Should the infamous “altar girl” decision be reversed? Wm. Oddie opines. WDTPRS POLLS included.

The formidable William Oddie, a columnist of the UK’s best Catholic weekly, The Catholic Herald, has an opinion piece on the 1994 interpretation of the Latin Church’s Canon Law which permitted service at the altar by females.   Keep in mind that this service was already being done abusively in many places before this interpretation of the law.   Many people at the time thought that this decision was a mistake.  Many people today think that the decision was a mistake.  William Oddie thinks the decision was a mistake.

At the end, I will include a WDTPRS POLL.  RELATED POLL HERE.

With my emphases and comments.  Remember: there is also a combox open on the site of The Catholic Herald.

The 1994 statement permitting girl servers was a mistaken tactical retreat which led to a fall in priestly vocations. It’s time to withdraw it

Undoing the damage will take time: the sooner the Church starts to clear up the mess, the better

By William Oddie

The rector of the Catholic Cathedral of Phoenix, Arizona, has decided that girls will no longer be allowed as altar servers (though they will continue elsewhere in the diocese). [For links… here. NB: the decision in Phoenix is sparking meaningful conversation across the globe.] His reason is simple: he thinks that an all-male sanctuary promotes vocations to the priesthood. “The connection between serving at the altar and priesthood is historic,” he says: “it is part of the differentiation between boys and girls, as Christ established the priesthood by choosing men. Serving at the altar is a specifically priestly act.” I’m not sure, to be pedantic, that that’s entirely orthodox (in the context of the Mass, only the priest himself performs specifically priestly acts), but one knows exactly what he means: what the server does is intimately related to the Eucharistic action and can be seen as an intrinsic part of it: the server is a kind of extension of the priest himself; if there were no servers, the priest would do what they do. According to Fr Lankeit, 80 to 95 percent of priests served as altar boys.

The question is, why shouldn’t that happen when there are also girl servers? There are two reasons: firstly because the causal link between servers and priestly vocations is weakened if some or most of the servers in the sanctuary are excluded from it. But secondly because as soon as girls appear, the supply of altar boys tends simply to dry up.

The first time this occurred to me was in the house of friends with whom I was staying in France. One of the guests at dinner one evening was Archbishop André Vingt-Trois of Tours (now Cardinal Archbishop of Paris). The subject of conversation at one point was the way in which, in the local Parish Church, presumably in an attempt to involve women in the celebration of the Mass, not only were all the readers women but so also were all the servers girls; my wife (not I) compared it to a farmyard, with the priest as the cock strutting about in the middle of a flock of hens. Archbishop Vingt-Trois said that the priest may have had no choice over the all-girls serving team: “Once the girls arrive, he said, the boys disappear: you can’t see them for dust” (his explanation was much more graphic in French). And he was adamant that though there were, of course other factors contributing to the decline in priestly vocations, the decline in the number of all-male sanctuaries was certainly one of them.

I suspect, though there’s no way to prove this, that many if not most Catholics, once they think about it, will have the feeling that this is either obviously true, or at the very least a plausible hypothesis. For what it’s worth, the US website Catholic Answers carried out a poll in which they asked the question “does having girl altar boys help with vocations to the priesthood?”

The answers were as follows:

YES, Girl Altar Boys help Vocations To The Priesthood: 2.98%
NO, Girl Altar Boys don’t Help Vocations To The Priesthood: 64.29%
Girl Altar Boys, Have No Effect At All On Vocations To The Priesthood: 32.74%
Voters: 168

It’s a pretty small sample, of course: but I would be surprised if it’s not true that almost nobody thinks that girl servers help vocations to the priesthood, that of the remainder, about two thirds think it doesn’t help, and another third thinks it makes no difference. If the question had been asked differently: if the question had been “does an all-male sanctuary foster vocations to the priesthood?”, I suspect that more than that two thirds would have replied “yes”, since historically it has observably done so. In the US, only one diocese now restricts serving at the altar to boys and men, Lincoln, Nebraska, and it is apparently the case that vocations there are higher than elsewhere.

The late Pope was opposed to the practice, and didn’t allow it in his own diocese of Rome: [Quaeritur:] so why on his watch, in 1994, was the rule that only men and boys could serve at the altar (which had been firmly reimposed by Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul himself) relaxed? It’s a puzzler. Some say it was inevitable since, especially in the US, it was already being widely defied: but all kinds of things the Church is against are indulged in defiantly by disobedient Catholics, and the Church quite rightly doesn’t give an inch. One theory is that it was a tactical retreat to avoid legal action. [!  Given the way bishops/dioceses have behaved in the last decade, this has a ring of truth.] As the writer David L Sonnier explains it,

Take a moment to recall the circumstances under which this practice was allowed. We lived in a hostile political climate in 1994; the politicians in Washington were condemning the Catholic Church for not ordaining women, and ridiculing the Church for Her stand against abortion. It seemed that according to these critics at the highest level of the Clinton administration, the Catholic Church would not be qualified to address the issue of abortion until women were ordained.

In 1994 a document from the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts gave some room for the novel practice of “female altar servers” under political pressure from the U.S., but nevertheless insisted that “the obligation to support groups of altar boys will always remain…” due, of course, to the relationship between service at the altar and future vocations. Has there been any such support for “groups of altar boys?”

Well, no: of course there hasn’t, because as soon as the girls appeared, the “groups of altar boys”, as Archbishop Vingt-Trois put it, couldn’t be seen for dust. But could the document be withdrawn? It won’t be easy: there are already so many girl servers. But they tend to disappear when they grow up. And though no bishop may impose them on his priests, he does have the right to forbid them. This is the paradox; he may not impose girls—but he still may impose boys, as may any of his priests.

And this could be the time to start: radical feminism is much less of a threat than it was, and may be confronted more readily than it could, say, in the US in the eighties. I remember vividly arranging my notes before delivering a lecture on feminist theology in the General (Episcopalian) Seminary in New York, in 1983. I was approached by a male seminarian, who said simply, “Oh Dr Oddie, I just wanted to tell you, since I know your views, how much we admire your courage in coming here to explain them”. “I need courage”, I replied, slightly alarmed: “Oh yes”, he said, and disappeared. And so it proved: I was heckled repeatedly, but I think I gave as good as I got, and the evening was an exhilarating one in the end.

The church has not entirely given in on this, and little by little, girl servers could be phased out: a final date could perhaps be announced for this to be achieved, diocese by diocese, parish by parish. The tradition is still solidly there, beneath the surface. As David L Sonnier puts it,

Let’s take it one point at a time. First of all, the Holy Father does not allow Girl Altar Boys within his own Diocese of Rome. [But it happens anyway.] That should be enough to give pause to a number of people who currently see nothing wrong with the practice.…  [Every once in a while people flash around photos which purportedly show girls serving at papal Masses.  Those photos could bear some additional scrutiny.  First, not everything that happens at papal Masses when the Pope is on the road, even in his own country, are actually approved.  Sometimes the MC and Pope get a surprise, as I am told was the case in England at the Beatification.  FWIW.]

Second, this practice of placing girls at the altar has absolutely nothing to do with Vatican II and was condemned in the strongest of terms twice following the council. In 1970 Pope Paul VI said in Liturgicae Instaurationes, “In conformity with norms traditional in the Church, women (single, married, religious), whether in churches, homes, convents, schools, or institutions for women, are barred from serving the priest at the altar.” [Paul VI, ladies and gents.]

And in 1980 Pope John Paul II stated in Inaestimabile Donum, “There are, of course, various roles that women can perform in the liturgical assembly: these include reading of the Word of God and proclaiming the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful. Women are not, however, permitted to act as altar servers.[JP2, ladies and gents.]

That is the tradition of the Church to which we should now return. To begin with, that 1994 statement by the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts (I bet you’d never heard of them) should be simply withdrawn. Why not? Its issue was a huge mistake, whose consequences have been disastrous: It’s time now to begin to repair the damage. It may take some time: so the sooner we start the better. Any priest who reads this can start on Sunday: a bishop could get on the phone today. [For the sake of a hermeneutic of continuity when it comes to liturgical worship.]

Thus, William Oddie.

What do you think?   Was the decision a mistake?  Should it be overturned?  Reversed?

Here is a WDTPRS POLL.   Anyone can vote.  If you are registered to comment here, please leave your explanation for your vote and position in the combox.

I will create another WDTPRS poll on another entry to repeat the poll mentioned by Mr. Oddie, above.

Since this is a hot issue that provokes sharp conversation, I ask that you do NOT engage each other in the combox.  Do NOT respond to each other.  Just give your argument without engaging others.  Leave other people entirely alone to state their position without fear that someone is going to leap on them.

Should the Holy Father reverse the interpretation of the 1983 Code which allowed for female service at the altar?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

If you are a blogger, may I ask that you link to this poll?  It would be good to have a large sampling.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, POLLS, The Drill, The future and our choices and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Sam Schmitt says:

    While I would very much like to see the decision reversed, I wonder if the negative fallout would be worse the original problem. The pope does have to pick his battles.

  2. guatadopt says:

    Not only do I see a decline in vocations (at least in part) due to this, I also have noticed over the years a lack of reverence and dignity at the altar by both boy and girl servers. I served mass at an all-altar boy parish in the 1990’s. The pastor refused girls even though the bishop pressured him to include them. Pastor had a good point…when you start to include both genders, it causes a great distraction. I agree…and I feel it has led to a decline in reverence and decorum in the liturgy by servers. We used to have to wear “Sunday best” to serve mass. Nowadays kids are wearing athletic shoes and shorts….I think it is all related. Thus ends the rant!

  3. This is a very difficult one indeed. Sam Schmitt has is correct in what he says. Though a priest is technically free to forbid girls to serve, in practice he would be likely to open such a pastoral can of worms that only a very determined man would think the game worth the candle. My own practice has been to encourage boys to serve, and permit girls if they are persistent. In consequence, the atmosphere of the sacristy is unquestionably male, and girls who start rarely persevere. There are one or two determined ones, but I think that the ratio is healthy; the boys see themselves as really the servers and tolerate the one or two ladies cheerfully. And no accusation of sexism can be made.

    I would very much like to start a girls’ choir, to give the lassies something to do. It is important to try and engage young women somehow, because it is only too easy nowadays for them to absorb the prevailing secular charge that ‘the Catholic Church is institutionally sexist’, and point to the majority of boys in the sacristy as the evidence.

    We all know that this charge would be wrong, but some mud slung sticks.

    Keep up the good work, Father.

  4. Winfield says:

    So many of the liturgical developments we see today would have been unthinkable just a decade ago; the Catholic left grows weaker by the year. The ’94 decision is certainly reversible, and the incremental approach Oddie advocates is prudent. Yes: there will be howling, hurt feelings, and disobedience. But this presents an excellent opportunity for catechesis on this and other key elements of a Catholic revival, including ad orientum worship, the use of Latin, appropriate music, and more. With the implementation of the new translation of the Mass just around the corner, reform is already in the air. Seize the moment.

  5. I should perhaps add that I am very profoundly opposed to girls serving: my reluctant tolerance of the practice is based on pragmatism, not principle. Had Pope John Paul not permitted it (under the shameful guise of an interpretation of Canon Law which wrongfooted everyone who had loyally held the line up to that point) I would never have allowed it.

  6. ohriii says:

    The previous comments are spot on in the difficulty of returning to an all-male altar corps. My own quite traditional parish does not allow female servers, but never has, so it doesn’t seem to be an issue. I don’t think there is any question that the all-male server group creates vocations. Anyone who has been in a sacristy with a first-time, very young server, cannot help but notice how their ears prick up when they first hear the priest pray, “My purpose is to celebrate Mass….”

  7. Johnny Domer says:

    The Pope is clearly hesitant to mandate things liturgically that might be difficult for people to accept. Hence, he hasn’t mandated Communion kneeling and on the tongue, he hasn’t mandated ad orientem as a norm, he hasn’t required more Latin during the Mass, he hasn’t put new restrictions on Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, and he hasn’t mandated that altar servers should all be men.

    My worry, though, (and clearly I’m not as smart as the Pope, but here we go) is that there isn’t going to be any time when people will be well-disposed to accept these kinds of changes. In fact, my contention, FWIW, is that the longer the Pope waits, the more people get used to these novel practices, the more feminism and secularism will take hold in many Western countries, and the more difficult it gets to end these practices. They thought political pressure was tough in 1994?! How is it less tough now, in the wake of all the abuse scandals that have been uncovered in the West? Any change this Pope or his successor(s) make(s) is only going to be more difficult for the faithful to accept the more we punt the ball down the field. So why not make these changes yesterday!?

    One factor might be that the Pope is hoping to improve the worldwide episcopate first before making these decisions, in order to have agents on the ground who can implement his vision in the best way possible. However, while the episcopate is improving in the US, it is decidedly NOT improving in many other countries. With the 75-year-old retirement age, the Pope can reform a national episcopate in a “hurry,” by the Church’s way of looking at things (10-15 years), but people in the real world don’t live their lives on the Vatican’s schedule. Unless the Pope opts for the “Nuclear Option” in some countries (e.g. Ireland, Austria) of firing everybody and replacing them all, he’s going to have to wait 20 or 30 years before the “biological solution” takes care of things.

    Also, we don’t know what kind of Pope is going to be elected after Benedict. There’s no guarantee that we’ll get somebody like Cdl. Burke, Piacenza, or Ranjith who shares Benedict’s vision and will continue it; we could wind up with another Paul VI for all we know. I guess Benedict would understand the lay of the land among the College of Cardinals better than I would, but I’m just saddened that Benedict is probably going to die before making any of these reforms to the OF.

    All that he has done for the OF so far is to provide his own good example in Rome, and the example of the EF which he liberated. However, they have really not done very much on the local level to improve things, as far as I can tell from my limited perch here in the Midwest US. Anyone I know who goes to Europe or Latin America says that the liturgy in Italy, France, Ireland, Mexico, Brazil, wherever, is still celebrated in a sloppy and not-very-Benedict-ish fashion. Clearly something more needs to be done.

    I wish he’d have a bit more urgency. Ultimately, he’s led and protected by the Holy Spirit in a way I’m not; I hope and pray that he does the right thing, whatever it is.

  8. ipadre says:

    Yes, it should be reversed. However, it will be a painful transition and some priests will do whatever they want, like always. But, the sacrifice is worth the benefits.

  9. Tom Esteban says:

    Yes, it should be reversed. I don’t believe that an “all male sanctuary” by virtue of it being all male fosters vocations, however. I do believe that being an Altar Boy fosters vocations – but these are two different things. It’s not as if an all male sanctuary would suddenly make Altar Boys pursue a vocation as if the girls were making things misty. If it were made clear to the servers what role they had and how it relates to a specific vocation (or lack there-of) it might be better. The problem comes in when:

    a) Girls are the only altar servers, and
    b) Girls misintepret their role in the Church (wymynpriest vocations, if you will).

    I think (b) is most important and as such, the decision should be reversed. The sanctuary should remain all male – but for more reasons than simply talking about fostering vocations (which, I believe, is a good reason, but not the most relevant or theologically significant reason for having all male servers though everything is intertwined).

    The only problem I see… it gives rise to more liturgical abuse because, lets face it, when 40 years on from VII liturgical abuse is everywhere and one still can’t seem to fathom what goes on in most Novus Ordo parishes I don’t think that something like this will fly. Catechesis must start from the ground up. If they suddenly reversed the decision it would create more tension for me as I sit in my pew witnessing liturgical abuse.

    Nevertheless, these are only difficulties and not major problems.

  10. Yes, I believe that the decision should be reversed. In the grand scheme of things, however, I’m not sure that this is the hill I would choose to die on.

  11. frjim4321 says:

    It will never be reversed. A reversal might be attempted but the negative reaction would be devastating to church attendance and participation. A reversal would be unenforceable.

  12. Teresamerica says:

    As a former altar girl I agree with Oddie, at least for the most part. I grew up in a small town in MD which was actually in the Wilmington, DE diocese where I started out being an altar server at the end of 5th grade and I graduated from 8th grade in 1991 so I guess my diocese or parish interpreted the law in this fashion before it was declared in 1994. I had a few pro-feminist nuns in my parish so it’s actually not much of a surprise that the rules would have been broken. I would limit the girls to being a cross bearer. This way the girls can still feel like they are still involved with the Church but without doing any of the more overt seminarian functions. I really enjoyed my time as an altar server and having assisted priests and bishops at Mass. It was truly an honor for me and probably helped my faith to flourish in a number of ways and that is why while I would eliminate girls as being altar servers I would say that they should still be allowed to be cross bearers. Just have them sit with their families during Mass. I think having girls serve alongside boys as altar servers is confusing to the guys when the Church only has male priests. It sends mixed-signals to the guys – girls are okay to serve alongside me now but it’s not okay later. The role of altar server should be a stepping stone to the priesthood, in their discerning whether they are called to the priesthood or not.

  13. Corinne says:

    If the Vatican is NOT going to reverse the decision could they at least call on the bishops to enforce guidelines. One that comes to mind is how the altar servers dress (even the boys who should not be allowed to wear jeans and tennis shoes underneath the cassock). There is one altar girl at the church I attend who wears bright red spike heel pumps while wearing the cassock and surplice (which girls should not wear either, they should have a different attire all together) and serving at the altar. Yes. I said bright red, spike heel pumps…and the priest says nothing….nor do her parents apparently. This girl is probably around 16 years old, best guess. *sigh*

  14. I think the decision should be reversed. It has led to confusion among both men and women and suppressed participation of boys and vocations to the priesthood.

  15. dans0622 says:

    It seems impossible to “reverse” the 1994 decision of the PCLT: the law (c. 230) is what it is and it does not restrict the role of “altar boy” to boys. (I always am amused by “girl altar boy.”) What would need to happen is for a new law–that made such a restriction–to be promulgated. This new law could be in the “GIRM” or the Code. Since I think a reversal of the interpretation is impossible, I did not vote in the poll. If the question was “should the law be changed” I would say “no” since I think the new law would be ignored, would only cause more strife and, consequently, perhaps even fewer vocations. A “bottom-up” return to having only boys serve at the altar is a better way to go, it seems to me. For that reason, I think the CDW statement (posted yesterday by Fr. Z) was good: “Yes, girls can serve because of —-, but, really, boys should do it because of ———.”

  16. ppech says:

    As a priest I would say that it should be reversed. However, with so many up in arms over the new translation(utterly ridiculous), at this point in time I think it would be unwise to do. Also, it would take time and some effort to rebuild a male only core of servers, since as rightly stated in other places, there are less and less boys serving at the altar. Timing is everything!

  17. JohnE says:

    Regarding this poll and the couple polls in the next post after it, another interesting demographic would be whether or not the poll respondent had any children, or only sons or only daughters. Although from the poll results it doesn’t look like it would really make much difference.

  18. Joanne says:

    My parish is EF/OF and the pastor does not allow female altar servers. He does use laypeople as lectors, a few of whom are women. I’m fine with no female altar servers, and I like that the servers are men of all ages, not just chilren/adolescent boys. However, the “all male altar servers promote vocations” argument doesn’t make sense to me. God either has given a man a vocation to the ordained priesthood or He hasn’t. If a man has such a vocation, then wild horses, and certainly not female altar servers, should be able to keep him away. If he’s reluctant to pursue the priesthood based on factors external to himself, then I’d question whether he’s fit for the priesthood and if we really want him as a priest. That would be like a man saying about a potential marriage partner, “Well, I really want to pursue this woman, but there are all these extraneous things getting in my way of proposing…” Can’t imagine any woman being excited about that.

    My pastor made a much more important change when he took over this parish, which was to do away with the Eucharistic Ministers (I realize there is little debate here that EMHCs ought to be done away with). Doing away with EMHCs at Mass, while retaining their use in hospitals, etc, would be the most critical change we could make.

  19. Joanne says:


    oops, sorry – *children

  20. priests wife says:

    Serving at the altar is a masculine action- so I am looking forward to my only son being at the altar next year (most of the real serving is done by older teenagers and men, not boys)—he has 3 sisters and needs something only he can do

  21. JohnE says:

    When I was an altar server in the 70’s there were no female altar servers, at least not at our parish. I think if there had been I would not have wanted to be a server. I was already a little self-conscious because of the long “dress thing”, and church wasn’t exactly seen as cool and macho. Serving beside girls would have lead me to believe, right or wrong, that this was something girls could handle on their own or perhaps with “soft” boys. I’m sure you could convince me now that it would’ve been wrong to think that, but I doubt you could have convinced me then.

  22. Centristian says:

    While I voted “no”, I would expand that “no” to mean “no, not right now”.

    We have to bear in mind–bear it strongly in mind–that there is a terrific crisis plaguing the Church at the moment, a crisis which has altar boys at its center. The average Catholic is today very suspicious of the Catholic clergy in that regard, and would be made all the more suspicious if, in this present environment, the Vatican were to mandate that, once again, only boys and boys alone can serve priests. It would be a PR disaster.

    To me, it’s kind of like the question of whether or not meatless Fridays ought to be restored year-round. Perhaps they ought to, but not right now. In today’s environment, it would not be properly understood. It would only serve to confuse and irritate people. “The Church is trying to control everything we do!” That would be the reaction. The need for and the benefits of Christian penance have not been properly and adequately expressed to the faithful over the past 40 years. Today’s typical Catholic will not, therefore, interpret such a decree in its proper context, but will misunderstand it and interpret it as something antiquarian or even sinister.

    The clergy ought to seek to foster once again, first, an environment within the Church that embraces rather than runs away from the traditional meaning and spirit of Catholicism. In the context of such a renewed Catholic environment, the merits of things such as all-male service in liturgical ceremonies and meatless Fridays will be more readily comprehended by the Christian faithful. In the present environment, however, most Catholics simply won’t get it. You’ve got to recondition Catholic minds to be Catholic again before expecting us to grasp the details and properly interpret them.

    If part of that rebuilding of a Catholic culture and environment means at first a reformed liturgy–ad orientem posture, the Canon in Latin, Gregorian Chant, &c–but with mixed male and female service at the altar, fine. I won’t despise such a Mass on account of co-ed service. In time, however, once the environment and culture are eventually reshaped–in part because of good liturgical reform–the reasons for things like all-male service in ceremonies will begin to occur to people again, and things like altar girls will begin to disappear on their own.

    In the meantime, I do have a thought concerning service at the altar the merits of which readers can decide for themselves. We habitually use the terms “altar boys” (and “altar girls”), which I frankly can’t stand. In general, I don’t like the idea that we Catholics have that service at the altar is the exclusive province of children. It isn’t, of course; it is the prerogative of clergy, typically seminarians in minor orders. But they don’t exist anymore (for the most part). So, laity substitute for them. But why must those laity necessarily be kids?

    The crisis in the Church makes the very idea of “altar boys” a cause of great concern for some and the punchline of tasteless jokes for others. The concept has become a very tainted one. Perhaps, at this point, service at the altar should be reimagined as an adult’s role instead of a child’s role. Perhaps it always should have been, in fact.

    It might be that parishes should begin to encourage twentysomethings, thirtysomethings, and fortysomethings to serve in ceremonies, rather than 12 year-old boys and girls. You never see adolescent lectors. Why adolescent acolytes, then? To me, the thought of conscientious adults serving competently in liturgical ceremonies represents something rather more edifying than kids in albs and sneakers tripping over themselves and wiping their noses on their sleeves, in any case.

    I think the day of the altar girl should come to an end, yes. But so should the day of the altar boy.

  23. kab63 says:

    I observed a teenage boy and girl serving together at Mass. At a certain point they were sitting with their heads together, flirting. Inappropriate, obviously, but I don’t expect young people with raging hormones to ignore each other when in close proximity. The Church is responsible for keeping them apart and failed on that day. Denying the differences between the sexes, feminism’s goal, should never be the position of the Church. Every instinct of being female (mothering, nesting, fecundity) is inappropriate on a male-centered altar. Instead of usurping the authority of boys, the Church can grant the girls their own authority (such as a “lassie’s” choir, as the good Father suggested).

  24. Mike says:

    I would end the allowance for girl servers tomorrow. We are not to conform to this age, or any age, but Christ only.

    The Vatican should get a spine, and enact this change.

  25. MattnSue says:

    I am reminded of Ratzinger’s statement in “The Spirit of The Liturgy” (p 168) regarding clapping during Mass: Wherever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared.” The similarity is his qualifier that the human achievement as the purpose of the applause being the “sure sign.” Similarly, this change was not made for the betterment of the liturgy, but for a human “achievement” of equality. We are no more able to focus on God, or to give him glory with female servers than with males. Female servers do not bring us closer, do not make the Eucharist “more” of his body. All they do is permit girls to do something boys did. The focus is on the human, not the divine, so the essense has disapeared.

  26. disco says:

    Female altar service has enriched the faith of exactly zero persons. Any benefit is purely imagined. Fact not opinion.

  27. BrianVree says:

    My grade school did server training in 6th grade. When we went to training, it was only boys. So the Knights of Columbus would take all the boys of the class (they just presumed everyone wanted to serve) to the church for training and girls stayed in the classroom and played games, read, or something.

    The girls in my class did not like being treated “unequal” so they collectively wrote a letter to the bishop, asking to allow girls to serve too. He responded two years later, granting them the privilege to serve.

    How many signed up? Zero! They didn’t want to serve, they just wanted the “right” to serve. The problem was that, in 6th grade, instead of taking only boys over for training, now the Knights take over the whole class, again assuming everyone wants to serve.

  28. Katharine B. says:

    Whoa.. it seems to me that Altar Girls were never actually permitted.
    Here we have a vague interpretation from the “Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts” (who?), vs two very blunt statements by two infallible popes (not permitted, barred). Not to mention the 2000 year old tradition of having only boys serving at the Altar.

    This reminds me of the current seeming mandate that all Catholics must practice NFP vs for serious/grave reasons only. Who’s right, Theology of the Body interpreters or 2000 years of consistent Church tradition and teaching?

    Let us go back to boy Altar boys only, and lots and lots of babies.

  29. Frances M says:

    As the mother of two daughters – both of them now grown – I never permitted them to apply to be altar servers; both of them remain strong Catholics, thanks be to God. I also retired myself, to the puzzlement of our pastor at the time, from serving as a lector because I came to see that I was contributing to the growing feminization of the altar.

  30. Subdeacon Joseph says:

    As a priest I too believe this should be reversed. The mind must be kept pure in the altar, and having children of the same sex serving together can be a distraction because of human nature. Also in the Eastern tradition no one who is bleeding can step foot in the altar because of the bloodless sacrifice whether male or female. Thus a girl could not serve all the time. God forbid she was a priest she could not serve once a month, or 40 days after child birth. It is custom in many Eastern parishes for women not to commune once a month, and for 40 days after child birth. After the 40 days they receive the Rite of Churching of a mother and child and are welcomed back into the community after their healing and bonding period with their child.

  31. tzard says:

    In my parish, the female altar servers tend to come from large orthodox families active in the parish. It’s not seen as any form of protest. Surprisingly, perhaps 70% of the servers are boys.

    Yet, to me there are a few issues:
    1) Male-only friendships are under attack (if the battle has not already been lost on many fronts). Even see the women-only businesses and clubs, while men-only are not allowed. Feminism and homosexuality inhibit good male friendships from without and from within.

    2) Even young boys understand the differences between boys and girls (emotionally, mentally) – so friendships between the two – even if not at the age of distraction, is not the same as with just boys (or may I add, just girls). As a father of boys and girls both, I see that the politics of gender neutrality is not only wrong, but it’s an evil to be fought.

    3) I dont’ think it’s been mentioned – that even before this innovation of altar girls, it’s oftentimes harder to get men to Mass or participating in the parish than women. And at older ages, the biological effect skews membership too. If as a Christian, one loves men as a much as women (as children of God in need of salvation), one should not try to reduce the opportunities for men and boys to participate in the Church. With the right attitude, one should be looking for more ways to include their men, rather than having a skewed preference for women.

  32. SouthTxMom says:

    Yes, I think it should be reversed. Doing so would provide clarity. If the change causes strife in a parish, won’t it also build fortitude in priests? It seems they will likely be called to stand strong in much bigger battles in the future.

    [our family: One son serving at the altar. Girls are not permitted to serve (and no EMs) at our parish.]

  33. Pachomius says:

    [I, draconian, eliminated this otherwise innocent comment with the hope that everyone will review my admonition at the top and NOT engage and NOT respond to each other. State your own case and leave all others free to comment on their own.]

  34. Cathy says:

    The invitation to serve at the altar should be restricted to males just as the invitation to the priesthood is restricted to males. I don’t consider this a matter of boys/men being better than, or more deserving, I simply consider this as a matter of them being blessed in a very distinct way by Our Lord which should foster, if not vocation to the priesthood, the vocation of fatherhood and authentic masculinity.

  35. MBeauregard says:

    I have been involved in Catholic elementary education for many years – five of which I was the headmaster of a co-ed elementary school. I can testify without doubt that when the pastor of the parish and school decided to use males only at the service at the altar, interest in the Mass and vocations skyrocketed among the students.

  36. Obviously most girls can’t be crucifers, because most processional crosses are big honkin’ heavy things that you could use as some kind of cavalry-borne mace in a pinch. The single time I served in any capacity (during a Stations of the Cross thing at school), the candles and their honkin’ big metal holders alone were plenty heavy for an elementary school kid. Even as a high schooler, I seriously doubt that I could have comfortably handled the processional cross; it used to be the domain of junior high and high school boys that had some height and arms on them. I further note that my current parish rarely has anybody carry the processional cross, due to the lack of servers. Why they don’t strongarm some ushers into doing it, I don’t know.

    Obviously it’s a can of worms to take back girls doing serving. But it’s got to be done. It’s not fitting to have the priest apparently waited on hand and foot by nothing but girls; and it’s sure as heck not feminist. Even without the arguments of power structure or what’s traditional and fitting in liturgy, it’s just orthogonal to the pride and vocation of being laywomen. Little girls used to be great forces in their parishes for practical charity and for prayer. Nowadays, most kids of either sex know bupkis about devotional life, and don’t get to do good for others except as “service projects” in exchange for getting something.

    Both boys and girls have the right to access the whole heritage and spectrum of good Catholic service. Having some kind of performance role at Mass is not even the tip of the iceberg, so why do we try to shove everyone into that slot? I don’t remember that the kids at Lourdes and Fatima were altar servers, for goodness sake, and yet somehow they managed to know the Lord.

    One of my old friends grew up next door to his parish, had an RE teacher for a mom, served most of his boyhood and teenage years, received all the relevant childhood Sacraments, and grew up a heathen who doesn’t even understand the schemata of Mass, much less anything about God. He didn’t need to be an altarboy; he needed somebody to sit him down and make him understand the Gospel, and find out that God was real and that Mass wasn’t just random stuff thrown at a board!

  37. says:

    The pastor of my parish only allows male servers, and it has been wonderful to see the enthusiasm of so many young men. You can see and sense great devotion to Our Lord and the Mass on many of their faces. There is no doubt in my mind that this practice will greatly contribute to priestly vocations.

  38. JohnW says:

    I was an Altar boy and believe that the church should have never let girls or women on the Altar. The only way to fix things in the church is for it to be mandated and ordered . The faithful will still be at Mass on Sunday. We will never in our life time see a reform of the reform if it is not mandated by the Holy Father. Let us all pray to Our Mother of Perpetual Help . She has never not answered my prayers.

  39. Tina in Ashburn says:

    Until altar girls are forbidden, good priests and bishops have a much harder time enforcing what they know is right. And as for women doing men’s work, as long as women take on such things, men won’t step forward. [someone else is doing it, guys flee women’s ‘clubs’ too]

    The same goes for all battles into which poor pastors are put, with no ‘backup’ or teeth in rules. It is always a sea of ambivalence that defeats demonstrating firm and unconditional truth. How much easier is it for a pastor to say “Don’t blame me, call Rome” than be embattled with opinionated parishioners, making his life miserable [Obedience has its perks, ironically it is freeing].

    In generations past, good rules such as respectfully keeping women out of the Sanctuary fostered vocations and saints. Why is returning to these good things a bad idea?

  40. Widukind says:

    The lead up to allowing female servers was frought with emotion pure and simple. In the parish I was at, it was still not permitted to allow them, but the atmosphere was boiling. I resisted strongly, always trying to present a logical explanation as to why it was prohibited. No luck, at being rational. Simply because one did not favor female servers, you received labels of being “closed-minded”, “conservative”, “not open to the Spirit”, “mean-spirited”, “selfish” etc. etc. Hysterical parents got in your face, always ranting about “rights” etc. Being pro-female servers, at that time was a badge of honor to the liberal element of the parish – cause then you were really “progressive” and “prophetic”. You were a “with it” “on the ball” priest. Times have changed. However, as the push for female servers was born of emotion unbridled, its demise will also be overshadowed with strident emotion.

    I do believe that in allowing female servers, the male servers become scarcer. It is a psychological thing with them. All is well and good in being supportive of little girls, but the boys need not thereby be neglected as their masculinity also needs to be supported. In their minds religion becomes a woman’s thing, and real men do not do girly things. Perhaps when your local football team becomes equally balanced with male and female players, then listen to the reasons why this is not a good idea. The logic will begin to be clear. Such a team will devolve quickly to chaos, and will soon cease to exist.

  41. Rachel says:

    I’ll just give one reason I think only males should serve at the altar. It’s not the most important reason, but it’s one I haven’t seen brought up much. The reason is: the Church is often the only corrective to vicious elements of the culture at large, and one bad element in our own day and age is the idea that it’s unjust to discriminate in any way on the basis of sex– that all-male clubs are unjust, and colleges spending more money on men’s sports than women’s (even though men are way more interested in sports) is unjust, and single-sex classrooms in public schools would be bad, and in general we’ve got to treat men and women as neuters all the time or else it’s unfair. This is such rank nonsense, harmful to both sexes, and the Church can help save us from it by unashamedly upholding the noble and laudable practice of having only men serve at the altar. I know there are people who feel upset at the very thought, and I think those people have been conditioned too much by modern culture and need to have their instincts corrected.

  42. trad catholic mom says:

    yes it should be reversed as should; communion on the tongue, standing and the routine use EMHC

  43. Varda says:

    I do think altar girls sort of makes for a mixed message to girls, and really to everyone, and shouldn’t have been allowed, but I think some things are just really hard to put back in the box. I also think the fundamental problem is Eucharistic Ministers – if lay people including lay women are fine to distribute the Body and Blood of our Lord, it’s hard to say you can’t have altar girls. I am sure there is a canon law explanation or something very deep like that. but for an average person, it just on a gut level make no sense to have one but disallow the other. I would be totally in favor of getting rid of Eucharistic Ministers and altar girls but I think as long as you have the one you are going to be stuck with the other as well.

    As far as having stuff for girls to do, at our parish we have sort of a youth affiliate to the Knights of Columbus – boys are called Squires and girls are called Roses. They seem to do different activites, prayer, service and fun things and it seems pretty popular.

  44. nanetteclaret says:

    If girls are appointed to the job of Sacrastan (Altar Guild/Society), then the argument that they could no longer serve at the Altar would be bogus. Their “serving” would just be of a different sort. In addition, if the job of Sacrastan were described as being perfect for girls because they are usually more detail-oriented, less clumsy, less likely to break things, etc., then the girls would see it as something special – that only they could do. Being on the Altar Guild is a huge amount of work just for daily and Sunday Mass, not to mention handling weddings, funerals, baptisms, Holy Week services, etc. If Altar Guild membership were by invitation of the pastor only, and if they had special uniforms such as button up coats (similar to lab coats) with a special badge or insignia on it, then they would have a sense of the importance and necessity of their work. Girls and boys should both be encouraged in learning how to serve the Church. Part of the lesson of obedience is to learn to accept one’s role as God has created one and to participate in the way the Church prefers. Girls and boys both have important things to do – just not the same things.

  45. Scuffy the Tugboat says:

    Here is a story from my small-town parish in New Zealand, circa 1982. We had many servers, about 20-25 boys in age from 7 through to 15/16. We served Mass in teams of three, and I recall a real brotherhood among us all. The senior guys would undertake to instruct the new ones, and show them the ropes. They would advise on the use of the tricky thurible, how to turn on the polished floor, the cruets that Fr X preferred, servers vesting prayers, and all other secret sacristy stuff. There was a clear progression up the ranks, and the pinnacle was to be selected for the Holy Week ceremonies. This was important.

    About this time, the girls from the parish were permitted to serve at Mass. I was about 10, and remember that the first Sunday that girls served, the national Catholic newspaper had a headline, “Pope says No to girls serving Mass.” I remember this becasue the man in front of my family was reading the newspaper during the homily (!), and I could see the headline.

    I don’t recall any discussion in the parish, or in my home, but being 10 I might have missed it all anyway.

    The result was that, overnight, all of the boys stopped serving. None of us wanted to do it anymore. Actually, two continued – myself and another guy – and our parents made us continue! Sister spoke at school assemblies, and in the classroom about how bad we all were, and what a disgrace it all was, and how we had no sense of duty, &c &c.

    Nobody made any sort of cause and effect analysis at all. A culture of service and fraternity was wiped out overnight.

    Anyway, the other guy went on with it, and is now a priest in the Diocese. I was back in the old parish six months ago, and they don’t have any servers at all now.

  46. Scuffy the Tugboat says:

    … actually, they don’t even have a priest either.

  47. Vincenzo says:

    From Father Joe:

    “Pope John Paul II told Mother Teresa that as long as he was Pope, there would never be altar girls. Two days later she was greatly shocked by the nonsensical clarification of liturgical law permissive of altar girls from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. What happened in 1994? The Holy Father was in the hospital. The prefect took it upon himself to make the change. Afterwards, the Pope was furious. He told Mother Teresa that he allowed the change to stand because he did not want the public scandal of a Vatican fighting itself. If you look at the document in the ACTA, you will note that it is signed by the prefect, but the Pope never put his name to it. Cardinal Ratzinger was a close friend and supporter of the Pope and he did not forget those who took advantage of Pope John Paul II. As Pope Benedict XV he has done much to clean house and to keep firmer control….”


  48. John V says:

    Perhaps Dr. Peters can weigh in on this, but is the problem really with the interpretation of the 1983 Code given by the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts? Canon 230, Section 1 (dealing with the instituted ministries of lector and acolyte) uses the term “Viri laici”. Sections 2 and 3 (dealing with laity “performing functions” by temporary designation and “supplying certain duties” in the absence of instituted ministers) uses simply “laici”. It seems as though the folks at Legislative Texts said, in effect, “there’s nothing in this law that prevents females from serving at the altar.” Since the Code of Canon Law for the most part does not deal with liturgical matters (see Canon 2), it would seem that puts the ball in CDW’s court to determine the issue as a matter of liturgical law.

  49. papaefidelis says:

    At the time of the decision in 1994, I became depressed. It felt to me like the violation of norms had just been legitimized. I had suffered MORE than a little and lost MUCH in my life to uphold Church teaching and liturgical norms and I felt betrayed. My feeling was that EVERY OTHER official liturgical “novelty” introduced up to that point could be found within the legitimate liturgical tradition of the West but NOT this one. No. As time progressed, though, I’ve moved from the “lack-of-legitimacy” corner to the “utter folly” corner (it’s the same crowd of folks but the “folly” corner laughs more), noting that I have yet to see a female server whose piety and liturgical acumen inspire me. At my parish, there was a female server who walked like a T. Rex (I think she had physical problems), causing giggles in the nave during mass.
    Still, how can this ruling be both rescinded AND “save face”? It would be a public relations NIGHTMARE! I’m sure that it can be done but can someone offer a scenario wherein it could be, without appearing misogynistic or “medieval”?

  50. Mouse says:

    Decision should absolutely be reversed. Has only encouraged women to think they have a right to serve at the altar and a right to the priesthood. In one article I read about the issue, the girls interviewed said that serving at the altar was great, “But that’s not all we should get.” ie, they should “get” the priesthood, too. I consider this to be a matter of thinking like the world, not with the mind of the Church or with the Lord… I once felt differently on this issue, so I can tell you that many very sincere, kindly, not power-hungry people just don’t get the Church’s teaching, and having not really studied it and prayed about it, just assume the Church is wrong, without the malice that some of us “conservatives” attribute to them. (Yes, there are some malicious ones, but most, no.)

    I say as a female that I prefer to see no females whatsoever at, near, or around the altar, and I GREATLY prefer to here readings read by men. Won’t write a tome about why…. bottom line has to do with God’s design for men and women, etc… Also, it is a fact (which God knows) that when you have women get involved in these things, they take over EVERYTHING! It becomes tiresome to always see women–or really, any laypeople– where in my heart I believe only the priest should be.

  51. AnAmericanMother says:

    Rescind it – with a caveat.

    Any mother of boys and girls could have told them that the boys would leave in droves once the girls got in. And they did.

    Our parish has done the best it could to encourage the boys — the altar server program is run along military lines, with drills, stringent requirements, duty schedule, promotions in rank, etc. That definitely discourages the “girly girls” and reminds the boys that it’s “their” program. I’d say it’s about 50-50. The girls who stick with it tend to be the serious, pious, overachieving types (like my daughter, who came in late due to our conversion about the time she started high school, but did achieve the rank of colonel and made the Elite squad.) She always wore her hair up and plain black shoes were required, so you couldn’t tell past the first couple of rows whether she was a girl or not.

    Caveat: If they pull the plug, the girls will have to have something else to do– a Junior Sacristan program or something similar. The parish has started a St. Therese girl’s club and a couple of other activities especially for girls, so maybe something is in the works.

  52. BLB Oregon says:

    I have two opinions to offer. One adolescent male altar server I asked said he thought that it might be easier for some young men to pay attention during Mass if the other altar servers were also male. On that account, it might be a good idea to have the servers for a particular Mass be all-female or all-male, when it is possible. He didn’t think that serving with girl altar servers would make a difference about whether a young man would consider being a priest. He thought that girl altar servers would definitely be more likely to consider a religious vocation than girls who weren’t. (He is in a program that makes it very clear that the priesthood is reserved for men, period.)

    Having said that, having mixed altar server groups would reflect other realities in the Church. An older priest I talked to, one who had some experience at the local seminary, said that he felt very strongly that young men who wanted to be ordained priests had better understand from the start that this means being able to work with everybody in the Church, male and female. He feels that the Church is never going back to the clergy running everything and the laypeople doing what they’re told, especially not at the parish level, so he thinks it is obvious that a priest has to be able work with both men and women. He said that if a young man could not work peacefully with female co-workers and be as humble around them as with any man, he’d never make it as a priest.

    I don’t know if female altar servers could be phased out, but that priest is right: the priests of the future will have to be able to work smoothly with anybody, whether male or female, lay or clergy. For better or worse, that is not going to change.

  53. BLB Oregon says:

    “At the time of the decision in 1994, I became depressed. It felt to me like the violation of norms had just been legitimized.”
    I think you have a point. I think this precedent initially encouraged those who have been attempted the ordination of women, not to mention other innovations. If the method has a track record, why not? This must be how “grassroots change” happens!

    I think Rome has made it clear it considers the two questions to be apples and angels, two considerations that are on entirely different planes. I hope it doesn’t take the would-be innovators too long to get that through their heads.

  54. gracie says:

    Let the girls read the petitions; if they can project their voices so that the congregation can hear them. They could have try-outs and practice sessions and the ones that make the cut can get up at Mass and say them. Why does it have to be only women who do it? Isn’t that ageist?

    If the issue is that girls should be allowed on the altar then maybe this would be a way to keep everyone happy. Meanwhile, priests have to have the courage to explain from the pulpit that it’s not about rights but about getting boys up on the altar to get them working with priests so that hopefully they’ll at least consider a vocation to the priesthood. They can even point to studies (which you will find if you google) that when girls start serving boys mostly stop. Priests need to stop being afraid of their parishioners and instead get them on their side by being open about what the problem is. Mothers want the best for their boys as well as their girls and if bishops and priests frame the issue as one where they’re helping their sons find out if God’s calling them to the priesthood then I think you’ll get the moms on your side (and they’re the ones you have to convince, trust me).

  55. dcs says:

    I would be in favor of not merely reversing the decision allowing girls and women to serve at the altar but of prohibiting them from entering the sanctuary at all during Mass and other sacred ceremonies (exceptions for marriages, first Holy Communions, etc.).

  56. I am currently working/praying/thinking how I can change the girls’ minds. They are good girls who love the Church. I am going to ask them to consider: what do you want from a possible future husband? Do you want him to be a good practising Catholic? Do you want him to be active in the Church, unafraid to witness publicly to his faith? Do you want young men to have the space and opportunity to consider and possibly welcome the thought that they might be called to be a priest, and that serving at the altar might inspire this thought in young boys? Will you give way so that boys may take their place at the altar? Will you consider taking on other roles more appropriate to girls that boys are less likely to take on, e.g. singing (although it would of course be good to have boys in our choirs too), sacristy work, welcoming, etc. I have a feeling that some of these good girls will be open to this.

  57. swisswiss says:

    Catechesis, my dear Watson, catechesis. Reversing the decision could be a teachable moment–or an occasion for further misrepresentation and accusations about a “male-dominated” hierarchy. I pray the Holy Father picks our path carefully.

  58. Seamas O Dalaigh says:


    Of course it should be reversed. The sooner the better.

    Cardinal Vingt-Trois’ observation makes sense. Everybody knows that little boys of a certain age do not wish to be involved in anything that includes little girls. Enter the little girls, exit fast the little boys.

    There is a clear and obvious link between altar boys and vocations to the priesthood. Although the reasons for a drop in vocations are many and complex, serviettes can only have aggravated the problem.

    In places where they exist what do serviettes wear? Alb and cincture? Soutanne and surplice? But these are men’s garments! Is it really wise to encourage little girls to dress as men?

    (I wonder how many members of COW, sorry, WOC were once serviettes? Just a thought…)

    James Daly

  59. Jenice says:

    I do believe that altar servers should be male. I am a mother of daughters only, but I have observed what Mr. Oddie spoke of; as soon as the girls get involved, the boys disappear. I’ve seen this not only with altar service but with swim teams and other groups. I’m not that knowledgeable about male psychology, but Anthony Esolen and others have taught me that boys need something exclusively theirs, demanding, with several ranks to achieve–like the Boy Scouts.

    Also, I attend an NO parish, but have observed that the altar servers in the Latin Mass have a lot more responsibility, and a lot cooler stuff to do than do the NO servers, which may account in part for diminishing interest on the part of boys in serving the NO mass.

    Even if the boys don’t go on to become priests, the presence of an all-male sanctuary keeps boys and men coming to church. As soon as it becomes feminized, emotional, sentimental, the men leave, just as they have done in Protestant churches. When I converted I was amazed at the number of men at Mass; my Protestant ecclesial community had many more women than men. I also think that women should not be lectors or extraordinary ministers of holy communion, or even youth group leaders. If the youth group leader is a woman the guys don’t show up, but they do with a man. The girls stay either way.

    We have not allowed our daughters to serve mass, although one of them briefly wanted to. We all sing in the parish choir, and that’s really been good for us as a family. I am a recovering feminist, and my current opinions were hard fought, but this is how I see it now. FWIW.

  60. hugonis says:

    I never expected to see William Oddie quote David L. Sonnier. For what it’s worth, David L. Sonnier, known better to me as Professor Sonnier, is a professor of Computer Science at my small college in Arkansas, and a prominent member of the Latin Mass community in North Arkansas. What a small world.

  61. jflare says:

    I’m afraid my thoughts on this can be somewhat..scrambled.
    I don’t precisely object to the idea of girls or women serving at the altar, nor to girls or women acting as lectors. I don’t object to the principle anyway.

    Even so, I think the decision to allow girls to serve needs to be reversed.

    Since 2002, I’ve discussed the changes in the Church with my father, a man who attended seminary during the 50’s and who expected to be ordained a deacon. He tends to know a good deal about how the Church..functioned..prior to 1965, 1969, or whichever year you choose to pick.
    He’s commented more than once about how the Church used to be severely rigid about almost anything.
    He once cited how, as seminarians, he and others determined whether consuming a milkshake would break their Friday fast by placing a mixing stick in the blender. If the mixing stick stood up, the milkshake was “food” and needed to be thinned or left until the next day, lest they break their Friday fast. If the stick fell over, they could consume it as-was without breaking the fast.

    For all that I conceded that these sorts of things could easily happen and be abused, I find I’m questioning whether we’ve truthfully changed that much in the Church.
    If Dad’s generation suffered from rigidity of what MUST be done–or not–I would suggest that my generation suffers from rigidity of what can NEVER be done, nor even considered.

    I can’t remember for sure why I ceased serving for Mass. When I began, my friend from school and I tended to be a team. We served Mass together for over a year, I think. Then he ceased being a server, or at least, I think he did. I never did ask why. I remember I didn’t care much for serving with my brother and I don’t remember that we ever tried pairing me with someone else. I may have simply lost interest in the whole idea.

    I CAN say this: I remember when our local bishop allowed girls to serve for Mass. It would’ve been around 1987 or so. I had a very..confused..view of the whole thing. I suppose I thought it wonderful that the girls would have a chance to serve at the altar. Equality before God and all that, you know.
    Even so….I can’t remember that I ever wanted to serve with any girl.
    Actually, I don’t think I wanted to do much of anything with a girl. I remember my whole approach to relationships being….awkward, confusing, actually downright frightening. In general, I really wanted little, if anything to do with girls, unless another boy happened to be around doing the same thing or if being around girls came in the context of something controlled, like band, choir, or

    ..And I suppose that’s the primary argument I have in favor of a boys-only policy.
    Dad once commented that the Novus Ordo had to be imposed upon the faithful because, if they hadn’t imposed it, many would have refused the change altogether. Some would’ve kept on in Latin and ad orientem, even rejected the approved missal, except they received a direct order from the bishops to change and change now.

    I would very much prefer that boys be a preferred option by the free will of the faithful, but I regret that I see the newer ways having the same vintage of rigidity as the old. Too many people have too much to lose from seeing the boys being allowed, so the boys will have to be required before many will change their view.
    Based on a discussion I’ve been in on another site, I fear that some will require a near open rebellion before they’ll re-learn why the practice was the way it was in the first place.
    I can say this though: I’m growing very tired of all the bickering, fighting, and rage.

    I would suggest that many boys and men have quit responding to the Church partly because we’re simply sick of being harassed and hounded for not being women.

  62. pinoytraddie says:

    As A Former Altar Boy and An Aspiring Canonist(I.U.D) I Say Yes to The Revision!

    Is Time for The Church to Regain Souls By Encouraging More Vocations to the Priesthood!

    If Your Boys Dear Readers will tell You One Day they Want to Be Priests so they can Save Souls,Why Don’t You Encourage them To Serve at The Altar?

  63. AnAmericanMother says:

    Separate male and female teams is exactly how our former ECUSA parish handled the problem. They had to do *something* because the boys were quitting in droves. It did keep the boys in the program, and kept them up to the mark because they didn’t want to be outdone by those yucky girls.
    But either of these strategies is a stopgap and the problems remain.
    I wonder if anybody has investigated the ratio of male to female clergy in ECUSA. I would not be surprised to find the men leaving there.

  64. Cecilianus says:

    I don’t like the “we should restrict altar boys to boys because it fosters vocations to the priesthood” argument. I am not called to the priesthood, have determined that a while ago, and continued serving both at a Roman Mass and at my Divine Liturgy. We should rather restrict altar boys to boys because the act of serving itself is a quasi-sacerdotal act. All of the Eastern Catholic Churches in the respective particular laws forbid women from going behind the iconostasis except to clean once a year – and this has nothing to do with fostering vocations to the priesthood, but simply because it is a sacred area that can be entered only by a quasi-sacerdotas. Women are not valid matter for the priesthood, ergo they cannot be altar boys. Men are valid matter, so even if they have no intention of being ordained, they have some natural affinity that makes their service at the altar fitting. Byzantine acolytes take the place and role of the subdeacon, and wear liturgical vestments (stichera, I think they are called) that must be blessed be a priest before they can even put them on (and they must have their hands blessed before they can take them off). The Roman Church doesn’t seem to believe in blessings as much, and a surplice isn’t a vestment, but it is still a primarily priestly vestment – altar boys dress as priests. Women have no business wearing vestments.

  65. Volanges says:

    I don’t think it should be reversed, but I think it should be explained much more clearly that the decision belongs to the celebrant if the bishop of the diocese allows females to serve. I’ve argued that point with our liturgy coordinator when she’s stated that “the visiting priest has to do things the way they’re done in our parish.” “It’s his choice whether or not to use girls as altar servers, it’s not yours to dictate.”

    Yes, I’m a woman. No I don’t have a problem with an all male sanctuary. Yes, I’ve had a daughter serve, at the request of the Pastor. No my sons have not served, they didn’t want to and if there is one thing that doesn’t belong in the sanctuary it’s someone who doesn’t want to be there. Yes, my brother served. Yes, my dad served, for 35 years in total — 27 of those before he got married (he waited a long time for my mom).

    I honestly do not buy into the argument that service at the altar promotes vocations. Perhaps that’s due to the fact that the parish in which dad served all those years had 148 years of all male sanctuary and in those 148 years, 2 priests. Both served for the same pastor, the same pastor whom dad served for all those years and whom he considered his closest friend, the priest who was the pastor of our little rural parish for 35 years. He was a man others wanted to emulate and I think that, rather than serving, was what got those vocations.

  66. a catechist says:

    It should be reversed, but with a plan–say, all serving young women will be retired by a fixed date & no new ones in the meantime. I’m not looking forward to this with my kids, because most Masses they see are NO (‘though they attend every EF we can) and they got the idea girls can serve early, even though I’ve said my daughter won’t. Mine aren’t old enough to serve yet.

    Example helps, I hope–my son is allowed to assist his dad with sacristan stuff, but I don’t set foot in the sacristy & my daughter stays with me. I don’t feel any attraction at all to doing God’s laundry or washing God’s dishes, so to speak. I serve the church outside Mass using my professional skills & competencies, and I think that’s the best example I can give my young children of both sexes.

  67. AlexE says:

    I am a seminarian, serving at the altar had a huge infulence on my vocation/discernment, is one of the greatest joys for me now. Back home we have both boys and girls serve, however with time we have been able to increase the chances for all boy teams, especially during Christmas and Holy Week and other major things e.g. processions and the May Crowning. It is a huge opportunity to foster vocations, I can kid around with the boys, they see Father and I working together. They can ask me questions about the seminary and frankly they serve better. If I tell them “hair combed, fashes washed, finger nails cut, black shoes and blac pants” it happens, no questions, no exceptions. It was the same for me when I was a boy, and yes I did drop out when I was a boy. In fact the first time I served with a girl I let her do everything, out of a childish reaction.

  68. Athelstan says:

    Sam Schmitt says:

    While I would very much like to see the decision reversed, I wonder if the negative fallout would be worse the original problem. The pope does have to pick his battles.

    Hard to disagree with that. No Pope wants to issue a dictum that will be a dead letter, or worse.

    But there could be a longer term way to accomplish this, just as with, say, mandatory celebration of the canon ad orientem or even mode of reception (which will be even harder to reverse). Aggressively seek out and appoint new bishops who will give priority to forming priests and establishing norms that widen the sphere for male only server masses. This could be step by step, starting with the cathedral, as in Phoenix, and requiring all parishes to have at least one Sunday mass with only male servers, and gradually expand from there. In short, to create, step by step, a more favorable environment for reversing the rule. Which you do with sufficient grandfather clauses and a suitably lengthy period of transition to ease the blow, perhaps.

    I am not remiss in sharing the same fear as Johnny Domer: This Pope will not live forever, and he has reached an age where you don’t buy the green bananas, as they say. We do not know who will succeed him. There are risks with both approaches. But I also do not doubt that had the Pope reversed the rule in 2005, even with qualifications, it would have been widely flouted, and the reaction would be have volcanic in many areas.

  69. Athelstan says:

    Let me clarify by restating my last post, which I composed only *after* reading your command to NOT engage others, Fr. Z – my bad for only skimming quickly. I think it was sufficiently substantive, but please do delete it by all means, if you wish.

    The Pope does have to pick his battles. No Pope wants to issue a dictum that will be a dead letter, or worse.

    But there could be a longer term way to accomplish this, just as with, say, mandatory celebration of the canon ad orientem or even mode of reception (which will be even harder to reverse). Aggressively seek out and appoint new bishops who will give priority to forming priests and establishing norms that widen the sphere for male only server masses. This could be step by step, starting with the cathedral, as in Phoenix, and requiring all parishes to have at least one Sunday mass with only male servers, and gradually expand from there. In short, to create, step by step, a more favorable environment for reversing the rule. Which you do with sufficient grandfather clauses and a suitably lengthy period of transition to ease the blow, perhaps.

    Having said that: This Pope will not live forever, and he has reached an age where you don’t buy the green bananas, as they say. We do not know who will succeed him. There are risks with both approaches. But I also do not doubt that had the Pope reversed the rule as soon as he was elected in 2005, even with qualifications, it would have been widely flouted, and the reaction would be have volcanic in many areas, to say the least. The mood has already shifted noticeably in the six years since, thanks to the “biological solution.” Another six years may bring even more remarkable changes, at least in the U.S..

  70. I think the decision should be reversed. I also think that it is more impressive for a young boy to see young or older men serving than little boys. The other ancillary tasks, torchbearer for example, are impressive to the boys mothers more than to the boys. If boys look up and see what grown men do, seriously and with great reverence,they will be inspired to do the same. If the sanctuary is crowded with little boys, how will a boy know what a man looks like. Then, to put girls in confuses matters. Fewer girls, fewer little boys, and more men. That will impress young boys and prime their imaginations to see themselves doing big important adult work later on. Seeing the real deal cultivates vocations.

  71. ArtND76 says:

    I think there should be all boys also.

    My personal observation is to rarely see a mix of boys and girls serving at the altar, usually it is one or the other.

    My other personal observation is from my time as an altar boy, and as a result, spending time with the priests at the rectory – getting to know them. It gave me the occasion to meet the bishop of our diocese, even if in only a small way. It led to me attending a minor seminary camp before I entered 7th grade to see if the priesthood was my calling (it wasn’t). So yes, I see how this works.

  72. C. says:

    I think women in the sanctuary should be unvested but veiled, and limited in function to ringing the bells and holding the paten when there is a shortage of male servers.

Comments are closed.