Thursday, January 15, 2015


So much of liturgy consternation, discussion, dissension and other tidbits is based not so much upon theology, doctrine or dogma, but upon opinion and the dictatorship of liturgical theologians who make their theology or allow others to make their theologies and ideologies into infallible dogma.

Let's look at three things liturgical that are thus affected:

1. Altar railings. In the 1970's despite the fact that there are no official documents from Rome, from Vatican II or Consilium, liturgical theologians decided that altar railings were in fact fences to keep the laity out of the sanctuary. These were portrayed as very, very clerical inventions to keep the worship of the Church in the hands of the clergy, to keep it clericalized and masculine. Today, you will find people, men, women, priests and religious who still battle with this old slogan when altar railings are restored or never removed or new ones are placed in new construction. It is stale ideology to say the least, the dogma of authoritarian liberals.

Altar railings are an extension of the altar. Sanctuaries are to have a demarcation either with a railing, elevated floor or some other distinction. There is nothing theological, doctrinal or dogmatic about having or not having altar railings. The removal of altar railings or the opposition to their restoration is purely ideological and sociological, to promote an egalitarian ideology where there are no distinctions between clergy and laity and that the laity should be able to do what the clergy do liturgically.

2. Altar girls. The pre-Vatican II custom of only boys and men to serve the altar which is still the norm for the Extraordinary Form of the Mass has a theology behind it. It is linked to the ministerial priesthood and a sociological tool for the recruitment of future priests who are only male and can only be male from a dogmatic, infallible teaching of the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church.

Some who promote the use of altar girls and see no problem in having them in the Ordinary Form of the Mass do so from a sociological point of view. They believe that altar serving should be a way to involve young girls in the liturgy of the Church so they do not feel excluded or banned from participating simply because of gender, not necessarily theology.  Many desire to include girls, not as a ploy to promote women's ordination, but from the inclusive point of view and to keep girls connected and engaged in the work of the Church which is symbolized by their service to the altar.

Unfortunately, there are those who have an ideology of seeing altar girls as paving the way to change an infallible dogma. Of course this is not possible in the Catholic Church. Women will never be ordained to the Catholic priesthood because it cannot occur dogmatically.

3. Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. The common chalice is the ideological center of the proliferation of these EMHCs. Despite the unsanitary nature of several people drinking from the common chalice, it is promoted and proper hygiene and physical health are ignored even during an epidemic which many states are experiencing currently concerning the flu. The reason for this is ideological. It allows more men and women to have what is called an active "clericalized" role in the liturgy.

Now that I celebrate the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, I realize two things. The Ordinary Form of the Mass's formula for distributing Holy Communion to the laity is truncated from what the priest says for himself when he receives. It was the same for both clergy and laity in the EF Mass: "May the body of Christ keep me/you safe unto life everlasting. Amen." For the priest this formula is still in place in the Ordinary Form, but not for the laity. It is truncated to "Body of Christ, Amen." This is crass clericalism truncating the formula for receiving Holy Communion in the Ordinary Form.

But more obvious is that the priest no longer make the Sign of the Cross with the Host for himself or the laity to whom he gives Holy Communion, an individualized "Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament, a priestly blessing."

Why is Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament removed in the Ordinary Form when distributing Holy Communion? Because still in the Ordinary Form only a priest can give a blessing and only a priest or a deacon in the Ordinary Form can offer Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament. Removing the "Sign of the Cross" with the Host when giving Holy Communion thus paved the way for Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion when there is considered a need.

What is canonical or liturgical law in the Ordinary Form is that when there is a need, a lay person, man or woman may be commissioned to distribute Holy Communion, which in the reform of the Mass has become a purely mechanical service. In a sense, because laity are allowed to distribute Holy Communion, one could push for self-communication by everyone coming to the altar to self-serve. This is the logical conclusion of removing the Benediction prior to distributing individual Holy Communion and shortening the formula for the laity. The priest's ordained ministerial role as pastor/assistant pastor, as priest is symbolically removed from the distribution of Holy Communion. A lay person can usurp this role and diminish it from that of the ministerial priesthood point of view.  This is an ideology masked as a theology. It is not doctrinal but it is promoted from the highest liturgical levels of the Church.


Rood Screen said...

"There is nothing theological, doctrinal or dogmatic about having or not having altar railings." I'm not clear what you mean by this, since there is a clear theology (but no dogma) supporting the altar rail. But I may be misunderstanding you.

As for girls, they should certainly participate fully, consciously and actively in the Sacred Liturgy, especially the Holy Mass. They should also be formed to participate fully in the Works of Mercy and in society. At Mas, receiving Holy Communion is a far greater participation than serving at the altar.

As for EMHC's, I submit that the act of administering a sacrament (i.e. Holy Communion) is of greater significance than administering a sacramental (i.e. a Eucharistic blessing). Therefore, if we must choose, then perhaps it is better to allow laymen to administer a blessing than to administer Holy Communion.

As for the sacramental formula of the priest's Communion in the OF versus the EF, in the OF the priest merely says, "Corpus Christi custodiat me in vitam aeternam", which is obviously shortened from the EF formula.

Cletus Ordo said...

Yes, Father, the all-male priesthood is a dogmatic, infallible teaching of the Church that is immutable, so let's take your reasoning in a different direction: When we permit girls to serve at the altar, we are welcoming them into an arena that for the previous 1800 years of the Church's existence, was only the domain of males. Altar serving has long been the gateway of young boys aspiring to the priesthood. In countless cases, it was the sheer experience of serving at the altar that awakened the vocation in the young man by awakening his desire.

If such is the case, is it really fair or even, at very least, kind, to put young girls into the position of awakening a desire that can never be fulfilled? Doesn't this indicate that the Church itself contributes to "leading the girls on" in a relationship that can never be fulfilled?

I am not going to attack your veracity when you make the observation that, as far as you know, you've never seen altar girls have any effect on reducing vocations or making boys less likely to serve. I would remind you that your experiences are limited to the Diocese of Savannah, a MISSION diocese where there is not a strong Catholic population. There is just as much, if not more anecdotal evidence from priests in more strongly Catholic areas who claim just the opposite: The boys are less likely to serve when altar girls are permitted and that is contributes to the vocations crisis. Those claims should not be dismissed just because you haven't seen it down here in Protestant Holler.

Finally, you note that "there are those who have an ideology of seeing altar girls as paving the way to change an infallible dogma. Of course this is not possible in the Catholic Church. Women will never be ordained to the Catholic priesthood because it cannot occur dogmatically." That doesn't matter. By now surely you have noted that incremental disobedience has been the tool of "progressive" Catholics to get whatever changes they want-- as I noted in previous posts--Communion in the hand. The strategy is to wear the authority structure down, having them give a little bit away at a time until they have completely caved in. While we know that will not happen in the case of the priesthood, it does not change the determination of those who seek to change the law of the Church. Permitting the concession of altar girls only emboldens them in their incremental war. As long as we have altar girls, you will continue to see stories of fake ordinations of women. The militant feminists and anti-clerics won their war this way in the Anglican churches. They are determined to do the same in the Roman Church.

John Nolan said...

The formula for giving Communion to the laity was changed in 1965 with the 'interim Missal'. The merging of the priest's and people's Communion was effected in 1967. The Novus Ordo did not come into effect until 1970. Of course the 1965-1969 changes were deliberately designed to pave the way for the Novus Ordo, as were the rubrical changes of 1960 which were incorporated into the 1962 Missal which we call the 'Extraordinary Form'.

Having only men and boys serving at the altar is not a 'pre-Vatican II custom'. It was insisted on by both Paul VI and John Paul II (see Inaestimabile Donum) and altar girls were not authorized until thirty years AFTER the Council. For most of the post-Conciliar period, therefore, they were forbidden, and explicitly so. This was not because they might pave the way for women's ordination, which was not even on the CofE's agenda in 1970, but because those serving in the sanctuary are deputizing for clerics; they even wear clerical choir dress.

Bi-ritual parishes (those which offer the EF on a regular basis alongside the OF) tend not to have female servers. It's hard to argue for inclusivity when you have to tell Penelope that she can serve at one Mass and not the other. She will no doubt toss her curls and stamp her little foot. Even before Vatican II there was a tendency to clutter up the sanctuary with supernumerary servers; I remember one priest who had at least six at a Low Mass where only one is required. A Solemn Mass requires only four (MC, two acolytes and a thurifer). It adds nothing to the dignity of the celebration to have a row of small children with torches.

Anonymous said...

God save His Grace Cardinal Raymond Burke, girls and women are not permitted in the sanctuary period!! His Grace Cardinal Burke will and is being attacked by Novus Ordonarians the secular press and even non-Catholics, this in a way is good because this is a man a prince of the Church who is doing his job that so many bishops are not man enough to do!! We stand by you your Grace and you will be the next pope who will save Holy Mother Church from this current nightmare.

Anonymous said...


You should not be misled by alleged observations in "mission dioceses".

I've spent my Catholic life since the 1950s in mission dioceses of Georgia and Tennessee. In each of the numerous parishes I've attended, the appearance of girls at the altar has visibly and inarguably driven boys away from the altar, usually resulting in a majority of female altar servers. Any rare exceptions to this general rule are surely just that--exceptions.

If one accepts it (as I do) as "dogma" that altar service inspires vocations among boys, then it follows that the number of priestly vocations has been reduced by the use of altar girls. I cannot help wondering whether anyone who expresses disagreement with this conclusion is either dissembling intentionally or unintentionally blinding themselves to the plain truth.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

The inclusion of altar girls is not a doctrinal matter, according to Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum. He writes, “Personally I do not think it is wise to try to establish doctrinal grounds for every aspect of liturgical discipline. The very fact that the Holy Father [St. Pope John Paul II] approved of this change [girls as altar servers] clearly shows that he does not consider this issue to have serious doctrinal implications." (The policy was re-affirmed by B16.)

"This is certainly a break with a very long-standing custom of having only males serve at the altar even in substitutive roles. But it does not appear to be an issue of doctrine."

The inclusion of girls as altar servers is not merely a "sociological" or an "ideological" matter. We have come to understand that Baptism, not Ordination, is the foundation for ministry - any ministry - in the Church. This is a theological matter.

The same expanded understanding of Baptism has allowed us to recognize the bond of unity, though imperfect, that exists between and among all Christians who are Baptized. Whereas we had in the past we had not understood that this bond exists because of Baptism, we are now able to acknowledge and build upon the already existing unity that is not dependent on Ordination.

Rood Screen said...


The problem may be that very many Catholics have been infected by the diabolical notion that the body and soul are naturally separable. In this view, influenced perhaps by a sort of unbaptized Platonism, the soul is gender-neutral, and the body has no reasonable claim upon one's identity beyond certain biological necessities and the raw demands of fruitfulness. Consequently, anyone suggesting that there are activities in which boys and girls ought not mix is deemed an offensive sexist. And, those wishing not to be deemed so feel themselves compelled by society (but, notably, not by the Apostolic Tradition) to mix the sexes in peculiar ways.

JusadBellum said...

Henry, it's not just a dogma of belief, it's the hard science of data from CARA's most recent survey of ordained men of the class of 2012 which found 75% of them had been altar servers.

Serving on the altar was the single largest liturgical common ground, the single largest area where they all agreed as having an impact on their vocational discernment.

Participating in Scouting was common in only 30% of the cases. Attending WYD, Steubenville and national youth conferences were only common in less than 15% of the 400 or so men ordained that year.

So for the bang for our buck, arbitrarily reducing by 50% the available slots for boys on the altar has a huge and verifiable impact on the number of potential priestly vocations.

Anonymous said...

Just an observation, the vast majority of Masses I have attended in the western side of the diocese in the last 6 months in 3 different churches had a majority if not exclusively female servers. This is not due to a lack of males of serving age.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Michael Kavanaugh wrote: "The very fact that the Holy Father [St. Pope John Paul II] approved of this change [girls as altar servers] clearly shows that he does not consider this issue to have serious doctrinal implications." (The policy was re-affirmed by B16.)"

The reality is the JP II did not approve of girls serving at the altar. There is no official document with his signature. The Vatican bureaucrats who wanted women priests pushed this through without his approval when he defined the priesthood as exclusive to men.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Jus - Yes, being an altar server has an impact on a young man's decision. However, I suspect there are many, many factors associated with, and possibly preceding, being altar servers that encouraged these men to answer a call to the priesthood.

I would suspect that there was a fairly strong family component in supporting the men who served.

Those who were altar servers understood (or were made by their parent(s) to understand!) that they had an obligation to their community/parish.

I would suspect that a significant number of them also attended Catholic schools.

No boy who wants to serve in my parish is turned away because there are girls serving. We have not "arbitrarily" limited their participation. (And if a boy says, "I'm not gonna serve because there are girls serving" then I probably don't want him serving anyway.)

yikes said...

On and on and around and around it goes...same old people need to get a job...a real hobby....a life....something...

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: “The reality is the JP II did not approve of girls serving at the altar.”

Can you point to evidence that the protocol legitimizing the already prevalent but illicit use of altar girls was circulated throughout the world without Pope John Paul’s knowledge (contrary to usual procedure) while he was hospitalized and incapacitated? Reportedly, by the time he learned what had happened, it was a fait accompli that he did not feel it was feasible to reverse—despite the fact that he’d long since resolved (and promised Mother Teresa and others) that altar girls would never be approved during his papacy).

Fr. Kavanaugh: ‘And if a boy says, "I'm not gonna serve because there are girls serving" then I probably don't want him serving anyway.)’

This sounds like a negatively based motivation, and in some cases your reaction might be well-founded. Though a young boy looking an altar surrounded by girls might understandably conclude that serving there is regarded as girls work (at an age when boys are definitely not looking for girls work to do.)

However, I think a much more important positive factor is the attraction of a “knights of the altar” esprit and sense of organized discipline that is conspicuous in male only sacristies. In my observation, this attraction is contagious, with a “when we’re priests” atmosphere that’s notably absent in mixed boy-girl sacristies. Some of the boys in the former do indeed wind up as priests, but the girls in the latter most assuredly do not, nor do most of the boys who stay away from the latter.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

YIKES, that could be said of you also for surfing this blog, no? Some hobbies take a few moments to unthinkingly respond. Other hobbies, like fishing are too expensive and take way too much time.

Anonymous said...

JBS, as you have pointed out elsewhere, the deepest and most spiritual form of participation in Holy Mass is the mystical personal union with Our Lord that is achieved by the reception of holy communion. No girl or boy of any age who lives from Sunday to Sunday (or even from day to day) in eager anticipation of this personal communion requires anything more or less in the way of participation. He or she need only kneel in the pew or at the altar rail, and no external form of participation can add anything to the depth of this intimate personal union with Christ Himself.

Altar girls may not detract from belief in the Real Presence, but the insistence that girls must be allowed to serve at the altar to participate fully is surely a symptom of diminished belief. To wit, the testimony of one former altar girl:

Should girls serve at the altar? A former altar girl weighs in.

Rood Screen said...

Cletus Ordo,

I can assure you that the Catholic population and in my Southern diocese and in neighboring diocese is strong, although it is less than 10% of the population. We are building new churches as often as Northern dioceses close theirs, and our ratio of seminarians to the Catholic population is one of the best in the nation. My parish has only 100 households, but we have four young Catholics associated with us who are in seminaries or convents. There are at least six locations in the diocese where the EF Mass is offered on a regular basis, despite the fact that we have fewer than 50 parishes and sixty diocesan priests. Etc.

John Nolan said...

'We have come to understand that Baptism, not Ordination, is the foundation for ministry - any ministry - in the Church' (Father Kavanaugh). But if the decision to allow female servers was due to a theological shift in the post-Conciliar Church, why was this not made clear all along? Why was the decision left to the bishops to make for 'pastoral' (not theological) reasons? Why weren't the non-ordained ministries established by Paul VI in 1972 (Lector and Acolyte) opened to women in recognition that a new theology now obtained?

Twenty years on, and the Church is still divided over the issue, which in itself suggests that even the guarded permission given in 1994 was a mistake.

WSquared said...

One parish I went to actually had altar boys and altar girls-- but the priest in charge made sure that they were dressed differently. The boys wore cassock and surplice; the girls wore alb (much like many altar girls do now) with a sash that matched the color of the boys' cassocks (usually red).

I honestly don't know beans about what altar servers should be wearing, other than I like seeing altar boys wear the cassock and surplice, period. But, that difference in dress is certainly one way to distinguish boys and girls while allowing them both to serve at the altar, no?

yikes said... you really mean that you "unthinkingly respond" on this blog?

BTW, I looked at it today. The last time was a couple of months ago.

Anonymous said...

WSquared, my parish has it that way (boys in cassock and surplice, girls in alb), as does another parish nearby. I definitely feel that, for as long as we *do* have girl servers, that's the way to go.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

John - I have no idea why the shift was not made clear all along.

Maybe it wasn't clear in the minds of the people making the decisions.

Maybe it is a unintended consequence, a felicitous one in my book, though I know not in yours.

Maybe 1972 was deemed, by Paul VI, to be "too early" to open the non-ordained but instituted ministries to women.

I don't know, and I don't think you do, either.

Anonymous said...

Father Kavanaugh,

I will post here what I posted on the other thread to share my thoughts on the discussion:

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 Papal practice, opinion, silence or non-silence about an issue the ultimate barometer about our silence or reaction 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 actions 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 (to be exact, he did not RE-AFFIRM THE DECISION, he was just silent about it) about the issue of altar girls or should we say other modern Popes being too silent about other controversial issues, are we to tell ourselves that such silence should settle the matter and we too should be silent about the whole thing? 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? Can we not react and plead that they be abolished? 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 2 said...

On the subject of altar girls I did not receive an answer to some questions I posed in an earlier thread on this subject (on Misogyny, January 13). I would very much like to get an answer to these questions as they perplex and trouble me, even if that answer is to explain why they are astoundingly stupid.

Specifically, in response to a post from JBS suggesting that only men should be permitted in the sanctuary because “[t]he Holy Mass is the manly presentation of Calvary to the same ecclesial bride [the Catholic Church]” I asked: Where were the Apostles when Jesus was crucified at Calvary and then buried? Where were the women followers of Jesus? Or does it depend on which Gospel one chooses?

As I explained then, I am genuinely perplexed about the significance of the relevant Gospel passages for the current discussion, and indeed of others that seem to demonstrate the pivotal (and for the times apparently counter-cultural) role of women during Jesus’s ministry.

Gene said...

Anon 2, I think your question is irrelevant. The actions of women with regard to Christ, their presence and devotion to Him, have nothing to do with the issue at hand other than in a sentimental way. My dog loves me and is loyal, but I don't want him to be in Congress….hmmmm…wait a minute…let me re-think the thing about the dog.

Rood Screen said...

Anonymous 2,

I'm afraid we don't understand your question. I have not said girls should be kept out of the sanctuary, only that they should not be altar servers. It's not a question of location, but of function. When a girl receives Holy Communion, she is as close as anyone can be to Christ during a celebration of the Holy Mass. Therefore, proximity to Christ does not seem to be in question.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Anon 10:05 - I don't agree that the gender of altar servers is a doctrinal matter. Nor do I agree that having girls serve at the altar is an "abuse."

If having girls serve is such a threat to the proper reverence due for the Real Presence in the Eucharist, then popes would have forbidden the practice.

It is no threat; hence, popes have approved the practice.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2, your scriptural references may illustrate the fact that many women lead holier lives with greater devotion to Christ than do most men. I'm not sure whether it's still so, but when I was young, it seemed clear that girls were generally more devoted to the Eucharist than were boys. When nuns still had a high visibility, they generally appeared to be more pious and devoted than many or most priests.

But granting all this, I don't understand what you think it has to do with service at the altar of sacrifice. Boys are not generally call to serve because they are conspicuously holy, nor rejected because they are not.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Anon 2 - A serious flaw is evident in JBS's "manly" rant. It's called reification (or concretism), a fallacy of ambiguity. It is an error to mistake the abstract (the marriage metaphor) for the concrete reality (the relationship between Christ and the Church).

The metaphor of marriage (a literary device) is used to describe the reality (relationship b/w Christ and the Church). But the metaphor isn't the reality.

Peter is called the "rock," but we know he is not. Jesus called himself the "vine," but we know He is not a vine. The relationship between Christ and the Church is called a "marriage" with all the attendant descriptions, such as a "bride bedecked for the groom."

We don't think and act as if Peter is a rock or Jesus a climbing or trailing woody stemmed plant. Why, then, do some take the metaphor (bride and groom) to be the concrete reality and act upon it? Reification.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Kavanaugh,

You said, "If having girls serve is such a threat to the proper reverence due for the Real Presence in the Eucharist, then popes would have forbidden the practice."

You seem not to read or understand the point I made. Popes John Paul and even Francis doesn't speak against dancing in the liturgy, therefore we ought to endorse it. Popes John Paul, Benedict, and Francis doesn't endorse altar railings either, therefore we should not restore them. Popes John Paul, Benedict, and Francis doesn't speak about rock music in the Masses celebrated in many places throughout the world, therefore such is not a threat to devotion to the Real Presence. Hahaha! Another argument from silence due to hyper Papalism. Anyway, good luck to you!


John Nolan said...

Fr Kavanaugh

I appreciate the honesty of your answer. However, if (as you state) the inclusion of altar girls is not a doctrinal matter, then the theological justification you propose is irrelevant, since until theology is translated into doctrine it remains in the realm of speculation.

The idea that 'Baptism, not Ordination is the foundation for ministry - any ministry - in the Church', begs several questions. Does it mean that those who are ordained need first to have been baptized? Or does it mean that all the baptized may exercise the functions of deacon or priest without the need for Holy Orders?

It might be the case that Paul VI wanted to open the non-ordained ministries he instituted in 1972 to women but thought the time inopportune (despite the fact that women had been acting as lay readers at Mass since 1964) but there is no evidence to support this. Of course to have allowed it in the 1990s would have required more than a wider interpretation of Canon Law and an endorsement by the CDWDS. Yet twenty years later, and 42 years after Ministeria Quaedam, it does not appear to be high on the Papal agenda.

Were it to be conceded, the next target would be the diaconate; already there are those who see no fundamental objection to women deacons. Although the instituted ministries are under-used (like the Minor Orders they replaced, they are seen as transitory rather than permanent) their reservation to men provides a useful buffer-zone or ring fence for Holy Orders proper.

That's my take on it, anyway - I might be wrong.

Anonymous said...

Father Kavanaugh,

You seem to be ignorant of the whole history of how altar girls came to be. For a start, try reading this:

And, don't tell me that you don't listen to Vatican II. Then read this post Vatican II instruction: "There are, of course, various roles that women can perform in the liturgical assembly: these include reading the Word of God and proclaiming the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful. Women are not, however, permitted to act as altar servers". (Inaestimabile Donum)

And this: "In conformity with norms traditional in the Church, women (single, married, religious), whether in churches, homes, convents, schools, or institutions for women, are barred from serving the priest at the altar". (Liturgicae Instaurationes)

Pretty clear isn't it? Then why do we have altar girls now? I'll leave that to you to find out, but just maintain an open mind Pls. Father read it! You don't seem to listen first to the argument before you make your claims. And please don't give that argument that Popes are silent about altar therefore they are not against it. That simply is not the case. But if you are already hardened and deadset with altar girls, then there's no argument that can get across to you.


Anonymous said...

Just curious, as the permission is up to the local bishop with no obligation on the diocesan priests, does the Pope permit girl altar boys in the Diocese of Rome?


Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

John - Not all theological matters are doctrinal matters. Two theologians can have a lively debate on the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin, but their theological discussions will be speculative, not doctrinal.

Yes, a person who expects to be ordained has to be baptized first. No, a baptized person cannot carry out the functions of the ordained until he is ordained.

Anon (Multiple) - You have asserted that having altar girls is dangerous to the reverence due to the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. I have asked you to explain HOW this is so.

I do understand that altar girls were once banned, but that they are now approved. If the introduction of altar girls took the form of an "abuse," it is no longer such.

Also, things that were once required are no longer required. A maniple was once required among the vestments worn by the priest at mass, yet that requirement is no longer in force.

Rood Screen said...

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh,

Your argument is well put and admirable. However, I have not said that altar girls are an impossibility, nor have I ranted about anything (ever, as I recall). The male priesthood and the exclusive use of male altar servers, however, does communicate the nuptial analogy better than employing girl servers.

John Nolan said...

Fr Kavanaugh

Thank you for clarifying this. I suspected that the theological argument was not germane to the 1994 decision to allow ('approve' is perhaps too strong a word) female servers, and you have confirmed this.

If a parish employs altar girls (assuming that the bishop allows it and the celebrating priest has no objections either) then that's fine by me; although they are in a sense in a second-class position since they cannot serve in the EF and even in the OF their use is circumscribed and conditional.

Compared with the older Rite, the server has little to do in the Novus Ordo and in a simple Mass 'cum populo' is not required at all. If it were felt that the presence of girls was dissuading boys from coming forward, then a parish priest would be acting correctly in reverting to all-male servers, since it was made clear that this tradition was important and should be fostered.

Incidentally, I have often seen priests celebrating the older form of Mass without a maniple, for the simple reason that vestment sets purchased after 1967 did not include this item (at least until quite recently).

Anonymous said...

George said...

The altar girls controversy is a thicket which anyone (with even a modicum of sense) enters into with great trepidation. Until something issues from the Vatican which says otherwise, then we must live with the situation as it is. One thing I would suggest would be to make it pastoral policy that those serving at the altar are paragons and exemplars of the faith. Do they pray the rosary and other devotions(at least weekly, if not daily) and do they go frequently to confession (at least once a month). Do they go to pray in the Adoration chapel (I would say once a week would be good). I would seek out and ask those boys(first) and girls who I thought would be a good fit for this privilege.

Gene said...

Mommas and others like the altar girls because they are cute. Progressives like them because they are cute and they serve the purpose of turning the Church into a socialist free-for-all. The first group is stupid and the second group is evil. Most Priests do not have the guts to confront the lay monsters by stopping the practice. They know they will get no help from their Bishop (who is supposed to be an advocate for Priests, but is mainly there to placate the laity and keep Priests from upsetting anyone). What a joke. I can't wait until we have altar transgenders…what will we call them…alter-girls/boys…altar shims…altardites…altarmorphs…I like that one.