Save the Altar Girls

This is not a local story, but one that represents larger trends in the church—in the priesthood, the liturgy and in the role of the people of God. Recently Sts. Simon and Jude Cathedral in Phoenix, Ariz., changed its policy on altar servers. From now on only boys may serve; girls may apply for jobs as sacristans. Why? The rector of the cathedral told The Catholic Sun that the cathedral is not alone in making this regulation. A parish in Ann Arbor, Mich., and the Diocese of Lincoln, Neb., he argues, have found that replacing girls with boys as servers leads to more vocations to the priesthood.

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.

According to the rector, people who are upset about this decision concerning Mass servers make a mistake in considering it “a question of rights,” as if someone’s rights were being denied. But, he says, no one has a “right” to be a server or even more a priest. One must be “called” to any church office. When the secular world comments on who should be an altar server, he says, it has only an emotional view, unguided by the light of reason.

The key issue is the status of the baptized: that the laity may be called by the Spirit to offer their talents in various roles. The rejection of altar girls disregards the counsel of the Second Vatican Council that the charisms of the baptized “are to be received with thanksgiving and consolation.” By virtue of baptism, the council reminds us, “there is neither male nor female. For you are all ‘one’ in Christ Jesus.” There is “a true equality between all with regard to the dignity and activity which is common to all the faithful in building up the Body of Christ” (“Dogmatic Constitution on the Church,” Nos. 12, 32).

That this call should be fully welcomed does not appear to be a priority in Phoenix. Yes, the Vatican instruction “Sacrament of Redemption” (2004) allows women servers, but it leaves the decision to local bishops. In Phoenix the bishop leaves it to the pastors. This pastor did not consult the parish council, he says, because its members are not theologically trained.

Another issue is the image of the priesthood today. Is it wise to re-enforce the sense of the priesthood as a clerical caste? Is the acolyte supposed to be like the page who serves Sir Galahad until King Arthur dubs him a knight? In a culture where parents want their daughters to have the same opportunities as their sons—in co-ed Catholic colleges, in the armed services, in athletics, in employment—the church can look irrelevant, even foolish, in shunting them aside. The more the priesthood is presented as an exclusive club, the smaller and more remote it will become. Those who put up barriers between themselves and the people should, using modern parlance, recall Jesus’ words to his disciples: “Look, how many times do I have to tell you? You are here to serve.”

Inevitably the issue of women’s roles in the church raises the question of women’s ordination to the priesthood. Recently a cardinal in Lisbon and some bishops in Brazil, among others, also raised the question; but since Pope Benedict XVI, despite continued agitation, has reaffirmed the policy of John Paul II to allow no discussion of the topic, the matter of altar servers must be considered a separate and independent issue.

In no way should policies imply that women are second-class citizens—welcome to tidy up the sacristy, arrange flowers and clean linens but not to set the gifts at the altar or hold the sacramentary or censer. Rather, they must be welcomed into every service and leadership role, including catechists, lectors, chancellors and general secretaries of bishops’ conferences. (The diaconate for women remains an open question and ought to be explored.) Churches that invite all their people to bring all their talents to the welfare of the congregation will thrive. To tell a young woman that she may no longer pour the water on the priest’s fingers at the Lavabo looks like sexism. If the ban in these dioceses continues and spreads, perhaps women and girls will consider withholding their other services to the parishes, and men and boys, in solidarity with their sisters, will decline the honor of acolyte.

Having girls share serving opportunities with boys is an expression of their equality in Christ. Parishes must create a variety of social and service activities. A distinguishing characteristic of today’s young men and women, even when they are not “devout” in the usual sense, is their rejection of discrimination in any form. They are highly sensitive to any hint of exclusionary policies in organizations. Perhaps if more young people believed they could continue that commitment to equality as priests, more would be ready to follow a priestly vocation.

ed gleason
5 years 7 months ago
Nota Bene...despite Editor Reidy's  constant asking ,conservative  posters who do not want altar servers are always anonymous..Ask yourself   Why?.. But an even better question is ...why have the fearful been so successful rolling back Vatican II?
Anne Chapman
5 years 7 months ago
Ed, you ask why the fearful have been so successful at rolling back Vatican II?  I have thought a lot about that and finally decided it is because the majority in the pews are simply too passive. They may not like what is being done, but they sit there and take it. They are model Catholics - pay, obey, and, as an afterthought, pray.

 I began going to mass at an Episcopal church three or four years ago once I realized that by sitting in the pews of a Catholic parish, and giving of my "time, talent and treasure" I was supporting the system that has totally shut out the voices of the laity, and enabling an increasingly dysfunctional hierarchy. As a woman, I  finally decided that the church's treatment of women as officially second-class could not continue if enough women had enough gumption to say "Enough - I am no longer giving you any money, nor will I teach religious ed classes, arrange the flowers, organize the parish picnic, iron the altar cloths, nor do any of the other dozens of jobs that women do for the church without pay nor recognition.  I will be willing to arrange the flowers and teach the children and do the other nurturing tasks when my insight and understanding as a woman are also incorporated into the church's teachings and governance as fully equal to those of men. I will again arrange the flowers when women give homilies and when women may stand at the altar and consecrate the bread and wine."

Catholics have had one body-punch after another in recent years. In terms of liturgy, it is one thing after another. The roll-back to the 50s church is acclerating. In terms of the dishonesty and venal behaviour of the hierarchy, even though there are now norms for lay people working for the church including background checks and fingerprinting, and even a process for handling cases of ordinary priests accused of sexual crimes, there are still no sanctions or policies or guidelines applicable to bishops who enable crimes and protect criminals. They consider themselves to be above the law - both God's law and civil law. 

The Vatican has yet to discipline even a single bishop who stood by and allowed priests to molest tens of thousands of children. And because it hasn't. we have the Cloyne Report, we have Kansas City, we have Philadelphia (again).  Yet, the Vatican wasted little time in forcing a bishop in Australia to resign because he had committed a heinous sin - suggesting that the church consider ordaining women (it is officially an equal sin to pedophilia according to Rome. But Rome tries to ignore pedophilia committed by clergy as much as possible. Ordaining women, in their minds, is as evil as abortion in terms of how its handled by the hierarchs in Rome).  When the kettle got too hot for Law, he was whisked to Rome and given a luxury apartment, several important jobs, including vetting new bishops and a staff to provide him with all the comfort and service he "deserved"  (the staff includes nuns to do his housekeeping and cooking and other menial tasks - the "complementary" role  the male clergy have decided that women are supposed to play - which is to be always subservient to men - to serve the men.

Like Kathryn, I attend a small Episcopal parish - there are three masses every Sunday with a total attendance of about 200. There are two full-time priests, a seminarian, and a deacon.  Most non-Catholic churches are quite small and it is actually possible to be recognized as a real person rather than as simply a check in an envelope.  In our Episcopal parish, both priests were greeting us by name after only two weeks.  One is a woman, and she is fantastic, especially as a homilist. Our male priest is  great also, and together, they provide a true complementarity. God made them male and female in God's image. I realized after going to this church for a while, that to have a healthy church - in the wholistic sense - it must reflect God's image and that means male AND female as equals. Not male as master, woman as servant, or male as superior, woman as inferior, men's work and women's work (barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen?) which is how the church defines "complementarity."

If Catholics really cared enough about what is happening to close their wallets the bishops might suddenly discover what it means to "listen" instead of simply "pontificate."  They may begin to act as if THE church actually includes the 99.9% of people who are not orgained or consecrated religious. They are used to the imperial model - they will not easily give it up.

It's up to the people in the pews. Many millions of us have left, one by one. That is not enough to effect change. Those who are still in the pews could effect change, and in so doing, maybe bring back some of the millions who have left in despair. But it requires them to have enough courage to close their wallets and say why they are doing so - write letters (they won't be answered, but write them anyway)Because if enough of them do, sooner or later, they will be asked why their donations have stopped. It's rather sad thing, isn't it, when the only "voice" the people of God have is their money.
Arnold Richardson
5 years 7 months ago
@Ed

I doubt its the fearful laity that has motivated the fundamentalists to be in the ascendancy.  Look to the top. As soon as the Vatican II findings became doctrine the fundamentalists determined to roll them back.  Paul VI, in spite of his broadly supportive attitude to the Vatican II risorgimento, was the first to violate its spirit when he issued Humanae Vitae. After John Paul I's unexpected death the fundamentalists in the top levels of the Church's feudal structure made their comeback. The Conclave Cardinals, many shocked by some of the excesses commited when some risorgimento enthusiasts rode off in various directions, chose the arch conservative, John Paul II. The longer he reigned, the more time he had to choose  bishops and cardinals who could be relied on to toe the ultra orthodox line. Through the nuncios, the importance of the bishops' conferences has been eroded. Benedict XVI has continued  the process.  No doubt when the cleansing has been completed, the Vatican will be assured of complete compliance.  Thus the fundamentalists are emboldened and are able to turn back the clock, all the while proclaiming to be acting in harmony with Vatican II.
 
Reform is light years away.  The control freaks are in charge and the psychological barriers are erected once more to glorify the separateness of the clergy from the laity.  It's back to pray, pay and obey, little by little and bit by bit.  Thank heavens the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are not control freaks.  Christ has set us free and we wish to be so.  Not that we should resist the proper formation of our souls.  We must, of course, listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.  We all need to pray for discernment in following the magisterium, rather than to obey a spirit killing hierarchy. The psalmist says God's people are his joy and delight.  Not much joy ahead of us for some time yet, methinks.
Norman Costa
5 years 7 months ago
 
@ Bruce:

You have a flair for imagery in your writing. 
ed gleason
5 years 7 months ago
Anne rightly says millions have left. ...about a third is the number.
I would say to Anne though . 'they' have enough money for two or more generations.. so withholding money which is too often suggested... will do nothing.

Arnold R. has a good analysis of how we got here.. that I totally agree with.

But the fearful anonymous conservative letter writers and posters who are a small minority , have found that their complaints are always  acted upon by the hierarchy..maybe because the complaints  echo the hierarchy's agenda. These complaints have worked since 1980s [Say hello to Fr.Tom Reese SJ]
However the anonymity of these anonymous complaints should be their weakness.
remember in sports the yell "How are we losing to these guys" .???
Pew Catholics have not yet found a way/tactic to express their extreme displeasure with the governance of the Faith. The conservatives and hierarchy say complaints about governance are dissent/heresy/excommunicable. This is like saying that crappy governance has been enshrined in doctrine by 'tradition' by the HS .. so get used to it. That is blasphemous 

ARTHUR CHAGNON
5 years 7 months ago
Now what was that that Jesus said about serving and who would be first in the Kingdom? Probably a shrewd move by these clergy to get some distance from females serving them!
Thomas Piatak
5 years 7 months ago

It has become a constant theme of progressive Catholics that one third of Catholics have left, with the implication being that they have left because the Church is not significantly progressive. There is, however, little evidence to support that inclination. One half of those who have left have left for evangelical Protestantism which, on a variety of social issues, is more conservative in practice than American Catholicism.

It should also be noted that the number of those raised Episcopalian, for example, who no longer practice that faith is nearly 60%. Which is consistent with a far larger trend: liberal mainstream Protestantism everywhere is shrinking. If there is an exception to this trend, I have yet to hear of it. Those who think that the Catholic Church will solve its problems by becoming just like liberal Protestantism, by allowing contraception, abortion, divorce, homosexuality, and female clergy, are mistaken.
5 years 7 months ago
Hi Norman, Yes, I tend to use imagery in writing quite easily, but it's "not worth a bucket of spit" As Coolidge  said of the US Vice Presidency of his day, if the message is lost in the imagery. But thanks for commenting on the style. 
Jane & Francis Thomas
5 years 7 months ago
Your stats don't jibe with any of the reputable research institutes.  More importantly, you are collapsing the views of what you call progressive catholics into a self-serving single mindset that links those who expect the church to follow Jesus' teaching on inclusiveness with those who support permissive abortion law.  It might be easier to dimiss us but it is dishonest.  Being pro-life means recognizing that we are all equal before God, that God loves us all unconditionally-whether we are the innocent unborn children of God or those of us - male and female-who wish to serve God.  The complexity of what it means to be truly progressive may be too challenging for those who wish to return to a repressive, fearful church more eager to condemn than to love.  But we are here, we support both the unborn and the vulnerable and we will preserver because we are on the side of the angels and our Lord.  I will pray for you and others too fearful of change to understand who we are. We are the future church for without us, there will be no church.  
Jane & Francis Thomas
5 years 7 months ago
Your stats don't jibe with any of the reputable research institutes.  More importantly, you are collapsing the views of what you call progressive catholics into a self-serving single mindset that links those who expect the church to follow Jesus' teaching on inclusiveness with those who support permissive abortion law.  It might be easier to dimiss us but it is dishonest.  Being pro-life means recognizing that we are all equal before God, that God loves us all unconditionally-whether we are the innocent unborn children of God or those of us - male and female-who wish to serve God.  The complexity of what it means to be truly progressive may be too challenging for those who wish to return to a repressive, fearful church more eager to condemn than to love.  But we are here, we support both the unborn and the vulnerable and we will preserver because we are on the side of the angels and our Lord.  I will pray for you and others too fearful of change to understand who we are. We are the future church for without us, there will be no church.  
Thomas Piatak
5 years 7 months ago

Ms. Thomas:

Here you go: http://nineteensixty-four.blogspot.com/2010/11/pies-damned-pies-and-statistics-is.html

59% of those raised Presbyterian are no longer Presbyterian, 56% of those raised Episcopalian are no longer Episcopalian. As I said, if liberal mainstream Protestantism is growing anywhere, I am not aware of it.

I am very happy that you are pro-life. I know that many other progressive Catholics are as well. My point was that changing Catholicism to resemble mainstream liberal Protestantism, which is not pro-life, will not help the Church. The answer to the Church's problems is not the answer of liberal Protestantism, which is to conform Christianity to the spirit of modern liberalism.

5 years 7 months ago
Dislike, in the extreme.  Publishing pieces like this, this publication (America:  The National Catholic Weekly) should put Catholic in quotes.

Before addressing the substance of the piece, I make two observations:  First, returning to the pre-Vatican II days is a GOOD thing.  Back when Mass was a grand holy experience instead of a God-forsaken rock concert, when Churches looked like Churches instead of movie theatres, when nuns wore nuns' clothing, when people knelt and received Communion in awe and fear, instead of taking Him into their filthy dirty hands as if they were grabbing for a potato chip.  Taking the Church back to the pre-Vatican II times?  Lord, haste the day.

Secondly, there was a mention made in this piece of the Priest not consulting the "Parish Council" before making this decision.  Of course he shouldn't.  There shouldn't even be any such thing as a parish Council.  The Priest is the Father of the family.  That is why Catholics call a Priest "Father."  (It is unclear what the author of this piece would call him - dude or bro or whatever.)  Now, in your knowledge of human families, how many fathers do you know who allow their children to form a council and tell him how to run the family?  How many fathers do you know need approval from their children before making a decision?  How ridiculous.

Now, as to the substance of the piece:  My opinion is that female altar servers should be absolutely forbidden.  The contrary view, expressed in this piece, stems from the profoundly preposterous belief that women can do everything that men can do.  And of course, they cannot.  Men and women are equal, this is true - but they have different parts, and different functions.  Consider the mathematical statement "5+1" and the mathematical statement "3x2."  We can agree, can we not, that these statements are equal?  But, they have different parts (the first has a 5 and a 1, and the second has a 3 and a 2), and different functions (the first has the function of addition and the second the function of multiplication).  If you try to take these statements with different parts and give them the same function, they become UNequal.  (5+1 does not equal 3+2, nor does 5x1 equal 3x2.)  They are only equal when we recognize their different functions. 

Altar servers are boys because allowing boys to experience what is going on "behind the altar rail" may inspire them to become Priests.  And of course only males can be Priests.  (This piece seems to want to change that, but it is absolutely unchangeable - it would be easier to change the earth into a flat plane instead of a sphere.)  To put some girl in that position takes the position away from a boy, whom - if he had been allowed to participate as a server - may have been inspired to become a Priest.

As with every other aspect of life, we can look to the Blessed Mother as our example.  She, the Queen of Heaven and Earth, was happy to just be behind the scenes, and to use the analogy of this piece, cleaning the linens and arranging the flowers, while the male Apostles were busy being Bishops.  And if that is good enough for Her Omnipotent Majesty, it is good enough for women today. 
Jane & Francis Thomas
5 years 7 months ago
I can only assume you warn against adopting liberal Protestantism because you are equating the belief in inclusiveness with an argument about "rights" - i have to assume because you failed to explain why you are writing as if someone has called on the church to adopt what you label "liberal Protestantism."  So either you are defining "liberalism" in a historically correct manner or you are creating a straw argument to rail against.  In either case, you presume falsely that the choices are either orthodoxy, as the term is commonly used, or liberal Protestantism.   Service to God is not about "rights" but a response to a calling.   For a pastor to stifle that calling because it presumably would serve to weaken another's calling (in this case to the priesthood) is at best illogical.  In this specific case, it continues the refusal of some clergy to acknowledge where we are as a people of God.  We have reached a level of spiritual maturity that does not require excluding women and girls from serving God as they are called to do so.  But the regressive clergy and laity fear that without patriarchal structures, the people of the church-who are the church- will not blindly follow.  It is about control, not serving God. The priesthood as we knew it HAS changed.  It is smaller in numbers and the percentage of priests who are gay is triple that of the general population.  Clearly something is askew but it isn't because 12 year old girls are altar servers.  Blaming them is sophomoric and simply reflects the misogyny of some orthodox clergy.  
Thomas Piatak
5 years 7 months ago

Ms. Thomas,

I brought up liberal Protestantism because there are two posters on this thread who said they now attend the Episcopal church, one of whom also discussed the number of people leaving the Catholic Church.
Jane & Francis Thomas
5 years 7 months ago
Jane:  as you can see, not all of the church wants to move into a more mature spirituality.
Charles:  with love, let me point out that the words and imagery you use come not from scripture but from the images and teachings of the Church during the Dark Ages...not exactly a time of purity, chastity, and moral living within the church itself.  The early church of Christ was more simple, loving, and accepting of leadership roles for both men and women.  It was to women that are Lord first revealed himself after the resurrection and it is the woman at the well who is called the first evangelist.  Your church came later, when corruption, debauchery, and decadence engulfed the church.  It was also a time of severe condemnation of women as scapegoats for the evil practices of men.  That is not good enough for us- for our mothers, daughters, wives, or friends nor for us men.  It certainly is not good enough for the Blessed Mother, who is a role model for all of us.  Accepting women and girls on the altar does not deny the difference between men and women.  It does acknowledge God's unconditional love for all and our shared desire to serve Him.  
C Walter Mattingly
5 years 7 months ago
@Tom(26),
Thanks for bringing some facts to bear upon some of these speculations. A few more facts:
While several of the above commentators note that the Catholic church is hemorraghing membership headed for the Episcopal, Presbyterian, and other main line churches, we might do well to check what the actual numbers are. According to studies quoted by USA Today, the most recent year membership in the Catholic church grew by just under 1%. Doesn't sound great, but it is growing, not hemorraging, membership. That's not the case with our mainline Protestant brothers, with Presbyterians, Episcopal, and Lutheran churches all losing membership, Episcopals around 2% and Presbyterians 2.6% annually. Those are frightening numbers. Clearly, the argument that the Church would benefit by following these churches by going all-in for abortion, etc, doesn't seem to supported by the facts-mainline Protestant churches are losing, not gaining, membership as a result of the directions they have chosen.
5 years 7 months ago
We each serve God in different ways.  Boys get called to serve at the altar, and men get called to be Priests.  Girls get called to arrange the flowers and clean the linens, to use the language of this column. 
Jane & Francis Thomas
5 years 7 months ago
You've picked out comments from a couple of people who now attend other churches because the sexism and hypocrisy of the Catholic Church was no longer tolerable to them.  They didnt advocate that the Church should change its view on abortion.  Nor did they speak for the overwhelming majority of posters who haven't left the church.  So like the Very Reverend, you are creating red herrings to avoid the truth.  Boys aren't dissuaded from joining the priesthood because their friends who are girls also are altar servers.  They are not even considering the priesthood because sadly it is now equated with pedophiles, those who would protect pedophiles, and closed minded bigots.  That may be an unfair characterization but it is how priest are now seen.  The church needs to address that, for all our sakes, not blame innocent 12 year old girls who just are answering a call to serve.  
ed gleason
5 years 7 months ago
Msgr Lankeit , rector, knew this ban would go national [Phoenix is full of fed uppers]
So if his pastoral members show up for the next meeting they deserve the disrespect they were given by him....especially if they think like me that the ban was just a retro publicity ploy.  
Anne Chapman
5 years 7 months ago
Ed, you don't think withholding the flow of money would help. I don't know what else might have a chance. How will the majority of Catholics who are fed up, but stay in the pews anyway, will be heard if money will not move the hierarchy?

 I am not so sure that they are so flush that they wouldn't notice if, say, their collections dropped by 75% or more and their Bishops Appeals went to near zero. They have had to pay out billions in settlements. They are closing churhes by the dozens, as well as schools.  I would love for there to be some way to influence these willfully deaf men, but short of depriving them of their luxurious lifestyles and stopping the flow of money from the pews, I don't see any way of getting their attention. 
Jane & Francis Thomas
5 years 7 months ago
One out of every ten adult Americans is a lapsed Catholic. From the Catholic perspective that is the most striking statistic among the many furnished in a "Religious Landscape Survey" by the Pew Forum.

Catholics still constitute the single largest religious denomination in the US, accounting for 23.9% of the adult population.  But that is because Evangelical churches are not grouped together.  These churches, though, are home to 26.3% of the American people, divided among the different Protestant denominations.) Baptists run a distant second, with 12.7%. If they qualified as a separate denomination, the Americans who have deserted the Catholic Church of their childhood would constitute the third-largest religious group in the country, with 10.1% of the population.  http://www.catholicculture.org/news/features/index.cfm?recnum=56894


And you really think the problem is Susie with her ponytail reverently assisting at mass....really?  Moreover, I know several parents who worried about whether to allow their children to serve and were reassured that both boys and girls now do.

 I am aghast that we still have people around who can't deal with treating women and girls with respect and dignity and letting them answer the Holy Spirit's call. How dare you try to stifle the Spirit.  I think he is making himself quite clear as the above stats show- you are sadly disappointing our Lord with your bigotry, pettiness and small-mindedness.
C Walter Mattingly
5 years 7 months ago
@ Tim(#71),
I'm taking a guess that the "You" you refer to is me?
If so, what I was attempting to do was follow up on Tom Piatek's post #66, which I mistakenly identified as #26. Tom stated as reported fact that two of the most prominent mainline Protestant churches lose most of their members; I augmented that with a distinction that was getting lost in such statements such as the church was losing millions of members a year. Likely very true: if you have a church that represents one of every 6 members of the human race, you are going to lose millions of members every year. Lost in the numbers was the simple fact that the church in America is gaining, not losing, members, whereas the mainline Protestant churches have been losing members since the 70's, which continues unabated. From this, we can surmise that whatever they are doing is not working, at least if you believe retaining more members than you lose is crucial for a church to thrive or even survive. Unlike the Catholic church, all these churches support abortion and divorce. As the abortion issue, which I mentioned because it was central  to women's issues and had been omitted, is the most fervent and deadly one that divides Catholic and mainline Protestant Christianity, it really can't be avoided. I suspect the reason it is not presented here from the liberal side is that, given the vast majority of bioethicists who now take the fetus to be a developing human life, arguing the pro-abortion position, especially in elective circumstances, is an extremely difficult challenge. One thing for sure, it is no red herring, but the greatest  social justice issue the US faces in our lifetimes.
Anne Chapman
5 years 7 months ago
Walter, the reason the American Catholic church has gained members over the last 25 years is immigration from Latin America. Otherwise there would have been a dramatic fall in numbers.  In the future, Hispanic Catholics will be the main membership of the American church, as more than half of young Catholics (25 and younger) are Hispanic.

Today, 33% of all American Catholics are Hispanic (Pew Research) - this percentage will continue to grow.  Of course, not all Hispanics are staying Catholic either - those who leave generally join Pentecostal churches for the warmth and liveliness.  How will Hispanics react to the step by step return of the liturgy to an even more formal, stiff, colder liturgy than we now have?  I have attended multiple Hispanic liturgies and they are nothing like what Rome is working towards, step by step. Will they lose even more Hispanics in the future? They leave because of liturgy rather than doctrine. Other American Catholics mostly leave because of the teachings, rather than the liturgy.

Here is how Pew describes todays Hispanic Catholics (from New York Times. The Pew Study is found at
http://pewhispanic.org/reports/report.php?ReportID=75)

The study, conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center and the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, found that half of Hispanic Catholics practice a “distinctive form” of charismatic Catholicism that includes speaking in tongues, miraculous healings and prophesying — practices more often associated with Pentecostalism. Among Catholics who are not Hispanic, only 12 percent are involved in these practices.
The study also found that two-thirds of Hispanics choose to worship in “ethnic congregations” that have Hispanic clergymen and Spanish-language services, and where a majority of congregants are Hispanic. These congregations are cropping up throughout the country, even in areas where Hispanics are sparse.

Also from Pew

Catholicism has suffered the greatest net loss in the process of religious change. Many people who leave the Catholic Church do so for religious reasons; two-thirds of former Catholics who have become unaffiliated say they left the Catholic faith because they stopped believing in its teachings, as do half of former Catholics who are now Protestant.

Pew also notes that four times as many people leave the Catholic church every year as join it.

Now, perhaps you prefer to pretend that there is nothing wrong in Dodge. That is your privilege.
Jack Barry
5 years 7 months ago

Anne C. #75 -

Hope springs eternal.   However, consider a possibility.   Continuing, overwhelming evidence shows that, except for a handful of noteworthy men, the individuals of the hierarchy constitutionally, essentially, fundamentally _cannot_ "get it" and adjust, no matter what.   It's not that they will not but that they can not.   More than enough motivation has been available for years in many forms. 

Many explanations might be considered - vocation selection processes, education and mis-education, formation, experience, tradition, solemn oaths, esprit de corps, deep fear of authority, or some combination.    A strong contributing factor is that the episcopal ensemble is created in its own image, mutually reinforcing and self-reproducing via the Congregation for Bishops and Pope.    Whatever the causes may be, the externally observable effects seem clear.   

To the extent that this notion of immutability applies, most of the ongoing multinational turmoil is readily understandable but pointless.   The only difference to be expected in 5-15 years is the level of exhaustion all around.   For working purposes, assume nothing will change.   Then, options for the future look different for the multitudes of individual Catholics you mention and others suffering various levels of distress.
Jane & Francis Thomas
5 years 7 months ago
walter - I appreciate your passion regarding the rights of the unborn but no one in this forum called for changing the Church's teaching on that issue. You've introduced it because you say that it is central to the "woman's issue" but you suffer from myopia. Again, probably attributable to your justified horror over the issue of abortion but misplaced. Many, many women of my acquaintance, including my wife, two daughters, three sisters and many friends, do not believe abortion is anything but infanticide as much as they might sympathize with the factors that might lead some women to consider abortion. For them, abortion is not the right or acceptable solution to these ills, but is the barbaric killing of unborn children. So please don't say it is central to the "woman's issue" because it is not. What is central is being treated with dignity and respect, not some out moded view of women as less worthy to serve the Lord in whatever way they are called. That is their point, and the point of most of the comments here - respecting their call to serve.
Mona Villarrubia
5 years 7 months ago

@ Charles Jones “when people knelt and received Communion in awe and fear, instead of taking Him into their filthy dirty hands”


When I read these words I actually had a visceral reaction. There is nothing more unhealthy than a religious climate of fear and self-loathing in which the priest has absolute authority over his congregation. Fear, authoritarianism and control have led to many other kinds of loathsome acts with children on their knees before priests taking something other than the host into their “filthy hands” or mouth.

And I see no logic in the idea that the presence of an altar girl means that a boy has been refused the same role. There is no evidence of this.


There is so much anger in your words, I am sure nothing posted here about the rights of women is going to get through to you. That makes me very sad, for you and for other Catholics who share your opinions.

Jane & Francis Thomas
5 years 7 months ago
@Charles...oh dear, you are such an angry man and I am so sorry you don't see God as a loving father but rather a vengeful, angry man ...much like you, I suppose. See, we are not 6 year olds and God does not want us to act like we are. Rather, everything in Scripture teaches us that God gave ALL of us free will because he wants us to follow him by choice - to choose the path of righteousness. And how dare you ignore the pain and destruction your type of church brought down on our children. Well, Mona said it all, but I'd like to add that my church does not look like a movie theater, and thankfully, there is nothing going on "behind the altar rail" that is not visible to all. Our priests in fact explains to the congregation at appropriate times outside of mass what is going on at mass because they believe we all should know. Becoming a priest should not be to gain some sort of access to hidden secrets - God forbid - but to serve and bring the Lord closer by explaining His teachings and his Love. Now I know you like Obedience over Love - but they both belong. I am guessing that when a priest announced we would be using English at Mass or first announced that girls could be altar servers, you did not act like an obedient son and accept without grumbling these new rules from our Father. You probably blamed someone other than the Priest for these changes but you, I'm guessing, were not the quiet little child you ask us to be. See, we all are selective. I will pray that during the rest of your life, you can come to terms with the Church and God being sources of Love, as well as gentle but firm teachers.
William McGovern
5 years 7 months ago
I believe Mgsr Lankeit's views are those of a devout, sincere pastor (or in case case rector).   Nonetheless I believe his views and those of others who may share them are incorrect.   Widespread adoption of his views will likely lead to further disenchantment in the Church, especially in America.   I offer two reasons:

1) Mgsr. Lankeit decision to by-pass the Pastoral Council seems to reflect an attitude that "clergy are the church."     The Gospels charge each and every one of us to be good stewards of Christ's Church.   The era of allowing bishops and priests to dictate all aspects of the Church life is over for most American Catholics.  Any attempt to reestablish that type of governance will backfire.

2) Men and woman are equally loved by God and I believe we have a moral obligation not to discriminate in any way because of gender.  Not only is it wrong to do so, it is a utter and complete waste of talent.   Women and men share many gifts from God and both are capable to serve fully Our Lord as bishops and priests.   Look at the many outstanding female priests and ministers who serve and do God's work in other Christian denominations    

   
5 years 7 months ago
The Monsignor's attitude is absolutely correct - it is the Church that runs the Church.  We call a Priest "Father" because that's what he is.  Again I ask - how many fathers do you know need to have their children's approval before making a rule or a decision?  The Father says, and the children obey, it's as simple as that.  Nothing could be simpler.  How many fathers do you know allow their children to form a council and tell him how to run the family?  The Father is the head of the family, and what he says goes.

Still no one has explained to any degree of clarity why they think women are capable of being Priests (the very idea is foolish - it is no different than saying the sun is capable of revolivng around the earth.)  Just because everyone is equally loved by God does not mean that everyone has the same function. 
5 years 7 months ago
Oh my goodness gracious, I didn't even realize that a Priest was here, I did not read the earlier comments.  (I don't know what a Priest is doing reading America though; I once heard a joke to the effect of someone went to a meeting with a Priest at the rectory, and when he got back from the visit, he remarked to his friend, "My word, you would not BELIEVE the awful magazine that they subscribe to at the Rectory, it is nothing but absolute FILTH!!"  The friend, a college-age guy, perked up immediately.  "Really?"  he said.  "Yes" the man continues, "It is called America.")

Anyway:  May it please Your Reverence, please keep up the good work.  Do not give in to the modernizers, stand firm to the one true faith.  If people leave your parish, let them go.  Perhaps these are the days of separating the wheat from the chaff; those who are able to stay loyal to the Church remain, and those who are not, it is time for them to go their way. 

Kissing the consecrating hand I remain Your Reverence's humble and obedient servant,
Charles Jones
[email protected]
Norman Costa
5 years 7 months ago
 
At the risk of repeating the words of others, and saying the obvious, I am stunned by this discussion. The nerves that have been struck are hyper sensitive and raw on both sides of the arguments on females as altar servers and priests.

I don't think that clergy sex abuse of minors elicits the same level of rancor, steadfastness in belief, and intractability of position, as the issue of gender equality in role participation in the Catholic Church.

I wish I could say something that could promote resolution and complementarity but I am at a loss. We might be in the second half of this century and still see the same level of divisiveness on this issue. 
Boreta Singleton
5 years 7 months ago
Amen- thank you for this. I believe all of this stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of the priesthood we share in by virtue of our Baptism.
I appreciate your clear explanation.
C Walter Mattingly
5 years 7 months ago
Anne, 
Agreed, were it not for Hispanic membership, the Church would likely be losing members as the Episcopal and other mainline Protestant churches are. But ultimately we are talking about membership, growth or decline. There are always going to be demographic shifts within the membership for various reasons and those should be addressed, but the biggest question is are we gaining or losing members? My question to you would be, why is the church you have found to have offered many of the solutions that bring faith into accord with the values of modernity, i.e. women priests, divorce, choice  (abortion), doing away with or limiting the Divine Presence, having individual churches hire and fire their ministers, etc, losing membership? In our case retention of members certainly can't be a question of the Church practicing what it preaches-the abuse scandal catastrophe puts a huge dent in that argument. My speculation is that members value and desire a church with a theology that is consistent to itself and its own traditions and is reluctant to change the words of Christ or do away with long-established traditions. They are not tolerant to editing the intolerant words of Jesus toward divorce, nor to the obfuscation of the clarity of His definition of marriage as existing between a man and a woman to meet a desired social goal, even if they see the suffering that a friend or relative has experienced when his/her partner ("other half" would be more accurate here) violates the covenants of their marriage. They don't want to redefine His words, "This is my body," into "This is to remind you of my body." If members perceive that the Church Jesus established is not being true to itself in its theology, they will sense an essential mission drift and drift away themnselves, as is happening. There is of course also the rise of logical positivism, but that's a problem common to all God-centered faiths everywhere. Meanwhile, Tom's point, that the declining numbers indicate that whatever the mainline Protestant churches are doing is not the answer, retains is poignancy.
Cliff,
Bless you, your wife, and your daughters for your unblinking and devoted anti-infanticide position in accord with social justice and Church teaching from its formation to today. And I fully recognize that there are those prolife Catholics who believe, as this editorial has brought out, that women should play a greater role in the liturgy and functioning of the Church. You may note, in comment #9, I am one of them. But  my experience runs counter to your idea that to align abortion with the rights of women here or elsewhere is myopic; to the contrary, there is a very high degree of correlation existing here and elsewhere. I was recently in a thread on the Davis execution protesting capital punishment and had brought up the possible problem that extending such mercy to convicted premeditated murderers might remove a deterrent that would result in the death of future innocents. Even a mention to the analogous correspondence to the certain taking of innocent life in abortion was ruled off limits, despite the obvious moral correlation. In Italy, according to Thomas Cahill, whenever a convicted murderer is executed in the US, all the lights in the Coliseum and thru many residences are left on overnight. If they did that for whenever an innocent child's life is exterminated by elective abortion in the US, they might take down the power system in Rome and perhaps all of Italy. If you push the editors of America, for example, they may reluctantly oppose elective abortion, or vouchers for that matter, but in recent years they seem to want to minimize consideration of these hugely important social justice issues in their editorials, quite possibly for political reasons.

 
Anne Chapman
5 years 7 months ago
Norman, #86. I am surprised that you are surprised.  This issue will continue to divide until the men who hold the power grasp the true nature of their sin - by demeaning women, and denying the church the blessings of  the fullness of women's gifts, they are demeaning God, in whose image women are made.

The church's excuses are much like the "separate-but-equal" laws that kept African-Americans in a second-class citizenship status until only 60 years ago. The church's distorted teachings on "complementarity" are designed to hide the truth, just as was "separate but equal."  The church defended slavery for 1900 years as being moral - "in accord with natural law."  The Catholic church lagged most Protestant churches in understanding this evil and even lagged secular governments.  It is the same with the issue of the equality of women in the church - once again, the Protestant churches and secular governments have come to an understanding of Truth long before the Catholic church.  Perhaps because Protestant churches are less arrogant - they are not so weighed down by having defined themselves as "infallible" and thus they have more freedom to admit that maybe they were wrong, and to be open to the Spirit so that their understanding has evolved. They understand that the Holy Spirit continues to lead humanity and will do so until the end of time. They are not frozen into patriarchal "Tradition" of 2000 years ago.
Norman Costa
5 years 7 months ago
 
@ Anne:

I'm not surprised at the division of views. I am stunned, though, by the rhetoric of excommunication, near occasion of sin, women not being capable, priest as father and sole family leader, and women as an impediment to priestly vocations. 
Anne Chapman
5 years 7 months ago
Norman, OK I see what you mean. I am not stunned at all, perhaps because I am a woman and I have spent years both tracing the roots of church teachings related to women, and reading the increasingly insulting rhetoric of the anti-woman forces in the church. They have become more vocal in the last few years, less afraid to hide the misogny, perhaps as they sensed that their stance would be blessed by Rome. They follow the pope's lead. He does nothing about bishops who protect pedophiles except reward them with more exalted positions, but wasted no time in yanking a bishop who dared suggest that one solution to the lack of priests would be to stop denying access to a sacrament to more than half of all Catholics. Rome has equated women's ordination as at the same level of evil as raping children. Is it surprising that those who have hid their misogny now feel so free to express it?

 Many know that the pope has been bending over backwards tryihg to lure back the Pius X schismatics, and  his failure to note that one of the bishops he un-excommunicated was a notorious anti-semite.  When Williamson was in the news, I spent some time reading his blog (which was eventually removed by Pius X - I guess they didn't want people to read what they truly stand for). I wish I had printed them out.  Nobody commented about his misogny at the time because his anti-Jewish stance was so repugnant and grabbed the headlines. Equally repugnant were his blogs on women.  According to Williamson, not only should women "dress modestly" they should never wear slacks - only skirts and dresses. He dictates every bit of minutiae for women's dress and demeanor.  But that is nothing compared to the rest. According to this man, since women are meant only to bear children and serve their husbands, it is sinful for them to go to college. They have no need of academic education since they will simply be cooking, cleaning, etc.  We read echoes of this in some of the sentiments of the posters on this forum.

 There is one thing that surprises me a bit - there is one poster whose language and sentiments are so extreme in terms of his appearing to literally be substituting the clergy for God - a form of idolatry when you think about it - that I assumed initially that his posts were satire reminiscent of Jonathan Swift. But it seems he is serious.
5 years 7 months ago
Anne, no one is compelling you to stay where you do not wish to be.  If you feel that you fit in better at a Protestant ecclesial community, then I'm sure they would love to have you.  We all have one essential choice: FULL acceptance of Christ and His Church - even where you do not agree - or not.  It is time for you to choose.  Many Protestant ecclesial communities do very good work in their communities and would appreciate having you as a member of their association.

Norman, perhaps it would be more helpful for an intellectual discussion if you were to explain what stuns you about the said things.  I thought they were all well-supported in prior commentary. 

It really seems to be as if the root cause of people's consternation here is the idea that what we think matters.  And of course it does not.  Nowhere in the Bible is Heaven or Christianity described as the Republic of God, or the Parliamentary Democracy of God, or anything like that.  It is the Kingdom of God.  A Kingdom is a top-down authority structure; what the King says goes and it really doesn't matter if the subjects agree or not.  Again, look at the family, of which the Father is the head, and which is essentially an earthly figure of our relationship with God.  If the father says to his child, "You're grounded," it is not up to the child to say "No, I disagree that I am grounded."  Such a statement would be preposterous.  Because what the father says goes and does not depend on the consent of the child. 

In the Kingdom of God, He Is the Father, we are the children.  On earth, the Pope (and through him his delegates the Bishops and their delegates the Priests) is the father, and we are the child.  What he says goes, and it does not matter whether we agree or not.  Church is not a democracy.  That is a very Protestant concept.

The reason the Priest is in charge and we obey in total submission whether we agree or not, is that the Priest represents God.  When he says "THIS IS MY BODY... THIS IS THE CUP OF MY BLOOD" and "I absolve thee of thy sins...", do the elements turn into the blood and body of Father Smith?  If they did, I am not sure why anyone would want to eat them. 
ALICE CLAIRE MANSFIELD
5 years 7 months ago

We seem to forget that the Catholic Church is not a democracy.  The Very Rev. John Lankeit is one hundred percent correct when he says that "no one has a 'right' to be a server or even more a priest. One must be 'called' to any church office."  Vatican II did not change this fact or do away with this reality.  Yes, as the editors say, "the laity may be called by the Spirit to offer their talents in various roles," but the Spirit of Wisdom and Love does not call the laity to demand that their talents be used and then to react like a spoiled child if their offering is not accepted. 

If I as a woman feel like a second-class citizen because I cannot "set the gifts at the altar or hold the sacramentary or censer," perhaps I need a deeper understanding and appreciation of my womanhood, which is not dependent on what I can or cannot do in the sanctuary during the celebration of the Mass. 

The editors' comment that "These moves to limit laywomen’s access to the altar threaten to drag the church back into the pre-Vatican II world" would be funny if it were not so pathetic.  First, Fr. Lankeit's decision is not a move to limit laywomen's access to the altar but rather one to encourage and nurture priestly vocations.  Second, Fr. Lankeit hardly possesses the power to either drag the church back into the pre-Vatican II world or to encourage others to do so. 

The editors note at the beginning of this article that "This is not a local story, but one that represents larger trends in the church—in the priesthood, the liturgy and in the role of the people of God."  One of those trends is that since more than a few of the practices taken up since Vatican II have been tried and found wanting (and sometimes greatly wanting), it's about time to make some much-needed changes. Thanks be to God!

Norman Costa
5 years 7 months ago
 
 @ Charles:

You wrote, "The reason the Priest is in charge and we obey in total submission whether we agree or not, is that the Priest represents God."

Therein lies the essence of the argument. The priest represents God on earth, but there is no fundamental, scriptural, or theological reason why a woman could not be a priest.

@ Anne:

As to being stunned, I think I ought to get our more. 
Jane & Francis Thomas
5 years 7 months ago
And there it is...Charles inviting People to leave the church.  Yet, Charles, did you leave when consecrated priests have adopted policies you abhor?  No but you didn't withhold criticism either ... See your first post.   So please do not tell other people to leave the church.  It would suit you fine but we are the people of God, we who were made priest prophet and King at our Baptism aren't going anywhere.  

You and those like you who cling to prejudice and bigotry because they can only respond to fear not love are the ones who spawn hate.  That is the work of the devil in disguise.  Get behind me Satan because the rest of us are actually on the ascendancy.   Removing altar girls is a petty, weak act from a desperate regressive thankfully increasing irrelevant and radical wing of God's church.  When that doesn't work one wonders what next you outliers will try. 

My pastor-a priest of course-asks us to have patience because he sees permanent change coming as the reactionaries cycle out.  He says the quiet majority like him are not inactive..not passive and there is reason to hope.   He reminds us the Jesus suffered fools and the Church has had it's fair share-some made it to the radio in the 30s & 40s, and now some are on TV while others take radical stands to get press. (congratulations,  Msgr.)  Of course since my pastor is a priest, I  will listen to him and answer his call to pray for the angry, fearful among us. 

The Light of the World did not create your Mideaval structures and He will triumph over them.   May He also take pity on those who would withhold His love and replace it with fear and anger. 
5 years 7 months ago
I'm afraid you haven't added much of substance to this discussion; rather than rant and rave and name-call, would it not be more effective to intellectually explain your position? 

I persist in my suggestion that those who are not happy with the Catholic Church go somewhere where they would be more personally fulfilled.  I suggest that authentic Catholics - those who are completely loyal to the Catholic Church - stay, and those who would be happier in a denomination to go that way.  There is no reason for someone to stay in a place where they are not happy. 
Jane & Francis Thomas
5 years 7 months ago
If you think this magazine is filth why do you read it?  I believe it is because you wish to fuel your anger and indignation because you can only feel righteous in anger.  You will no more change minds here than we will changes yours.   Yet the force of your anger is heartening because it shows how threatened you are.

As for Ms. Mattingly:  you would really deny these young, sweet girls an opportunity to answer the Holy Spirit?   How arrogant and sad.  I returned from mass today where 2 of our 5 priests spoke during the homily because it is year end fiscally.   We are financially secure, we have an abundance of priests serving here because they wish to and lobby to-we are a joyful parish serving God.  The two lectors today were women, half the (yes, I know...not official) Extraordinary Ministers were women, as was the lead altar server who processed the Cross. The love and adoration of God was so present and strong.  This is the Church-the people of God.  This resembles the Church of those early years before man imposed corrupt, power focused all male institutions on us. This is the future church.  Amen and alleluia!
5 years 7 months ago
I am here to speak the truth.  Whether you wish to receive the truth or not is not my concern, but I shall speak it nonetheless. 

Jane & Francis Thomas
5 years 7 months ago
May I suggest that we stop responding to Charles?  He's spewed his anger enough.  Remember the Lord's day, move away from the computer, and spend the rest of the day praising and thanking God with joy.  I can't promise that the Charles and the Alice Claired of the world will be here when you return....hopefully not because their hearts have been turned.  But they matter not.  Only the Love of Christ matters, and as St Paul instructs  "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; FOR you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). I think that says it all. 
ed gleason
5 years 7 months ago
Can we all chip in and move Charles Jones to the Phoenix cathedral parish? I'M outta here as Larry suggests.
5 years 7 months ago
You may.  If you are not able to participate in an intellectual discussion of your beliefs, then I suggest that this bespeaks the lack of substance of those beliefs.  If your beliefs were valid, then you would be able to defend them upon questioning. 
Jane & Francis Thomas
5 years 7 months ago
Remember.....sshhhh
5 years 7 months ago
Excellent idea - let all those who want there to be "altar girls" keep silent.  As I have (albeit implicitly) suggested from the beginning. 

Boys are the ones called to serve at the altar; girls are called to clean the linens and arrange the flowers.  Boys have no business arranging the flowers, and girls have no business serving at the altar.  And let all those who feel differently keep silent.
Jane & Francis Thomas
5 years 7 months ago
Dear Fathers/editors:  thank you for your editorial. It is a timely, rational piece that reminds me there are wise and caring public voices in the church.  It is as you say not a local story...but it is also not widespread trend-fringe churches in an angry, heartless Arizona and an even more radical church in ann arbor.  Larry rightly remind us (drawing on St. Paul) that we are one in Christ Jesus. You will figure with gratitude in my prayers. 
david power
5 years 7 months ago
God is dead.  

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