Wednesday, January 14, 2015


Some of the comments on yesterday's "Misogyny as Theology" post shows me that perhaps traditionalists are just as focused on the horizontal as their progressive counterparts but only in different ways.

While I do not disagree that the external way in which the Mass is celebrated is important to convey the vertical elements of the Mass, the horizontal continues to dominate the discussion. This seems to me to betray the essence of what our participation in Mass is all about, offering worship (sacrifice) to almighty God through Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Someone commented that if my ideas for the "what if" the Mass had been revised in a more sober way with some specifics added, that in doing so this would destroy the Extraordinary Form. The Ordinary Form of the Mass we have today is a revision of the Extraordinary Form, but a revision that many, including myself, believe went too far. So what I offered was almost no change, except for the Liturgy of the Word, with lay readers, as we have it today in the EF's revision and the vernacular for the changing parts of the Mass.

The issue of girls and women serving the altar is a red herring or a straw man. One can easily promote vocations to the priesthood with male altar servers, altar boys even when altar girls are present and I offered a suggestion.

One could also dress the girls slightly different in their serving roles and exclude them for direct ministry to the priest, such as holding the Roman Missal for the celebrant and offering the incense, water and wine and washing of the hands. These could still be for males only. Any parish could arrange that.  In fact when girls were acknowledged as already serving in many parishes in our diocese, Bishop Lessard (prior to the allowance of altar girls officially) had such a policy.

But really folks, why aren't we focusing in on the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Mass and how Christ feeds us with His Holy Word spoken and made sacramentally His Holy Flesh and Blood in the Holy Eucharist?

Why can't we instill more awe and respect for the Holy Eucharist by reclaiming our past "scupulousity" about care of the Holy Eucharist, especially its "Crumbs" and tabernacle veils on the outside and inside of the tabernacle placed directly in the center of the sanctuary with veils over the ciborium.

Our youth minister told me that recently he was in his home parish prior to Mass and a CCD class of second graders came in for a lesson prior to Mass. It was noisey and distracting. The catechist, opened the tabernacle and casually pulled out the ciborium and took the lid off and showed the kids the content. The kids were giggling, not asked to show any reverence such as falling down on their knees in silence and then when the ciborium was placed back in the tabernacle, the door was left open so that the kids could come up one by one and peer inside the tabernacle.

Does this sort of catechesis help these kids when they become adults to actually believe in the real presence and have a sense of God as greater than they, the Supreme Being and the call to awe and wonder in His sacramental presence?


Gene said...

What you cannot seem to see is that the reason the kids have no awe and respect for the Body of Christ is exactly because of things like altar girls, standing to receive, receiving in the hand, ad populuum, etc. Your attempt to make the Real Presence an issue is the red herring. It is the respect and real belief in the Real Presence which traditional Catholics wish to recover by pointing out the degradation of the Liturgy. All of you clericalists do not want to listen and continue to blame the flock for the presence of the wolf. You area starting to sound like your buddy across town, God help us.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Gene, this simply isn't true where awe and reverence are instilled in people, even when there are altar girls, standing for Holy Communion and receiving in the hand. My previous parish of Most Holy Trinity is a living example of this.

When I was there and I had to go to the tabernacle to see how many hosts were there prior to a daily or Sunday Mass, I could hear, in unison everyone who was in their pews pulling down the kneelers and kneeling while the tabernacle door was open!

Gene said...

FR, you are the one who pointed out the lack of reverence. You are missing my point. If you could attend Mass with me at a couple of the other Churches I attend sometimes, you would understand. There is a widespread casualness and presumption with regard to the Real Presence and proper awe before it. No one would identify it as such in themselves, but it amounts to a cultural contempt for the notion of awe and fear before the Almighty. I saw it in the Presbyterian church in the preaching and worship, which was the beginning of why I left. No one preached awe before the sovereignty of God like Calvin, and look where that church is now. Perhaps we think that Jesus' question as to whether the Son of Man would find faith on earth at His return was merely a rhetorical one...

Gene said...

FR, you also underestimate your own influence on parishioners. Your own devotion and the seriousness with which you take your own Priesthood moves others to reverence and right worship. I am around a lot of parishioners and have been active in RCIA for a number of years and many walk on eggs around you. Example: I was standing in line for Confession a while back and a lady came in and got behind me. She asked, "Who is in there?" I replied, "Fr. MacDonald."
She said, "Oh, God, I cannot confess to him!" She turned and went up to the Priest behind the screen…which, interestingly, was Fr. David! Out of the frying pan and into the fire.
Anyway, I do not think you realize how much of an exception St. Jo's is…and MHT when you were there. You see, every Priest should instill this reaction…unfortunately, most are like the Priest I went to a year or so ago who, when I confessed some things that really troubled me, said, "Very well, run say an Our Father and join us in the fellowship hall for coffee and cookies." Compare that to Fr. David…"Now, go and kneel at the seventh station of the Cross and pray your Rosary while you ponder what happened there." Run say an Our Father…please...

Anonymous said...

I think the primary place reverence should be exemplified is in the celebration of Mass. While CCD is frequently lacking, even when reverence is taught in CCD, RCIA, and others, it is undermined quickly if the focus during Mass is not evidently vertical. Whatever the means, I believe the overemphasis or push for more external participation (number and diversity of lectors, servers, EMHCs) detracts from the vertical dimension. Whether it be the overuse of EMHCs or the self-referential musical selections during Communion, or just a general over-emphasis on "neighbor" during the Mass, any of these (or all together) give the impression that what is happening on the altar is not the main event. I would even add overuse (not use, per se) of Eucharistic Prayer #2 because of its brevity, particularly if the congregation has never heard the Canon, the vertical dimension is diminished. I was reading a Belloc quote on St Thomas Becket - essentially his stand against civil authority to prosecute prelates might have seemed inconsequential on its own but he saw the wave of change coming and picked his hill to stand on helping to delay the revolt against Church authority by almost 400 years. Any one of these methods of external participation, though perhaps benign on its own, can be seen as part of a shift in emphasis toward the horizontal. Picking one or another may seem immaterial, but the concern stems from the shift.


Anonymous said...

And, Fr McDonald, the exception never proves the rule.

Anonymous said...

Fr. MacDonald, I must wonder whether it's quixotic (if no schizophrenic) to think that the former awe and reverence can be restored without correcting those conditions that have destroyed awe and reverence among almost all Catholics almost everywhere.

Sure, it's possible to cite a rare example where these prevalent conditions have not destroyed faith and worship, but the rare exception does not disprove the general rule. I cannot help suspecting dissemblance when anyone appreciative of traditional liturgical values argues in favor of any of the conditions that are responsible for the current formlessness of Catholic liturgy.

Not being obsessed about altar girls myself—theology and gut reactions aside, they surely are among the more peripheral of those damaging conditions—I do you wonder why you apparently are. The benefit of having altar boys is obvious—the inspiration of vocations. But what could you cite as a similarly concrete benefit of having altar girls? I can understand why not having altar girls is so important to some, but I really cannot understand why having them is so important to you?

Fr. Anthony Forte said...

The question of altar girls goes beyond that of fostering vocations. First, the liturgical ministers are an extension of the ministry of the priest, not a representation of the laity. The introduction of female servers introduces a dissonance to the all male priesthood celebrating in persona Christi. Additionally, the introduction of female servers also goes to reinforce the present confusion over the proper distinctions between men and women. This refusal to admit divine reason and purpose for our creation as man and woman is the root of many of the problems we face today.

But I would also like to turn the question back to you. If the Church has maintained all male servers for 2000 years, why is it important to introduce female servers?

JusadBellum said...

According to CARA's most recent study of ordinands (ordained clergy) from 2012

75% of all the men ordained in 2012 had been altar servers.

So its not a negligible factor in vocational discernment.

If we want more priests, then ought we not explore EVERY option?

If you can increase the available service slots for boys by 50% why - other than a really good theological reason - would you arbitrarily choose not to?

Girls and women have many gifts and skills. Surely there are other ways to use these gifts than service on the altar?

JusadBellum said...

I might also note that MHT was home to many of the Alleluia community people who are, for those who don't know, among the most extraordinary lay Catholics on earth. That vocations to the priesthood and religious life burst from that community of charismatic and ecumenical Catholics is not at all surprising. But then their very unique situation means that altar girls would not have unduly repressed male vocational discernment since there are so many other active discernment programs going on day and night there.

Most parishes don't have such a group of active and serious Catholics seeking holiness in as much a radical way.

They put us all to shame. Sure, it's not most of our 'cup of tea' but one can only be impressed by them.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

While certainly a goodly number of vocations came from the Alleluia community, there were many also from normal average families who attended MHT.

But your point about the Alleluia community is very important. They have recaptured what Catholic neighborhoods were like and how to be neighbors and how to live the Faith everyday in their neighborhood. They continue strong Catholic families in a strong parish-like community what was more common for Catholicism before the exodus to the suburbs and fierce individualism.

JusadBellum said...

Father I think your point about Catholic neighborhoods (others would sneer and call them 'ghettos') is spot on.

To the degree we know and trust our neighbors and get along with them and trust our kids to run around with their kids and can call for help and get all manner of practical assistance.... the less fearful and distrustful of others we become.

I suspect the boom in guns and preparedness supplies, gear, and skills is largely due to the atomization of the American individual. Our extended families are scattered, our marriages strained, our kids broken into age cohorts not speaking a common language.... we're sliced and diced and suburbia means everyone is anonymous to one another.

This loss of organic and daily community has tremendous effects across ideology and socio-economic classes.

We're afraid of random crazies and criminals, drug addicts, etc. and in the absence of knowing who our neighbors are, we fear them!

If every family of the subdivision knew each other, we'd be much less afraid of random crime and other threats.

Positively, we'd be more self-sufficient too, taking care of our own neighbors vs. letting all manner of bureaucrats and programs do what all former generations would have assumed is their own moral responsibility!

It's by not being neighbors that we cede our rights to government and our security initiative to government, criminals and terrorists.

Anonymous said...

The benefits of altar boy service have frequently been discussed at length, as have the reasons why girls should not serve at the altar.

But where are the similar explanations of benefits of altar girl service? Ones that don't simply amount to blowing in the winds of radical feminism that are almost uniformly opposed to traditional faith and liturgy.

Can not anyone provide a positive and constructive argument in favor of altar girls, based on real benefits to faith and worship rather than on secular fads and values?

John Nolan said...


I think it might be better all round if you concentrated on celebrating the Novus Ordo reverently and left the classic Roman Rite alone. The reasons being as follows.
1. Many of your enthusiasms are for things which are incompatible with the older Rite, in particular EMHC, females in the sanctuary, and offering options for the reception of Communion. These are not even intrinsic to the New Rite; they did not legitimately exist in 1970, and were added later. Did they grow 'organically' out of it? I would suggest that 'organic growth' needs to be measured in centuries.
2. You are not committed to Latin except in theory. If the only Latin Mass you offer is a an EF Mass once a month you are emphasizing a rupture between the two forms. If expecting the congregation to sing the Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei in the traditional liturgical language is enough to provoke a walk-out, then there is something wrong with your congregation.
3. If your only EF Mass is once a month you can get away with politely standing down the EMs and serviettes. Otherwise I suspect you would run into trouble with the lay movers and shakers, especially the mothers who love to see their darling daughters posturing in cassock and cotta.

For those of us with long memories, there is an irony here. In the 1960s liturgical change was imposed clerically on a laity who by and large did not want it. Nowadays the laity that remain (a minority) claim the right to resist any attempt to reverse the changes. They tend to be middle-aged and middle-class activists who see the 'New Church' as their personal and comfortable fiefdom. They may volunteer to be 'meeters and greeters' and waffle on at parish meetings about 'evangelization' but their narrow-minded exclusivity puts people off.

We actually need more clericalism, not less; diocesan bishops who run their dioceses without the benefit of focus groups or having to defer to national Conferences; and parish priests who dispense with their 'liturgy committees' who believe me know nothing about liturgy.

I was talking to a priest who had recently taken over a new parish. In the first week he was approached by a woman who announced 'I'm in charge of organizing the liturgy'. His riposte was 'You're not. I am'.

Rood Screen said...

Father MacDonald,

How many young men who served at the altar with you are now priests or in the seminary?

Unknown said...

Father McDonald,

Have you been in the woods eating strange mushrooms? Your recent posts (like this one, and the one about Card. Burke) seem quite... far out... lol.

Gene, having Fr. Dawid hear my confession was the closest experience to a Roman-style scourging I've ever had. Yikes!

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I make no claim to having influence anyone to become a priest but in Albany, a child of a family close to in the early 1980's is a diocesan priest. One from the cathedral is a diocesan priest; and about 10 from Most Holy Trinity in Augusta and now one from St.Joseph.

Anonymous said...

I wonder some times if things might not be a lot better if God had so loved the world that He sent us his only begotten daughter. (Whether....about now, God is reading this blog and saying "Oops".)

JusadBellum said...

Anonymous... as trite as your wondering about God's "only begotten daughter" may be, it's worth pointing out for the lurkers that the reason the Word became flesh as a man (vir) was due to the fact that the human race did not fall when Eve succumbed to the devil's temptation. Humanity only fell when Adam (apparently there all along) chose to eat the apple too.

It was his gutlessness, his refusal to defend his wife from the dragon at risk to his own physical life that forced God to incarnate as a man (vir) so as to die for the woman (the church) in Adam's place.

Thus all priesthood involves sacrifice and all sacrifice involves the death of male offerings (lambs, goats, bulls, etc.)

Thus both ontologically and theologically, unless you want to pin the Fall on women, you cannot really want priestesses. It's man's fault so man has to put it right.

The kicker is that the feminists mostly agree about mankind being at fault. They're confused as to how to make it all better and seek power in the priesthood not realizing that it's not power (as the world sees it) at all.

Mother Theresa had more 'power' than the cardinal of India.

What never ceases to amaze me is how much so-called "brilliant" theologians seem to miss about actual theology. Eve's life was worth Adam laying down his own, just as the Church was (is) worth Jesus laying down his own.

Far from putting woman down, this raises her to a high value position. The world denigrates motherhood and being a wife, but in the grand scheme of things, is there any vocation higher? They throw it away to chase after power!

Our first parents were like gods and threw it away to behave like animals.

Anonymous said...

So literally believe the Bible story of Adam and Eve and the talking snake?

No evolution for you....?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

John Nolan, my musing about "what if" goes back to consilium and their revision and keeping the Mass more like the EF then and maybe we wouldn't have the liturgical divisions we have now.

I celebrate the EF Mass by the book and I try to celebrate the OF the same way, which has more flexibility than the EF.

I appreciate both and the gifts that both bring to the Church and I am thrill Pope Benedict has allowed this lowly priest in Georgia to rediscover its treasures.

JusadBellum said...


For starters, it was a dragon, not a snake (it became a snake or worm afterwards so it at least 'evolved'!).

Secondly, of course there was a primordial first man and first woman. If not you must accept polygenetism which inevitably leads to racial superiority theories.

Oddly enough, while so-called scientifically minded folk (just the evidence please) claim that 1 Adam and 1 Eve couldn't possibly have existed to give rise to all of humanity, they DO claim that all life started from a single jump. That say, the Cambrian explosion was a continuation not new beginning. Or that multiple different starts were not possible but that all life must be organically related to each other like branches on a tree rather than different trees.

We've all seen the nice Nat. Geo. artistic imaginary connections from plant to fish to amphibian to lizard to bird to mammal to ape to man "evolution" but the fossil record doesn't actually prove that.

It's entirely possible that inherent in matter is the ability to be so organized and animated that some organisms rise towards plants while others rise towards animals. It's entirely possible that DNA is the only way for the inorganic to be organized into the organic. Just as there are universal laws of mathematics perhaps there's also universal laws of animation.

And so, my Catholic theology is not in the least threatened by the fossil record but plenty of so-called "evolutionists" are indeed threatened by our faith.

Unless you believe all human beings are related to Adam and Eve you have no ground for accepting universal human rights.

Have a nice day!

Gene said...

Anonymous, It was not a "talking snake"... it was Satan…evil. Now, since you clearly have no grasp of theology, Biblical or otherwise, be reminded that he can take many forms…even quote Scripture and that, in his Biblical appearances, demons often recognized Jesus as the Christ before believers did. You may understand evolution any way you like but, at some point, there were proto-typical humans. At some point evil entered the garden and permeated man's being. Adam and Eve are as real as the human genome. You scoff at Scripture at your own peril.

Anonymous said...

The problem is, Father, it seems you favour a traditional Mass with some of the novelties of the Novus Ordo: altar girls, lay readers, offertory procession. I think you only have to look at photos of the Traditional Mass and compare photos of the Novus Ordo Mass to see the difference. It is stark. It is very hard to see that one came from the other.

Compare photos of protestant services with the Novus Ordo and there is not much difference. I can see where one came from the other.

The problem is all the things that you would like to introduce into the Traditional Mass are the things that intrude in the Novus Ordo Mass and take away the raising up of the heart and mind to God.

I go to both forms of the Mass and I find myself distracted at the Novus Ordo, no matter how well it is said. I am distracted by the movement of the lay people from the body of the church into the sanctuary; I am distracted by the clothes of the lay people - nice colour Mary is wearing today - I am distracted by the noise of the group taking the wine and hosts up to the altar. I am distracted despite my best intentions. When I go to the Extraordinary of the Mass I am free to participate in the Mass with the priest by reading the missal and not having these distractions.

I cannot participate in the Novus Ordo Mass because everybody else is too busy participating. Some with hands raised in the air, etc.

Even at the best celebrated Masses in the Novus Ordo I go away empty and think, "There must be something better than this". I think that is the sum total of why people are turning away from the Novus Ordo Mass because it is all novelty and no depth - some pretty words here and there but lacking what I find in the missal of the Traditional Mass. In fact I am thinking of taking the missal with me to the Novus Ordo to try and get some sense of the sacred.


Juden said...'re not gonna change the Mass. Your own life is all you can hope to control. Think about trying to change you.

George said...


In the story of Adam and Eve, we see that God intervened in His creation in a unique and
profound way . He made creatures who could know, love and worship Him. How this came about
is a mystery but it was NOT through evolution alone. The reality of the existence of Adam and Eve for a Catholic is not subject to debate.

Only the Living God, the “Fullness of Life”, can create life from non-living matter, as he did when He created Adam.
Science can only speculate and theorize how life began on this planet. There are even those who conjecture that life came from beyond the earth.
As for myself, I know that life did come from beyond the earth. It came from God.
This Creator God would eventually bring into existence human beings - creatures who could return His Divine Love with love. These creatures would end up disobeying Him and so bring sin and death
into the world.
God would eventually in time send His Son, to become human through one of His creatures, so that
humankind could be redeemed and have Everlasting life.

As far as "It's entirely possible that DNA is the only way for the inorganic to be organized into the organic."
That is the major stumbling block for the purely scientific non-theological view. How did inorganic matter
become living pulsating reproducing organisms?

George said...

Of course we know that girls can function at the altar as well as the boys. I think we need to look at this thing dispassionately though.
What is the data telling us? I would like to see some data on the number of altar girls who have gone into consecrated life.
(Girls serving at the altar is not something I've given much thought or attention to.)

The case for Altar boys1.

The case for Altar boys2.

Anonymous 2 said...

Anonymous Jan at 4:58:

Many of the sources of distraction you mention seem to be visual. Have you tried keeping your eyes closed and trying to “listen” attentively in a prayerful mode and not looking and watching? I am serious about this and speak as one who can get easily distracted.

Anonymous said...

Juden, I have struggled to attend this Mass for 40 years now - when many people have left before me - and it is getting harder rather than easier. I don't need to change the Mass because, thanks to Benedict XVI, I have a choice even if that means a physical move to attend the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.

Open your eyes, Juden, to the emptying pews around you. I am just giving reasons for why people are leaving the Ordinary Form of the Mass, including me.

Putting your head in the sand, Juden, and pretending that all is well with the Novus Ordo Mass when countless Catholics are marching with their feet means one day you may be the last man standing. Good luck!


Anonymous said...

Please don't make it sound as if this is a vertical vs. horizontal thing, as if the vertical is more important than the horizontal, and that the horizontal doesn't affect the vertical. In speaking about traditionalists' concerns regarding altar girls and lay people in the sanctuary as seemingly not important, you seem to fall into the trap of modernist "pastoralism" and praxis...

Haven't we heard that Catholicism is a single whole with its dogmas and its culture? Take one brick and the whole falls down. And that heresies are but truths isolated from the others and exaggerated until they get a life of their own to the denial of the others.

Take the altar girls issue. It is not an issue of rights that they are not supposed to be there at the altar. I think you'll agree on that. But what I can't understand is why they need to be there in the first place. Haven't we all known that they were put there because liberalism puts them there as a statement? A rebellion, an abuse? And to put this issue as if this is not important vis a vis reverence for the Divine Presence? Don't you see, those people who insist on communion for divorced and remarried can frame it in the same way... Why, they want to get closer to God, they want to be involved into the life of the Church, they want to encounter the Lord in the Eucharist in a closer way than your prescribed spiritual communion, you people are not so pastoral, etc.

Pls. Father, when traditionalists complain about altar girls and lay invasion of the sanctuary, such complaint has nothing to do with hyper interest with externals to the detriment of reverence and authentic worship. The complaint is precisely about authentic worship and the safeguarding of due devotion to the Divine Presence within the context of a correct mindset regarding priesthood, ministry, sacrament, sacrifice, femininity, and ultimately revelation. So, it is not just about mere externals, it is precisely about the protection of the more important things which these external ritual struggles give rise to that we are compelled to speak up. If anything, the legacy of the past 50 years has told us this: You just cannot mess with the church's culture and liturgy without messing with her faith.

Again, pls stop being the poster priest for altar girls. You know very well that they are an abuse. And as one comment already said, it is clear why reaction against altar girls are strong, but we cannot understand why you need to justify their use again and again.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 2, I have my eyes closed through the majority of the Mass but it makes no difference because going up for Communion I see a row of lay people - some scantily clad - handing out the Eucharist; I see people taking communion in the hand without much reverence; I have to listen to guitars and loud secular-type music - and although the priest chants the Mass he has no authority to change the music groups - all run by women who won't budge an inch - Cardinal Burke has certainly hit the nail on the head.

Also, the problem is not only visual but the prayers of the Mass are lacking - If you read slowly through the prayers of the 1962 Missal I am sure you will see the difference. Eucharistic Prayer 1 is almost word for word the Roman Canon, and it is the only prayer I and others have found that lifts the Ordinary Form Mass out of the ordinary, but then it is very rarely said. Words like "dew fall", while pretty, do not signify anything.

I think they can keep reforming the reform but the dye is cast.


Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Anon 6:21 - It seems to me that you are saying that having girl altar servers results in a loss of reverence for and/or devotion to for the Real Presence.

Could you say more on this, explaining the connection you are suggesting? How does having a girl serve lead to loss of reverence for the Real Presence?

Gene said...

My experience mirrors Jan's. The entire OF, as usually celebrated, is a huge presumption…it is presumptive regarding our presence before God's sovereignty and Glory, it is presumptive with regard to Christology, and it is presumptive with regard to man's place in the scheme of salvation. However, perhaps the greatest presumption is with regard to the theology of the freedom of the Holy Spirit. We presume upon God's freedom and grace to blithely assume that His presence will continue to be granted in shabby and frivolous worship, in careless liturgics and humanistically oriented preaching and practice. Christ's Real presence is promised the Church but, once again, the question must be asked (as it was during the Reformation) does there come a time when the Church is no longer the Church? There is nothing to say that God cannot bless other spiritual Catholic/Christian communities with His presence as judgement upon an apostate Church or use them as an instrument of His displeasure. The Doctrine of the Real Presence is not a cage wherein we have the Holy Spirit trapped to be fed humanistic/gnostic/Pelagian gruel and to be entertained with ridiculous panoplies of pseudo- religious display. The Doctrine of the Real Presence is not a guarantee that the Holy Spirit will, by God, bless anything we do, so there! This kind of self-assuredness on our part and on the part of the Church is a recipe, not just for liturgical disaster, but for an apostasy that will bring about greater ecclesiological nightmares.

Anonymous said...

This is slightly unrelated to the REST of the topic, but RE: Jan's comment that EP1 is almost word-for-word the Roman Canon...It actually is word-for-word the Roman Canon, just a translation that, somewhat unfortunately, uses less "Thee"s, "Thy"s, and such things as older Missals do (the Latin text, with the exception of the two Consecration formulae starting at "Take this, all of you..." in each, is identical). :)

The rubrics that made it so much more beautiful in the older form, however, have been all but removed, which is a grand shame.

Unknown said...

Gene, I've found Isaiah 1 disturbingly relevant, despite it's background context.

For example Isaiah 1:13-15:

Offer sacrifice no more in vain: incense is an abomination to me. The new moons, and the sabbaths, and other festivals I will not abide, your assemblies are wicked. My soul hateth your new moons, and your solemnities: they are become troublesome to me, I am weary of bearing them. And when you stretch forth your hands, I will turn away my eyes from you: and when you multiply prayer, I will not hear: for your hands are full of blood.

Rood Screen said...

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh,

I'm thankful for your rational participation in discussions on Father MacDonald's blog. There is much to be learned from your approach.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Michael Kavanaugh,

Ah so you noticed my comment. Thank you for engaging my comment of Fr. Allan's blog post. Let me try to articulate further my comment regarding altar girls.

First, pls. note that my comment was directed at Fr. Allan's trying to link traditionalists' objection to altar girls and lay invasion of the sanctuary as being "too horizontal", which seems to mean that the issue of altar girls has nothing to do with the vertical dimension of the liturgy.

Second, note that I was trying to say in my previous comment that to separate the horizontal and vertical “rules” of the church’s tradition regarding the matter and to oppose one to the other seem to fall into the trap of false modernist pastoralism. Trying to separate the intuitions of Catholic culture and liturgy from doctrine seems the order of the day, but they have their damaging consequences to the faith as the past 50 years tell us.

You see Father Michael, Catholic intuition has developed all these rituals and “rules” (no matter how the modern world dismiss such rules as medieval and Pharisaism) as articulations of her devotion and faith – a product of her “sensus fidei” so to speak. It doesn’t mean the rules and rituals are absolute and untouchable. What I am trying to say is that the two have an intrinsic link – these horizontal “rules” are there because of the vertical dimension of the Church’s faith and insight regarding the Divine Presence, priesthood, sacrifice, ministry, etc. And to tinker with them especially when such have been hallowed by long tradition seems to border on arrogance that we can do it better, and that the insight that produced these “rules” no longer matter and doesn’t affect us anymore.

Anonymous said...

Ah, there is that problem Father. Oftentimes, tinkering with the rules affect the vertical dimensions of faith which these rules protect. Talking about altar girls, yes, the issue may not be about “does having a girl serve lead to loss of reverence for the Real Presence”; but the very notion of girls serving at the altar, in breach of the Church’s universal tradition both East and West for almost two thousand years until the 1990s implies something to worry about. Why do you think the Church did not allow girls in the sanctuary for 2000 years until rebellious liberals forced the hand of Rome to issue exemptions for them? Why does the Orthodox and all of the Oriental Christians until now still prohibit women in the sanctuary? Is the issue about reverence? No Father, the issue is not about reverence. The issue is one of theology, and as I said, “the safeguarding of due devotion to the Divine Presence WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF A CORRECT MINDSET regarding priesthood, ministry, sacrament, sacrifice, femininity, and ultimately revelation.” Take note of that, having A CORRECT MINDSET as one approaches the Divine mystery. And this is what orthodoxy (right believing) is about. You can do your worship, you can do your reverence, but do you have the right belief in how you understand the priesthood, the sacrifice of the Mass, service at the altar, etc.? Can’t we see that Protestants, and in a wider sense other religions have their own ‘reverence and worship’, but they do not share the same faith with us, they do not have the same understanding of Mass and the priesthood with us, and in our view because we are sure of the truth of the Revelation that has been revealed to us, that their “worship and reverence”, though sincere, are mistaken…

And this is the problem about altar girls. As I said, IT WAS AN ABUSE that they were introduced into the sanctuary out of a liberalizing horizontal emphasis that tries to do away with the Church’s received faith about the Mass. Don’t we see that the girls were brought in together with the horde of lay ministers in order to further hammer the idea of false “participation” that unless you are seen at the “stage” (sanctuary), or at least your “sector” is represented at the stage, then you are seen to be excluded from the “table” of fellowship… It is true, that is how people understand it, but that is not how the Church understands participation at the Mass… as if all our forebears, all the saints before us never ever really participated in the Divine Sacrifice. I will not delve more about that here, but suffice it to say that having altar girls came from a corrupted understanding and can even harbor a defective understanding of the priesthood and of the Sacrifice of the Mass itself.
Look at how Fr. Allan explains his side on the altar girls issue (Fr. Allan, no offense meant here huh, just an intellectual discussion). He says, it is just a way to involve girls into the life of the Church and into the liturgy. He further says it doesn’t necessarily promote the idea of women’s ordination. But let me also offer the other side of the coin: if it is just a way for participation, then you can say also the same thing about lay ministers at the altar (they are there for participation, aren’t they?). But Fr. Allan doesn’t seem also to be all too sold out to lay ministers. Altar girls don’t necessarily promote the idea of women’s ordination? Yes, it may be true, but don’t you know that in many parishes, (one in where I am serving), the idea that girl altar serving is “power sharing” and “gender sensitivity” is a program many hold as a candle to the modernist cause of equality and liberalism and as such is “modernity” in the minds of many people in the pews (though unarticulated)?

Anonymous said...

Like communion in the hand (which can be done reverently, mind you, I know of a small group of people who are deeply devoted to the Blessed Sacrament yet receive the Lord by their hands), abolishment of altar railings, missa versus populum, sappy liturgical music, some people can argue on and on that they can be “beneficial” for the church. But, please let us avoid the utilitarian argument. Modernists do that all the time. Mr. so and so with his male partner is nice and is very helpful to our community, why can’t we treasure their homosexual giftedness by ratifying their homosexual union, Sister so and la and ti are such nice retreat givers, strong women, compassionate and good administrators, why not ordain these women as priests. And similarly, girls can serve reverently even more so than the boys, they are attentive, some of them can be led to religious life, and so on, so why not promote altar girls, etc. etc.

Ah in the end Father, as I said, we cannot just regard the issue of altar girls as an issue that has no effect regarding the church’s received faith regarding the priesthood, the idea of participation in the Divine Sacrifice, ministry, etc. On the contrary, they do. And look how even the good Father Allan rants about some other related issues too (and I strongly agree with him): altar railings, lay ministers, communion in the hand, versus populum – some people may frame reactions to them as nonsense, BUT THEY DO IMPLY AND AFFECT MANY THINGS REGARDING THE FAITH. And I am of the strong conviction that altar girls belong to the list. ALTAR GIRLS ARE A TOLERATED ABUSE. AN ABUSE! AN ABUSE! No utilitarian argument can sweep away the intuitions of the Church’s universal tradition in the East and in the West, regarding the non-acceptance of women and girls in the sanctuary.

(sorry for the very long post)

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Anonymous 11:21 - There MAY be an "intrinsic link" between belief and the "rules" (rubrics) or there may not be such a link.

You stated, "The complaint (against the use of girls as servers) is precisely about authentic worship and the safeguarding of due devotion to the Divine Presence within the context of a correct mindset regarding priesthood, ministry, sacrament, sacrifice, femininity, and ultimately revelation."

You certainly seem to me to be saying that, by including girls as altar servers, that we are not safeguarding due devotion to the Divine Presence. I asked how you see the presence of girl altar servers as damaging to devotion to the reverence due the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

I do not agree that "the very notion of girls serving at the altar, in breach of the Church’s universal tradition both East and West for almost two thousand years until the 1990s implies something to worry about." It is a worry for some, but I do not agree that it should be a cause for worry, since it is not a doctrinal issue. St. Pope John Paul II and Benedict 16 did not find it something to worry about.

Ultimately, the use of males only as altar servers is not, I think a matter of Tradition (note the capital T), but of tradition or custom. Therefore, it is subject to change.

Anonymous said...

Different anon here, but while a tradition might be subject to change, its continuance through 2000 years across numerous cultures and time periods might imply that in the judgment of the Church through time, such a tradition was considered prudent.


Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Steven - You are correct. But, what may have been prudent yesterday, such as burning heretics at the stake, may not be prudent today.

Rood Screen said...

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh,

Are you sure the Church burned heretics? I thought the punishment of death was executed only by the kings, even for heresy. For example, it is my understanding that the Holy See allowed national inquisitions to apply torture only short of spilling blood, and always excluding death. The inquisitions came up with evil means of getting around these limitations, but did they ignore them completely? The Holy See is rightly criticized for allowing any kind of torture, but did actively burn people at the stake?

Gene said...

JBS, I think the Church only burned Hus, complete with a pre-BBQ Mass.

Kavanaugh, I think it would be entirely prudent to burn heretics today as well as to initiate new Crusades.

George said...

I'm glad that it is not dependent on we human beings on whether or not Christ is present in the Holy Eucharist at Mass or in the Adoration chapel. God, having created us, is all too aware of our shortcomings-our lack of gratitude and loyalty. Human beings cannot always be depended on. God is ever dependable. Human beings disappoint. God never disappoints. He, by His Divine will is available and present to us.
How often are we present (really present) to Him? Just as a sunflower orients itself to absorb the free light of the sun, so also should we orient ourselves toward God (through the effect of Divine grace) to allow the Holy Spirit to work within us and transform us to the person He desires us to be.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Michael Kavanaugh,

You seem to be misunderstanding what I am trying to say and not getting the point of my response. I did not say that “by including girls as altar servers, that we are not safeguarding due devotion to the Divine Presence.” What I am saying is we need “the safeguarding of due devotion to the Divine Presence WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF A CORRECT MINDSET regarding priesthood, ministry, sacrament, sacrifice, femininity, and ultimately revelation.” The use of altar girls seems to muddle that correct mindset when approaching the Divine Presence. There is that link between right thinking (orthodoxy) and right worship. I tried explaining that and I will not repeat it again here.

You said, “I do not agree that it [altar girls] should be a cause for worry, since it is not a doctrinal issue. St. Pope John Paul II and Benedict 16 did not find it something to worry about.” Ah, hyper papalism! Is the Pope’s silence or non-silence about an issue the ultimate barometer about our silence or hyperreaction to doctrinal issues? Father, there is danger in what you are claiming about such. The Pope, yes, he has a very important place in our faith, but please, do not place him as a demi god, whose ordinary reaction or silence counts as theology. Heaven forbid! This is what people do to the current Pontiff. St. John Paul did not find altar girls as something to worry about? Really, are you aware that when St. John Paul issued the permission for that ABUSE of altar girls, he was insistent that the tradition of exclusive male service at the altar BE FOSTERED as he believed it has a link to the promotion of vocations? The Holy See said “that it will always be very appropriate to follow the noble tradition of having boys serve at the altar. As is well known, this has led to a reassuring development of priestly vocations. Thus the obligation to support such groups of altar boys will always continue” (see

As for Pope Benedict being silent about the issue of altar girls or should we say other modern Popes being too silent about the issue, therefore such silence should tell us that we too should be silent about the matter? Ah think again. Did you hear Pope Benedict speaking explicitly about the use of lay ministers? Nope. Nada. Should we therefore say that he likes or approves of their use? What about St. John Paul, did he speak publicly about communion on the hand? Nope. What about liturgical dance? You see in John Paul’s time, Piero Marini had a lot of those awful dances during the Mass itself and John Paul never spoke against those, therefore should we have liturgical dances in our sanctuaries? And all those Father, all those are matters of tradition with a small T! Mind you! The same is also true with altar girls, yes, it is a matter of tradition with a small T! But as I was saying, there is a link between dogma and the culture that it has spawned. Altar girls ARE AN ABUSE, ABUSE! AN ABUSE! It is a product of the liberal-Protestant, horizontal, egalitarian heretical tendencies that has tried to corrupt our sanctuaries and our Divine worship.


Anonymous said...

I do think that priests suffer from the fact that they are on one side of the altar rails and don't see what the laity see. Father, if you were able to go incognito to one or two other parishes and attend Mass you may then get an idea of what people are complaining of.

There are definitely two different types of people attending Mass: some of them want to be entertained and some want to be able to worship God in peace. Those who want to be entertained are quite happy with the status quo and those who want to worship God want the Extraordinary Form of the Mass made more widely available. That I think will resolve the issues.

I have to say that things have started getting worse in my country since the election of Pope Benedict. Priests are now turning their sermons into a question and answer session. "Good evening" "Good evening, Father." "It is nice to see you all here tonight. What do you think, George?" "I agree with you, Father". The sermons are now starting to be said once more by the priest walking up and down the centre aisle and engaging with people. People are asked if they are celebrating birthdays or anniversaries and clapping is becoming the norm again.

Is this all to make the Mass more relevant to people because it's nothing about God, the reason we are there?

As regards, altar girls, I believe most priests go along with this innovation because they know that if they stopped they would have a lot of mad women knocking at their door; Cardinal Burke has hit the nail on the head: these women are intimidating the priests and running the parishes and not for the better and they are emptying the churches. We need more manly priests - like Cardinal Burke - to take a stand.


Anonymous said...

Apologies my last post should have read that things have changed in my country since the election of Pope Francis.

Incidentally, the Latin Mass Chairman has a very interesting piece about the loss of men from the Church which also deals with the question of altar girls, and I think what he says may cause some priests to have a rethink about the whole idea of altar girls.


Rood Screen said...


While I personally appreciate the EF Mass, I doubt that the sort of priest who would celebrate it is also the sort of priest who would do silly things in the OF. Therefore, perhaps it is not so much access to the EF that affords reverent worship, but access to either form of Mass celebrated by a priest with fear of the Lord.