Altar girls and liturgy dominated by women: bad ideas

I’m Fr. Z.. and I endorse this essay by Rachel Lu at Crisis!

My emphases and comments:


In 1994, the Congregation for Divine Worship issued a letter officially specifying that it is licit for females to serve the altar in the role that has traditionally been known as “altar boy.” [More precisely, this is based on the horrid interpretation of canon 230 §2 saying that it is permitted that females can substitute for duly installed acolytes.] Bishops were not bound to permit the practice, and a 2001 follow-up specified that pastors may also choose to reserve altar service to males within their own parishes. Nevertheless, the Church has specified that altar girls can exist within the Church. [Bottom line… they are not obligatory.  Furthermore, no layperson has the right to serve.]

The practice is permitted. That doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

I’m not intimidated by empowered women. [Hurray!]


It seems to me, though, that an empowered person should be content to leave certain tasks to others. Women can be respected and valued without claiming every important job or honor. In my view, it’s better for everyone when liturgy is left in the hands of men. [Do I hear an “Amen!”?]

When female friends seem unsure about this, I advise them to let go of the idea that full inclusion in the Church requires us to “participate” in sacred liturgy some externally visible way. [She gets it.] I think it’s perfectly appropriate for women to be involved in parish music (though I always prefer that the music be offered from the back, [YES!] because Holy Mass should not be confused with a concert). Otherwise, though, we can contribute from the pews, by uniting our prayers with the celebrant’s, and the congregation’s. If we are ever inclined to feel deprived by this role, we should remember that we are unspeakably honored by the opportunity to stand in Christ’s presence, and in the presence of all the saints, and even to receive the Bread of Angels into our bodies. If that counts as a degradation, most of our other weekly activities must be nothing short of shameful.

I know the usual response. You can claim that assisting at Mass is an honor, but men still get to do more. Why should they get to do more?

This of course is only referring to a minority of the men. At most Masses there are plenty of men in the pews, singing the hymns and uniting their prayers with the celebrant’s, just as women do. It’s not as though women have been specially segregated into an inferior caste. I can appreciate how some women find it hurtful to be prima facie excluded, regardless of their wishes or intentions. (For instance, some girls see their brothers being trained to serve the altar and feel excluded.) When it comes to worship, though, we should be assiduous about discerning what we’ve been called to do, rather than seizing on the role that we most want. And there are reasons for leaving liturgy to the men.

First of all, altar-boy service is one of the best recruiting grounds for the priesthood. However upsetting some may find it, women are not eligible for this particular role. The Church is desperately in need of more vocations, which in itself seems a good reason for encouraging boys specifically to take up altar service. Realistically, that effort will be most successful when we limit the role to boys. Time and again, we see that the introduction of altar girls leads to a decline in the boys’ willingness to serve. This shouldn’t offend us. It’s developmentally normal for children (adults too, for that matter) to crave opportunities for same-sex companionship and service. Girls should get those opportunities too, but other roles and activities can be found for them.

Beyond the vocations issue, we come to a more thorny problem. When men are in charge of liturgy, they generally favor austerity, solemnity and reverence. They are far more likely to have “high” liturgical sensibilities. When women claim a more central role, we frequently see a slide into lower and more culturally idiosyncratic practices. It generally starts with campy banners and popular-style hymnody, but may end with synthesizers and scantily-clad liturgical dancers. These liturgies are not beautiful or uplifting. They’re more like a never-ending hug from a grasping, obsequious aunt.  [She just earned my Gold Star for the Day for that line.]

I have sometimes heard this sort of liturgy referred to as “feminine” or “effeminate.” I don’t especially like that, because I don’t believe that bad liturgy is really representative of what women have to offer. I’m a woman, and I hate schlocky liturgy. I don’t believe I would become more womanly by embracing tambourine bands, [Doesn’t she like tambourines?] or receiving Communion in the hand. Still, there’s no doubt that women are more apt to produce bad liturgy. Perhaps we could say that it is “feminine” in the same way that pornography is “masculine”: it shows us some characteristic defects of one sex in particular.

My husband suggests that men’s liturgical sensibilities may reflect differences in how they tend to perceive God. It’s natural to men to regard the Almighty as a supremely great captain or general. He is the ultimate one in charge. Worship, for men, is somewhat akin to a military salute: it should be austere and magnificent because the goal is to honor our Creator.

Women’s natural orientation is more interpersonal. They are more likely to perceive God as loving and solicitous. Think of a grown woman affectionately referring to her father as Daddy (and then imagine how ridiculous that would sound coming from a man). It is perhaps not strange, then, that female-engineered liturgies tend to feel more like a hug (and to incorporate more actual hugs).



Read the rest there.

Fr. Z kudos.

Do you remember the now long running polls?

Does an all-male sanctuary foster vocations to the priesthood? (Revisited)

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Does female service at the altar harm or suppress vocations to the priesthood?

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Fr. Z KUDOS, Hard-Identity Catholicism, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, POLLS, Priests and Priesthood, Seminarians and Seminaries and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Chiara says:

    Father, when you refer to females being involved in the liturgy, does that include being a reader at Mass? [Yes. No women or girls in the sanctuary at all except to help with the cloths and flowers, etc.] My husband has been on the reader schedule at our parish for decades and does a wonderful, reverent job. But so do many other women in the parish, and they do it very well. There they are doing nothing to keep men from volunteering to do the same.

    I understand your opinion on girl altar servers, and I appreciate your reasoning. However, in my parish the few young ladies who serve are very well-prepared, reverent, and very dependable. They look on their service at the altar as an honor, and rightly so. [That’s nice, but it doesn’t change the fundamental point: no.]

    One particular young lady has been serving weekly for the last 4 years, since her First Communion, with her brothers at our Saturday vigil Mass. Her father is also in rotation at that Mass as a reader, and with their mother, they are an exemplary, lovely, Catholic family. Michelle dresses modestly, her hair is neatly arranged, she wears no make up, and her demeanor is respectful. It is obvious to me and other congregants that her heart and mind are on Mass, her duties as server, and whatever she can do to assist Father and her brothers. Further, I am not aware of any boys she is keeping from offering their services on the altar. [It’s still just as bad an idea as before.]

    Respectfully, Father, I am delighted to see young girls like Michelle and the other two or three girls who are on our server schedule on the altar, along with the dedicated young men who are the vast majority of our altar server roster. Our pastor has obviously impressed on them the necessity of reverence, preparation, and dependability, as well as the responsibility and honor of the duties of altar server. These girls are well-aware they have no future as priests. They get great joy from serving Our Lord and the parish. [See above.]

    No one is preventing boys from serving, and they are actively encouraged to offer their services. And many do.

    Please keep in mind that many parents do not honor their responsibility to bring their children to Sunday Mass, nor do they encourage their children to serve God and their parish. Many children are not brought up with the good example of their parents’ devotion and duty to the Church. I think it is a mistake to blame girls serving at the altar for the lack of boys volunteering to serve, and the lack of priestly vocations. There is far more at work here. [No women in the sanctuary. Bad idea.]

    Happy Advent to you and to all your readers! [And a blessed Christmastide to you and yours!]

  2. LeeF says:

    That is one of the best analyses I have ever read. And I am grateful that a woman wrote it. While my NO parish does not have anything excessively silly, whatever silly exists mostly because of older women who laudably contribute a lot to the parish in effort for all manner of things. But they seem to have an interior drive to tinker with liturgy and don’t seem to appreciate traditional practices or pious devotions. Probably however, many women of the same age dislike what they do but don’t want to have an argument over it.

    The bottom line though is, that such situations exist because of pastors who either themselves support silliness or merely lack the backbone to assert that they are the ultimate arbiter and interpreter of liturgical norms. And this go-along-get-along mentality is what allows the true liturgical liberals to keep pushing the envelope.

    If pastors would reclaim the liturgy including not permitting girls to serve at altar, which deters boys from doing so, then those advocating ordination of women would finally leave, and leave us in peace and reverence. There is a strong link between things like silly liturgy and altar girls and so many in the pews believing that it is OK to have women priests.

  3. The Egyptian says:

    yup, livin the experience up here in the hinterlands of the Diocese of Cincinnati, sloppy servers, fingers loosely laced together, covering their groins, shorts, sandals, flipflops, long hair, earrings, and that’s just the girls, boys aren’t much better. When asked about it Fr explains that “We don’t want to ask too much of them or they may quit” personally, GOOD. We have a fine young man studying to be a permanent deacon, former military, currently installed as an acolyte. He stands there hands folded upright, back straight, sits up straight. He wants to train servers when he is ordained and serves here, told him I have his back

  4. iPadre says:

    When I returned my parish to all male servers, I started the Daughters of Mary. I don’t wan’t my girls to think there is no place for them. I also grandfathered the current girls until they retired. It took a few years, but now we have only males. Yesterday, I have 8 boys serving my 10:30 Mass. Even when they are not scheduled, they want to be near the altar. It IS bearing fruit.

  5. Imrahil says:

    Quite a compelling analysis.

    I do like that “military general” image… though, I might add, a general in the style of Catholic armies, where a reverent salute is not incompatible with a jovial smile on both sides. (Erik v. Kuehnelt-Leddihn once commented that even in a dictatorship like Francoist Spain, superior-subordinate relationship in the military was of a much more friendly, let us say paternal, nature than in a democratic but chiefly Protestant military such as U. S. Army, to be silent of the Marine Corps.)

    As for altar girls,

    while I agree to the analysis, I think in most Novus Ordo parishes, the subject is rather probable to fall under a “pick your battles” category. There is much “less appropriate”, but nothing “intrinsically wrong” about altar girl service (rather similarly to Communion in the hand, coming to think of it): Priests, sure, have the right not to accept girls for this service: but they can’t plead as an excuse that it is their duty. If they insist on forbidding, in liturgy and otherwise, everything Rome forbids, they may find it convenient to allow something Rome allows.

    Hence, a return-to-male-service would, probably, have to be organized “from above” and diocesan-wide or, better, nation-wide – possibly with a “grandmother clause” for established altar girls of long service but still young; and necessarily with much explaining.

    A grassroots-movement could do that in more personal communities occasionally meeting for mass, but I’d be rather skeptical about parishes.

    (And of course, they aren’t allowed in everything that has to do with the Extraordinary Form.

    However, it was, notwithstanding the greatness of Pope St. Pius X., a positive development that most and even the most traditional communities quietly did away with Tra le sollecitudine no. 13 which, back in the days, restricted even the office of choir-singer to men.)

  6. Moro says:

    We all have our proper vocations. The only people deprived of full active conscious participation at holy mass are those in mortal sin.

  7. Simon_GNR says:

    I can’t say I’ve ever noticed a greater propensity for bad liturgy from the female sex. In my experience, both sexes are equally capable of producing cringeworthy and banal liturgical enormities!!

    I think there may be something in the view that restricting altar service to males helps to foster priestly vocations. If I were a parish priest (rather than a layman) I would seriously consider limiting altar services to boys and men. BUT….. *if* women can be EMHC’s, why shouldn’t girls be allowed as altar servers? If one stops girls being altar servers would one not also have to ban female EMHC’s? That would stir up plenty of trouble for the priest who tried to make such a change.

  8. APX says:

    When I returned my parish to all male servers, I started the Daughters of Mary. I don’t wan’t my girls to think there is no place for them

    I tried to start the Children of Mary based on the traditional sodality. I wrote up a proposal, even got support from young women more than willing to help oversee it, but I was told the parish council wouldn’t approve it.

  9. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Simon_GNR, it is not like we actually need any EMHCs in most parishes, barring those who serve the sick. (And Father should be doing most of that.) So no discrimination would be necessary.

    OTOH, one could move ex-altar girls and ex-EMHCs into more purely ceremonial positions, like bringing up the offertory gifts, as well as getting more guilds and sodalities going.

  10. acricketchirps says:

    Priests used to be fed to lions, or boiled in oil, or drawn and quartered…. Fates priests who’ve incurred the wrath of a female EMHC can only dream of.

  11. Geoffrey says:

    If the instituted ministries of acolyte and lector were utilized as originally intended by Blessed Paul VI, there would virtually be no women present in the sanctuary during Mass at all.

  12. Rob in Maine says:

    To encourage more Altar Boys I would also limit EMHCs! Beyond the obvious reasons well mentioned in your blog, “Eucharistic Ministers”, at least in my parish, appropriate all sorts of duties I once did as an Altar Boy. The boys end up as liturgical bookends – they walk in and walk out.

  13. Patikins says:

    I am so blessed to belong to an Ordinary Form parish that has never had girls serving at the altar nor female lectors or Extraordinary Misters of Holy Communion of either sex. I wish more people had access to parishes like mine where reverence was the norm.

  14. Gail F says:

    I did not vote in the second poll because I don’t know whether or not it hinders vocations — which is not quite the same as saying it does not encourage vocations.
    I really liked this line: “Perhaps we could say that it is “feminine” in the same way that pornography is “masculine”: it shows us some characteristic defects of one sex in particular.” As a woman I can’t stand the kind of thing this article is about, but I do realize that it is more likely to come from women than from men; a defect more characteristic or women than it is of men is a good way to explain it. There are women who love military service, but those who do are far more likely to be men — saying so isn’t negating the women who DO love it, it’s just acknowledging a truth.

  15. mburn16 says:

    My home parish is a very moderately progressive NO parish, and one thing that strikes me about much of the discussion concerning Altar Servers is how often it misses the point.

    Where I attend mass, we have both males and females, but the role itself can’t really be described as either masucline or feminine, because pretty much all who take it up are pre-pubescent….they start around eight and stop before they reach highschool. They hold the folder open for Father that contains the introductory and closing rites, they carry in a small candle ahead of those presenting the gifts, and really not much else.

    They dont touch the processional cross, or the censor, or the vessles for Communion. I have a greater role carrying the cross for stations on Good Friday than the servers do on any given Sunday.

    That arrangement isnt going to foster a thirst for vocation in anyone.

  16. Tradster says:

    Not all women, thank God, but too many liberal women believe and act as if “Jesus is my bestie” and want their liturgies to reflect that attitude.

  17. Gregorius says:

    Honestly, I think this article misses the bigger picture; to speak of the liturgy ‘being left in the hands of men or women’ or ‘being done by men or women’ is not a good way to speak about the liturgy.
    The primary reason only men should be in the sanctuary should be explained like this:
    “Christ is the principal actor of the liturgy. Through His incarnation, and through His sacrifice heaven and earth unite, and this union is perpetuated through the Sacraments. Now the unchanging teaching of the Church regarding the Sacrament of Holy Orders is that the ordained are configured to Christ in their souls in a particular way so that Christ may physically act through them. The different orders represent different configurations to Christ, but the liturgical actions they undertake is still primarily Christ working through them to bring grace to His Church, and not primarily the actions of the individuals ordained. The priest is of course ordered to the High Priesthood of Christ and offers the one Sacrifice He made. The acolyte in the Sanctuary (and here I merely speculate) represents the Hypostatic Union in that they stand in place for both the congregation that is present and the choirs of angels that are hidden, two infinitely distant groups brought together by Christ’s incarnation, perpetuated through the ordained acolyte, symbolized through the light of the candle he bears.
    Today as in centuries past there is a shortage of ordained acolytes (setting aside here discussions on the nature of the modern Instituted Acolyte), and just like church sanctuaries that don’t face East can still maintain the symbolism that upholds the reality of Christ returning from the East, the Church allowed layman and boys to serve- not to say that they are ordained in some spiritual sense, but point out and uphold the reality that it is Christ who is the true actor of the liturgy and acts through ordinary man to give us His grace.
    The modern notion of liturgical ministers ignores all that stuff above and reduces serving to a job or role, some job to be carried out which has little to do with that one specific moment in the Mass that Christ acts through the priest.”
    So, for that tl;dr sound-bite moderns like to hear, allowing females to serve basically obscures (at best) or denies (at worst) the transcendental nature of the liturgy. But understanding that requires and understanding of the sacraments plus the sacrament of holy orders plus some catholic history.

  18. Roguejim says:

    …and as for the “reform of the reform”, removing women from the sanctuary will be the final battle, and a bloody one at that!

  19. Gregorius says:

    As an aside, I think debates surrounding altar girls would be simpler if there were no children involved. Perhaps a return to the traditional practice would be easier if the faithful were reminded that serving is technically meant for adult men.

  20. gatormom says:

    The women’s lib movement took it’s marching orders from the same General that the LGBT movement does today, the devil. I notice a specific target that he focuses on, the family. I’m betting we individually succumb to his temptations more readily without the family modeled for us by Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The woman is now everywhere but where she needs to be and that is in her home as strong and focused matriarch. With the advent of Facebook, I have watched the female figure in society revert to a goofy adolescent self absorbed vain fool desperately attempting to be sexy, which usually just comes off as lumpy. Woman is Mother so, yes the devil needs to lure her from the Christian home and boy has he succeeded in this last century. A female reader at the Mass wearing a lumpy skin tight mini dress with boots is nauseating but it just touches the surface of how the woman’s powerful role in Christianity has been minimized and neutered.

  21. frjim4321 says:

    “I tried to start the Children of Mary based on the traditional sodality. I wrote up a proposal, even got support from young women more than willing to help oversee it, but I was told the parish council wouldn’t approve it.”

    Obviously somebody doesn’t know what the role of a Parish Council is.

    With regard to altar servers our server policy is inclusive, not discriminatory. And I’ll give up that policy when they pry it from my cold, dead hands.

    [You suppose that we will simply accept your premise, namely, that all discrimination must be considered to be bad. It isn’t. In the case of service at the altar, discrimination is beneficial. All-male service at the altar is a benefit. It is, therefore, a benefit that you deny to the people of your parish.]

  22. amenamen says:

    Thanks for the simile

    It is a great joy to come across a writer, like Rachel Lu, who can both think and write clearly. It is a rare joy to find that a writer can negotiate deftly through an English sentence that ends with a completed thought, and sometimes with an indelible image lodged in one’s mind (like a never-ending hug from a grasping, obsequious aunt).

    I intend to follow up on Rachel Lu, and the many articles I see she has produced for
    The Federalist
    and Crisis

  23. frjim4321 says:

    “All-male service at the altar is a benefit.”

    It’s quite debatable.

  24. amenamen says:

    The nesting instinct?

    Rachel Lu said, “When men are in charge of liturgy, they generally favor austerity, solemnity and reverence. They are far more likely to have “high” liturgical sensibilities. When women claim a more central role, we frequently see a slide into lower and more culturally idiosyncratic practices.”

    While I have come across some males who depart from this general principle, I find that even the most devout and orthodox women seem to have a deeply-rooted, biological need to domesticate, decorate or personalize any space that they perceive as their own, whether it is at home, at the office, or at the parish. This is as it should be, because it is natural. But it does point to the fact that public and sacred places must be guarded from the “nesting instinct”.

  25. pannw says:

    “With regard to altar servers our server policy is inclusive, not discriminatory.”

    I’m always amazed at people who seem to think all discrimination is ‘bad’. One wonders what they would have to say to Our Lord about His ‘discriminatory policy’ advancing only male Apostles.

    I am very blessed to be in a NO parish with a priest who has done pretty much everything right in terms of the liturgy, from only male servers to removing the front altar and offering the Mass
    ad orientem, and all cantors are in the choir loft, resolved the problem of female readers by having altar boys read, only priests distribute the Holy Eucharist… I think it has something to do with the fact that he was one of two priests from the diocese that the bishop had trained in the EF a few years back. I also know he was very devoted to beloved Benedict and obviously took the reform of the reform seriously. I am blessed!

    I am also blessed to have the privileged of laundering/ironing the altar linens. A couple of years ago, I got in a friendly disagreement with a man from another parish, telling me I would be a good priest. I think he was just toying with me, but he is apparently a progressive ‘Catholic’ so maybe not. In any case, he mocked my service to the Church in doing the laundry as if I should be offended to even be asked, since it suggests laundry is ‘women’s work’. As I’ve thought about it over the years, it occurred to me a while back that it is such a special blessing. I’m doing a bit of the work that Our Blessed Mother did for Our Lord! It is a small imitation of Mary, who also did Jesus’ laundry! Personally, I think that is every bit as ‘cool’ as carrying the candles, if it isn’t out of line to say so.

  26. acardnal says:

    Any vocations to the priesthood from your parish, FrJim?

  27. arickett says:

    I want good priests that are priests for the right reasons , if a girl on the sanctuary scares them off they do not make the grade. [The second part of that sentence doesn’t have anything to do with the first part.]

    As women assisted and waited on Christ all of his life I always find it odd that some believe they are suddenly inherently unable to care for his body and blood now. [No one has said that they were “unable”. They shouldn’t serve in the sanctuary.]

  28. Geoffrey says:

    The Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite envisions instituted acolytes and lectors serving in their proper roles at the sacred liturgy. Non-instituted lay men (and technically women) can perform their functions when there are no instituted ministers around. Unfortunately, this instead of being the exception, this has been the norm ever since Blessed Paul VI issued his largely ignored reforms of the minor orders / instituted ministries. A new appreciating for the instituted ministries would solve a lot of these issues, and with the full blessing of Holy Mother Church.

  29. Geoffrey says:


    Thank you for your service laundering the sacred linens! This is something that I find is often very overlooked.

  30. arickett says:


    Would like to second Geoffreys thanks and ask if you have any tips for getting wax stains out, we use the ironing out with brown paper trick to get most of the wax out but there is still a mark

  31. Midwest St. Michael says:

    arickett says: “As women assisted and waited on Christ all of his life I always find it odd that some believe they are suddenly inherently unable to care for his body and blood now.”

    “…all his life…”

    Please consider, according to the gospels and sacred tradition, there were no women who assisted and cared for His body and blood at the Last Supper. (which is represented at each Sacrifice of the Mass)

    Peace and Merry Christmas.


  32. My pastor has been a pastor for 25 years and has always had only Altar Boys. Two Sunday nights ago, the last Mass on Sunday, there were 13 boys serving on the Altar. That many or more serve at the other Masses. If a boy wants to serve, he shows up and serves as long as he has made his First Communion and has been trained. We have a large number of vocations that have come out of, and are still coming out of our parish. Men and women. Brother Francis OSB, brew master in Norcia, is among them.

    For the girls in the Parish, Fr. offers the Sodality of Our Lady of Lourdes.

  33. arickett says:

    None mentioned but it would have been historical unusal if the men had prepared are served the food. The servers would be who ever layout the table, lit the lamps and bought in the food these people like all good server managed to escape notice by the congregation and so we do not know there sex

  34. JKnott says:

    A huge thank you to Rachel Lu and to Fr Z ! A million times thank you.
    Rachel’s observation that the guys have a finer posture in the sanctuary is something I have also observed quite distinctly on many occasions, especially if the boys are being trained by a good priest. One pastor I know was in the military and the boys just loved his training and it showed. Rachel’s description fits perfectly. Contrast that with the all too often the lack of poise that I have witnessed by the girls, anyone would think some of them were rehearsing for the future Miss Universe contest, while “doing dishes” at the altar. But that really isn’t the point. It goes much deeper. The answer is in the Trinity.
    That said, I see three important points here.
    1- Vocations!
    2- God the Father, giver of life. Women are receivers like the Blessed Virgin Mary. They are beautiful in that role. Women have no place in the sanctuary at Mass. The other feminine programs that various priests have instituted in that place have more likelihood of fostering a religious vocation.
    3. It’s serious and critical formation in the virtues. A teaching moment to show girls that virtues such as humility, obedience etc. are more pleasing to God that a worldly and bitter sense of “feeling left out”. The boys who are outstanding in that role are so because they are learning to act in humility and not for power.
    This whole idea of the NO “participation” has really done a job on virtue. And it is our fault when we address the girls in such a way to try to make them feel better rather than teach them how to be selfless little saints. It isn’t about lullaby liturgies. It isn’t about how any of us view the action of the Mass, men or women. It is about the offering of the Holy Sacrifice of Jesus to the Father. It’s about the passion, death and resurrection of Christ. It is not about anyone’s personal ideas about “best practices” in the liturgy.
    I guess you can understand why Fr Z is my hero on this one.

  35. WYMiriam says:

    Fr. Jim, any “discrimination” in the Church that exists in regards to the sex of altar boys is that which is the “recognition and understanding of the difference between one thing and another”, not “the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex.”

    In other words, Holy Mother Church recognizes that there are differences between boys and girls, in this case chiefly that boys grow up to be men, and girls grow up to be women, and only men, not women, can be ordained priests.

    To open serving at the altar to girls, who are — rightly — prohibited from being ordained, is to give them, even unintentionally, the idea that they can “move up” to a higher calling, which is the priesthood. It is to pretend that maybe sometime the girls will be able to be ordained — and that is false, and a totally repugnant thing to do to them.

    Actually, this is one good example of why it’s really wrong to say to kids, “you can be anything you want to be!!” For instance, extremely few people are eligible for being the king of England, or qualified to be the president of Russia, and most people probably wouldn’t make successful lawyers or surgeons or astronauts. AND — women can’t be ordained.

  36. Grumpy Beggar says:

    On the whole – a great article , and some great comments (including the red ones) . . . but there’s exits this one passage in the article where I think it wouldn’t hurt to save a particular part of the baby from being thrown out with the bath water :

    It doesn’t seem to matter which angle I look at the following from, I still end up taking exception –

    “Women’s natural orientation is more interpersonal. They are more likely to perceive God as loving and solicitous. Think of a grown woman affectionately referring to her father as Daddy (and then imagine how ridiculous that would sound coming from a man). It is perhaps not strange, then, that female-engineered liturgies tend to feel more like a hug (and to incorporate more actual hugs).

    I understand the point being made , but this part about a grown man calling his father “Daddy” being or sounding ridiculous , doesn’t really ring true at all. I never once referred to my father as “father” in my entire life – it was always daddy or dad just as my two brothers and our sister also referred to him. In my father’s family of which he was the eleventh child, all of his siblings in that family referred to my grandfather as “daddy” throughout their entire lives – both when speaking to him directly and when speaking about him to each other.

    Quite bluntly, when addressing my personal prayers to God the Father , I – a grown man, am just as comfortable (- if not more comfortable) addressing Him as Daddy as I am addressing Him as Father. It has nothing to do with a lack of respect , I’ve just never been able to reconcile the idea that God would somehow wish me to be less intimate with Him as Our Father than I was with my own father.

    Sorry if my family members sound ridiculous – you might as well know at the same time that I periodically address our Blessed Mother privately as “sweetest Mum” instead of Mother . . . and I don’t plan on changing any of that anytime soon because I’m convinced that neither our Blessed Mother nor God the Father are somehow offended by it, or think it sounds “ridiculous” at all. St. Alphonsus Liguori refers so often to Jesus as “Jesus, my love” in his prayers and meditations both before the Blessed Sacrament and in the Stations of the Cross.

    The word “daddy” can actually be an idiom which conveys different connotations in different circumstances and cultural settings.

    I think it would be interesting to see how many men only actually ever referred to their father as “father” exclusively 0nce they were grown men (what do you suppose the cut-off age in the author’s mind is for being a grown man ?) – and never as “dad” , as opposed to how many referred to their fathers as “dad” through most of their adult life. If we consider the more narrow-minded sola-scriptura interpretation of that passage in the Gospel where Jesus told us to call no man “father” [Matt 23:9] , it would kind of appear as if we grown men aren’t left with too many other choices besides “Dad” – doesn’t it ? . . . I mean, apart from , say, the profoundly respectful: “Hey you!”

  37. hmf10 says:

    Your parish is so blessed to have you!

  38. kurtmasur says:

    Now that we’re on the topic of an all-male sanctuary, I’d like to share a true story from my time serving as an altar boy at my NO parish during the 90s. It so happens that we had the fortune to have a visiting priest from Mexico assigned to our parish on a temporary residency. I say fortune, because the priest was very traditionally minded. I’m not sure for how long he had been originally assigned to us, but more on that later. Our parish having had the typical NO environment (and I assume it still does to this day) with female Eucharistic ministers, female lectors (readers), and yes, also altar girls, it caused quite a storm when this priest prohibited females from entering the sanctuary (altar) area during his Masses. I was caught off-guard myself when he instructed me that I was the one to read the readings and the universal prayer (intentions) at Mass….in addition to serving at the altar. Apparently, he had told the female lectors before Mass started, that they would not read. And I assume he did the same for the female Eucharistic ministers. Anyways, I was nervous as hell for having to read publicly and didn’t quite understand why I had to read at all, but now as an adult looking back, I can now appreciate the priest’s efforts and can only regret that I wasn’t as well-informed as I am now to give him backup. After these sudden changes, those ladies got the gist that the priest wanted an all-male sanctuary, and at least for his Masses afterwards, that’s the way things were. To make a long story short, the priest’s all-male sanctuary policy made all those ladies furious…and I do mean furious. They were so furious that they complained (I assume to our archbishop at the time), and eventually the traditionalist priest was suddenly removed from our parish. I still remember the day when at his Sunday Mass, he suddenly announced his goodbyes to our congregation with the words of something to the tune of: “The last couple of months have been a pleasure serving your parish, and although it has been a blessing, unfortunately even in good places Satan is present and it is with great regret that I announce to you that I am being forced to leave thanks to the efforts of certain people which I won’t mention.” And so that wonderful traditionalist priest left and returned back to Mexico.

    What was remarkable was that a lot of people in the parish also regretted the priest’s removal, and appreciated his traditionalist and “very Catholic mindset, that you rarely see in priests nowadays”…to put it in the words of one parishioner who had spoke up in favor of the priest at our community’s public forum.

    In closing, one thing is for sure, this was certainly NOT the quintessential pushover priest that we see in NO parishes these days. I don’t know what it is of him now, but I do often remember him and wish he is doing well.

  39. Adaquano says:

    My pastor growing up always restricted this to boys, for the very reason of encouraging vocations. I now attend a more moderate church where there are more girls serving than boys. Our pastor normally delivers a good homily and does a good job of offering a reverent Mass, but sadly I don’t feel the same experience when I go home and attend Mass with my parents. Though I noticed this weekend the male Eucharistic Ministers were all wearing suits, so maybe we are taking a step in the right direction. My feeling is that if a priest demonstrates that serving on the altar is a great honor and wonderful way to serve our Lord, boys would be lining up to serve. But when your role is more or less to lead the presentation of the Gifts and ring a bell than you will have less than stellar participation.

  40. hmf10 says:

    I am not @pannw but I launder the boys cassocks and surplices for our parish and, naturally, wax removal is a big part of that. The hot iron with the paper bag is a good first step but often leaves an oily mark or residue behind. I have had luck boiling the surplices in a large spaghetti pot with baking soda for a good 3 or 4 minutes. Then launder as normal. This process will remove most if not all the residue. However, boiling the fabric is rough on it and will cause very stubborn wrinkles, so I only do it when the surplice is a true eyesore. It helps to iron it wet straight out of the wash and use a starch spray to put some stiffness back into it.

  41. robtbrown says:

    arickett says:

    I want good priests that are priests for the right reasons , if a girl on the sanctuary scares them off they do not make the grade. 

    According to you all those FSSP priests and those in formation have been scared off and do not make the grade.

    BTW, what is the grade?

    As women assisted and waited on Christ all of his life I always find it odd that some believe they are suddenly inherently unable to care for his body and blood now. 

    That has little to do with offering the Sacrifice.

  42. robtbrown says:


    I have found that soaking any stain overnight in an oxyclean paste removes it with normal washing.

  43. robtbrown says:

    Sorry–should be hmf10

  44. JKnott says:

    kurtmasur’s story of the expulsion of the good priest from the parish by women who coveted vain “equality” with altar boys is heartbreaking. Not only did their lack of charity deprive many souls of the blessings of this good priest, it is a red flag that warns of the massive breakdown of the striving after true virtue. Will someone please read these women the lives of the saints, ask them to meditate on the silence, obedience and the humility of Mary, which was strength personified. If I were the pastor I would have suggested that these hyper offended sensitive souls take a few weeks in a monastery boot camp doing penance and studying how to become a real saint. How about a year volunteering with Mother Teresa’s nuns begging to be equal to the poor rather than to wanting to be men.

  45. arickett says:

    I want good priests that are priests for the right reasons , if a girl on the sanctuary scares them off they do not make the grade.

    According to you all those FSSP priests and those in formation have been scared off and do not make the grade.

    No if they are in formation they have quite obviously not been scared off they have gone forward to examine there calling.

    The grade is a true calling the server the lord and his flock, including but far from limited to understanding how to work with and minster to woman and a full understand of his own movtives. This is not something that is easy and I do not claim to be a expert but “oh there is a girl doing that will be an accountant instead” Would appear an easy to spot fail.

    Thanks for the advice on wax removal hfm10 and robtbrown will try the oxyclean first

    We have had far to many preists that were in it becuase they were run from something not to something

    As always this is typed from my phone so is very much a short answer

  46. arickett says:

    Is there anyway to edit a post as this reply ended at oxyclean. Cut and paste issues

  47. robtbrown says:

    The point is that the FSSP priests want nothing to do with girl altar boys. Who knows whether they would have even begun studying for the priesthood in a garden variety seminary? Or, if ordained, would have persevered in the priesthood?

  48. Felicia says:

    « …the idea that full inclusion in the Church requires us to “participate” in sacred liturgy some externally visible way… » Yet this “active participation” idea has been pushed on us continually since the 1970s. It’s now axiomatic for most people that the more you “participate” the better. Hence, before one ever gets to the idea that women ought not to be involved in liturgical actions it will be necessary to completely overhaul most people’s (including most clergy’s) idea of what “active participation” really means.

    «…For instance, some girls see their brothers being trained to serve the altar and feel excluded… » It is more than the level of mere feelings or wanting to be “on the team.” If a girl has been told by her parents, teachers, catechists, parish priests, etc. that to serve at the altar means you are actually holier and closer to God than merely being in the pews, then when she is told that she ought not serve at the altar what she hears is “you are not acceptable to God and you never will be.” That goes a bit deeper than just being told she can’t be on the ball team. I know of at least one woman who has stopped going to Mass altogether for exactly that reason.

  49. fionam says:

    When men are in charge of liturgy, they generally favor austerity, solemnity and reverence. They are far more likely to have “high” liturgical sensibilities. When women claim a more central role, we frequently see a slide into lower and more culturally idiosyncratic practices.

    Really? What a sweeping, patronizing statement, especially coming from a woman. I am a woman and I would like to think that I do possess ‘high’ liturgical sensibilities. I have no time for liturgical dance or any other ‘idiosyncratic practices’ in the church or up on the sanctuary. I am not in favour of female altar servers, but do not have a problem with female lectors. Sometimes there are simply not enough men willing to volunteer. In fact, we have a problem getting people to volunteer as lectors at our parish, male or female. I also speak from experience when I say that the reason so many women are involved in church activities is that most men are not at all interested in the form of the liturgy and everything that surrounds it, whether it be in relation to the EF or NO. And it has nothing to do with the presence of women on or off the sanctuary. This is why so much is left to the women of the parish to handle and, no, that ‘help’ doesn’t necessarily descend into liturgical sentimentality. The problems we are experiencing with liturgical weirdness are more to do with lack of proper formation and clear, firm guidance from parish priests.

    Frankly, I am becoming very tired of this growing attack on women as the root of all liturgical evil and the so-called ‘feminisation’ of the Catholic Church. As St Josemaria Escriva would say “Don’t say: ‘That’s the way I’m made… it’s my character’. It’s your lack of character: Esto vir! – Be a man.” or, as he said elsewhere “Be firm. Be virile. Be a man. And then… be a saint.” Therein lies the problem. Men have forgotten their true calling. If men would only live their calling as strong protectors, providers and decision makers who centre their life on God, then the world, and the Church, would be a far better place.

  50. robtbrown says:


    I completely agree that the more-participation-means-better-Catholic mantra has had great influence in the US, where a very active temperament is common. IMHO, that is the basis for so much Communion in the hand.

  51. SummerMarigold says:

    I am a woman and I finally gave in and started serving as a lector at daily masses. Our parish is about as traditional and fancy as a NO church can be, and daily mass is certainly a more glorious thing there than at the local Latin mass parishes (seriously!). The rector had begged people for a while to read at daily mass, and no new men came forward. None. Nadda. Zip. I suppose Father could have started doing the readings himself… I volunteered. Praise God, I am a very good lector. I wear modest dresses every day and cover my head. I have noticed more women covering their head lately. It wasn’t my intention by any means, but maybe having a modest covering lector has gotten people used to it? I understand the idea behind an all male altar but disagree that females are responsible for the degradation of liturgy or are somehow sloppier in their service. I have seen many an altar boy sloppily vested or fidgeting uncontrollably, men reading abominably, and priests introduce all manner of innovations to the liturgy. Personally, I think that if there is an all male altar the men should be responsible for the vestments, linens and flowers on it too. (though I am certainly grateful to all of you ladies who do the work!).

    [You have fallen into the trap, I think, of focusing on who is able or does do a “task” well. One commentatrix said something along the same line, that is, “unable” to do something because she is female. No. This is not about who can read well or who can sit still longer, who is tidy and who is sloppy.]

  52. SummerMarigold says:

    It is indeed possible that I have fallen into that trap Father, but it doesn’t change the fact that in our very fancy, glorious church there was no man willing to step up and read. [That changes nothing.] If anything I hope that men hear about cases like this and stand up. I know quite a few men who support male only altars but don’t actually serve themselves or work at getting other men and boys to serve. While our parish has a lot of women serving, it is in no way emasculated. It distresses me that even in places with thoroughly orthodox masses and a great love of liturgy and good music, men still don’t volunteer.

    In the mean time I serve because it was needed, I can “do the task well”, and our respected bishop allows it.

    [It really isn’t a “need” to have any layperson read at Mass.]

  53. SummerMarigold says:

    Well, dear Father, our priests have declared it a need. It is not for me to decide what is needed. I have been called at last minute to lector at a bishop’s mass as well. Should I tell the bishop or priests: Father Z says no, do it yourself? :) [And you would do that… why?]

    I prayed a lot before making the decision to lector. [You’ve made a decision. I guess that ends it.] We aren’t going to agree on my decision, obviously. But I am glad you have put up with me.

  54. comedyeye says:

    I still do not understand the specific reasons for why a female lector is not a good presence in the sanctuary.

  55. steven595 says:

    “I still do not understand the specific reasons for why a female lector is not a good presence in the sanctuary.”

    First, only men are instituted, “official” lectors. Women can only substitute for them in their absence. Thus, they are a permitted exception to the rule.

    Second, the very idea of women entering the sanctuary to perform a liturgical role is a historical oddity.

    Third, because the lectorate has always been a step to Holy Orders, women reading in the sanctuary can be seen by some as a step to the ordination of women to the priesthood.

  56. Kennedy says:

    Back in the days when altar girls were introduced in England, the brother in charge of us, it was a Capuchin parish, came into the sacristy waving a copy of “The Universe” (an English Catholic newspaper). It had a picture of one of the first female altar servers on the cover. He claimed that the man who was receiving Communion in the picture was looking at the girl and not the Host, which was a reason why he would not allow female servers in our parish as they were a distraction. He added that us lot, the altar boys, were liable to corrupt any girls who joined us. I used to laugh at that memory from over forty years ago. However, a few months back, I went to a Mass at a local university chapel. There was a very beautiful young woman serving who was a distraction to me at least. I wasn’t having lustful thoughts, but I was certainly distracted into admiring the beauty of creation.

  57. KateD says:

    My daughter has been asked numerous times, since her 1st Communion, to altar serve, bring up gifts, and lector. Her response is, “do you have a choir? I really enjoy singing”. She is so tactful and polite that she completely avoids conflict while remaining faithful to her values. The choirs she participates in are at the rear of the church, whether they started there or not. Apparently people respond positively to pleasant and charming. Whoda thunk? They don’t tend to ask me….lol…they must assume that I led her to greater reverence rather than the other way around…double lol. They must think they will be able to convert her….ROFL! And she is so sweet, I don’t even think they suspect or notice she is actively working to correct the errors she encounters.

    There is a whole generation like this. Patient, steady, sweet, reverent and determined. It makes one hopeful, which is welcome in the face of so much that is disheartening.

    I thought the use of female acolytes was a special dispensation for instances of necessity, not a norm, and that it had expired a number of years ago. Is that incorrect?

  58. Ann Malley says:


    “…I suppose Father could have started doing the readings himself… I volunteered.”

    Father doesn’t need someone to do his job for him, although he may like to think so. (Just like our kids often make us feel that they ‘need’ our help when in reality they’re just looking for someone else to do the work. Feigning incapacity or sub par ability is often a passive aggressive means to obtain relief from one’s own job. And Mom is always pleased to show us how it ‘should’ be done. ;^)

    Sadly, much of what gets women feeling as if they are doing ‘all’ the work is that they are a lighter touch when it comes to feeling pressured to get a job done. Kind of like a woman who feels the house is an utter bomb if it isn’t cleaned daily whereas a man’s meter isn’t pegged until a week passes – or longer. ( the case of the Church, it is a master ego-stroke to play the feminist card with women as to the equality of their ability. What that translates to again is what I call – Lazy Lion Syndrome. Oh, men know a woman can do it, so why not let her? Peter Pan anyone? And then the woman, moved by a tweaked vanity and steeped frustration at the utter laziness of those around her, will continue to ‘do it all’ to the detriment of herself and everyone else.)

    If the woman swallows the bait that the house must always been clean and according to her timeline, she’ll always be the one doing every job. And the man will handily let her do it. Why not? His meter is never pegged.

    That’s why letting Father pressure you into a sense of ‘having’ to volunteer when the duty of preaching/reading is really HIS job is rather sad. Sad that he would do that to you. Sad that he wouldn’t see the ultimate effeminacy of doing it – that is his own softness. And sad that we women, for all of our supposed intelligence, cannot ‘see’ that our own gifts are being used against us.

    This is also why comments like:

    “…I have seen many an altar boy sloppily vested or fidgeting uncontrollably, men reading abominably, and priests introduce all manner of innovations to the liturgy.”

    This is the kind of critique filter that very often keeps men from doing anything at all. As for priests and innovation, do the woman thing. Call him on it. But never do his job for him.

  59. Ann Malley says:


    “…Well, dear Father, our priests have declared it a need. It is not for me to decide what is needed. I have been called at last minute to lector at a bishop’s mass as well. Should I tell the bishop or priests: Father Z says no, do it yourself?”

    Actually, SummerMarigold, there is no law in the Church that states there MUST be lay readers at mass. So if you get a call from the priest or bishop who may erroneously believe that this is so, you could address it just like you did the horror of sloppy vestments and squirming.

    For the prelates who are pretending that you must volunteer so as to appear whatever – not sure who they are trying to please – you could point out that, despite good intentions, they are in fact promoting the novelty you ascribed to men. It is sloppy execution of duty to intimate that one’s job must be done by another and to shirk responsibility. It is also a bad example for the MEN in the parish who see this and will correspond with similarly effeminacy – that is a love of softness.

    You would be doing a better service to inform the priests and the bishop to cease calling upon you just because you can do the job better. Why? Because it isn’t YOUR job. Tagging that reality check on Fr. Z is also a gross misstatement. He’s just pointing out reality.

    What you could do is offer to teach those who are bad at speaking what you have learned so that they could ante up and set an example for the other men. Beginning with the father who put the pressure on you. Again, shame on him. [To be fair, he is probably doing what he has always seen done and is not doing anything out of malice.]

  60. JuliB says:

    I lector and on occasion will EMHC. I thought long and hard about whether I should do it and why. I decided to do so since there was a need although I don’t agree with it on a personal basis. However, if one day I am told that they are going ‘all male’ I will be the one there who applauds the choice. At least one woman out of the group should be in favor of it!

  61. hwriggles4 says:

    As a man who was an altar boy in the 70s and 80s (my brother and I were the regular altar boys at 6:00 p.m. Saturday evening Mass), I get disappointed at some parishes when I see altar girls outnumbering the boys. Seriously, when 10, 11, 12, and 13 year old boys see four girls up there (which I have seen at some parishes) boys think “oh, that’s a girl thing” and they will not volunteer. At parishes where the priest has mandated “no altar girls”, boys are volunteering in droves. Like a sports team or a Scout troop, it gives the boys fraternity. As an altar boy, I got to see a little more of the “day to day” of what a priest does too, and he would take us all with chaperones to a pro baseball game every year to say “thank you.”

    This may be the “white elephant”, but I notice today if a priest commands a more “manly” presence at a parish, more boys notice that and are more willing to volunteer as altar boys. (While my parish has altar girls, and my brothers’ parish has a couple, there are quite a few more male servers than females). I have three priests at my Novus Ordo parish, and all of them command a “manly” presence, particularly the pastor. Two Novus Ordo parishes in my diocese do not allow altar girls, and there is no shortage of servers, (my brother and I were practically the only ones serving the 6:00 p.m. Mass in the 70s and 80s, and the early Sunday morning Mass didn’t even have altar servers), and the FSSP parish in my diocese doesn’t allow altar girls either, and there is no shortage of servers. The Lincoln Diocese doesn’t have a shortage either.

    The parish closest to my home has a pastor who comes across a little “wimpy”, and I drive to a different parish for Mass because the homilies are more “meat and potatoes”.

    Personally, I did encounter a few priests as a kid in the 70s and 80s who were what I would call “Fr. Nice” or “Fr. Yeah, Whatever”, and I do recall at least two priests as a young adult that I found to be “effeminate”, and one is still in active ministry today. As a man today, if I encounter a priest who seems to be “effeminate”, or even “wimpy”, that makes me feel a little uneasy, and I’m sure this is the same for young adult boys and even boys as young as ten. A boy wants and needs a positive male role model, and when a boy finds one, he will follow.

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