Page 4, 3rd November 1978

3rd November 1978
Page 4
Page 4, 3rd November 1978 — Girl altar-servers

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Girl altar-servers

AS reported, the bishops reject the idea of female altar-servers on the ground that. although it is a matter of law, their services in the sanctuary are not popularly demanded. Not an event for banner headlines, but intriguing in view of such terms as. "People of God", "Need of Man" Worn& as enunciated by Pope John Paul II, wherein it is presumed that both sexes are included under one gender.

As should be well-known, juvenile and adult altar-servers are a substitute for those sanctuary ministers who hitherto were ordained in the successive grades of minor orders, now, for the most part, abolished.

Even in medieval times there appeared to be a difference between ministers of the altar and choristers, the latter generally referred to in cathedral and royal foundations as singing-men and children of the chapel.

In modern times there has been no objection to female singers (though males are an ideal) because the choir was now generally installed seperately from the sanctuary, or in a gallery.

In latter years, notwithstanding the liberal "opening up" vis-a-vis the laity. there still pervades a massive clericalism, even more pronounced than before. From cardinal-deacons who are now bishops, down to the Sistine Choir, which in recent Pontifical ceremonies, and judging from their uniform neck-gear. might ' be regarded as quasi-clerics. In this context, lay services appear conspicuously absent. Lay papal functionaries, conclave marshals, Court chamberlains, though now virtually abolished, did give a touch of glamour, if nothing else.

In the new mode it must be disconcerting to some women to find that though they may be chosen to fill the position of a reader, but not the minimal duties at the Lavabo, they are welcomed on non-cultic occasions as erstwhile Mrs Mops.

From this it would follow that their presence in the sanctuary (as readers), cancels out any supposed "defect" as women per se for, are we not all "good", male and female, as being created by God? This is no apologia for advocating female participation in the offices of the Church. whether great or small, for much legislation needs to be sorted out. Perhaps the preponderant male element has been launched to forestall or minimise this juncture, but it is very easy to be prejudicial in ▪ what could be the interest of truth.

One is reminded of the story (whether true or not) of the visit of Signora Sarto to her newly-elected son, Pope Pius X. Naturally, he was pleased to show her the emblem of his august office, the Fisherman's Ring, but she likewise showing him her wedding ring, gently. called to mind that, but for this, such a happy occasion would not have been possible.

James Goldsbury

Radcliffe-on-Trent Nottingham

As usual, we are being treated to another set of fallacious arguments about female altar-servers. The paucity of the arguments put forward by the anti-feminists becomes even more glaring the more they protest.

Tradition cannot be brought forward as an argument. Slavery was atradition for thousands of years of human history: it is in the Bible, both Old and New Testament (Paul's letter to Ephesians. Chap 6).

. But when slavery was finally (in theory) abolished, the Church did not say it was a good thing and therefore must be kept, because — it was a tradition stretching back thousands of years.

Altar-servers (as acolytes) might at one time have been in minor orders, but surely not now Most of the altar-boys will not be priests or seminarians.

There was no significant demand for women readers at Mass either, but they came forward in considerable numbers when allowed to do so. Also for distributing Communion. The crux of the whole matter is obviously in the fact that many priests first acquired an interest by serving at the altar. The bishops are frightened to death that girls will become interested in the priesthood and that people will be used to seeing females on the altar, thus making their minds more open to the idea of women becoming priests.

(Ms) Doreen Barker Southend-on-Sea


AT LONG last the bishops have given us clear guidance concerning girl altar-servers. What we have all felt for a long time has now been put into words: a handful of girls passing things and giving the odd answer would disastrously cut down the opportunities for boys to gain an interest in going on for the priesthood. For centuries women have tried to worm their way into the sanctuary by various means — cleaning, looking after altar linen and candles, arranging flowers, etc — thus selfishly depriving their brothers of the opportunity to gain a deep interest in menial chores, which might have helped many a future priest with his everyday problems.

Admittedly, most bishops seem to have turned a blind eye to these activities so far. Let us hope and pray that women themselves may now see the error of their ways and humbly withdraw from their deplorable, practices.

Joan Higgins Dewsbury,

Yorkshire IT IS with amazement and incredulity that I read of Bishop Linday's comments (October 201 on girl altar-servers. Are we really to believe that male vocations will suffer as a result of girl altar-servers?

Are we really to believe that those deemed worthy of receiving the Consecrated Body of Christ are deemed not worthy to assist in its presentation and celebration?

Are we really to believe that the vocations of women to the lay and religious states are of lesser importance than of boys to the priesthood?

Arc we really to accept that those who are fit to clean the altars are not fit simply to present the priest with the bread and wine?

As a mother of a daughter and a son I could not tell one in preference to the other that they are more suit able or worthy in this regard in the eyes of God.

(Mrs) liana McDowell N unthorpe,

Middlesbrough Cleveland The bishops of England and Wales have just answered one of the ques tions I asked a few weeks ago in your columns: there is no reason for barring girls and women from altar service, other than an unnecessarily offensive tradition.

The bishops have "considered the question of girl altar-servers in terms of the official post of acolyte, one of the minor orders ..." This bears an extraordinary resemblance to "double think". Or would their Lord ships care to consider in the same terms the question of boy altarservers barely out of nappies, who haven't a notion of what they are doing?

The office of server at parish Masses has, for a long time, been filled by lay people, who are not in minor orders, or want to be, or ever will be. It is in practice a lay office and there is no good reason why it should not, like the office of reader, be filled by both women and men.

Fr Jim Hook (October 20) claims that there is no significant demand from girls to be allowed to serve at Mass. On what information, pray, does Fr Jim found this statement? Have all (or any) Catholic girls and women been asked, or given any chance to express their views on the matter? No priest has ever asked me if I wanted to serve at Mass. I do.

(Dr) Nadia C. MacGregor Fairlie New Milton.


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