About this blogger:
A theorist, organist, and conductor, Jeff Ostrowski holds his B.M. in Music Theory from the University of Kansas (2004), and did graduate work in Musicology. He serves as choirmaster for the new FSSP parish in Los Angeles, where he lives with his wife and two children.
Connect on Facebook:
Connect on Twitter:
"It is frightful even to think there are children, victims of abortion, who will never see the light of day."
— Pope Francis (13 January 2014)

ABOUT US  |  HEADER  |  ARCHIVE
Controversy Over Female Altar Servers
published 14 February 2015 by Jeff Ostrowski

313 GIRLS OST WOULD AGREE that it would be strange if I prayed the following prayer each night: “Please, Lord, let me get pregnant.” The simple fact is, men and woman are different. However, modern society does not allow us to speak about the differences, so I won’t.

I love little girls and ardently want them to be happy & holy. I’m sure most Catholic priests do, too.

Let us now consider a recent video which says a “controversial new policy” excludes girls:

      * *  Local News Video • “Controversial New Policy”

Throughout the video, the Church’s 2,000 year tradition is conveniently never mentioned. Obviously, we cannot expect too much from local news stations, since they’re notoriously horrible and underfunded. On the other hand, videos on this topic have crossed the threshold into the absurd. A similar video interviews one woman who says, “If I were a parent at that school, I’d probably be upset.” Couldn’t they locate an actual mother from that school?

Here’s a quick overview of how female altar servers came about. Pope Paul VI first permitted the possibility of women readers around 1969—if local bishops gave their approval—and the American bishops did so immediately:

314 Women as readers


Notice that women were placed outside the Sanctuary and could only read in the absence of a “qualified” male reader. However, Pope Paul VI said clearly on 5 September 1970 (Liturgicae Instaurationes) that women could not serve at the altar:

7. In conformity with norms traditional in the Church, women (single, married, religious), whether in churches, homes, convents, schools, or institutions for women, are barred from serving the priest at the altar.   (5 September 1970)

Pope Saint John Paul II said the same thing (Inaestimabile Donum) on 3 April 1980:

18. There are, of course, various roles that women can perform in the liturgical assembly: these include reading the Word of God and proclaiming the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful. Women are not, however, permitted to act as altar servers.   (3 April 1980)

On 15 March 1994, the Vatican gave permission to individual bishops to allow female altar servers, with two important reminders:

“The permission given in this regard by some Bishops can in no way be considered as binding on other Bishops.”

“The Holy See wishes to recall that it will always be very appropriate to follow the noble tradition of having boys serve at the altar.”   (15 March 1994)

The videos we saw demonstrate how difficult (impossible?) it is for priests to continue the 2,000-year-old tradition in the Ordinary Form. For the record, the diocese of Lincoln—which does not have female altar servers—is a leader when it comes to priestly vocations.

SOME SAY that to withhold anything from young ladies is wrong. I’m not convinced that’s true. For example, in the Extraordinary Form, nobody except the priest is allowed to touch the Sacred Eucharist—and this applies to both men & women. I feel this is powerful, awesome, and wonderful. It is a mark of respect. I don’t see it as insulting towards anyone.