TLM with female servers… not just a theory? FACT.

A while ago Cardinal Burke, not a slouch when it comes to the Church’s law, made a statement about head coverings for women in church for Mass.  In a nutshell, he said that, while the present Code of Canon Law, does not impose an obligation, with we are talking about the Extraordinary Form, it is good to go by the practices in use at the time when the Extraordinary Form was the Only Form.  This should apply also to practices such as how to receive Holy Communion: at the TLM receive on the tongue while kneeling, even though the law in the place me permit Communion in the hand.

It just makes sense.  Frankly I think that Communion on the tongue while kneeling makes sense all the time, but I digress.

There are some things which, though not strictly against the law, are simply inimical to the law’s spirit.

I received more than one note about this.

I was told yesterday that in England a priest was planning to have Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form with female servers.

It seems to me that this is a really bad idea and deeply offensive to the sensibilities of those who revere the older form of Holy Mass.  It is hard to imagine that this is true.

UPDATE 8 May 1305 GMT:

I had first received information which was at the level of a rumor and so I anonymized the top entry.  But… now… it isn’t rumor anymore:

I had two notes…

Dear Fr Zuhlsdorf,
I am sorry to confirm the rumour about the developments at Fisher House in Cambridge. As a result of te decisions to have female servers in the Extraordinary Form all servers who have been helping with the Masses in the Extraordinary Form in Fisher house have resigned; the congregation was much smaller than usual because some of the faithful (like me) decided not to come (and probably also because of lacking information on the Mass schedule, so it was not only out of protest), and some people left during the Mass. As someone who has been deeply involved in the liturgical life of Fisher House …  I am very sorry about this development, and I hope that Ecclesia Dei will reply speedily to resolve the matter (I have written to them twice last year, when then chaplain first mooted this idea, but still have not received any official reply). However, I would like to stress that the Fr Alban has been an exemplary chaplain to Cambridge University, ….

And this…

Dr Kevin Marshall, the LMS representative, says the Mass occurred, although he left after the kyrie.   There were two male servers and one female.  The congregation was about twelve (slightly less than half the normal size) and, for the most part, a completely different crowd.  At least two people walked out.

I am sure that some of the more traditional mind-set will have a nutty about this and lose all ability to self-edit.  I urge you not to have a nutty.


Take a lesson: If priests want to get rid of something, they sometimes will make that something a very unpleasant experience.  If they want to get rid of the Extraordinary Form, they need only do stupid stunts like this.  Therefore, keep a cool head.

If you write letters to anyone, review my tips for writing.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. mark1970 says:

    I tend to agree with Father Z. Having attended the TLM for over 10 years, most of the people I know would feel uneasy at best with female altar servers. The only thing I can think of is: Is the priest in question itroducing the EF to a parish where there is no tradition of support for the EF, and therefore nobody to object to it?

  2. Peggy R says:

    I agree.

    I ask for prayers as my son receives his first communion tomorrow at a hand-receiving parish. I have instructed him to receive on his tongue. We told Father as we practiced today as well.

  3. RichR says:

    No one has a right to service at the altar, so said the past Prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship, Cardinal Medina Estevez. No one can come up to a priest who has said, “for this Mass, no female altar servers” and say to the priest, “You are violating my daughter’s rights.” This is true, too, for the OF.

    Beyond that, as stated, many parishioners attending such an EF Mass would probably be offended by female altar servers. So, they would be very supportive if the priest made a rule for that Mass for there to not be females serving (which he totally has the right to do because the language of the legislation says that no one can impose female servers, and it is the prerogative of the individual celebrating priest, not even the pastor can impose it on visiting priests).

    It just seems like an unnecessary battle to fight.

  4. Oneros says:

    Bizarre. They should just release some document clarifying that all male servers and communion on the tongue is to be considered from now on part of the “rubrics” of the Old Rite, as it were. That should just be inserted in the old missal for all times.

  5. RichR says:


    We had the same “issue”. The RE instructor didn’t mention that there was an option, so my buddy and I (who each have a child in the same First Communion Class) gently reminded her that they have a choice. She was very cooperative and took care to remind all the kids that they had a choice on how to receive. She did say to us that the pastor insisted on receiving both Species. Since my boy had food allergies, I did not want him drinking after anyone, so I simply told the pastor. I knew that he was very familiar with Canon Law, so I was doubtful that the RE instructor had heard him right. As expected, he looked at me strange and said, “I can’t force anyone to receive both kinds.”

    I think there are just some people out there who are unaware of what their rights are, what their preferences are, and what their obligations are. Regardless, I find that most people don’t make a big deal about it if you exercise a legitimate option.

  6. catholicmidwest says:

    There are not enough things in the Catholic church for women to do that are specific to them. And we haven’t made a big enough deal of the areas of faith where women are actually superior. Period. This is the problem. There is absolutely no reason why girls should want to be altar boys, unless their imagination fails to identify something more fitting to them.

  7. catholicmidwest says:

    Yikes, Peggy,

    Isn’t the pastor used to you receiving on the tongue? Why then, should your son then have any trouble?

    I also go to a parish where everyone receives in the hand, except me. I routinely receive on the tongue. The servers get used to it, and learn a new skill that they should expect to have if they want to be servers in the Catholic church.

  8. afanco says:

    I have in my mind a Venn diagram with 2 circles. “Females who like to serve at the altar/Parents who want them to.” and “Females who would attend the Extraordinary Form enough to be able to serve at the altar.”

    Never the twain shall meet in my imaginary Venn diagram.

    I would like to hear the perspective of the alleged female servers. This could of course all be rumor.


  9. catholicmidwest says:

    Yup, I would agree, Andrew. It’s probably political.

    One of the things that the “Spirit of Vatican II” did was take away all the traditional activities properly belonging to female Catholics. Far and away, we bore the brunt of the crisis, and many women came to believe that if they wanted to participate in the life of the local church, they had to take a formerly male role. Most female Catholics are solidly confirmed in that belief now and it has become the subject of much political effort. Meanwhile the female roles go empty and forgotten.

    People teach their children this crap and there you have it, they think they have to do it too.

  10. ray from mn says:

    If you are going to receive on the tongue, as I do, please keep your hands prominently clasped tightly in the prayer position so that the minister doesn’t have to guess your preference.

  11. JohnMa says:

    The Cathedral in Washington DC has said that they will not offer the EF unless female altar servers are used. An EF has not happened there yet for that very reason.

  12. catholicmidwest says:

    Agree, Ray.
    Or clasped low on your body or down by your sides, so you leave no room for guessing. Open your mouth wide enough and lay out your dampened tongue gently flat on your lower lip so that the server, who may be inexperienced at this sort of thing, and may even find it distasteful, can place the host on your tongue without trouble. Be pleasant, be firm, be nice about it. It is perfectly okay to receive on your tongue no matter what anyone tells you.
    I normally say “Amen” just before laying out my tongue, if the flow of the event seems to work with it, because many lay servers respond to it like a signal that you’re ready and they expect it. Odd, but true and part of managing a successful reception on the tongue in some parishes where this is not the normal method of reception.

  13. Henry Edwards says:

    I wonder whether most parents who want their daughters to serve at EF Mass assume–from their OF experience that one can just show cold without special training and serve an EF Mass.

    Unaware that proper preparation of an EF server requires more liturgical training than (from what I’ve heard) the typical OF priest receives in the seminary before celebrating his first Mass.

    Which reminds me of a priest–one who celebrates Mass in both forms–who remarked that if one of his 10-year old altar boys were ordained, he could immediately celebrate an OF Mass better than frequently observed.

  14. This is a bad idea.

    Not to mention that the servers’ Latin prayers are masculine…”Domine non sum dignUS.”

    Here’s Pope Benedict XIV on the condemnation of what His Holiness calls the “evil practice” of female altar servers:

    “Pope Gelasius, in his ninth letter to the bishops of Lucania, condemned the evil practice which had been introduced of women serving the priest at the celebration of Mass. Since this abuse had spread to the Greeks, Innocent IV strictly forbade it in his letter to the bishop of Tusculum: ‘Women should not dare to serve at the altar; they should be altogether refused this ministry.’ We too have forbidden this practice in the same words.”
    – Pope Benedict XIV, Encyclical Allatae Sunt, July 26, 1755.

    Taylor Marshall
    Canterbury Tales blog

  15. jmgazzoli says:

    Following this line of logic, should one fast for three hours before receiving Holy Communion in the Extraordinary Form?

  16. Geoffrey says:

    I personally know of a parish in New England where this occurred just a matter of weeks ago.

  17. chonak says:

    Fasting three hours rather than one is a good idea, but purely voluntary. The fast is specified in canon law and not in the Mass rubrics, so the one-hour rule in the 1983 Code is in force.

  18. Mark of the Vine says:

    I assumed that for the EF, the “old practices” were the ones in vigor. At the chapel where I am an altar server for the EF an elderly woman came up for Communion, knelt and extender her hands. I unconsciously put the paten over hers hands and she ended up receiving on the tongue (I spoke with the priest afterwards and he said he had not even noticed she had extended her hands, and that Communion in the hand is “verbotten” in the EF).

  19. Federico says:

    Chonak, the law permitting female servers at Mass is also in the 1983 Code, now in force; it is embedded in canon 230 thanks to an authentic interpretation (with explanation, but nobody bothers with the explanation…which discourages the use of female servers).

    The difference is that the fast is a matter of internal forum. Keeping a three hour fast would be preferable (in card. Burke’s opinion) when attending an EF Mass and receiving Communion. But if you were to keep a one hour fast you would still be obeying the law and because it’s not public behavior you would give no scandal to the typical EF congregation.


  20. skull kid says:

    No way. That’s terrible. It should not be tolerated under any circumstances. Any priest who would do such a thing should be boycotted or else tarred and feathered.

  21. Federico says:


    That is not correct. The woman has a right to receive Communion in any manner that is licit and, if your diocese permits reception on the hands, as much as you might dislike it, she had a right to do it. So you inadvertently committed a liturgical abuse.

    No worries — it was inadvertent — but be on the lookout for it.

    In my opinion we must be careful to obey all the faithful’s rights, regardless of whether we agree with the Church’s current praxis in any given case. If we don’t, we fall into the same sin as those who would refuse to give Communion on the tongue or to a kneeling communicant.

    Many of the Church’s current problems are caused by disobedience. We must resist the temptation to fall into this temptation for all the right reasons.


  22. Mundabor says:

    A thoroughly bad idea, and possibly a willed attempt to pollute the Tridentine Mass with “innovations” that are, in fact, liturgical abuses with a varnish of ex post facto legality.


  23. frjim4321 says:

    I don’t see this as being much of an issue in this diocese. There are three places which offer the pre-1960’s style of mass. I doubt that any of the adherents would be asking to have female altar servers. With afanko I agree that these two interest groups are very likely to be mutually exclusive. I also doubt that any of the pre-1960’s style places would provide altar servers albs rather than choir dress.

  24. APX says:

    The more time I spent at the EF Mass, the more seeing altar girls and women acolytes at Mass in the NO bothers me. I couldn’t imagine attending a TLM with altar girls. It just sounds like a bad idea.

    @ray from mn
    If you are going to receive on the tongue, as I do, please keep your hands prominently clasped tightly in the prayer position so that the minister doesn’t have to guess your preference.

    I do this and I still get EMHC’s trying to put it in my hands while they’re still saying “the body of Christ.” And heaven forbid you should stop moving to receive the host, resulting in a collision from behind.

  25. benedetta says:

    It’s not as if kids are generally just begging to serve Mass. Whatever service we invite children and young people to take part in, then it would be totally irresponsible, even dishonest, if we did not also offer some spiritual formation and some possibilities for the next steps for them within the Church that they could enjoy taking part in a couple of years down the road. It would be a disservice both towards young people as well as to their Church that they are already a part of to merely push them up to do something for our own benefit, for our own perceptions of how things must look. If girls do not serve at the altar then parishes should have possibilities for their authentic formation in the Church. Some places which offer NO or extraordinary form do this as a matter of fact. Many homeschool groups provide precisely this where it cannot be encountered elsewhere. The Church very much needs the participation of girls and young women. Since ordination is neither the ideal nor the reality, it would be dishonest to pretend wouldn’t it. And it denies the Church much needed vocations to the religious or consecrated life by portraying to girls and young women the falsehood that somehow they are not valued if they don’t all become priests. Do none of these places teach the truth about women saints, of our time?

  26. EWTN Rocks says:

    Although I haven’t attended an EF Mass, based on what little I know, use of female altar servers seems totally inappropriate. John Ma, you said “The Cathedral in Washington DC has said that they will not offer the EF unless female altar servers are used. An EF has not happened there yet for that very reason.” A couple of years ago I attended Mass at the Cathedral in Washington DC and for a period of time I thought it was an EF Mass – probably because some of the Mass was said in Latin and it seemed much more traditional and reverent than any Mass I had attended on the West Coast. Now I’m eager to attend an EF Mass and even considered going this afternoon but feel the need to prepare first so I don’t feel like a fish out of water or worse yet, inadvertently do or say something irreverent. However, if I do attend this afternoon, my bet is that I won’t see female servers.

  27. skull kid says:

    Let me put it this way: the day we have female servers at the EF Mass is the day I hop off down to the local SSPX chapel for good. (Actually, there isn’t a local SSPX chapel, so… I’d have a big problem.)

  28. catholicmidwest says:

    There is a certain genre of lay minister that will try to be overbearing about this sort of thing, but don’t let them. Go right up there and EXPECT them to behave. Put your hands gently on the outside of your thighs, open your mouth and EXPECT them to do it right. [I used to be a junior high school math teacher. Pretend you’re a junior high math teacher and EXPECT it. Be nice, look them square in the face with no back off at all, and EXPECT them to do it right.] Receiving Holy Communion should be what you remember when you get done, not the lay minister’s little attitude problem if that’s what you’re running into.

  29. Henry Edwards says:

    EWTN: Now I’m eager to attend an EF Mass and even considered going this afternoon but feel the need to prepare first so I don’t feel like a fish out of water or worse yet, inadvertently do or say something irreverent.

    You need not worry about this. Just go ahead and go.

    I have frequently advised people before their first EF attendance. I generally tell them they need no special preparation, and indeed don’t try to follow along in the ubiquitous missalettes. Just watch and learn, do what others do regarding posture and gesture, soak it all up, watch for correlations — they Kyrie, Gloria, Credo after the sermon, (above all) the elevations after the consecrations, the Pater Noster after the Canon, etc. — with the corresponding parts of the OF they’re already familiar with. A little guide:

    Even if you’ve never knelt for Holy Communion on the tongue, unless you sit on the front row — you should sit well back to best observe others — you’ll have plenty of time while waiting to see how by observation.

    The time for preparation, learning to follow the missalette, etc., will come naturally in due course, perhaps after your 2nd or 3rd EF Mass.

  30. catholicmidwest says:

    Agree, EWTN. People will not be paying very much attention to each other during a TLM mass, typically. If you sit in the back, you can observe quietly and learn what to do.

    There are usually printed up booklets you can use to follow along too, someplace. They often bring booklets in on a cart for the TLM mass and they may be near the entrance as you come in, so look around and see if anyone else is picking up a booklet. Also, sometimes it’s hard to follow along at first, even with the booklet, and it may seem slow or you may feel a little lost on the words. That’s pretty normal and it’s okay, just enjoy the mass. You’ll catch what you need to catch as you learn.

  31. Jackie L says:

    What I found interesting at the time of SP was that most everyone that opposed the TLM used the “altar boys only” as a reason to be opposed, a defacto truce on the issue, as TLM supports didn’t want them either. Only my opinion but I don’t think those advocating for altar girls at the TLM have anything but destroying the TLM in mind.

    Didn’t something like this happen a few years ago in England, I thought I remembered a TLM being cancelled by a priest due to insistence of using altar girls at a TLM.

  32. EWTN Rocks says:

    Henry Edwards and catholicmidwest – thank you for your encouragement, advice, and tips! Also Henry, the guide with comparison table is just what I needed, thanks!

  33. John Nolan says:

    @Jackie L

    It was Wales, actually (Cardiff Cathedral) three years ago this month when a Pontifical High Mass organized by the Latin Mass Society at considerable trouble and expense had to be cancelled at the last moment when the Dean returned from vacation with a “serviette” in tow and insisted on her being in the sanctuary. If the lady in question had had anything about her she would have withdrawn voluntarily and defused the situation.

    It is a sad fact of life that girls have muscled in on all traditional boys’ activities, e.g. the army cadets and the scouts (although in the UK they still have their own female-only scouting association, the Girl Guides). If serving on the altar is seen as a girly thing, boys won’t want to do it.

  34. Peggy R says:

    Thanks RichR and cathmidwest.

    Yes, I decided not to make a big confrontation of it. It was a simple matter of informing the priest of what we intended. Fr. was not surprised as I do receive on the tongue. Fr knows it’s right, but the parish extols how lucky we are that the bad old days are gone and we can now touch the Eucharist, among other things. I didn’t raise the issue with DREs as it’s not really their business. Also, my huz and I had not been accustomed to daily precious blood until this parish and do not consume it for health-related reasons. We are expected to receive the Body and Blood along side our child–who doesn’t have the health concern. We are not happy about being put in the awkward position of explicitly declining precious blood. It’s not the EMHC lay person’s business. Furthermore, it’s not my first communion. We’re in a one-parish town, though I’d wager much of the diocese is rather modernist. I had come to the view that they can have their modernist mass with altar girls and communion in the hand, but I will conduct myself and teach my children in a more traditionalist vein, which is still our right not abrogated by the modern tendencies.

  35. Kathy C says:

    No. Completely aside from the rubrics, little boys won’t be altar servers if girls are doing it too. We need the altar servers to grow up to be priests. BAD idea to make little boys think this is a girl thing.

  36. dans0622 says:

    I have been trying to find remarks that Card. Burke made on this issue-remarks which I clearly remembered but the location of which I could not recall. I think I have finally found it. If you follow this link, you’ll be taken to a brief preface Archbishop Burke wrote for a book about Summorum pontificum. He mentions that “altar girls” are not allowed at EF Masses.


  37. Random Walk says:

    Re: “Following this line of logic, should one fast for three hours before receiving Holy Communion in the Extraordinary Form?”

    As already mentioned, Canon Law covers it – 1 hour is fine.

    I remember as a kid where you had to fast from the midnight before (made the 8am Mass pretty popular, methinks :) ).

  38. dans0622 says:

    I should point out that Cardinal Burke was only relating what the author of the book had said. But, he was doing so in what seems to have been an approving/agreeing fashion.

  39. APX says:

    Actually, think the female altar servers at the TLM already happened.

    It’s on the longer side, but at 3:12ish the centre server really looks like a girl. Hopefully it’s just a need for a hair cut and just the other two servers’ masculine facial structures making the other server’s appear more feminine.

  40. joanofarcfan says:

    How about EMHC’s giving Communion at an EF or at the communion rail at an OF where kneeling at the rail is allowed?

    I know this is off subject. But it does get complicated.

  41. heway says:

    I am always astounded at the amount of time spent on these questions. Beng raised in the 40’s, I have a lot of experience at both Masses. We have one male child in our rural parish. When he isn’t in town, myhusband (83 yo) or one other man will assist the celebrant. At morning Mass, if the gentleman who offers the Cup isn’t present, I fulfill his role. (My husband has non-Parkinson’s tremors.) We should think of our selves as the deaconesses who served hte apostles. There is a place for all at the cleebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We have the NO but also have a couple who prefer to kneel and receive commnuion on the tongue. No problem -they go last, so no one falls over their feet. They usually fast from midnight but if the priest isn’t coming till 4Pm it is difficult! Be happy and rejooice that you have priests, deacons, altar servers…and organists. Pray for those of us who do not have these wonderful gifts. At least here one appreciates what one has in any form!…..

  42. heway says:

    sorry for the mispell -eyesight is poor

  43. MikeM says:

    I’m all for a return to all-male altar servers, but it seems to me like if we’re hoping for the EF to influence the OF liturgy, we have to expect the dialogue between the two to go both ways… Since female servers are acceptable under Canon Law and don’t pose much of a theological problem, it might be beneficial to let things like this go, at least for the occasional EF mass somewhere (I understand not wanting a permanent change at your own parish, of course), in order to make the EF look more welcoming to those thoroughly entrenched in the current culture of novus ordo church-goers.

    It seems like Pope Benedict wants to see the liturgical direction of the Church grow organically from both its tradition and, to the extent proper, from the faithful. If people don’t want this “change” (and I don’t particularly want it), it won’t catch on. But, perhaps a little breathing room for people to try things, at least within the confines of Canon Law, will help keep things rolling.

  44. 1. It does seem pretty obvious, that you don’t need female servers at EF Masses.

    2. However, as I’ve said before, I know for a fact there were female servers at EF Masses before Vatican II, because every time the guys didn’t make it over to my mom’s girl’s high school, my mom and the other sacristy helper girls were pressed into service as acolytes. Her school wasn’t an isolated incident, either; there seem to have been lots of places where girls were pressed into service if the boys didn’t show. So it’s probably best not to act like it was some strange unheard of thing before Vatican II, as you reel back onto your fainting couch, because the olden days people will laugh at you or feel insulted.

    3. You can urge a rule without pushing histrionics about it.

  45. David2 says:

    A lot of things happened before Vatican II that, frankly ought not to have.

    I’ve seen things like “offertory processions” taking place by way of unauthorized experimentation in the 1950s – before VII was even a twinkle in Bl John XXIII’s eye.

    Whether these things happened by way of disobedience, or in extremis, the point is that they were not permitted, and in the case of Serviettes, there are very good reasons for this. Their occurrence is irrelevant, unless we are trying to make some precedential use of such disobedience.

    The futher fact remains that these days the use of Serviettes can only be intended as a political statement and a deliberate offence to the sensibilities of 97% of the lay faithful attending an EF Mass.

  46. BLB Oregon says:

    The best argument I have heard in favor of allowing girls to serve at all was from a priest who commented with regards to male servers who didn’t show a common level of respect to female servers: “In our archdiocese, if they can’t work with women, they’ll never make it through seminary.” He wouldn’t have male servers who couldn’t be civilized to people they did not ask to work with. It is hard to argue with that.

    I think that restricting females from serving the TLM, OTOH, recognizes that it is legitimate to acknowledge gender differences as real and intended by the Creator. The Church’s insistence that gender differences have true ritual significance is much under fire. Since the faithful in the context of the TLM are particularly supportive of that position, it seems a good solution to recognizing that truth, even in dioceses where the bishop is more permissive with regards to females serving at OF Masses.

    David2 — With all due respect, calling female altar servers “Serviettes” could easily be taken as a snarky insult, one that implies they look at themselves as liturgical show girls. It is not true that their desire to serve “can only be taken as a political statement”, any more than the use of the term “serviette” must be meant as an insult to all laywomen everywhere. After all, many altar servers, male and female, want to serve any chance they get. It may reflect a naivete on the part of the girls when they don’t realize their desire might automatically be taken as a demonstration of a feminist ideology, but there are more charitable ways to say it, ones that do not presume ill intent or an inappropriate agenda in those on the other side of the question.

  47. benedetta says:

    BLB Oregon, As a woman myself I would say that what you say is true so long as a parish responsibly connects opportunities for authentic formation to all of its altar servers. If at the NO Mass there are girls who serve then the accent in their formation should be placed on helping them to discover the places in the Church where their service will be needed as they mature. If the accent is placed on putting them on the altar for others’ agenda or for how it may appear or look, or because we feel in someway that being a mother or religious or consecrated is somehow second class, then, in the immediate term, this is not going to be helpful to the young women nor will it achieve the objective of the agenda and everyone leaves angry and bitter as a result. This approach will only serve to discourage women from looking into service in the Church further as they will become cynical. It probably takes some discernment. It is necessary to determine, why the altar girls, or why even altar boys, if there isn’t any follow through or commitment to their long term Christian formation. There are great needs out there and there are places that offer formation to young women but unfortunately in parishes, and this is not only in the case of young women but for boys as well, the need to help children and young adults see a clear path to leadership in the Church is just not valued. Praying for vocations is important but there should be some practical steps as well.

  48. Of course people did a lot of stuff before Vatican II that they shouldn’t have. Often, they did it with the full support and permission of their bishop, and sometimes even with the support of paperwork from the Vatican. That doesn’t mean it was right or prudent; but it does mean that it’s part of some people’s mental picture of an EF. And “some people” probably includes some of these bishops now insisting on female servers. So assuming malice is possibly unwise and untrue.

    More to the point, if you throw around too many nasty remarks about female acolytes at the EF (as opposed to simply opposing them), you very well may be insulting the archbishop’s mother or sister or the girls of his neighborhood. That won’t end well.

  49. And it’s weird for an EF person to use a term for a dinner wiping cloth/napkin as an insult, while praising maniples and purificators. I mean, would you go around thinking purificatrix or manipula was an insult?

  50. jflare says:

    “The best argument I have heard in favor of allowing girls…. to serve at all was from a priest who commented with regards to male servers who didn’t show a common level of respect to female servers: “In our archdiocese, if they can’t work with women, they’ll never make it through seminary.” He wouldn’t have male servers who couldn’t be civilized to people they did not ask to work with. It is hard to argue with that.”

    On the contrary, I’d say it’s very easy to argue with that.
    This priest must surely have assumed that the women and girls in question knew the rules and cared to see them applied correctly. I’ve long forgotten much from my teens, but I distinctly recall the notion that if you didn’t immediately agree with whatever the women promoted, you must be some kind of old-fashioned nut, possibly even a sexist. Equality for all only meant that men and boys ought to stand aside and allow the women to exercise power.

    BTW, why in the dickens was the priest worried about interacting with women while going through a seminary? I thought priests offered instruction in those institutions?

    So..while I don’t precisely object to the notion of girls as altar servers, I would suggest that boys only be allowed to serve generally. It’s too easy for a notional allowance to be used as a bull-whip to force everyone to accept girls at all costs.

  51. jflare says:

    “It may reflect a naivete on the part of the girls when they don’t realize their desire might automatically be taken as a demonstration of a feminist ideology, but there are more charitable ways to say it, ones that do not presume ill intent or an inappropriate agenda in those on the other side of the question.”

    Problem is, I’ve only rarely met a girl (and her mother) who don’t throw a hissyfit of some sort when told the parish doesn’t allow girls to serve. Again, “equality” all too often means that they ought to have the “right” to do exactly what they want, and let the rules be da**ed if the men don’t like it.
    It’s not quite universal, but it’s close enough to be a legitimate concern.

  52. dcs says:


    It is not true that their desire to serve “can only be taken as a political statement”

    I don’t think that David2 said that a girl’s desire to serve “can only be taken as a political statement.” Rather, he said that the use of girls to serve at the altar can only be taken as a political statement. And I think this is true, especially in regard to the traditional Mass. Someone who pushes for the use of altar girls in the TLM — not necessarily the girls themselves, who are likely blessedly ignorant of such things — is making a political statement.

    As far as young ladies serving at the altar prior to Vatican II, it should not have happened. If a server was lacking, then the responses should have been made by someone outside the sanctuary.


    How about EMHC’s giving Communion at an EF or at the communion rail at an OF where kneeling at the rail is allowed?

    Most people who assist at the traditional Mass would not accept EHMCs distributing Holy Communion. In any case, they generally aren’t necessary for distributing Holy Communion during Mass, so there is no frankly no need to use them. I don’t see any reason why they could not distribute at the rail in the Novus ordo but it would look a bit odd because they would be at a higher level than the laypeople to whom they are distributing Communion. Fine for a priest, but weird for a layperson.

  53. RichardT says:

    APX (7:13pm) – a bit harsh! I think that’s a male.

  54. Cincinnati Priest says:

    @EWTN (7 May 2:10): That doesn’t surprise me, if true, about Washington refusing to have EF unless females can serve . Cardinal Wuerl recently wrote a book on the Mass (incorporating the new OF translations of the Roman Missal). His co-author is Mike Aquilina, who is a fine author. But, since the book includes many photographs, they go out of their way to include as many pictures of female altar servers as they can in just about every illustration. I would place a large wager that the choice of photographs is deliberate to make a point, and is the Cardinal’s doing. Unfortunately, as we saw with B16’s papal Mass in Washington DC, he and/or his worship office seem to be all about “inclusion” (read: tokenism). I absolutely hate to see the Mass become politicized and held hostage to the small but very vocal minority of feminists and “diversity”-crowd scolds. We need a few more bishops with the backbone to stand up to them.

  55. Gail F says:

    They left in the middle of mass to protest girl servers? They left MASS? Perspective, people! Having girl servers may infuriate some but it does not invalidate the mass. Granted, it seems to have been done to infuriate people. In that case — hey, it worked! I know why they were mad but still it makes them sound nutty.

  56. EWTN Rocks says:

    Cincinnati Priest,

    Like you, I hate to see the Mass become politicized. It starts to become more about a statement and less about worship. It’s a shame about the the Cathedral in DC – it is absolutely beautiful, and because it draws so many people from around the world who visit DC every year, can be a place of reverent worship for our Lord, and result in life-changing experiences for those attending Mass. As an update to my post, I was unable to attend an EF Mass yesterday afternoon because I mis-read the Mass schedule (ugh, I think I need Fr. Z’s old glasses when he gets a new pair!), and can’t go today because of a Mother’s Day commitment. I’m still eager to go and will look for the first opportunity to do so within the next week.

  57. Kardinal says:

    It is often said that the reason we need the TLM is that it is not abused. I respond that the reason the TLM is not abused is because those who would abuse the liturgy simply don’t celebrate the TLM. The TLM is just as abusable as the NO; those who are inclined to put their agenda before that of the Church are not constrained by which form of the Roman Rite they will use.

    If the EF were made the only form of the Roman Rite in use, I am not convinced that we would not see just as much liturgical abuse as we do of the OF.

  58. Kardinal says:

    BTW, JohnMa, I’d be interested in your source RE: St Matthews’ in DC. You’ve said it twice now, but not given any citation.

  59. EWTN Rocks says:


    I agree with you that the TLM is abusable, and use of female altar servers is a clear example. I’m still trying to find a way to get to a TLM (there are not many options in my area). The church I was planning to attend offers it only twice on the weekend – either Saturday morning or Sunday evening, making it important to plan in advance. Since I most likely can’t make it to TLM tonight, I’ll have to wait now until next week. I wish more churches would offer TLM in my area!

  60. catholicmidwest says:

    It’s not a “Cup.” It’s a CHALICE.

  61. catholicmidwest says:

    And heway,
    We don’t have deacon-esses in the Catholic church. Maybe you are thinking of the Episcopal church??

  62. digdigby says:

    For every girl altar server in the EF the church will lose 3.78 vocations. I made that figure up. Yes, I know it is too low.

  63. Actually the “don’t say female servers are only making a political statement” line was from BLB Oregon, not me. I’m fully prepared to agree, however. :)

    My idea for a quick explanation about “why female servers are not a good plan” is that it’s just not a woman’s job to serve at table at Mass. Even Martha had to sit her butt down and listen… heh… Women weren’t Levites or priests (though part of the tribe) because God wanted the men to do the serving and offering for once, just like God didn’t want disabled priests among the Jews because otherwise all the work would be dumped on the disabled who “didn’t have anything better to do”.

    If bareheaded men were more seen to symbolize the humility of Christ and covered, crowned women represent (with “the power on their head”) the glory and authority of the Church (or the humility of God coming to us vs. the glory of humanity as it’s meant to become and be), I think that might help also in keeping things consonant. Because then, obviously being up on the altar assisting the priest would be, while honorable, a role of humility just as being priest takes on the burdens of the people, whereas representing the Bride is more of a queenly, enthroned role.

    Of course my two cents is probably worth about that much… but something along those lines, if I’m not totally theologically and Biblically incorrect here.

  64. Mike says:


    If you in the DC area, check out St. John the Beloved Parish, in McLean, VA. It’s only minutes from the beltway, and it has a noon EF High Mass every week.

    On the issue of altar girls–my take is this is about “empowerment”, and therefore should be slapped down by the Vatican pronto.

  65. Long-Skirts says:

    Fr. Z. said:
    “I urge you not to have a nutty.”

    Funny, that’s the same thing they told us in the sixties, seventies and eighties, etc.

  66. catholicmidwest says:

    Catholic symbolism can get so convoluted that it looks like a plate of spaghetti in a hurricane. I swear.

    The plain & simple fact of the matter is that “male and female he created them,” and there’s no arguing with that. [Even given the fact that there are a relative very few irregularities as a result of genetic mishaps, there’s no arguing with that.]

    Women have things that they do exclusively (or nearly exclusively) because either a) they are better at them, b) no one else can pull them off for physical reasons, or c) doing the role of the other gender causes a lot of confusion; ditto for men. What is the difficulty here?

    I believe the priesthood thing falls most securely into c) doing the role of the other gender causes a lot of confusion (although the other reasons may also be notably present). Why do I say this? Because in the Middle East, there were female priesthood societies that were as pagan as all get-out and were often associated with human sacrifice. In fact, this business is a recurrent theme seen throughout ancient history (and the tendency still exists) and the church isn’t anything like this mess. It is something new. And God isn’t Mother Nature. He transcends all that.

  67. Joshua08 says:

    In the old rite, as it was governed in 1962, in the absence of a male who was able to assist at the altar, for a just cause, a women could assist. However, the assistance was limited

    1. They stayed out of the sanctuary, as women have no place in the sanctuary
    2. They made the responses and rang the bell
    3. The priest did everything else (moving altar missal…which the rubrics have him or the server do anyway…lavabo)

    I am willing to bet money that any females “pressed into service” did this. I am sure somewhere in the pages of history you can find more than this, but I am sure you could also find liturgical dancing before Vatican II if you squint hard enough.

    The use of females at the altar was condemned then. This had no Vatican sanction at the time. I do not know what surbanbanshee is dreaming, but I can pull up plenty of my own anecdotal stories. I know many elderly ladies who said they wished they could have served .

    Now of course the question of law as it exists now is a different matter. But I know for a fact that one is blowing smoke if they claim they experienced female altar servers before Vatican II, unless they happened to also experience ad populuum, an aloud canon, and various other things.

    And I hate to say it, but frankly, the memories of those who lived through the 60’s is unreliable. I have seen priests and lay claim things that were clearly untrue. “In 1962 we were already doing this, saying that….” when in fact they are thinking of 1965 (take the changes to holy week in 1965). Or the claim that concelebration was allowed when it wasn’t. People’s view of events sometimes gets its chronology mixed up

  68. Prof. Basto says:

    f priests want to get rid of something, they sometimes will make that something a very unpleasant experience

    PRECISELY. And that’s why the priest’s action cannot be allowed to stand.

    The priest must be severely punished, given that it is obvious, beyond any reasonable doubt, that his intent is of getting rid of the TLM and of the TLM-going community, and that, in order to achieve that unholy goal, the priest is willing to hijack the Liturgical Action in order to create a conflict with his congregation. [Frankly, I don’t know what his intent was. All I know is that it happened. Furthermore, .. punished… how? What canons or liturgical laws did he violate?]

    The very act of summoning women altar servers must already involve the need to bring non-traditionally minded women into the plot; women that only learn to serve the Mass with the purpose of creating the confusion. It is clear that any traditionally minded woman will know that it is contrary to the praxis of the TLM and centuries-old tradtion for women to serve at the altar. Thus, any female lover of the TLM would refuse to play this part in the conspiracy.

    When the priest goes the lenghts necessary to organize a TLM with female servers, it is clear that his main purpose when ascending the Altar to offer that Mass is not the purpose of offering the Sacrifice of the Calvary, but the purpose of creating scandal and disunity, the purpose of interrupting a liturgical practice (in this case, celebrations of the usus antiquor), the purpose of truning the congregation away. While at the Altar, this priest must be musing about the congregation’s reaction, hoping that they will be offended and that they will display an angry reaction as he expects them to, so that he can then assume the role of a victim of the “sexist” TLM crowd.

    The priest’s intention of creating scandal, of highjacking Sacred Liturgy for his own purposes, of turning the congregation away by deeply offending traditional sensibilities, is clear enough to stand unpunished.

  69. catholicmidwest says:

    Yes, Prof. Basto,
    But history shows, that with very few exceptions, what you prescribe simply does not happen. Not now, not historically.

    In some very real way, this exact thing was part of what gave the “reformation” a good part of its strength. And still it goes on.

  70. pookiesmom says:

    Sheesh!! Having any women around the altar makes me crazy anyway not to mention girl altar boys. Back in the good old 50s when I was in Catholic grade school to be an altar boy was such a cool thing but it was stressed that it served also as a means to interest boys in the priesthood. So much as I wanted to be one and knew all the responses and actually had to check myself from going up when no altar boy would show up I knew my place so to speak –I also knew Monsignor wouldn’t go for it all!! Maybe this should be stressed for the EF again as it was back in the days when it was the ONLY form, that serving at Mass is a privilege reserved for boys.

  71. servusmariaen says:

    This was just a matter of time. Has anyone addressed why we have female altar servers to begin? This could have been avoided. There was no reason to even have gone here.

  72. skull kid says:

    This must not happen. All faithful Catholics must show steely resolve against this sort of thing. We must not tolerate it. If we do, well, we shall have only ourselves to blame. Maybe Father Z can advise us on the moral implications of a boycott of a priest who did this on a Sunday, meaning we missed Mass. I was thinking about this earlier. I’m not sure if it could be justified or not.

  73. Igne says:

    Prof Basto is making vile insinuations. He knows nothing. [You don’t know that he doesn’t know anything. Furthermore, “vile insinuation” isn’t the way to introduce your voice into the conversation. At least not in my combox.]

  74. skull kid says:

    I should say: >I< would walk out if female servers appeared at the EF Mass. This cannot be tolerated.

  75. Jayna says:

    Though it is inappropriate and just a plain bad idea, is walking out of Mass really the right response? I have been to some terrible Masses in my time and have never just thrown my hands up and walked out. To me, it seems disrespectful (even if the priest’s decision could be described as being just that).

  76. RichardT says:

    Prof. Basto (1:25 pm) referred to the priest “summoning women altar servers.”

    Is it just me, or does that make it sound as if the priest is attempting to summon demons? Much as I am against women altar servers, it does seem a little bit excessive to equate their use with devil-worship.

  77. Mundabor says:

    It seems clear to me that this is an act of sabotage.

    Someone has posted yesterday a link to a statement of the Latin Mass society, and I have blogged over it here:

    Altar girls are against the very spirit of the Tridentine Mass, and against the interpretaton of canon law clearly endorsed by Cardinal Burke.

    There is no doubt in my mind that this priest is deliberately trying to destroy the TLM community in his church. Alas, I don’t doubt that nothing will happen to him.

    Kudos to the brave altar servers.


  78. And then the responsible priest will report that there is “no interest in the EF Mass”. Right.

    Perhaps this will speed things along at the Holy See in terms of clarifications. This is not likely what the Pope had in mind with regards to organic development.

  79. Prof. Basto says:


    I stand by my opinion.

    See that even Father Z. at least implicitly (if not explicitly) assumes that that intention (of getting rid of the TLM and of the TLM-loving congregation) is behind this priest’s actions. That is clear when he says “If priests want to get rid of something, they sometimes will make that something a very unpleasant experience. If they want to get rid of the Extraordinary Form, they need only do stupid stunts like this. “ [You are reading far too much into what I wrote. I didn’t say I knew anything about the intention of the priest at Cambridge. But I know what priests do. I am more concerned that other priests will do be emboldened to do this.]

    And, I mean, that’s clearly what this whole affair is all about. It is not rash judgmement to reach that conclusion. [Rash judgement is the key.] The intent here is pretty much obvious. The motive is transparent; we are not that stupid that we can’t see through it. [You don’t know that.]

    Apparently everything is all right, but not really: on one hand female Altar servers are now licit. But that is an innovation that is not welcome at traditional quarters. Everybody knows that. On the other hand the usus antiquor is a form of Mass that only survived the actual persecution of the last 40 years due to the persistance and perseverance of the traditional quarters, that is, of the traditionally inclined faithful. Now that it has been recognized and freed, they are the ones that attend TLMs, the traditional faithful, the same ones that regard female altar servers as an unwelcome Novus Ordo innovation. And they further believe that the permission only applies to the Ordinary Form, making the presence of female servers in the TLM actually illicit, something that the Holy See still has to clarify.

    Now, given the whole history and background recounted above, why on Earth would a priest organize a TLM with female Altar servers if not to achieve the goal mentioned by Father Z (the goal of getting rid of the TLM by creating a very unpleasant, to some unbearable, experience)?

    Clearly, as percieved by all, the only purpose of having a TLM with Altar servers is the purpose of abusing this Sacred Action and of creating conflict with the congregation, by offending traditional praxis and sensibilities.

  80. Prof. Basto says:

    Richard T,

    It was not my intention to establish any demonic analogy, and I hereby explicitly declare that that is not the way in which my text should be construed.

    I’m not a native speaker of English, but it is my understanding that “to summon” means “to convoke”, in the sense of “to assemble”, “to gather”, and that was all the meaning that I was trying to convey. “Summon” is a verb that is used for a whole host of scenarios apart from the scenario of “summoning demons” imagined by you.

    It just happens that I agree with those who see this as a planned act of sabotage against the TLM and against the TLM-loving congregation.

    But by using the expression “summoning female altar servers” I didn’t intend to establish any analogy with the invocation of demons, and I also don’t think that my original text even comes close to any suggestion in that regard. You are reading too much into a simple verb.

  81. digdigby says:

    Prof. Basto-
    I’m with you. I am TIRED of making excuses for sixties wash-out priests who will, to the bitter end, keep spinning their macramé spider’s web. You are being ‘uncharitable’? Gimme a break! I remember the jack-hammers smashing the altars, relics and all, the old women weeping.

  82. Denis says:

    Yet another reason why traditionalists will need some kind of personal prelature/ordinariate: it’s the only wat to prevent local priests and bishops from sabotaging the TLM with these kinds of stunts. It’s only a matter of time before some provocateur decides to use Gather Hymnal settings for the TLM. But maybe I shouldn’t be giving anyone ideas…

  83. Igne says:

    Dear Prof Basto, The only intent here that’s transparent is yours. As I said, you know nothing. But it doesn’t stop you making slanderous allegations. Fr Z may implicitly suggest certain things, but – and I have great respect for Fr Z – this does not ipso facto means that your allegations about the intent of the priest are true. Indeed, they’re not. So baying for the scalp of a priest you don’t know, on the basis of an idle supposition about that priest’s intent that you can know nothing about on an issue that you admit yourself the Holy See hasn’t provided clarification on seems (in a spirit of fraternal correction) tremendously uncharitable. You also seem, on a separate point, to believe that the TLM is the possession of the persecuted only. It all sounds very Donatist to me.

  84. catholicmidwest says:

    Richard, you said, “Much as I am against women altar servers, it does seem a little bit excessive to equate their use with devil-worship.’

    I not sure that the apostles and early fathers would agree with you here. There is a very, very old tradition of priestesses associated with the occult and with human sacrifice, something the church sought very strenuously to distance herself from.

  85. skull kid says:

    I’m with you Prof. Basto 100%. Any priest who would do such a thing has no respect for the Holy Mass nor for the sensitivities of the congregations. At best it is gross ignorance (which I am sure can be easily corrected, and the priest, being humble, will take the correction); at worst, it is a deliberate attempt to sabotage, using the Holy Mass as the means to offend and scandalise, which is disgraceful. These are our two options and neither is pretty.

    I say any priest who does this should be shunned until he apologises publicly. I say it again: now is the time we need to act strong. Don’t accept it. Don’t tolerate it and think you are being a good Catholic. Good Catholics stand up for the faith in all its respects. If it was a wicked thing in Benedicts XIV’s time, the same applies today.

  86. catholicmidwest says:

    I’m sure that’s not what most innocent females who show up to be altar servers have in mind, but with time and negligence it could appear again on a folk level. We don’t need it.

  87. Dresselius1 says:

    Dear Father Zuhlsdorf,
    I was present at the mass referred to, in a congregation of about thirty five – not twelve, as claimed by your correspondent. Most were Undergraduates. This was an unusually large number for the Extraordinary Form here.
    It is most unlikely that the Chaplain is motivated by a wish to destroy the old rite at Fisher House, since it was he who single-handedly re- introduced regular Tridentine masses after a gap of forty years. He also got rid of ‘folk masses’ and instituted a Latin Gregorian choir at all Sunday masses, both vernacular and Latin. He restored to the altar crucifix and traditional candlesticks, which had not been seen in decades. Fisher House is also one of the few places in England with regular celebrations of the missa cantata.
    This restoration was accepted by all shades of opinion without complaints as a proper and very prompt response to the wishes and legislation of the Holy Father. Father Alban McCoy has been a model of tact and piety. Arguments about whether it is proper or wise to employ female altar servers are one thing; but these assaults on his character by those who do not know the facts or him are scandalous.
    Yours sincerely,
    John Casey

  88. frdgss says:

    please back off. Prof Basto has 100 times your intellect and 1000 times your manners. Give us all a break from your tedious comments.

  89. Igne says:

    frdgss, Whatever about Prof Basto’s attributes, which I can’t verify, he and others here are making dreadful statements, as I have said, about a priest they don’t know, on the basis of idle supposition about that priest’s intent, that they can know nothing about, on an issue that, it has been admitted, the Holy See hasn’t provided clarification about. It still seems to me (in a spirit of fraternal correction and allow me to include you my brother) tremendously uncharitable. A similar lack of knowledge of me hasn’t stopped you from forming a ratio of my intellect and manners relative to Prof Basto’s. 100 times and 1000 times are suspiciously round numbers to be believed

  90. RichardT says:

    Prof. Basto, I apologise.

    Your use of “summon” was of course technically correct, but it seemed an unusual word to use in that context, and so my mind jumped to a possible reason for using it.

    Your comments are usually so clear that I had not realised that you are not a native speaker of English.

    My apologies for attributing an uncharitable thought to you, and thank you for clearing that up.

    And I agree with you; it seems likely that the priest’s action was a deliberate act of sabotage.

  91. skull kid says:

    Igne said:

    ”It all sounds very Donatist to me.”

    Now where have I heard that before? Igne, are you Irish by any chance? I’ve nothing against the Irish, me being Irish myself.

  92. I am closing down this combox.

    People can email comments to me.

Comments are closed.