Women on the altar — Yay!

altarboysRoman Catholics who believe only males should serve the Sacrament or hold the lectionary open are backward and awful and almost without reason. Or so the Washington Post‘s Caryle Murphy and Michelle Boorstein would have you believe. Yes, members of the same mainstream American media that cautiously explain why some Muslims riot over political cartoons featuring Muhammad write a whole story without explaining the historic Christian view for an all-male priesthood and altar staff.

Last week it was announced that the Arlington Diocese would introduce females at the altar. I was deeply curious about how reporters would handle this story since I belong to a church which has only male pastors. For the same reason we permit only certain males to serve as pastors, we permit only certain males to serve as deacons and acolytes. In other words, we’re even more exclusive than your run-of-the-mill sexist, backward Roman Catholics! And what about those church bodies that frown on any lay assistants period?

Anyway, I sat slack-jawed as I read the puffery which passed for a news report of the change in Arlington. I honestly wish I could just quote the entire piece to show how unbalanced it is. Beyond the populist perspective — as if all that matters is whether public opinion in the pews is tilted one way or the other — the article just completely fails to mention doctrinal arguments for male-only acolytes. Imagine, if you will, that you were writing a press release for an imaginary group called Catholics for Female Acolytes and see if you would have changed anything from this Washington Post lead:

Despite the short notice, they were more than ready to make parish history yesterday at Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Arlington.

Emily Wallis held the lectionary open while the priest read from it. Angela Barbieri brought the ceremonial vial of water to the altar. And Margaret Lister followed the priest down the aisle to shake hands with her congregation, just as she’d always seen altar boys do.

“It was fun,” Margaret, 7, said later. “I always wanted to be on the altar. I wanted to see what it was like to be helping the priest.”

This particular priest, the Rev. Leonard J. Tuozzolo, was just as excited as his female helpers in their floor-length white robes called albs.

“This is very historical,” the pastor, vested in Lent’s penitential purple, said at yesterday’s 9:30 a.m. Mass, during which female servers directly assisted in the liturgy. “We’re no longer gender-restricted.”

His assembled parishioners, including squirming children, young families and elderly couples, responded with loud applause and “Yays!”

The authors say the diocese is divided between “conservative and liberal Catholics” — which means absolutely nothing, at least to me. I know many Roman Catholics and I love nothing more than to ask them about their views of their church and no matter how well I think I understand them, I would be loathe to describe them as conservative or liberal. The authors say the Arlington bishop “seemed to be trying to please both” sides by permitting two parishes to offer a Latin Mass. Ah yes, both sides. Because we know in Roman Catholic issues, there are usually two sides — one liberal and one Tridentine-loving conservative. Let’s go back to the love-fest where we see that girls are uniquely suited to the altar tasks:

Lyn McGee, who has 11-year-old twins — a boy and a girl — said she is glad she no longer has to explain to daughter Taylor why only her brother Conor could assist the priest at St. Anthony of Padua Parish near Baileys Crossroads in Fairfax County. St. Anthony is expected to begin allowing altar girls soon.

Taylor is more engaged in the Mass than her brother, McGee said, and she notices such things as his untied shoelaces. She believes that she can help him fix such things if she’s a participant, McGee added. “She said, ‘I can finally put him together before he walks down the aisle! He always has something dragging,’” McGee recalled.

altardancersFinally the authors get to the conservative folks who they say are displeased that this is a first-step toward a female clergy. Instead of citing doctrinal opposition to female priests or female altar servers, the authors instead look at what one scholar, theologian, expert, official, commenter on a blog worries about as an effect of ending the male altar service:

A mother named “Denise” expressed her concerns on Open Book. “The nature of young boys is that when you introduce girls into the activity, it lowers the value or status of the activity in their eyes and the boys’ participation decreases,” she wrote. “From these boys come our priests and the Arlington Diocese has been blessed with abundant seminarians. Why would we jeopardize that now?”

The Rev. Brian G. Bashista, head of the diocese’s Office of Vocations, said there is no evidence of a connection between the sex of altar servers and the number of men entering the seminary. The most influential factors in men becoming priests or women becoming nuns are family and faithful priests, he said.

“This is a difficult time for some people,” he said of the introduction of female altar servers, “and we need to be prayerfully patient.”

Well, I guess if the unbiased diocesan official rebuts a negative claim from a one-named blog commenter then we’ve provided all the balance we need. But we also throw in a patronizing comment about those poor people who are slow to accept change. Because we all know that they’re just fearful sexists who don’t like any progress or equality between the sexes. To drive the point home, the reporters quote a few more parents and female acolytes who praise progress and equality between the sexes in the church.

Wow and wow. I have absolutely no doubt that it was easy to find any number of parents who were elated that Suzie got to help out at the altar. I would imagine that most everyone I know — outside of my congregation and larger church body — would think this was a non-issue. They would say that it’s not even debatable whether churches should let girls serve as acolytes and lay readers. But didn’t Caryle Murphy and Michelle Boorstein have any curiosity why the Arlington diocese made this change or why the altar servers used to be exclusively male? There are serious Roman Catholic arguments for a male-only acolyte corps. They should have been mentioned and treated respectfully.

Assuming the reporting duo isn’t trying to be biased, they should really try harder to explain complex and nuanced religious issues next time.

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  • Michael

    Mollie, wouldn’t you say the first day story–which you link to but don’t discuss–is actually a more balanced, in-depth story? Since the reaction story–the one you quote from liberally–is more “featurish” it, I guess I’m not surprised it’s less balanced.

    I thought the first day news story was actually pretty thorough and balanced. Given that Arlington was one of only two diocese in the entire country that rejected the Vatican’s guidance, it seems like pointing out how far outside the mainstream the diocese was is a significant part of the news story.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Michael,

    Yes, I would say it’s more balanced — in that it quotes one person making a doctrinal argument for the traditional practice. And it had some historical context.

    But that almost makes the second piece more egregious. A reaction story should have, well, reaction! Not just from the rah-rah faction, either. And I personally know a number of people who opposed the change — so it shouldn’t have been hard to get balance here.

  • Tim J.

    I think there’s a “don’t” in your first sentence that doesn’t belong.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Tim J,

    THANK YOU!

    Mollie

  • Marie

    I completely agree with you. I’m considering calling the Post and inviting a reporter and photographer to one of our parish’s non-”historic” Masses staffed by eight male servers (six of whom are high schoolers). She (because it surely would be a “she”) could interview the young men and their parents to discover why so many of them vie for the privilege of serving. She could also be sure to interview and quote the parents of GIRLS who support the retention of male-only altar servers.
    However, I’m quite sure that our pastor would never permit photographs during the sacrifice of the Mass, especially photographs that draw attention to the servers and away from the Eucharist.

  • http://blog.catholicsphere.com CatholicSphere

    I admit being at a loss as to why there is a picture of liturgical dancers here. Is it intended to say that now that female altar servers, lectors, etc are allowable in the Arlington Diocese, the introduction of dance into the Liturgy is next to be accepted?

    Or, did I miss something?

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  • Daniel

    Is it intended to say that now that female altar servers, lectors, etc are allowable in the Arlington Diocese, the introduction of dance into the Liturgy is next to be accepted?

    It’s all a slipperly slope, CS. First you follow an 11 year-old guidance from the Pope that was followed throughout the worldwide Catholic community and the next thing you know, dancers will be dancing down the aisles. I blame it all on masses in English. :)

  • http://chaz-lehmann.livejournal.com Chaz Lehmann

    I’ve always wondered what is liturgical about dance. I don’t see it in the rubrics…

  • http://blog.catholicsphere.com CatholicSphere

    In the western rites, liturgical dance is not allowed, Chaz.

    DANCE IN THE LITURGY Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship

    FROM THESE DIRECTIVES, from the NATIONAL CONFERENCE of CATHOLIC BISHOPS, all dancing, (ballet, children’s gesture as dancing, the clown liturgy) are not permitted to be “introduced into liturgical celebrations of any kind whatever.” [NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS (BISHOPS' COMMITTEE on the LITURGY) NEWSLETTER. APRIL/MAY 1982.]

    This was again affirmed in 1994, as I understand.

  • Daniel

    This was again affirmed in 1994, as I understand.

    The same year the Holy See permitted girls to serve on the altar. Of course, it took 12 years for the Arlington Diocese to catch up with the Vatican and the rest of the worldwide Catholic Community.

    I attend Our Lady Queen of Peace in Arlington and this has long been a point of significant consternation within the diocese. How do you explain to immigrants from El Salvador that girls are allowed to assist the priests in El Salvador and througoout Latin America, but not in the U.S. Their puzzled looks captured the disconnect between the Arlington and Lincoln diocese and the rest of the Catholic community.

    I don’t necessarily disagree that the second story could have been more “balanced,” but there was significant balance in the first story which I think fairly explained the lopsided schism within the diocese.

  • Marie

    “How do you explain to immigrants from El Salvador that girls are allowed to assist the priests in El Salvador and througoout Latin America, but not in the U.S.”

    The same way that our parish explained it to diplomats from Australia and World Bank employees from France and Peru — “We don’t do that here.” The Europeans who attend our parish are particularly impressed that we actually have young priests and seminarians. It’s really not a problem.

  • Daniel

    “It’s really not a problem.”

    Actually it is–and it was–which is why the policy changed. Explaining why the diocese was ignoring the Pope’s directive while at the same time suggesting that the Vatican’s teachings were serious was an egg-shell scattered path.

    The fact that the Diocese was seeing declining giving because people were heading to DC parishes or were protesting the Diocese position also likely shaped the final decision.

    “The Europeans who attend our parish are particularly impressed that we actually have young priests and seminarians.”

    And the Latin Americans who attend my parish were appalled that the diocese was so backwards, even compared to their Third-World homelands.

  • Marie

    If the bishop made his decision out of a desperate attempt to increase donations, he’s made a huge mistake. Our parish — which has historically been one of the most generous in the diocese — has so far met only 13% of its goal in the BLA, and, from current indications, is unlikely to come anywhere close to the goal this year. The Bishop has reneged on several promises made in connection with the Rooted In Faith capital campaign, which is also way behind in collecting pledges. Our parish, for one, is not getting permission to build the parish center that had been promised in exchange for our generous RIF pledges. I know a number of people who have diverted their usual BLA or RIF donations to other non-diocesan controlled charitable organizations. Our family plans to do the same. Dissident parishes such as OLQP can’t possibly make up the deficit, because there aren’t enough of them, and they have never been particularly generous in diocesan appeals.

    And Bishop Keating did not “ignore” the Pope’s directive. Rather, he followed it to the letter. The Vatican made quite clear that bishops were free to maintain all-male altar servers. Indeed, it was OLQP that “ignored” the bishop’s decision by long allowing girls to serve as “cross-bearers” and pretending that the girls weren’t actually altar servers.
    It will be interesting to see if the Arlington exiles now attending Holy Trinity come streaming back across the river, checkbooks in hand, to the “progressive” parishes that will now allow female altar servers, but I’m not holding my breath. I hope that the bishop isn’t, either.

  • Daniel

    I would predict that 75 percent of parishes in the diocese will choose to allow female altar servers, with those parishes representing even a larger percentage of the number of people in the diocese. Being allowed to make the decision that parishes throughout the worldwide Church are allowed to make is what is key. No longer being forced to abide by the wishes of a small number of noisy “traditionalists” frees up the rest of the diocese to become aligned with the mainstream of the worldwide Catholic tradition.

  • http://cinecon.blogspot.com Victor Morton

    Explaining why the diocese was ignoring the Pope’s directive …

    Bzzzzzt.

    Wrong. John Paul merely said girl altar boys was licit and possible. Bishops get to determine whether it was a good idea in their diocese. He never required it, so not having girl altar boys is not in any way “ignoring” any “directive.”

    What strikes me as curious is how Father Tuozzolo managed to train a girl altar boy in just a couple of days. Brilliant man obviously.

  • Daniel

    Girls were allowed to perform altar service in non-parish and high school settings and nothing prevented priests from teaching girls about the Eucharist and the altar service, even though they were banned from doing itin parishes and high schools.

  • Daniel Muller

    There are no girl altar boys in Mexico. Not in Nuevo León, not in San Luis Potosí, not in Aguascalientes, not in Zacatecas, not in Querétaro, not in Guanajuato, not in Jalisco, not in Mexico City, not in Morelos, not in Puebla, not in Veracruz, not in Chiapas, not in Yucatán, and not in Quintana Roo.

    Sign me a recent eyewitness to all of the above.

  • Father Ethan McCarthy

    I think the source of all this misunderstanding is the issue of weather or not women can serve in the sanctuary. According to the Church, yes they can. When Pope Paul VI released the Apostolic Letter, “Ministeria Quaedam,” he suppressed the Subdiaconate, Tonsure, and the other minor orders of Exorcists, Porter, Acolyte, and Lecture. Before this document, a seminarian became a cleric when he received Tonsure. Now, the clerical state begins with ordination to the Diaconate. Instead of minor orders, Pope Paul VI divided the Subdiaconate into two instituted ministries: acolyte and lecture. In the same document, Paul VI decreed that if the ministries of Lecture and Acolytes could not be performed by inistituted ministers, they can be performed temporarily by lay persons, hence, we have the ministers of Reader, Ministers of Holy Communion, and Altar Server. The document made it very clear that both men and women may perform these temporary ministries.

    It will be interesting to see if the Church will revisit this discussion. The Council of Trent did not make a decision after spending some time discussing the clerical state and the minor orders because they felt the Church needed to spend more time studying the issue, especially in the historical context. Pope Paul VI finally ended the discussion with this document.

    The discussion may soon begin again when we begin to examine the practices of the Orthodox, Oriental, and Eastern Catholic Churches, which does not have any women performing any of the ministries and they have retained the Subdiaconate.

    Here is a link to the Apostolic Letter:
    http://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/P6MINORS.HTM

    http://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/P6MINORS.HTM

  • St. Augustine

    A Catholic who wants females in the Priesthood is not a Catholic. Obediance to the Teachings of the Church is one of the things that defines a Catholic. Women can not be in the Priesthood because Jesus only choose men as Apostles and since we are a Apostolic Church we carry on what Jesus decided and still decides through the Holy Spirit. It is not a matter of sexism. It is a case of radicall feminism. There are no Conservative or Liberal Catholics. The Faith is the Faith!! There is only one Catholic Church and when you come to Jesus Christ you come to Jesus ready to serve and obey his Church and not yourself. These people who want women in the Priesthood want to Change God and they want God’s Holy Church to conform to thier disordered ambitions.

    Also if ‘Liberal’ Catholics are not happy with the Catholic Church they can follow Martin Luther right out of the Church. They would be very happy with any one of the disapearing Protestant Churches who ignore God by allowing these radical women to do what ever they want.

  • RPF

    Caro Daniel,

    Ecco mi qui in Roma e non che i ministranti feminile dentro San Pietro!

    I have been at most Papal events for the last few years and I have never seen a female serving at the Altar at St. Peter’s. In fact, the vatican runs an all male high school specifically to train and provide Altar Boys.

    So its not true that by not having Altar Girls you are going against the Vatican. Nor is it true that the Vatican supports this practice. Rather as mentioned above it premits it, because it feels that it is fitting to have someone assist at the Holy Mass so that it may be as dignified as possible.

    This fact is demonstrated by a fact that Bishop Loverde hints at–he couldn’t force female altar servers on the parishes of the Diocese of Arlington because THE VATICAN has already said that priests have a right to maintain the tradition of boys assisting at the altar.

    It is also not true that Arlington and Lincoln are the only places in the world that retained the old tradition. There are many places, notable Poland (the most practicing Catholic countries in Europe) most of Africa, and indeed much of S. America, that retain this tradition. Indeed in many places like in Sidney, Austalia the bishop is trying to reverse the tied by requiring all who serve at his Cathedral to be Acolytes (Viri). Also here in the states there are many parishes that retain this practice, strangely for some reason many of these seem to be discovering vocations to the priesthood.

    I have been to many countries that allow altar girls, Germany for instance, but in most of these places there were no boys or even young men in the Churches so I guess altar girls are justified.

    I think that the Mollie is right, the issue here is not sexism, but theology, history, and tradition. And since we Catholics believe that men and women have equal dignity despite the fact that women are not called to serve as priests, then logically we can say that boys and girls have equal dignity even if girls are not allowed to serve as altar servers. Service is not about power, its about being the least, once we understand this we realize that this is not such an issue. As I always like to say Mother Teresa and JPII were both servants to the Church and probably equally important even though they carried out very different apostolates.

    IN HIM,
    RF

  • RPF

    BTW,

    We are a Catholic (or universal church) and therefore we should be somewhat conserned with what our non Latin-rite Catholic brethren are up to. I am pretty sure that 19 of the other rites have all male ministers in the Sanctuary. I am not sure about the remaining two: the Maronite and Abrosian rites.

    Also one stumbling block with the Orthodox is precisely this issue, combinded with the absence of the Sub-Deaconate.

  • Martha

    Daniel:

    You are completely wrong in your estimate that 75% of the parishes in the Arlington Diocese will allow altar girls. Out of 67 parishes, at leat 30 parishes have already announced (less than a week after the Bishop’s announcement) that they will NOT have girls serving at the altar. That is 44% of the parishes. I have personally spoken with ten other pastors who will not be permitting girls. That raises things to 60%. And there may well be more. I think you may wish to change your figure to 75% of the parishes will NOT allow girls to serve. And God bless the priests in those parishes.

    By the way, how do you explain a Catholic parish where the priests do not offer DAILY Mass?

  • Daniel

    blockquote> By the way, how do you explain a Catholic parish where the priests do not offer DAILY Mass?

    Parishes minister in different ways. There are daily masses available at numerous other parishes. For small parishes with working class parishoners, the work of the church sometimes means ministry happens in different ways and priests are busy performing other duties consistent with the mission of social justice.

    As for your numbers, it will be interesting. We clearly have different information. But at least now parishes have a choice–a choice affirmed by the Vatican–and are no longer bound by the wishes of those who chose to exclude.

  • http://www.soilcatholics.blogspot.com Peggy

    I like that “girl altar boys.” My own canonical term is “altar chicks.” My pastor has already announced that he will retain altar boys only. I tend to believe Martha’s assessment of things in the diocese.

  • Daniel

    There are no girl altar boys in Mexico.

    I guess my eyes were deceiving me when I’ve seen them in Catholic churches in Oaxaca and Merida.

    And my fellow parishoners, who are more often from El Salvador and Nicaragua, say that girls do serve on the alter at some parishes in those counties.

  • J. S.

    “[W]e should be somewhat conserned with what our non Latin-rite Catholic brethren are up to.”

    As a Greek Catholic, I am in whole-hearted agreement. It would be nice if Roman Catholics stopped accusing us of not being Catholic, ignoring us, and (worst of all) treating our rite as somehow subordinate to the Roman rite. I recommend a thorough reading of the Apostolic Letter Orientale Lumen to all who are interested in the Eastern Churches. 1 Cor. 1:10-17 is also pertinent.

    However, it is important that we aren’t treating the different Churches as if they were part of a buffet line. That is, we shouldn’t be arbitrarily picking and choosing another Church’s doctrines and disciplines. If you like Byzantium’s Church better than Rome’s, then, by all means, go to Byzantium. The reverse is also true.

    It should be noted that the following is an undeniable element of both the ancient and modern Church: FEMALE ORDINATION.

    According to the fifteenth canon of the Council of Chalcedon: “No woman under forty years of age is to be ordained a deacon, and then only after close scrutiny. If after receiving ordination and spending some time in the ministry she despises God’s grace and gets married, such a person is to be anathematised along with her spouse.” Ordination (i.e., in the first instance, ‘ordinandam’, and in the second, ‘impositionem’, referring to the imposition of hands) is called a grace of God (i.e., ‘gratiae Dei’). Currently, the Orthodox ordain deaconesses. So, I would agree that the Church of Rome should reexamine its practices.

    HOWEVER, it is NOT in the tradition of any Church to ordain priestesses, and it is absolutely impossible to do so, today.

    What is the solution? DEACONS ARE NOT MICROPRIESTS. Stop the baptisms, stop the marriages, and (for heaven’s sake) stop the blessings.

    Returning to the point on which I began, understanding the different Churches is essential, but let’s keep them that way: different and unconfused.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    At the very least, this thread supports my belief that a reaction story could have found reaction from multiple points of view . . .

  • J. S.

    I suppose one could poetically call the optimal relation between the ancient Churches “inconfuse, immutabiliter, indivise, inseparabiliter”.

  • J. S.

    BTW, excellent article, Mollie!

  • Daniel

    At the very least, this thread supports my belief that a reaction story could have found reaction from multiple points of view . . .

    ROFL. Fair enough.

  • Marie

    “Parishes minister in different ways. There are daily masses available at numerous other parishes. For small parishes with working class parishoners, the work of the church sometimes means ministry happens in different ways and priests are busy performing other duties consistent with the mission of social justice.”

    This is astounding. Are you suggesting that working class parishioners don’t want or need the grace that comes from attending daily Mass? That the priests at your parish are incapable of finding a time for daily Mass that is convenient for working class parishioners? And that the priests at OLQP are too busy with “social justice” to celebrate Mass and hear confessions?
    The purpose of the priesthood is to provide the sacraments, not to pursue missions of so-called “social justice” that are best left to the laity in any event.
    “Ministry happens in different ways.” How very sad that your priests have apparently forgotten what Jesus said to Martha about the “one thing needful.”

  • Daniel

    This is astounding. Are you suggesting that working class parishioners don’t want or need the grace that comes from attending daily Mass?

    We do need the grace, and we can obtain it at parishes near our workplaces, in our neighborhoods, or at the Cathedral which is less than two miles from the parish.

  • Jordan Potter

    The whole problem of female altar boys came from John Paul II’s decree granting limited permission for the occasional use of female altar boys for “pastoral” reasons. Probably Rome was talking about occasions when altar boys were in short supply or absent, or places such as convents when female altar boys would be more appropriate. But as usual, if you give an inch they take an ell. The Church gives limited permission for the occasional use of lay members to assist with the distribution of Holy Communion to keep a Mass from being excessively prolonged, and what do we see but lay members “assisting” at every single Mass, even when only 30 or 40 people are present; along with an approved, permanent corp of “Eucharistic Ministers.” The Church gives limited permission for the occasional use of female altar boys, and what do we see but the majority of “altar servers” being female and female altar boys helping out at every single Mass.

    Just as the Fathers of the Council of Trent said the responsibility for the rampant corruption n the Church was primarily on Rome, so too Rome again is to be faulted for her unnecessary and corrosive decisions to toss out millennium-old customs and disciplines, or to grant indult after pointless indult for this, that, and the other thing. God bless our recent Popes of the past 40 or 50 years, but like so many Popes over the centuries, they’ve been derelict in their duty to inculcate discipline and reverence in the Church.

  • victoria

    Martha:

    Just wondering: where did you find the announcements you referred to (i..e that 30 parishes have decided not to allow altar girls)? I live too live in Arlington, and though I’m quite certain what my parish will do, I’m curious about some others nearby.
    I noted that Fr. Bashista’s conclusion regarding vocations and all male altar servers seems to differ from the implication in the letters I’ve seen from the Vatican:

    http://www.catholicculture.org/docs/doc_view.cfm?recnum=4059

    http://www.adoremus.org/CDW-AltarServers.html

    Maybe someday there will be a controlled study on this issue…

  • Marie

    “We do need the grace, and we can obtain it at parishes near our workplaces, in our neighborhoods, or at the Cathedral which is less than two miles from the parish.”

    But why not from your own parish? And do you and your fellow parishioners contribute financially to the other parishes that are actually ministering to the spiritual needs neglected by your own parish priests, who obviously have better things to do?
    A competent priest can celebrate a daily Mass in well under 30 minutes, so it can’t be lack of time that is the issue.

  • Carla J. Polzin

    I do not or will not attend a Mass where women or girsl serve behind the railing. Nor will I attend where communion is given into the hand or the Blessed Sacrament is shoved into a corner somewhere.
    If Christ had wanted women to serve behind the railing, he would have had His Mother and Her companions at the Last Supper.

  • Daniel

    I do not or will not attend a Mass where women or girsl serve behind the railing. Nor will I attend where communion is given into the hand or the Blessed Sacrament is shoved into a corner somewhere.

    Wonderful for you. But for those who do not feel the need to have the same restrictions, the Bishop has created the option for allowing females on the altar. An option available for 11 years and blessed by the Pope John Paul II.

  • Mary Kay

    Fr. McCarthy, thank you for that wonderful explanation, one of the clearest I’ve seen on any number of blogs on this topic.

  • J. S.

    “I do not or will not attend a Mass where women or girsl serve behind the railing. Nor will I attend where communion is given into the hand or the Blessed Sacrament is shoved into a corner somewhere.”

    Hmmm… Thanks, Carla, but you’ve just refused participation in the Holy Eucharist of the Early Church. St. Cyril of Jerusalem says (AD 390):

    “Approaching, therefore, come not with thy wrists extended, or thy fingers open; but make thy left hand as if a throne for thy right, which is on the eve of receiving the King. And having hallowed thy palm, receive the body of Christ, saying after it, ‘Amen.’ Then after thou hast with carefulness hallowed thine eyes by the touch of the holy body, partake thereof; giving heed lest thou lose any of it; for what thou losest is a loss to thee as it were from one of thine own members. For tell me, if anyone gave thee gold dust, wouldst thou not with all precaution keep it fast, being on thy guard against losing any of it, and suffering loss?”

    Are you condemning St. Cyril, Carla? I hope not, because that would make you a heretic, and we wouldn’t want that, now, would we?

  • Kieron Wood

    The author Michael Davies used to refer to girl altar servers as “serviettes” Cute, huh?

  • Daniel

    The author Michael Davies used to refer to girl altar servers as “serviettes” Cute, huh?

    And yet, there’s no sexism involved.

  • Martha

    Victoria:

    I was told of the announcements by the pastor of one of the parishes. I also spoke with the pastors at several other parishes (where the pastors are personal friends of the family) and was told of their plans. My own parish, the Cathedral, did not make an announcement nor did I have the chance to speak to Father Rippy.

    Daniel:

    Your answer to my question about daily Mass shows that at least the priests at Our Lady Queen of Peace must not understand the central role of the Eucharist. While parishoners may choose to go elsewhere, why would priests — who have been given the great gift of bringing about the sacramental presence of Our Lord on their altars — not offer Mass EVERY day. All of the priests I have known in my life — and my family has been blessed to know dozens of holy priests — would go to great lengths to offer Mass daily. It would appear that they have their priorites all mixed up. The primary role of the priest is twofold — to offer Mass and to forgive sins. EVERYTHING else is secondary.

  • Daniel

    Martha, you do realize that priests are not required to offer mass every day?

    We are a small parish with a unique parish community and history. There are people within the parish who believe we should have a daily mass, but we just currently aren’t providing it. As you well know, we are practically neighbors with the Cathedral. In addition, many parishoners do not live near the parish but attend because of our unique history as an African American Catholic church and our reputation for promoting social justice and multiculturalism. Thus, those who want to go to daily mass go elsewhere because it would not be convenient to come to the parish. This isn’t unusual, and not unique to the parish.

  • Martha

    Daniel:

    Yes I DO know that priests aren’t REQUIRED to offer Mass daily. Just as I know that Catholics are not REQUIRED to receive Holy Communion more than ONCE a year (from the first Sunday of Lent until Trinity Sunday). But, barring serious sin, I think all would agree that to deprive oneself of the great graces of this sacrament every week is not spirityally healthy. Our Lord gave us this great gift to nourish us. The late Pope surely understood the importance of the Eucharist when he declared the past year the Year of the Eucharist. It is the smilarly spiritually unhealthy for priests to celebrate Mass only once a week. Any priest who does not understand that offering Mass daily is the greatest work of his priesthood clearly has his priorities backwards.

  • Daniel

    That’s your opinion and you are free to have it.

    Godspeed.

  • Daniel Muller

    I guess my eyes were deceiving me when I’ve seen them in Catholic churches in Oaxaca and Merida.

    I crossed Oaxaca off the original list because I have not been there for twelve years.

    In Mérida, I spend most of my time at the cathedral and none at suburban parishes. No girl altar boys downtown.

    And my fellow parishoners, who are more often from El Salvador and Nicaragua, say that girls do serve on [sic] the alter [sic] at some parishes in those counties.

    The point stands that it is not normative as it may seem to be in Euroamerican parishes.

    Martha, you do realize that priests are not required to offer mass [sic] every day?

    Mass forms part of the daily Office that priests must celebrate, whether in public or private. If the bishop as chief liturgist and pastor of pastors wants to “give a day off,” that is up to him.

  • Daniel Muller

    In the same document, Paul VI decreed that if the ministries of Lecture and Acolytes could not be performed by inistituted ministers, they can be performed temporarily by lay persons, hence, we have the ministers of Reader, Ministers of Holy Communion, and Altar Server. The document made it very clear that both men and women may perform these temporary ministries.

    Father McCarthy:

    Actually, the question of non-instituted ministers is not addressed at all in this document. At that time, women were not allowed in the sanctuary during Mass except in the case of convents. To my recollection, it was the U.S. bishops who decided a few years later that if a woman were to read the readings, it was important that she stood at the ambo or lectern wherever that might be. Women altar boys were still out of the question until the issue was forced, however unofficially, by the same bishops.

    Unfortunately, “Ministeria Quaedam” was dead on arrival in the United States, as only one or two dioceses institute ministers that are not candidates for orders, which means that they are treated exactly as minor orders by the vast majority of dioceses. Ministerial institution usually takes place in seminaries and, while it is of course a public ceremony which generally takes place at Mass, the diocesan faithful are not usually invited.

  • Daniel Muller

    Illustration of the death of this document “Ministeria Quaedam” is the reaction of a rather famous Dominican priest to my introducing myself as an acolyte in the sacristy in the 1990′s. He said, “What the **** is that?” I was utterly confused, but upon thinking about it I realized that, outside a clerical context, he had no idea what I was talking about.

  • Marie

    “Any priest who does not understand that offering Mass daily is the greatest work of his priesthood clearly has his priorities backwards”

    Amen to that. OLQP started out as a parish ministering to black Catholics, who are now a distinct minority of the parish population. Now it appears to be a “cult” parish ministering to aging baby boomers from other parishes who are more comfortable trying to reform the world rather than reforming their own souls. Hence the regular meetings for friends of gays and lesbians, Voice of the Faithful, and the Social Justice Committee, and the cavalier advice to find another parish for daily Mass.
    I wonder how many priestly vocations have come from this parish in the past decade or so?

  • Daniel

    OLQP started out as a parish ministering to black Catholics, who are now a distinct minority of the parish population. Now it appears to be a “cult” parish ministering to aging baby boomers from other parishes who are more comfortable trying to reform the world rather than reforming their own souls. Hence the regular meetings for friends of gays and lesbians, Voice of the Faithful, and the Social Justice Committee, and the cavalier advice to find another parish for daily Mass.

    I hope you feel better now that you have your anger and bitterness out of your system. No need to honor all that anger with a substantive response.

  • http://cinecon.blogspot.com Victor Morton

    Actually, having once gone to OLQP for confession, I can guarantee from personal experience that Mass isn’t the only sacrament they’re haphazard about there.

  • Father Francisco

    Our trouble is the loss of common sense. The reformers and liberals are pushing hard to every extreme and even beyond – like teenagers: just trying to cross the limits at any cost.

    The problem is also with our instant communications.

    If Vatican allows something exceptional in some specific circumstances in a place in Africa or in India, that the Americans cannot even find on the map, it automatically becomes a minimum rule for America. This crazy addiction for novelties is a terrible sign of the shalowness of our spiritual life: we live on the surface.

    Yes, we are called to the reform and repentance, reform of our spiritual life and rise from the sins and weakness. Beside that, do we really need to change something exterior every week???

  • http://www.theseventhage.com David Deavel

    “J. S.”: Actually you need to know that the question of what the female diaconate was is not very clear. A. G. Martimort’s study of the question of deaconesses concluded that the office was not the equivalent of “female deacon” and is not part of the three-fold office of the Catholic Church. His work has been confirmed multiple times. So the question of deaconesses is a bit more complicated than you make out.

    “Daniel”: Ah, how generous you are to not respond to a bitter assessment of your parish. But I’m curious as to whether the parish does indeed promote Voice of the Faithful and Call to Action and the like. My guess from your previous sophistry (Vatican “directives” to have altar girls) is that you don’t want to answer because it would be incriminating.

  • Daniel

    Voice of the Faithful does meet at the Parish. There is no shame in encouraging reform.

  • Marie

    “Actually, having once gone to OLQP for confession, I can guarantee from personal experience that Mass isn’t the only sacrament they’re haphazard about there.”

    The homilies on their website make clear that individual, sacramental confession has not been a parish priority. What I cannot fathom is why this parish continues to exist. How can the “working-class” parishioners raise $1 million in pledges for a parish center to house a credit union and daycare center, but can’t persuade their priests to provide daily Mass? What is the pastor’s response to those parishioners who have asked him to celebrate daily Mass? “Sorry, I’m too busy?” “I have places to go, people to see, rallies to plan, and wars to protest”?
    After all, ministry happens in different ways.

  • J. S.

    Mr. Deavel,

    I’m afraid that the ordination of deacons is more complicated than you are willing to admit.

    Sincerely,

    J. S.

  • Scott Allen

    I’d like to pursue the same tangent as a few other commenters (e.g, Chaz Lehmann): whaddya’ll think of the liturgical dance photo? Chaz says “I don’t see it in the rubrics” which is perhaps a fancy way of saying dance is not called for in Scripture, in comparison to other art forms such as singing.
    My reaction to the still photo is that it looks absolutely ridiculous. Plus (this will sound bad but) as a man, I don’t care how much you cover up the ladies, when they move in a real, 3D “show” I’ll want to size them up physically. So as a Christian I’ll either avert my eyes or watch, and in either case I suspect I’d miss the “spiritual” message.

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