When Fr. Joseph Illo, the pastor at San Francisco’s Star of the Sea Catholic Church, announced his decision to train only boys to be altar servers, some parishioners and others protested. Amidst the hullabaloo, the media jumped at the chance to criticize both Fr. Illo and his beleaguered bishop, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone.
Religion News Service quoted Fr. Illo, who explained his reasons for enacting the policy:
The first…is that “boys usually end up losing interest (in altar service) because girls generally do a better job.”
The second and more important reason, Illo said, is that “altar service is intrinsically tied to the priesthood and serve as feeder programs for the seminary.”
“If the Catholic Church ordained women, altar girls would make sense, but the Catholic priesthood is a male charism,” he said. “Nothing awakens a desire for the priesthood like service at the altar among the brotherhood of young men. At the risk of generalizing, I suspect young men serving with young women might just distract them from the sacrifice of the Mass, and perhaps even from a priestly vocation.”
The Huffington Post injected feminism into the conversation, jumping in to declare that the Catholic Church has far to go to achieve equality for women.
Some of the outrage directed toward Fr. Illo and Archbishop Cordileone is a straw man argument, intended to discredit the archbishop for his defense of marriage as between one man and one woman. I reported yesterday about an open letter to Pope Francis, demanding Archbishop Cordileone’s replacement as archbishop.Here’s the thing: One may argue whether Father Illo’s reasoning is correct. One cannot, however, dispute that he is within his rights as pastor to make that decision for the good of his flock. His archbishop approved his decision. Cardinal Burke has expressed the same concern–that the feminization of the Church has been harmful to efforts to attract young men to the priesthood.
But while the San Francisco Chronicle may believe that the 100 signatories on the open letter represent the Catholic population in the city by the Bay, I do not.
And next weekend, we’ll see who’s right. The OTHER Catholics in the San Francisco area–those who are faithful to the Magisterial teaching of the Church–have organized a Mass Mob at Star of the Sea, Fr. Illo’s parish. They are inviting area Catholics to attend the 4:30 p.m. Vigil Mass on Saturday, April 25, and to sign a Spiritual Bouquet, offering prayers for Fathers Illo and Driscoll. The Spiritual Bouquet will be presented after Mass on that day.
If you’re in the San Francisco area, consider showing your support for Father Illo by attending the Mass next weekend. If you’re elsewhere in the country but you support this holy priest, please consider signing the Spiritual Bouquet at their website, and committing to pray for Father Illo and his associate pastor, Father Patrick Driscoll.
There is also a Facebook page for the movement.