should girls be allowed to be altar servers…

here’s a fun poll.

You can make the obvious guess how I voted. If the purpose of being an altar server is to ignite the fires for the priesthood than why have a girl serve? To what purpose? And as a mother of a boy, I can attest that young men have no interest in pursuits that are considered girly. In fact, call me crazy, but women shouldn’t be lectors either.

That being said, I know quite a few young ladies who are altar servers and I know their parents. I know it would be hurtful to lay the blame of falling vocations squarely on their efforts to serve the Church. The young ladies I know are very serious Catholic girls who come from devout parents and love their faith immensely.

Could they find alternate way to express this faith and serve their parishes? Sure. Should they? Well, let’s just say we all have our opinions. Since I am not in a position of authority within the Church I must obey the guidelines established. Those guidelines state it is ok for girls to serve.

So really, I see no point in the poll other than to serve as a catalyst for more infighting among our kind. I also see no point for the public outcry when a priest decides he won’t permit girls to serve. The link I provided clearly states a priest “may” permit a girl to serve. It didn’t indicate he “had” to. I would think the decision is up to the priest. As a member of the faithful we need to recognize this and stand behind our priest’s decision. Frankly I am tired of every Tom, Dick, and Harry with a grievance having protests and sit-ins – the adult version of a temper tantrum.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Christopher Whittle

    Girls cannot serve on the altar, this is a Novus Ordo invention. My priest doesn’t allow women to go past the altar rail.

    • Katrina Fernandez

      My parish does not permit girls to serve even in the N.O. mass. It’s not a N.O or M.E.F thing. It’s a matter of obedience.

  • I have been debating this on facebook all day with “former Catholics” who have literally said, “Why do you want to BAN WOMEN from the Altar.”

    I try and make the following points:
    • Girls are and should be *ALLOWED* to be Altar Servers as long as the role is looked upon as a lay ministry.
    • This does not mean, as you similarly mentioned, that priests must, should, or ought to have girls serve…
    • This choice should be a PASTORAL one, and done in light of the needs of the particular parish. (N.B.: Need ≠ fills slots…with bodies)
    • This entire question: “Should girls serve…in a particular parish” should be asked and answer in light of how we see the role of the Altar Server.

    In other words, the better question to ask is: “What is the purpose of Altar Servers in today’s Church?” If that purpose has anything to do with fostering vocations, and we can draw a causal link… well, then… the answer is easy.

    Ultimately this question is symbolic of the larger problem that faces the Church:
    Questions pertaining to some certain “thing” w/i the Church should be rooted and seated in The Sacred theological truth. Instead this “thing” is co-opted by those who want to “modernize” and “progress the Church” and rather than looking at Sacred or theological considerations of the “thing”, they look at the social and cultural. In the end, the fails the faith because it focuses on the wrong thing. When we look at things and worry how they affect us, the people, we have lost sight of the important thing: Christ.

    He must increase, I must decrease.

    • Anonymous

      Well, yes, except for those who think that women must somehow “increase” to take over the proper role for a man in order to feel they are “somebody.” Any woman who derives her own worth from usurping the role of a man does not understand her own self-worth, and probably is resistant to understanding that worth, ever. This is the sad legacy of “feminists,” who are the enemy of true womanhood.

  • I think many people think correlation = causation. I think if you have faithful, ‘thinking with the Church’ priests, then no matter if girls serve or not, they will be rightly oriented to their vocational possibilities as women. If you have a liberal, “not thinking with the Church” priests, then they will most likely encourage girls to think they be someone that isn’t possible.

  • The parish I attended growing up only allowed boys to serve. My sisters and I as well as all the other girls of serving age in the parish had absolutely no problem with this. And in fact we had tons of boys willing to serve. I’m talking anywhere from 6 – 12 boys at each Mass! When our priest retired & a new one was appointed he allowed girls to serve. There was a huge change in who was attending the parish… we became a Spanish speaking parish. And once all the new girls started signing up most of the boys stopped serving and now there’s only 2 or 3 girls at each Mass. Of the generation of the ‘boys only’ serving several left for seminary or religious life. My life experience has formed my opinion about alter servers & the connection it has to priestly vocations! 😉

    • Katrina Fernandez

      We share the exact same opinion.

  • Actually the link you provided to the USCCB states that the decision is that of the Bishop, not an individual priest. I see problems when an individual priest is not conformed to the diocesan policy.

    “1. Although institution into the ministry of acolyte is reserved to lay men, the diocesan bishop may permit the liturgical functions of the instituted acolyte to be carried out by altar servers, men and women, boys and girls. Such persons may carry out all the functions listed in no. 100 and nos. 189-193 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal.

    The determination that women and girls may function as servers in the liturgy should be made by the bishop on the diocesan level so that there might be a uniform diocesan policy.”

    • Anonymous

      Our Bishop has determined that the priests may make that determination. Our priest has only boys. It is working out rather nicely–more boys serve, the boys group has grown by leaps and bounds, and I suspect there will be vocations growing from this.

      • Katrina Fernandez

        That is the same in my diocese. The decision is up to the priest and we must faithful observe that decision.

  • Fr Longenecker

    You’ve been included in a collection of opinions on this over at my blog. By the way, I’ve dubbed you ‘a grown up Caitlin O’Rourke…

  • Barbara

    I just posted about this on my own blog!!! But, I agree that this whole thing is really getting blown out of proportion. If only people focused on the important stuff when it came to mass….

  • Anonymous

    As for women serving at the altar, they always have, in altar guilds. The best sacristans are women, because we know how to clean and polish. Men just don’t see dirt (most men, that is, are cleaning-impaired). The second best sacristans were probably marines, who have been trained to clean and polish.

    But, no need for women to be acolytes. That is reserved for consecrated hands, which just isn’t possible for women, according to JPII. The fact that the USCCB says it is okay is mostly irrelevant, like most of what the USCCB says. They do not speak for the Church, nor as part of the Magisterium.

    • Nobody else sees a problem with “Girls are better at cleaning”? LOL What a load of balderdash. There may be compelling reasons to not have girls as altar servers, but ‘girls are better at cleaning’ is not one of them.

      • me

        I was going to say. Are women only good for ironing linens and scrubbing toilets and serving the men for dinner? Please.

  • Anonymous

    Women shouldn’t be lectors? That would eliminate the position in my parish. There isn’t one male lector here. I don’t know why.

    • Seraphic

      Could it be because the parish men now think being a lector is for girls?

  • Janet Butler

    The bottom line, is, indeed, why have a poll like this at all? To further muddy the waters and give people the impression that if enough folks “vote” for something in the Church, then it’s going to become a democracy and if they don’t like something, they’ll vote it out? I can’t help but wonder if that’s the intent behind people putting polls like this out there in the first place. Dream on, kids. Ain’t gonna happen, even if you hold your breath until you turn purple. 🙂

    As for the lector question, I was shocked when I realized that technically, women weren’t supposed to be lectors. In fact, if I remember correctly what I read, ordained men, or seminarians, are the only ones who actually are supposed to be lectors except in some kind of dire circumstance…which, face it, we really rarely have. But I never heard anything about such things from any pulpit, and I’ve been a Catholic for a long, loooong time….

    That being said, I truly am honored by being a lector. I take the responsibility seriously, and I know several women who are also in that role and take it seriously. But I wouldn’t have a problem stepping aside if our priest or bishop said, “Sorry, ladies, someone’s misunderstood the rubrics.” It’s more important to me that we’re faithful…not that we are put into positions of service out of someone’s well-intentioned, but misled, attempt to make us feel “included.”

    Jesus died for me. I’m already as included as I need to be. 🙂

    • Katrina Fernandez

      Fantastic reply! I wonder what the point of the poll was too. It won’t make a difference one way of the other.

  • Jan

    The diocesan Bishop has to approve the use of girls as servers but I don’t think they can ever be called an acolyte. A priest in such a diocese is free or not to allow girls to serve.

    Someone below mentioned women lectors – can’t find the source right off hand but I believe women may read, but men may be commissioned as a lector; women can’t.

  • Seraphic

    Wow. I did not know the Washington Post was a Catholic paper. Silly me. But, honestly, does a secular American newspaper taking a general poll on liturgical practices in the Roman Catholic church make ANY sense at all? Will they next ask if women should be allowed to be mohelim? What could that be all about, other than trying to drum up a public controversy on a slow news day?

    Boys don’t want to hang 24/7 with girl and do girl stuff or stuff they think is girl stuff. The more we emphasize that church-is-for-girls, the fewer men will want to be involved at church.

    I believe that an all-male altar service both encourages both more altar boys to join up and encourages vocations to the priesthood. Therefore, I wouldn’t love the Church very much if I “voted” for altar girls. However, I am absolutely sympathetic to girls who want to serve the Church in some comparable way, which is why I would also “vote” for the re-establishment of altar guilds, not to mention Marian processions in which girls play special roles, like crowning the statue of Our Lady on Marian feasts.

    But yes, Kat, you are right: it’s not up to us. We can’t vote–except with our feet and our cash, which sounds horribly cynical, but there you go.

  • Katherine Stroud

    I’m against girl altar servers for the usual reasons.

    But as the mother of four young girls….. am I the only one who thinks that girls dressed as altar servers looks very unfeminine? They always have to have their hair up to avoid fires with the candles and they wear the robes that go straight down…. I’m not saying they should dress in go-go boots and mini skirts (Heaven forbid!) but really, can’t young ladies look like young ladies? In addition to the usual reasons, I also just find girl altar servers very unattractive. It is almost like a emasculating of the feminine as much as the masculine.

  • Nathan

    Kat, I agree with your assessment of the situation, and I’m annoyed that the WaPo thinks they can tell Catholics how they should worship God (and especially that Catholics are the only ones they deem worthy of their tender ministrations).

    However, the obedience issue is a bit more complicated than “the guidelines state that it is ok for girls to serve.” That is a true statement, but it came about in the context where it was originally clear disobedience which was allowed to continue in order to minimize conflict.

    To reason by analogy, the relaxation of discipline that allowed altar girls is similar to a parent, who, when a child takes a bite of the cookie that they were told not to have in the first place, says, “Alright, just finish the cookie and listen to me the next time!” Being allowed to finish the cookie doesn’t make it inherently ok or proper or good for the child. And it certainly doesn’t mean the child can have cookies whenever they like or that the child has “a right” to a cookie.

    I have seen the boys leave in droves when altar girls are introduced, and I’ve seen girls take over the program in many locations where it was allowed. But it’s the “it’s my right to be on the altar” that is, IMO, the most pernicious element of the whole discussion.

    In Christ, Nathan

    • Katrina Fernandez


  • Great post! That said, I vote no. I agree with the priest that boys on the altar are more likely to discern a vocation. Girls cannot be priests. The should not be on the altar. I also agree with you that women should not be lectors. I’ll take it a step further and state that Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist (the proper title) should only be used in EXTRAORDINARY circumstances, not at every Mass just to speed things up so every one can go get coffee and a donut. But I don’t have any opinions. 😉

    • Maiki

      That is not what “Extraordinary” means in that context. It means not the “Ordinary” Ministers, which are Deacons, Priests and Bishops. If there aren’t enough priests and deacons in a parish to serve that role, extraordinary ministers can be used. It doesn’t have to be a mass with 2000 attendees or anything. It might just be the need for someone to offer the Chalice.

      Just like the Mass of 1962 is the “Extraordinary” form of the Mass and the Pauline mass is the “Ordinary” Form. It doesn’t mean that the Extraordinary form can only be celebrated in “Extraordinary” circumstances. It means it is not the “Ordinary” form, and thus has special norms and isn’t used by default.

      • I understand the meaning. With declining populations in most parishes, there is no need for the use of Extraordinary ministers of any kind. It would make Holy Communion last a whole five minutes longer. People’s priorities are out of whack when they are in such a rush to get somewhere after Mass that 5 minutes makes a difference.

    • Well, I believe girls should be on the altar. It’s a first step towards allowing them to one day become priests in the catholic church. Any system that views a female as something less than a male; that denies her full participation in religious leadership; and that postulates a god without a Goddess is not only sexist to the core, it is the core of sexism. Sexism doesn’t belong in church.

      • It’s not sexist at all. In fact, your comment is sexist to imply that a women must do man’s work in order to be considered equal. You lost me after all the god/goddess nonsense.

  • Paul Catalanotto


    The document does make a distinction between “servers” and “altar boys and girls.” The Servers are acolytes, which is reserved to lay men. According to the document to which you linked, it looks like altar boys/girls are commonly used in ways that are reserved for servers. Points 3-10 give the role and responsibilities of the Server, I assume they mean acolytes. So what is there left for the altar boys/girls to do? Do altar boys/girls have a different role when there are no acolytes? Do the altar boy/girl take on the role of the acolyte when there are no acolytes?

    Can there be girl altar servers? No.
    Can there be girl altar girls? Yes.

  • Louis Tofari

    Have you seen my article, “Alter (the) Girls” in The Remnant newspaper published on October 20, 2011?

  • Anonymous

    My girls won’t be serving. I don’t get the objection to women lectors, but since I object to women football commentators, I won’t judge.

    I agree with you though, just because my preference is an all-male server situation, I don’t claim my preference is akin to doctrine. So many things to argue about, this does not make my list…

    • I object to women commentators on most sports. They are used as “eye-dressing” and don’t even realize it. It was a definite marketing ploy to get more people to watch football when they first added a woman commentator. They are always given really inane things to ask, too.

  • Vernon

    Whatever the USCCB may think or state, Canon Law is quite specific.
    1. The use of females as servers is generally permissible in the Latin Church.
    2. It is the prerogative of each diocesan Bishop to determine whether or not to allow female servers in his diocese.
    3. In those diocese where the Bishop has permitted the use of female servers it is the right of each Parish Priest to decide if female servers will be used at all in his Parish.
    4. When the Parish Priest permits female servers it is the right of each Priest Celebrant to determine if they will be permitted to serve at the Masses he celebrates.
    5. Female servers may not be used at Masses celebrated in the Extraordinary Form as that is governed by specific law as operative in 1962 when females were not permitted to serve.