Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Girl Altar Boys

Roman published a post in the not too distant past in which he posted a couple of quotes I provided him with from the Popes on the matter of female altar severs. In case you are one of those people who wonder what the deal is I can assure you it does not proceed from a biased "sexism." The question is: provided they are all devout and display a sense of decorum what difference does it make if the servers are male or female?

From the outset one must admit as a matter of principle that whether you are male or female can certainly make a differnce in some situations. Otherwise we could have priestesses or sodomite marriage (to choose some obvious cases). It can't be dismissed a priori with a PC wave of the hand. So does it make a difference in the matter of altar service? We've already seen what Gelasius, Benedict XIV and Innocent IV have to say (explicitly in written documents) on that. But what is rationale behind it all?

Here is a well worthwhile link that will explain the matter in much more detail:


I think there are some main points that need summarizing or adding to:

1. The importance of place. In the old liturgy when there was no server for the responses a woman was permitted to perform that function if necessary but from outside the sanctuary.

2. Altar service is in potentiality to priesthood. The potency is not always realized but it is directed towards it nevertheless.

3. Altar servers are a priest's "extra arms and legs." What does it say about the priest's own identity when the servers are female?

The particularly good aspect of the above article is the recognition of the distinction between practical arguments for male only servers and substantial ones. It is often argued (not invalidly) that a strong cohort of altar boys will help lead to an increase in priestly vocations. But as the article notes there is a lack of finality with this argument as it still seems to beg the question somewhat.

One point that I don't think the article addresses (not that it needs to given the substantial arguments it puts forth) is altar girls will lead to an increase in religious vocations (i.e nuns). Even if this were true it would not be sufficient in itself given the jarring theology it involves (i.e what is intrinsic in this matter rather than any extrinsic results). And given the decline in altar boy numbers that always results from the introduction of girls any gain in nuns is off set by a loss in priests. Of course, one only need point to the glaringly obvious fact that we now have more altar girls than ever but declining numbers of nuns !! How's that supposed to w0rk out? In any case, such a result is not in the least surprising given the confusion engendered by altar girls. Altar service is quite simply not in potency to the religious life being a kind of "minor seminary" after all.


irena said...

I strongly disagree that altar girls would lead to an increase in vocations to religious orders because women in religious orders have a bystander role - they are there to worship and not serve during eg Mass. Therefore women should stay in the pews and worship the Lord.
What would increase women vocations to religous orders is increasing women's awareness to the full presence of the Lord in the Eucharist and who our Lord trully is - Love!

Summa Theologica said...

I disagree with it too and your points are spot on.

Anonymous said...

In my home parish many of our altar girls are now nuns and actualy many of them are in the process to enter also in the Monastery. And the altar boys, now one is a parish priest and nine of them are seminarians.

Summa Theologica said...

The whole point of my article, anonymous, is the issue of vocations is secondary to the theology. Unless you can refute that you don't have a leg to stand on. And my observation is still true. You do have less nuns and more altar girls than ever before all at once. Pointing to a case where that isn't true doesn't somehow wave away the overall trend. In any case, I don't want to detract form the point that this is all secondary to the intrinsic reasons.

Anonymous said...

My sister and cousin both serve at our Mass! My sister is a baptised Catholic and my cousin converted. After serving frequently, she has thought about being a nun. It's sad that people must be so picky as to what sex serves at Mass. Maybe if some boys didn't act like they were so "cool" we wouldn't need to have the girls serving. But in saying that, the purity of these girls goes far beyond those boys out there who do indecent things and then hurry to church and say they should be serving!
God loves us, i'm pretty sure He's not going to ask girls at judgement day why they were serving at Mass, but rather, how much love they put into serving!

Anonymous said...

Summa THeologia is not trying to be sexist in any of these statements. To put it quite simply, Christ Himself who called upon the disciples to be an Alter CHristus. Mama Mary and Mary Magdalene im sure were nearby but He did not instruct them. THe order of the priesthood is clearly for me and so that's what makes the sanctuary sacred. It is just for men and boys. Women were not given that privelage isntead was given another great gift and that is to worship in the pews. Sexism does not exist within the Catholic Church...jsut that some women went a bit overboard over the whole feminisim and modernisation. Heck, the celebration of the Mass should not have been changed at all but it did to Novus Ordo...BUT NOVUS ORDO SHOULD ALSO BE CELEBRATED IN LATIN-THE UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE OF THE CHURCH...to soum it all up...God is the same as before, present and will always be the same in the future...yes, times will change but GOd will never change..neither should the instructions of the church...God bless

Polonvs said...

No altar girls, the Popes infallibly confirmed this, end of story

Anonymous said...

No female altar servers??? so why do they exist in so many parishes?!

Anonymous said...

Canon 230.2 reads as follows: "Lay persons (laici) by temporary deputation may fulfil the function of lector during liturgical services; likewise all lay persons (laici) may carry out the functions of commentator and cantor or other functions in accordance with the norm of law."
"Yes, and in accordance with instructions to be given by the Apostolic See."
The answer of the Pontifical Council was confirmed on 11 July 1992 by Pope John Paul II, who also ordered its publication.

Cardinal Javierre Ortas, in conveying this information, presents also the following instructions:

Canon 230.2 has a permissive and not a preceptive character: "laici ... `possunt´." ("lay persons ... `may´.") Hence the permission given in this regard by some bishops can in no way be considered as binding on other bishops. In fact, it is the competence of each bishop, in his diocese, after hearing the opinion of the episcopal conference, to make a prudential judgment on what to do, with a view to the ordered development of liturgical life in his own diocese.

The Holy See respects the decision adopted by certain bishops for specific local reasons on the basis of the provisions of Canon 230.2. At the same time, however, the Holy See wishes to recall 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 also led to a reassuring development of priestly vocations. Thus the obligation to support such groups of altar boys will always continue.

If in some diocese, on the basis of Canon 230.2, the bishop permits that, for particular reasons, women may also serve at the altar, this decision must be clearly explained to the faithful in the light of the above-mentioned norm. It shall also be made clear that the norm is already being widely applied, by the fact that women frequently serve as lectors in the liturgy and may also be called upon to distribute Holy Communion as extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist and to carry out other functions, according to the provisions of the same Canon 230.2.

It must also be clearly understood that the liturgical services mentioned above are carried out by lay people "ex temporanea deputatione" ("by temporary deputation"), according to the judgment of the bishop, without lay people, be they men or women, having any right to exercise them.

In communicating the above, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has sought to carry out the mandate received from the Supreme Pontiff to provide directives to illustrate what is laid down in Canon 230.2 of the Code of Canon Law and its authentic interpretation, which will shortly be published.

In this way the bishops will be better able to carry out their mission to be moderators and promoters of liturgical life in their own diocese, within the framework of the norms in force in the universal Church.

Sorry to kill the party guys, but as far as i am concerned, the late Pope John Paul II allowed girls to be altar servers! Ask your own parish priest! And ask him for the TRUTH, not his opinion!

Anonymous said...

Sorry to be random, but i just finished looking at an article on Catholic Leader(Brisbane Catholic Newspaper) and saw an article on some gathering Pope Benedict had for all altar servers or something.... the article mentioned his address to MALE AND FEMALE ALTAR SERVERS... He prayed for them too! So what does this mean???

Anonymous said...

One can still disagree with the pope and still be catholic. Besides, I think Benedict merely tolerates a lot of these things. The same situation applies to communion in the hand, it started off as an abuse, but Rome basically gave in, and the same thing happened with altar girls. Initially, women were forbidden from entering the sanctuary, as one correspondent mademention, they assisted only in making the responses from the alter rail, they did not attend the priest in the sanctuary. After the "fall" (Vatican II)-the liturgy became a free for all, girls started serving, no one had the balls to get them out so they stayed and Rome finally gave. Causa finitur.