Thursday, August 25, 2011

Via Father Z: Should the altar girl decision be reversed? My position as a former altar girl

From Father Z: The formidable William Oddie, a columnist of the UK’s best Catholic weekly, The Catholic Herald, has an opinion piece on the 1994 interpretation of the Latin Church’s Canon Law which permitted service at the altar by females.   Keep in mind that this service was already being done abusively in many places before this interpretation of the law.   Many people at the time thought that this decision was a mistake.  Many people today think that the decision was a mistake.  William Oddie thinks the decision was a mistake.
At the end, I will include a WDTPRS POLL.  RELATED POLL HERE.
With my emphases and comments.  Remember: there is also a combox open on the site of The Catholic Herald.
The 1994 statement permitting girl servers was a mistaken tactical retreat which led to a fall in priestly vocations. It’s time to withdraw it
Undoing the damage will take time: the sooner the Church starts to clear up the mess, the better
By William Oddie
The rector of the Catholic Cathedral of Phoenix, Arizona, has decided that girls will no longer be allowed as altar servers (though they will continue elsewhere in the diocese). [For links... here. NB: the decision in Phoenix is sparking meaningful conversation across the globe.] His reason is simple: he thinks that an all-male sanctuary promotes vocations to the priesthood. “The connection between serving at the altar and priesthood is historic,” he says: “it is part of the differentiation between boys and girls, as Christ established the priesthood by choosing men. Serving at the altar is a specifically priestly act.” I’m not sure, to be pedantic, that that’s entirely orthodox (in the context of the Mass, only the priest himself performs specifically priestly acts), but one knows exactly what he means: what the server does is intimately related to the Eucharistic action and can be seen as an intrinsic part of it: the server is a kind of extension of the priest himself; if there were no servers, the priest would do what they do. According to Fr Lankeit, 80 to 95 percent of priests served as altar boys.  CONTINUED 

 Here is my response from Father Z's blog: 

As a former altar girl I agree with Oddie, at least for the most part. I grew up in a small town in MD which was actually in the Wilmington, DE diocese where I started out being an altar server at the end of 5th grade and I graduated from 8th grade in 1991 so I guess my diocese or parish interpreted the law in this fashion before it was declared in 1994. I had a few pro-feminist nuns in my parish so it’s actually not much of a surprise that the rules would have been broken. I would limit the girls to being a cross bearer. This way the girls can still feel like they are still involved with the Church but without doing any of the more overt seminarian functions. I really enjoyed my time as an altar server and having assisted priests and bishops at Mass. It was truly an honor for me and probably helped my faith to flourish in a number of ways and that is why while I would eliminate girls as being altar servers I would say that they should still be allowed to be cross bearers. Just have them sit with their families during Mass. I think having girls serve alongside boys as altar servers is confusing to the guys when the Church only has male priests. It sends mixed-signals to the guys – girls are okay to serve alongside me now but it’s not okay later. The role of altar server should be a stepping stone to the priesthood, in their discerning whether they are called to the priesthood or not.

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