What Altar Boys Can Do That Altar Girls Can’t


This past week the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released the findings from the 2014 Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood. Prepared by Georgetown’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) for the USCCB, the survey was completed by 365 ordinands, which constitutes a 77 percent response rate. At nearly 30 pages, there is a great deal of data to digest.

While the USCCB press release focused on areas such as the ethnicity and median age of this years ordinands, something far more interesting was tucked in at the bottom of the release.

Of the 365 men surveyed this year, a whopping 80 percent had been altar boys during their formative years. In comparison, only 52 percent of ordinands had been lectors, less than a third had been youth ministers and only 15 percent had ever attended a World Youth Day or a Steubenville Youth Conference.

Don’t just read that and move on. Truly ponder the implications of this statistic: eight of ten ordinands surveyed were altar boys growing up. 80 percent. This is the stat everyone needs to know. In all honesty we must acknowledge the very real correlation between serving and discerning. The survey has revealed this to us in the past, and confirms it yet again this year.

Now consider this. In August 2010, Rome hosted the International Pilgrimage for Altar Servers, an event organized by Coetus Internationalis Ministrantium and held every five years. For the first time ever, the 2010 turnout had more girls than boys attending. Much like the statistical representation found in many parishes today, the pilgrimage of servers resulted in a 60:40 ratio of girls to boys.

Now here is another number to consider: zero. That’s the number of altar girls who will go on to become priests in the Catholic Church.

As I have written about before, the exclusive use of altar boys serving at Mass is helping to facilitate discernment and vocations within many parishes, often where both forms of the Roman Rite are reverently offered. This is in many ways one of the fruits of Summorum Pontificum, and it must continue.

As stated earlier, we must honestly acknowledge this correlation between altar boys and vocations to the priesthood. Understanding this, shame on us if we do nothing to reverse the trend in parishes where fewer and fewer boys are serving.

80 percent or zero? Think about it.

Posted on May 17, 2014, in liturgy and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 324 Comments.

  1. 80% of priests were altar boys DOES NOT mean that 80% of altar boys will become priests, which is what your article implies. And even though girls cannot become priests, they can serve the church in MANY ways, including consecreted life. If serving at Mass increases a young boys desire for Christ, wouldn’t it do the same for a young girl???

    • Christine, by that same illogic we should have boys dress in habits and wimples and spend time in convents with nuns.

    • The tradition of altar boys and girls serving as readers and commentators and leading choirs has been some form of a tradition. It does not make sense to have altar girls where the present mindset is based on an equality that if men can do it so can women is a false positive. The attitude towards my faith is based on me educating my daughters and my sons accordingly and appropriately.

      Given the present mindset that most people are either Sunday Catholics or methodical Catholics seems to override the basic attitude to being a good Catholic. We can debate until the cows go home but a bit of fair common sense can solve the issues.

    • Exactly and since it’s not a “try out” with limited positions allowing girls does not limit the number of boys that can serve.

      • Boys are very limited in parishes that retain more girl alter servers. Diocesan rules state that boys are only allowed to serve with girls if it is a sibling and no non-sibling is serving. For every 51%+ demographic of girl servers, boys are getting shut out. This is absolutely happening at my parish and we haven’t had a discerning young man in over a decade and a seminarian in…can’t even remember.

      • Well said MW. It is also important to note that the 1994 letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments which stated that girls could serve where permitted by the local bishop, also said that:

        “(T)he Holy See wishes to recall that it will always be very appropriate to follow the noble tradition of having boys serve at the altar. As is well known, this has led to a reassuring development of priestly vocations. Thus the obligation to support such groups of altar boys will always continue.”

        Except, the reality since 1994 is that girls often far out number boys, who do not want to serve with girls typically. They also don’t want to play organized sports with them. It’s not how young men are wired.

        The “solution” offered by many ranges from ordaining women to ordaining married men to telling folks to “get over”. Rarely do any supporters point to actual data or tradition to support their views.

        Throughout the comments on this blog post I and others have linked to a similar CARA study showing women religious DO NOT discern a calling by altar serving. And why would they? Vocations boomed for two millennium in the Church before the modern innovation of girls serving appeared in 1994. Where it has never existed to this date, traditional communities and the Diocese of Lincoln, NE, vocations have never dropped off.

        As a father of five, four of whom are girls, this is not about a false, secular, understanding of participation. Serving at the altar is no right we have. We all participate through our attentive, prayerful, participation during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

        Also important to note that girls are not permitted to serve at the Traditional Latin Mass. This is strictly an issue at the Novus Ordo in the Roman Rite.

    • If serving at Mass increases a young boys desire for Christ, wouldn’t it do the same for a young girl???

      Well No Chris, it’s called a double standard. LOL

    • Actually no, if that were so, then being that there are so many more altar girls than boys now, we should be seeing an increase in vocations to the religious life for woman, but no, as scarce as vocations to the clerical state are right now, vocations for woman religious are more scarce.

      In my opinion, allowing woman to serve on the altar is unfair to them, because it is presenting a potential desire in them that they cannot achieve.

      • Amen. It is unfair to young ladies to be altar servers.

        When I was a boy, I did altar service one year. To young to understand what was going on. I now wish someone would have guided me further. Who knows what would have happened.

  2. The answer is obvious … 80% of all the female servers could become priests!!! Reducing or eliminating the number of female servers will NOT encourage more boys to join this ministry. Ordain women. (The obvious solution is staring us all in the face).

    • Louise, this is a settled question. The Church can’t ordain women, and it won’t.

      Looking at denominations that have wrecked themselves through massive schisms and defections by ordaining women ministers, I’m astonished that anyone still thinks this is a good idea for the long term survival of the Church.

    • Agreed, Louise. This is the only answer that makes sense.

    • No it’s not. Altar girls who do altar service, don’t like it either. What people in the Catholic Church don’t realize is that She is having a difficult time attracting young women and men. That’s about it.

      • Arlene please answer this question truthfully. Why do you go to Mass? There is only one correct answer and that is commune with God and to witness Christ Sacrifice.

        But for Christians and for some Catholics their answers is for community. The reason that so many Catholic’s are Christmas or Easter Catholics or stopped going all together is because they are lazy and they want to be entertained.

        My wife’s family go to different Christian churches and they continue to tell me how great the music was, or that they had a guest speaker that wowed them or that their minister moved them in a way that they he never did before. The first question out of my mouth is always the same, why do you go to Church? The answers are always the same to socialize.

        Then, I tell them why I go to Mass (Not Church, which is a building). I go to commune with God in his presents. He is always present in the tabernacle and he knows that I am there and I know that he is there physically (not just spiritual). I know that if I open the tabernacle, I will be able to see him and if I pick up the Most Holy Eucharist, I know that I will be able to touch him. To touch God is what every man desire and that what Catholics do every time they go to Mass.

        I continue to tell them that I have been known to cry during mass when I see the Priest lift the Most Holy Eucharist into the Air. At times, I am able to see the radiance coming from the Most Holy Eucharist is it a feeling that no music or word can ever describe. This why I go to Mass and if anyone goes for ANY other reason. Then I pray that you examine your conscious as to why you go to Mass or as you have repeatedly used the term church.

        Your last comment from January 24th, was very interesting. If I may you said, “Why would someone want to live in secluded building with the same sex, when we all have much more opportunity to become LEADERS of our own businesses?” Well that ties back to my original question, why does one go to Mass? The answer to your question is the very same… To commune with God.

        If I may, do you the meaning of Life? A very simple question that man has searched for an answer throughout his history. Great men has spent all their life looking for the answer to this question. I found the answer several years ago and it is very simple. It is to serve God.

        That is it. Short, simple but very deep. Therefore, why would anyone want to live in a secluded building with the same sex? To serve God.

        Now, to the crux of this whole post. Altar servers should be boys. Until Vatican II the roles of altar server was exclusive to males. The reason, as you know it to help the male to help with priest with the hopes that he will grow spiritually and would then choose a spiritual life as a priest. Vatican II changed that, and that and for other reasons, vocations to the priest hood plummeted. A few parishes and those parishes that do the Traditional Masses only allow male altar servers. And by being exclusive to males, like the priest hood, there are more males that are altar servers and more of them are continuing on to the priesthood.

        Now, my personal take… God Created man and women equal and to be partners in life. Then Eve sinned, and Gods plan for man was changed. In Gen 3, 16 To the woman also he said: I will multiply thy sorrows, and thy conceptions: in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children, and thou shalt be under thy husband’ s power, and he shall have dominion over thee. (Douay-Rheims, 1899)

        This is where there is a split between Men and Women both are to be partners in life, as I have been a partner with my wife for 26 years. However, Men and Women have different roles in society as well as within a spiritual life.

        Males are head of house hold and that means they lead there family spiritually. Females are to teach the faith.

        I know people get angry with that; however, it is what it is. If you want proof, look at society and the infiltration of women in society and church. You will notice a downward spiral. Why? Because, me do not want to share their God given right when it comes to church.

        Men would rather just not do what is expected of them. Why? Feminist, how can I put this nicely, are nasty, pushy and will do whatever they can to get there way. So, many men just get tired and cave. This is what we get. This is a beginning of a resurgence to find balance in a world that has gone the wrong way for so many years.

        God Bless and I pray what I say will stick with you for years to come. That anger you might feel is not me or anything that I have read. It is the Holy Spirit trying to move you. The question becomes will you listen?

    • Well tell that to Christ who never did what you said!

      • The cannon is clearly closed and man cannot change it.

        On Tue, Feb 3, 2015 at 7:47 PM, liturgy guy wrote:

        > Ivan Loncar commented: “Well tell that to Christ who never did what > you said!”

  3. Ralph Sullivan

    How many Altar Girls will give birth to future priests?

    • Ralph, always good to hear from you. I have always enjoyed our conversations from my days at St. Matt’s and respect you very much. Regarding your question, of course the first altar girls began serving in 1994 (not counting disobedient pastors and parishes who started earlier). Therefore those young women would not have any sons old enough for seminary yet, since it has only been 20 years.

      What we do know is what the survey of ordinands has revealed year after year: alter serving is a consistent experience shared by the men ordained to the priesthood. 80% of this this year as I stated in the piece.

      Karl Keating of Catholic Answers and noted artist and Pro-Life activist Nellie Edwards both bring up an excellent point earlier in the comments thread: boys from 7-12 don’t want to serve co-ed. In addition, it’s hard to get the boys to serve later if they haven’t started earlier…by teen years the boys are already getting into such non code sports as Football or Basketball.

      Since our faith is founded upon centuries, no…millennium, of tradition we often only have to look to our history to recover what always worked. Up until 1994 no one was very confused about this. We had holy priests and holy religious sisters, by the tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands, and girls serving the altar had nothing to do with either.

      Our modern culture often makes the grave error of believing that equality means pretending there aren’t differences. So, some push for “gay” marriage because they see no gender differences or do not understand the purpose of marriage. Others seek to make girls “little clergymen” (as they call altar boys in Italy) because they cannot imagine girls having equally worthy and sanctifying roles that may actually differ from boys.

      As a father of four girls I have nothing but love and the desire for our young women to grow closer to Christ and to serve Holy Mother Church. The Church has shown us how this is done for century after century, and girls serving in roles historically reserved for men, and later boys too, is not the way.

      Some great dialogue. The com box is full of solid, reasoned, explanations of the noble tradition of boys & men serving the altar. It is also full of people with their opinion which is completely divorced from tradition, statistics and even at times logic. Truly some wonderful catechesis from the readers. What a blessing!

      Take care Ralph, God bless, and hope to see you at a future Men’s Conference or Eucharistic Congress here in Charlotte!

      • You remind me of my father. When he said Boys could take care of themselves, girl’s cant, so you can’t leave the house. Guess what later in age, he realized he was wrong—-girl CAN do it. My mother too, when she thought an education for a girl was useless. Guess what she was wrong too, after realizing we really CAN support ourselves. No body got hurt because of it.

      • Roger Guillaumes

        Boys go to school with girls in most places from ages 7 to 12 or even earlier…. In my parish, we have both. Rome gave permission for it to happen… “Let it be…”

      • Rome permitted it while still recognizing the need to support boys serving at the altar for the very reason that it fosters vocations. Read my post “Altar Serving Seen Through Secular Eyes”.

  4. Love this article. I belong to a traditional parish that still has it high altar, no table altar, and communion rail. We have the Novus Ordo on Saturday and the Tridentine Mass on Sunday, Our pastor formerly taught Biblical Studies at a Pontifical seminary. We have only altar boys, only men lectors and no Eucharistic ministers, as there is no need for them because of the communion under only the one species and the use of the communion rail.
    I used to be both a lector and Eucharistic minister at my former parish. When they started using girls servers, and my daughter was one, I noticed many boys weren’t becoming servers any longer. My daughter was 18 and still serving because they were always short on servers.
    Our pastor maybe called old fashion, but we have 9 servers at every mass. In fact I wish I could send you a picture of all the boys that came to serve our retired pastor’s funeral. We have many boys that are considering the priesthood and one currently in the seminary and our parish is small, less than 500 families.
    Jesus choose men to lead His Church for a reason, to serve as spiritually fathers to the members. God made men and women in His image, but He gave us each different roles. Men are to be fathers. Women are to be mothers.
    As one priest once said” Women can be mothers but not priests. I can’t be a mother. You don’t see me carrying a sign saying “Unfair, I can’t be a Mother”. I am what God wanted me to be and we all need to be satisfied with His choices and not try to be something or someone He never intended us to be!”

    • Wonderful comment. Thank you Marcia!

    • Let’s get one thing clear. Women CAN be priest, they are just not ALLOWED to be Priests.

      • No women cannot become Priest. The cannon is closed and cannot be reopened.

      • Phil Steinacker

        No, Arlene. Women can NOT be priests. You are making the mistake of viewing the question as on of an equal job opportunity and whether women can go through the same motions and do the same things as well as men.

        There’s not enough space to detail it because the reasons are multi-faceted, but it you are open-minded, you can research it and find much material written from many perspectives all explaining why women can not ever be priests.


  5. Do we go to Mass to pray and adore or do we go to see the pagentry of the liturgy.Of what importance is it really if it is a boy or a girl who presents to the celebrant a cruet,navette or who holds the missal.Liturgy translated means ‘the work’we are present to adore our LORD PRESENT IN THE SAINT SACRAMENT !

  6. I left a similar comment on a different site but I maintain the same answer, if the number of women that serve on the alter really throws men off, then they probably are not shall we say “proper material” for a vocation i.e a vocation is not for them. If you are really worried about the proportions of women to men on the altar, then this is a different problem and has nothing to do with the church or the number of women serving at the altar.

    • Hello Albert,

      “if the number of women that serve on the alter really throws men off, then they probably are not shall we say “proper material” for a vocation i.e a vocation is not for them.”

      “We have heard with sorrow of the great contempt [mépris] with which the sacred mysteries have been treated. It has reached the point where women have been encouraged to serve at the altar, and to carry out roles that are not suited to their sex, having been assigned exclusively to those of masculine gender.” _ Pope St. Gelasius I, 494 AD, cited in Michel Sinoir, La Question de L’Admission des Femmes au Service de L’Autel, Paris, Pierre Téqui, 1994, p. 28

      Apparently, I’m left to conclude that Pope St. Gelasius probably was not “proper material” for a vocation.

      • Very well said. Great quote.

      • Uhhh Pope St. Gelasius said that in 494, when women allowed to do more or less nothing in society. That is not an infallible statement; in fact, the decision that women should not serve has been contradicted by other Popes. So, even the Pope disagrees with Gelasius. I agree with Albert. The presence of female servers in no way limits the number of males who can serve. If young men don’t want to serve alongside girls, that is a problem with those young men, not the girls or the church. I see no legitimate reason that women should not be allowed to serve, even if they can never be priests. It can only bring them closer to God.

      • Hello Brett,

        Since I’m assuming that you share Albert’s premise, do you think that Pope St. Gelasius was not “proper material” for a vocation?

        If so, is this also true of the 262 other popes who refused to permit women to serve at the altar?

  7. I still don’t understand why some people can’t accept altar girls.Do they believe that the parents have some agenda to advocate change in church teachings.We assist at Holy Mass to adore,thank and beg for pardon for our sins,and the graces we need to amend our lives.It seems some who are posting need too reflect on this.The TLM seems to draw alot of people who seem to regard this venerable rite in a superstious vein or consider Vat.2 to be full of faults.The celebrant offers the Mass the priest is the valid appointed successor of the apostles,the servers are the representives of the community assembled to participate in the liturgy.Be they boys or girls makes no difference.I remember our teacher in second grade Sr.Regina Michael ssj telling us that her brother was an altar boy and she practiced latin reponses with him and she was better of the two.If applicants for our seminary’s are put off by girl altar servers than they are not material for serving the people of God.We don’t have a caste system in the Catholic Church,

    • “Do they believe that the parents have some agenda to advocate change in church teachings?”

      Man of them clearly do. Alas.

    • And let it be clear: Some of the greatest advocates of girls serving at the altar are part of the women’s ordination movement:

      “I am a Catholic, but I am equally a feminist. I can point to moments as an altar server, as a Girl Scout, and with women religious that pointed me to the beauty of the divine and my worth as a girl. This knowledge, of the dignity of women before the divine, is subversive knowledge – it is the knowledge that calls me and many others to demand equality in both the church and the world. It is this knowledge that informs my conscience as I work for women’s ordination in an inclusive Roman Catholic Church.”

      – Johanna Hatch currently serves as Co-President of the Women’s Ordination Conference Board of Directors. She lives in Verona, WI with her family.

    • You show no understanding of boys! So boys are to quit being boys in order to accommodate the egos of girls?

  8. Mary Paul Forsyth

    Here is a link to a letter from the Congregation of Divine Worship on the subject of altar servers. Many seem to believe that female servers became the norm immediately following Vatican II. The truth is that it developed and this letter, dated 1994, addresses the issue from the standpoint of Canon Law. Among other points, it states that a bishop may choose to include women though no bishop is obligated to do so. It stresses that “the obligation to support groups of altar boys will always remain, not least of all due to the well known assistance that such programs have provided since time immemorial in encouraging future priestly vocations”. And goes on to remind the bishops that “the non-ordained faithful do not have a right to service at the altar, rather they are capable of being admitted to such service by the Sacred Pastors. Therefore, in the event that Your Excellency found it opportune to authorize service of women at the altar, it would remain important to explain clearly to the faithful the nature of this innovation, lest confusion might be introduced, thereby hampering the development of priestly vocations.”

    It would seem that the Holy See also supports the idea that vocations are impacted by the presence of male servers. I hope those who see this argument as misogynist or based on some superstition will defer to the opinions of the Congregation of Divine Worship.


  9. Ralph Sullivan

    Think of the table at the Last Supper as the altar upon which Jesus celebrated His first Mass. Present in addition to the Apostles were Mary His Mother and Mary Magdalene who served. Yes, the first Altar Servers were women. True, they did not become priests. So . . . should they be banned?

    Apparently girl altar servers have not hurt vocations at St. Matthew. Simplistic answers to the vocations problem can be counter productive.

    • Ralph, where do you get the weird idea that the BVM and St Mary Magdalen were at the Last Supper? Certainbly not from the Bible, which says nothing of the kind, in fact the story of St Peter and St John being told to hold the Passover meal at the place where a man carrying a water pitcher went to, strongly indicates that the Last Supper was held in a male only community, a sort of Jewish monastery similar to that of the Essenes who produced the Dead Sea Scrolls. (Fetching water was women’s work. In Jerusalem which had a population of over 1 million at Passover time, this makes sense of Christ’s instruction – to see a man carrying water was a rarity as it happened only in an all-male household. Also note that only adult male Jews were required to go to Jerusalem for the Passover, Some married men brought their wives and children with them though most did not. This also explains why Christ met “the women of Jerusalem” on His way to Calvary – a relatively small and distinct group of people.)

  10. I don’t see the value of young persons as altar servers. The reason that boys were made altar servers in the first place was as a kind of page boy to the priest. It was a a priest assistant, or apprentice if you will. From the research, this strategy has been working.If we are going to continue to have members of both sexes serve in this role it should be open only to adults, or to those confirmed, like extraordinary minters or lectors.

    • Altar servers (layman) were admited to participate in the celebration of the Mass to take the place of subdeacons.With time boys were admited as they were chaste the subdeacon took vows of celibacy or chasity if a religious.Senoir servers were and are mostly married,the Eastern rites use both as the adult servers serve as cantors.We’ve had both boy and girl ad adult servers in our parish over the years,and eveyone is pleased with this.One of the girls later became a Carmelite nun ,and another teaches cat.and our food pantry.

      • Luke, I would ask you to reread the post, the very many explanations for the traditional practice of male only servers (including from the CDW), and read my other post “Altar Boys and the Priesthood”. The com box alone on this post argues for boys only quite persuasively. I am blessed to have many readers of this blog far wiser and more articulate than I am. I do, however, sincerely thank you for taking the time to read the blog and offering your feedback.

  11. Agreed girls cannot be priest but they can be nuns and in most Catholic Churches women are more involved in the various ministries and also the BEC. We have a good. Example – Mother Teresa.

    • Thank you for reading my blog Lily, and for your comment as well. I know there are a lot of other comments on this post, but when you have a moment please read through them. We have discussed that argument already. There is no supportive data which shows a connection or even correlation between girls serving at the altar and their later discernment of the religious life. This would make sense, of course, as the greatest booms in vocations for women religious were well before the secular understanding of “equality” crept into the Church. It also makes sense that the more traditional communities do not struggle with priestly vocations or female religious, since they celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass, which does not permit for such contemporary innovations as female servers, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion or Communion in the Hand…all of which do harm to the ministerial priesthood and vocations.

      God bless and thank you again for your comment.

  12. Dolores Caldwell

    More then anything I wanted to altar serve. I went to Catholic schools my entire education. But the priest was dead set against it…I have more then encouraged my children to altar serve both my sons and daughters served in this ministry. There is something abolutely holy about being that close to the priest, altar and Jesus during the sacred liturgy.
    Where are the statistics that a girl who has served has entered religious life? Or that a mother who altar served in her youth, motivates and prays for her children to become a priest or enter religious life with a sucessful outcome?
    Try looking objectively and ask more questions+

    • Thank you for reading my blog Dolores. Your questions are excellent. While there are nearly 150 comments on this specific post, time permitting, you should read through them. A good many questions, and supportive data, are addressed and provided.

      Specific to your question of girls serving and women religious:

      Below is a link to the 2014 CARA study of men and women religious who made their perpetual vows in 2013. Of the women surveyed, only 15% had ever served altar. Compare this to teaching faith formation (54%) and singing in choir (48%), and you can see that serving the altar effects boys differently. Those surveyed in 2012 (15%) and 2011 (10%) responded in a similar manner.

      The Italian word/slang for altar boys is chierichetto, which means little clergymen. That about says it all. Vocations boom now as they did in the past where the Catholicism is authentic and where truth, beauty and goodness are demonstrated. This tends to be where the sacred is winning over the secular. Girls effectively discern their vocation (marriage or religious life) today the same way they did when marriage and female orders flourished: through personal piety and authentic role models.

      God bless!

      Click to access profession-class-2013-report.pdf

      • Maybe I am misunderstanding your use of this report. Yes, the report indicates that only 15% of surveyed women had ever served the altar, but at least 45% were too old to have served as children. Removing those, it could be argued that more than 1 in 4 of women entering religious life also served the altar. It is a fair assumption that not all of these women had the opportunity to serve the altar as not all dioceses or parishes allowed or encouraged them in 1994. I would be interested to see if the numbers change in the next 20 to 40 years as more young women take on this role in the Mass.

    • Altar serving is not a ‘ministry’. Only priests have ministries. Laity have apostolates. Altar girls promote vocations to the Episcopal priesthood. That is what happened in one parish I used to attend. Being a mother is certainly a special experience. It does not follow that men should also be able to be mothers!

      • Forgive me the Church has a ministry; priests have parishes that they minister too. There is a difference.

        It seems that to me that you are talking about the Episcopal Church and Not the Catholic Church, and more specifically the Traditional Mass.

        Then, the past part of your post make little sense; therefore, I choose not to comment.

  13. Fewer boys are serving because most of them are at an age when they don’t want anything to do with girls. So the girls effectively are pushing the boys out.

    • What is that comment based on? Does the Church really want or need priests who are intimidated by being next to girls?

      • Girls have cooties, everybody knows that. /s

      • Does the National Football League really need men who were afraid to play football with girls in High School or college? Or is it simply that some activities are gender specific?

        We are all created in God’s image and with dignity…equal…but we are different. Traditionally, the Church understands this much better than our secular society. Sadly, the secular has largely invaded the sacred in many parishes and in many hearts. In the end it is a largely an issue of poor catechesis and reasoning. I would respectfully ask you to consider researching and praying about this subject.

        Thank you again for reading the post Gina and have a blessed 2015!

    • Dave, that is partially true. Expand your thought a little. This holds true for males across all ministries. When I was young, and that was in the 70’s, men were the only ones allowed in most ministries except for religious education (that was reserved for women). As the years went by and more and more women entered the ministries and leadership roles; male attendance dropped.

      You could say that men do not want to pay with women too and they effectively are pushing males out. That would be a true statement. Why is that? I am not a sociologist; but I would venture that man do not like women intruding in what was historically a male role.

      This holds true in society as a hole. Many males are postponing relationships because of the dominance of women. They just choose not to deal with it.

      As society continues to fall apart both socially and spiritual; we will see a resurgence of the male role.

    • Oopssss. Here we go…. Boys AND girls in most cases are in the same schools at those ages.

      • Don’t confuse the secular with the sacred. We’ve already had too much of that over the last four decades.

      • Secular and Sacred are not separate… God created a SACRED world. Read Pope Francis’s recent encyclical

      • Of course all of God’s creation is sacred. Do you deny, however, that God is distinct from what He has created? Because God Himself is physically present on the altar and in the tabernacle we do indeed distinguish the secular from the sanctuary. Laudato Si does not contradict this foundational truth of our faith. Be careful not to incorporate a hermeneutic of rupture when approaching the liturgy; this was warned against by Pope Benedict XVI.

        Additionally, please don’t impose a secular, worldly, understanding of participation and equality. Neither has a place in a discussion of the sacred liturgy. I would encourage you to read more of my posts at this site, as well as many of the excellent (and intelligent) comments in this thread.

      • Hermeneutics of rupture????? By that, do you mean Original Sin? I am quite familiar with hermeneutics in terms of understanding written works…
        I would suggest that God is both present on the altar and in nature. They need not be in juxtaposition. Why not complementariness? God is not limited by our inability to grasp his/her wonder and power. (I figure that I would throw in the ‘his/her’ to make sure that we understand that God is not ‘male gender’.)

      • So, if you are even Catholic, you do not understand what the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is, the difference between an altar and a rock in the woods, the liturgical functions of priests vs. laity, or the fact that Our Lord called God our Father? Answer thoughtfully because you are on the verge of being blocked.

  14. I try not to become involved in conversations that can get nasty, but I have to say..really? The Church is NOT growing, so let’s not make it less friendly by denying girls the chance to serve the altar. They may not grow up to be priests, but they grow up to respect the faith and perhaps serve as ministers, ushers, and holding the catholic families together. Also, since the ratio of girls to boys is growing, I would say look at the boy’s mothers as it is usually the parent who encourages the children to become servers. I am not debating the priesthood as that is a calling, I am debating trying to stop members of a church from showing their love and dedication to the altar. This type of article may cause girls to grow up and consider leaving a church that would say you can’t serve because you can’t be a priest! Plus what about the girls who become nuns? Where is that statistic? Lay ministers; another missing statistic. Priests are not the only part of the church so this article is not only wrong on a basic level, it is misleading.
    1 min · Like

    • Thank you for your comment MerriDee. Your questions are excellent. While there are nearly 150 comments on this specific post, time permitting, you should read through them. A good many questions, and supportive data, are addressed and provided.

      Specific to your question of girls serving and women religious:

      Below is a link to the 2014 CARA study of men and women religious who made their perpetual vows in 2013. Of the women surveyed, only 15% had ever served altar. Compare this to teaching faith formation (54%) and singing in choir (48%), and you can see that serving the altar effects boys differently. Those surveyed in 2012 (15%) and 2011 (10%) responded in a similar manner.

      The Italian word/slang for altar boys is chierichetto, which means little clergymen. That about says it all. Vocations boom now as they did in the past where the Catholicism is authentic and where truth, beauty and goodness are demonstrated. This tends to be where the sacred is winning over the secular.

      Girls effectively discern their vocation (marriage or religious life) today the same way they did when marriage and female orders flourished: through personal piety and authentic role models.

      Finally, the faith is growing…when authentic Catholicism thrives. Vocations grow where the clear and consistent tradition of the faith is lived and taught.

      God bless!

      Click to access profession-class-2013-report.pdf

  15. It just sounds to me like they need to seriously consider the other hand… That women should be allowed to be priests. Even as a very young child I in catholic school, I found this to be unfair. However, I also believe allowing married men to also be a solution to the low number of priests in the church.

  16. Blatant misogyny “backed” by dubious correlation. How many altar girls become consecrated religious or stay active in the Church through service? What is the ratio of women v men who attend Mass? Alienate women further and the Church will lose those few overwhelmingly female members, particularly younger members, that fill those pews.

    • Thank you reading the post and commenting Gina. While there are over 150 comments, most of what you ask has already been addressed. Women have served Holy Mother Church for two millennium, while only serving at the altar since 1994. Vocation discernment to marriage or to the religious life is fostered by the faith authentically presented, and by solid female role models…beginning at home. It’s no different than 125 plus years ago when St. Therese was discerning.

      To your final statement, if women walk away from Jesus in the Eucharist and His Bride the Church because a twenty year old practice is ended, then they were never truly in the Church.

      • Spoken like one who has drank the cool aid for a thousand years. I have to agree with Gina, that the church should not ignore an updated version of women’s role in the church or be ready to further alienate. For myself, I would add that I am thankful that you are not in any position of authority liturgy guy!

  17. No offense, but this is one of the most unintelligent arguments to supporting “boys only” altar servers that I have come across. 80% of priests say they were altar servers before, and 0% of girl altar servers become priests? OF COURSE 0% of girls become priests. What did you expect to find? With that logic, it’s like saying that “100% of priests surveyed identified themselves as male, and 0% identified as female”. Well…. DUH! Only men can be priests!

    I am not advocating that women become priests.

    I am, however, arguing that a girl’s presence as an altar server is not wasted or fruitless to the Church, like you are implying. As a former altar server, and parishioner of both kinds of parishes that allow both genders and only one, (and even one that had the genders separated in altar server teams) that my experience as a woman (and child at the time) was impacted greatly by these differences.

    As an altar server, I was involved in the Church. I served every Saturday and Sunday, as well as every Easter Vigil and whenever the priest needed a server. I felt close to the Church and my priest, and I felt needed and useful. My “potential” of what I could give the Church was not important. My soul was important, and what I was giving THEN in that moment was important. My faith formation was important. Altar serving gave me something that singing in the choir or being a lector or an RCIA teacher could ever give me (having done all of those ministries as well). Every person is different, and they all have their talents that they can give to the Church. Mine was serving, and others may be different.

    When we moved to a parish that only allowed boys, I felt like I was unwanted, and unneeded. As a child I was confused, angry, and hurt. It was unjust to me seeing my brothers continue on doing what I had done before, leaving me in the pew to stifle back tears and the feeling of being cut off from the heartbeat of the Church. I was no longer looked upon by my priest as a friend, and I didn’t feel close to them like I would my father. This was very detrimental to my spiritual life in the Church and those feelings of being cut off and unwanted stewed in me for a long time. I knew intellectually that I mattered, but the actions of that parish told me I did not.

    What does it say to boys, if they are the only ones allowed to serve? As children they do not understand the idea of “fostering vocations”. It just becomes a “boys club”. It just tells them, ” You are only valued for what you can potentially give us”. What about their souls? Their relationship to God and the Church, no matter what their vocation? Those boys will also become fathers to children of their own; does that make those boys’ participation as altar boys wasted just because they didn’t become priests? No!

    These are the future parents of the children in the Church, and I guarantee you that a mother will encourage her children to be more involved in the Church if she herself was made welcome. I certantly did not feel welcomed or loved, and those feelings of bitterness would definitely go to my children had I never had the experience of being an altar server.

    I will belong to a parish that allows both genders as altar servers, even if I do not have any girl children. Their spiritual life is more important to me than their potential fruit to the Church.

    Also: this study would be more well rounded if they surveyed the percentage of priests who came from parishes with both genders as servers, and parishes with just boys. They shod also survey how many female religious were altar servers growing up. The “80%-0%” argument is utter (I want to say something else) bull crap. I don’t want to sound like an “angry feminist” when I say this, but: You, as a man, will never understand where women like myself are coming from. You will never experience what we experience. You can never tell us how we experience things like this in the Church. Period. So instead of dismissing our opinion for your version of “truth”, please take into account our experiences as women and 50% of the body of the Church. We raise children who will go on to become priests and religious, so I would be careful of alienating this significant portion of the Church. We matter too.

    Rant over.

  18. As a mother of 2 girls and 4 boys, I understand the questions that come from my daughter asking why she can’t serve. My answer is and always will be that as a woman, we have a role in the church that is different from the boys role. I have seen first hand the effects of girl altar servers. My son’s vocation to the priesthood is diminished when girls are allowed to serve and are increased when he serves EF Mass (where only boys serve). Women need to stop taking the “equality all around” argument and understand that God gave His only son to Mary, not Joseph. Our role is different. If more vocations for priesthood come from only boy altar servers, respect it and support it. No priests, no Eucharist. No Eucharist, no life.

    • Beautifully said Diahann. Have a blessed 2015!

    • Your son’s vocation is diminished when he serves with girls? Maybe you should sit down with him and tell him that 1. Vocation has nothing to do with emotional feelings and 2. If he can’t handle being around girls then he should probably be a hermit, not a priest. I’m sorry, but I can’t fathom how it is the fault of girls that boys don’t want to serve with them. Why punish the girls by not letting them participate deeply in the Mass and grow their spiritual life, just because your boy thinks they have cooties. Don’t step on the girls. Educate your boy

      • Brett, I think you need to understand that 1. By not letting girls serve, it is not a punishment. Girls have a very important role in the church, hence my comment about Mary being the Mother of Christ. 2. My son is very well educated. His feelings are not sexual in nature. What you fail to realize is that when he serves with all boys, there is a brotherhood, a bond that is only found in the priesthood, and it is raised up….this is the brotherhood founded by Christ! And 3. As his mother, I find you offensive. I didn’t raise a boy to think girls have cooties. I taught him to treat girls with respect. One of his best friends is a girl probably because he is more of a gentleman at 13 than you.

  19. Wow, Brian, this is booming! Since I realize that my post on LG earlier was preaching to the converted, I thought I would leave it here. I hope you don’t mind.

    “Back in the days when…” people knew all their neighbors, and supported the local economy because it was the ONLY economy, women held critical roles in maintaining the local Church! WOMEN made the Eucharistic hosts, clothed and fed the priest, spun, wove and embroidered the altar linens, cleaned and decorated the church, taught their own children how to pray and serve others. Women were able to bring the “first fruits of their labors” to the altar in ways that men could not. Men built the House of God, while women made it the Home of the Faith!

    How can anybody bring the “first fruits” of an office job to the altar? By prayer! By returning to the support given to the Church for millennia. By donating time and talents to the Parish in many areas. Even though we are each a Temple of the Holy Spirit, we can not all immolate ourselves upon the High Altar as the Priest does!

  20. I wish people would read the article before commenting. The point of the article, and the referenced study, is NOT that altar girls are bad. Rather, it’s that boy altar servers are better for the future of the church. Every time a girl serves, that means a boy isn’t. And it’s likely that at least one other boy will be discouraged from serving. Again, not because girls are bad, but rather because at this stage of development, boys would rather do things with other boys. Out of humility, the girls should find other means to serve their church, which will allow more boys – some who will become our future priests – to serve and discern the priesthood.

    • Yes, by all means. Girls should find “some other way” to serve the church. They should wear skirts to the ground, cover their hair, wrangle their herds of kids in the first pew (while everyone else is trying to focus on the readings and praying), sing with their heavenly soprano voices, but PLEASE DON’T GO NEAR THE BOYS OR THE ALTAR!! Honestly, do women have that many cooties?

      Sorry, I disagree with you, David. I think this article is definitely saying that altar girls are bad. It’s an illogical argument (the 80%/0% nonsense has already been discussed in this thread, so I don’t feel it’s necessary now), but honestly as a Catholic female (now age 30) I saw my mother fight bravely to convince our pastor to allow me to become an altar server, and I served proudly from 7th grade through senior year. I have also been a lector, a Eucharistic minister, an organist, and a choir member. I was drawn into the mass profoundly when I was able to participate in these ways, and now I consider my faith life and my religious practice very strong.

      When I was 20 I met my husband, who was also Catholic, and now we are happily and faithfully married. (No kids, though– I guess you think this is wrong too? Women need to be mothers, right? No job, lots of kids? Well, it’s anatomical… something I didn’t learn until I was married, because I waited. Clearly God made that choice for me. So much for fulfilling that role Liturgy Guy thinks I was “supposed to play.”)

      Anyway, my point is this: The Church and society have changed– perhaps not for the better, granted– but today the full participation of BOTH WOMEN AND MEN, BOYS AND GIRLS is needed to save the Church. It’s scary just how few Sunday Catholics there are in the Millenial/Gen-X generations. Aside from my college Newman Club friends, not a single one of my Catholic friends, nor any of my cousins, goes to mass any more. My husband and I belong to a parish where there are (on average) 20 people at mass, and all of them appear to over the age of 70. We are literally the only ones of our generation in the parish. If my mom hadn’t fought to have me serve the altar 18 years ago, who knows how tenuous my faith life might have been at this point; I might be right there with my cousins and friends watching football on Sundays.

      Perhaps boys would be more willing to serve if mothers and fathers taught them right: that serving the altar is a religious experience and NOT a Boys’ Club social event OR a football team. Maybe parents shouldn’t give their kids the choice in the first place. (Really, how able are we to make our own religious decisions when we’re ages 7-12? Do parents let their children “choose” to go to mass in the first place? Doubtful.)

      The role of altar server is one of reverence, humility, and assistance to the priest during the sacraments, and ALL CHILDREN benefit from it. They should also be encouraged to lector and to sing, and to help in any way they can, to build relationships with the other parishoners, and grow even stronger in appreciation for the beauty of the mass. And with regards to the priesthood: I’d be willing to wager that the main reason boys aren’t becoming priests is because they want to get married, not because there were girl altar servers at their churches. That’s a big leap, if you ask me.

      • Everything you said is perfect, thank you.
        Especially the fact that children rarely choose to be altar servers on their own. It is something that their parents sign them up for, so that is another factor we should be looking at, and not the idea that women are driving men out of the Church merely by their presence.

      • There’s no need to apologize for disagreeing. I enjoy respectful and intelligent dialogue and debate. But please do not put words into my mouth, especially since you don’t know me. I never suggested the “bare foot and pregnant” stereotype that you accuse me of. Let’s try this one more time: altar girls are good, but the evidence strongly suggests that altar boys are better for the future of the Catholic priesthood. So what’s so bad about striving for “better”? If you and the other naysayers here don’t understand the social dynamics of young boys, then repeating it here 100 times is unlikely to educate you. I’ve worked with young people (boys and girls) longer than you’ve been alive, and I’ve seen these dynamics at work first hand. As I re-read your reply, in particular your last 2 sentences, I see that you’ve totally missed the point of the article. You would probably benefit from reading the article once more.

    • If altar girls aren’t bad, then why stop them from serving?
      And I have never once in my life seen or heard of a boy saying he didn’t want to serve because there were girls there. Even as a child around other children I never heard an objection from boys who didn’t want to serve. Those who did not want to serve were normally those who would not serve in any condition; girls or not.
      And “out of humility” we should find other ways of serving the Church? What the heck is that supposed to mean? You as men and boys need to become more “humble” and work with your sisters in Christ in your journey to heaven and not get caught up in your juvenile ideas of “boys and girls must be separate”.

      • A friend told her sons not to serve with a girl recently. I too, would avoid Masses for my sons where girls were scheduled to serve. It definitely discourages vocations and hinders them. Boys need hands on experiences in the Mass to help keep them focused on God. Girls are generally more inclined to be spiritual anyway. For the good of the Church, girls need to stay away from the altar! Are your feelings more important than vocations to the priesthood? The Eucharist can only be confected by a man who is ordained. So you are willing to have the people be starved spiritually by not having a priest in order to accommodate your ego?
        How selfish! Boys have handicaps to spirituality and we women need to aid them in finding and loving God, instead of trying to shove them away from Him!!!
        In the pre teen age boys don’t want to have anything to do with girls. They are reluctiant to participate in activities with girls. So again, altar serving is then dropped by many boys because they see ii as a ‘girl’ activity. Then in the teen years the girls distract them while serving because they are thinking about the girl next to them instead of praying to God. This is the way boys are and the Church needs to understand them, too, and stop tthe altar girl experiment.

      • Very well said. They you for your comment and for providing clarity and common sense to this discussion.

      • I disagree with FRLBJ. The “This is the way boys are…” generalization greatly diminishes young men and boys. The argument made insists that boys first don’t like girls and then like them too much to pay attention to the Mass. Please justify this argument.

    • How. How does a girl serving limit the number of boys that can? At our church if you show up and want to serve the Mass, you can. Whether they already have 1 server or a dozen. And as I said above, teach your boys that they need to have healthy relationships with girls their own age, not avoid them. If a boy gets discouraged, thats the fault of the parent, not the girl server or the young boy.
      And “humility” on the part of the girl had nothing to do with it. You could just as easily say “if the boy wants to be a priest, he needs to learn to put his interests second, and let the girl serve even if he doesn’t want to be around her”

      • As a parent with a child who has a vocation to the priesthood, I would like to explain to you how we talk about it in our house. Every child has a vocation to something, married life, priesthood, convent, consecrated virgin, etc. Think of their vocation as a flame on a candle. There are many times that the flame goes low and then will go high. It changes with the time. As parents we encourage the vocation that God has given them…yes my son knows his vocation. After Adoration, it is a stronger flame, if he serves with girls, it weakens. I agree with you that his vocation is not 100% dependant on whether girls serve. But, wouldn’t you want to give your child the best chances for fulfilling their vocation?

      • Diahann,
        Could you please explain how God’s call for your son is lessened by a girl serving Mass?

  21. Some people seem offput by the suggestion that boys will be much more reluctant to serve once girls are part of the altar crew. However this might disappoint, however, there’s no question that this reality is a very common reaction. William Oddie relates a conversation with the archbishop of Paris during a visit to France:

    “One of the guests at dinner one evening was Archbishop André Vingt-Trois of Tours (now Cardinal Archbishop of Paris). The subject of conversation at one point was the way in which, in the local Parish Church, presumably in an attempt to involve women in the celebration of the Mass, not only were all the readers women but so also were all the servers girls; my wife (not I) compared it to a farmyard, with the priest as the cock strutting about in the middle of a flock of hens. Archbishop Vingt-Trois said that the priest may have had no choice over the all-girls serving team: “Once the girls arrive, he said, the boys disappear: you can’t see them for dust” (his explanation was much more graphic in French). And he was adamant that though there were, of course other factors contributing to the decline in priestly vocations, the decline in the number of all-male sanctuaries was certainly one of them.”

    This anecdote is telling in an even more important way: the consequences of the apparent feminization of the Catholic Church in most of the West. When you have reached a point, as the archbishop notes, every single person in the sanctuary – lectors, servers, EMHC’s – are women save only for the priest (and I have seen this happen on numerous occasions), your real problem is not in providing opportunities for women, but the vanishing of men from your church. And Mass attendance rates confirm this. Men under 30 have become very scarce in many western parishes. And without those men, there will be no vocations, either.

    Yet so many in the Church seem blithe about the disappearance of men from the Church.

    • So the very presence of women scares men away. We just can’t win, can we? The Church tells us to be involved, but apparently not TOO involved, because you’ll scare the men away! Be devout, but not TOO devout, because the men want to be holy too, but they don’t want to be like the women (God forbid! The worst thing ever!). If a man’s decision to be involved or not is that affected by the presence of a woman, then good riddance. He is clearly unable to make descisons for himself.
      Honestly this is insulting to men. Why would you say that? Stop laying the blame on the other gender for your shortcomings. If a man doesn’t go to church, don’t blame it on the faithful women there! That is an immature and juvenile argument. If God asks you when you die, “Why didn’t you go to church?” Are you really going to say, “Because there were too many girls there!”? No. So stop using that as a valid excuse, because it’s not.

      • Hello Holly,

        Two points about the sexes I’m trying to make: 1) Men and women are different, and they have different socialization needs, as well as distinct (if overlapping) spiritual needs; 2) the feminization of our Church which has happened over the last several decades is not a healthy femininity, but a heavily therapeutic and undemanding spirituality that’s more moral therapeutic deism than Christianity.

        But whether you like it or not, the numbers speak for themselves. Young men are a vanishing species in most of our parishes, and this is a major reason why vocations are scarce as well. I will offer up my Mass experience at 10am this morning (a fairly typical, not unusually liberal, suburban parish in Maryland): a decent turnout of 200 for a holy day of obligation. The median age was about 55-60; there were about 6-7 men under 35, all but one of them African immigrants. There were only four children, and only one father present. There were no servers, but there were half a dozen EMHC’s and a cantor, all older women. And this is a fairly typical obligatory Mass experience.

        So as to your point that “If a man doesn’t go to church, don’t blame it on the faithful women there”: Every man must be responsible for his own faith, but if your parish is attracting very few young men, it’s reasonable to ask whether you’re doing something to alienate them – they’re part of the flock, too.

        And it’s unreasonable to complain if you haven’t produced any vocations over the last six presidential administrations.

      • Well put, Holly! You’re on the money. It appears that the cheauvanistic Boys’ Club is really sensative to girl germs. Odd that Christ himself allowed Mary Magdaline to even come close to him at all. She must have really put a damper on all the fun at apostle meetings.

      • It is interesting to note that your responses are purely emotional and full of sarcasm. Unfortunately, that is often what I see from folks in this thread when confronted with correlative data, statements from Rome and nearly two thousand years of tradition.

        Neither this article, nor my other post “Altar Boys and the Priesthood”, expresses anything but charity and respect for girls and women. As a husband, and a father of four daughters and one son, I oppose anyone who denigrates women. I do not, however, conflate or confuse, the secular idea of equality with the Church’s understanding of the unique talents and roles each gender brings with them.

        My writings regarding altar boys simply highlight the need to recapture exclusively (where lost) this traditional role for boys…and young men in the case of acolytes. The sacred realm of the Mass has always been highly distinct from the profane, that is until recent decades. As the secular has encroached…and catechesis has weakened…people often no longer understand what happens during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, or how we are to truly participate.

        I would ask you to recognize that this discussion is strictly about the reason behind serving the altar, which traditionally has everything to do with vocations, and little to do with simply being a way to get kids “participating” at Mass.

        May God bless you this new year and thank you for taking the time to read, comment and subscribe to my blog.

      • Genevieve,

        “Odd that Christ himself allowed Mary Magdaline [sic] to even come close to him at all.”

        The same logic would dictate that we have no reason not to ordain women as priests, either.

        If you’re opposed to women’s ordination, Genevieve, you should tell us why, and offer a reason beyond an appeal to authority.

  22. I am sorry, but you don’t understand young men and boys. I do, since I have been the only female in my birth family and now in my own with 7 sons! The boys will serve if the girls stay away. The first girl altar servers I saw did not seem understand where they were and dressed as if it were a fashion event-flip-flops and large hair bows, etc. My sons had to show them how to do everything even though they had supposedly been trained. We are to help boys to find God, not hinder them.Where is your charity? Are we to love our neighbor as ourselves or only ourselves?

    • Or…or…the boys will serve if their parents have some control over them and say “knock it off, they’re just girls. Get in there” it’s that simple.
      Your evidence that the girls in your parish were unprepared is anecdotal. At my parish we began allowing female servers a few years back and there has never been a discernable difference in quality. If your daughter on the alert convinced a young man he didn’t want to be a priest, I don’t think he wanted to be a priest very badly

      • Brett, Have you read either of my posts on altar boys? Or the 1994 letter on the topic released by the CDW? Have you looked at the data provided by CARA demonstrating the significance of serving with discerning? One might wonder how Holy Mother Church managed until 1994, or how those booming traditional parishes boom now…or how the Diocese of Lincoln lead the U.S. in seminarians for over a decade…allowing only boys to serve.

        I grow weary of hearing about everyone’s feelings despite data, common sense, human nature and 19 centuries of tradition that say otherwise. As a father of five, four of whom are girls, I grow tired of the secular notion of participation and so called equality being interjected into the sacred realm of the Holy Sacrifice.

        If you have not read them, go back and read this blog post and read “Altar Boys and the Priesthood”. Please counter with something more than your unsolicited opinions on how boys should behave in your view, or not acknowledge that their service has declined in parishes that allow for both….a problem not encountered in boys only parishes. Recall as well that the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite does not permit for girls to serve and there one finds a true boom in servers and priestly vocations…and female religious vocations.

      • “One might wonder how Holy Mother Church managed until 1994…”

        Obviously, the Church was run by a bunch of viciously reactionary chauvinists who mercilessly used the powers of the patriarchy to force everyone to go to Mass for its first 1,964 years.

        Fortunately, we live in more enlightened times now. A New Springtime.

      • “Or…or…the boys will serve if their parents have some control over them and say “knock it off, they’re just girls. Get in there” it’s that simple.”

        Sure, you can use Parental Power to force it. And, 9 times out of 10, the very moment you no longer force him to serve, he’ll stop.

        Just as the heavy odds are that he’ll stop attending Mass altogether, since his only experience of church has been as a highly feminized experience that offers him thin spiritual gruel.

      • Phil Steinacker


        Your ignorance and lack of real life experience with kids – especially boys – really shows.

        You’d be a bust as a dad. Totally clueless and convinced you know the score.

  23. God bless you, Father. Our diocese does not have girl altar boys and we have so many most priests than most.

  24. *many MORE priests than most.

  25. Why are women allowed at mass at all? Why not keep us behind screens in the back? Clearly we have the dangerous power to transform the Sacrament of the Eucharist into “thin spiritual gruel” for men. Are you suggesting that women be subjected to “thin spiritual gruel” instead, so men feel more comfortable? You have expressed such a one-dimensional concept of the sexes.

    Everyone is in charge of their own spiritual lives, and again you’re confusing correlation and causation. Yes, the decline in men’s mass attendance is correlated with increased participation of women in the mass. But you’re overlooking other factors:
    – the decline in proper parental discipline
    – the onslaught of other influences like video games, inappropriate tv shows, oversexed movies, music videos
    – increased rate of divorce and broken homes (children without strong father figures)
    – the addictive and seducing ubiquitous internet, and the vast swath of porn and negative influences it offers

    Religion is no longer a priority to an increasingly large number of people in the world. And I just wish we’d stop trying to pin the CAUSE on women and girls. We’re the least of the troubles.

    • Genevieve,

      Clearly we have the dangerous power to transform the Sacrament of the Eucharist into “thin spiritual gruel” for men.

      Actually, it’s largely *men* who are responsible for the “thin spiritual gruel” – an increasingly feminized clergy (and theologians) uncomfortable with Church teachings which may have too much appeal (so the thinking seems to go) to masculine sensibilities. This is one reason why one so rarely hears anything at all about The Four Last Things (heaven, hell, death, and judgment) in homilies or catechesis any more – a tragedy, since women need to hear these things every bit as much as men do. The takeover by laywomen of virtually all activities in so many parishes, including sacramental functions, is but a symptom of the deeper problem, more than a cause (though it certainly exacerbates them).

      You have to ask yourself why the Church, for its first 1,964 years, steadfastly restricted the ranks of acolytes to males. Was it wrong all that time? Is it not arrogance to assume that 100 generations of Catholics, East and West, were captives of their prejudices, and only our one generation of the last twenty years, is right?

      I’m afraid “other factors” – while undeniably present – cannot solely explain why the collapse in male attendance and participation, especially young male attendance, has been far more severe in our parishes than that of women. After all, most of these factors are at work on girls and young women as well to some real degree.

  26. I still find difficulty in girls as altar servers for some reason…and women who serve as acolytes. Yes, women can indeed serve the Church in many way including consecrated life — but when do any of the local priests ever speak about that? Women can join religious communities — active, contemplative and communities that are active/contemplative. Women can be Consecrated Virgins; women can join secular groups and third order communities. Women can be pastoral ministers, judges in marriage tribunals, hospital chaplains and so much more…but again, who speaks of these? Time to re-do vocations posters…

  27. My dear brothers and sisters, the pope allowed girls to serve as a last resort. It was never meant to be the norm. Altar boys wore the cassock and were the little priests formed for the priesthood. Christ was a man and priests are conformed sacramentally to Christ so women couldn’t be priests for lack of form. Its part of Revelation, and therefore cannot change. Mary and the other Mary’s were never ordained but the twelve were The pope only declared what has always been taught that the priesthood is Male in persona Christi Capitis. I say this at a parish where we have girls serve all the time, but hey I’m not the pastor and these changes take time.

  28. Altar servers are “deputized” to replace tonsured clerics in Minor Orders and to do the roles of those clerics in Minor Orders. Only men can be priests, thus only men can receive the Minor Orders (and now Instituted Ministries) and so therefore only males should be altar servers.

    “Deaconesses” are not the equivalent to deacons, they were not in Orders Major or Minor and had no role at Mass.

    Thus, it should be fairly obvious why only men should serve at the altar. Its not about gaining vocations (though that helps) or anything else, its Tradition that should never have been allowed to be upended by Modernists in the 90s.

  29. I am a mother of nine, and my three oldest boys serve on the altar at our parish, which does not allow altar girls. We have so many altar boys that we typically have 3-4 per weekend Mass, in addition to about 2-3 adult male acolytes plus whatever seminarians or deacons or priests might be in town. We also have about a dozen young men in seminary right now. Our parish alone has more seminarians than many dioceses.

    The question of whether girls should serve on the altar in our church is a non-issue. The results speak for themselves.

    Many blessings on you all in this new year.

  30. Only comparing altar servers who become priests is not a fair comparison. Total vocations to the priesthood religious life and permanent diaconate should be looked at. Having said that, my own experience is parishes that have female altar servers have a lower participation rate than those with boys only. The number of girls that serve is less than the number of boys lost because serving has lost it’s masculine character. I propose that this lack of a masculine character also works against priestly vocations for the boys who do serve (but have no data to discern this either way). I would add that women’s vocations to religious life have dropped much more than priestly vocations, so it appears that girl altar servers don’t seem to have helped this at all. I might guess again it actually has actually harmed religios vocations because it both predisposes them to a “coed” way of serving and does not lead as naturally to religious life as it does liturgically to a priestly life.

  31. It’s no wonder that so many people are leaving the church with these archaic beliefs about the strict “roles” women and men must conform to. Must these roles and stereotypes really remain unchanged for 2000 years? I guess so… but let me say one final thing: As a woman, I’m heartbroken that my worth in the eyes of the Church (and my parish priest, and the church leadership) is distilled down to merely a fraction of what I’m capable of. Blessings in the New Year, everyone.

    • People are leaving the Church because they do not believe her truth claims any longer, Genevieve.

      It’s hard to see how your logic doesn’t dictate that we ordain women, too. Why shouldn’t we? Isn’t the all-male priesthood an “archaic belief,” too?

    • Genevieve, please provide examples of Holy Mother Church not valuing women. Your consistent, unsupported, claims of the Church as being archaic or anti-woman sounds very similar to our militantly secularist culture. In fact, you sound very anti-Catholic in your hostility to Holy Mother Church.

      You continue to reference people leaving the Church. Statistically, this is much more evident in the liberal parishes and dioceses who have implemented so much of what you espouse. In contrast to your brand of 21st century Catholicism, the parishes most consistent with our two thousand year old, timeless, faith are booming in vocations and in attendance…particularly by young, large, families. No one is at a loss for roles to fulfill. Most of all, no one would consider walking away from the Our Eucharistic Lord and the Holy Mass, simply because a tradition of male only servers was reinstated.

      You and I should both pray for Catholics to grow in knowledge of their own faith tradition, to grow in humility and obedience, and to grow in faith…a faith that prevents them from choosing apostasy over communion.

  32. I am a Catholic school teacher as well as a mother of a son who alter serves and a daughter who sings in the choir at mass. Choosing a vocation hundreds of years ago was often a choice of survival in large poor families. This obviously has changed. The church has also changed and adapted to the society around it in many ways. IF having girls serve as alter servers truly is the reason that there are less priests in today’s Catholic church then why not try a compromise and organize boys and girls into same sex teams. We do this with sports in school. Boys teams and girls teams. They don’t practice or play together but each is given an opportunity to participate and grow. Is exclusion part of what Jesus taught us to follow?

    • Sherri,

      This is actually the compromise adopted by some more traditional pastors as a pragmatic measure – sometimes in hopes of gradually phasing out altar girls, sometimes not. This is what Fr. Longenecker, pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary parish in Greenville, SC has done:

      “The way we handle the situation here is to observe certain over-riding principles about the relationship of the sexes that are Catholic and which avoid an easy secular uniformity egalitarianism. Therefore, the boys and girls serve at different Masses. All boys for one Mass. All girls for the other Mass. Also, they dress differently. No unisex robes. Instead the boys wear cassock and surplice. The girls wear cassock albs.”

      (He notes that he has phased out altar girls in Masses at the parish school, BTW.)

      It’s certainly better than nothing; it eliminates the inevitable distractions in the sacristy and sanctuary, and helps build the masculine esprit de corps that server crews have always had.

      Nonetheless, however, this compromise still means that a number of server slots in the parish are going to be denied to boys or young men because they have been given to girls.

      • It was not that long ago that it was considered hearsay for girls to be educated. I might suggest reading about a Saint who devoted her life to changing this church edict, http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/saints/ns_lit_doc_20011125_montal-fornes-de-calasanz_en.html

        If my choice as an educator is to turn a student away or add a desk, I am going to add a desk. Open as many slots as needed for children to alter serve. Stop taking the easy way out by blaming the girls. Dig deep and do the work to encourage boys to choose a priestly vocation. Spend one hour a week marketing vocations to the youth around you. Make a difference not more blame.

      • Sherri, please read this blog post again. Also, see my other post “Altar Boys and the Priesthood”. In addition, see the 1994 clarifying letter from Rome regarding the “noble tradition” of boys serving.

        Many commenters in this thread continue to confuse the secular notions of participation with the sacred space of the liturgy. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is not a sporting event, a second grade classroom, my living room or any other example we can think of from the profane. It is sacred.

        Serving at Mass has everything to do with priestly vocations and has nothing to do with participation. Secular examples of girls being denied an education in years past has little to do with maintaining a boys only policy for serving at the altar.

        As for fostering a discernment for a priestly vocation, we should rely more upon the correlative data from CARA and the views of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments than our own highly subjective and highly secular opinions.

      • Most blogs are highly subjective opinions. If what you state is correct why did altar serving change? Yes I read your previous post. Why did the church change it’s policy? It is either correct to have only boys altar serve or not. I am attaching another link to a subjective blog on this issue with which I agree. Our past and current Popes have stated their divine opinions on this matter also. http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/the-vatican/detail/articolo/chierichette-altar-girls-monaguillas-gesuiti-jesuits-jesuitas-8698/

      • And yet, my blogs (while inclusive of opinion) have provided objective data, parish level research and anecdotal evidence from priests. In addition I have provided the opinion of the CDW. The change occurred as Rome interpreted the practice in light of the revised Code of Canon Law in 1983. Just what does the Church permit related to this topic of service? Fr. Z sum it up best the following way:

        “Diocesan Bishops can choose to authorize, or not, service at the altar by females.

        “Just because another diocese has service by women, that doesn’t mean any other diocese has to have it.

        “Priests cannot be forced to have females serve their Masses.

        “Pastors cannot be forced by bishops to have female servers.

        “There is an obligation to support the service at the altar by boys.

        “There is a connection between service at the altar by boys and vocations to the priesthood.

        “No lay person has the right to serve at the altar for Mass or any other liturgical worship.”

        Clear and concise. Regarding your link, I have read that post from the editors of the Jesuit journal, “America Magazine”.

        It is worth noting once again: this is about vocational discernment to the priesthood and not participation or a false, secular, understanding of equality. In fact, for many Catholics it is a non issue. The Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite does not allow for girls to serve. The same is true in the Diocese of Lincoln. For these Catholics this is all a moot point.

        As I state in my article, those parishes and faithful who value this twenty year old practice more than priestly vocations are facing the consequences of their decisions. The prior comment from Clare, mother of nine with three boys serving and a parish with 12 in seminary, speaks volumes in support of the data.

      • I see happy and very spiritual altar servers at both my church and school who also happen to be female and male. Both my church and school have children who have gone on to choose the vocation of the religious life, currently. I work with three sisters at my school who inspire me daily with their love and spirituality. They run the religious education at my school that includes altar servers who are also girls. Yes we are seeing the consequences of being inclusive, a beautiful rainbow of children who are living in and through the love of Jesus. Are you the person who is going to go up to them and tell them to get off the altar because they are not worthy according to outdated church doctrine?

      • Sherri,

        It has never been a heresy to educate women. Indeed, it has been held as laudatory going back to the Church Fathers. Consider St. Jerome, who in 407 AD, said, “Parents should educate their daughters as well as their sons.” Such statements could be multiplied at length.

        Service at the altar has theological implications in a way that education simply does not (see Dominic1955’s point up above noting that instituted acolytes were meant to be substitutes for men in minor orders to the priesthood), and it should give us pause to see such a long and consistent legislation of the Church on this point, going all the way back to the Council of Laodicea.

      • Excellent point Richard. If you read Sherri’s additional comments you see that, once again, emotional arguments are made in place of actual data, Church tradition or theology. It is difficult to meaningfully discuss this important topic when we are to contend with this:

        “Yes we are seeing the consequences of being inclusive, a beautiful rainbow of children who are living in and through the love of Jesus. Are you the person who is going to go up to them and tell them to get off the altar because they are not worthy according to outdated church doctrine?”

        Not to mention this comment regarding the apparent “divinity” of the popes:

        “Our past and current Popes have stated their divine opinions on this matter also.”

        In the end, however, there is a reason for our hope as it relates to vocations. We see the vocational boom for boys and girls coming out of traditional parishes and we see far more of the younger, Benedict XVI priests, willing to revisit this subject. Additionally, the overwhelmingly positive response to this post (in views and comments) tells me that many are ready to have this discussion.

      • Thank you for the space to express my opinions. I will include you in my prayers.

      • Hello LG,

        “…emotional arguments are made in place of actual data, Church tradition or theology.”

        Well, it has long been apparent that for many Catholics today, the latter must be adjusted or altered to serve the needs of the day – emotional or otherwise. Even if that means changing Church doctrine.

        I do confess that I am not entirely comfortable emphasizing the vocations issue, even as there’s no doubt in my mind that the advent of altar girls has had a negative impact both on boys and young men serving and entertaining vocations. There’s such a long and emphatic tradition in Church law against women at the altar (in any capacity) for a reason, and that reason is theological, not merely practical. As little support as there is in tradition for females serving as (extraordinary) ministers of communion, there’s still more precedent in the tradition for THAT than there is for any service at the altar.

        I grok that Sherri is concerned that there’s a cavalcade of chauvinism on display here. I don’t sense that at all (many here are not only men with daughters, but some are women themselves), but I do recognize that there is a history of priests with chauvinistic attitudes. Well, the reality today is that a priest with such an attitude, whether he be traditionalist or not, won’t survive long; women make up most of the Mass attendance (esp. daily Mass) in most parishes – even in traditionalist parishes they’re close to 50/50 – and they are essential to making parishes operate. What we need to do is get away from this idea that a Catholic is somehow second class or not even fully participating because they are not “doing things” in the sanctuary. The reality is that not even most MEN get to be “doing things” in the sanctuary.

    • Sherri, I wasn’t going to post any more, especially since my sarcastic writing style has irritated a few of the folks here. (I apologize to you all, incidentally… it’s just the way I think, but I do love you all as brothers and sisters in Christ.)

      Anyway, Sherri I just have to say: I sympathize with you, and I appreciate that you spoke up, especially about the altar server teams. Great idea! A loving and just compromise, compared to the simple exclusion of young girls…. And still, the comments fly.

      I guess I always knew the Mother Church is, and always has been, androcentric. This fact becomes even more upsetting when people crassly use the Blessed Mother and her role in the holy family as lip service to say, “See?? We LOVE women!! Even the Church is a ‘she!!!'”

      It’s hard for me (and many women that I know) not to get emotionally involved and hurt when fellow Catholics assert that even in modern times, we aren’t even really invited to participate in the mass other than simply attending. I’ve volunteered in masses and in my church since I was 12, lectoring, being a Eucharistic Minister, coordinating masses and altar serving… hours and days of my life. And now this discussion is making me feel like all my work was for naught. Evidently there are quite a few men AND women who wish I’d never set foot on that altar. How embarrassing that I put my heart and soul into what I did, and my priest was actually perceiving me as doing a disservice to my beloved Church and church. I’m scheduled to lector on January 11th… perhaps they’d prefer me to just call and quit? I wouldn’t want to “feminize” it… I should just sit in the pew and pray, because that’s my PLACE, and it’s meant to be a low, subservient place to men, because Eve committed the first sin… and on, and on.

      Women like me are called “anti-Catholic” and “modern secular feminists”– and we’re easily flogged down by 2000 years of inflexible doctrine and bible verses, and men and women who know how to sling them. Fine. I’ve been Catholic all 30 years of my life, and I love worshiping God in the beauty and tradition of the Mass, and the other Sacraments. I’ll just need to make sure I can always find a parish whose priest believes that the actions of women as valuable aspects of the liturgy (not JUST ironing the altar cloth and dusting behind the chairs after hours) — I’ve found priests who treated women with the credence and gratitude they’d afford any man, and didn’t just see women servers as a “last resort”– My husband and I will give our weekly monetary offerings to THEIR parishes.

      Sherri, I would have written to you privately, but the blog doesn’t allow me to contact you individually. Anyway, you mentioned some great points, and I thank you for your posts. I’ll join you in praying for everyone here, and making change where we can: clearly not on this blog, but in our own spheres of concerned and understanding Catholics.

      Just keep on keeping on. Many happy tidings for 2015.

  33. GEN 3:16

    To the woman also he said: I will multiply thy sorrows, and thy conceptions: in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children, and thou shalt be under thy husband’s power, and he shall have dominion over thee. – Douay-Rheims (1859)

    Commentary of the same chapter and verse.

    Ver. 16. And thy conceptions. Septuagint, “thy groaning.” The multifarious sorrows of childbearing, must remind all mothers (the blessed Virgin Mary alone excepted) of what they have incurred by original sin. If that had not taken place, they would have conceived without concupiscence, and brought forth without sorrow. (St. Augustine, City of God xiv. 26.)— Conceptions are multiplied on account of the many untimely deaths, in our fallen state. Power, which will sometimes be exercised with rigor. (Haydock) — Moses here shews the original and natural subjection of wives to their husbands, in opposition to the Egyptians, who, to honour Isis, gave women the superiority by the marriage contract. (Diodorus i. 2.) (Calmet)

    While God did create men and women as equals. Eve sin changed that in many ways and that is still the same today as it was with Adam and Eve. Men and Women are different in both our lives and how we serve God. I am sorry of being so blunt; however, it true.

    My comment:
    Being an Altar Boy, gives a boy a solid foundation into serving God in the capacity of being a Priest someday. Young women cannot ever become a Priest. It is that simple. We all have different roles in life.

  34. Do you also take into account the emotional hurt that is being done to girls by being excluded from what is at the centre of our faith? No, they will not go on to become priests – because they can’t. But they too will become pillars of faith in their communities. They too will live the gospel in way that they can’t if their faith is tainted – from the very beginning – by the feeling (yes, it is an emotional argument – that doesn’t make it any less valid) of exclusion and being second best. If boys feel intimidated by having girls present and thus don’t participate – how are we teaching them to interact with other human beings? And do we really want men as priests who are stunted in that way?
    Being an altar server has formed my faith and my way of sharing my faith in more ways than I can count. Working with altar servers (boys and girls!) today allows me to help young people grow into people who will have the gospel at the centre of their lives and who will in turn shape their communities – maybe in ways no priest can.

  35. To address the data presented here, correlation does not imply causation. The steep decline in vocations to the priesthood began LONG before girls were allowed to serve at the altar and “Generation Y” subsequently came of age. Are there any data showing a causal relationship? Also, if there are no corresponding data on women religious, that is almost certainly because very few women who are nuns (current average age of 70+) ever had the opportunity to be altar servers. Further, as many have argued, allowing female altar servers does not limit the number of males who may serve. Are there data to suggest that the absolute number of boys serving has dropped? And if so, can a drop be attributed to the presence of female altar servers? Do parishes typically turn boys away because there is too much interest? I sincerely doubt it. This article relies entirely upon logical fallacies (faulty causation) to make its case and does not answer any of the important questions that might begin to establish a causal relationship.

    Altar serving does not require any more interaction between boys/girls than attending a co-ed school or being a part of a family with siblings of both genders. Obviously priests must ultimately minister to women, too. Therefore, I should hope that interacting with members of the opposite gender would not be so problematic as to derail one’s vocation. [Presumably, the argument against female altar servers would in that case have to extend to Eucharistic ministers, lectors, and other lay ministers.] Our parish nearly always has boys and girls serving side by side. In a church that strives to unite, this is a divisive argument that, in my opinion, belongs in the last millennium.

    • Thank you for reading the post Jeanne and for taking the time to leave a thoughtful comment.

      You are absolutely correct that the data presented is correlative and not causative. Sadly, those most supportive of the change in the practice over the past twenty years have little interest in researching results or studying the topic further. My other post “Altar Boys and the Priesthood” provides additional data and some initial research (by Fr. Hollowell) done at the parish level.

      I would also add that, while there are over 200 comments on this specific post, time permitting, you should read through them. A good many of your questions are addressed and further data provided.

      Specific to your question of girls serving and women religious:

      Below is a link to the 2014 CARA study of men and women religious who made their perpetual vows in 2013. Of the women surveyed, only 15% had ever served altar. Compare this to teaching faith formation (54%) and singing in choir (48%), and you can see that serving the altar effects boys differently. Those surveyed in 2012 (15%) and 2011 (10%) responded in a similar manner.

      The Italian word/slang for altar boys is chierichetto, which means little clergymen. That about says it all. Vocations boom now as they did in the past where the Catholicism is authentic and where truth, beauty and goodness are demonstrated. This tends to be where the sacred is winning over the secular. Girls effectively discern their vocation (marriage or religious life) today the same way they did when marriage and female orders flourished: through personal piety and authentic role models.

      Understanding that altar serving has theological implications and a traditional purpose, and has always been recognized as a source for vocations to the priesthood, one can understand why many parishes are returning to boys only. Further, as dominic1955 stated in an earlier comment:

      “Altar servers are “deputized” to replace tonsured clerics in Minor Orders and to do the roles of those clerics in Minor Orders. Only men can be priests, thus only men can receive the Minor Orders (and now Instituted Ministries) and so therefore only males should be altar servers.”

      I belong to a parish where only boys serve. Trust me, the girls (including my daughters) are still highly involved and in no way participate in the mass any less. As we attend the Traditional Latin Mass, where only boys serve, and no EMHC’s or lectors are used or needed, we understand that ones participation at Mass is so much more than how busy we are during the liturgy.

      God bless and I look forward to further comments on future posts!

      Click to access profession-class-2013-report.pdf

  36. I served as a female altar server with my younger brother when my church didn’t have enough male servers. A lot of girls did, because our parish is small. Many of the times I served, my brothers (one was too young to serve at the time) and I were the only people under the age of thirty present at the Sunday mass. The issue in falling rates among seminarians is not necessarily due to the rise in female servers, but rather in the dropping numbers of young people participating in the mass.

    • Thank you for your comment. This is not a problem that I see in my parish or other traditional parishes.

      The topic of shrinking families and the abandonment of the faith is best addressed outside of this discussion. The embracing of many Catholics of contraception and sterilization, and the ever shrinking Catholic family, leads to empty pews and fewer servers. In communities where families remain open to life on a parish wide scale, finding boys to serve is not an issue.

      What is applicable would be the lack of interest boys demonstrate for serving when it is a co-ed activity. As my other post “Altar Boys and the Priesthood” explains, boys sign up to serve when the traditional practice returns.

      If a parish literally has no young people attending, however, then this may be indicative of a desacralized liturgy and/or poor catechesis. Authentic Catholicism draws folks back in. A traditional liturgy, with solid homilies and fully caffeinated Catholicism, brings in young people looking for something real and counter-cultural. This explains, for example, the appeal of the Traditional Latin Mass among college kids and those in their twenties. What many have been spiritually fed the their parishes over the past 40-50 years has had the opposite effect sadly.

  37. I am so frustrated & disheartened to see the loss of knowledge & understanding of our roles as men & women not only within the church but outside of it as well. God set each gender to have specific duties/roles. Just because a women can & sometimes has to perform the duties of a man or vice a versa, doesn’t mean they should or that it is best practice. Whether or not many think it is fine or even harmless.

    In this case there is harm happening, harm to the vocation of the priesthood. As a whole, we are no longer providing this wonderful opportunity for the young men of our parishes to be part of a brotherhood which opens their minds & hearts to discerning the priesthood during a time in their lives when they are trying to figure out & form who they are. This is lost when we have both guys & girls serve, maybe it is needed in an emergency, but it should not be the norm. Especially when we have a rich history & studies showing the fruits that come from all boy altar servers at various parishes.

    I have read many women on here getting quite bent out of shape & saying how they feel women have no value or less value than men in our Church. Please educate yourself before saying such non-sense. A very good book to read is the Theology of the Body, it helps deepen both men & women in understanding God’s plan for each of them.

    Both men & women have important places within the Church. We are equal with different parts to care for & handle to make sure the universal church continues on just as it started. There will always be parts specific for men & as a women I completely understand & embrace this because it was how God (who is all knowing) established it & wants it carried on. Does it lessen my role, my value as a member of Christ’s Body absolutely not.

    All of us need to help ensure that both men & women go through the proper discernment process to find out what vocation God is calling them to. And like I stated before, here we have a study along with history that shows that when parishes have only male altar servers, it helps provide men with an even deeper way to understanding & realizing what vocation God is calling them to & with that deeper path available there is a rise in the vocations to the priesthood & I think we can all agree we need even more Priests to continue on!

    May God Bless each of you this coming year!

  38. Years ago, I trained Alter Servers for the Novus Ordo Mass, and this was long before the return of Daily Extraordinary Form (Traditional Latin Mass) in the same parish. There always numbers like 5-7 girls and maybe 3 boys in training, and I trained them in the presence of their Mothers, and I was known to piss off a few Mothers who had daughters training to serve. I’d always remind the girls that they, they themselves are not here to become Women Priests in the Future, and this is what pissed off the Mommies! Always, there was a loss of 4-6 girls after the first day of training. The left-over girls remaining, it had been noted that they only wanted to serve Jesus in that compacity, nothing more and nothing less. My opinion….Many feminist Mothers seemed to be pushing an ulterior agenda for future Women Priests.

  39. I recommend this excellent video about adult altar boys:

  40. In 2010, my then 5 year old son and I were going to the store and had on the radio. There was a news report about the Alter Server pilgrimage that we sat in the car listening to in the parking lot. When it ended he was quite confused. He was excited about how many Altar Boys were in Rome with the Pope, but very confused as to why girls were there. I told him some churches let girls be Altar Boys. His immediate response was “WHY, girls can’t be priests!!!!”

    If a 5 year old can get it…

  41. Even if the Traditional Mass has more vocations, what makes people think people will be attracted to going to mass again. So what young families go to Traditional Mass, what happens when those children grow up and decide like most of us who went to Traditional Mass left. We’re just talking circles here. The truth is The Catholic Mass is popular in Africa and China, where at one point The Catholic Church was not allowed. South America was once popular, but now it’s not. Same with Europe, etc,etc. You all get it now.

  42. THE REAL REASON why people don’t go to church on Sundays is because choice. People have to work, people to other things. This has nothing to do with altar girls, it’s so absurd.

    • I agree the reason people do not go to Mass (not church, that is a building) has nothing to do with altar girls. You have answered your question yourself. People have a choice, they can go to Mass and commune with God and be a witness to Christ Sacrifice or not.

      I guess life is just too busy to give God one hour a week and to do what he asked during the week. Tell me, if your five year old did this to you, what would you do? What if your child said to you, “Mom I just to0 busy to spend any time with you, not even an hour a week and by the way, all those stupid rules of you have asked me to follow, well I am just going to ignore them. How would that make you feel? Then, how would you feel if they left home and never talked to you again? No, phone calls, no letters, no nothing, how would that make you feel? Just something to think about.

  43. So women not entering into convents, is that due to the feminization or is it because we all have more choice now? More opportunities for both men and women. Why would someone want to live in secluded building with the same sex, when we all have much more opportunity to become LEADERS of our own businesses. If you want more boys going to church, maybe they should install a play station or a basket ball court in the church (SARC). If boys and men don’t feel comfortable with women being around at church, then maybe that is the reason why they don’t want to be priests, because all the pew have and always been filled by females. Can you imagine a Priest dedicating himself to preach to a room filled with guess what …. oh no……females. God help us.

    • Phil Steinacker

      Arlene, I feel sorry for you. I’ve read your comments and those of many other unhappy women posting here, and the lot of you are obtuse in your insistence in twisting the explanations given you by turning them inside out and applying them in ways which are not accurate representations of what was said.

      You ignore or simply deny what you don’t understand, and the giveaway is how often your remarks are nothing more than smart-ass sarcasm.

      Sarcasm – no matter how clever in your own mind – is NOT reasoned argument. However, it does reveal that you’ve got nothing solid in the way of persuasion to offer.

      You, the other angry women here, and the neutered men who agree with your vacuous arguments are simply brainwashed by modernist feminism, and you all serve as great examples of the poison that feminism has spewed into the sanctity of the Church.

      • Phil we are witnessed to one of the last great insults (sin) to God by Satan and that is the de-masculine and humiliation of Gods first and greatest creation. Man.

        I am not belittling women; however, man came first and Satan knows this and he knows how much God loves his best creation. Therefore, if you were Satan, how would one hurt God? You would hurt by destroying his greatest creation.

        First you get Eve to sin and have persuaded her husband to sin; then, once sin enters the world. You work to destroy everything that man. Feminization is just a tool that Satan is using to destroy man and hurt God.

        The last great sin.

      • Another tool that Satan uses is homosexuality, Polygamy, bestiality, marriage to an inanimate object and the list goes on and on.

  44. Joseph Simon

    Has anyone ever researched to find if Altar Girls are more likely to become Nuns than other girls? Since 1994, when Pope Saint John Paul 11 decided to allow Altar Girls, the number of men becoming Priests has increased slightly in the U. S., while the number of woman becoming Nuns has increased dramatically. Is there a connection? I do not believe that we should do away with Altar Girls until we know if the practice has greatly increased the number of women entering the Religious Vocation.

    • In this highly charged world of Feminists and other organizations what would love to see females to become priests; it is not good idea to give a girl a glimpse of something they cannot have. In today’s world the media, Feminist organizations has worked overtime telling the world that Men and Women are equal in everything. This is just not true.

      Men and Women are not equal; there are things that Men can do better as well as things that Females are better suited for. Now, they both have important roles in life and some cannot be crossed. Being a Priest is one of them.

      I understand the frustration that many parents have with having girls and wanting them to do whatever they want in life. Then, when tell you that they want to serve God, it only makes things better. However, the main point of the article remains the same. Boys grow up to be Men and only Men can become Priest. This grooming process is centuries old and it was a mistake to allow girls to become altar servers. Because no matter what Women cannot become priest.

      Now that does not mean that Women cannot have a deep spiritual life. I just needs to get started outside of an altar server.

      God Bless

    • Thank you for your comment Joseph. Good question which I did address earlier in the thread. Specific to your question of girls serving and women religious:

      Below is a link to the 2014 CARA study of men and women religious who made their perpetual vows in 2013. Of the women surveyed, only 15% had ever served altar. Compare this to teaching faith formation (54%) and singing in choir (48%), and you can see that serving the altar effects boys differently. Those surveyed in 2012 (15%) and 2011 (10%) responded in a similar manner.

      The Italian word/slang for altar boys is chierichetto, which means little clergymen. That about says it all. Vocations boom now as they did in the past where the Catholicism is authentic and where truth, beauty and goodness are demonstrated. This tends to be where the sacred is winning over the secular. Girls effectively discern their vocation (marriage or religious life) today the same way they did when marriage and female orders flourished: through personal piety and authentic role models.

      Understanding that altar serving has theological implications and a traditional purpose, and has always been recognized as a source for vocations to the priesthood, one can understand why many parishes are returning to boys only. Further, as dominic1955 stated in an earlier comment:

      “Altar servers are “deputized” to replace tonsured clerics in Minor Orders and to do the roles of those clerics in Minor Orders. Only men can be priests, thus only men can receive the Minor Orders (and now Instituted Ministries) and so therefore only males should be altar servers.”

      I belong to a parish where only boys serve. Trust me, the girls (including my daughters) are still highly involved and in no way participate in the mass any less. As we attend the Traditional Latin Mass, where only boys serve, and no EMHC’s or lectors are used or needed, we understand that ones participation at Mass is so much more than how busy we are during the liturgy.

      God bless and I look forward to further comments on future posts!

      Click to access profession-class-2013-report.pdf

  45. I’ve read the article and every one of the comments after it. To summarize:

    (1) That we need boys to be interested in the Mass is obvious: they are the people from whom a very large percentage of priests will come. It does boys great spiritual good to be an altar server.

    (2) Whereas it may indeed do an individual girl some spiritual good to be an altar server, it certainly does not harm spiritually for her NOT to be one as evidenced by the historically large number of female vocations at a time when there were no female altar servers. Further, as one commentator noted that female vocations have dropped even faster than male vocations to the priesthood; serving at the altar really does not seem to translate into a religious vocation as often for girls as it does for boys.

    (3) Whenever girls serve at the altar, boys disappear. There are many statistics to back up this observation. Girls have been altar servers since the 1970s: we have almost 40 years of statistics on that now.

    However, it is not really obvious just WHY this mechanism is occurring.

    The most commonly proposed mechanism is that boys don’t like to join activities where there are girls (the “cooties” theory). So, why is it exactly that boys do not like to be around girls? Or for that matter, why do adult men prefer to socialize in same-sex groups? At many mixed social events one will find the men tending gravitate to one area to talk to each other.

    One other commentator proposed that perhaps there was a link between a generally more secular culture and a relatively high fraction of children without a strong father-figure in their lives which psychologically makes them averse to religion in general. The high divorce rate may affect males more strongly than females. But even these theories do not fully explain the observed phenomenon. If so, why is it exactly that boys would be spiritually affected more strongly than girls by the high divorce rate and the subsequent lack of a father-figure? If some internal resentment at God the Father is a kind of resentment against the absent human father, why does this matter more to boys than girls? Why are there not more female atheists?

    I ask these questions honestly, as I have no answer to them.

    Whenever one tries to define “masculinity” or “femininity” one simply draws up a whole list of accidents (in the philosophical sense of “accident” versus “essence”). Women tend to be keener on fashionable dressing. Men tend to prefer sports. Women tend to like shopping. Men tend to be taller. etc. Yet one can always find exceptions to each of these–the tall women who likes sports; the short man who is a bit of a dandy.

    We are all children of our time period, and in my opinion this time period has great difficulty really understanding masculinity and femininity. I think if we understood that better, this whole altar server problem would be much easier to understand.

  1. Pingback: The Daily Eudemon

  2. Pingback: The Connection Between Altar Boys and Priestly Vocations - OnePeterFive

  3. Pingback: Altar Boys and the Priesthood: Is There a Connection? - OnePeterFive

  4. Pingback: Why Opposing the Practice of Altar Girls is Not Disobedient - OnePeterFive

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