Friday, June 27, 2008

Madison, Wisconsin Church Nixes Altar Girls

I wanted to post my two cents on this topic here for the sake of future reference. (Mazomanie Church Nixes Altar Girls)

Recently, a church in Mazomanie has notified parents that girls will no longer be allowed to assist at the altar. Years ago, Pope John Paul II signed off on this issue but there are accounts that his signature may have been affected by his illness and a 104 degree temperature.

Nevertheless, I don't believe young girls should have ever been given this role. Aside from the fact that young boys have a tendency to shy away from anything that girls are doing, there is the issue of priesthood and vocation. The Catholic church could use a few more good men in the ranks and most priests started thinking about their vocation as they served as altar boys. When young girls are included, it sends a mixed signal. What would a little girl aspire to be if she is serving in this position? Ordination?

This is precisely what I believe many "progressive" Catholics want. They truly envision a day when women will be ordained as priests. And what would this do to convents and cloistered monasteries? Why can't we encourage our young daughters to consider the vocation of being a nun?

So, here is my response to the article:

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is not a political football field, awaiting those who disagree with it to make a strategic play.

1) The priest is an icon of Christ. Assisting the priest during the Mass has been done by acolytes, those who wished to become priests. They have always been male.

2) Jesus Christ could very well have named one of the women following Him to be a fully recognized Apostle. (Mary, His mother, Mary Magdalene, or Mary of Bethany to name a few.) He didn't. Women have no Biblical justification for demanding ordination.

3) Young boys need strong leadership and guidance at this age. Aside from the snide sexual remarks made - it is a fact that when young boys want to get together, the presence of a young girl seriously hampers any useful purpose for their growth.

4) The Catholic church is lacking in priestly vocations. Part of the reason is liberal spiritual formation and seminaries. Another part of this is because young boys have difficulty hearing the call to this vocation if young girls are included in this area. It's confusing.

The purpose of the Mass isn't to satisfy a longing to be recognized. It is to remember the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ and worship Him. It's not first about community - but about God.

Finally, if some don't like it, there are plenty of other churches: United Methodist, Unitarian, or even the Metropolitan Community Church. It's not that difficult in this day and age to find a church you can agree with.


Jeff Miller said...

Rather a silly newspaper overreaction.

First off Bishops can either allow this or not. If they do then Pastors also get to decide to allow this or not. In this case a Pastor did what was canocally allowed for him to do.

The history of how this came to be in the first place is rather interesting. Girl altar server were starting to be used prior to the Vatican ever giving permission (just like with washing the feet of women on Holy Thursday.) There was a question of the interpretation of Canon 230.2. The decision of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts in 1980 not only contradicted constant tradition, but overturned what had been a clear prohibition of female altar servers in two principle Instructions of the Holy See on implementation of the Council's liturgical reform.

So it really wasn't a case of JP2 initiating this, but his response to a bad interpretation given to him.

Only two Bishops in the United States did not allow female altar servers and these two diocese have also out-produced vocations to the priesthood. Now there is only one Bishop that does not allow this (Bishop Bruskewitz) and his diocese has the highest rate of vocations.

A 2001 letter from the Congregaton for Divine worship on altar servers restated that "it will always be very appropriate to follow the noble tradition of having boys serve at the altar." So if anything there should be a preference for altar boys, though most parishes it seems the oppositie. My own parish has never had altar girls. It is a prudential decision and not one that is doctrine, but it seems rather silly to do this when so many men never realize their vocations to the priesthood.

Tune said...

Hey Mary,

Having been lived in Madison for four years, I am not aware that there is a "Mazomanie" church in the area. But with that note, I think you definitely have some good points. My question would be, "How would you explain this matter to young women who have been serving as altar girls for their entire lives?"

Mary Rose said...

Jeff, thank you very much for such an informative comment. Of course I'm no Canon lawyer, but it would at least seem logical from the high rate of vocations that "only boys" is a good thing. I truly don't understand why it's difficult to see the connection between this and a greater number of vocations. Baffling.

Tune, a good question. I think what would be optimal is if both parents sat down with the young girl and discussed why having only boys is a good idea. Issues such as spiritual formation that could lead to a priestly vocation could be one topic raised.

If the young girl responded by saying, "Well, why can't I be ordained?" The parents could then address that question honestly and according to both the church teachings and Biblical precedent for male apostles. I'd even take it a step further and nudge the conversation toward nuns and convents. I'd ask my daughter what she thought of that type of vocation.

There are many things I would love to discuss with a young girl because I think women have such a unique opportunity to serve the church. In the Bible, women followed Jesus and ministered to His needs.

My questions to a young girl: What do you think are the needs of Jesus at this point in time? What do you think are the best ways to serve Him? And how can you serve Him now?

Bella La Befana said...

A completely faulty attempt at a cause-effect correlation.

Below are a few excerpts from this article...

In some vocation-rich dioceses, priestly ministry at high schools and colleges has proved to be of decisive importance. "Young, effective priest-teachers in Catholic high schools are the most impacting and influential factor in priestly vocations," says Bismarck vocation director Father Thomas Richter. Bishop Bruskewitz believes that "the extremely fine pastoral work of the priests of the diocese, particularly in Catholic education and at the campus of the local state university, brings tangible vocational results." ....

Officials of the nation’s most vocation-rich dioceses most frequently attribute their success to divine grace given in response to prayer. "Of course we know that it is the work of the Holy Spirit!" writes Bishop Paul Zipfel of Bismarck. Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln credits "first and foremost the atmosphere of prayer for vocations and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the patroness of the diocese." ....

The vocation directors of vocation-rich dioceses tend to be optimistic and go out of their way to invite young men to consider the priesthood. "Young people today are ready for a challenge and looking for a worthy cause to give their life for," notes Savannah vocation director Father Timothy McKeown. "The vocation to the priesthood meets these needs." ...

The nation’s 13 most vocation-rich dioceses all have fewer than 200,000 Catholics. The most vocation-rich larger dioceses are Denver (14th), Omaha (30th), Chicago (41st), Atlanta (43rd), and La Crosse, Wisconsin (44th). The most vocation-rich dioceses with more than 500,000 Catholics are Chicago, Washington (63rd), St. Paul and Minneapolis (64th), and Cincinnati (77th). Of dioceses with over 1,000,000 Catholics, only Chicago and Newark (80th) have vocation rates above the national median.

One reason smaller dioceses may be more vocation-rich is that their size allows for greater interaction between bishops and seminarians.

Not once are altar girls cited as deterring males from the priesthood nor is their absence attributed to the success of any of the vocation-rich dioceses.

How would the Jeff explain the high-success rate at the dioceses who have female altar servers? By his own admission, the diocese under Bruskewitz (he's a reactionary along the lines of Morlino - excommunicates those who don't kowtow to/agree with his positions - said he'd refuse communion to Kerry - refused to sign Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People ) is still the only diocese that bans females from being altar servers.