Chittisters and Mary Dalys. One must be especially sensitive if one is in a parish where there is a lack of male servers not because altar serving has become too girly, but because sports have become a priority for boys and their families. Some other posters have encountered this in their parishes – I have as well. Don’t even get me started on how borderline idolatrous youth sports have become for so many families . . .

    Anyhow, one suggestion I have for what to do with girl altar servers is to start an all girls schola. Girls at that age love to sing. Have the schola do Gregorian chant, the propers for the Mass (instead of the four hymn sandwich). Call it the St. Cecilia Society or something along those lines. Provide special group devotions for the girls, retreats, etc. Just as it is important for boys that age to have some exclusively male spiritual activities, so is it for girls.

    This way the girls will feel included and feel like they really are doing something important in the service of the Mass. That might sound vain and superficial to us, but remember we’re talking about children and adolescents here, who most likely have not had the benefit of sound catechesis and long term exposure to traditional liturgy. Seriously, be gentle!

  44. MichaelJ says:

    This discussion highlights a curious tendency in our society to cater (some would say pander) to girls. As a member of the “He-Man woman haters club”, I have no trouble believing that females are delicate and require extra special handling with kid gloves, but I am curious as to why anyone else would think so. (Lest there be any confusion, yes I am kidding, and exaggerated to the point of absurdity to illustrate a point)

    I have noticed this especially in public schools, returning to a more serious discussion. For years, we have been told that girls were in danger of being left behind and were uniterested (presumably because of some mysoginist tendency) in “hard-science” so required special programs and incentives – much like what is being suggested here. Judging by my son’s recent middle school awards banquet, these special programs have either wildly succeeded to the point where it is the boys who are in danger, or were never really necessary in the first place. Of the fourteen honor roll awards given, two were to boys.

  45. Elly says:

    I was an altar server for one year and I did not like it! For some reason my parents gave me the option of being an altar server or going to CCD in 6th grade and although I didn’t like serving I liked CCD even less.

  46. AnAmericanMother says:


    That’s normal in middle school – your average boy at that age is academically a bit behind (and also in many cases completely uninterested in academics). Girls are more biddable and more conformist. Once they reach high school it all evens out a bit, so long as the boys haven’t been totally squashed by schools that don’t teach the way they need to learn.

    Rather than having programs catering to girls, we really should have programs giving boys more motivation towards schoolwork. Or separate-sex classes. My high school (private Christian, nominally Presbyterian) was still divided into a Boys School and Girls School when I went through – that of course is Gone With the Wind.

    As far as the altar serving goes, though, if you’re going to take that activity away from the girls you need to substitute something in its place. That is not pandering or catering – just common sense. The girls’ schola is a first class idea.

  47. I know priests who are trying to get rid of altar girls are their parishes, they are suffering much for doing so.

  48. AnAmericanMother says:


    Use a little common sense!

    No mother of a girl is going to stand for the attitude of “getting rid of” her daughter. And I would think that, if you are a father of a daughter yourself, or contemplate someday becoming one, that would give you a little twinge.

    Think in terms of offering girls something positive to do that will attract them more than altar serving. A schola is a good idea, an altar guild, a girl’s vocation club, a pious sodality of some sort. Consult with the parents, inquire among the girls themselves. Use your head.

    But don’t think or talk in terms of “getting rid of” girls. Would you ever say, “get rid of babies”? You have to think about how that sounds. Words mean things.

  49. MichaelJ says:


    Are you suggesting that those “educational experts” who repeatedly told me that girls need special attention in order to succeed in school were lying? I’m shocked!

    Seriously though, I am not quite sure if I agree 100 percent with your statement that “you need to substitute something in its place”. It suggests that girls need an “activity” to keep them interested in the Mass moreso than boys do. Most boys, after all, do not, and cannot serve at the Altar.

  50. AnAmericanMother says:

    No, it suggests that girls who are interested in serving, just like the boys who are interested in serving, need an opportunity to serve.

    That’s how you get vocations, for boys or girls. It obviously makes sense to differentiate, because their vocations are going to be different.

    Another interesting approach I have seen in another parish is vesting the girls in habits instead of cassocks and cottas. I don’t know how their duties differ, although I presume they do. But they look simply adorable, which goes a long way towards mollifying parents.

    By the way, anything that comes out of the teachers’ unions (including their pet ‘experts’) is a crock, to put it mildly, and we all know it. That’s why we scrimped and saved to put our children in private schools. It’s tantamount to child abuse to put a kid in the City of Atlanta public school system, and even the suburban systems here are not all they should be.

  51. Henry Edwards says:

    All this agonizing about what to “do” with girls started out with a question about TLM altar servers. Whereas in no TLM community have I ever heard any of this stuff mentioned, let alone agonized about ad infinitum.

    In our Latin Mass community almost all of the boys are altar servers, and almost all the girls sing in the choir. The girls’ job is vastly more challenging — learning the propers weekly, maintaining a repertoire of seasonal Mass ordinaries, and all the usual classical Latin hymns — but the girls seem to be up to it.

    It all works well. At a certain age, many or most of the boys say they want to be priests, many of the girls say nuns. What’s to complain about?

  52. joan ellen says:

    Isn’t it time to make a conscious effort, in the Church and in the culture, to encourage the distinctions between girls and boys, men and women? To sort and separate, and to return to a hierarchical Church and society? Does’t the blur confuse, mislead, and lessen our dignity…and maybe even put our souls in jeopardy? Don’t we as laity have a duty to this by prayer and example? Don’t we need mercy from Jesus and more grace to do this? Grace, Immaculate Grace, from the Mother of Divine Grace.

  53. “Comment by AnAmericanMother — 8 June 2010 @ 2:38 pm”

    I think it’s been pretty well established that, when referring to a young lady who serves, we are speaking of someone’s daughter. That she be allowed to maintain her feminine dignity does not, in and of itself, entitle her to serve at the altar. It is a privilege, not an ideological statement, not a point to be made about the role of women in the church, the role of the laity in the church, or anything else, other than in terms of the relationship between that role, and that of the priest.

    If we’re going to apply “common sense,” we can start by recognizing something for what it is, and quit acting like it’s something that it’s not. Once that’s accomplished, we can get back on the subject.

  54. RichardR says:

    ikseret said:
    “Once one hits the age of reason, one can be tempted to unlcean thoughts. And seeing girls at Mass might become very distracting for a young boy who might otherwise be very pious. Remember, boys struggle with their hormones and the effects of original sin” … Apparently seeing boys at Mass is distracting for some priests who might otherwise be very pious.

    AJP suggests”
    “…one suggestion I have for what to do with girl altar servers is to start an all girls schola. Girls at that age love to sing. Have the schola do Gregorian chant, the propers for the Mass…” Would it not be more traditional to use castrati – perhaps we could call for volunteers?

  55. AnAmericanMother says:


    I think you missed the point.

    My 3:01 post perhaps explains my take on that issue a little better.

    My point at 2:38 is that words mean things, and references to “getting rid of” girls sounds gratuitously nasty, not to mention unpleasantly echoing more permanent methods of “getting rid of” unwanted persons. I think you’re the first person here to refer to a “young lady”, which we hope all such persons are (or can learn to be if they have missed out on that aspect of their education up until now.)

    These are not adults who are on some sort of feminist crusade, these are girls ages 7-15 or so who presumably were invited by somebody to serve at the altar. Whatever the motives of older women may be, they are adults and can take a certain amount of criticism. These are children.

    If your goal is to straighten out the anomaly of altar servers – rather than “win” an argument – then the more positive approach will bear more fruit than antagonizing people. Particularly since the girls and their parents are to some degree going to feel that a “bait and switch” has occurred, through no fault of theirs.

    Diplomacy, not snarkiness or pedantics or pontificating, is indicated here.

  56. Fr_Sotelo says:

    I agree that the altar girls should be spoken of with respect. They are innocent young ladies who have stepped forward to help, and there is no need to refer to them with special nicknames. One can be against the idea of girls serving, while at the same time remembering these girls are precious and make us proud when they wish to do something beautiful for God.

    As a priest, I know why many priests turn to altar girls. They ask the young men and are told no because it will interfere with their sports or other Sunday entertainments. And the Novus Ordo parents are seriously infected with the contagion of secularist thinking about the Sunday Mass. They often are wanting to get in, get out, like a customer at “In and Out Burger.” For the sports, they will make a commitment for their sons. Not for Mass. The idea to commit their sons to practice time and the extra time needed for Mass serving is unattractive. That is just part and parcel of the Novus Ordo mentality.

    I offer the Novus Ordo (please, no whining about Novus Ordo–I’m just in the mood today for saying that as opposed to Ordinary Form). I do not believe the Novus Ordo itself is to blame, but rather that our parents live in a highly secularized culture and have not had the catechesis and knowledge with which to combat that. Thus, with their mentality turned so worldly, they are not able to appreciate the beauty of Mass or pass this on to their sons.

  57. revfro says:

    When someone serves it is necessary that they follow proper decorum. One indications that women cannot serve in the extraordinary form is the immemorial custom that requires that the ministers wear the proper garments. These are men’s garments. Do the Red!
    Women should not dress like men. Deut. 22:5 forbids it and St. Thomas repeats that it is “sinful for a woman to wear man’s clothes, or vice versa, especially since this may be a cause of sensuous pleasure.” It would be a sin and a grave one for a women to wear vestments because it is a sacrilege for a women to wear a cassock and surplice of a man and especially a priest. Not only the clothes, but the actions of the ministers toward each other in close proximity preclude a women’s participation in these roles. The profound bows at the foot of the altar, the kiss of peace, the carrying of the patent for communion while men knelt — proper women would run in shame before they would do these things. While it might be less egregious for young girls in these roles, they have to be raised to be women not men and especially not priests.
    I think that we can safely say that women cannot performs these roles in the sanctuary. Priest and their assistance are bound to forbid women from these roles out of common sense (which may not be so common anymore). Priests need only sight the weight of the tradition in the entire church. Any reference to present law is insufficient to overturn this immemorial tradition of the extraordinary form unless the law specifically names the extraordinary form. Thankfully, I do not have to deal with this question in the NO.

  58. Fr_Sotelo says:

    The parents at the Tridentine Mass by and large are people who start to read, and to spiritually arm themselves. They often repent of their past spiritual sloth in the Novus Ordo, and strive to move from being worldlings to soldiers for Christ. This seriousness about the Mass and the spiritual life is passed on to their kids, who are way more catechized than the Novus Ordo children. Again, please no whining, I know that there are Novus Ordo families who totally go gang busters to catechize their children. I am just speaking here of the simple reality out there–not with any desire to put down the Novus Ordo crowd, for whom I am a full time pastor.

    Realistically, then, most pastors don’t know how to deal with the secularizing trend in their congregations. The Tridentine Mass, which I also have experience with, is never without a cadre of adults who recruit the young men. However, in the Novus Ordo, when young girls volunteer and show up to serve Mass, pastors will be more than happy to have the assistance of the altar girls. I have mostly young men, with just a couple of altar girls and they only come to one Mass out of the four I have. However, the idea of forming a special club for them which is attached to the liturgy but does not involve serving is a very good idea.

    In regards to Novus Ordo priests who are learning the Tridentine Mass, my question would be “if you are going to offer Tridentine Mass, why start sticking Novus Ordo stuff in there, like altar girls??” That, I think, is just plain stupid, apart from questions of whether it is legal or not. If people want altar girls, Communion in the hand, etc. just give them Novus Ordo. If you are going to offer the Traditional Latin Mass, then keep it Traditional or you are just going to look like a clown and an idiot. When I train fellow Novus Ordo priests for the Tridentine Mass, I make that very clear. Do it right, or do everyone a favor and just stick with Novus Ordo.

  59. Supertradmum says:

    I repeat, what about sacristy clubs? In grade school and in high school, those clubs were for girls only. It was cool to be working in the sacristy and at the altar outside of Mass time. It was a great honor. We set out the vestments for the next Mass, made sure the candle sticks were clear and shining, washed and ironed the linens, made sure the vestments were cleaned, organized the sacristy, etc. We even set out the Mass cards and the before and after Mass prayer cards,if needed. We made sure there was wine in the cabinet, checked the sanctuary lamps, and made sure the priest did not have to look for the tabernacle key…

    The priests always made us feel appreciated. No boys were part of the club, which made it rather exclusive and even in high school,we liked that as girls.

  60. “mwbh, I think you missed the point.”

    I know for a fact that you have. For every post that appears insensitive to girls called upon to serve, there has been another one pointing out the significance of boys’ service as opposed to that of girls. Furthermore, there is no evidence that girls’ service at the altar is an inspiration to the vocational life. Even if it were, it would be unlikely to be at the altar. Yes, the girls operate with good intentions, but those who encourage them do not. This is an innovation that was made possible through gross disobedience, and institutionalized deception. Nothing you have written could possibly lessen that. And until service at the altar is recognized for what it is, and not for what it isn’t, our young girls are going to be caught in the crossfire. Those who put them there are to blame, not those who don’t wish them there.

    Your indignation is misdirected. No amount of explanation on your part will alter that.

  61. Athanasius says:

    You could serve as a “Straw Subdeacon”. You would not be serving as subdeacon, per se, but as a stand-in for the subdeacon. Also, there are certain tasks in the Solemn High Mass that you could not perform that a subdeacon does. I don’t remember what they are, but most of it happens during the offetory.

    The “straw subdeacon” does not wear a maniple, he does not pour the water and ask the blessing, and he does not uncover the chalice after the pax. Neither does he wipe the chalice, rather the celebrant has to clean it then he may veil it.

    On the other hand it is a good point to bring up for this reason, there was an indult for the US and mission territories in the late 50s that allows a layman to assume the office, just as a layman assumes the offices of the acolytes, who also used to be clerics exclusively. The only thing that allows a layman to do be a subdeacon is that indult. On the other hand, the PCED determined that female altar servers may not be used at a Traditional Latin Mass. Since they have competence with respect to adjudication of Traditional issues their decisions when approved indicate the direction of the current law with respect to the traditional Mass. So it is not allowed to have wymyn servers.

  62. Introibo2009 says:

    At my home parish (NO), only boys serve. It’s been that way since the foundation of the parish. The program for altar servers in that parish has always been one of honor, privilege, and strict attention to detail. By that I mean it is viewed as an honor and a privilege to serve the Mass, not a right or a matter of anyone’s equality. Our former bishop allowed girls to serve at the altar (as does the present one), and the present pastor has said he would allow them to serve if there was a need. Since it’s a matter of need, no girls serve. The parish has 45 boys who serve and are extremely well-trained. Every year boys in third grade are recruited for training, and that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll become altar servers. The rule is basically do it as flawlessly as possible, or you won’t do it at all. The training is rigorous (compared to many parishes I’ve encountered where there is apparently little or no training at all) and continuous. The program has also long been viewed as vocational, and I am the third priest to have come from that program. That parish is known throughout the archdiocese as one of the few parishes with all-male servers, and it’s also acknowledged throughout the archdiocese that it has the best servers in the archdiocese, bar none.

    In my present parish it’s quite a different story, but in one year I’ve managed to correct a lot of the frustrating behavior of altar servers (boys and girls) simply by introducing a structured training program and insisting on quality of service. The difference is palpable in the parish. I haven’t been able to separate the boys from the girls (for strictly political reasons). And, for the record, the girls will skip Mass-serving assignments for sports just as fast as the boys will.

    Children will only do what is expected of them. Sadly, in many NO parishes, very little is expected of them. Not so in my current parish; I set the bar high and keep it there. No server sleeps through a Mass here.

    Returning to the “noble tradition” of all-male altar servers is a thorny business, indeed, and I’m sure I’ll be “hung on the cross” when I do it. But if that’s what it takes to make the Holy Mass the awesome foretaste of Heaven it is intended to be, then so be it. And it makes no difference whether one prefers the NO or the TLM in this respect; the Mass is either leading us closer to Heaven or it is not. A Mass that is served well goes a long way toward making the Mass the divine liturgical experience it is meant to be. I’m not saying that girls can’t serve the Mass well – some can; I’m saying that there are better ways for girls to serve the liturgy (as several other posters have noted).

    Oremus pro invicem.

  63. ikseret says:

    Richard R, apparently you like to wear you anti-Catholicism on your sleeve. My comment was meant for those who care about the moral development of young men, especially those with a normal sexual attraction, but who must struggle with the effects of original sin. Concupiscence in males is often inflamed by something visual. (Statistics show that males far outnumber women in purchasing pornography.) Thus, there was a practical effect of the custom of women veiling themselves at Mass. Ad orientem for the priest is also practically useful for this. While we are wrong to posit females as a source of sin, it is important that females realize their power over men. Their physical attractiveness can be alluring to men in ways that male attractiveness does not allure women. Alas we are in an age which has abandoned modesty and propriety.

    But, you do have a point in that the sexual abuse by a small percentage of priests was overwhelmingly homosexual in nature. Thank you for admitting that.
    It is important that men with homosexual tendencies realize that it is best that they do not present themselves for ordination.

  64. ikseret says:

    Athanasius, I heard that the priest who says High Mass at St. Mary’s in Washington DC on second Sundays has a recent letter from Rome that forbids straw subdeacons.

  65. “Comment by ikseret — 8 June 2010 @ 7:53 pm”

    I think (or at least I hope) you have the wrong thread.

    “Comment by ikseret — 8 June 2010 @ 7:55 pm”

    I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that you have nothing with which to substantiate this; that it is, as you suggest, a rumor.

    It is very unlikely that a clarification was issued forbidding the practice of “straw subdeacons.” It is much more likely that they are required to have received tonsure (or the post-conciliar equivalent, which is Admission to Candidacy). This interpretation is upheld by Fortescue, if only in the latest edition edited by Reid.

  66. Athanasius says:

    Athanasius, I heard that the priest who says High Mass at St. Mary’s in Washington DC on second Sundays has a recent letter from Rome that forbids straw subdeacons.

    That would be good to know as I recently assumed the office for a solemn Mass in my parish, and if the old indult has been withdrawn that would be important to put into effect as there are several parishes that make use of laymen when they don’t have sufficient clergy. The question would be was that a letter from the PCED’s prefect or something from someone without authority? If its true it needs to be known so that people aren’t doing things they should not.

    It is very unlikely that a clarification was issued forbidding the practice of “straw subdeacons.” It is much more likely that they are required to have received tonsure (or the post-conciliar equivalent, which is Admission to Candidacy). This interpretation is upheld by Fortescue, if only in the latest edition edited by Reid.</blockquote.

    Fortescue never dealt directly with the question of a non-tonsured subdeacon because he was dead when that indult was given. The practice in the ceremonial, mentioned back in the 19th century was that someone with tonsure could assume the office of subdeacon. So I don’t think that is what was being dealt with in the letter which ikseret mentiones.

    There is however the problem that there was a decision a while back, I’ll have to find it somewhere, that the installed ministries such as Acolyte and Lector do not correspond to their orders in the old rite, and likewise neither does admittance to candidacy or tonsure in the monastic orders correspond to the rite of tonsure in the pre-conciliar liturgy. They are considered something different in re. Thus someone ordained to acolyte in the old liturgy is not an installed acolyte under the new canon law.

    There is also the question of whether or not the minor orders could have been abolished, or whether it is just a question of the new rite does not use them. If the former is true and the Church has the power to abolish the minor orders (which seems to me unlikely since those orders are almost all apostolic) then anyone with or without permission who ordains men to those orders commits a sacrilege, since the rite of ordination to those orders is not effecting what its ritual claims it is. Thus you are left with only a priest or deacon could assume the office of subdeacon, which would further diminish the possibility of a solemn Mass in many places.

  67. AnAmericanMother says:


    Once again, you missed the point. Once again, I will attempt to explain.

    I am in complete agreement that girls can serve better elsewhere. And I’m in complete agreement that those who allowed girls on the altar in the first place were misguided at best.

    The problem is method: how we can discourage the girls from altar service with as little fanfare and kerfuffle as possible, and without damaging their faith or desire to serve the Church. And do this despite the fact that misguided people in charge have allowed female altar servers for years – longer than most of the girls in question have been alive.

    How are we going to do this?

    We are NOT going to do it with super-trad chest thumping, prideful citation of all the weighty theological reasons for altar boys only, or calling the girls names and talking about how to “get rid of” them. That tack will not get the job done . . . and it will drive otherwise sensible and devoted girls away, perhaps from the Church altogether if the feminists get their ear. No parish priest wants the trouble generated by that approach — he’s got enough on his hands already.

    I believe the best way to gently disengage girls from altar service will be a combination of catechesis, actively recruiting boys, making service less attractive to the girls (as my parish has done), and providing viable, attractive alternatives.

    Be wise as serpents – but gentle as doves.

    I’m not indignant, just weary of unrealistic thinking.

  68. “Comment by AnAmericanMother — 9 June 2010 @ 8:58 am”

    I don’t believe you HAVE a point. Unless you can define “chest-thumping,” or explain why “weighty theological reasons for altar boys only” is some kind of an impediment to understanding the issue. Yes, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do the right thing. But first we determine the right thing, and be honest with ourselves that there is no way around it. That was MY point. I don’t have anything to do with name-calling.

    “I believe the best way to gently disengage girls from altar service will be a combination of catechesis, actively recruiting boys, making service less attractive to the girls (as my parish has done), and providing viable, attractive alternatives …”

    … which people will disregard without catechisis, which often consists of “weighty theological reasons for altar boys only.”

  69. “Fortescue never dealt directly with the question of a non-tonsured subdeacon because he was dead when that indult was given. The practice in the ceremonial, mentioned back in the 19th century was that someone with tonsure could assume the office of subdeacon. So I don’t think that is what was being dealt with in the letter which ikseret mentions.”

    My reference to “Fortescue” was to the book, not the man. Such is not uncommon, and which I made clear by referring directly to the edition published by Reid (who was the one responsible for the footnote, if one is to be precise). Ikseret was referring to the practice of straw subdeacons, and his original comment made no distinction between those with or without tonsure. I have served with the two gentlemen at St Mary’s who have substituted as subdeacons. Both are fine gentlemen, and both would much prefer that the role be assumed by a major cleric.

    While the universal law concerning what was once minor orders, would apply even to current use of the traditional form of Mass (in other words, they don’t really exist), the traditional orders and institutes (FSSP, ICKS, and so on) use them in ceremony anyway, presumedly to define one’s clerical status within their own order or institute. That Fortescue/Reid (that is, the book and the editor) would correspond tonsure with Admission to Candidacy, would seem to imply some sort of equivalency.

    In the meantime, I can tell you for a fact, that seminarians from the Fraternity who have received tonsure, do act legitimately as straw subdeacons. I was the MC for one of them just this past Sunday.

  70. Gulielmus says:

    JohnMa’s post about St Matthew’s in Washington is incorrect. I know the rector and have discussed the matter with him. However, it raises a question:

    Given the number of places where Summorum Pontificum has not yet been realized, and the desire of many in those areas for the EF, is the inadvisable, but licit, practice of using female altar servers a dealbreaker? If the only reason a TLM is not available because someone in charge won’t refuse to use altar girls, would those who have no access to any EF mass prefer there be none?

  71. ALL: I think most people agree that the norm of male only service is clearly the way to go and the goal to aim for in those places where girls and women are still in some way serving.

    However, there is no reason to be brusque or insensitive in making the transition. What does it serve to be unkind about it? Cui bono?

    The transition does need to be made – as does a transition to the norm of Communion on the tongue, and kneeling, and more Latin and ad orientem worship. But all this requires patience and charity and common sense.

  72. Gulielmus: inadvisable, but licit, practice of using female altar servers a dealbreaker?

    I suspect that for most communities it would be. I suspect that most people interested in the older Mass would rather not have it at all than have girls serving.

    It’s a good question.

    Tonight I could post a poll about that, once the present poll is over.

  73. Fr_Sotelo says:


    Wherever the EF Mass is offered, a community forms around it which has a certain initiative to see that the liturgy is faithful to its principles. The parents who attend will go above and beyond the call of duty to find boys only for the service of the altar.

    That initiative is what I see in my experience. Thus, if a priest is going to start a TLM, and insists on using altar girls, most folks are going to wonder, “what is going on here?” I believe it would be a dealbreaker, but not because of the girls, per se. Rather, people can sniff out a hidden agenda.

    That hidden agenda would be, “we need to teach these folks a lesson about not being rigid, and seeing the importance of the Novus Ordo reforms. So, we’ll give them a TLM, but we will also push the envelope. If that means altar girls, using the new lectionary, offering Communion in the hand, having lay ministers of Holy Communion, etc. they will just need to deal with that because the reality of the modern church.”

    I would not blame the faithful for saying, “thanks, but no thanks. We are seeking out an oasis from liturgical creativity, not a setting where the same old tired antics are stuck in our face again.”

  74. AnAmericanMother says:

    Fr. Sotelo,

    I absolutely agree. I can’t see a TLM community even thinking about girls on the altar, any more than they would consider communion in the hand or Marty Haugen (Deus advertat!)

    The situation that we need to worry about would be if an OF parish decides to introduce an EF Mass . . . which is exactly what’s going to happen in our parish, sooner or later.

    I think our deacon in charge of the altar server program will quietly recruit reliable boys from the Elite squad when that happens. Of course, even within an OF parish the sort of people who will attend an EF Mass will be the more traditionally-minded, and their kids will be first on the list, so I don’t think we’ll have a problem. Our music director seems to have most of the Liber at his fingertips, and we can handle anything but the most elaborated chant at sight, so the proper music won’t be a difficulty either.

  75. joan ellen says:

    Fr Z, Fathers, et al, So many of the words in the above posts are so hopeful. Perhaps the words that some of us have had in our minds and hearts…realzing them or not…how long Lord…?…can dare to experience a little more peace of mind and heart. No, rather, calm in mind and heart! :) Thank you all for the help.

    ‘people will disregard without catechisis, which often consists of “weighty theological reasons for altar boys only.”’

    Comment by manwithblackhat — 9 June 2010 @ 9:08 am

    Now the challenge seems to be to learn how to ‘unbrusquely’ catechize/speak of these reasons. Our Lady of Grace, please help us. Especially those of us who, like me, can be quite brusque.

  76. JPG says:

    I have two daughters who have served at the altar. I understand the tradition but at the time did not feel the same as I do now. I think one of my daughters has been bound ever more closely to the Sacrament and the Faith by her experience. It has likewise had a similar although not as pronounced effect on her younger sister. I do not consider them altar Babies. I find such disparaging remarks snarky and belittling of the servers and their parents. They are likewise beneath ,one would hope the dignity,the intelligence and the sense of charity of the those who have written such remarks. I am reminded also that my grandmother in Ireland would kneel at the rail in during the late 1800’s early 1900’s and “serve” when a proper server was not available. This was TLM 100 years ago, by a women who finished only the second grade. Please do not disparage her faithfulness, and devotion to the altar. All this being said I recall my own initiation in 1969. It was the transitional rite but still demanded memorization in English and a precise set of duties. I recall the disappointment with the new rite when we went from doing a lot, to doing very little.
    I recall being instructed by my father , both brothers(who served TLM) and my mother all teaching as I knelt to a piano bench functioning as the altar. My sense then was that worship was Men’s work, carried out by the priest of whom those who ministered with him the priest were in one sense his extensions thus it was all men’s work. If that sense can be recovered I think vocations would increase.

  77. JohnMa says:


    I have seen the letter from Rome regarding straw deacons that came to St. Mary’s in DC. It states that an installed acolyte may serve as a straw subdeacon, but a man who has not been installed as an acolyte may not serve as a straw subdeacon.

  78. Athanasius says:

    I have seen the letter from Rome regarding straw deacons that came to St. Mary’s in DC. It states that an installed acolyte may serve as a straw subdeacon, but a man who has not been installed as an acolyte may not serve as a straw subdeacon.

    Is this online anywhere? Scans appreciated.

  79. “Comment by Athanasius — 9 June 2010 @ 9:42 pm”

    This also appears to be a more severe restriction than that which is currently allowed, since Admission to Candidacy (the post-conciliar equivalent to tonsure, which is the minimum requirement) precedes installment as an Acolyte. I’m inclined not to believe it until there is absolute proof.

    That means a protocol number or other means of verification in any scan of said letter.

  80. “Comment by joan ellen — 9 June 2010 @ 7:45 pm”

    I beg to differ, madam. I am not brusque; I am emphatic.

  81. Athanasius says:

    That means a protocol number or other means of verification in any scan of said letter.

    That, but it also would involve revoking the 1959 indult from the Sacred Congregation of Rites to the US and certain mission territories for a layman to assume the subdeacon’s part at Mass observing the rules for tonsured clerics. It couldn’t be the mere opinion of someone in the PCED.

  82. Girgadis says:

    I’d venture to guess that if there was still a convent attached to nearly every Catholic grade school, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Growing up, being an altar server never, ever crossed my mind. On the other hand, I was one of the chosen few invited to the convent every Friday to “clean” the nuns’ chapel. The housekeeping didn’t consist of more than taking a feather duster to the pews (never without a chapel veil securely attached to my head). Still, the purpose of the exercise wasn’t to obtain free labor; it was to plant the seed for a possible vocation to the religious life. I recognize why it’s more important to promote the priesthood vs. the convent, but the dearth of traditional women’s communities is at least part of the reason why there is such a void when it comes to opportunities for young ladies to participate and feel useful.

  83. Athanasius says:

    The collapse of women’s communities goes hand in hand with the vocation crisis, if for no other reasons the holy nuns praying for priests have been replaced by nuns trying to be priests. Yet there is a good correlation there on the practical level, seeing the lives of the nuns can inspire a vocation, and for boys seeing the nature of religious vocation with respect to nuns, being set apart, can actually be an inspiration for their vocation.

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