Altar Boys, Altar Girls, and the Need for Ongoing Discernment

As the Church continues to discuss the highly charged topic of boys, girls, and altar serving, there is one opinion that appears to be as prevalent as it is wrong.  Many Catholics advocating for altar girls do so based on an incorrect appeal to obedience.  Their argument: since Rome permits girls to serve now, there is nothing more to discuss. In fact, some contend it is wrong to even question the current practice.

However, whether or not girls should serve at the altar is actually an ongoing process of discernment. This is what too few understand. Just because canon law permits girls to serve does not mean that pastoral discernment ceases. To the contrary, now more than ever this discussion is needed.

For those who mistake Rome’s permission as an endorsement, in July 2001 the Congregation for Divine Worship (and its then prefect Cardinal Jorge A. Medina Estévez) issued a response to a bishop’s inquiry concerning the admission of girls as servers. The Congregation’s response stated the following:

  • Bishops are free to admit female altar servers.
  • Only a diocesan bishop can decide whether to permit female servers in his diocese.
  • No priest is obligated to have female servers, even where the Diocese permits it.
  • No one has a “right” to serve at the altar.
  • The obligation to support groups of altar boys will always remain due to the well known assistance that such programs have provided in encouraging future priestly vocations.

That this is an ongoing matter of discernment, and not something already determined once and for all, is evident from the letter issued by the Congregation. It is a failure on the part of the faithful to grasp this which can lead to confusion and controversy when a pastor reinstates the traditional practice at his parish.

With each new pastoral assignment and with each episcopal consecration comes the responsibility to honestly revisit this modern innovation. Additionally, every Catholic father with daughters must discern this for his own family as well. 

As clergy and faithful alike continue to learn more about the history and the purpose of altar serving, let’s hope that constructive discussions are not stifled simply because some consider the issue closed. Indeed, ongoing discernment of this is by far the most prudent path for the Church.

An earlier version of this article appeared at OnePeterFive on February 2, 2015.

Photo Credit: Catholic News Herald

Posted on August 28, 2016, in liturgy and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. The Vatican II Catholic Church has been totally infiltrated by the feminist agenda which is an off shoot of the worldwide Communistic / Atheistic movement (there are no rules, no law, no God, etc.) to destroy the Church. Our current crop of bishops are total weaklings more interested in dating their boy friends than proclaiming the faith.

    Until the Catholic faithful realize that all Vatican II “changes” were implemented to destroy the Church, then the Catholic faithful will be living in darkness. Prior to Vatican II, the Church was at a high water mark in terms of growth, vocations, conversions, etc. Why was anything changed in the Church if all statistical indicators were positive. Since Vatican II, the Church has been in free fall decline in terms of growth, vocations and conversions. Vatican II was called to destroy the success of the Church and sow confusion among the faithful.

    The fact that most modernist orders of sisters which have adopted feminism as their religion are in steep decline and will be dead within a few years is proof positive that the lesbian / feminist agenda (including altar girls) is not the way to go for the Church.

    In the Vatican II Church, the first priority is “equality” which is destroying the Church.

    What did Satan say to the Almighty which got him kicked out of Heaven?: Jeremiah 2:20 “I will not serve,” meaning, that Satan (like the lesbian feminists) would not follow the rules that had bee laid down for him and all the angels.

    • It’s simple: female altar servers introduce sexuality into the sanctuary. They cannot be ignored like group of males all dressed in the same uniform; women are not meant to be ignored and they seem to know this intuitively and dress accordingly thus are a major distraction. Visualize: altar servers holding the bishop’s crosier, mitre and the sacramentary vested in white albs and cinctures. When they moved toward the
      Bishop to serve him they were revealed to have jet black hair down the back to the waist! An immediate distraction. This was at an installation of a Bishop shown on EWTN! Now I wonder if they also were wearing perfume and maybe fingernail polish.

  2. Not at all in favor of women being on the altar. Why aren’t girls being encouraged to learn sacristy skills and/or joining prayer based groups who do community service?

  3. Ronald Sevenster

    The Canons which permit altar-girls are clearly misguided products of the Vatican II revolution. There’s simply no inherent logic in the concept of altar-girls at all. The only effect is that boys are not amused and become unwilling to serve. Thus potential candidates for the priesthood are turned away. Another effect is that it suggests that female priests are a possibility. To fence off any such suggestion, one should take care that only boys serve at the altar.

  4. Unfortunately some pastors implemented the practice prior to its authorization and I imagine some still do so without the bishop’s approval. This sets a terrible example but I note nothing is done about it which sets an even worse example. Although this is relatively insignificant in relation to other abuses taking place in the Church, it is one more thing that gives meaning to the term “faithful remnant”.

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