Sunday, October 2, 2011

Question of Girl Altar Servers

America magazine’s editors have commented on the situation in the Diocese of Phoenix, AZ, concerning the change of policy by the diocesan cathedral. Girls will no longer be able to be altar servers. That role will be reserved solely for boys. One of the reasons given by the rector of the cathedral was that having only altar boys encouraged vocations for the priesthood. Now, the cynic in me believes that there is another underlining reason for this policy change. And that is the feeling that still exists among some of the clergy that women are unworthy to be in the sanctuary during the celebration of the Eucharist.

Now when I heard about this policy, I got ill. Yes, I know canonically, bishops and pastors have the power to designate who can be altar servers, but to deny girls that honor is unwise, and reinforces the world view that women are second class members of the Church. And keep in mind that a majority of those who are active in the social, educational and charitable life of the Church are women. And that the majority of persons attending Mass are women.

In Scripture, we are told by St. Paul that in Christ there is neither male nor female. The Council Fathers of Vatican II have told us that all the baptized share in the priesthood of Christ, and all are called to actively participate in the Eucharist. Yes, each has their own unique role in that worship, but I do not see any valid theological reason to restrict the role of altar server to only males. And despite what some bishops and pastors may say, this is a matter of justice within the Church.

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