25 June 2006
MythAnathematizers: Episode II
We dedicate this post to our friend J.J. Up to this point, he has avoided serving Mass with women.
This week, we will tackle the issue of altar girls. This issue is very near and dear to our heart. Altar girls were first sanctioned by John Paul the Great when we were in early grade school. We were not particularly knowledgable of the faith at that point, but our mother tells us that the day it happened we rushed into the sanctuary and told the priest, "I am not going to serve Mass anymore. This is the ruination of the Church!" From the mouths of babes...
Myth #1: Women have equal status as men in the sanctuary.
Men and women are created equal in dignity. However, men and women are different and are specifically suited to particular roles (Everyone: What, Papa!? You mean feminism is a bunch of garbage? Papa: Yes, kids. That's what we're saying.) Ever since the 4th Century, the Church has made it clear that women are not permitted to perform any ministry within the sanctuary. Aimé-Georges Martimort, a liturgical scholar, writes in the Vatican journal Notitiae, "[The] general discipline of the Church [against female altar service] has been set in stone by canon 44 of the Collection of Laodicea which dates generally from the end of the 4th century and which has figured in almost all canonical collections of East and West." Abbe Michel Sinoir, priest of the Archdiocese of Paris, adds the following to the debate, "The presence of women in the sanctuary, which is the place of Christ the New Adam, Bridegroom and Saviour, and hence the place of the bishop, bridegroom of his [local] church, the place of the priest and the deacon - this unjustifiable feminine presence, even if it does not destroy the objectivity of the perpetually renewed redemptive Act, nevertheless greatly harms the personal faith of each member of the congregation by confronting it with a sign which falsifies the mystery; it impoverishes our faith." In his article, "Altar Girls: Feminist Ideology and the Roman Liturgy," Fr. Brian Harrison, O.S. sums up the implications of the above quotations when he states that, "This falsification of the sacred symbolism of the liturgy at its very heart - the Holy of Holies which is the altar of sacrifice - is the deepest reason why female altar service is a serious deformation of the Church's worship. The altar server, traditionally envisaged as a potential priest, is presented visually and symbolically in that role by his location, and by his actions, which provide proximate assistance and preparation for the quintessentially sacerdotal act: the offering of the Sacrifice."
We are different. We are equal in dignity, but different. It is not our role to be a mother, even if we really want to be one (Deo gratias). It is not a woman's role to be an altar server, even if she really wants to be one.
Myth #1: Anathematized
Myth #2: Allowing altar girls is a minor issue compared with some of the other changes in the liturgy since Vatican II.
The aforementioned Fr. Brian Harrison points out that the ban on women from the sanctuary remains very clearly defined even up to 1975 edition of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal which states in paragraph 70 that "Those ministries which are performed outside the sanctuary may be entrusted to women if this be judged prudent by the priest in charge of the church. The provisions of n. 66 about the place whence the scriptures are to be read should be taken into account." It states in paragraph 66, "The Bishops' Conference may permit a woman to read those scripture passages which precede the Gospel, and to give out the intentions in the Prayer of the Faithful. It is for them also to specify the place whence she may most suitably announce God's word to the people." Fr. Harrison asserts that when we interpret these two statements from the G.I.R.M., we must come to the conclusion that even in 1975, the Church only permits women lectors outside the sanctuary. The point is clear: the 1994 document that allowed for girls to serve at the altar is a very striking departure from tradition and is indeed a very radical change from the Church's practice in the past.
Myth #2- Anathematized
Myth #3: Altar girls don't pose much of a threat to anything. There are much bigger problems for the Church to deal with.
Altar girls are vocation killers. In elementary school, girls are often smarter, more mature, and more willing to get involved in extracurriculars than boys (We tip our cap to the ladies). It is already clear that in many parishes, altar girls are already outnumbering altar boys. Boys need some exclusivity for them to get involved (an exclusivity that is not unjust based on the previous paragraphs) and serving Mass fosters many vocations. Girls destroy this experience for the boys. Furthermore, allowing girls to serve at the altar is just another thing that has contributed to the degredation of the priestly vocation. First, lay people are allowed to put their hands inside the tabernacle; then, women are allowed to serve in the sanctuary. Vocation killer.
Myth #3- Anathematized
Tune in next week for Eucharistic Ministers. Are there such things? Find out on the next installment of MythAnathematizers...