Fishwrap rakes up some muck in the Arlington altar girl dispute

You may recall that a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, Fr. Michael Taylor of Corpus Christi Church in South Riding, VA, made a decision in favor of male-only service at the altar (not against girls, but in favor of boys… there is a difference). He was fully within the bounds of his authority to do this. No injustice or anything outside the Church’s law was imposed. As we have seen happen more and more frequently, those who disagreed with this decision moved their protests beyond the community of the parish or or the diocese or of Holy Church and into the mainstream media.

This is a common tactic of the left.

More and more often, we are seeing that the kuroko of the mainstream media are happy to help the protestors shift their props and complaints into full view of a secularized public for the sake of undermining the Church’s doctrine and structures. With Alinkskyite tactics they make the issue of service at the altar into a “have v have not” issue, “us against them”, a class struggle against injustice against those who have “power”.  Fr. Taylor was attacked, personally, even by CNN.

“Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it” – Saul Alinsky (Rules for Radicals – dedicated by the author to Satan).

The National catholic Reporter (aka Fishwrap) has dredged up the altar server situation in Arlington, which by now should be fairly old news. Here are a few choice excerpts with my emphases and comments.

Catholics protest altar server policy
Left up to pastors, more than half of Arlington parishes disallow girls
Dec. 03, 2011
By Alice Popovici

ARLINGTON, VA. — A few dozen people [How many Catholics are there in the Diocese of Arlington?] walked along North Glebe Road in front of the Arlington diocesan headquarters Nov. 20, holding bright signs that called for justice and change.

“Pray for our diocese,” read one sign, handwritten on fluorescent pink cardboard. “Dignity for our girls,” said another. [Pink and “dignity”… remind you of anything?] And another: “We support female altar servers.” And another: “Bishop we need your leadership.” [In other words, the bishop is a “leader” only if he pressures Fr. Taylor to change his decision.  But, according to the Church’s law, a pastor is within his rights to make a decision for male-only service.  Furthermore, any priest can opt for male-only service for a Mass.  They are, therefore, “freezing and personalizing” the person of the bishop, asking him to do something he cannot actually do, unless he does it with behind the scenes…. what… threats?  negotiations?  Which he is unlikely to do if he knows the law and is just in proper sense of justiceA bishop cannot officially oblige a priest to allow altar service by females.]

What the women and men [but not “men and women”] — most of them Catholics from area parishes [not Fr. Taylor’s parish… so.. where are they from?] — specifically asked for during the hourlong afternoon vigil was that Bishop Paul Loverde require priests in his diocese to allow both girls and boys to serve at the altar. [“require”, right?  They are unaware that lay people have no right to liturgical service of any kind?  The possibility under law for lay people to serve in some liturgical role is permissive.  Lay people have no “right” to serve.  But many people today reassign “active participation” to the sphere of rights.  They move it into a political category, and act accordingly when they think they aren’t getting their way.] Though the Vatican has officially allowed female altar servers since 1994, the Arlington diocese has left the decision to individual priests since 2006; as a result, nearly half of the parishes allow girl altar servers while the rest do not.

“What are we saying to young women as they attend Mass?” Jim FitzGerald, executive director of national Catholic organization Call to Action, [Surprise!] asked in an interview. Call to Action, which works for justice and equality within the church, [What they think is “justice and equality”.] counts Arlington as one of two dioceses in the country currently known to exclude girls from serving at the altar. (The Lincoln, Neb., diocese has banned girl altar servers throughout the diocese since 1994.)

“To me, it’s a message of sexism and discrimination,” FitzGerald said. [Using a narrow and distort lens, it would appear that way.]


[Watch this…] “We are Catholics who want to go to Mass on Sunday, but also be involved with the community,” said Zickel, who taught religious education classes at Corpus Christi [Fr. Taylor’s parish] and enjoyed watching her 7-year-old and 4-year-old daughters play sports and attend Brownie meetings with children from their church. [There seems to be a moral equivalence here, no?  She “enjoys” watching her children do things.  Watching her daughter play sports is something she enjoys.  Watching her daughter serve at Mass is ….]

“We really like to instill in these children a sense of virtue,” Zickel said. “It was just so interesting to see that seep into the community and into the schools.”  [“instill in these children a sense of virtue”… they have to serve Mass to acquire a “sense of virtue”?]


One father who walked along North Glebe Road said he came to the vigil because the issue is “a matter of simple justice.” [No, it isn’t, because lay people don’t have a right to serve at the altar.] Another man carried a sign that read “Dads for Altar Girls = Love.” [There’s a position.  I love my daughter, therefore she should be allowed by Fr. Taylor to serve.]

Thea Rossi Barron, who attends Our Lady Queen of Peace, said, “Christ did not give an example that excluded women.” [Yes, He did.  Most notably, none of the Apostles (first bishop/priests) were female.  Jesus excluded women from being His Apostles (bishops/priests).]

Zickel’s parents, Michael and Kathi Piehler, who live in Rochester, N.Y., visited Arlington specifically for the vigil. [Interesting, no?  They came in from New York!] Michael walked with a sign that read, “What is so wrong with this?” next to a large photograph of one of his granddaughters, taken when she served as a cross bearer at a relative’s funeral.

“The presence of altar girls is not a stumbling block to priestly vocations, and if it were, that’s a pretty fragile vocation,” Piehler said. “I think the Holy Spirit’s much stronger than that.” [On the other hand, grace builds on nature.  It is not merely a matter of what the Holy Spirit can or cannot will in this matter, which he cannot know, but there is also a question of human nature.  The Church expressed a clear that vocations be fostered also through male service at the altar.  The sensibilities of boys at different stages of development must be considered when service at the altar is in question.]

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Not just New York. Rochester, New York.

  2. Rellis says:

    This is Bishop Loverde’s fault to begin with, and that should not be overlooked.

    Prior to 2006, Arlington and Lincoln were the only two dioceses left in the United States with male-only altar servers. As a total sop to the Left and the media, Bishop Loverde legalized female altar servers (to “balance” his implementation of Ecclesia Dei adflicta).

    By and large, the orthodox parishes of the diocese still have only male servers. But none did five years ago. Victory for the Left and for liturgical destruction.

    This would not even be an issue if it were not for that foolish decision by the bishop.

  3. APX says:

    Here’s photos of the event.

    [How embarrassing.]

    There’s some pretty illogical/stupid slogans.

    The Bishop issued a response to this.

    This afternoon, the Diocese of Arlington issued a statement via email given to the Arlington Mercury.

    They write: “Women serve in a variety of capacities throughout our diocese. They are not only altar servers in many parishes, but also principals, teachers, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, lectors, cantors, sacristans, and occupy leadership positions in our central administrative offices, as well as the Diocesan Finance Council, Diocesan Pastoral Council, and Parish Finance and Pastoral Councils.

    “The Church allows for a legitimate diversity of options at the parish level. Allowing female altar servers is not a mandate, but rather, an option for the local parish to consider. The decision is at the discretion of the local pastor, in consultation with his parochial vicar(s), deacon(s), and parish pastoral council.”

    Kudos to the bishop for standing behind this priest!!

    BTW: It would appear Father Taylor also celebrates Mass ad orientum as well.

  4. Maltese says:

    One last point: could Palestrina, Hadyn or Mozart have written their music for the new mass??

  5. tzard says:

    “What are we saying to young women as they attend Mass?” – Well, it should be the Gospel, not this.

    If find it another oddity – about this kind of thing that everything always has to be a message. And in particular – such an approach is disrespectful to “young women”, assuming the only way they learn is by appearances. How superficial ! A well formed young woman should be able to think for herself (and see past this malarkey).

  6. my kidz mom says:

    It bears repeating: “more and more frequently, those who disagreed with this decision moved their protests beyond the community of the parish or or the diocese or of Holy Church and into the mainstream media…the mainstream media are happy to help the protestors shift their props and complaints into full view of a secularized public for the sake of undermining the Church’s doctrine and structures. With Alinkskyite tactics they make [ANY ISSUE] into a “have v have not” issue, “us against them”, a class struggle against injustice against those who have “power”. ”

    This leftist strategy has been rearing its ugly head here in Phoenix for some time now. I’m afraid it’s not an aberration. Expect it to hit your church soon.

  7. APX says:

    A well formed young woman should be able to think for herself (and see past this malarkey).

    This young woman can! I also find it highly offensive that they should associate bright pink with girls. What does that say about gender-stereotyping and the colour pink for girls?!?!

    This whole thing about building virtue by serving at the altar is a bunch of baloney. I have several female friends who grew up as altar servers, and I can tell you right now they are not living lives of virtue. We have a mutual friend in the seminary who goes out of his way to avoid having to serve her communion sacrilegiously (Nothing’s hidden, as there’s plenty of confessing on Facebook).

  8. Fr Deacon Daniel says:

    Occupy Confusion.

  9. Varda says:

    I think this was a real non-event. I live about two miles from the Cathedral where the supposed protest happened and this is the first I’ve heard of it. Nothing on local news or even the diocesan news paper. In our parish we have both boys and girls but I notice that it is still a strong majority of boys. On Sundays we will have maybe five servers and only one will be a girl. The boys are all ages, from little guys to what look to be high school age. I do think probably that the Bishop should just have left it alone as all boys as was our traditional way in Arlington.

  10. Cathy says:

    To be honest Father Z, I hope our Holy Father takes ownership of this question and closes the door on this experiment. Even though there seems to be guidelines given in regards to this matter, they seem to be so easily overlooked and abused. Also, I hope this is done prior to naming a successor in the Diocese of Lincoln.

  11. Elizabeth D says:

    These people are so confused. The bishop cannot mandate girl altar servers even if he wanted to. The girls have dignity in their very person and there are so many ways they can and should serve others.

    I agree with the commenter who pointed out that pressure based on “haves vs have nots” framing is now being used by progressives for everything, even increasingly where there is not an actual injustice. Speaking as a young woman, I want to say, what a fake issue.

  12. Cathy says:

    Fr. Deacon Daniel, I was thinking about the same thing, kind of. Mostly in terms of owners rights and squatters rights and, well, the rent is too damn high. These are pretty strange times and, well, in a way I no longer feel like a citizen in the country in which I was born and raised. I feel like a renter voting for one landlord or another.

  13. Dr. K says:

    Not just New York. Rochester, New York.

    Our diocese is a cancer infecting the rest of the American church.

    In related news, the National catholic rag has also run a story about a local schismatic group, Spiritus Christi. For the unaware, Spiritus split from the Rochester diocese in the late 90s and now perform gay marriages and services led by three (soon to be four) invalidly ordained priestesses.

  14. James Joseph says:

    Yes! Vindication.

    A few years back a moderator banned me from ‘Catholic Forums’ for saying that a priest has right to select his helpers. And, that nobody not even his bishop can force him to act to the contrary.

    (For the record, I have, subsequently, been banned more than once. I have also been banned in regards to my experience living under Islam… you see I lived in Afghanistan for six-months some time wayback. I have also been banned for mispelling the word ‘Franciscan’. There might be another time but I cannot remember it at this time. I know I was almost banned from the ‘Orthodox Forums’ when I mentioned that my local ordinary celebrated the Divine Liturgy with Patriarch of Constantinople present… alas they gave me three days to provide evidence. I gave them a mountain of documention. They never apologised but they did tell me that they found the idea threatening and that they as a rule are super-reactionary to Catholic claims and to tread more careful.) [Sooo… this is all about… you? o{];¬) ]

  15. Brad says:

    The reference to protest signs being “bright” troubles me. The signs themselves are bright, but also the article’s reference to them is as well, that is, the readers’ imaginations immediately see signs which shine amid the orthodox gloom, like little cities on hills, little lamps removed from baskets, little points of correctness and Correctness. Little points of gospel emerging from cars with bumper stickers that proclaim tolerance. The gospel message on sticks wielded by people who are right because they have the bright signs. These bright people are clearly meant to be the bearers of the bright light while the diocesan building casts only incorrect shade.

    Popovici is issuing pure propaganda using language. The human mind is like a fish: both will notice bright coins in the water, begin to veer toward them, want them, find them acceptable, then, finally accept them into itself. What is written on bright signs must be right. Let us consume the bright and become bright ourselves.

    The subconscious even sees the word right inside the word bright.

    I’m sorry to mention yet again Fr. Amorth’s exorcism memoirs, but Alinsky’s dedication to satan is the real deal. The horror of any dedication, i.e. curse, of an object, a place, another, oneself, is truly…I don’t know how to say it. Father reflects how many such dedications are not reversible and cannot even be given palliative care successfully. Horror.

    May St. Paul, who was once Saul, pray for his namesake. It will take a very great saint to even intrude upon such a conscientious and conscious pact with the devil.

    Hail, Mary, may the Sacred Heart of your Lamb save us from the demon and his empty promises.

  16. Bona says:

    It appears that the Michael Piehler who participated in the protest is the Michael Piehler who is a Deacon of the Diocese of Rochester.

  17. Jackie L says:

    The ignorance is phenomenal, they want bishops to exercise power they don’t have, yet when a bishop speaks on abortion (Bishop Olmsted) this same crowd want’s him to be quiet.

  18. Dr. K says:

    It appears that the Michael Piehler who participated in the protest is the Michael Piehler who is a Deacon of the Diocese of Rochester.

    Yep, that’s him.

  19. The woman who is the figurehead for this whole shenanigans gave a response to the bishop’s letter on her site, which said in part:

    As a matter of church norms, as given in the diocesan statement, I do not believe Corpus Christi has a parish council nor do I believe that Father Taylor is the assigned pastor but rather the parish administrator. Consequently, I have to question the legitimacy of Fr. Taylor’s right to make that decision not to have altar girls in first place.

    The requirement for every parish to have a pastoral council dates to Bishop Loverde’s predecessor, Bishop Keating. (A parish finance council is already required under canon law.) Most parishes mention their pastoral councils openly. Some are elected, some appointed. It is my understanding that some pastors simply choose not to blow their horn about them, only citing certain heads of organizations for the record to the diocese. As to Father Taylor’s status as an administrator and not a pastor, Corpus Christi still operates under mission status, and wouldn’t have a designated pastor anyway. The decision could simply be left to him by the pastor of the originating parish as a matter of expediency.

    Finally, most of this is being pushed by the local VOTF chapter. I have had considerable dealings with them. Not only are they embarrassingly misinformed about their faith, they are quite militant about it. I don’t know which is worse.

    As a total sop to the Left and the media, Bishop Loverde legalized female altar servers (to “balance” his implementation of Ecclesia Dei adflicta).

    I would hardly characterize Bishop Loverde as a “sop,” but his decision to allow female servers in parishes, while intended to keep the peace in some circles, was very ill-advised, and he is said to be quite annoyed by the protests. (The above explanation is a very popular rumor in Arlington, but a rumor just the same.)

  20. tcreek says:

    7. 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. – Liturgicae Instaurationes Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship Instruction on the orderly carrying out of the Constitution on the Liturgy, September 5, 1970.

    18. There are, of course, various roles that women can perform in the liturgical assembly: these include reading the Word of God and proclaiming the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful. Women are not, however, permitted to act as altar servers – Inaestimabile Donum
    Instruction Concerning Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship, April 17, 1980

    On March 15, 1994 Pope John Paul II “cut the legs out from under” the loyal priests who were observing the norm.

  21. RichR says:

    Fr. Taylor is seeking continuity with tradition. He’s within his rights. Even if he had a parish council, if they ALL insisted that he reinstate altar girls, he would still be entirely within his rights to say, “No way.”.

    The “consultative model” is creating a twisted perception of a democratic Church. This goes against the very nature of the Church. It is hierarchical. To make it otherwise would be impossible as it is part of the very essence Christ endowed in Her. Ecclesiology 101.

  22. Matthew K says:

    It always makes me uneasy when a demonstrator/protestor insists on using their children (literally) as poster children for the cause. This always seems exploitative and, to me, suggests a weakness in their arguments.

  23. Supertradmum says:

    Americans have to demonstrate when other means would be more appropriate. It is partly our fetish with the press and media in general. This situation is deplorable and feeds the soft, liberal mind.

    (Note: we had “Occupy Malta” in front of the Parliament, exactly across where I am living. The demonstration consisted of six radicals, nicely dressed, some with Che tee-shirts and baseball caps with socialist symbols. There were six of them and mostly were getting their photos taken by silly tourists.)

    The issue of altar girls is one which should never have happened, and it will take a Vatican liturgical earthquake to move back to the truth of minor orders pre Blessed John Paul II.

  24. jflare says:

    I think it quite odd how leftward-leaning groups, progressives, or others will propose themselves quite vigorously as “populist” endeavors, but they don’t ultimately pick up so much steam amongst the majority of the populace.
    At a state and national level they DO, sometimes, yes, but they appear to me to be somewhat waning in influence these last several years.

    ‘Course that might be a large part of why they’re determined to make so much noise: They can’t conceive that anyone would actually consider their point of view..and reject it summarily.

    When it’s plain that a majority of people want nothing to do with their intent, they’ll often insist that they’re being “oppressed”. Quite annoying actually.

  25. Cassie says:

    If these people reassemble, perhaps we can fly over and drop copies of John Paul II’s “Letter to Women” on them!

    In any event, the Fishwrap and this ridiculous protest present yet another opportunity to spend an hour in front of our Blessed Lord, doing a Holy Hour of Reparation. Anyone care to join me?

  26. Jayna says:

    “What are we saying to young women as they attend Mass?”

    That you don’t have to serve the altar to be considered an important member of the community.

  27. BaedaBenedictus says:

    I thought these libs were all about ecumenism? Eastern Orthodox find the sight of girls in albs running around our denuded sanctuaries pretty distasteful.

  28. Charliebird says:

    Just to note an experiment: I teach at a Catholic High School that just implemented all-male altar servers at the School Mass. Half the students agreed with the idea, a quarter protested, and a quarter were indifferent. A few parents resisted and were shocked. I gave the students a clear explanation, first, of what the Church is NOT saying about women (citing, for instance, teaching on the great holiness of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and similar regarding women Saints), then about what Christ said about the priesthood, and then I went through a clear historical explanation of the evolving teaching from the Church from the documents themselves, showing how it was forbidden in the 70s, and the 80s, and changed to “permitted” in the 90s, yet I also showed how the Church prefers the “noble tradition of boys” serving. I presented this as a “focus on the boys” and not a “no” to the girls. When it comes up at times from the girls (just a few), I always turn the conversation toward the priesthood as being all-male, and that this is Christ’s will. Otherwise I do not engage the conversation and it fizzles. If more and more Catholic parishes and schools implement it, the fuss will disappear eventually!

  29. ChrisWhittle says:

    Women don’t belong past the altar rail. Women have no write to serve Mass, it’s not in their DNA. My parish doesn’t allow females to go past the altar rail because it’s a Latin Mass parish. This is the only parish I’ve ever belonged to that has only male servers, what the rubrics prescribe. On the other hand, all Novus Ordo Churches in Massachusetts, where I live, between four dioceses, actually prefer women over men, which is not church teaching. My ex-parish had only had women servers (who were in cassock and surplice, mens clothing), lectors, and eucharistic ministers (who came from the “audience” during the Our Father to give out the wafers, dressed as-is). I’m glad I switched parishes 20 months ago!

  30. Shonkin says:

    My parish (Helena, Montana area) has boys and girls as altar servers — in theory. In practice it is almost all girls. I suspect the boys of the parish view altar service as a girl’s thing now.
    This certainly undermines one of the objectives of having children serving: to foster priestly vocations. I deplore it.

  31. BaedaBenedictus says:

    Well, Chris Whittle, I was blessed to visit a parish near Boston today and noticed not a single altar girl. In fact, I’ve never seen altar girls at this place. It’s run by a solid religious order, so perhaps that might help explain. My regular “parish” (actually a shrine run by another solid order) is also male-only servers.

    In Boston (like many dioceses, I expect), the chancery doesn’t bother about altar servers, pastors are free to have male-only servers if they like. So why such a fuss (even from CNN) about the Arlington diocese?

  32. Penta says:

    BaedaBenedictus: I could be wrong, but it might be because the Arlington situation (specifically at Corpus Christi) hit the Washington Post a few weeks ago.

  33. Martial Artist says:

    Father Zuhlsdorf,

    You asked

    …they have to serve Mass to acquire a “sense of virtue”?

    At the risk of seeming uncharitable toward those parents, but considering their political understanding of rights, have you considered the possibility that they may have no idea of how else (e.g., by modeling virtuous behavior, reading to their children, or otherwise encouraging their children to read, those books which teach virtue, etc.) any other way to accomplish that parenting task?

    The above is pure speculation on my part, but I have noticed that so many on the left (by which I do not imply that the same is not often true of those on the right) seem to think they have a monopoly on virtue, starting with their own behavior as examples, while failing to note the shortcomings of virtue in their own lives and attitudes. The comment you cite may be an unconscious and inadvertent admission that they are not so sure of the virtue of their own conduct.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  34. robtbrown says:

    The bishop in Rochester, NY, Matt Clark, is perhaps the last residue of the years of Jean Jadot.

  35. makreitzer says:

    I publish a newsletter in the Diocese of Arlington and did the lead article the current issue on the altar girl flap. Fewer than half our parishes have altar girls. All of the liberal parishes that coddle dissent immediately installed them when permission was given. I could list them but I won’t. Suffice it to say that we have many priests who are orthodox and recognize the value of maintaining the time-honored practice of altar boys.

    We gave Fr. Taylor a Lamplighter Award for his courage in taking on this politically incorrect battle. A priest friend of mine says he would never move to a parish with altar girls because he would’t want to deal with the backlash in making the change. If anyone is interested in the article which gives the history in Arlington you can see it at

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