"I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history." -Cardinal Francis George

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Altar Girls= Liturgical Oxymoron.

I recieved the following question in an email:
According to this letter, http://www.adoremus.org/CDW-AltarServers.html the Holy See’s Congregation for Divine Worship reaffirmed that bishops may allow altar girls, at their discretion. (Supposedly this was first allowed under JPII?) “With respect to whether the practice of women serving at the altar would truly be of pastoral advantage in the local pastoral situation, it is perhaps helpful to recall that the non-ordained faithful do not have a right to service at the altar, rather they are capable of being admitted to such service by the Sacred Pastors. Therefore, in the event that Your Excellency found it opportune to authorize service of women at the altar, it would remain important to explain clearly to the faithful the nature of this innovation, lest confusion might be introduced, thereby hampering the development of priestly vocations.” What do you think?
What can I say, it sounds cocky, but JP2 (of happy memory, and soon to be declared Blessed), was simply wrong about altar girls (He was wrong about evolution too) This does not shake my faith because I know the Pope is only infallible when speaking in certain situations. Well, I will give the benefit of the doubt in most situations where I am tempted to disagree, but some things we must draw the line. Altar girls and similar abuses are one of those lines in my opinion. Scripture, tradition, and 2000 years of magisterium are against this practice of women on the altar 100% right up until the sexual revolution of the 20th century. Coincidence? What about "taking things slow" which I always hear is how things are to be done in the Church. Shouldnt we wait a hundred years or so after the sexual revolution before entertaining the idea of women on the altar? Instead it took, what... 5 or 10 years? And in many ways we are not even done with the depths this revolution will likely sink to. As far as what I think about Cardinal Estevez letter, it is just weak. Asking people to remember things they should know is not the same as telling them what they should do. Sometimes a shepherd needs to use his hook instead of just whistling. There are some liberal Bishops and Priests in this country who will merely crumple up Estevez' letter and toss it in the trash and think... "welp, on with business as usual, lets start a new "women on the altar" program and we can have them dancing on top of the altar, because hey its not forbidden". They could care less about vocations or tradition, they want women at the altar because they are modern femenists, or they have caved to the spirit of the age, or they just don't care about the issue. Thank God Estevez did not cave to what the liberal Bishop asked for. The Bishop requested whether "a Diocesan Bishop would be able to oblige his priests to admit women and girls to service at the altar" (my emphasis) How sick is that? He wants to be able to FORCE his Priests to have this practice. I have not researched the issue much, mainly because my Parish thankfully does not allow the practice. From the document you provided it looks like it is allowed for local Bishops to allow the practice. OK I knew that. But it is still an abuse. (There was a time when married Catholics could not recieve the Eucharist for a lengthy period of time (24 hrs I think?... not sure) after having relations. I think that was an abuse as well, even though it was sanctioned by the Church.) All I know is that it is insane. Do you doubt that women at the altar is an abuse? The church has had 2000 years to come up with that one and never did. Then it just so happens it starts having women servers during the most massive "sexual revolution" the world has ever known. Now don't get me wrong, the Church has been protected from accepting the deadly sin of contraception. That is a miracle, and one that we can be proud of. So perhaps God is allowing the church to be infected with less serious things instead. Like a good Father He is allowing us to get drunk so we can have the hangover, but protecting us while we learn our lesson. Altar girls are like if you saw the preist consecrating the wine in a Zip-Lock bag. Would the consecration be valid? Well, I think it would. What if the practise was sanctioned by Rome in some way? Well they are wrong. And I will say they are wrong untill they declare I MUST say otherwise. Bad attitude to have? Yeah, probably. But give me a break, look at what has happened to the world in the last 50 years! This is war, and our Church leaders need our support not only in the good they preach and do, but they need our encouragement to STAND UP as bold shepherds like David who killed lions and bears in defense of his sheep. Be bold Bishops! Call this generation to a new level of holines, drive the siliness from the temples with your whip, and the sheep will flock to you! Of course, I should probably just shut my mouth about all this and pray and worry about my own "abuses" and sins. Bear with me.


  1. I have a very conservative Catholic friend who told me that JP2 specifically told Mother Teresa he would not allow girls to serve at the altar, and that he only signed the papers allowing it when they were slipped in among others while he was very sick. Is this true? I have no idea.

    She also said that she had been very opposed to girls serving at the altar, but had to admit there had been some good fruit from the practice because she knew of a nun who said her vocation came to her in part from the awe-some experience of serving at the altar.

    Whatever. I'm not a fan, but when I signed up to become Catholic, I gave up (at least formally) the pride that allowed me to say I knew better than my church leaders.


  2. Is your issue with girls at the altar (altar girls, extraordinary eucharistic ministers), or is it more generally with non-ordained laity at the altar?

    I have heard and understand the argument that because the priest represents Christ, he should be a male. But I don't understand what's the problem with non-ordained folks serving at the altar alongside the priest.

    Mary was alongside Christ at the cross. And Mary Magdalene was the first witness of the resurrection. Women have participated in sharing the good news, in distributing the consecrated host?

    My small opinion is that this is a case of "tradition" with a lower-case "t", not "Tradition" with an upper-case "T".

    What do you think?

    Jonathan B

  3. Sarah:
    I don't know whether that story is true or not. Sounds dubious though.
    And as far as female vocations being created, I think the old addage "the ends don't justify the means" is in order.
    Could girls develop a greater love for their faith being on the altar? Oh yeah, most definately. Could I develop a greater appreciation for the practice of breastfeeding infants by taking a class about it from the Le Leece League? Yep.

    But perhaps girls should develop a deeper faith in the pew, and perhaps I should develop an appreciation of infant nurturing from my wife. Everything in it's place.

    As far as pride, yeah, I got lots of it. Hopefully less each day. I know this (altar girls) is not a HUGE issue. And I don't want it to be. As Catholics, it shouldnt be. Unlike Protestants, we can rest easy that the Church will never fail! And I am 100% commited to the Church even if what I consider abuse turns out to not be abuse in the end (I might be 100% wrong!). But pointing out when we think there is a slight wrinkle in the Church's dress should be done somehow, shouldn't it? On a blog by a loudmouth like me?... probably not. I'm not sure what way is best though:
    Write the Pope a letter? Prayer only with no talking about it? Or only the wisest among us talking about it and guys like me shutting up? I am starting to think it may be the last option. ;-) I am learning.

  4. Johnathan B.,

    "Is your issue with girls at the altar (altar girls, extraordinary eucharistic ministers), or is it more generally with non-ordained laity at the altar?"

    Yes, and yes. But the former is worse because the posibility of them being ordained does not even exist, and it is obvious to all the pewsitters that they are not now and never will be "in persona christi". The symbolism is gone, and in it's place is distraction akin to having LED candles on the altar. If you CHOOSE to have LED candles then there is a problem. As for the extraordinary ministers of holy communion, are they really ever "extraordinary?" If they were then that is not a distraction. If they are scheduled in advance for every service, then that is simply an abuse because it is no longer "exraordinary", but absolutely ordinary in every sense of the word. The liturgy is then in that small way secondary to our convinience. It is a small point, but it is real. Likewise after THOUSANDS of years of women covering their heads in Church and remaining silent as Paul says they should, not only are they not covered, but they are on the altar? What is the reasoning behind this? It is obvious to me: It is a caving-in to the spirit of this age which wants to destroy femininity and masculinity. That is what feminism is, it wants to destroy women by making them into men, which results in men stepping back and letting the women take over, which ends in frustration and anger for both sexes.

    Your examples of Mary and Mary Magdalene are great, nevertheless, those necessary female participations can and should be done quietly in the pew, not at the altar which is the place for leadership. Which means it is the place for males. The pew IS the place where we can participate as Mary did, she was not on the cross though, and the cross is at the altar.


  5. Johnathan:
    A clarification. I have no problem with non-ordained male laity at the altar.

  6. Funny I stumbled upon this post. I wrote something just recently about the fruits of boys-only service at my parish: