Save the altar girls!

This week in America:Save the altar girls.”


  1. “..replacing girls with boys as servers leads to more vocations to the priesthood”

    Hmmm. Is there really a direct correlation between being an altar server and considering to be a priest? The number of men joining the priesthood started declining long before girls were allowed to be altar servers.

  2. The notion of “reserving” the role of altar server as the primary pathway to the priesthood is stupid. We live in an entirely different environment than the 1950’s.

    Today’s challenge is getting young people interested in the Church, because if they do not get interested and stay interested we are not going to need the priests! We need to get as many young people as possible involved life long by giving them significant parish roles. That includes roles in as many parish ministries as possible: servers, choir, religious education, social service.

    The more young people we get involved in the parishes the more people who will consider vocations to the priesthood and religious life as well as remaining active in parishes all their life and continuing to fill up the pews.

    As far as young men are concerned whom you might want to encourage to study for the priesthood. Get them into the choir and encourage them to develop their voices as cantors. I want priests who like the Orthodox love to sing the liturgy. They are not going to develop that in our seminaries, or even in some of our colleges.

    All you music directors and musicians out there should become interested in the choir/cantor pathway. If you want to have strong support from pastors in the future for good music then you want to raise a next generation of priests who love music in the liturgy and love to sing the liturgy.

  3. Wow, and don’t miss the response by the rector of the cathedral himself in the comments section. The chip on his shoulder is of an amazing size and shape. Despite the fact that being an altar server does not, in the vast majority of cases, EVER lead to priesthood, he claims this is its “nature.” None of these children are vested acolytes, on the way to orders, but defining “being” is a way to ignore all that. Then too, he claims that boys have been shunted aside by girls. An extraordinary charge. Are there any parishes that exclude boys?

    1. Judging from his rigidity, arrogance and condescending tone I suspect that there are more issues at the Cathedral beyond the rector’s discrimination against females who wish to serve at the altar.

      I guess anyone who disagrees with him is emotional and irrational, whereas anyone who agrees with him is rational.

      Of course no one with any expertise in theology would ever disagree with him.

      In the back corner of my mind I keep wondering how I would respond if forced to work under the supervision of this deficient rector. I suspect he would be exceptionally difficult to work with. I wonder if he was made “rector” because not being a real pastor he might not be able to do as much damage as he could if he had a real parish under his control.

  4. The rector’s comment is worth more than the original article – excerpts:
    “As the rector, I am the chief liturgist of the parish. I do not, as a general rule, consult our Parish Council on liturgical matters since the typical parish council (and ours, specifically) is not comprised of members formally trained in theology and liturgy. As many in the media have demonstrated clearly, the absence of formal theological and liturgical training leaves far too many individuals evaluating this decision from purely emotional, subjective standpoint. Such decisions require a proper understanding of theological anthropology, sacramental theology and ecclesiology, as well as a willingness to examine honestly what contributes to, and what detracts from, priestly vocations.”

    Where does one begin:
    – his belief that untrained folks (& he includes the Jesuit writer) will always respond with “purely emotional & subjective standpoint” – would suggest that his decision is both emotional & subjective despite his claims that he based it upon a proper understanding of theology, etc.
    – “…..disobedience – height of clericalism.” His history only recognized some of the church’s long history of service at the altar (guess one can pick and choose historical periods)
    – ……he fails to recognize that many of the significant changes in church discipline, practice, sacraments initially started out viewed as disobedience e.g. Thomas Aquinas; Yves Congar; Schillebecckx;
    – “….actual identity of the priest” Pretty sure that VII started out by defining who the “priestly people of God” are and only later explicated ordained sacramental ministry. Connecting sacramental priesthood with service to the altar – not sure that this is dogmatically defined yet and, in fact, would suggest that VII laid out a different vision
    – “…JPII & policy, etc.” Well, he can quote but one pope’s statement is only a policy; nothing more?

    Defensiveness is mind-numbing – is there a liturgical committee at this cathedral?

  5. The parish my sister attends does not have altar girls, and the pastor, a very charismatic and dynamic man, strongly encourages all boys to serve at the altar, with the result being that at a typical Mass there are ten or twenty altar boys, some of whom have nothing to do but bear torches. But all the altar boys are at least given some exposure to the priesthood. Probably not coincidentally, this parish has produced a plethora of vocations, including two out of the three priests ordained in this archdiocese this year. Over the past ten or so years, this parish has produced a significant percentage of the priests ordained in this archdiocese.

    This really should not be too surprising. We know from many other settings that boys tend to avoid activities that are dominated by girls. Yes, there are many men who become priests who never served as altar boys, but there is little doubt that feminizing the altar at least has the potential to discourage vocations to the priesthood.

    1. “a very charismatic and dynamic man” who invited all the boys of the parish to assist him as a priest in serving the poor in soup kitchens as the first step to the priesthood might produce even more priests! and better priests! as well as greater care for the poor by all those who went on to be married!

    2. “Probably not coincidentally, this parish has produced a plethora of vocations…”

      Anecdotal only.

      The sky is blue.
      My carpet is blue.
      Then, my carpet is the sky.

      Please give us a real study please.

      Tom, can you please give us the name and diocese that has given us this plethora of vocations rather than stating “this parish”. Furthermore, three priests in an ARCHdiocese?
      I don’t think your sister’s parish has anything to brag about there.

      1. Yes, I would think that a critical study of the matter would be crucial. What are the best ways to encourage vocations to the preisthood? What really works? And beyond that… what kind of priests result from the process? There is a lot of talk about quantity… but it seems to me that we need to talk about quality, too. I imagine that such a longitudinal study would be a daunting task….

  6. There was a TV sit come called “Third Rock from the Sun” about extra-terrestials disguised as humans so they could explore our planet. One of them, “Tommy Solomon,” assumes the form of teen-age boy though he is in fact the oldest of the spy team and the Information Officer. In gymn class he refuses the rope climb because it seems senseless to climb a knotted rope only to come back down. The coach threatens him with having to sit with the girls if he refuses the exercise. “Tommy” looks over at the girls and says, “Is there a down side to this?” I were a Catholic boy again I would love a ministry that put me in with great Catholic girls.

  7. Dr. Rodriguez,

    I didn’t say the Archdiocese was producing a plethora of vocations, but that this parish was producing a large percentage of the vocations, including two out of the three men ordained this year. In the decade my sister has been going there, roughly one young man from the parish has entered the seminary each year. And yes, I think Fr. Ben has something to brag about, since most parishes produce no vocations at all. How many vocations has your parish produced?

    Mr. Rakosky and Ms. Ferrone,

    I find it incredible how easily people are willing to judge a priest they have never met, and criticize a priest who is actually inspiring young men to become priests for not doing it the way they would want him to. How many young men have you inspired to become priests, Mr. Rakosky? And how many young men have you inspired to be priests, Ms. Farrone?

    1. Well since you seem to be counting, we are a small parish and have produced 2 in the past several years. We have a small diocese, not an archdiocese, and have about 120,000 catholics and we have 8 seminarians. It is a large number of seminarians for a small diocese and we have female altar servers. But that is anecdotal.

      A bigger concern is that many boys are actually discouraged from serving because of fears due to the sex abuse scandal and not because of female altar servers. We all know what people whisper about boys around priests. My small parish has had four laicized pedophile priests in the past 15 years (all attracted to seminary when there were no altar girls I might add but anecdotal again).
      I could say that it swings both ways, since we have fewer pedophile priests then one could possibly conclude that female altar servers drive away pedophile candidates? See the problem w/ anecdotes?

      You state that your sister’s church produced 1 seminarian/yr in the past decade, given an average of training of anywhere between 3-5 years each then your sister’s parish has produced about 7 priests in the past decade?
      You forgot to mention the name of this powerhouse parish btw, which parish is it?

    2. Tom, I am sorry for offending you. Let me clarify. I do not know this pastor. I do not judge his motives. I do agree strongly however with the idea that service is critical to the model we need to give and to promote among young people who are being invited into leadership, and that integration into a community that is mixed in gender is likewise essential for human growth to maturity, especially in today’s society where men and women work together ordinarily and are not segregated in everyday life.

      Having 20 altar boys in the sanctuary with little to do, because they have been asked there by a charismatic pastor who excludes females, is not a good model of anything healthy in the church — it’s not good liturgy, it’s not good modeling of a diversity of ministries, it’s not good stewardship of gifts, it’s not good collaboration or preparation for adulthood much less for priesthood. I am sorry, but I would indeed question such a program.

      1. I agree with you Rita and I’m not looking to pick a fight w/Tom but I become very suspect when “observations” become an excuse for bigoted thinking (by a pastor not Tom). W/ that many boys in the sanctuary who can become bored and clown around can very easily become distracting to the assembly. I remember when I was an altar boy pre VII at high mass w/ about 16 servers, and yes we did fool around. Most female altar servers take their ministry seriously because I think they know how tenuous it is.

      2. Actually, you don’t agree with Rita, who wrote, ” I do not know this pastor. I do not judge his motives.” Instead, you’re judging the pastors motives as bigotry.

      3. Huh? Jeffrey I think you need to read the title of this blog: “Save the altar girls!”, that’s were it comes from and the gist of this blog. I think that there is a movement to remove female servers and most have heard about it.

      4. And Samuel, I should have been more specific, I agree w/ Rita where she begins: “I do agree…”
        Furthermore, I agree w/ the above comments by Fr. Jim Blue and Bill deHaas who use stronger language, especially Fr. Jim.

      5. Dale, I think you may have misunderstood my comment. I was not questioning whether female altar ministry is tenuous. I was questioning whence come the generalizations that a) most female altar servers take their ministry seriously, and b) most female altar servers know how tenuous their ministry is.

  8. Maybe I am naive, but are we confusing ends and means? Isn’t ministry about Christ-like service… an end in itself, a loving response to being loved first? Does not turning it into a “means” towards another end (even something as noble as encouraging vocations to the priesthood) result in a distortion of what ministry is all about? Does such “functional” thinking (“I’m going to encourage boys to be altar servers for what the church might get out of it.”) not diminish ministry at the altar, and perhaps all ministry?

  9. I am amazed at the “Christian” tone of this debate. Two facts have been ignored in all these comments: 1) The Church (with good reason) only ordains men to the Priesthood. 2) Boys and girls like having their own clubs/organizations without the presence of the other gender. I firmly believe this is part of adolescent human behavior, not simply “social programming”. I am a father of 3 boys and 3 girls – I speak from experience. The purpose of “Alter servers” is not simply to help out at Mass. The purpose should be to engage young boys in aspects of the priesthood. This serves the purpose of keeping the possibility of a vocation in front of them. It is also my experience that in parishes that use both girls and boys as alter servers, there is a drop off in participation from the boys. The girls take over. Two parishes in the Detroit Archdiocese that have been very successful at generating vocations each year are Assumption Grotto in Detroit and Ss Cyril & Methodius in Sterling Height, MI. Both Parishes have active “Alter Boy” groups that function like clubs. Boys serve at every mass they attend – including daily mass. The older boys teach and mentor the younger boys. Most of the younger boys know Seminarians and newly ordained Priests. It’s a good system for generating vocations. I don’t see the advantage of tearing this down – especially if the reason is political correctness.

    1. Mr. Sinclair,

      You make an interesting claim: that the purpose of altar servers is not just to “help out at Mass” but that it ought to be an avenue for recruiting men for the priesthood. I think that is exactly what is being debated here. Should that be the case? What effects does that have on the kind of person that we attract to the priesthood, and what kind of priests do they make later? I have no answers to these questions – but I think they are the kind of questions worth asking… instead of making assunmptions (one way or the other).

    2. Sorry Mike but when you state “Two facts..” I am suspect of your “facts”. Since we have had altar girls for over a decade then using your line of thinking we shouldn’t have any seminarians….
      Your facts are observations only, at only several parishes and with all due respect, they are statistically insignificant. I can point out parishes with altar girls that have produced seminarians.

      1. S.J. Howard

        Something can be reduced in number for several reasons that might have nothing to do with an event that preceded it.

        You’re suffering from the ‘post hoc propter hoc’ syndrome.

      2. Gerard, I’m actually not, because I didn’t take a position on whether having girls be altar servers reduced the number of priestly vocations.

        Dr. Rodriguez, on the other hand, criticized Mike saying “Since we have had altar girls for over a decade then using your line of thinking we shouldn’t have any seminarians….” which is bad reasoning for the reason I suggested.

      3. Obviously Samuel you don’t understand hyperbole.
        Of course my comment was ridiculous in order to point out how ridiculous Mr. Sinclair’s conclusions were about his observations which were statistically insignificant.

    3. What is the relevance of the argument that altar serving leads to vocations to the priesthood? Isn’t it a red herring? The question at issue is whether the pastor ought to exclude girls from altar serving, not how to attract boys to the priesthood. Why not deal with this question on its own grounds— girls . . . serving . . . altar. What’s wrong with that picture? On what grounds would Jesus have rejected the service of a girl at a Eucharistic celebration? What is it about girls that makes their service unworthy? Please don’t dodge this question by talking about boys and their needs or their psychology; the question is about excluding girls.

      It’s disturbing that Mike Sinclair believes that the bishops or rectors cannot “engage young boys in aspects of the priesthood” without excluding girls from altar serving. IF that’s even possibly true, then the question about what’s wrong with girls at the altar becomes all too urgent to ignore. For centuries male theologians claimed that females were by nature unfit to serve in the priesthood. The favored post-V.II arguments discard this approach. They make claims about “no authority” to ordain women and about Christ’s imprinting his male gender on the priesthood— as though gender were the kind of difference that made a difference to him— along with the ever-popular metaphor of the Church as bride of Christ, with priest as groom (a traditionally male role).

      But it seems that this question of female altar servers ineluctably resurrects the “by nature unfit” historical position, which underlies the claim that boys are reluctant to pursue vocations to the priesthood when they share altar service with girls. This discussion seems determined to avoid the underlying issue of fitness to serve.

  10. My church has altar girls 🙂 I have no idea how many priests have been produced in the parish.

    I can’t help wondering about the difference in why people become priests in regards to the Episcopal Church and the Catholic Church – when anyone, including woean and married men, can become priests, is their vocational impetus different than the men who choose a celibate life as Catholic priests?

    I remember a post at Andrew Brown’s blog last year noting that “the Church of England has 600 priests in training, half of them women; the Roman Catholic church here has 39”. If the Catholic Church wants more priests, there are better ways to insure that than allowing only altar boys.

  11. Since “servers” are a child ministry in parishes in which mostly adults do ministry, one wonders what the psychological effect of empowering these young boys while still children to think of themselves as future priests will have on their future role in parishes. Is it really healthy for their long term survival to segregate them out from everyone else so early?

    I have noticed that young priests find it very difficult to fit into large parishes with many ministries. They don’t take naturally to supporting the many ministries as the women pastoral associates do from their long experience. One young priest stayed in his room in the parish house for most of the day. A very talented woman pastoral associate said she felt more like a mother than a colleague. The man left the priesthood.

    A recent study found a lot of young priests are leaving the priesthood, between 10 to 15% within the first five years. Common to almost all of them was that they felt lonely and unappreciated. Don’t we really want a formation system beginning with their earliest experiences in church ministry that integrates them with everyone else so that they don’t feel lonely.

    My answer to this is to have more children and adolescents involved in all ministries as ministers not just as recipients. My motivation for all this is that I was very fortunate as a child not only to be an altar boy but also to become very involved in the parish as an adolescent so much so that people referred to me as the “assistant” pastor. Most of our parish ministries are wonderful opportunities to develop young talent not only for our church but for society as a whole. I would like as many young people as possible to have these opportunities.

    1. And, Jack, we have just spent roughly 30 years dismantling the minor seminary model/structure because of increased awareness in terms of psychological development; the maturity needed around making a decision to start a process toward ordained ministry, etc.

      The arguments for a male only server position flys in the face of the research and experience of those who saw the damage done by the minor seminary model. It removed boys from their families at a too young age; it ingrained a clericalism that we continue to suffer from; the “boys club” idea sounds good but in reality is the very thing we need to move away from (for all and more than the reasons outlined by Jack).

      Thanks also to those who named the fact that “quantity” can hide many realities – namely, quality of the candidates; how many make it to ordination; how many come through the process as mature, well developed adults committed to serve all the people of God and without a notion that they are “special” and set apart. (BTW – CARA studies over the years show that 50% of all ordination classes leave the priesthood by their 10th anniversary).

  12. With so many young children of today having “boyfriends and girlfriends” in grade school and becoming intimately active in their teenage years is it really a good idea to place them in a Sanctuary together with thoughts of such running through their heads even being a possibility? Is that right? Let’s face it, most are no longer thinking of Barbie Dolls and GI Joe figures to play with when they get home. Times might have been for a few short years before the dawn of the internet and cell phone texting etc., a moment when everyone could be seen together as children but that is rapidly changing. It may be time to keep them seperated until a time when they can fully and emotionally understand the thoughts and changes that happen to them so much earlier in life than before. Just the chances are an unnecessary distraction in the Sanctuary where all the focus should be on GOD and MASS. I would not want to tell people my child met their boyfriend or girlfriend in the Sanctuary of our Church and have been “dating” ever since.

  13. Our parish in Seattle, like several in the Seattle area, including amazing St. James Cathedral, limits the ministry of altar server to baptized, confirmed, and communed members of the parish. As a result, who are the altar servers? ADULTS. (If there was someone fully initiated at age 7 and up, we’d take them too!)

    As a child, I enjoyed being an altar server, but upon theological and liturgical reflection, I can’t believe more and more parishes haven’t moved to this model. We require confirmation for so many other liturgical ministries, and it seems altar sever should be included in that as well (even with permission from the Vatican to allow those not fully initiated to take part in the ministry).

    Of course, if we just had restored order confirmation….

    (And, oh, even without kids being altar servers, the Seattle Archdiocese has a very healthy number of seminarians each year.)

    1. Good observation, Chuck. In the parishes near my house, it is often customary for adults (meaning people in their 20s+) to serve, especially on weekdays. This custom cuts across ideological lines, with “liberal” and “conservative/traditional” parishes all allowing adults (sometimes men only, depending on parish ideology) to serve Masses. Many of these servers are married and even older than the priest! The argument that altar service should be restricted to males to encourage vocations evaporates when adult male servers are married.

      Having once been a server for both forms, I’ve noted that adults more often do a better job than kids at serving Mass. In my opinion, adults are often punctual. Also, adults are often better able to follow the cues of the priest as he says Mass.

  14. Sean, I think I hear what you are saying on this; that promoters of the VC2010 attempt to discredit its detractors in any way possible since said promoters are in denial of the manifold shortcomings of the product about to be imposed. On the other hand, yes, it is indeed possible that many of those who find the VC2010 unacceptable do have additional critiques of the church.

    Many of the concerns expressed about the VC2010 are not only about the text itself but also the dysfunctional process by which it evolved, and also the grave incompetence of the “leaders” who have permitted this travesty to be perpetrated.

    1. @Fr. Jim Blue, you are absolutely correct. People who disagree with the current changes may or may not have other issues with the church. But some promoters of the change want to make it as if all dissenters have other issues.

      And yes, the way the changes have been made, is a travesty.

    2. Over at Fr Z’s blog there are kudos galore for the Prof Esolen defense of the new translation. One of the amusing points is that, in the new translation, the sense of currere is correctly translated, whereas in the old ICEL it is only paraphrased.

      But as Professor Rhidflesch (spelling?) pointed out on this blog MONTHS ago, currere is paraphrased in the new translation of Saint Benedict’s Collect, and that’s a mistranslation of a line lifted right out of Saint Benedict’s Rule, which obviously the genius making the final axe swipes at the Vox Clara Pell-Moroney-Ward Missal didn’t even recognize! Some expert, huh?

      No, the cheerleaders of VC2010 are so disingenuous: cherry picking what’s good and intentionally covering up what’s mistranslated, in violation of LA, and/or downright erroneous even comical English for the sake of what? The gratitude of our hapless Bishops (hello there, all you Bishops reading this but still not courageous or honest enough to speak up!)? A set of purple-red buttons? Money? If Esolen or Fr Z or Helen Hitchcock or all our knowing but mute Bishops were honest, they’d be pointing out the mistakes and using their influence to correct all these errors. But there are no perks in being honest, just ask Fr Ruff, Canon Griffiths, etc.

      1. No, the cheerleaders of VC2010 are so disingenuous:

        Or maybe they think that the new translation is substantially better if not perfect and don’t want to see it delayed or withdrawn by the perfect being made the enemy of the good. Perhaps they just disagree with you.

        Some expert, huh?

        Prof. Esolen is an award-winning poet, has published a respected translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy, and has also published Latin translation. So, yes, he’d be precisely an expert on the topic of Latin translation and several cognate matters.

      2. If you had taken the time to read my post, the “some expert” remark referred to “the genius” at VC who apparently so completely missed the Collect’s near quote from the Holy Rule as to botch its translation into English.

        And no matter what the cheerleaders think regarding the “substantial” superiority of the new translation, their intentional unwillingness to hold the Vox Clara people accountable for the final product’s inaccurate translations, lack of fidelity to the very directives issued by the Holy See, and erroneous/comical English is STILL disingenuous (to be charitable), dishonest (to be more forthright), and hypocritical (to be precise).

        Of course, the final responsibility lies with CDW who failed to vindicate the Holy Father’s trust in them by granting the recognitio to a seriously flawed product. Since the errors were detailed in the (charitably entitled) “Areas of Difficulty” document, one is left to wonder about the cause of CDW’s failure: incompetence, arrogance, laziness? All of the above?

        How odd, Samuel, that you of all people should be championing the mediocre as “the good” (vis a vis “the perfect”). Now “at least” this mediocre Vox Clara version (“with a bond of love so tight” / “to the immensity of your majesty” and on and on) has been promulgated. Several publications detailing the above-mentioned inaccuracies, deviations from directives, and erroneous English usage are already being prepared for publication, let me assure you! It will then be time to take the correcting pencils to the $500 Missals and clean them up.

        Good work, Vox Clara. And you Pray-Tell-Blog reading but ever mute Bishops!

      3. A spiritual guide should be silent when discretion requires and speak when words are of service. Otherwise he may say what he should not or be silent when he should speak. Indiscreet speech may lead men into error and an imprudent silence may leave in error those who could have been taught. Pastors who lack foresight hesitate to say openly what is right because they fear losing the favor of men. As the voice of truth tells us, such leaders are not zealous pastors who protect their flocks, rather they are like mercenaries who flee by taking refuge in silence when the wolf appears. The Lord reproaches them through the prophet: “They are dumb dogs that cannot bark.” … When a pastor has been afraid to assert what is right, has he not turned his back and fled by remaining silent?

        Pope Saint Gregory the Great
        Pastoral Rule
        Office of Readings
        Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

        Why haven’t we heard publicly from some in authority who have complained privately that what came out of the Vox Clara “revisions” was actually a “substantial (and substandard!) rewrite” of what they had approved?

  15. Rather than attack the person of the rector (making presumptions about his motivations or what he might be like to work for), which is not only distracting but counterproductive (not to mention couinter to the Gospel), might we instead focus on the topic(s) at hand? Can we reply to the content of what he says rather than going after the person himself? It may seem like a small distinction, but I think it an important one. I have no problem arguing against a position or decision; that is different than disrespecting a person… any person.

    1. Good point, Frank. But please also recognize that the rector chose to make an added comment after the article was published. Some of us are responding to his reply in which he is the subject – it is both the decision (as you say, merit or demerits theologically, liturgically, eclesiologically argued) and his arguements supporting his decision.

      Some of the posts above about his comment & decision do not show disrespect toward the “person”.

      1. Absolutely true, Bill. I did not mean to imply that all the posts were personal attacks. My plea is simply that in vigorously engaging the ideas/positions/reasons presented here, we don’t lose sight of something bigger: we are all part of the Body of Christ. Thanks for taking the time to reply to my original post.

  16. The rector is disingenuous in his comment on the article… The argument made in the article for the preservation of female altar servers is both theological and practical. The rector interestingly chooses not to engage the actual argument in the article at all. It actually seems like the rector is the emotional party… feeling that he is misrepresented, he lashes out at the author. Secondly, his assertion that the pastoral council doesn’t have the requisite training to advise on such decisions (notice I say advise, not make) seems to me an implication of the rector himself. At my parish the pastor, newly installed, is making a point of providing formation for the the members of the pastoral council so that they can best collaborate with him in leading the community. Isn’t this the responsibility of the rector at the cathedral?

  17. From the original editorial:
    These moves to limit laywomen’s access to the altar threaten to drag the church back into the pre-Vatican II world. One wonders if next the altar rail will return, another barrier between the priests and the people.

    While I agree with the substance of the America editorial, I find statements like the above very unhelpful. It presents “the pre-Vatican II world” as if it were some nightmare Gulag from which we have escaped, rather than a part of our tradition. It is statements like this that are grist for the mill of those who claim that the reforms after Vatican II operated with a “hermeneutic of rupture.”

    1. Something that turns me off to a lot of writing that praises the post Vatican II Church is the notion that the church as it existed before was some horrible dark place – like a concentration camp or something. Anything too aesthetically similar to the dark days of the preconciliar Church are regarded as somehow tainted and never to be used again. It’s like hating Victorian houses because women couldn’t vote when they were built – nonsensical.

      Personally, I love altar rails. I think all Latin Rite churches should have them. They seem a perfect compromise between having a couple steps (and nothing else) and something large and obtrusive, like a rood screen or iconostasis. It marks off the sanctuary, but is in no way a real barrier. I’m always mystified and bewildered by those who go on and on by how horrible they are – the back of the pew in front of you is a bigger barrier between you and the altar than any little railing is. I also hate the idea that traditional architecture, music, liturgy, etc, can never be married to more progressive ideas.

      1. They seem a perfect compromise between having a couple steps (and nothing else) and something large and obtrusive, like a rood screen or iconostasis
        Rood screens and the chancel barrier are not only a far more traditional than the altar rails, the sign value (the boundary between heaven and earth) for employing them is much stronger . From an architectural or from an artist’s standpoint, I think they’re much more effective than altar rails in that they more completely accentuate the sanctuary area and have almost endless possibilities for heaping decoration enhancing both the sanctuary and the altar as as a “holy place”.

        To recapture a greater element of “mystery” in the liturgy, I’ll take the chancel or rood screen, or iconostasis any day over simple altar rails.

  18. I was born in 1941, so I have distinct memories and perceptions of the church prior to VII. I entered the seminary in 1965 and followed with intense interest the church that was emerging as the council drew to a close. There are great contrasts despite being able to say that it was the “same” church before and after in terms of the faith handed on to us from the apostles. But the apostles and their successors of the first several hundred years were not responsible for the maldevelopments in the actual practicing of the faith which grew up especially after the onslaught of pagan “converts” following Constantine.

    They had nothing to do, for instance, with silent Masses, nor with presbyters who gradually took over almost every part of the Mass. They had nothing to do with the failure of future generations of bishops and priests who would not teach the laity the significance of being a priestly people through baptism. Nor was limbo their idea as a principal motivation for baptizing infants and children. Don’t think they would recognize a celebration of the paschal mystery in which they stood completely apart from the worshippers and told them they could not “take and eat, take and drink”.

    Was it part of the faith of the apostles to have successors who would not even reside in their dioceses or who were assigned several dioceses so they could enjoy the material fruits thereof. Was it their idea that all who are called to priestly ministry should be subject to celibacy? How about tiaras and crowns? Did they invent the system of governance in which all must be obedient and compliant to priests, bishops, and especially the Pope?

    No matter what misapplications or distortions of the Council documents occurred in the time following VII, most were sought in an effort to cleanse the church of its encrustations that made it more difficult for people to see why they should answer the call of Christ to “follow me”.

  19. Is this really 2011? Reading many of these comments here I feel like it is the middle ages. But “Amen” to Jack Feehily.

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