Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Altar Girls

By Colin B. Donovan, STL

(EWTN) Many Catholics are perplexed by the authorization of girl altar servers by the Pope. They are uncertain about the pastoral wisdom of this decision given 1) the shortage of vocations to the priesthood, 2) the traditional place of altar boys as a source of vocations, 3) the tendency of some younger boys to not want to share activities with girls and 4) the natural religiosity of the female sex which results in their saturating non-ordained offices in the Church. Yet, it is a decision which has been made by the highest authority in the Church and to which Catholics must defer and make their peace.

     See:  [/library/curia/cdwcomm.htm]

It is important to make some theological distinctions, too. This is not a matter of faith but of Church discipline. While having boys serve at the altar is a long-standing ecclesiastical tradition it is nonetheless a human institution, NOT divine, and therefore capable of change for sufficient reason. The judgment about what is sufficient rests with the Holy See.

What MIGHT have been those reasons? Since the Church had already opened other non-ordained offices to women (Reader, Extraordinary Eucharistic Minister, chancellor, marriage tribunal official and so on), all of which were previously excluded to women, and in some cases lay men also), the exclusion of girls from the unofficial office of "altar server" was something of an anomaly. In fact, it was on canonical grounds which the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts proposed ending this exclusion. For his part, the Pope may have been looking ahead to the publication only a few weeks later of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, his letter affirming the male only priesthood. The two decisions taken together amount to drawing precise theological lines between what is Church tradition and what is Apostolic Tradition, allowing women all offices in the Church not excluded by Divine Law (such as the priesthood).

In granting the permission the Pope gave to each bishop the full authority to decide whether pastoral circumstances in his diocese necessitated the authorization of altar girls. In an interpretation of this ruling, the Pontifical Commission for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts has stated, with papal approval, that even if a bishop permits altar girls in his diocese, priests are not required to use them.


Kathryn said...

This has been on my mind a lot lately as our oldest daughter approaches the age of altar servers. It is our inclination to tell her no, but I am not sure if this is the right answer. Thanks for sharing. It is something we need to pray about....

Pablo the Mexican said...

Who's side is the Pope on?


Dan Hunter said...

"In granting the permission the Pope gave to each bishop the full authority to decide whether pastoral circumstances in his diocese necessitated the authorization of altar girls."

The problem with this is that many bishops are, in actuality, material apostates and heretics and as such are not in union with the Holy Father and therfore cannot make correct pastoral desisions when it comes the diocese thay have been given.

Kathryn said...

Just found out this weekend more information about how this came about in our country... not enough to post anything here... but enough to help us to know that the right decision is for our sons to serve as altar servers but not have our daughters serve as altar servers. Thankful that I was able to be in a discussion with some good friends that helped us to see the issue more clearly. Of course we will continue to pray about this for our beloved Church.... St. Joseph, pray for us.

Dan Hunter said...

I do wonder why altar girls are not permitted in the Traditional Latin Mass, but they are in most Novus Ordo Mass's, especially if we consider that, by law, the Holy Father has said that both forms are equal under the law.
Thereby both the same Mass.