Sunday, September 21, 2008


The use of altar “girls” in the new (modern) Mass is an extremely sensitive issue. It was an issue in many parishes prior to 1994, due to the fact that bishops, for decades, had been thumbing their noses at Rome and doing as they pleased (How do you think “Communion in the hand” started in the late 1960s?). In 1994, after telling the world that he would never allow altar girls, Pope John Paul II, once again, caved in to his bishops and allowed them.

I am as convinced today, as I was so many years ago, that the use of girls at the altar has had a terrible effect on vocations to the priesthood, to the same degree that the use of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (EMHC) has had on vocations, and in belief in the Real Presence.

From a purely psychological point of view, little boys normally want nothing to do with things that involve little girls. That’s just human nature. What boys do want is to be involved in something special, seen as uniquely “manly” and just with the guys. To try and twist it another way, in our modern feminized Catholic Church, is to reduce boys to simply one of the kids who “bring a bowl of water to the Presider at the Eucharistic service.”

We, as a nation, have decided to feminize our boys. We don’t want them to join Scouting, teach them to hunt, allow them to play sports on “male only” teams. We have stopped teaching them chivalry, instead making them believe that boys and girls are the same on every level. We have forgotten why God made men and women so different. We have forgotten to teach our boys how to respect and love women, protecting them with their very lives if need be. We have forgotten who we are.

The Old Mass never had a problem with vocations, as thousands of young men heard a call to the priesthood while serving at the altar. They had to work 100% harder then the boys & girls today, as they had to learn and understand the complex rubrics of the low and high Mass, all responses in Latin, and a host of other things. Today, a kid who serves the new Mass, needs about half an hour to get it right, and even then, if he or she screws it up, who knows, who cares? Sneakers, high-heels, flip-flops or shorts, it’s all about how we “feel,” isn’t it?

I predict that when a parish moves away from altar girls, has only boys AND their dads serve at the altar, tells EMHCs to quietly sit down, and a few other traditional things thrown in, such as using real Catholic hymns, beautiful vestments, priests ( not “Presiders”) facing the tabernacle, using ONLY the Roman Canon (Eucharistic prayer #1), then our present disaster in vocations will start to turn around. Imagine if our current 5,000 in our seminaries returned to our numbers of 1965, and hit around 48,000? Now that would be something to celebrate!


Blogger Vir Speluncae Orthodoxae said...

Once again PreVat2 gives us a gem. Of course the modernist CINO's will stop at nothing until they turn Rome into the Episcopal Church.

11:06 AM  
Blogger The Digital Hairshirt said...

Well, I disagree, and my daughter will continue to serve as an altar server, although I do think you make a good point in that boys need more Catholic male role models.

Sadly, when I look around at many parishes today, the majority of people volunteering tend to be women. Especially at the Mass - sure, the guys come out for the fish frys and carnivals, because someone is needed to set up the booths, but so often it is women who do the "church" work.

I am happy that as I think of my own parish, we tend to be 50/50 on the presence of male and female laitry in various functions within the parish, in part because - and yes, I realize this is a broad generalization, so bear with me - we have such a large Latino population at our parish and Latino men, despite what you hear about machismo, are unafraid to display their piety towards the faith.

However, there is a need for latar servers at my parish, and I have told my daughter that as a Catholic, she needs to step up to the plate. And she does.

11:44 AM  
Blogger Claire said...

Another excellent post. I wish we had a few bishops who had the same grasp of their faith, and were as willing to proclaim them.

11:54 AM  
Blogger Kathy said...

I was reading about this lately and saw a comment from a man that said he was asked to research this topic for his parish priest.

What he found out was that Pope JPII had an pneumonia or really high fever the day he signed the paper allowing altar girls. And this was after telling Mother Teresa he would NEVER allow girls to serve.

Someone seemingly tricked him into signing. Anyway to confirm this?

1:24 PM  
Blogger Simplex Vir said...

Digital Hairshirt you are falling victim to modernization. You offer your daughter a glimpse into a life that she can never have. This is not a healthy thing to do. Boys grow up to be men and only a man can be a Priest. There are so many more ways that your daughter can contribute to her church and they are all much more healthy. You may not understand this but you just might be setting your daughter up for a break with the church later in life if she becomes so into serving that she wants to take it to the next level.

I hope you will prayerfully reconsider your thoughts if you look at it honestly in your heart you may find that you are being a bit prideful and selfish. Service at the Altar is a MALE responsibility.

5:47 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

In a "perfect" world, we would have just boys at the alter but, the real problem is, where's all the boys!? Parents of boys need to bring them to church first of all and then encourage them to be altar boys.

Another question would be, is do we need altar servers? If the answer is yes and there are no boys available--it only makes sense, like digi said, for girls to "step up to the plate" and serve.

I think another reason we have less boys showing up to serve is the sex scandals and the bad sentiments attached to being an "altar boy." Oh, I think I smell the stench of Satan somewhere in chasing the boys away!

8:39 PM  
Blogger PreVat2 said...

DIGITAL HAIRSHIRT: With all due respect, you ARE the problem. Your mindset is exactly what the great St. Pius X was talking about when he warned Holy Mother Church about "Modernism." As long as you have no problem with your daughter filling a traditional male role, (and as long as your priest backs such a move)....pray all you want for vocations. They won't be paying a vistit to your parish any time soon.

9:44 PM  
Blogger Vir Speluncae Orthodoxae said...

Digital Hairshirt: I don't doubt your well intentions, but you're doing neither your daughter nor your Church a service. If you allow your daughter to participate in heresy then she's going to join the "well why then can't we be priests" crowd which run practically all of Catholic Ed. This is how it starts: through incrimentalism.

As far as I know the Eastern Rites in communion with Rome forbid women on the altar, it's the Holiest of Holies and if women can be there, then it's nothing special and then it really is just symbol. Eastern Rite parishes tend to get shut down for such departures from orthodoxy, and yet such innovations are rampant in the "New Order."

Orthodoxy is the cure to the disease that is modernism. Either you're part of the solution or you're part of the problem.

10:08 PM  
Blogger Joe of St. Thérèse said...

What another wonderful gem.

I really believe that this womynpryst movement is self inflicted by having altar girls.

At Conventual Masses women were able to serve, but NEVER in the sanctuary. All liturgical functions were performed outside of the Sanctuary. They were either in the congregation or in the grill.

It's not healthy for a girl to tease her into something that she can't do. When discerning a vocation, or a job for that matter, you shadow those that are in the field. So if you're discerning to be a nun, you go to a Convent. A priest, you shadow at the altar. Even though there are many girls that perform the physical functions (genuflecting and such) very well, this is not the point of serving at the Altar.

Altar servers are substitutes for acolytes, who are male only. Technically speaking there should be no women in the sanctuary at any time during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

This isn't a power struggle. Women have their dignity in the Church, and just because one doesn't serve on the altar doesn't mean that they any less dignified.

Extra-ordinary Ministers should be that extra-ordinary, and shouldn't be used during Masses at all. And should only be used to give Communion to the sick.

If altar girls are to be permitted, let's change St. Paul's version of Ecclesiology while we're at it.

1:25 AM  
Blogger Leo XIII said...

Don't hold your breach for changes. Use of altar girls is so firmly entrenched that its result has been the complete absence of altar boys. What self-respecting young guy wants to get up before a crowd with a bunch of bossy, prepubescent girls. However, where altar girls are forbidden (e.g., eastern rite parishes), priestly vocations are numerous. Think about it.

8:37 AM  
Blogger Kit said...

In general, I agree - especially on the cultural feminization of our boys - and I am NOT a fan of altar girls. I wish that permission had never been granted, but there you have it.

That said, I'd much rather see a well-formed, properly trained, pure and pious young girl like the Digidaughter serving at the altar than a bunch of middle-to-elderly-aged women pushing and shoving each other on the altar to make sure they get to be "bread" and not "cup" ministers, and so that they can be out there front and center standing alongside the priest distributing the Host...or our brand new pony-tailed deacon (who my 10 year old thought was a woman at first glance) delivering a freshly downloaded e-homily wearing jeans and sneakers under his alb, mugging at his jeans-and-plunge-necked-blouse wearing wife.

Altar girls are there with the Vatican's written permission, whether or not we agree with it. A lot of the other unchecked "permissiveness" that goes on is far more troublesome and offensive to me.

8:39 AM  
Blogger PreVat2 said...

An interesting thought: What if parishes, who have to deal with Fr. Skippy, femanazi nuns, EMHCs, altar girls, BS Novus Ordo Masses, et al, suddenly decided to stop giving financially to the parish and the diocese. And I mean completely. Would the bishops change their tune?

The answer folks, is YES! Now you and I know that Novus Ordo (N.O.) Catholics will never do that because the majority of N.O. Catholics simply don't get it, and would be horrified at the thought. The bishops, no doubt, would bully and twist the press. But, damn, wouldn't that be a hoot?

Thanking God ever day that I have found my refuge in the TLM, washing my hands of the N.O.

10:07 AM  
Blogger chestertonian said...

Tara wrote: In a "perfect" world, we would have just boys at the alter but, the real problem is, where's all the boys!? Parents of boys need to bring them to church first of all and then encourage them to be altar boys.

Tara, the answer to your comment is in the post itself. PreVat2 wrote:

From a purely psychological point of view, little boys normally want nothing to do with things that involve little girls. That’s just human nature.

You can't create conditions that normal boys want no part of, and then complain that there are no boys.

11:10 AM  
Blogger PreVat2 said...

"You can't create conditions that normal boys want no part of, and then complain that there are no boys."

Brilliant point!! Go to the head of the class. Well done!

1:02 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

Well, if it is true that their were fewer boys being altar servers--to the point that JPII allowed girls to be altar servers--why did they need the girls, if it wasn't for the lack of boys?

It does not make sense that boys are staying away because girls are being servers--when there was a boy shortage before girls started serving--only then is when the girls started to serve.

Of course we would prefer only boys at the altar!

3:56 PM  
Blogger Vir Speluncae Catholicus said...

Orthodoxy is the cure to the disease that is modernism. Either you're part of the solution or you're part of the problem.

Does that include the KGB infiltration of the Russian Orthodox priesthood for the past century?

5:27 PM  
Blogger PreVat2 said...

Tara: If anyone has proof that JPII signed on to girls serving at the altar due to a lack of males serving around the world, I'd love to see that proof! The reality is that bishops around the world (especially in the U.S.) had been using girls at the altar for years. JPII was a good man, but a terrible (let me say that again), a terrible administrator (even he admitted near the end of his life).

JPII allowed himself to be beat-up, time and again, by his bishops. In fact, I do not recall him ever moving against a fellow bishop...oh, wait. He did. You know, that one who had the audacity to hold on to Tradition. Please, anybody. Remind me why Marcel was excommunicated? I seem to have forgotten.

Altar girls are here because a weak Pope didn't use the Keys to keep Modernism at bay. It's that simple.

7:22 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

JPII a weak Pope--a human Pope--the vicar of Christ Himself--a man who was given Apostolic authority to let himself be beat up, to allow girls to serve at the altar. No matter what you think about his decisions--you are not the Pope, God did not give you the authority to decide for the Church. He gave that authority to JPII.

The decisions were made--God said that He would send the Holy Spirit to guide His One true fold--the Holy Catholic Church to all truths. And now you a man, who is angry because the church does not worship exactly in a manner--TLM--that you choose.

God is no respector of persons--do you think my accepting Jesus at the N.O. Mass makes it any less valid--than you accepting Jesus at the TLM Mass?

You are not the Pope--you do not decide. And by the way, I think JPII is a Saint--and I refer to him as John Paul the great!

8:15 PM  
Blogger David said...

There was clearly a political impetus for the Bishops' disobedience to the Pope by allowing altar girls. The supporters of "priestesses" have been pushing girls into this for years, and in the process, alienating all of the normal boys.

Fr Z's piece on how to get rid of the altar girls has some great practical suggestions about how to tactfully replace them with boys.

I actually think it is dangerous for anyone to encourage a girl to serve at the altar; by doing so, one is potentially setting her up to disobey or leave the Church later in life.

8:38 PM  
Blogger chestertonian said...

Well, if it is true that their were fewer boys being altar servers--to the point that JPII allowed girls to be altar servers--why did they need the girls, if it wasn't for the lack of boys?

I was talking about the conditions now, not the conditions prior to JPII's permission. But really, even now, are you really trying to get me to believe that parishes exist out there without even three or four boys who can be altar servers? Even the smallest parish in the smallest town ought to have at least that many, and in a pinch can use an adult male if they have to.

You wouldn't want boys to have to serve every week? Why not? The priest has to. As Vir Speluncae, Prevat, and others here have said, there are more important things at stake here than the precious feelings of Grandma Baby Boomer, her daughter Erin, and her daughter Tiffany.

PrevatII: at your service. :)

9:09 PM  
Blogger Simplex Vir said...

Let me go back to the beginning so I can make it clear.

We mean no dishonor to DigiShirt's daughter or any other pious well trained daughter. We all know that women have an inate quality that makes them pick up the slack anytime a male or female is lacking in either physical presence or mental presence. Women are just naturally inclined to filling voids.

However the problem no matter how great of a lack of boys to serve should not be corrected by the use of girls. If there is anyone to blame it is the failing fathers who don't want to "push" their sons into serving or the mommies who are over protective of their boys and don't want them being scolded by a strong Priest or Trainer.

I see many capable boys in our pews (even at the TLM) that do not serve because they are afraid. I want to jerk their fathers up by the underwear and smack some sense into them.

Please take no offense ladies, we know you all mean well. Make the boys serve get out of the way and even if the Priest has to suffer...SO WHAT, he needs to a better job bringing the boys to the altar!

9:46 PM  
Blogger PreVat2 said...

You miss the point by a mile! John Paul the "Great?" Not on your life!

The Holy Spirit (HS) keeps the Vicar of Christ from proclaiming error in matters of Faith & Morals. The HS does not keep the Pope from making poor decisions that do not fall into that very small category. Our history has numerous examples of Popes falling flat on their faces with bad/poor decisions.

Over 2,000 years of Catholic history has given us ONLY three (3) Popes with the title "the Great" attached to them. A very high standard indeed. JPII doesn't even come close to reaching the first step. Over a 27 year time span, he watched as the Church collapsed around him. He publically stated that the "Liturgical Renewal" was one of great joy, and bore great fruit...yea, right! He held not one, but two "Prayer Meetings at Assisi" that were terrible assaults on the Faith. He presided over the continuing massive influx of homosexuals into the priesthood, the continuing massive down-turn in vocations, and all sorts of terrible behavior by his fellow bishops.

His examples in public, from truly bizzare Masses, to openly kissing the Koran, were appauling!

If any Popes of the 20th century deserve the title "the Great," they would have to be Pope St. Pius X and Pius XII.

JPII the Great? Only if you are a Scott Hahn style conservitive Catholic who is wrapped up in the cult of JPII. No thanks, Tara. I'll stick with 2,000 years of history, and will continue to see JPII for what he was.

9:01 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

Scott Hahn rocks!

10:44 AM  
Blogger Lola said...

I've contemplated keeping my dds out of CCD this year, because I don't want the 8 year old to be pressured to become an alter girl. Oh, it it sooo encouraged. We pretty much only have alter girls.

I'm not really sure what I can encourage her to do, maybe when she's older she can be a "reader" who can correctly pronounce names and places. (Cause that really bugs me when someone reads without preparing!) Is that the sancuary? Is that off limits?

Years ago, leaving mass with my grandma, I over heard a lady tell the priest something to the effect "Father if you want more priests, get rid of the altar girls!" I still remember that, and I was a flaming liberal at the time.

12:35 PM  
Blogger SonarMan said...

I feel torn on this issue. I agree with you, pv2, that boys, and only boys should be serving at the altar. The problem is, is that the Code of Canon law (1983) does not specify gender for altar servers. All the Bishops saw that loophole, and dove through it.

I was an EMHC for a while, thinking I could prevent some of the abuses. I only became more an more scandalized, as I watched people poor the contents of incompletely purified chalices down the regular sink - which in my parish is right next to the sacrarium. Nobody seemed to know the difference, and would then fill up the sacrarium with soapy water because "it was the sink with the stopper". After I ever so gently tried to explain how it supposed to be done, the woman I served with flamed on me. I quit after that.

Sorry for the tangent - I had to vent. Now I have a dilemma. All three of my boys have served, and now my oldest son(20), trains the servers. I write the schedules. So my hands are tied to a certain degree. My daughter (10) has been asking repeatedly to be able to serve. The usual age in our parish is 9, and I staved that off for a year, but she's chomping at the bit to do what her brothers do and what other girls in the parish do. My wife is in agreement with me, but feels somewhat helpless as I do. Our parish is very liberal, so we're running against the wind. There's no other place to go, so we stay and fight what we can.

If somebody can get a hold of where those vocation statistics are located, that would be cool.

Also, there pv2, be careful how much you dis somebody (JP2/Scot Hahn) - it could be dangerously close to calumny/detraction. Many folks who come here look up to you guys, and your opinions. Pointing out someones faults and failings might damage their reputation in the eyes of others.

Granted, JP2 might not be "The Great" material, and for whatever mistakes he made, you have to agree he still did a lot of good for the Church, and took his role as the earthly Vicar of Christ seriously, and promulgated many important Church documents. Scot Hahn's books and conversion story personally had a great deal to do with my "reversion" to the Faith, as I know it did others. Again, as we all do, he has faults and failings, but he can be credited with rescuing many souls by leading them to Rome.

Don't throw the baby out with the bath water.

12:39 PM  
Blogger PreVat2 said...

First off, I thank you for your service to our great nation. I come from a long line of servicemen, and I too served for several years in my beloved Marine Corps.

A few responses: For the best look at accurate statistics on the Church, you need to get hold of Kenneth C. Jones, "Index of Leading Catholic Indicators: The Church Since Vatican II." It is outstanding. Jones bases his research on diocesan records, showing the massive down-turn in just about every area of Catholic life since the Council. In the words of Pat Buchanan, "His (Jones') findings make prophets of Catholic traditionalists who warned that Vatican II would prove a blunder of historic dimensions, and those same findings expose as foolish and naive those who believed a Council could reconcile Catholicism and modernity."

Secondly, as to Hahn and JPII: Hahn played a large role in my conversion many years ago. I've read just about everything he's written, have attended his lectures, and even had a chance to meet him during the late 1990s. He is a brilliant scripture professor. But make no mistake. He is a Conservitive Roman Catholic, and as such, was/is fully wrapped up in the "cult" of JPII. That is not something I just made up. It is a mind-set that grew rapidly over JPII's 27 year pontificate. I know the position, as I held it too for many years. Hahn is no friend of the Traditionalist movement, the Old Mass, or the old ways. That he has made clear. I respect him, but I can see "the man behind the curtian" and know that not all is well with Holy Mother Church, something many Conservitive Catholics refuse to discuss.

As to JPII: A good and holy man? Yes. But did he allow, and take part in things, that damaged the Faith? Yes again. The difference is that the majority of Traditionalists can discuss those issues and still bend the knee to the Vicar of Christ. No problem there. But please, let's look at the whole picture. No Pope is immune from properly looking at what they did or did not do to shore up the Faith. After all, in the words of Former Altar Boy, "We are the Thinking Man's religion."

Semper Fi

10:00 AM  
Blogger Claire said...


Perhaps a way to help you with your dilemma with your daughter is to remind her of the role of the Blessed Virgin. She always kept in the background; she never sought attention,and this despite the fact that She is the greatest creature who ever lived. It is Her name which is intoned daily; not the great male saints; it is through Her that God has chosen to defeat Satan. All Catholic girls and women should model themselves on Her, and try to copy her behaviour; if we do we will understand our proper place in God's plan. It is not on His altar.

God bless and good luck.

11:24 AM  
Blogger Former Altar Boy said...

I echo everything Prevat2 said in his original post about young boys aspiring to do a job that is a special, "boys only" position. Making it co-ed also made it less special for boys.

As a former altar boy, I can remember fellow altar boys asking me after Mass, "Have you ever thought about being a priest?" Yes, many times, especially when I watched a devout priest bending over the Sacred Species held between his thumbs and forefingers and quietly saying "Hoc est enim corpus meum." There was no doubt about the doctrine of "in persona Christi" when you saw that, but, of course, that was back in an era when ALL Catholics believed in the Real Presence.

I am sure an all-boy contingent of altar boys would even increase vocations in the plain ol' Ordinary Rite, but boys who have to devote the time to memorize the Latin responses and the rituals of the classic Extraordinary Rite deserve to feel "special" for the important service they provide at Mass.

As mentioned above, Eastern Rite Catholic churches maintained all-male altar servers despote the papal permission to do otherwise. Also, several American bishops, e.g. Bsp. Bruslewitz of Lincoln, do not permit girl servers.

3:37 PM  

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