How I Navigate Liturgical Issues

My entire approach to liturgical questions is shockingly simple. Here it is:

Just give me my lines and my blocking. After that, I will remember the wisdom of St. Spencer Tracy, who summed up the craft of acting as follows: “Remember your lines and don’t bump into the furniture.” That’s it. That’s all.

This means that I am blissfully uninterested in critiquing the granular details of what the Church opts to do in the liturgy. I have this nutty idea that when the Pope and the local ordinary binds something, it’s bound, and when they loose something, it’s loosed.

So, for instance, if I want to know what the Church thinks about female altar servers, I don’t go to websites, YouTwitFace, or comboxes. I turn to what actual popes and bishops (aka the shepherds and teachers of the Church given to us by God) say.

And wouldn’t you know it, they say rather a lot. So, for instance, we discover that the Holy Father authorized altar girls, not kicking and screaming, nor out of a nefarious plot to castrate, feminize and destroy the Church, but eagerly and of his own free will. Indeed, he seemed to have the notion that women have something to offer the Church and that feminine gifts may actually enrich, not impoverish, the Church:

“This is the way to be courageously taken. To a large extent, it is a question of making full use of the ample room for a lay and feminine presence recognized by the Church’s law. I am thinking, for example, of … the forms of liturgical ministry permitted, including service at the altar …. Who can imagine the great advantages to pastoral care and the new beauty that the Church’s face will assume, when the feminine genius is fully involved in the various areas of her life?”

Not only that, the 1987 Synod on the Laity taught that

“without discrimination women should be participants in the life of the Church and also in consultation and the process of coming to decisions” (Propositio 47; cf. Christifideles laici, n. 51).

2. This is the way to be courageously taken. To a large extent, it is a question of making full use of the ample room for a lay and feminine presence recognized by the Church’s law. I am thinking, for example, of theological teaching, the forms of liturgical ministry permitted, including service at the altar, pastoral and administrative councils, Diocesan Synods and Particular Councils, various ecclesial institutions, curias, and ecclesiastical tribunals, many pastoral activities, including the new forms of participation in the care of parishes when there is a shortage of clergy, except for those tasks that belong properly to the priest. Who can imagine the great advantages to pastoral care and the new beauty that the Church’s face will assume, when the feminine genius is fully involved in the various areas of her life?

In short, the Church’s actual teachers say that, among other things, “service at the altar” by women is just ducky.

Now being the boot-licking Magisterial toady I am, I therefore choose to scandalously listen to what the Church actually says through its actual real teachers and to therefore serenely Not Care about the burning matter of female altar servers. Peter sez they are fine. Power of the Keys. Ergo, fine by me. Blessed Peace.

I can even consider the possibility that if I try trusting the Church to teach about girl altar servers, I might actually learn something new, challenging, and life-giving. It’s liberating to believe that Christ keeps his promises to the Church in the whole binding and loosing department.

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  • Steve

    I’ve tried to pass along a similar sentiment when my students argue about how to receive communion. While I receive kneeling+tongue as a personal practice, the Church says standing+hand is OK. So regardless of historical issues, or what saint said what, if the Church says it’s fine, it’s fine.

    I’ve got no problem with female alter servers, but I do like the practice of organizing alter servers by sex. That is to say, some Masses are served by all boys, others by all girls.

  • Ryan Ellis

    i think you’re confusing matters of discipline with the teaching authority of the Magisterium. the former brings with it no assurance of error protection, and should not be given the blanket deference you’re giving it here.

    on altar girls, for example, common sense and the weight of history compels us to say the bad actors in the Church who forced that on us were in error. and what of the rumors that JP2 was not fully-compliant with the action and was angry about it when he found out?

    • chezami

      Why rely on rumor when I just quoted what the man *said*? Sound like Trad urban legend embraced to cope with the Church not doing what they wanted.

      As to the pope being fallible, of course. But how is that this makes Trads better at interpreting the Tradition than our shepherds?

      • contrarian

        Certainly, quoting a pope is a reasonable strategy. However, it’s not going to do much to convince someone who has theological and practical reasons for thinking that altar girls are a bad idea, especially if these ideas are based on notions that stem from the 1,500 years of theology that come prior to JPII’s pronouncement. After all, those who object to altar girls are, in the main, well aware of what JPII regrettably said about the issue.

        No doubt one can find someone who offers no more than a ‘harumph!’ But there are many knowledgeable people who base their apprehension of altar girls on 1) sound theology 2) 1,500 years of historical precedent (and its corresponding theology), 3) data regarding the correlation of seminary numbers and parishes who use altar girls (to wit: altar girls are a poison for vocations), and 4) some hard hitting facts regarding the psychology of boys. It is the opinion of such people that these facets show that JPII’s pronouncement on altar girls was unwise.

        Which is to say, if JPII was wrong on this matter, he was wrong for reasons other than the fact that his ideas didn’t match the self-made ‘vision’ of the church merely ‘in the minds’ of certain trads.

        At the end of the day, however, such tete a tetes on JPII”s ideas matter little. The church’s future is simply not with altar girls. The data speaks for itself.

        • chezami

          I’m not trying to convince somebody of something. I was simply struck by the gulf between the Trad urban legend of JPII dragged kicking and scream and the reality that he spoke rather highly of the idea of altar girls. I myself have no dog in the fight. I merely was interested in the fact that Traddery, once again, seems to have preferred illusion to reality.

          • contrarian

            Oh, I agree. No doubt, JPII spoke highly of altar girls and was enthusiastic about introducing them. The blunder was JPII’s, to be sure. In general, I don’t get the point of trying to blame underlings. The whole, ‘If he had his druthers, he would have done/said something different,’ doesn’t seem to be very convincing. There are many examples of this…I’m thinking at the moment of the Weigel piece in response to Benedict’s social encyclical, for example. The blame (or praise) should go to the man in charge, even if underlings are perhaps the driving force behind some change. That’s why, for example, we call it the Mass of Paul VI, and not the Mass of Bugnini. Und so weiter.


            • Those who cite the manner in which female altar servers were implemented against the stated wishes of JP2, base their contention on the writings at the time of those who had access to him, and were in a position to describe those interactions in great detail. These are not stores pulled out of the air. As to public statements praising their service, yes, those are a matter of record. But the need to save face in a situation gone out of control, combined with the demands of charity in acknowledging their service, does not deny the events leading to the decision, but can easily be reconciled with such public statements.

              • “These are not stores pulled out of the air …” “Stores” should be rendered as “stories.”

    • Discipline, by definition, is about action rather than truth. It is not subject to error; rather it is subject to goodness or badness, merit or demerit.

      One can make all sorts of arguments about how good (or bad) a practice, such as permitting female altar servers, is in this or that situation. What one cannot do is dispute that the practice is permitted, given that the permission comes from a legitimate authority.

  • ivan_the_mad

    I recall something the Pope said recently: “A church without women would be like the apostolic college without Mary. The Madonna is more important than the apostles, and the church herself is feminine, the spouse of Christ and a mother. The role of women doesn’t end just with being a mother and with housework …we don’t yet have a truly deep theology of women in the church. We talk about whether they can do this or that, can they be altar boys, can they be lectors, about a woman as president of Caritas, but we don’t have a deep theology of women in the Church.”

    I think this theology of women is something that will see quite a lot of development in the next century or two, and I think the quotes above from the Synod and JPII evince the early stages of this development.

    • Stu

      That’s because clericalism and feminism are similar. Instead of focusing on true femininity, we tell women they have no value unless they are doing things masculine and being measured against the masculine. Likewise, we have begun to tell the laity that unless they mimic the priests duties in the liturgy then they aren’t participating as if their true “participation” in praying the Mass isn’t of worth.

      • ivan_the_mad

        “we have begun to tell the laity” Please specify whom the pronoun here denotes.

  • Pappy

    Similarly, though who enjoy (even prefer) the Extraordinary Form of the Mass are in no way to be looked down on. At times, I have felt that you have been overly critical of those who, without denying the efficacy (or validity) of the Ordinary Form, prefer
    the older mass.

    Just to be clear, I have not attended a Mass according to the 1962 missal since the Mass was revised in the 1960s. And so those who enjoy the OF can do so without being labeled “progressives” and those who enjoy the EF can do so without being labeled “traditionalists”.

    • chezami

      I quite agree about the stupidity of the labels. I have no beef–none–witth people enjoy the EF. I have, however, plenty of beef with the poisonous, bitter, paranoid, anti-semitic and frequently vicious, proud, and ugly subculture that goes with it. I’m pleased as punch with the EF (though I prefer the OF). It’s Traditionalists who have managed to convince me that, until there is serious change in that subculture, I don’t want to touch it with a barge pole.

      • Stu

        Your obsession with a tiny minority (so-called traditionalists who have been mean to you and/or have extreme views) of a small subset within the Church (so-called traditionalists) makes no sense whatsoever. I and any other so-called traditionalist have no obligation to change your mind about a minority group on the Internet that you continually want to battle with daily on your blog and many others that most of us haven’t heard of for the simple reason that they don’t represent our views. All we can do is point to reality out there in the real world in real life parishes.

        I suppose I could follow suit and whine aloud that you need convince me that, until there is a serious change in the subculture of those who attend the Novus Ordo (I’m thinking of those Catholics who support the homo-heresy, women’s ordination, etc because clearly they as a minority reflect the greater group, and you need to stomp them out), that I don’t want to touch them with a barge pole. But that would be similarly ludicrous. So instead, I’ll continue to base my opinion on those I meet and interact with at the various parishes in my diocese.

        • chezami

          Yeah yeah. No true scotsman. Blah blah. The hundreds and hundreds of encouters I’ve had with vicious paranoid Jew hating repellent Trads full of control issues and malice is just a “tiny minority”. Sorry. Not interested. Direct your energy toward the groin kickers I have met by the bushel over the years, not to telling me to pretend I have haven’t received an untold number of groin kicks from them. The last thing in the world I care about is the tender feelings of the Trad subculture and it again feels sorry for itself.

          • Stu

            Blah, blah, blah…hurt feelings….blah, blah,blah….said mean things to me….blah, blah, blah….self pity….blah, blah, blah…groin kick….blah, blah, blah…took my lunch money…blah, blah….blah.

            • chezami

              Your reply is just one more reason to loathe Traditionalism. I have experience almost nothing but poison from it. Screw it.

              • Stu

                Yes, you don’t like your own medicine.

                • Beefy Levinson

                  “What a terrible animal this is! When attacked it defends!”

  • contrarian

    Crescat, check your messages.

  • bob

    Don’t go down that road. Episcopalian-ism happens slowly, an inch at a time. At best you eventually have to go through the effort and expenses of getting rid of the next Matthew Fox. Girls in the altar are a bad idea everywhere.

    • chezami

      Only in the fever swamps of St. Blog’s Traddery is “letting the pope and bishops legislate the liturgy and being content with their authority” the Road to Episcopalianism. More of the massively huge anti-charism of discernment that Faithfull Conservative Catholicism exhibits with amazing frequency. Coupled with the blithe certainty of just who is and is not a “Real Catholic” it’s a fetching combo.

      • bob

        Nope, an Orthodox layman for 30 years, raised Episcopalian. I can see where things can go and have gone. It’s 30 and more years since similar stuff was going on in Catholic parishes in Seattle. The Hunthausen years didn’t do any good. I’m suggesting caution, but you know that already.

        • Mariana Baca

          Except there are lots of Episcopalian parishes that are very careful to dot the is and cross the ts liturgically, and that hasn’t stopped them from slowly (quickly?) moving to heterodoxy…

          • data_file_7

            Right… CoE services are generally gorgeous, but as you say that can co-exist easily with a disregard for the “hard sayings” of Christ.

    • contrarian

      “Girls in the altar are a bad idea everywhere.”
      I agree, and I love your quip that we are turning into piskies by a thousand cuts. Heh!

    • Fr. Denis Lemieux

      Yes, I agree that putting a live girl into the altar is a bad idea! 🙂

      • Stu

        Father will be here all week ladies and gentlemen. Please be sure to tip your waitress.


      • chezami


      • Erin Manning

        Not only did Fr. made me chuckle, he reminded me that bits of *dead* girls have been in various altars all along (e.g., relics). So I think that permitting live women and girls to serve at the altar or read from the readings etc. makes a bit more sense than saying that women are forbidden on the altar unless they are either a) cleaning it or b) deceased canonized females whose relics are appropriately placed.

  • The Western church is so friggin’ messed up about rules, I swear. In choir practice yesterday there was no winsomeness, no understanding, no casual attitude about these things. There was only, 1. We. Must. Do/Not Do. This!, or 2. Rules. Are. For. Hypocrites!

    • johnnyc

      #2 Rules are for hypocrites…… the Ten Commandments? Sound of crickets…..

      • No, I mean household rules, like canon law, etc. Like eating (or not eating) meat at certain times. Like rules about when to sing certain songs. Like rules about which hoops and what kinds people have to jump through in order to be eucharistic ministers.

      • chezami

        Uh. Yes. You do realize, don’t you, that the function of the law is to show that we don’t keep it. It is *precisely* for hypocrites.

  • vox borealis

    I therefore choose to scandalously listen to what the Church actually says
    Excellent. So we really should care about what the Church says, though (say) Canon Law about the rights of laity regarding liturgical matters? I agree. So, that means the laity is well within its rights to complain about liturgically loosey-goosey clergy, including bishops, who don’t follow what the church says about rubrics and such? Yes, thank you, we agree again entirely!

    • chezami

      Feel free to bitch and whine all you like. I’m not stopping you. It’s been such a successful strategy so far.

      • vox borealis

        Well, it’s no less successful a strategy than complete acquiescence, which strikes me as a form of clericalism (but that’s another story). But your response *does* suggest that you don’t really care about what the church really says. Instead you sort of go along with what the (local) church does. That’s fine, but it’s not the same thing.

        • chezami

          I’m content with the Mass. Sue me.

      • vox borealis

        And moreover, “bitch and whine”—or what I would term “lodging legitimate complaints to the proper ecclesial authorities”—*has* been a successful strategy. Slow to be sure, but ultimately successful in the long run. The Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, for example, didn’t come from out of nowhere, but was a response to a persistent demand and reports of frustration at the local level sent up the food chain to the PCED, among others.

        • chezami

          Knock yourself out. You care about this stuff. I don’t and never have.

          • vox borealis

            You care about this stuff. I don’t and never have.

            Bingo. So like I wrote before, you don’t *really* care about what the church actually says on these matters. You simply don’t care.

        • Stu

          Indeed, “bitch and whine” is such a ridiculous characterization. But here is a true story about a time when I “bitched and whined.”

          I started attending a parish within walking distance of my new home in Maine about ten years ago. I liked the priest a lot but the Mass was very loosey-goosey, sloppy and filled with objective liturgical abuse. I approached the priest about these things in a very non-threatening manner in conjunction with my being considered to oversee the altar server (which incidentally did include both boys and girls).

          On a Thursday before Father headed off for a retreat, he summoned me to his office in order to let me know that he would not be needing my services in overseeing the altar servers because the direction I wanted to push was one in which the parish was not ready. I thanked him for consideration and left.

          Well, I was in for a surprise after Sunday Mass when Father caught up with me to tell me that he had changed his mind following his retreat, realizing that I was correct. Not only that, but the following Sunday he announced during his sermon that it is through our obedience in Mass and how we worship there that we enable the Graces to flow. He further went on to tell everyone that in the past he was not doing his best in giving us a fitting liturgy and was going to take steps to make it right. And he did.

          And he even paid me a very high compliment, during this time of JPII, in calling me his “Ratzinger.” Pretty good results for “bitching and whining.”

          And as a side note, the number of altar servers increased following this as well.

  • pjm

    This post is nothing more than to stir up shit with more traditional, orthodox Catholics, so then the author can turn around and feel justified in his mind for his unceasing and often slanderous attacks against them. Not to mention he’ll get more clicks on his blog to increase revenues. Very Christian.

    • Bill

      yes, exactly… when I think venal click hog, I think Mark Shea

      Come on.

    • Dianeski

      Au contraire. This is a much-needed post IMHO. It is very helpful for those of us who have had it up to here with insane liturgical nitpicking and naysaying.

    • chezami

      Oh, look! Another butthurt Trad who thinks the whole universe revolves around him and who habitually imputes malign motives to everybody who is not part of the Pure.

      Dude. If I wanted to generate traffic I would post funny cats and porn. Normal people–99% of the Church–no more give a shit about Trad obsessions with crap like altar girls than I do. I have no idea what stuff people click on. I don’t even know how to make the sottware work that tracks that stuff. I note, to my amazement that the most popular post I’ve ever written was that odd little squib about TIME mag dumbing down their covers (according to the right rail on this blog). But I’m almost totally certain most of my readers have almost no interest in this particular post.

      One of the many repellent traits of Traddery is its instant assumption that everything is All About You and any criticism or commentary that offends Trads is part of some giant campaign of persecution. Catholic Answer’s produces thousands of programs and makes two (2) about rad trads and the whole malignant cult erupts in one giant wail of self-pity and smears about CA being money-grubbing whores. I mention in passing the fact that I don’t give much of a shit about altar girls or your panic attacks about them because the pope and bishops say they are fine and you once again display the Trad persecution complex. If you think you will evoke anything but the now fully grown sense that Traddery is a subculture I want nothing to do with and care not one whit about anymore, you are mistaken. Grow up. Stop whining. There’s no conspiracy. There’s just my frank loathing of the fruits of your subculture. When the fruit stop being being bullying self-pity, paranoia, nastiness,. jew-hatred and contempt for almost the entire Churc since the Council, I will care. Meantime, I’ll just add you to my ban file as another source of nastiness in my life I can do without. Bye!

  • contrarian
  • johnnyc

    And remember…..this goes for you livid libs that are in a parish that chooses to have only male altar servers. No criticizing the priest, sending off letters to the Bishop and/or running off to another parish, right. Right? This too can be a teaching moment…..

  • J Long

    How much do you get paid for writing this nonsense? I think I should get into this line of work. The Church does actually have a preference. The CDW in a letter on Altar serving in 2001 stated that boy servers fosters vocation, and cannot be excluded. However, it allows for the exclusion of girls, thus, the very Church that you misquote and speak about as though you are an authority, has a two tier system of servers. The norm is boys who cannot be excluded, and then girls who may be dropped. The Church in her wisdom sees the potential danger of female servers in the area of vocations.

    I am starting to wonder how some of the Catholic bloggers actually manage to get their current positions.

    • chezami

      So who said boys should be excluded? Deal with it. JPII wrote what he wrote. I mention it because I am interested in the gulf between the Trad lie that he practically did it att gunpoint and the reality that he thought it a perfectly good idea. It that offends yet another nasty butthurt Trad, tough.

      • J Long

        The CDW represents the viewpoint of the Catholic Church, and their 2001 statement is something that cannot be ignored. You cannot separate JPII from the Church, his decision and the 2001 letter need to be taken as a whole. We cannot be pic and mix Catholics.

        I just cannot believe you think the CDW are ‘nasty butthurt Trads’.

        • chezami

          I don’t. i think you are.

  • Beefy Levinson

    Mark, if you’re blissfully uninterested in a subject then refrain from writing about it instead of using it as an opportunity to passive-aggressively go “Neener, neener, I’m a more obedient and faithful Catholic than you nasty Trads!”
    Altar girls are an exception to the norm of only males serving at the altar. Priests are under no obligation to use them. This is an area that legitimately falls under “prudential decision,” and you’re not a bad Catholic if you publicly question whether the use of altar girls is a good idea. Technically, under the current rules of fasting before Communion, you could wolf down a breakfast burrito five minutes before Mass starts and still be good to go if Father preaches long. That doesn’t mean you should.

    • chezami

      I’m interested in this subject because I was not aware of how completely wrong the self-deluding Trad urban legend of “The Church was dragged kicking and screaming into altar girls” was. That interested me. And anything I can do to attack the baleful poisong of so much Trad myth is a plus in my book. If you don’t like that, tough. I’ve pretty much lost interest in the tender feelings of butthurt Trads who take offense when I point out something they don’t like.

      • Beefy Levinson

        It’s pretty funny for you to throw around words like whiny and butthurt when in the same thread you whine about receiving an untold number of “groin kicks” from Trads. They hurt your feelings so you’re going to hurt theirs right back.

        • chezami

          Cry me a river.

          • Beefy Levinson


      • “I was not aware of how completely wrong the self-deluding Trad urban legend of ‘The Church was dragged kicking and screaming into altar girls’ was.” Actually, it was enacted under some duress, and as the result of some devious shenanigans, as my commentary elsewhere explains. And I’d hardly be accused of running with the Rorate Caeli crowd.

  • Reactor

    Now being the boot-licking Magisterial toady I am, I therefore choose to scandalously listen to what the Church actually says through its actual real teachers and to therefore serenely Not Care about the burning matter of female altar servers. Peter sez they are fine. Power of the Keys. Ergo, fine by me. Blessed Peace.

    So a 13th-century Mark Shea would have had the correct attitude had he declared:

    “Now being the boot-licking Magisterial toady I am, I therefore choose to scandalously listen to what the Church actually says through its actual real teachers and to therefore serenely Not Care about the burning matter of compulsory distinctive badges for Jews. Peter sez they are fine. Power of the Keys. Ergo, fine by me. Blessed Peace.”

    • chezami

      Hard to say what Imaginary Me would say or do in a culture centuries ago. Real me, aware of the developed teaching of the Church, would know that the trivial issue of altar girls is not a direct analogy to the moral issue of human dignity. So real me would make the distinction and oppose this insult to human dignity. But of course, that’s assuming I’m not an ignorant German peasant who never heard of Lateran IV.

      Now I have one for you: Give three examples of when you stopped beating your wife.

      • 1. When I beat her in a game of chess.
        2. When I beat her in an arm-wrestling match.
        3. When I beat her … oh, that’s right, she left me before I could beat her a third time.

  • Meggan

    Thanks, Mark. That was excellent.

  • ralston

    Fr. Z rocks.

  • Fr.TomS

    I took a moment to parse ‘YouTwitFace.’ Then almost felloff the shair laughing. Thank you.

  • Dave G.

    I’m sure there are Catholics known as traditionalists who are all that is said and worse. Most probably aren’t. But I doubt that’s the only group in the Church able to make that claim. I think it’s enough to say that the World is changing and the Church is scrambling to find ways to accommodate without violating key teachings. If that presents problems for some, it’s understandable. For those who go along and say whatever the Church says today is good, no problem. But I wouldn’t point too many fingers in either direction.

  • Ron Van Wegen

    Mark, after reading your work for the past many years and agreeing with most of what you write I now find that it’s detrimental to my spiritual life to read this blog any more. There’s a viciousness about your work (and the way you treat commenters – as unpalatable as many of them are) that I find deplorable (and I believe so do you). I know you try to deal with it but it keeps getting the better of you and colours even your less confrontational articles. I’ll check in again in a year or so! May God bless you and your family.

    • chezami

      So please pray for me. I’m only flesh and blood.

    • Darran

      a pharasaical response.. i just remember sounds like Taliban to me..obeying rather they think what is right rather than what the Church teaches tsk tsk..self -righteous

  • Dan C

    I note an aggressive sense of superiority on the part of Traditionalists again in these comments. I am gaining more conviction in the opinion Mark Shea’s approach to those of us attending the Ordinary Form and enjoying it and finding this has been a Holy and Faithful celebration need to be more vocal and aggressive AGAINST traditionalists and the Extraordinary Form.

    They have zero respect, to a person, to those of us who attend and love the Ordinary Form. They have no respect for it.

    I for one am eager to aggressively bit back, to fight in my diocese against the Extraordinary Form, in order to preserve and build respect for the Ordinary Form. All that was messaged over St. Blog’s for years was about “liturgical abuses.” Let’s clean up that vocabulary, and I think we clearly know what “abuse” is. To use the same language for liturgical non-compliance to the GIRM, for that is what it really is, and “abuse” elevates the level of drama in forgetting a section of the Eucharistic Prayer during Mass. “Abuse” for Catholics of this generation should not bring to mind “Communion in the hand” or Altar Girls. Or even that unicorn, that mythical beast, the Clown Mass. It should bring to mind the sexual assaults that occurred and were covered up.

    I reject the vocabulary: it is liturgical non-compliance. Not abuse. And usually, its not a big deal. One needs to search most of Western civilization to come up with one bit of light-saber-on-the-altar silliness a month. That is scouring a population of a billion people.

    I reject and oppose traditionalist superiority.

    I am ready to advocate for an end to the Extraordinary Form if these uniformly aberrant and toxic attitudes of Traditionalists do not get modified. I hear no voice among the leaders of traditionalists noting this is a problem.

    Let me be clear: traditionalists need to respect the Ordinary Form and the vast majority of us who choose to find it nourishing and who choose to raise our families in it. I need to start seeing that clearly stated by the leaders of traditionalism and they need to start enunciating

    The overboard traditionalists who plague Mark Shea are but not quite out of the ordinary end of the spectrum of those with the dismissive superiority complexes in traditionalism. The poison is simple: traditionalists absolutely disrespect how those of us worship in the Ordinary Form is done. And quite frankly, National Catholic Reporter and Commonweal and America, as forums for Catholic liberalism, do not bash the extraordinary form. One does not see Tom Fox write about it negatively, or Michael Sean Winters, or James Martin.

    Let me start with those areas of respect needed first: altar girls and communion in the hand. We do it, we have it, and not only deal with it. Respect it. Because you all demand respect for your Extraordinary Form. Quit bashing my Form. Or I will start bashing yours.

  • Mark:

    In stating the premise for female altar servers, you cited a document that had nothing to do with it. The reason JP2 “allowed” altar servers was … well, actually, he didn’t. What he did, one fine day in 1994, was give an affirmative answer to an interpretation of a point of canon law, to the appropriate pontifical commission. Against his earlier stated wishes on the subject — “if we allow altar girls, we will soon have no altar boys.” — certain of the Curia took this as a green light, and released an announcement saying they were allowed.

    But here’s the thing. The supposed decree lacked what is called a “protocol number,” which would have identified its inclusion in the “Acta Apostolica Sedes,” sort of the Vatican equivalent to the Federal Register. But it wasn’t there, so the decree was illicit from the start. Alas, the cat was out of the bag. The Holy Father was furious at the deceit engaged by Vatican bureaucrats (which might explain much of the news out of the Vatican lately), but decided to agree to it, reluctantly, to save face and avoid further confusion, and the decree was made licit after the fact.

    This information is no secret, and was written about at the time. In fact, you might still find a copy of the article at that same EWTN Online Library.

    Now, those young ladies who serve at the altar are no doubt sincere in their duties, and they may well function as well as the boys, and given the age group in question, even better. (That means, this is not a bone of contention here.) But this belies the real reason for serving at the altar, which is not to “give the young ladies something to do” (which I’ve actually read in bulletins), but to serve the priest. It is not about the server, but the one being served. The practice remains problematic on a number of levels, inasmuch as even the 1994 decree officially allowing them openly acknowledges the role of male altar service as a catalyst for inspiring priestly vocations (in which case, the role of female service already takes on a different significance).

    Another Mark –Twain, in this case — once wrote: “Write what you know.” It’s one reason why I don’t comment much in my own venue on what good Christian women should or should not wear at the beach. (Yes, I have an opinion, but that’s all it is. For the moment.)

    • And in case anyone gets any ideas, yes, I attend the “extraordinary form” almost exclusively, and have for several years, but I have also authored an entire series on the third “editio typica” of the Roman Missal (which would be the “ordinary form”). You should really read it. Sometimes even I do, and I already know how it ends:

    • Dan C

      I know that hostility and disrespect is the norm for “Ordinary” folks from Traditionalists. Online and in person.

      I know that is an untouchable subject too for “Extraordinary” folks. For the minority of “Extraordinary” individuals who may respect the “Ordinary” Catholic’s search for holiness, brining it up, or respecting their brothers in the faith publically will heep scorn.

      • It works the other way as well, or the “extraordinary folks” would have had free availability of their “extraordinary form” a lot sooner.

        • Dan C

          Since it sounds like a “tit-for-tat” war….fine.

          • Yes, it does sound that way, doesn’t it?

            • Dan C

              A productive exchange. Thanks.

        • Dan C

          What would be the reason for “Ordinary” folks to wish their diocesan resources be stretched to assist Extraordinarians.

          • If by “ordinary folks,” you mean those who do not prefer the “extraordinary form, whether they “wish” it or not, the reasons for doing so are spelled out in the 2007 motu proprio “Summorum Pontificum.” They are no longer in a position to refuse. Yes, some places will find resources “stretched” more than others, which is what I describe in some detail in “The Latin Mass: Why You Can’t Have It.”

            • Paul

              A very enlightening read. Thank you for posting that link.

    • Dan C

      Secondly, Mr. Shea is noting expertise in human relations, that of how Traditionalists- particularly those who seem slightly off the mean of Traditionalism. And how they respond to “Ordinary” folks.

      That requires no Latin expertise and is obvious.

      I think Mr. Shea is gentle, considering the degree of genuine disrespect that is poured forth from the Extraordinarians.