The National Catholic Review

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.

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Catherine Benincasa | 10/3/2011 - 11:25pm
Larry, I just read your last post...  and had to add that it was the argument that anyone could in fact be chosen as a Cardinal, at the pope's request, was what ultimately persuaded my pastor to allow me to become a server back in '80.

He was arguing that it gave the boys a chance to prepare for ordination, should they be called... and I argued what a travesty it would be were I to be named a cardinal or be elected pope, having never been allowed to serve. :)
Catherine Benincasa | 10/3/2011 - 11:18pm
Where to begin? First off, I would like to say that having had the opportunity to serve as an altar server did in fact nurture my call to ordination. As a woman in my late-30s, it wasn't common at the time to have female acolytes and I had to fight for the opportunity, although I've always suspected having my younger brother fall asleep while serving did in fact stregthen my argument that I would do everything a bit better than he was doing, if given the chance.

Years later, as I struggle to find ways to authentically live out my call to priestly ministry, I continue to be surprised and disappointed by decisions such as these. Why limit the call of the Spirit? Why limit the way in which a person can respond to such a call? One day, all roles of service within our Church will hopefully be filled by those whom the Spirit has called, male and female.

I do believe with the author's suggestion that: "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." Personally, though, I'm waiting for the day when men and boys, in solidarity with the sisters, will decline the honor of ordained ministry. That type of solidarity would create radical change. But, as the author reminded me, I shouldn't talk about that. :)  Blessings... and thank you for reading, Cate
LARRY | 10/3/2011 - 11:09pm

The current objection by the very Rev. John Lankeit (no, Norman Costa, the 2011 Annuario Pontificio, the current Vatican Yearbook, does not list him as monsignor) against girls altar servers, prompts me to ask another question which I wish some more competent person, even some bishop, would address frankly. “Can women be cardinals if they cannot be priests?”

When Pope John Paul II’s apostolic letter firmly declared that “the church does not feel herself authorized to confer the priesthood on women,” one was led to conclude that, if the church only had the authority, of course we would have women priests. My point, and my question is this: since the cardinalate is not an evangelical category, the church can do with it whatever it wishes. It isn’t likely that we will ever see an apostolic letter claiming that the church does not consider herself authorized to confer the cardinalate on women’ Is it unreasonable to wish that some day (and why no during our lifetime) there might be women to represent over half of humankind in the pope’s council—even to help elect the pope of all? But I’m reminded of what has been proposed as the Conservative Manifesto: “Nothing must ever be done for the first time.”

Sadly, it does presently appear that our Roman Catholic Church is the only great organization opposed to accepting women among its leaders. When someone asked Frank Sheed some years ago whether he might not some day be made a cardinal, he replied, “Not unless next to Francis Cardinal Sheed there can also be Maisie Cardinal Ward.”

There are currently twenty female presidents or prime ministers of their own country, including Germany, Ireland, Brazil,.Argentina, India, Finland, Iceland, Croatia, Lithuania and Australia.   Many Colleges and Universities today have a woman as their president.

It is only in the Roman Catholic Church that women are not capable of filling positions of  responsibility and of leadership?

One can reasonably ask why among its billion members our Roman Catholic Church has not yet been able to find at least some women who can reach the “eminence” of some of its present cardinals.

Even though even many Jewish Temples and Synagogues are proud to have today a number of females Rabbis, we can set aside the problematic and controversial idea of a catholic priesthood, and limit ourselves to something where ordination would not be a problem: Roman Catholic Cardinals.

Not only can the pope make anyone a cardinal, he already has. An example comes readily to mind: The last cardinal who was not a priest was Cardinal Giacomo Antonelli, Pope Pius IX’s secretary of state, who resisted the unification of Italy.

Even though Pope John XXIII decreed that every cardinal be a bishop, several non-bishops even recently were named cardinals. Remebber Pavan? DeLubac? Dulles? Currently, the 2011 Annuario Pontificio (the Vatican Yearbook) lists three cardinals who are not bishops (Card. Albert Vanhoye, SJ, Card. Roberto Tucci, SJ, and Card. Omenico Bartolucci).

No girls altar servers?  Don’t make me laugh…

Anne Chapman | 10/3/2011 - 10:44pm
Larry, I keep vowing to stay away from this forum, partly because it is so predictable. I know what Walter is going to write, and he knows what I will write. That goes for several of us.  This board can use some new input, and I, for one, greatly appreciated your post #95.  Sometimes it is very discouraging to be a woman in this church, and I have to remind myself that most men I know, including most Catholic men, are intelligent, educated, and welcome equal partnerships with women.  They are not threatened by women. The vast majority are neither patriarchal nor misognyst thankfully. It's the actions of occasional backwards looking priests (and this priest lives in a diocese with a very backwards looking bishop) and some of their vocal supporters that occasionally make me forget that most Catholic men are not like this - thanks be to God. I agree with you also that some posters should simply be ignored. When I read something that is so far off the wall that it takes my breath away, I  don't read further and afterwards skip over posts by people who simply can't be engaged with seriously.

David Power, you are right that I love the church. If I didn't, I wouldn't be so upset about the church's slide backwards, and its increasingly desperate attempts to hold on to patriarchy, which seems to be evidence of a very deep-seated fear and even dislike of women on the part of too many of the hierarchy, including the pope himself, sadly, and their vocal admirers. But mostly it makes me just very, very sad.  I stayed in the church as a young woman because of Vatican II - I was going to leave in college, but my theology professor, a priest, spent many hours talking with me, explaining what had happened at Vatican II and describing to me the hope and promise.  But, apparently Vatican II was like Camelot - it was here, but only for one brief, shining moment.  I feel about the church as I would if I were a member of a highly dysfunctional family. You hope and pray for years that eventually your loved one or loved ones will recover and become whole again, healthy again.  But after a while you realize that by staying and supporting them, you are enabling the dysfunction. So then you have to leave - for your own well-being, and because you no longer wish to be an enabler.
Jane & Francis Thomas | 10/3/2011 - 10:16pm
    My apologies-didn't realize this a clique but I should have.  Suppose most of you are retired - you know each other, are used to and expect the same responses from each other  - David Powers is the censor, walter & charles are the bullies who stifle conversation but they are familiar so welcome, Anne is the smart girl with all the info...and I walked into the room and was starred at.  Since this really is a closed forum, I'll say adios.  Thanks for making it all clear Walt and David. 
ed gleason | 10/3/2011 - 9:57pm
Anne C.  Thanks for the data that cannot be refuted, I would add that Catholic sacramental weddings have declined 50% in a decade and a half. and what does that say about the future? Smaller purer or head in the sand Trads.?? As if no altar girls is a 'hill to die on'
Anne Chapman | 10/3/2011 - 9:22pm
Walter, I think the Latinos bring a great deal of life to a church that was dying in the United States. However, Hispanics prefer a liturgical style that does not match up well with what Benedict is dictating. The conservatives prefer liturgies that reflect midaevil European culture. They are distinctly uncomfortable with liturgies that reflect local non-European cultures rather than that of Rome. Their music often uses guitars, drums and native instruments that offend Benedict's sensibilities. Increasing numbers of Hispanics in the US are responding by leaving, for the liveliness and warmth of the Pentecostal churches. Not too long ago, almost 100% of those of Latino heritage in the US, both native born and immigrant, were Catholic. It is now about 68% in the US and falling. There is no reason for complacency.

Pew Research notes: "While those Americans who are unaffiliated with any particular religion have seen the greatest growth in numbers as a result of changes in affiliation, Catholicism has experienced the greatest net losses as a result of affiliation changes. While nearly one-in-three Americans (31%) were raised in the Catholic faith, today fewer than one-in-four (24%). These losses would have been even more pronounced were it not for the offsetting impact of immigration."

It is surprising that you are not even a little bit interested in understanding why 30 million people who were born in the United States and were raised Catholic have left the church. And you seem uninterested in the fact that the rate of adult converts is half of what it was 30 years ago, and significantly lower than just ten years ago. The departure rate is accelerating. Nor are you concerned that fewer babies are being baptized, presumably because their raised-Catholic parents are choosing to not raise their children in the church of their own family heritage. 

For more than 40 years, beginning in the Paul VI papacy, popes have worked to reverse Vatican II.  John Paul II and Benedict are very close to what one assumes is their goal of having the church reflect the totally authoritarian culture of the pre-Vatican II church. The priesthood is returning to the cultic model where priests are looked at as some kind of mini-gods, rather than as equals working with the laity as servant-leaders.  The priest who unilaterally decided to ban girls from altar service is a perfect example of the pre-Vatican II mindset, confirmed in the tone of his post.

 During these decades of increasing and accelerating conservatism, in spite of the personal celebrity/charisma of John Paul II who attracted crowds everywhere like a rock star, there has been no return to the imagined "glory" days of the 1950s. Instead the decline of the Catholic church in the west has accelerated the faster the popes reverse Vatican II.  It seems that the return to this monarchical/midaevil model of church is not holding members, but instead driving more and more away.  The church is near death for all practical purposes in Europe, declining rapidly in the US, and now there is an accelerating falling away of members even in Latin America itself - home to about half of all the world's Catholics.

This story was written several years ago, and the picture in Latin America has gotten even worse since then. Presumably the pope is hoping for a short-term booster shot by having the World Youth Day in Brazil, even though it seems that the drift away begins again after the party is over and kids grow up.

Catholic Church Losing Followers in Droves
By Diego Cevallos

MEXICO CITY, Oct 21, 2004 (IPS) - For the Catholic church hierarchy in the Vatican, Latin America has changed from the "Continent of Hope" to the continent of concern, as followers are leaving the church in such large numbers that it could lead to the collapse of Catholicism within a decade and a half. (bolded in the original story)

Although Latin America is still home to almost half of the 1.07 billion Catholics in the world today, numerous studies indicate that their numbers are declining throughout the region.

The loss of Catholic faithful "is a painful reality that calls out dramatically to us as pastors of Latin American churches," said Cipriano Calderón, a member of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops and former president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

In Brazil, where there are more Catholics than in any other country in the world - roughly 100 million, out of a total population of close to 180 million - close to half a million followers are leaving the Catholic church every year.

Does this not matter to you at all? Do you prefer a fantasy world to reality?  Or are you OK with it as long as those who remain share your conservative views? Perhaps you are among those who are content with a smaller, "purer" church?

I have posted enough data for a while. I could produce study after study, story after story, report after report.  Some will simply choose to ignore the implications. There is nothing that can be done for those who choose not to see.
C Walter Mattingly | 10/3/2011 - 8:27pm
That reference was to Larry. Sorry if I didn't make that clear to you.
I also noted that the entrance of Latinos into the Catholic Church has certainly been a factor in stabalizing Church membership in the US. I am fine with Latinos and don't feel they in any way count for less than Anglos. In any case this describes a demographic shift in membership, not a loss in members.
I take no joy in any loss of devout religious life to skepticism and secular humanists. The gleefulness you ascribe in my comments on decline of Christian church membership is solely your creation. What I did mean to imply is that assertions such as yours that the church, in order to staunch the decline of membership in the American church (which has been steady in the most recent years), should move in the direction of the "reforms" mainstream Protestantism have made is called into serious question by the simple fact that these churches have been losing members at a frightening rate in recent years, a continuation of a long-established trend. (Actually Tom Piatek should be given credit for pointing this out; I merely provided some corroborating info.)
I (Mr Mattingly, that is) confess to referring to you as censor. This thread is a dialogue. By calling to cut someone off from dialogue, you are calling to silence him from the life of the thread. I'll agree I didn't cotton to some of the angry tone of those comments either, although some other angry commentators from both ends of the spectrum have  been here before and passed muster. In any case, I berlieve it is Tim Reidy's responsibility to censor dialogue here, which he has since done in this case. 
Paul Bennett | 10/3/2011 - 6:54pm
If your questions are not rhetorical, then you'll find your answers in the works of Peter Kreeft:

Advocates of women's ordination usually misunderstand sexual symbolism because they misunderstand symbolism itself as radically as they misunderstand authority. They think of symbols as man-made and artificial. They do not see that there are profound and unchangeable natural symbols, that things can be signs.

Christ's priests are men because Christ is a man. But why is Christ's maleness essential? Because he is the revelation of the Father, and the Father's masculinity is essential. God is masculine, not male.

The fundamental problem with most advocates of priestesses is as radical as this: they do not know who God is. Most would register strong discomfort or puzzlement at the description Lewis gives of God—i.e., the Bible's God. Now, if the reply is that this ancient biblical picture of the hunter-king-husband God is historically relative, and that we should throw away the accidental shell and keep the essential, timeless meat of the nut, I reply:

First, the masculinity of God is not part of the shell, but part of the nut. It is not like Hebrew grammar, a translatable and replaceable medium. Something as deliberate and distinctive and as all-pervasive in Scripture as God's he-ness is no mere accident...

Once you start monkeying with your data, where do you stop? Why stop, ever, at all? If you can subtract the divine masculinity from Scripture when it offends you, why can't you subtract the divine compassion when that offends you? If you read your Marxism into Scripture today, why not your fascism tomorrow? If you can change God's masculinity, why not change his morality? Why not his very being? If you can twist the pronoun, why not the noun?

The other half of the case against priestesses based on sexual symbolism is the femininity of the Church.

The Church is God's Bride. All the saints and mystics say the ultimate purpose of human life, the highest end for which we were made, is the Spiritual Marriage. This is not socially relative; itls eternal. And in it, the soul is spiritually impregnated by God, not vice versa. That is the ultimate reason why God must always be he to us, never she. Religion is essentially heterosexual and therefore fruitful.

The ground of Mary's greatness is the thing so simple and innocent that it is too simple and innocent for the feminists to see. The reason she is crowned Queen of Heaven, the reason for her great glory and power is her total submission to God-her sacrifice, her suffering, her service. Muslims see it, but so-called "Christian" feminists do not. It is islam, the total surrender, the fiat, and the peace, the shalom, that are the secret treasures hidden in this submission, the delicious fruit of this thorny plant. Modem feminist "Christianity" becomes radically different from Christianity (or Judaism or Islam) when it drifts into a radically different ideal of sanctity, of the summum bonum, the greatest good, meaning of life, and purpose of all faith. Feminists need most fundamentally what we all need most fundamentally: to go to the cross, unclench the fist, and bow the knee.

Paul Ferris | 10/3/2011 - 6:00pm

The laity may not have spent years on the seminary studying theology but the rector of the Cathedral is not a parent and this issue is more about parenting than about theology.

Paul Ferris | 10/3/2011 - 4:52pm
A picture is worth a thousand words....some Catholics insist on being more Catholic than the Pope.
david power | 10/3/2011 - 4:44pm
Well said Kate.In about 29AD the women went to wash the dead body of the Lord.It was the women who discovered that the body of Jesus was gone. The Gospels all recount this story and in doing so make the Apostles look bad.They didn't believe  the women. They didn't turn around later and say "change that part, it makes me look terrible".In 1978  Pope Luciani died and his body was found by a nun.Shock!Horror!!!!
The Vatican drafted in soon to be Bishop Magee to deny that such a scandalous thing could have occured.He had found the body.Then of course later on when the story was seen through they said"Oh, there has been a misunderstanding".In layman's terms they told a "porkie pie".
One thousand nine hundred and forty nine years to go from simplicity and naturalness to that!!Women deserve a "Nostra aetete". A recognition of the wrong done them through history by the Church . For a couple of decades  that was what made Bishop Magee famous (he was involved in the cover-up of the murder/death of Pope Luciani) but he later went one better.
A Priest cannot have a Father's heart if he feels that way about girls. Children at the age of altar servers are innocence and humanness personified.         
alan baer | 10/3/2011 - 4:11pm
Well said! I'm on board. Count me in.
Kay Satterfield | 10/3/2011 - 3:49pm

No, it doesn't make sense and that is why there is so much anger in this thread including my own.  It is emotional.  This article brings 'into the light' what is going on a a few parishes in our country.  Hopefully, by exposing the actions of these few and the strong reaction against it will help to discourage others in position of power from making the same decisions.  I don't see it as a conservative/liberal thing; both sides have their daughters helping as servers at the altar. 
Epifanio Castillo | 10/3/2011 - 3:06pm
It simply does not make an moral sense to deny girls and opportunity to help bring the holy Eucharist to the People of God as alter servers simply because of gender.
david power | 10/3/2011 - 12:12pm
God is Dead.Vitriol??Philosophy.
I usually do like a reaction as do most people.
Charles was a hoot.I thought he was being sarcastic and was wondering if I could pull off the same but then realized after a few posts he was being serious.
Maybe Larry and Charles are brothers??Or different personalities inside a schizophrenic mind...
The Reverend pointed out that vocations could be served by taking away girls from the altar.I think he is right.Priests would come surely.The sociological or psychological root of most "vocations" is as  clear as day. That  is why the Legion flourished.
Maciel understood that God was/is dead.
The Holy Father has been saying more or less the same for a while now.
God is Dead,look it up Larry!!
In Europe God is as dead as a doornail.The signs of life seen by some are nothing only mirages.
God was born and killed.Born of a woman no less!!!
If God is born again(Nietzschean sense) maybe it will be through women.
 The God of Charles is never coming back. People are not just gonna wake up some day in the future with a desire to turn the clock back. I like play pretend as much as the next guy but Charles me and you will be all alone. We could cut Europe and North America out of the picture and go straight for the Third world. Submission is alive and kicking there.But in a century God will pop his clogs there too.

"If He changes ,He is" said the Pope's favourite Italian and the evidence is hard to come by in favour of that.

Hi To Norman (always a pleasure to read)and Anne( I think you love the Catholic Church more than you know)

Where is Juan Lopez??       
Jane & Francis Thomas | 10/3/2011 - 12:11am
Anne - thanks for such an informative, well written posting.

Walt - never said I was a censor; never tried to kick anyone out - well of anywhere actually - let alone the Church.  All are welcome.  I think you have me confused with Charles. 

I am glad, though, that the postings have become less vitriolic.  Oh, except David Power - just another guy looking for a reaction, eh?  Okay, I mentioned you - glad to oblige your need to be heard. Sorry you think God is dead...of course, that presumes he was living so maybe you've just lost the faith.  Don't worry - God will still be there for you when you are ready.  Peace to all.
Anne Chapman | 10/2/2011 - 10:07pm
Walter, I have not addressed any comments to a Ms. Mansfield.

  You seem to have missed the implications of the data you are looking at - it is true that the percent of the population that is identified as Catholic has remained fairly stable (about 23% now, down from about 25% several years ago.)  However, if you remove approximately 20 million Hispanic immigrants from the totals and look just at the native born cradle Catholics in this country, the percentage would have been dramatically lower than historical averages.  Hispanic Catholics now make up 33% of Catholics in the country.  Without immigration, the Catholic church in this country would be in even worse straits than it is now.  Interestingly enough, the Hispanic Catholics are also beginning to leave. However, as mentioned earlier, they leave primarily due to liturgy and general parish culture reasons rather than due to doctrine.  However, the number of new immigrants has been falling for several years now. And the hostile climate immigrants are encountering in many states may be encouraging some to go back to the countries of their birth. The boost that the Catholic church has enjoyed from the Hispanic immigrants may also slow down.

In another study CARA (Center for Applied Research in the Apostalate) reports that the number of new entrants to the church - infant and adult, has been falling for the last decade - even since before the revelations of sex abuse and the complicity of the bishops in protecting the sexual molesters .According to CARA, in 2000, more than 172,000 non-infants (adults and teens) joined the church. In 2009 (last year that they had figures for), about 112,000 did. Infant baptisms are also declining (as are marriages in the church, but those numbers are reported in a different study). And remember, the Pew study reported that for every person joining the Catholic church today, four leave it.  Without the influx of Hispanics immigrants, the Catholic church would not only have lost the most members in sheer numbers, its losses would be larger in percentage terms than any of the mainline Protestant churches.

Numbers of New Catholics Continue to Fall

In a previous post, we noted that infant baptisms have been declining year-to-year (as reported in The Official Catholic Directory; where the publication year represents totals for the year prior, e.g., the 2011 edition includes totals for 2010). We've also noted these are generally moving in step with the overall fertility rate, which has also been falling (more so since the recession in 2008). (NOTE: This is incorrect according to information attached to this article in America when America reported it. The overall fertility actually rose slightly during this time and did not fall.) In each of the past three years the number of people entering the faith (of any age) has dropped below 1 million. Since 1947, during only one other period, from 1973 to 1979, did the annual number of new U.S. Catholics number less than 1 million.

And given that the total population now is estimated at 312,333,000, and in 1973  was 211,908,788, the fact that the annual numbers of new Catholics joing the church is roughtly the same as when the population was 100 million people smaller is a another negative sign.

Perhaps instead of gleefully applauding the declines in mainstream Protestantism, you should begin paying attention to what is happening in your own church. The extent of the declines has been masked because the church in America is being saved by immigration - at least at the moment.  If the flow of new immigrants into this country slows, the increases in church membership may slow also. However, since the Hispanics who are here generally have more children than other Catholics in this country, the church will continue to maintain its levels for a while.
William McGovern | 10/2/2011 - 9:50pm
I suspect Charles Jones "protests too much" and enjoys getting others stirred.

He can't be serious with his "over the top" comment calling for "girls to clean the linens and arrange the flowers."    If he truly believes that, I feel sorry for him.   Many of us, male and female, may have held those views decades ago but have since grown to understand how wrong we were.  It is time for the Church to look at itself in the mirror and face this unjust and counterproductive discrimination.  
C Walter Mattingly | 10/2/2011 - 9:12pm
Thanks for the references to the Pew report. There I found these two summary statements: "the overall percentage of the population that identifies itself as Catholic has remained fairly stable," and "If these genrational patterns persist, recent declines in the number of Protestants...may continue." It's helpful to have the numbers I supplied from USA Today roughly confirmed in the Pew Report you referred to. Interesting information there too on the evangelical movement in the Church and growing US latin membership. Very welcome developments.
Did you wish to refer to Ms Mansfield? I am the only Mattingly on the thread, and I'm on record twice offering an opinion that prohibiting girl altar servers in a "counterproductive regression." Accuracy is particularly important for one who proclaims himself censor. You'd hate to kick out the wrong person, wouldn't you?
Jack Barry | 10/2/2011 - 8:18pm

No  -  He just got fed up with being misquoted so much. 

david power | 10/2/2011 - 7:42pm
God is dead.  
Jane & Francis Thomas | 10/2/2011 - 5:24pm
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. 
Charles Jones | 10/2/2011 - 5:13pm
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 | 10/2/2011 - 5:01pm
Charles Jones | 10/2/2011 - 4:39pm
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. 
ed gleason | 10/2/2011 - 4:38pm
Can we all chip in and move Charles Jones to the Phoenix cathedral parish? I'M outta here as Larry suggests.
Jane & Francis Thomas | 10/2/2011 - 3:39pm
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. 
Charles Jones | 10/2/2011 - 3:34pm
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 | 10/2/2011 - 3:18pm
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!
Charles Jones | 10/2/2011 - 3:04pm
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 | 10/2/2011 - 2:57pm
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. 
Norman Costa | 10/2/2011 - 2:55pm
 @ 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. 
ALICE CLAIRE MANSFIELD | 10/2/2011 - 2:52pm

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!

Charles Jones | 10/2/2011 - 2:03pm
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. 
Anne Chapman | 10/2/2011 - 1:51pm
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.
Norman Costa | 10/2/2011 - 11:16am
@ 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 | 10/2/2011 - 10:28am
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.
C Walter Mattingly | 10/2/2011 - 7:57am
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.
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.

Boreta Singleton | 10/2/2011 - 5:49am
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.
Norman Costa | 10/2/2011 - 4:09am
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. 
Charles Jones | 10/2/2011 - 2:05am
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 
Charles Jones | 10/2/2011 - 1:49am
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. 
William McGovern | 10/2/2011 - 12:54am
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    

Jane & Francis Thomas | 10/2/2011 - 12:53am
@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.
Mona Villarrubia | 10/2/2011 - 12:30am

@ 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 | 10/2/2011 - 12:22am
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.
Jack Barry | 10/2/2011 - 12:14am

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.
Anne Chapman | 10/2/2011 - 12:02am
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

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.
C Walter Mattingly | 10/1/2011 - 11:40pm
@ 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.


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