QUAERITUR: If we have to agree with Vatican II do we have to agree with Communion in the hand, altar girls, EMHCs, etc?

From a reader:

I’m wondering what type of assent are we as Catholics supposed to give
to the Vatican II council? Also do we have an obligation to agree with
things like Communion in the hand, and other parts in the liturgy that
are special permissions (use of EMHCs, female altar servers, etc)? I’m
not sure if they came from Vatican II or not but I heard they came

The things you mention are not from any of the documents of Vatican II. They are innovations that were imposed by liberals in the name of Vatican II. Altar girls and Communion in the hand are, today, licit, but they developed against the Church’s clear laws at the time. They obtained approval after the fact.

I am sure the readership here will have nothing else to say and will have no additional comments or opinions.

I will now back out of the room.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Just to be clear, when the Church says that executions should be rare and that EMHCs should be “extraordinary”, is a similar frequency expected? Maybe executing 2% of the population every Sunday?

  2. AnnAsher says:

    Ok I chuckled knowingly at Fr Z backing out of the room. I’m a little afraid of ContraMundum right now.
    Seriously though I’m glad the reader asked the question and Fr Z is here to clear up the fog of V2. Of course the good Father is correct and the novelties sited are insults, permissions given despite the Chirch’s desire that they not happen. The army of EMHC and girl altar boys are no bueno! Incidentally I received a thank you note today from Bishop Morlino for the act of solidarity extended at the suggestion of Fr Z. The Good Bishop is a liturgical fog horn!

  3. AnnAsher says:

    Ok I chuckled knowingly at Fr Z backing out of the room. I’m a little afraid of ContraMundum right now.
    Seriously though I’m glad the reader asked the question and Fr Z is here to clear up the fog of V2. Of course the good Father is correct and the novelties sited are insults, permissions given despite the Chirch’s desire that they not happen. The army of EMHC and girl altar boys are no bueno! Incidentally I received a thank you note today from Bishop Morlino for the act of solidarity extended at the suggestion of Fr Z. The Good Bishop is a liturgical fog horn of sorts.

  4. ContraMundum says:

    Just joking, of course. Though it does strike me that people judge “rare” not according to any objective standard, but according to whether or not they want the thing in question.

  5. leonugent2005 says:

    The church today looks nothing like what Vatican 2 called for. It looks like what the people who happened to be in charge wanted. This is a danger for the next generation. The question should always be asked is this what I want or is this what the council wanted. I see the same way of thinking comming from the right as came from the left. One side says the council changed everything. The other side says the council changed nothing. Personal interpretation of the council is a little like personal interpretation of the bible. Just say the black and do the red. In the navy we used to say there are 3 ways to do everything. The right way, the wrong way, and the navy way. Don’t do it the right way, do it the church’s way.

  6. AnAmericanMother says:

    LOL! As Dorothy Sayers said of Lord Peter Wimsey in Busman’s Honeymoon, he backed away like a cat that has stepped in a puddle of perfume.

  7. EXCHIEF says:

    The Vatican II documents do not permit any of the abuses which have been initiated since Vatican II took place any more than the United States Constitution permits the abuses that have taken place since the current president came into office. Abuses are abuses and any attempt to justify them referencing a document that does not condone them is disingenuous at best.

  8. ray from mn says:

    I know a couple of men who were ordained as priests before V2, and who left the priesthood soon after V2. I don’t know their reasons. I knew them only as laymen and as such they were/are two of the most incredible, most loving and most productive men that I have ever met in my life.

    But they’re not too hot on anything the Church says these days. Only God judges in the end, but I worry about them. A lot.

    If we were all like these two, then I wouldn’t mind at all listening to what Call to Action, Dignity, etc. have to say. But we are all sinners, even my ex-priest friends. I don’t have any big answers. I’d just better pray harder for them. And for myself.

  9. As Ray pointed out so perfectly, we need to pray for the soul of Pope Paul VI and others in the Hierarchy in the 60’s and 70’s who allowed the trainwreck of the Church to occur on their watch. It was their job to be good stewards of the Church and her treasures, and because of their negligence it appears many were alienated from the Faith, and many more today have been robbed of their heritage. Pray, pray for their souls.

  10. Mike says:

    Our parish “minister” of music is convinced that chant is not what V2 envisioned for “our” parish.

    We get “soft-rock” liturgy, the pastor smiles, money pours in.

    Change is not around the corner in my part of town, though I will admit things are way better than 10 years ago. Thanks be to God.

  11. ContraMundum says:

    @ray from mn

    When you say you only knew them as laymen, do you mean pre- or post-priesthood?

  12. St. Rafael says:

    The solutions for removing EMHCs and altar girls are in the hands of bishops and pastors. Altar girls can be removed if a bishop removes the indult and bans them for his diocese. Out of 195 dioceses in this country, only 1 or 2 dioceses ban altar girls outright. That is pathetic, when we have at least 20+ bishops that can be considered conservative. If bishops are not going to ban them, then every pastor of his parish can decide to ban them. Pastors are the chief liturgists of their parish. It is their responsibility to fix these novelties.

    As for EMHCs, a return to Communion under one species would clean up a majority of this problem. Much of the work needs to fall on the cooperation between pastors and their associate and assistant priests, or any other priest in residence. Basically priests have to make the effort to distribute the Communion at every Mass, whether they celebrate it or not. To touch the sacred species is a privilege of the ordained. When one priest is celebrating Mass, the other priest shows up at Communion time to distribute the Sacred Host and vice versa for the other Masses.

  13. Texas trad says:

    I was traveling through Louisiana to see family a couple of years ago. I called a local priest to locate a TLM and I was advised to call another priest a few miles away. He was very kind and directed me to the TLM Sunday mass at one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen, built in late 1800s. We started talking (mostly me, being a convert) about the lack of 1962 masses and the crisis it is. He said that 3 of the worst things that have happened in the Church is 1) Communion in the hand 2) removal of Communion rails and 3) girls serving on the altar. He is an older Diocesan priest, near retirement, but he said all the children in his parish preparing for First Communion will only receive kneeling and on the tongue. He does not train girls as altar servers. He said returning to the TLM is the only thing that can save the Church.

  14. Elizabeth R says:

    I think there’s a distinction that should be made. Do we have to agree that these are licit, at least for now: in my opinion, yes. Do we have to agree that they are desirable: in my opinion, no. Seems to me a good opportunity for obedience, and offering up the resulting discomfort (in my case I’d say “suffering” would be too strong, though others will surely disagree).

  15. Jackie L says:

    I had a liberal priest tell me once that practices developed outside the present law, and subsequent approval is the way Roman law has always worked, and is supposed to work.

  16. JKnott says:

    This is a parish where the well-loved pastor teaches constantly and very explicitly on the parish website, posing and answering the questions about altar servers, communion on the tongue, Mass facing east etc..

    Why is the liturgy a top priority for St. Mary Church?
    Why does St. Mary Church have the Traditional Latin Mass?
    Why does St. Mary Church offer the Mass facing east?
    Why does St. Mary’s reserve altar serving to boys alone?
    Why should I consider receiving Communion on the tongue?
    Why do we use Incense in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass?
    How can St. Padre Pio help us better understand the Mass?
    How should you dress for Mass in the summer?
    Cardinal George and Liturgical Reform
    Why don’t we use extraordinary (Eucharistic) ministers very often here at St. Mary’s?

    Questions relating to current issues and events

    What does the Church have to say about the current immigration discussion?
    Why does God allow all the recent terrorism and natural disasters?
    How should Catholics approach the political process and voting?
    What about all these Marian Apparitions?
    What about the women who recently claimed to have been ordained priests?
    Is living together before marriage good for my future?
    Is Jesus Christ the only savior of the world?
    Did the Catholic Church recently eliminate limbo?

  17. chantgirl says:

    St. Rafael- I have wondered on occasion why an liturgically conservative bishop would not just ban girl altar servers for the whole diocese. Sure, people would have fits, but it would take some of the pressure off of the individual pastors. It would be kind of like a smoking ban in a city. If all the churches have a ban, then that eliminates people leaving to “shop” for another Catholic parish where they do have girl servers. People would be mad at the bishop, but they don’t come in contact with bishops as often, and no one could say “Fr. so-and-so is sooo mean so we will move to another parish where the priest is welcoming and inclusive.”. It seems that it would be better to rip the bandaid off all at once and have the bishop take one for the team than to have skirmishes over the next 15 years every time another pastor decides he wants to get back to all male servers. Also, the bishop would have a bully pulpit to explain the reasons. People would eventually get over it.

  18. Fiat Domine says:


    You can be so funny.
    Your comment at the end about the readership really made me laugh. I needed that; thanks!

    God love you.

  19. Dan says:

    Would someone please remind me (hopefully charitably) why female altar servers are so frowned upon? I get that it’s not part of the tradition of the Church, and that restricting it to males can be good for vocations. Are there other reasons?

  20. Phil_NL says:

    The part that has been missed here frequently is the difference between ‘agree with’ and ‘accept’. Regardless of the fact VII has no direct bearing on this, it’s still relevant.

    Since all the practices listed were never proclaimed as to be held de fide, there’s no obligation to agree with it. You may think they’re horrible, and given the fact that His Holiness would likely agree, I think we can safely dispense with going through any lower levels of required assent.

    However, what is needed is acceptance, in so far that when these practices are indeed permitted by competent authority, they do not place the people involved outside the realm of Catholicy. Suggesting that the Pope would not have authority to allow these things, even if you see them as horrible counter-traditional innovations, is a problematic point, as it deals with the position of the Pope as successor of Peter. And there is considerably less leeway, to put it mildly.

    So in sum, I’d say you don’t have to agree with it, but one has to accept that bad ideas can sometimes be perfectly legal, leaving no recourse until competent authority changes its mind.

  21. mike cliffson says:

    A LONG time ago I tried to read some VII documents in English, at leat purportedly in English.
    Over years ago , in Spanish, in which they were readable.
    Even so , over twenty years ago,going through some, a tiny percentage, with our future daughter’ s future godfather who was a future diocesan Priest BUT had already done all his studying for the priesthood, time and again any sort of heading in the directionof correct interpretation depended an an inbuilt “hermenuetic of continuity”, as you might say, if only at the level of vocabulary of expressions and idioms which over the milenia the church has honed down to precise concepts.
    The sort of question FR has often tackled and explained, for example , the sort of difference that may crop up between “consubstantial” and “of one being”.
    Other laiety may have the tools for this sort of thing- I havent.
    Perhaps some of us than, ignoramuses like me , have been led astray not having the tools to go it alone, but then have the imputable sin of having been very willing to be so led.

  22. Maynardus says:

    Unfortunately the approach which I personally favor – simply banning Communion-in-the-Hand, girl altar boys, EMHC’s at Mass, and any music written after 1940 while mandating ad orientem and the use of Communion rails – has about as much chance of happening as I have of winning the Irish Sweepstakes. And if perchance it *could* be done, it would probably precipitate a schism that dwarfed any that came before it.
    Alas, this genii is *so* far out of the bottle, and the People of God grown so accustomed to it all, that the only practicable solutions seem to be along the lines taken by our present Holy Father: lead by example, promote and encourage what is good, legislate as necessary to protect the rights of the sane minority, and catechise relentlessly. And do it all with charity and solicitude.
    That’s a pretty tall order, and we are blessed to have B16 at this juncture. But as everyone is aware, until we have a strong majority of bishops and priests who are aligned with this program, we are probably stuck with all of these things. But just because they’re licit doesn’t mean we can’t be critical of them!

  23. Texas trad says:

    I read the other day that ending Communion in the hand is clearly in the sights of Benedict XVI and Cardinal Bux. Benedict also published a statement very recently saying that distribution of Communion is the “pastoral duty of the priest which should not be usurped by laymen.” (I am paraphrasing.) I do believe a number of novelties will end.

  24. ContraMundum says:

    @Texas trad

    As someone once said, “Brick by brick.” You saw how much trouble just getting a decent translation of the Mass caused! The Holy Father may be letting his preference be known, but he has too many other problems for me to think he wants to devote much time, energy, and attention to this one, however much he may desire it.

  25. Luvadoxi says:

    I think Leonugent should get a gold star for his Navy comment -I’m going to remember that one!

  26. jilly4ski says:

    @Chantgirl, that would indeed help, if the bishops just did it. The parish I grew up in is a relatively new parish, built in 1981 I believe. The founding Pastor for all his charismatic tendencies, ad libbing, and other liturgical abuses never allowed girls to be altar servers. (He instead had them doing ‘liturgical dance,’ but that is another story and one that is now slowly dying away). He actually had the parish believing they were orthodox Catholics, so when new directives came down from either the bishop or the Vatican and he decided it would be prudent to follow them, the parishioners had no problem changing. Anyways, it seemed like a great boon to the new pastor, because he did not have to step on any toes to implement the policy (unlike a few other things that he changed). In fact I doubt many priests would be brave enough to implement such a policy, even if it was indeed his preference. People get so emotionally tied to the liturgical positions that they hold, it is almost impossible to get rid of them once they start, without major drama and battles. Which in essence restricts the priests choice in the matter. I have never heard any gripping about girls not being able to serve or going to one of the nearby parishes because of it. But probably because it has always been like that.

  27. The Cobbler says:

    “…until we have a strong majority of bishops and priests who are aligned with this program…”
    Why the most significant thing Pope Benedict does is pick the new bishops.

  28. ContraMundum says:

    That, and appoint cardinals.

  29. Bender says:

    If we have to agree with Vatican II do we have to agree with Communion in the hand, altar girls, EMHCs, etc?

    You have to agree that it is not your decision. You have to agree that it is for the bishop, in conjunction with the Holy See, to decide these things. You have to agree that you are a mere lowly servant, not the boss, and if the Church, i.e. the bishop and Holy See, say that something is permissible, then it is permissible. [Ehem… the Church is a great deal more than bishops and the Holy See.]

  30. Laura98 says:

    I have to say that as a Catholic convert, I was rather shocked at how “Protestant” the NO masses were, when I first started attending my local parish. (I had attended pre-VII masses as a young child with a friend and still remember them.) I haven’t read the VII documents yet (on the reading to-do list) but from what I’ve read here, they sound like they were vaguely written, similar to to a lot of “educationese” when you try to figure out what your child is supposed to be learning in school. That leaves a lot of room for interpretation and personal preference… i.e. Communion in the hand, altar girls, etc. Especially if nothing was put in the documents expressly forbidding such things.

    Heck… at my United Methodist Church we even had altar rails! LOL

  31. dburnette10 says:

    Dan ~ I think many people have their own reasons for thinking that girl alter servers are a bad idea. I am under the impression that the two ideas you mentioned, tradition and vocations, are the Big Two. Everyone can get that those are important. As the mother of an alter boy, and his friend’s mom does the scheduling, I can say that girls tend to have a little more maintenance, although not as bad as the kids in sports. Also, they are more likely to cause a distraction during the Mass, for silly things like Anime hair (we don’t go to that Mass if she is on the schedule) or high heels she *can’t* walk in. Even the “conservative” girls from the “conservative” families, (ie: long skirts, long hair, no make up, wholesome) can cause distractions keeping the hair out of the way during the Mass. But so can the boys when they wear bright red sneakers.

    As for just banning them outright, aside from the tizzies and tantrums that would surely occur at least on occasion, when half of the alters servers are girls because the boys are in sports there is a logistical mess that would happen when they are banned.

  32. mcma3985 says:


    Thanks for the link. It is well organised and clear.

  33. Texas trad says:

    I’m with you Laura98. I am a convert too and remember the old mass as a child when family friends would take me. When I got to RCIA at age 45, I didn’t recognize anything in the mass (and not in a good way). Like you, some of the NO masses I went to made me wonder if being a Catholic was that different from being Presbyterian. I persevered and found the TLM where I will remain.

  34. wmeyer says:

    Texas trad: I was in high school when the Council was convoked; in college when the Latin Mass was removed from view in my diocese. I fell away. As the child of parents of differing cult, I have been led to believe that our priest probably tried to coerce my father into the faith, the price of my baptism. Dad, of German stock, was stubborn. When faced with coercion, he dug in his heels; I was not baptized.

    Six years ago, I came back to the Church, and entered RCIA. I was lucky to have a sponsor who at our first meeting gave me a copy of the Catechism. It was essential, and was never mentioned by the catechists, who all were big fans of Fr. Richard Rohr. Thankfully, despite my never having attended catechism classes as a child, I had been given a good understanding of the faith by my mother and grandmother, and whenever something did not ring true in class, I would turn to the CCC.

    The Mass in my parish is, to be kind, disappointing. “Hymns” are almost always from the post-1985 collection of Haugen/Haas/Schutte. The priest ad libs, even with the new Missal. I have found that trying to use the Missal only makes the deviations the more galling. I am now looking for a new parish.

    I would like to make a TLM parish my home, but the nearest is 43 miles away. If the SSPX comes back into communion with Rome, I shall have an alternative, as there is an SSPX chapel only a couple of miles from my current parish.

    I pray for Pop[e Benedict, and that his efforts will bear fruit in the near future, both with the SSPX, and with the reform of the reform.

  35. Kathleen10 says:

    Dan, I think also, that having boys on the altar may hopefully lead to vocations, which is not possible for the girls. Vocations serving at the altar, I mean. Having boys be comfortable at the altar, observing what the priests do, and perhaps being inspired, is at least an opportunity to develop that interest. I bet most priests were altar boys at one time.
    My peeve is girls with long, flowing hair, most distracting.
    I knew it was a bad idea. At the time I felt once altar girls are in place, the boys will not want to be associated with something girls can do. Let’s face it, altar serving got “feminized”, and with the robes, it’s asking a bit much of some boys. It needed to stay a “boy’s thing”, so boys would at least not feel girly doing it. But who listens to me.
    Now we have more girls than boys. The girls will hit the glass ceiling and get annoyed. Better to have just altar boys.

  36. Texas trad says:

    Attendance at SSPX mass does satisfy your Sunday obligation. Please see Canon 1248. I believe some time ago it was announced/admitted at the Vatican the one may attend the SSPX for their Sunday obligation. Some priests discourage it, but you are free to go there. Knowing Bishop Fellay personally, I can tell you that Pope Benedict always addresses him as “Bishop Fellay.” Enough said. Go. Go.

  37. Midwest St. Michael says:

    “I bet most priests were altar boys at one time.”


    There is anecdotal evidence showing 71% of priests serving the Church in the U.S. were once altar boys.


  38. wmeyer says:

    Texas trad: I may have mis-remembered, but I thought there had been some cautions, perhaps here, about communion at an SSPX chapel?

  39. robtbrown says:

    Texas trad says:

    Knowing Bishop Fellay personally, I can tell you that Pope Benedict always addresses him as “Bishop Fellay.”

    Why wouldn’t he address him as bishop?

  40. wmeyer says:

    Texas trad: Perhaps it would be well to review this.

  41. Texas trad says:

    I am fully aware of that article. Depending on who you talk to, you may or may not be cautioned based on a number of factors and biases which are not based in Canon Law. I take Canon Law 1248 as it stands. It is clear and concise.

  42. Texas trad says:


    On January 8, 2003, the Vatican’s Ecclesia Dei Commission issued a formal statement that 1) attendance at SSPX chapels DOES satisfy your Sunday obligation and 2) attendees may make financial contributions at the mass

    If you have an SSPX chapel near you, then you could have been attending TLM all this time with the approval of the Vatican. Regardless of what you hear from biased priests, I have just given you the exact ruling from the Vatican and the Canon Law behind it. You should not be delaying the graces of this mass that you could have gained for the last decade.

  43. jhayes says:

    Texas trad, according to this website, six months later, the PCED issued this letter:

    (Seal of Vatican City)

    N. 101/2003

    Rome, 26 June 2003

    Mr. Xxxxx X. Xxxxxxxx
    XXXX Xxxxxxx Xxxxxx
    Xxxxxxxxx, XX XXXXX

    Dear Mr. Xxxxxxxx,

    We wish to acknowledge receipt of your letter of 5 June 2003 addressed to His Eminence Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos.

    Before responding to your question about receiving Holy Communion from a priest of the Society of St. Pius X, let us outline the Holy See’s evaluation of the question.

    1. The priests of the Society of St. Pius X are validly ordained, but suspended, that is prohibited from exercising their priestly functions because they are not properly incardinated in a diocese or religious institute in full communion with the Holy See (cf. Code of Canon Law, canon 265) and also because those ordained after the schismatic episcopal ordinations were ordained by an excommunicated bishop. They are also most probably excommunicated since it is quite likely that these priests, after fifteen years in a society whose head is now an excommunicated bishop, adhere to the schism.

    2. Concretely this means that the Masses offered by the priests of the Society of St. Pius X are valid, but illicit i.e., contrary to Canon Law. While it is true that participation in the Mass at the chapels of the Society of St. Pius X does not of itself constitute “formal adherence to the schism”, such adherence can come about over a period of time as one slowly imbibes a schismatic mentality which separates itself from the teaching of the Supreme Pontiff and the entire Catholic Church. While we hope and pray for a reconciliation with the Society of St. Pius X, the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” cannot recommend that members of the faithful frequent their chapels for the reasons which we have outlined above. We deeply regret this situation and pray that a reconciliation of the Society of St. Pius X with the Church may come about, but until such time the explanations which we have given remain in force.

    Specifically, since we cannot encourage attendance at Masses celebrated by the priests of the Society of St. Pius X, neither can we recommend receiving Holy Communion at these Masses.

    Happily, in the Archdiocese of Baltimore the Mass according to the 1962 Roman Missal is celebrated every Sunday and Holy Day at Saint Alphonsus Church in Baltimore so those who want to attend the traditional Latin Mass and receive Holy Communion in your area can do so while remaining in full communion with the Catholic Church.

    Sincerely yours in Christ,


    Rev. Msgr. Camille Perl


  44. St. Rafael says:

    As for just banning them outright, aside from the tizzies and tantrums that would surely occur at least on occasion, when half of the alters servers are girls because the boys are in sports there is a logistical mess that would happen when they are banned.

    Once you ban the girls, the boys will come. The reason boys are no longer serving the altar is because of the simple reason that boys don’t want to serve with girls. It’s natural for a young boy to want to serve only with other boys and men, in an environment surrounded and suitedfor masculinity.

    It doesn’t have to be only young boys replacing the girls. You can get adult men to be altar servers also. In fact, if a parish has an adult man be the lead altar server, you will see a train of boys following him and serving with him all ranked and given responsibilities by age. A parish would have 6-10 altar servers at every Mass.

  45. jhayes says:

    Msgr. Perl pointed out in a different (2008 )letter that confessions or marriages by SSPX priests are invalid.

    The Sacraments of Penance and Matrimony, however, require that the priest enjoys the faculties of the diocese or has proper delegation. Since that is not the case with these priests, these sacraments are invalid.

Comments are closed.