ASK FATHER: Now that canon law allows for females to be instituted acolytes, can a female be straw subdeacon in a Solemn Mass?

From a reader…


Now that canon law allows for females to be instituted acolytes, is it possible, prudential, for a female to be a straw subdeacon in a solemn high mass?

Listen here wise guy.  You are probably not a biologist… or maybe a biologian.  So, you are unqualified to know what a woman is, much less a woman acolyte!

We are bound by the current – always changing – Code of Canon Law, but we are also bound by the grammar of the rubrics, which refer to the subdiaconus not the subdiacona much less a subdiaconx.

Straw subdeaconettes?  No.  As with deaconettes… a sin that would cry to Heaven.

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  1. kurtmasur says:

    But what is stopping one of the “pastoral” cardinals from submitting the above question to the pope in the form of a *dubious* dubia? I don’t want to imagine that.

  2. Iacobus Mil says:

    Traditionally, acolyte was a stepping-stone to the priesthood. Even if that’s no longer officially the case, it often is in practice. Making women acolytes will inevitably be seen today as a stepping-stone to female priests. I was going to add “Don’t they ever consider the consequences when they make changes?” but, now that I think of it, they probably do. I suppose that’s the point.

  3. Chrisc says:


    I think the question of holy orders and its stages an interesting key to unlock the mystery of reconciling the Pre-Vatican 2 church with the Post V2 Church. Not that it is a doctrinal stumbling block, but rather a helpful hermeneutic for discerning the realities present.

    The theology of ordination flows from the theology of the priesthood flows from the theology of the eucharist. If we can begin to set one of these right maybe the others will necessary align as well.

  4. WmHesch says:

    Ministeria Quaedam (1972) still allows for episcopal conferences to call their instituted acolytes “subdeacons” if they so choose.

    So, for example, the German Bishops could licitly have female Subdeacons

    [FYI… Ministeria qauedam was entirely superseded by the 1983 Code of Canon Law.]

  5. iPadre says:

    Even if it were approved Kurtmasur does not mean we would do it. I know that I wouldn’t.

  6. Kenneth Wolfe says:

    Don’t expose this potential loophole too publicly, as the next thing you know James Martin, LGBTSJ, will offer his first Missa Solemnis…

    [Dangers on all fronts!]

  7. ProfKwasniewski says:

    The legal reason why this is impossible was spelled out in Universae Ecclesiae, which stated that the rules directly governing the old liturgical books had to be followed in their use (e.g., only altar boys, not altar girls; only communion on the tongue, not in the hand; etc.).

    The theological reason why this is impossible is covered in my book “Ministers of Christ” (Sophia Institute Press, 2021):

  8. summorumpontificum777 says:

    Fr. Jim Martin’s ecclesiastical Latin pronunciation in “The Irishman” was so awkward and stilted that I’m unconcerned that he’s going to straying out of his liturgical comfort zone anytime soon.

  9. TonyO says:

    “Deaconettes”, ewwww! You know the phrase “lipstick on a pig”.

    Actually, now that I think of it, maybe we should formally and officially associate the term “deaconettes” with “hogettes”, with photos of the good ol’ Washington Redskins semi-famous Hogettes: fat men in dresses, garden party hats, and pig-snouts, for the football games. Think that would scare them off?

  10. Not says:

    Remember Homosexual Unions! They all said, this is not about marriage. This is for insurance, etc. Now homosexual marriage is glorified and they adopt children who will grow up just as morally bankrupt as themselves. Some of the grown adopted children have spoken up against this blasphemy.

  11. Aside from every other consideration, it occurs to me that the combination of a Traditional Latin Mass with a prelate who wants to vest female acolytes as subdeacons seems rather like the frequent plot device in Star Trek of an encounter between matter and anti-matter: both very rare and extraordinarily combustive.

  12. Not says:

    Yes Fr. Martin Fox, The only way to restore tradition is to hit them with a tackion pulse as to not disrupt the space time continuum.

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  14. Geoffrey says:

    I must admit to feeling somewhat “adrift” ever since Pope Francis made this change to the Code of Canon Law.

    I was instituted as an acolyte (non-seminarian) by my late bishop some years ago, as part of my way to take part in the “reform of the reform” movement. Admitting women to the instituted ministries soon convinced me that the “reform of the reform” was indeed over. Just as I turned my attention to the Extraordinary Form as the way of the future, “Traditiones Custodes” was promulgated.

    I feel like being an instituted acolyte has suddenly become somewhat meaningless. Do traditional Mass communities still utilize instituted ministers (viri) as subdeacons and lectors? Or are we looked upon differently, now that women can ostensibly be admitted to our ranks?

  15. Matthew78 says:

    Father, using Latin grammatical rules to determine liturgical law is not only non-pastoral but contradicts the very spirit and vision of the current synod on synodality. Where is your sense of accompaniment, by which one can recognize where another is on their genderless journey, meets them at that place, and guides them to the altar of love and compassion? Jk of course

  16. moon1234 says:


    Don’t despair. If you need certainty about these types of things your ONLY real option is the SSPX or possibly a traditional community that is devoted to the Traditional Mass. The ICRSS, FSSSP, etc. serve at the pleasure of their local Bishop. They may be in a more precarious position.

    This will most likely not improve until all of those who were present for VII or immediately after have passed from this world to the next. Once you accept that this is the reality of the present situation, then you can decide how you want to survive the next 20-30 years if God graces you to have that much time. Do you spend it with a troubled soul or do you spend it worshiping the Lord in a way that pleases both him and yourself? I know what I am going to do.

  17. TonyO says:

    Geoffrey, I too wonder about all that. Is the object to change the meaning of “instituted” something basically meaningless? (Like giving trophies to everyone on every team: it renders trophies pointless.) And, from there, to nibble at the meaning of “consecrated” and “orders” altogether?

    I feel like asking these people: Did you know there already are “churches” that have done the “no such thing as a distinction between the ministerial priesthood and the laity”, right? They are Protestants. Go check them out, if that’s the kind of “church” you want. Don’t let the door slam behind you, as you go. (But do note: those “churches” are also dying out.)

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