Altar Girl Redux

I thought the question of altar girls had been settled twenty years ago.  In the face of mass disobedience by pastors and parishes in the United States and Europe, abetted by bishops who either quietly encouraged the practice or turned a blind eye to it, the Vatican allowed altar girls in the early 1990’s.   There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth by conservatives at the time, but it quickly died down.

Now, however, the question has appeared again, in the form of a clarification to the recent relaxation allowing greater use of the Tridentine liturgy:  girls are not allowed to serve at the altar for the the extraordinary form.   This seems preposterous, and it really does seem to suggest that proponents of the old rite really do want to turn back the clock in all ways.   Would anyone care to defend this decision, or at least provide a rationale that goes beyond “altar girls were forbidden in 1962.”?


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  • Tim Leonard

    To obey an unjust law is to act unjustly.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO


      which law are you referring to? The new policy forbidding altar girls? I would presume so, but I wanted to make sure.

    • samrocha

      “An unjust law is no law at all.” (Augustine)


  • Charles Robertson

    an altar server takes the place of a cleric; women can’t be clerics; ergo, it is unfitting that women should be altar servers

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      Ahh, an aristotelian syllogism. However: while my rejoinder is not cast in the classic form, I would point out: Women cannot be priests, but according to at least a very plausible reading of the New Testament and early patristic literature, women were deacons at one point. And in any event, altar servers do not take the place of priests: they assist priests—whence “altar servers.”

      • Charles Robertson

        Women deacons were not clerics. Traditionally, those with minor orders served at liturgy. Tonsure was considered the entrance into the clerical state.

      • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

        An ahistorical argument: the tonsure came into use for those receiving orders in the 6th or 7th century (according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, other sources date it somewhat later). By this period women deacons appear to have disappeared.

  • Virgil Evans

    Mr Cruz-Uribe,

    Regarding “turning back the clock”, I’ll side with CS Lewis who said words to the effect that if the clock is wrong (eg altar girls; my topic here, not his) the only sensible thing is to change it.


    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      This presumes that this particular clock (the use of female altar servers) is wrong. Would you care to revisit this since, as I think that this post makes clear, I do not.

  • adamv

    I very vaguely recall something either in Summorum Pontificum or official statements surrounding it about incorporating some Novus Ordo practices into the Latin Mass. I wish I had a quote to back me up here.

    I guess one could argue that the exemption of female servers, would be superceded by any community who wanted to place the newer practice of having female servers into the rite.

  • Kurt

    Some random points. Without the recent statement by E.D., female altar servers at the E.F. were totally permissible because the issue of the gender of altar servers is not a rubric (i.e. liturgical rule) but was a canonical rule. E.D. authorized use of the former rubric, not former canon law.

    Nevertheless, I’m sure a good number of E.F. devotees wet their pants/skirts/fiddlebacks upon hearing of the use of females as such at “their” Masses. But, okay, I’ve had my jollies watching them wet themselves and its time to move on. The edict is not unexpected. BTW, there is no pre-’62 rubric requiring the priest to face the apse of the church. The E.F. can be said with the priest facing the altar across from the lay faithful (second opportunity to witness bladder control problems).

    And under the Church’s current canons, serves do not substitute for clerics, but acoyltes are of a lay ministry in their own right.

    And lastly, as futher evidence that so many neo-traditionists don’t represent “tradition” any older that the memories of their youth, when those wild and crazy liturgical progressives were promoting the Dialogue Mass, the traditionalists then insisted it was not needed because the altar servers (who said the responses) represented the LAITY.

    • Robert Klingle

      I just had this conversation last week. If the alter server represent me then why do I have to show up? I am already there through the alter server!

  • Melody

    Well, it’s no big surprise that they aren’t having altar girls for the EF. The proponents of the EF pretty much don’t make any secret that they do, in fact, want to turn the clock back.
    I have good memories of the pre-Vatican II Latin Mass. I was 12 or so when it was changed. However it would be a completely different experience to go to it now; back then there was no agenda attached, it was just how Mass was. I would like to revisit the EF, but there is very definitely an agenda attached now that I don’t want to put up with. I wonder if things would be different as far as the divisions in the Church if the EF and NO had been allowed to co-exist. As it is, I was happy for my nieces that they got to serve at the altar; and want my granddaughter to have the same opportunity if she wants to.
    My dad was one who mourned the loss of the Latin Mass. I asked him recently if he would like to find a Latin Mass, since the EF is allowed now. He replied, “Nah; I’m hard of hearing now, it all sounds like Latin!” Which is another way of saying that a lot of water has gone under the bridge, you can’t go home again.

  • doug

    I don’t have any theological arguments, although I’m sure that some could be made. I think that for the most part it is a practical matter. First, boys are often acutely aware of the close proximity of girls who are not their sister, and this can be a distraction. Second, being an altar server is traditionally a way of getting boys to consider the priesthood. Girls cannot be priests, and so it has the potential to make them want something they can’t have, which is cruel.

    That female altar servers were allowed in the face of disobedience is similar to making a gift to someone of something they are in the act of stealing. It is an act of mercy. It does not change the fact that disobedience is sinful, but looks to accommodate someone who is weak to avoid spiritual harm. I suppose that it is disallowed for the extraordinary form because it is thought that Catholics attending a Latin Mass would be less likely to clamor for female altar servers, and therefore it is not likely that people will be sorely tempted to disobedience due to cultural factors.

    It is not unjust to not allow female altar servers because being an altar server is not a right. It is a privilege that can be granted or denied as seen fit by a person in authority. That’s not to say that authority can be used in a capricious and arbitrary way, but that good judgement should be respected, even if someone disagrees with it.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      “That female altar servers were allowed in the face of disobedience is similar to making a gift to someone of something they are in the act of stealing.”

      Or, Rome could have been admitting that those who were breaking the rules were, in fact, right: that prohibiting women from being altar servers had no reasonable justification. This would make it an example of the sensus fidelium speaking and being heard.

      “It is not unjust to not allow female altar servers because being an altar server is not a right.”

      It is unjust if it is done capriciously and without good justification.

      “First, boys are often acutely aware of the close proximity of girls who are not their sister, and this can be a distraction.”

      You do realize that this is essentially the same argument made for making women wear veils? Men cannot be distracted by all that flesh. So, boys are distracted: the problem lies with them, not with the girls (unless you think all girls live only to “distract” boys). And if the problem is with the boys, then the solution should involve them.

      “Second, being an altar server is traditionally a way of getting boys to consider the priesthood.”

      Well, maybe, in one narrow time and place. But that tradition has faded in most places.

      • doug

        If the rule is simply arbitrary and without good reason, the solution is to change the rule.

        Regarding boys, you can state the boys need to get over it all you want, but that ignores normal human development. It also reveals an arbitrariness that I think you hoped to avoid. One could just as well tell the girls to get over it as the boys. But a nine year old boy will likely stop being an altar boy. One will end up with a predominance of altar girls. A reasonable solution is to allow siblings to serve together, or only girls if they are unrelated. I’m surprised you didn’t look at this as a solution.

        But that’s the thing. It becomes a matter of pursuing power, rather than looking out for another’s weakness. I was indifferent to the issue of veils, and the cut of blouses, and skirts until the women in our homeschooling group really pushed the issue. They were not concerned about their own rights or power, but about looking out for the weakness of another. It was the Christian thing to do. They didn’t say “Hey, it’s the guy’s problem if he gets distracted or feels unwanted attraction”, but “Let’s keep the weak from falling”. That’s not to say it’s not a guy’s duty to keep his thoughts in check, because it is. Absolutely the guy needs to deal with it, but what’s wrong with others helping him out with it?

        If we looked out for each other more, instead of insisting on “our rights” and pursuing “authority” and “power”, we’d all be a lot better off.

      • Kurt

        If the rule is simply arbitrary and without good reason, the solution is to change the rule.

        Which is what was done.

        Regarding boys, you can state the boys need to get over it all you want, but that ignores normal human development.

        You introduced an unproven assertion over human development that is held by a small minority. Being a minority does not make you wrong, but one test is consistent application of the theory. The theory that girls distract boys is also the basis for single sex education. Parishes who sincerely accept this theory will not have co-ed schools or CCD. Those that do and try to ban women, are insincere.

        But a nine year old boy will likely stop being an altar boy.

        Scads of parishes have not had this experience, including my own.

        A reasonable solution is to allow siblings to serve together, or only girls if they are unrelated. I’m surprised you didn’t look at this as a solution.

        No one here excluded it. I know a parish that assigns the lay liturgical ministries to families (Mon, Dad, kids as lectors, servers, etc). A good practice, I think. However, I and others are simply arguing against a universal law that closes off these options.

        Lastly, let’s remember that the claim that altar service is only for potential priestly candidates has not only been used as a reason to exlcude women but to exclude African-Americans (under the pretense that it wasn’t race but those on a college prep track). And in my own parish, our best altar server is a person with Downs Syndrome. Try applying the priestly candidates only theory here and I’ll be happy to discuss it further with you in a dark alley behind the church.

        [Please, no violence or threats of violence, even in defense of folks with Downs Syndrome, a subject on which I myself have a very short fuse.]

      • Julian Barkin

        “Well, maybe, in one narrow time and place. But that tradition has faded in most places.”

        And have you visited or talked to any FSSP parishes? I say you should and if you ask the priests there whether any of their servers are at least considering vocations if not going to seminary, I’m sure you’d find the above statement proven incorrect. Also on the contrary SFO Cruz, in how many novus ordo parishes with the altar girls (there are one’s without or girls are the minority) do those vocations come about?

        [A note of correction: my name is David Cruz-Uribe. “SFO” is an abbreviation for “Secular Franciscan Order” denoting membership in this community. “SFO Cruz” is not my name. Please call me David, or David CU to distinguish me from any other David’s who might be posting.]

      • Kurt


        I don’t think think anyone is disputing that it is a fine idea to encourage boys who might be candidates for the priesthood to be altar servers. But doing so does not preclude also allowing others, be they women, the disabled, or trade school students, from having the opportunity to be altar servers.

        If the theory is that boys who are possible priestly candidates don’t like to serve with girls — well, why we might have an overall shortage of priests, but recent news accounts have shown that we certainly have filled our quota of priests who aren’t interested in women :)

      • Thales

        “Second, being an altar server is traditionally a way of getting boys to consider the priesthood.”

        Well, maybe, in one narrow time and place. But that tradition has faded in most places.

        72% of American seminarians in 2010 were altar servers.

      • doug

        “Lastly, let’s remember that the claim that altar service is only for potential priestly candidates… ”

        Kurt, I never said it was only for potential priestly candidates. I said that it was a way to get boys to consider the priesthood. I’ve seen fathers serve alongside their children, and developmentally disabled adults serving as well, and that’s a good thing. You make many good points, but please don’t attribute something to me that I never said.

      • Kurt


        How good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is as pleasant as the oil that runs down on the beard of Aaron!!!!!

        I am glad we can in Christian brotherhood agree that encouraging boys who might be potential priestly candidates to be altar server is desirable and good, but service at the altar need not be limited to them.


        As are a good number of female religious (i even recall a newly professed member of the traditionalist Nashville Domincans saying her vocation was sparked by service at the altar) and many Catholics in lay ministry.

  • Bob

    Why are altar girls allowed today except for the fact that “altar girls were allowed in the 1990’s”? It doesn’t seem to me that you are providing a reason why they should be allowed.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO


      I stand with the arguments made during the 1980’s: there are no good justifications to prevent women from serving in this lay ministry, and to continue to do so when women can be both lectors and eucharistic ministers is discrimination masquerading as traditionalism. These arguments seemed to carry the day in the 1990’s, and they have not lost their force since then.

      • Thales

        Do you see a benefit in girls and boys having opportunities to belong to groups which are segregated by sex? I’m not thinking sex-segregation exclusively and all the time, of course, but on occasion. I’m asking because I’m wondering about your view regarding the underlying premise regarding sex-segregated groups. If you see no absolutely no social or developmental good to having sex-segregated groups like Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, etc., then you may be right about it coming down to discrimination. But if you recognize a possible good to having sex-segregated groups like the Boy and Girl Scouts, then I wonder whether there is an analogous argument to a boy altar-server-group and a girl lector/decorator/prepare-the-sanctuary-group

      • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO


        I am okay with same sex groups provided that such groups are not used as an excuse to privilege one gender over another solely on grounds of gender. A good example is college sports. Its okay to have men’s and women’s teams: it is not okay to spend 10 times as much on the men’s teams than on the women’s teams (all other things being equal) on the rationale that the “men are more serious competitors” etc. (One has to go back to the 70’s and the Title IX fights to find this kind of language.) Further, I would want to see some good reason for segregating the sexes, and I would be very suspicious of offering substantially different activities based on sex: e.g.: “the boys can play in the mud and the girls can back cookies.”

        So, since both men and women are allowed to be altar servers under canon law, I really don’t see any justification for relegating them, as you suggest to “lector/decorator/prepare the sanctuary.”

      • Thales


        No, I wasn’t thinking about sports — obviously, they should be segregated in most sports contexts due to the different physical abilities of boys vs. girls and the fact that sports often have close physical contact. Instead, I was thinking of the social and educational benefits of associated with same-sex classes, or social groups. Perhaps you don’t see a benefit. If so, then I disagree with you.

      • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

        No, you misunderstood. I am not opposed to same-sex groupings, but as is the case for sports, there have to be real reasons for the separation, and, as I said about, the separation cannot be used as an excuse to privilege one group over another. I have not seen a lot of benefit in it, but in some circumstances I see no harm either.

        But in the case in question I see no grounds for drawing such distinctions.

      • Thales

        I know that you’re not opposed to same-sex groupings, but you’ve only identified one instance of it: sports. And I’ve said sports is an obvious example. But I’m more interested in the social, developmental, and pedagogical benefits of same-sex, non-sports-related groupings. I think there are benefits, and I suspect you disagree.

        • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

          Thales, what benefits do you see in such groupings?

  • Morning’s Minion

    I think “female altar server” is most appropiate. I personally don’t know any “girls” who serve, but I do know adult women. In my parish, it’s nearly all adults who serve (including myself). This will probably offend some, but here it is – I think it is better that way. More solemn. More reverent. Less sloppy.

    But as to the question, I have absolutely no problem with female altar servers. Remember, women served with the pope in his UK trip, and I can tell you with certainty that the Vatican (Marini and company) vet every single aspect of a papal Mass.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      Interesting. I have not seen adult servers in years, except for the occasional seminarian on a training run.

      • The Western Confucian

        Here in Korea, except for children’s masses, all the altar servers are adult, and male.

      • Julian Barkin

        Actually at my parish I go to, on occasion my fellow youth ministry members will, as adult males, fill in for a missing server or on request, such as my best friend in the group who got asked 2 weeks ago to serve one of the the confirmation masses.
        Also at another parish there is a fellow alumnus of my cousin’s grad year that lecotrs, EMHCs, and also still altar serves. One mass I went to where he was lectoring, they were so badly short staffed he had to EMHC and serve in addition to lectoring. That’s a sad sign really.
        Quite possibly, I might even ask my colleagues in the youth ministry about re-training to serve again and might think about it for the TLM community if I don’t get hired in the next months for a job.

    • samrocha

      I like this point, MM. Perhaps only the confirmed should be allowed to altar serve?


      • Julian Barkin

        Sam I like your thought in a sense: The maturity expressed by those who are at least 13 might actually help make the serving better, more reverent, and those in the pews might like seeing the older youth up there. And they just might even be more likely to think about a possible vocation to the priesthood or other lay avenues in the Church.

        However, I disagree in a sense too. Delaying the age would cut off early exposure to serving for the youth, and once kids usually hit their teens, they aren’t exactly gung-ho on church period. So you lose them before they even begin.

      • Darwin

        So do we take it from this that arbitrary rules based on sex are not okay, but arbitrary rules based on age are? Why?

      • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

        Though I am not sure I would support a rule requiring confirmation, I don’t see it as arbitrary: one can make a reasonable case based on spiritual preparation etc.

      • samrocha

        Agreed, David. Confirmation as a prerequisite is clearly not based on age. Nor is sacramental preparation arbitrary.


    • Agellius

      MM writes, “I have absolutely no problem with female altar servers”.

      Really?? You amaze me!! ; )

  • Paul Boman

    This issue appeared recently on the Pray-Tell blog. There were no particularly compelling arguments proposed there either. It seems that opposition to female altar servers in the EF is based on either the “we didn’t do it that way in the old days.” Or the “female altar servers are preventing more priestly vocations” argument. Neither is particularly convincing, although the former is at least demonstrably true. Irrelevant, but true.

  • Kurt

    I don’t have any theological arguments, although I’m sure that some could be made.

    I’m not so sure, but if someone wants to try,go ahead. But I don’t think theories of pop sociology are a solid basis for prohibiting women from this lay ministry.

  • samrocha


    I think that the way you gloss over the history is a bit too dismissive. Things like this are complex and statements like, “I thought the question of altar girls had been settled twenty years ago.” convey a simplistic way of thinking about questions. As far as I am concerned, I don’t like to think of any questions as “settled” within the dynamic life of the Church. This, for me, is a much bigger and more serious issue than the prescriptive question of altar girls. After all, that question raises more basic question about roles in the liturgy and whathaveyou.

    I hope this helps,


    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO


      I was definitely acerbic and curt, but I don’t think I was being too simplistic. This question was thoroughly thrashed years ago, and as has been pointed out, the authoritative interpretation of canon law is that women can be altar servers. There are deeper issues here, but I think that this most recent ruling is an end-run on a decision some people didn’t like.

  • Darwin

    As I recall, the way that the Vatican issued it’s permission back in the ’90s was by saying that this practice could continue where it had become the practice. Since, obviously, it’s not the practice in Tridentine groups, it doesn’t seem like it would be any kind of a surprise that female altar servers would not be extended to EF masses.

    I’ve only been to an EF mass a handful of times, and there are some problems that tend to crop up in Tridentine mass groups which I find rather troubling. That said, I also find it rather disturbing that some “mainstream” Catholics feel such a strong urge to kick the Tridentine folks around, it makes it rather clear that the liturgical imperialism which was evident in the efforts to “Latinize” the Eastern rites is far from gone. (After all, there’s not necessarily an absolute, theological, from first principles reason why the Eastern rites should do things differently from us, they just do because they are different.) There still seems to be a strong urge to force people into liturgical conformity simply because they are different and “we” don’t like them.

    (And yes, one can reply that they are abrasive backward types who think their ways are better, but come to that you can meet a fair number of those hanging around in some Eastern parishes as well.)

    There are several hundred years of devotion behind the way that things are done in the EF, and I don’t see that there’s a need to change them or wipe them out simply because they’re different.

  • Brian Killian

    Are there traditions of female altar servers in other liturgical traditions? I used to attend an Eastern Rite liturgy and there were no female altar servers. If there is no tradition in other liturgies, that would seem to make the Roman rite use of female altar servers an innovation wouldn’t it?

    As for a theological argument, this is basically how I would approach it:

    In our culture, we don’t appreciate the fact that sex and gender are just as much signs and symbols of God as the rest of creation. This may be because we don’t tend to see ourselves anymore as being a part of the world, as part of creation.

    Sexual nominalism is at the root of all the disagreement over the Church’s stance on sexual issues. We don’t appreciate the difference of the sexes and the (possible) theological differences that makes. So we think “why not homosexual priests?” or “why not women priests” or “why not gay marriage” or “why not intentionally sterile sex?” or “how could there be any difference between boys or girls serving at the altar?”

    But I think one could assume that there was a reason (relating to revelation) that God created men as male and female. There surely must have been good reason that the incarnation was male (pertaining to sacrifice), and on a related note there must have been a good reason for Jesus to teach us to call the first person of the Trinity the Father.

    Revelation runs through creation and right into being male and female and sexuality as well. Ratzinger affirmed in a CDF document that the human sexual domain is a theological domain. So there must a theological chain of links that goes something like: liturgy-Christ-male-altar-sacrifie-incarnation-creation.

    Now since the liturgy is a ritual made up of signs, could we not ask if the presence of females serving at the altar represents a clash of symbols? That is an argument I would experiment with if I happened to be a theologian. At the moment, it’s merely an intuition. Personally, I think it might be better to have the girls serve the liturgy of the Word, but not at the altar.

    • Thaddeus Kozinski

      This is the best answer so far. There are deep issues here; so far only Brian has brought up and articulated them adequately.

      Authentic tradition can be looked at as irrational prejudice, or it can be seen to be God-breathed and ordained. It would seem that a liturgical tradition so historically continuous and unanimously upheld as altar-boys is not something to be so flippantly compared to an irrational prejudice. The Church is telling us that altar-boys in the extraordinary form is not to be changed. It is Traditionl Listen and obey!

      Let’s be more childlike here and just listen to our Mother and obey. Stop trying to be so avant-gard. And if you think I am some rad-trad, see my serious critique of traditionalism here:

  • Kurt


    I’m not suggesting any of your questions are unfair. But I notice you don’t answer them and nor I have heard good answers from anyone else.

    Anyway, I have worshipped with Eastern Christians that use women altar servers, but I think the better starting point is that Paul VI made it very clear this is a lay ministry.

  • A Sinner

    This is absurd. They shouldn’t be allowed because it’s not traditional. The point of allowing the Old Rite was so that people could have the traditional liturgy of their church again. Female altar servers (and communion on the hand) would have been anathema back then. Why should the Old Rite have to suffer the indignity of two permissions given only in the face of disobedience in the first place? It’s just…inimical to the whole spirit of the traditional rite. It is an aesthetic question, in that sense, and people who try to to make a political issue out of it are just ridiculous. If you want your female altar servers and all that, keep attending the Novus Ordo as I’m sure you do. Why try to make the Old Rite a battleground with the traditionalists on questions like this?? Seems petty to me.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      It is worth noting that in the article I linked to above, the priest interviewed for “local color” used women as altar servers for his EF masses. He had a single serving team about equally divided by gender. So there is no unanimity among traditionalists on this question, and there existed at least one parish that was willing to accept female altar servers.

      This reminds me of something that happened in my parish in the late 80’s when altar girls were introduced by the pastor. One parishoner, who had strenuously opposed them, noted approvingly after the fact that the girls dressed better and generally conducted themselves more reverently when on the altar. He actually thought they would provide motivation for the boys to get their act together.

  • Pinky

    David, what about pastoral care? The intention of the 1984, 1988, and 2007 documents was pastoral. Kurt apparently likes the idea of offending those who prefer the EF, but it seems clear that the Old Mass and other traditional rites have been allowed to expand due to the attachment of many of the faithful. That puts the onus on you to explain why an action that is certain to offend the faithful should be taken.

    • Kurt


      As I said, I expected and accepted the Vatican recent universal edict that women are to be excluded as altar servers at EF Masses, even though the permission for the EF is only to use the rubric of 1962, not canon law of the time. But they do wrap themselves in trouble with their lack of knowledge of hsitory.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      Please see me response to A Sinner above.

      • Pinky

        David, that doesn’t really provide an answer. You mention that some traditionalists don’t object to it, but common sense, human experience, and the length of this comment section tell me that many people would object to it. You can’t answer a pastoral concern by pointing to people who don’t share that concern. The Church is supposed to reach out to all of us, right? The expansion of the Old Rite is an adaptation by the Church heirarchy to an unforeseen development. This is an outreach. It doesn’t make sense to invite unnecessary conflict.

      • Kurt


        I’m a little confused about your call for a pastoral approach. The Church has moved to make Mass according to the rubrics of 1962 available whenever a priest finds reason to offer it. And it allows the celebrant of either the current liturgy or the pre-’62 liturgy to use only men as altar servers.

        One priest an ocean away from us decided to use the ’62 Mass with boy and girl servers and a world-wide protest demand and won a universal edict taking away the discretion of the celebrant on this question when using the E.F. So were are left with the question of the pastoral care of those who get hot and bothered because one priest on the other side of puddle is using girls at an E.F. Mass.

      • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

        I tend to agree with Kurt: why make a universal rule? If this is a pastoral issue, it needs to be handled locally, where there clearly is variation.

  • Eric Brown

    Brian, I think your intuition has served you well. Signs and symbols are essential to this question, and indeed to the whole liturgy. I would like to add a few points to your musings.

    First, I find it interesting (because it seems to affirm my general opinion) that a Catholic (Brian) exposed to the liturgy and tradition in an Eastern church would highlight signs and symbols.

    It seems to me that the Western mind (generally) approaches liturgy abstractly, with a baggage of a priori presuppositions, i.e. what is important (or essential) and what is secondary. Certain “moments” of the liturgy are artificially singled out, chiefly, the consecration and Holy Communion, in such a way that it is divorced from the rest of the liturgy (which has been reduced to two acts) and this is in general, though not ultimately, to the detriment of the life of the Church.

    This is a subtle point, so more needs to be said. Think of the Latin emphasis on the “real presence” of Christ in the Eucharist which arose (historically) from fear that it would be degraded to the category of mere symbolism. But this is only a problem if something that which is symbolic ceases to designate something real; to the East, symbol and sacramental remain interchangeable.

    But this shift in thinking, where symbol is antithetical to reality, in the context of the liturgy, leads to a view that symbolism is mere representation or illustration, reduced to didactic dramatization,and mere decoration for the two essential “moments” (the consecration and Holy Communion) which are all that really matters. These things are all that should not be really manipulated when it comes to liturgy, if all else is mere symbolism.

    This point of view is the first problem. Perhaps it is interesting that those of this point of view are more likely to overlook the derogatory implications of the title Novus Ordo (new order) suggesting some sort of break in continuity, even if legitimacy remains. Regardless, I think there is some correlation between this shift in view and the liturgical crisis facing the Latin church.

    Secondly, the Latin church historically has been associated with power in the temporal sense and the language (“authority” and “power”) produce a hierarchical mindset, yielding a sort of clericalism where the Church (as an institution) is perceived merely an ecclesiastical power structure.

    In modern times with the rise of the women’s rights movement challenging oppression and discrimination against women by secular authority, the perception of the “institutional” Church as ecclesiastical authority — whose nature and form are human and therefore arbitrary — opposed to women in “leadership” positions or having “equal roles” in the life of the Church gave rise to a similar movement in the Church, primarily advocating the ordination of women.

    The problem here is one of theology. Comparatively, the Eastern churches (to my knowledge) never struggled in any significant way with clericalism as the Latin church did; the laity (and on some matters only laywomen) are not discussed in primarily negative terms, in regard to their limitations, in what they are not permitted to do (enter the sanctuary, for example, or for women, be ordained).

    The Church, as we all know, is a mystical reality and in her we all become partakers of the divine nature, by theosis, and are brought to the fullness of life in God. In a Byzantine church, for instance, the organizational space conveys this very point: the iconostasis, the images along the walls, beyond the altar, on the ceiling, collectively create the impression or rather through symbolism (not mere illustration) incarnate the mystery of the Church, the visible and invisible, on earth and in heaven. We share in the celestial liturgy and marriage feast of the Lamb.

    This all may seem totally tangent to the whole question raised, as I did not address the question directly. Though I think this analysis may shed a new light on the question of girl altar servers.

    The mentality that girls are being “denied” some alleged “right” of “equal access” to serving at the altar is telling; similarly, I think the mindset revealed by the one who says there are no good reasons for not changing, therefore, why not change, reflects the aforementioned reduction of the liturgy (to some degree) to “two acts” whereas everything else is only secondary. (Perhaps I am wrong on this.)

    This point stands even if we were to ignore the issue of “participation” and whether or not full inclusion (or exclusion) is contingent on being eligible to be assigned a task during the liturgy, and not only that, but tasks “equal” to those that may be done by anyone else, what ever their gender may be, as anything else is contrary to the “good” of “lay participation.” (Don’t misunderstand me and think I believe that lay participation is a bad thing).

    My point essentially is this: I think, first and foremost, a proper understanding of the Christia
    n liturgy is essential before this question can even be addressed. Only from this perspective can one realize that using political categories of rights, equality, discrimination, and so forth are of no use here. We are dealing with the Divine Liturgy which is wholly a gift, where no one has any “rights,” just an abundance of grace and blessing of the “not yet” of Heaven already “in our midst.”

  • Mollie Wilson O’Reilly

    David said above:

    Or, Rome could have been admitting that those who were breaking the rules were, in fact, right: that prohibiting women from being altar servers had no reasonable justification.

    That’s exactly what happened in 1994. The Vatican finally confirmed that under Canon Law, as revised in 1983, there was no reason the ministry of altar server could not be performed by females as well as by males. It’s a lay ministry, as Kurt has pointed out. So talk of accomodating “disobedience” isn’t quite right; in fact, it had been licit for girls (and women) to serve at the altar since 1983, and Rome just didn’t get around to clarifying that until 1994. I’ve written a lot about this at dotCommonweal: here, for instance.

    Darwin said:

    As I recall, the way that the Vatican issued it’s permission back in the ’90s was by saying that this practice could continue where it had become the practice.

    No. But what the Vatican did say was that bishops and pastors who didn’t want to allow female altar servers could continue using only boys for whatever reason they liked. (The ones who prefer a boys-only policy tend to cite “practical” arguments like Doug’s, in my experience.) That’s the situation we still have; it doesn’t make a lot of sense, and this policy re: the EF is similarly inconsistent. I have to agree with David: this is turning back the clock for the sake of it. Either women are allowed in the sanctuary or they are not.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      Thanks Mollie, I was getting ready to make similar points.

  • Sofia Loves Wisdom

    Interesting discussion. Just yesterday at Mass my daughter told me, “Mom, I really would like to be one of those,” and she pointed to the servers. I asked her why she wanted to and she said, “I just would like to serve God.” I am so glad that we live in a time where she can respond to a call and desire to serve God without being told that because of her gender she cannot.

    • Thaddeus Kozinski

      Oh yes, we are some much more virtuous and enlightened than our Catholic ancestors. Yes, of course the ban against altar-girls is just plain gender prejudice and nothing more. How about if she wants to serve God as a priest? Since that cannot change (as John Paul II has said), your argument will only cause her to despise the Church for being prejudiced against women. It is not about gender prejudice. To say that the liturgy has been prejudiced against woman for 2000 years is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and the utmost arrogance. Your argument is fundamentally Protestant.

      • Kurt

        To say that the liturgy has been prejudiced against woman for 2000 years is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit

        No one is saying that. The early Church had lay ministries that included both men and women. By the 9th century, these lay ministries had been supressed and the so-called “minor orders” emerged. The minor orders were restricted to men by canon law not by liturgical rubrics, so there is no issue of the liturgical question here. In the early modern era, young boys were allowed to substitute for men in the minor order of acolyte (an innovation). Under Paul VI, the minor orders were abolished and therefore there was no minor order for young boys to substitute for. However, lay ministries, like in the early church, were restored.

        Thad, I think you might be a little arrogant.

  • Brian Killian

    Remember that this liturgical situation is a temporary one, the pope seems to want the two forms to meld into each other in some sense so that the liturgy is once again an organic development. So eventually, things could go either way: the future may see one Roman Rite liturgy with altar girls, or one Roman Rite liturgy with no altar girls. Either way, there will not simply be one form with altar girls, and one without.

    I imagine that the same will be true of communion in the hand and maybe some other things.

    • Liam

      The pope as pope has indicated no such thing, but curial words are (as it typical) put into his mouth.

  • Paul Boman

    Thaddeus, the praxis of worship is not completely constrained by ancestral forms. There is a fundamental theology, and doctrine of worship which falls under the proper heading of “Tradition.” This is constant, although even these aspects of liturgy have undergone ritual change and development. Not every aspect of the past is so mandated however. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the ban on female altar servers can be viewed as gender bias precisely because the role of altar server has been noted as a lay rather than clerical function. There is no theological rationale for excluding one segment of the People of God from activities which properly belong to persons of that canonical status. Further, those aspects of liturgy which do not fall under the aegis of doctrine are, in fact, subject to interpretaion and influence in their cultural contexts. I don’t know about where you live, but certainly in the contemporary western world, gender bias is considered culturally unaceptable. To ascribe the full weight doctrinal authority to a practice which simply was not an issue prior to the 1980’s is a huge presumption. The fact that women and girls were not admitted to this (now) lay ministry prior to 1994 in no way precludes subsequent permission. There is no blasphemy here at all. However, if you are asserting that there has not been a persistent denegration of women in the history of our theological writing, you are simply incorrect.

    • Cindy

      If we had all adult alter servers, maybe the sexual problems between priests and children would not have happened. If it were only adults around preists, maybe the world the entire would would have been better off.

  • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

    “To say that the liturgy has been prejudiced against woman for 2000 years is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and the utmost arrogance.”

    No, I do not believe she is saying that the liturgy is prejudiced against women. She is saying that the men who led the Church were prejudiced against women, or at least never questioned sexist stereotypes inherited from the larger culture. This is not arrogance: it is a humble recognition that we are sinners and fall short of the gospel message. To call it protestantism is just a cheap shot. Instead, come up with a reasonable explanation—in the face of canon law that holds that altar service is a lay ministry that can be held by both men and women—for forbidding girls from being altar servers. For bonus points, make it one you can use to explain it to a 7 year old girl.

  • Cindy

    I believe I must be abnormal. For the life of me, I think and wonder why people concern themselves with worries of this type of nature? I really wonder if God really cares? Is God sitting up there in heaven, looking down on us, and is he angry because females were allowed to be alter servers? How dare they let those females in there. Anyone that has allowed this is going to get it. I mean really, in the big picture. Of all of the problems going on in the world. Of all the people who lack so much in this world, I wonder if God is really worrying about female alter servers, when there literally is so much human suffering that exists in this world. You see, this is exactly what is deepening my turn off of organized religion. Everyone thinks they have a say, and everyone thinks their say is the right one. Who really cares? I honestly could care less. I mean it from the bottom of my heart, and it doesnt even faze me. I’m not ashamed that I feel this way. What is the harm in having female alter servers? Are females (by some religious code) less important then men? It’s just silly. Really. That time is even wasted on this, really shows that we are insane. Really.

  • Paul Boman

    Brian, your last post would seem to imply that you consider the liturgical reforms following Vatican II to be a departure from the organic development of the liturgy. I would disagree most strenuously. I’m also not sure that the circumstance you are positing, namely a regression away from the Conciliar reforms due to the personal taste and preferences of one pope does constitute organic development.

  • Thales

    After reading all the comments, I wonder:
    Does everyone here agree that prejudice against women when it comes to priestly ministry is not unjust? That it’s not unjust to tell a girl that because of her gender, she cannot respond to what she thinks is a call and desire to serve God in a priestly ministry? If you disagree, that’s fine — but then there’s a significant underlying issue that has to be addressed first before we get to the topic of altar servers.

    Now assuming that we all agree that it’s just for only men to be priests, don’t we also all agree that getting men interested in the priesthood is perhaps the single most important concern for the Church, because it is only through men answering the call to priestly ministry that the Church can actually continue existing and the people of God can continue receiving the sacraments?

    If we all agree on the importance of getting more males interested in the priesthood, it doesn’t seem strange to think that a priest might believe that having only boy altar servers in his parish would encourage greater interest among the boys. That’s not to say that girls can’t be altar servers – they can. And that’s not to say that the priest’s judgment could be mistaken in the particular circumstances of his parish – it could be. But being a server at Mass is a privilege that the parish priest can give or not give to whoever he wants to, not a right that everyone is entitled to. So I don’t know why it’s outrageous to think that boy altar servers would encourage more vocations, by making more of them interested in being an altar server, by leading them to think that the priesthood was appropriately masculine vocation, etc.

    • Cindy

      Did you ever wonder about the nuns and what happens to them when they retire? Many of them are left in poverty. I know in my parish, the nuns would come and give talks and basically ask for money (donations) to help their cause. I always find that so sad. Women can be called by God as well. The best teachers I had growing up were the nuns. So for me personally, if you are called to give your life over to God, if you are not going to have children (a task that would keep you from living out your ministry) then yes, I really don’t see why women can not be priests? But it’s a mans world. And I realize that is just me. I really don’t understand it. Now granted in the olden times, women had a duty to their families. They were responsible for raising the children, and when men like the Apostles were called up by Jesus, they traveled to far and distant lands to spread the word. Someone had to stay behind and raise the children. Yet, now a days, you have women who forgo having children. They give up everything a man gives up, and yet they are not equal. Is that how it’s viewed in God’s eyes? That we are somehow less than a man, and therefore, we couldnt have what it would take? We dont have the power to consecrate the bread of life? If your answer is no, then why? I mean, I get the old ways, what has gone on in the past, and that the church holds fast to old ways, as they honestly feel there is more power in the olden ways. If it’s new and modern, I get the feeling people fear it, and feel it is losing it’s umpf. Yet when you really look around at the world today and people today, I wonder if it really is all that different. You always had your peagans, and they seemed to out number the religious people in the oldent times. Today, I would say the religious people out number the non religious people (at least in our country) and yet somehow people feel that the olden times were more powerful, and that Christianity has lost it’s umpf in the world. So if you believe that Christianity has or is losing it’s umpf in the world. Ask yourselves why? If you really believea more Traditional approach is going to be what solves it, then I would have to disagree. It has to be inside of you. How it gets inside of you may have a lot to do with love and a calling, and acceptance. There is a shortage of men in the priesthood. Why? If it continues — what will the future hold? There were scandals of sexual sin of men abusing children in the priesthood. Somehow, those protestants that people make fun of and hold out to be so less than a Catholic, seem to not have that type of scandal. Why? Because they are married and have not excluded women from them.

      • Thales

        The Church has enormous respect for women. The Church has enormous respect for women choosing the religious life and encourages it. It’s a very good thing and I wish more women answered that vocation. But being a priest is a different issue, and I recommend that you do some reading on the topic, because the Church has reasons for not allowing women to be priests that have nothing to do with discrimination. As for protestant churches, unfortunately they’ve had sex abuse scandals too that you apparently aren’t aware of.

  • Kurt

    don’t we also all agree that getting men interested in the priesthood is perhaps the single most important concern for the Church,

    No, I would agree with Bl. John Henry Newman that getting men and women interested in Baptism is the single most important concern for the Church.

    If we all agree on the importance of getting more males interested in the priesthood, it doesn’t seem strange to think that a priest might believe that having only boy altar servers in his parish would encourage greater interest among the boys.

    The Church already does quite well finding priests among boys who like being around other boys. I think we are a little short in priestly candidates among the other type of boys.

    But being a server at Mass is a privilege that the parish priest can give or not give to whoever he wants to,..

    And that is what has not been honored in the recent Vatican edict. A priest in England used his judgment and his critics went to Rome to get a rigid, universal order taking away a celebrant’s discretion at Masses of the E.F.

    • Thales

      1. No, I would agree with Bl. John Henry Newman that getting men and women interested in Baptism is the single most important concern for the Church.

      I’ll give you that one, considering the call to “go and baptize all nations.” You’re right — getting more people interested in Baptism is the most important concern. But getting men interested in priests is still up there as an important concern.

      2. I’ll ignore the snarky comment about boys.

      3. I’m entirely unfamiliar with the E.F. and the policies and practices with it. I was speaking from what I know about the Church’s stance with regard to the O.F.

      • Kurt

        3. I’m entirely unfamiliar with the E.F. and the policies and practices with it.

        Well, read the original post that all of this is suppose to be in response to.

  • Phillip

    This from Redemptionis sacramentum is just to point out that even in the ordinary form altar boys are preferred and altar girls allowed.

    “47. It is altogether laudable to maintain the noble custom by which boys or youths, customarily termed “servers,” provide service of the altar after the manner of acolytes, and receive catechesis regarding their function in accordance with their power of comprehension. Nor should it be forgotten that a great number of sacred ministers over the course of the centuries have come from among boys such as these. Associations for them, including also the participation and assistance of their parents, should be established or promoted, and in such a way greater pastoral care will be provided for the ministers. Whenever such associations are international in nature, it pertains to the competence of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments to establish them or to approve and revise their statutes.121 Girls or women may also be admitted to this service of the altar, at the discretion of the diocesan Bishop and in observance of the established norms.”

    • Mollie Wilson O’Reilly

      “Altar boys are preferred and altar girls allowed” is not what that text says. To interpret it that way is to mentally insert a restriction — a word like “preferred “or “only” or “exclusively” — where it does not appear. If the CDW wanted to say boys-only altar-server corps are “preferred,” I’m confident they would. Instead they just say it’s “laudable” to have boys serving at the altar — something no one disputes — before clarifying that girls and women are also permitted to serve — something that has been denied in the past. It’s a classic “As the Church has always taught…” intro — the usual sleight of hand to distract from the admission that the church’s policy actually has changed. But to use it to claim that Rome really prefers only boys, or wants girls to serve only when there aren’t enough boys available, is wrong.

      • Phillip

        “To interpret it that way is to mentally insert a restriction — a word like “preferred “or “only” or “exclusively” — where it does not appear. If the CDW wanted to say boys-only altar-server corps are “preferred,” I’m confident they would.”

        That is to mentally insert your own reading. Something can be preferred but not used to mean “only.” One can prefer something but accept something else and clearly I do not use the word “only.” The fact that the text uses the term “laudable” seems even stronger than preferred but if you wish to use laudable instead that is fine. Boys as altar servers is “laudable.” This to contrast with “girls…may also be admitted… at the discretion of the diocesan Bishop…” This fairly clearly seems to “allow” (which is a rather weak term) without the strong use of “laudable. ”

        Thus I think the distinction “preferred” and “allowed” is used accurately. This as opposed to your comment that “Rome really prefers only boys…” which I’ve never said and which is wrong to claim that I have.

    • Melody

      You know, that’s almost worse than just saying girls aren’t allowed. It sounds like “We really, really, want and welcome boys, but we’ll put up with girls if that’s all we can get.”

  • Kurt

    Historical Chronology

    1. Multiple and diverse lay ministries exist unrelated to preparation for sacramental ministry and distinguished by charism rather than hierarchial order.

    2. Lay ministries suppressed, informalized or attached to the radical innovation of “clerk” (pronounced “clark” in some parts of the English speaking world of the time).

    3. “Clerk” is a radical innovation where broad segments of the lay faithful are made clergy by canon law even though they lack the sacramental grace of Holy Order, the true source of clerical status. While a radical innovation, nevertheless it is hard to see how the Church would have maintained her independence from the state without it. The Christian Kings were much less fair in their exercise of justice than our modern day liberal and social-democratic parliamentary states. Having removed clergy from the jurisdiction of the civil courts, the Church moved to expand the definition of clergy. It also produced abuses such as lay persons receiving benefices (sometime even plural benefices) and removing political opponents of the King from his jurisdiction.

    4. While the names of the suppressed lay ministries were sometimes attached to gradations of clerks (i.e. “exorcist”), it seems to have been an afterthought. The term “clerk” without further definition is used for those with clerical status except those with sacramental orders or monastics (male and female). The primary function of these clerks was administrative, for which they were taught to read and write. Hence the modern use of the term “clerk” to also mean a secretary or stenographer.

    5. Changes as a result of the Reformation and the Council of Trent lead to the loss of civil exemption of clergy (sacramental, male and female monastics and clerks) and the development of the seminary system for the education of candidates for the priesthood. The clerical status of non-ordained male and female monastics become a matter of concordant between church and civil authorities. Seminarians were deemed clerics and the gradations (now termed “minor orders”) took on significance as steps towards their ordination (as did the sacramental order of deacons – sadly in the opinion of some). Clerks started to disappear from parish churches.

    6. Lacking clerks, parish priests began using boys at the substantial number of private Masses they celebrated in order to have someone say the people’s responses. In violation of church law, they began giving these boys the liturgical duties of acolyte. The only people not in the order of acolyte permitted to perform the functions of that office were women (namely women in monastic enclosure). Of course, having a parish priest and a woman alone at a private Mass was considered a scandal.

    7. Bowing to the widespread dissent, the Church permitted men who were not acolytes to act as such. The practice spread from private Masses to Masses with a congregation.

    8. The developing movement for liturgical reform promotes the Dialogue Mass, in which the people say their responses rather than having them said for them by the altar server. Liturgical conservatives insist the purpose of the altar server is to represent the LAITY at Mass and therefore it is not necessary for the assembly to respond.

    9. Paul VI abolishes the minor orders as steps to the priesthood and restores the offices of lector and acolyte as lay ministries in their own right.

    • A Sinner

      “‘Clerk’ is a radical innovation where broad segments of the lay faithful are made clergy by canon law even though they lack the sacramental grace of Holy Order, the true source of clerical status.”

      Hmm, except it goes back to almost the beginning.

      Speaking of the “true source” of clerical status is silly; the clergy/lay distinction is only ever a canonical one (hence why there can be such a thing as a laicized priest). So it is up to the Church to decided who gets the canonical status of “cleric” and who doesn’t.

      Very early on, the “internal logic” of the liturgy (East AND West, mind you) had it such that only clerics could be, strictly speaking, public pray-ers, because only clerics were public representatives of the Church. (Even choir-nuns, for their Office, thus have a pseudo-clerical status lacked by the so-called “lay sisters.”)

      The idea of specifically lay liturgical ministries makes no sense in the lexicon of the Church used for 1500 years, because “minister” by definition meant cleric (ie, someone publicly deputized to represent the Church, first and foremost in Her liturgical rites), even if they started using substitutes-for-clerics after Trent as the Minor Orders became vestigial stepping-stones in seminary.

      The “real” solution, of course, would have been simply to unvestigialize them and start extending them to (married) men in the parish.

  • Brian Killian


    You could say that the Novus Ordo is theologically organic. But it’s creation was not historically organic. Ratzinger connects this historical break in the liturgy with the hermeneutic of discontinuity that we’ve seen since the council. So Ratzinger is doing the strongest thing he can to advance the “hermeneutic of reform in continuity”–by bringing the “liturgical continuity” back together with the “liturgical reform”.

    Actions speak louder than words right? Especially liturgical actions! So it’s not a regression or backing off of liturgical reforms, it’s about grafting them back onto their roots. We can’t go back to the EF and forget that the council desired reform (and many are manifested in the OF), but neither can we have a free-floating OF that spawns endless nonsense because it has no historical roots with what came before it.

    Ratzinger’s “releasing” of the EF is a grand gesture–like those that JPII used to make–that stabs the faulty interpretations of the council in the heart.

  • Paul Boman

    Brian, you seem to be forgetting the century plus of increasingly sophisticated study of the liturgy which animated the reform agenda of the Liturgy Constitution and the subsequent committe work which implemented these reforms. Gueranger, Beauduin, Botte, Casel, Gy, Michel,Diekmann, McManus, and a host of others were not inventing a new liturgy out of whole cloth. I know of very few current liturgical scholars who would buy into Benedict XVI’s hermenutical conclusions. I suspect you and I are going to continue in our own hermeneutical divergence as well. Fortunately, we are a large Church. Pax et Bonum.

  • Kurt

    To those who think allow girls to serve along side of boys hurts their masculine pride, I would refer them to the photo linked below. Clearly these young men’s Catholic traditionalist sponsors have already gone further than anything I can think of to try to make these boys feel femmy and it has not stopped them from being altar servers.

    • Melody

      Couldn’t have bribed or threatened my boys into wearing that! One of them was a server; fortunately the garb was plain and simple. (Seriously, if the girl N.O. servers were wearing those outfits; wouldn’t we be hearing about how distracting and inappropriate they were?)

  • JudeThom

    Altar girls have no place in the Novus Ordo Mess–the pope did not want them but the bishops disobeyed–and they certainly have no place in the TLM. Does Eastern Orthodoxy have altar girls? No. Would you see an altar girl at an Orthodox Divine Liturgy flipping her hair this way and that? No. The TLM is Catholicism at its best–the Novus Ordo Mass is really a Protestant-Catholic hybrid Mass with really bland “conference hall” attributes.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      The sexist assumptions inherent in your description “flipping her hair this way and that” make me question the real grounds for your objections.

  • A Sinner

    The rubrics didn’t ban altar girls or communion on the hand because it was simply ASSUMED, like ad orientem (whether “true” east like the major basillicas at Rome, or “liturgical” east as most other places). If the rubrics of the liturgy were supplemented by positive decrees in canon law, this was a later development that likely only came about because legalism had started causing people to think anything not explicitly stated was up for grabs (when before these things would have just been obvious and assumed).

    It is intellectually dishonest, and simply political, to not consider these things part-and-parcel with the rubrics of the Old Rite, even if there is no particular statement in the 1962 Missal mandating them. The Old Rite has an inner logic, structural to the liturgy itself, and it would have always considered certain distinctions essential and certain accidental. The spirit of the law must be followed, not the letter. These things are definitely against the “spirit” of the old liturgy.

    Something like women veiling (though it goes back to Paul himself…) can reasonably be considered non-obligatory, even at EF Masses, because this was indeed a discipline (now changed) not touching on the liturgical RITES themselves (but rather simply the dress-code of the congregation). The same can be said for, say, married permanent deacons participating in an EF Solemn Mass (a deacon is a deacon is a deacon, after all, and the fact that he is married does not touch on the rite itself, does not visibly alter what’s going on in the sanctuary). The same can be said for style of music of architecture or vestment. They always would have admitted these things were possible in the past IF canon law were changed, they were known to be extrinsic to liturgy strictly considered as such.

    But to act like the limitation of the ministers to males or the mode of reception to communion on the tongue are not integral to the holism of the traditional rites themselves…is simply to show either a total lack of familiarity with the ethos and inner logic of the old liturgy (something that wouldn’t surprise me coming from people advocating altar girls in the old rite), or else is a sort of textual positivism (“the rubrics of the old missal don’t say it explicitly, so it must be something canon law dictates”) being invoked (with willful ignoring of which distinctions the old rite would itself have considered essential vs accidental) deliberately to serve political ends.