An interesting defense of the male priesthood

An interesting defense of the male priesthood January 16, 2013

is sent to me by (female) reader Alias Clio:

I have a defense of the ordination of men only that I think might intrigue or even satisfy a few feminists, while not outraging at least some Catholic traditionalists:

In our fallen world, human males, like males of certain other species of larger mammals, are roamers by their animal nature. Like male lions or male elephants, they wander alone or in short-term groups of males, looking for mates.”Societies” among such mammals – including ourselves – are formed by females and their children – groups of mothers, sisters, and offspring of both sexes. Humans, having larger brains and free will, can aspire to more than such “societies”: we can create cultures. In cultures, men and women work together to create and impose a set of rules and obligations on both sexes.

Cultures (in my sense of the term; don’t know if anthropologists use it this way) are designed to do two things: to lessen the danger to society posed by rogue males (look at what male lions do to the offspring of other lions); and to make it possible for men to achieve their potential by attaching them to larger goals than feeding and reproduction.

To achieve these goals, culture starts off with one rule, the most important of all: it compels human females to select *one* mate at a time – a husband, and to keep to him only during their “breeding seasons.” Thus a husband can know which offspring are his, increasing his interest in them and improving the society in which they live. Impressed by the success of this system, most cultures go on to more elaborate and enduring forms of marriage.

Cultures restrict both sexes, but there is no doubt that their restrictions, in some ways, fall harder on women than on men. The trade-off for women is that they no longer have to see their male children disappear into the violence and lawlessness outside the social pale.

Christian priesthood comes along much later in the process of civilization, but, like monogamous marriage, its purpose is to tie men as well as women to the Church, to lead them to accept and embrace a role that might otherwise seem too feminine. BTW, This rejection of femininity comes not from hatred (not necessarily, anyway) but from every man’s need for psychic independence from his mother, whose sexual destiny he cannot share. (See article in First Things.)

If women had been permitted to be ordained priests, only women and gay or effeminate men (yes, I know these are not the same thing) would have become priests. Worse, only women and gay or effeminate men would have embraced the virtues championed by Christianity: self-sacrifice, humility, resignation. This would not have been good either for society (females + children) or civilization as a whole.

If you think I’m wrong about this, look at what is happening to men from the middle-class down in North America as they increasingly reject marriage and Christianity, or are rejected by potential marriage partners (it’s hard to say which it is): they become lazy, introverted couch potatoes, if they are of pacific disposition, or, if more aggressive, they turn into dangerous rogue males, or are drafted into the gangs led by such males, depending on how dangerous their neighborhoods are. At best, they abandon everything that smacks of effeminacy – music that isn’t rap; dressing well; good manners; the ability to dance – all associated by them with women or homosexuality. Note that even non-homophobic, gay-marriage supporting “hipsters” tend to do this.

If you want a Church that serves all human beings, not merely women and the few men who identify with them, you must, paradoxically, accept male leadership for it. Knowing this, Jesus ordained it that men should be the leaders of the Church.

I’m not saying that this is a comprehensive list of the reasons for a male priesthood in Christianity, just that it is one that might make sense to feminists, while remaining true to some of the human and divine reasons for it.

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  • Metro

    Nice! I’d posit also that pregnancy and motherhood is a sacrifice and form of service which women claim by nature. We are physically a home for a child, then a food source. Men do not have that physical tie. Men need to get their model of what sacrifice and service mean from fathers, society, modeled by a male, to learn how to do that, as a male – and priests as father are critical to “iconing” what sacrifice and service are for a man in the faith.

  • James H, London

    I think I recognise Alias Clio’s handle from a relationship blog (Alpha Game Plan and/or Hooking Up Smart). There’s some good sense there, nearly all the time, and this is of a piece.

    It’s glaringly obvious that monogamous, heterosexual marriage civilises men, giving them a stake in its future, which leads them to work for its growth. The church reinforces that by frowning on divorce and fornication, both of which are lethal to marriage (and therefore civilisation). Women, as the gatekeepers of sex, have always borne the brunt of that disapproval: as long as they say ‘no’ outside of marriage and ‘yes’ within, everything goes just fine.

    If a church is led by women, are they as likely to maintain that blanket disapproval? Women in general don’t like ‘being the bad guy’ in a situation, their strength is conciliation rather than confrontation. And even if they are willing to lay down the law, would they have the personal power, the social capital, to back up the condemnation of anti-family behaviour by men? It makes sense that a church that allows divorce, tolerates fornication and refuses to be ‘judgemental’ has lost its cohesive force, and the logical next step is female ordination. It certainly would explain why female ordination seems to be the kiss of death for any church.

  • A Philosopher

    Best not to let women vote either, lest that institution also become gendered female.

    • Andy, Bad Person

      Yawn-a-rooney. I may not be a philosopher, but I know a straw man when I see one.

      • A Philosopher

        What’s wrong with the analogy, then? The abstract structure of Alias Clio’s argument is: the priesthood, and social engagement with religion, serves valuable social purposes. Allowing women into the priesthood will gender the priesthood, and by association religion, female. Men will engage less with institutions that are gendered female. So, allowing women into the priesthood will decrease a social good. Now do a global substitution of “priesthood” with “voting franchise”. If the form is valid, it remains valid.

        • ivan_the_mad

          I’m not sure that I agree with the submitted defense (which I would consider less a defense than an attempt to engage on ground specific to a perspective), but I would criticize your analogy by noting that suffrage is a legal matter, while the priesthood is something more transcendent.

          • A Philosopher

            I’m not sure I see why the legal/transcendent distinction matters here (notice that neither term shows up in my abstract sketch of the argument). And other examples are easy to construct. Best not to let women teach or rear children, lest that become gendered female. Best not to let women enter religious orders, lest that become gendered female. Best not to let women care for the sick, lest that become gendered female.

            • ivan_the_mad

              Because for an argument by analogy to work, your terms need to be as alike as possible. Suffrage and the priesthood originate from very different principles, the former being legal and the latter theological. The former is equality before the law; the latter is truth via revelation (I know you don’t hold revelation as axiomatic, but I do). That is why I don’t accept your particular analogy.

    • ivan_the_mad

      I couldn’t agree more. Let’s combine forces to undo female suffrage!

      They see me trollin’. They hatin’.

    • Maiki

      Voting takes like five minutes to an hour once a year on average — more if you vote in small elections, less if you live overseas or only care about national elections. Priesthood is a full time job and vocation that pretty much forsakes other jobs and familial connections, and severely limits recreational time and activities. I’m not sure how they are comparable.

      (not saying I agree with the argument posited — seems to work for some things like yoga classes and synchronized swimming, but works less well for coed living groups/communes so I’m not sure this is the best argument for a male priesthood, though I agree with the concept in general for specific religious reasons)

  • Eva M. H.

    What is a “pacific disposition”?

    • ivan_the_mad

      From Latin pax, pacis meaning peace.

  • Beadgirl

    I’m sure this argument would appeal to some feminists, but not to me. It smacks too much of biological determinism, and generalizes too much about women and men for my liking. Especially since I know quite a few modern, secular, liberal men who see the Church as outdated or wrong, and are neither couch potatoes nor dangerous rogue men, but instead are honorable, hardworking husbands and fathers.

    I am also losing patience with the argument that men won’t participate in something if too many women are involved, or if it is perceived as too “feminine.” For one thing, it strikes me as juvenile (are men afraid they’ll catch girl-cooties?). For another, the underlying assumption is that anything feminine is not good enough for men, and I’m tired of my sex being considered inferior or second best.

    And then, can you imagine the outrage I would generate if I said that I didn’t want to go to Mass because what with all the priests, deacons, altar boys, ushers, etc. it’s all too “masculine” for me? Isn’t that the argument of some who advocate for priestesses? Why is it ok for men to make the flip side of this argument?

    • ivan_the_mad

      “It smacks too much of biological determinism, and generalizes too much about women and men for my liking.” Ditto. But as I noted above, I think calling this a defense is inaccurate; rather, I think it’s more an attempt to engage a particular audience on their own ground in the hopes of engendering openness to further discussion.

      • Beadgirl

        Fair enough.

        blah blah blah, happy now, spam filter?

    • Addressed


      We can not order the sea to rise or halt just because we wish it, so too with people. Identification and separation are very important to a person’s development. This is shown in adolescent rebellion and when young men join gangs in the absence of a father. Healthy development for young men (according to my limited understanding of psychology) is to differentiate between masculine and feminine and to identify with the masculine. You probably know more about psychology than I do; my knowledge is too limited to critique it, but this aspect seems to make sense to me and also to conform to what I have seen in the real world.

      Men want to be men, especially young men. It is good to want to be identified as male and to be given a place among men you look up to. I can not speak from my own experience but I imagine so too it is good for a young women to be identified as female and to be appreciated as female and accepted into the company of women. This is not to say one is good or one is bad, it is about understanding how the good Lord made us, both in common and unique to others.

      • Beadgirl

        My issue is not with men wanting to learn how to be men and seeking the company of men through formal or informal groups, or wanting to engage in masculine things (I’ll leave the debate as to what is and isn’t masculine for another time), but rather the decision to also avoid anything perceived as feminine or that involves primarily women. Or worse yet, to look down on anything feminine. They are not mutually exclusive. Men are men and women are women, but our humanity (and the fact that we are all made in God’s image) trumps all.

        This often comes up in explaining why more laymen are not involved in the Church and its various ministries. I’ve read people argue that the reason is because too many women are involved in the choir/religious ed/prayer groups/charity work/what have you, and men don’t want to participate in something that women do. I find that reasoning silly. And, frankly, dangerous, if they are avoiding activities that are good for their souls and the world, simply because women are doing them too.

        • Al


          I would argue that it is the “Masculine Virtues” that are under attack and are being explicitly rejected & stamped out by a “Feminine Society”. Duty, Honor, Self-Discipline, Drive & Pursuit, etc. Courage & Confrontation in pursuit of the Truth are under attack by a feminized and therefore female-lead society. Not the other way around. The Erudite Orthodox Jew Dennis Prager makes the argument here in context of the Judeo-Christian framework

          • Al

            Also Dr. Peter Kreeft, Boston College has much to say about it here in this talk as well as here in an exposition with Alice Von Hildebrand.
            Women & the Priesthood

            Matters of Sexual Symbolism

          • Beadgirl

            While I agree virtues such as duty, honor, self-discipline, and courage are undervalued in today’s society, I would not describe these virtues as necessarily masculine. Motherhood, for example, has taught me quite a bit about duty and self-discipline, and I think virtues such as honor and courage (and the “feminine” compassion) should be encouraged in both sexes.

            I read the article you linked to, and I think it has a number of flaws, but I don’t want to get more off-topic than I already have.

            • Al


              The problem with “Modernity” is
              A. Deconstructionalism which Peter Kreeft feels is the most evil unproductive philosophy that has ever been conceived
              B. The “Exception” is the “Rule”.

              Of course Male & Masculine, Female & Feminine are not necessarily tied to biological designation…none-the-less they have been connected to the male & female whether we like it or not or how much we want to shake our fists at God.

              You can recognize this phenonomenon today….its called “Marketing”. Indeed some groups of people have similar attributes that they can be categorized in….this is how “The Pepsi-Generation” works. We can even take these attributes and assign them to Male & Female and be “Mostly Right”.

              The argument from “Exception” is the most tiresome argument in all of contemporary society.

            • Rosemarie


              >>>While I agree virtues such as duty, honor, self-discipline, and courage are undervalued in today’s society, I would not describe these virtues as necessarily masculine. Motherhood, for example, has taught me quite a bit about duty and self-discipline, and I think virtues such as honor and courage (and the “feminine” compassion) should be encouraged in both sexes

              I agree. Self-discipline is a type of self-control, which is a fruit of the Spirit. Courage is best manifested in Fortitude which is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Women can and should exercise these virtues. Duty and honor are not foreign to us either; Confirmation makes us soldiers of Christ as much as our brethren. Many female saints have exemplified these virtues.

        • Dan Berger

          Beadgirl, I’m reminded of a story I heard a long time ago on a fundy-Christian radio station. The radio preacher told the story of a certain, recently deceased preacher.
          This man, on one of his preaching tours, stopped at a gas station. While waiting for his gas to be pumped, he overheard a middle-aged woman invite a young “manly man” to a revival meeting.
          The young man responded by scoffing, “That stuff’s just for women, children and old men!”
          At this point the preacher (all 6-feet-whatever and 300 pounds of him) butted in, told the young man that he was the preacher at that event “for women and children” and invited him out behind the gas station. If the young man lost, he’d go to the revival meeting.
          The young man went to the revival meeting.
          Not vouching for the veracity, just the example of how — where the rubber meets the road — the Church is perceived as something non-masculine, which “real men” disdain. The most effective preachers for such men tend to be reformed members of hypermasculine communities.

          • Beadgirl

            Heh. I like that story!

            If that is how the Church is perceived, I believe the solution is to change the perception, not change the Church.

    • Rosemarie


      >>>I am also losing patience with the argument that men won’t participate in something if too many women are involved, or if it is perceived as too “feminine.”

      About twenty years ago, around the time the Church finally permitted female altar servers, I heard people arguing that this would lead to the demise of altar boys because “boys don’t want to do anything that girls are doing.” Two decades later, I still see boys up on the altar, often right alongside the girls. Maybe they’re not so afraid of “girl cooties” after all.

  • Al

    Sure its an interesting premise to mull over..

    However, I think though it would be wise for “Christian Feminists” to look for other “Root Causes” within the “Gender * & Scientific Naturalistic Framework” when it comes to problems with the world. I would be heartened to see “Gender Theories”:Shudder: that bravely & seriously consider whether women have any direct, knowledgable & willful hand in modern societies & Christianity’s continued decay sans any hidden “Male Root Cause, Biological or Otherwise” OR remove any reasoning that implies that these are “Logical Reactionary Female Responses Resulting from Male Behavior”…… P.S I very much appreciated the authors reference to “A Fallen World”.

    Now Why do I say this? I’m sure many men would agree with the following statement that despite MY best attempts and I suspect theirs, to avoid the incessant Feminist Rhetoric from the media & public square, I’m pretty sure we all have an Encyclopedic knowledge on every discernable reason the world is upside down as it relates to our biological designations as “Male”….. given to us by the Creator.

    The intellectual argument here is interesting yes…the day-to-day reality of the culture, media & public sqaure if we are talking about “Sex Designation” and all that? Let me quote Dieter from Sprockets: “Your story has become tiresome… is the time on Sprockets when we dance!”

  • Mark R

    Women can be just as messed up as men. Better to turn one’s focus on the “image” of God the Father, how this is very different from a putative goddess, how Christ is the reflection of in space and time of God the Father, how the two sexes are complimentary and not intended to be competitive when in their their apposite role, rather than self-designed anthropology whose creation is ideally constructed to corroborate one’s thesis.

  • Kenneth

    This is, hands down, the most tortured and tenuous justification for the male priesthood that I have ever seen, and I have seen a lot. It’s a crazy quilt of quasi-Freudian notions of men turning misogynist out of resentment of their mothers. How wonderfully Edwardian! That’s followed by interconnected webs of speculation anchored to more speculation to somehow try to link the male priesthood to the social and economic problems of young men today (which have to do with an economy that has left them behind.)

    The funniest piece, by far, is the suggestion that men of yesteryear, perhaps the Greatest Generation, were down with feminine values whereas today’s guys are a bunch of misogynists (all because we failed to all fall in line with the male Catholic priesthood!) Anyone who can make such an assertion and walk a line has obviously never talked to an old guy.

    I don’t care whether Catholics ordain women or not, but it seems to me that an all-male priesthood is either rooted in sound theology, or it is not. Traditions of that magnitude should stay or fall based on deep belief, not contortionism such as this.

    • Mark Shea

      It always amazes me how much time non-Catholics waste fretting over the fact the internal workings of a priesthood they regard to be engaged in a waste of time in the first place. I could not care less who Druids think should and should not be performing druidic rites. Why do non-Catholics care so much about how the Church arranges its furniture and orders its internal affairs when the whole thing is bosh to them?

      • Kenneth

        In this case, I was much more interested in the line of argument than the subject at hand. In my own weird way, I identify with the traditionalists. You either ought to believe in a thing for what it is on its own merits or not, rather than trying to mentally finesse the square peg into the round hole. Contorted arguments that shortcut all over are painful for me to read, regardless of the subject at hand. It’s painful when I do it in calculus, and it’s painful when I see it in theology. Anyone’s theology.

        I think there are some interesting topics within all of this relating to how men and women participate in groups based on their perceptions of whether it’s a “man’s thing” or “women-centric”.

        • Rosemarie


          If I’m not mistaken, many Neopagan traditions have a High Priest and a High Priestess. The former is said to represent (and sometimes embody) the god and the latter the goddess. I see a certain similarity here with the Catholic belief that the priest, who represents the Man Jesus Christ, must be male. In both cases, a flesh and blood man stands in for a male or masculine Being. A woman acting like a Catholic priest would be as odd as a high priestess trying to represent the horned god rather than the goddess, no?

          • Kenneth

            That enters into a deeper and somewhat contentious area of pagan theology and metaphysical theory. Since we have no one canonical teaching, I must talk in generalities, but it’s not entirely true that we see the gender roles as mutually exclusive. Many of us, at least, believe that both genders embody aspects of masculine and feminine and that we can and should try to access both of them in everyday life and in ritual. Sometimes male gods speak very powerfully through women and vice-versa. It is correct to say that men and women tend to embody and channel deities of their own gender more efficiently and more consistently, and so there is a traditional role for male priests and female priestesses.

            Like I say, I don’t have a problem with Catholics saying God’s manifestations as a man require human men to act in His stead in ritual and sacraments. I sometimes wonder whether the question was examined as fully and honestly as it might be, but that’s not my fight. If it’s defined as a core and immutable part of the religion, that ought to stand on its own. It stands nothing to gain by trying to justify it with pop psychology speculation that tries to get in Jesus’ head to ascribe his choice of men to head off problems with social integration of men in 21st Century America.

            • Rosemarie


              >>>but it’s not entirely true that we see the gender roles as mutually exclusive. Many of us, at least, believe that both genders embody aspects of masculine and feminine and that we can and should try to access both of them in everyday life and in ritual. Sometimes male gods speak very powerfully through women and vice-versa.

              I guess we could similarly say that Christ has been known to speak to/through female mystics like St. Catherine of Siena, St. Gertrude the Great, etc. Mary has sometimes appeared to men or boys and made them carriers of her messages. Yet when it comes to representing Christ the Bridegroom in liturgy and Sacrament, a man is needed for this “iconic” role (for he is something like a living icon of Christ, through whom Our Lord Himself personally acts at the moment of consecration).

              >>>If it’s defined as a core and immutable part of the religion, that ought to stand on its own. It stands nothing to gain by trying to justify it with pop psychology speculation that tries to get in Jesus’ head to ascribe his choice of men to head off problems with social integration of men in 21st Century America.

              Alias Cleo’s argument is thought-provoking, one in a succession of unofficial explanations of/defenses for the Church’s all male priesthood. It may or may not have merit but it’s not the Church’s “official” word on the subject. in 1994, Pope John Paul II declared that the Church does not have the authority to ordain women because we must follow the example of Christ, who chose only male apostles. That’s the official reason given; other arguments from sociology, psychology, etc. are commentary.

  • Christ experienced crucifixion and the descent into Hell. He experienced the tearing asunder of His relationship with the Father. I have toyed with the idea, although never seriously enough to consider its orthodoxy, that given the overall wrathfulness and lustfulness of men, our tendency to be pretty huge jerks compared to most women, that it was most fitting for Christ to incarnate Himself as a man. In what better vehicle to experience estrangement from the Father? And in the male priesthood, Christ’s willingness to humble Himself even unto being born in the body and brain of the male of the species is re-presented. (N.B., If this is in the slightest bit heretical, I will happily abandon this partly jesting thought. Feel free to call me on it if that’s so.)

  • Caroline

    Men have to be humored. Even to get them to be priests, they have to be humored. And they will never be ashamed of needing to be humored no matter how pathetic the need.

    • Fr. David

      Humored? I was humored into the priesthood? Please explain. I’ve given up a spouse and family. I have no home. I’m told where to live, what work to do, and I can be uprooted at any time without notice. I have given my life to strangers. I spend a disproportionate amount of time with sickness and death. The culture thinks I’m a child-rapist. I work 80 hours each week. There’s no money in it. I get complaints and criticisms from all corners all the time. How am I being humored?

      • Chris M

        God bless you Father and thank you for your sacrifice and toil for God’s Kingdom. Sometimes we laypeople need a reminder of the sacrifice and difficulty faced by our Priests laboring day after day in the “trenches”.

  • Alias Clio

    I’m puzzled by Kenneth’s suggestion that my tentative justification of the male priesthood is “pop psychology.” Aside from my suggestion that boys need to break with their mothers (which he proclaims “misogynistic”) there is not a word of psychology in my comment. It’s derived from my reading in history and cultural anthropology, and my observation of human behaviour. Second, the social integration of men is not a 21st-century issue: it’s been a human problem since the dawn of history, as I tried to show in my comment. Third, Kenneth seems not to understand that while the Church requires that Catholics accept her doctrinal teachings, she does not demand that we follow them unreflectingly: we are allowed to ponder them, consider their meaning, and comment upon possible reasons for them.

    I also have an issue to take up with Rosemarie: she points to the acceptance of female altar servers, and the fact that boys still serve at the altar along with them, as a sign that boys do not fear “girl cooties” so much after all. The question is not one of boys’ fear of “girl cooties”. It is – pardon me for psychologizing, Kenneth – a matter of what boys need to find maturity. Boys do badly without male authority figures to guide them. Yes, I know there are exceptions to this broad statement, but it is a general truth of human nature. (Aside: The consequence of a lack of male authority figures is surely apparent in the fact that while African-American women are in general hard-working and non-violent members of society, that isn’t enough to keep their sons out of trouble. That’s not to dismiss racism and job losses as a factor – but why has the problem grown worse even as institutional racism declined? Surely the lack of male authority figures in black communities might be part of the problem, as it begins to be a problem in white, working-class communities?)

    Anyway, back to the male priesthood, and Rosemarie’s comment that female altar servers have not driven male ones away. No – but have you not noticed that the rise of female altar servers (which in my memory dates back 40 rather than 20 years, to the mid-1970s) does coincide rather neatly with a radical drop in candidates for the priesthood? And that too many of the candidates who remain seem indecisive and unsure of themselves, as if they have not really grown up, but remain stuck in perpetual boyhood?

    • Rosemarie


      Female altar servers may have begun in some parishes during the 1970s, but many others did not adopt them until 1994 when the Vatican finally gave permission. I never remember seeing them at all while growing up in the 1970s and 80s. I actually asked a nun at my home parish, circa 1980, whether I could be an altar server and she acted like that was an absurd, unheard-of request and an impossibility. So did my Mom. (My Lutheran friend served as an acolyte in her church; that’s where I got the idea).

      Even in the early 90s, when I started to hear earnest calls for them, it was always discussed as something that just a few parishes did in disobedience. I wish I had real numbers on this but I don’t, so that will probably make this discussion a little more difficult. I can tell you my own experience, though. The first time I ever saw them was shortly after my wedding. We moved to a new parish in a different diocese (we later moved back to my childhood diocese). A month or two after joining this new parish, the pastor announced that they would institute altar girls. This must have been early 1993, and they were only starting to do this for the first time.

      As for a drop in priesthood candidates, I don’t think that directly correlates to the rise of female altar servers. Just going by my own diocese, female altar servers were first authorized here in 1994, which is when I first began to see them here (after moving back). Over the past decade there has been an increase in seminarians in this diocese. Not a huge increase, but an increase nonetheless. The original drop itself was surely more due to liberal seminaries kicking out orthodox candidates and such, as others have demonstrated.

      I can’t say whether these new seminarians are particularly indecisive and unsure since I don’t socialize with them. Lack of maturity in males seems to be an across the board problem in the US today, for a variety of cultural reasons. I doubt altar girls played a role in that at all, since it’s found in young men of various faiths and no faith at all.

      I agree that men need male role models. And the question of altar girls is not a real biggie with me. If you don’t like ’em, fine, but the fact remains that the dire prophecies of twenty years ago haven’t come to pass. Girls haven’t ousted boys from the role of altar server, which was definitely predicted back then. And vocations to the priesthood are coming from many quarters, including older men who respond to the call later in life.

      • Rosemarie


        Incidentally, the parish I grew up in, which never had altar girls till 1994, was quite progressive during the 1970s and early 80s. The pastor removed the statues and painted over lovely murals of angels on the walls in the “spirit of Vatican II” (the current pastor is trying to have the murals restored, at long last). The most popular Mass was the folk Mass. I received First Holy Communion in second grade and First Penance two years later – shortly after the pastor had removed the Confessionals. We made our First Penance sitting and facing the priest behind a sheet; kneeling was not an option. The pastor would later remove the kneelers as well; a later pastor replaced them.

        I found out that my friend was an acolyte when I attended a worship service at her Lutheran church. Every year they held a service for the Girl Scouts who met at that church; my friend and I were in the same troop. IIRC, my Mom asked someone in our parish (I forget who) back then whether it would be okay for us to receive communion at the Lutheran service. She was told it was okay, as long as we knew it was just bread. Such was the free-wheeling attitude at our parish during the 1970s.

        But no altar girls. The nun there thought that was just the silliest request in the world. She wasn’t a reactionary either; she didn’t wear a habit and as DRE played her part in “modernizing” the parish.

  • Alias Clio

    Hello, Rosemarie. I didn’t mean to suggest that there was a direct link between female altar servers and the decline in candidates for the priesthood, but I was trying to point out that they *could* be related – that is, not that the former caused the latter but that they were both brought about by a perception that the priesthood is “gender neutral,” which is isn’t. I’m sure that liberal seminaries drove away many good, conservative seminarians, but I’ve also read that the numbers trying to enter actually dropped. Also, why didn’t this lead to an upsurge of liberal seminarians?

    Regarding your timeline, I can only say that I’ve seen female altar servers in every Catholic church but one that I’ve set foot in since 1973, including Canadian parishes all over Ottawa and across the country, a Nigerian parish church, and D.C. In general, I think the trend from the early 1970s until the election of Benedict was towards the acceptance of female altar servers, although without great enthusiasm in recent years. I suspect that your experience, to judge by what I’ve read and seen here and elsewhere, is somewhat untypical.

    • Rosemarie


      The only real connection I see between altar girls and the decline of priestly vocations is feminism. It instigated both. Radical feminist nuns bent on “changing the Church from within” became vocations directors in seminaries and ferreted out seminarians who believed women could not become priests, among other politically-incorrect orthodox beliefs. Yet I don’t think it was a cause/effect situation.