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.

Anne Chapman
5 years 7 months ago
Walter, I am still not sure of what your question was - there were no question marks in the post you referenced, but maybe I was reading the wrong post? Maybe try again?

You assert that liberal Protestant denominations are in decline because: they have women's ordination, they don't exclude divorced members (which is different than "approving" divorce), they don't teach transubstantiation, they don't accept papal authority, they tolerate abortion.  OK, that is probably fairly accurate.

 Now let's look at conservative Protestant denominations - most have women's ordination (with the exception of the Southern Baptists primarily), none accept the doctrine of transubstantiation, none accept papal authority, most do not reject divorced members (once again, they don't "approve" of divorce), some reject keeping abortion legal. 

With the exception of abortion (and rejecting the legality of abortion is not universal among conservative Protestant denominations either), this profile is almost identical to that of liberal Protestant denominations and quite different from that of the Roman Catholic church with the exception of mostly disapproving of abortion.  I am surprised that you left out modern birth control from your list since you bring that up quite a bit. Protestants, both liberal and conservative, do not reject the use of modern birth control methods.

There are probably two major things that divide liberal Protestants and conservative Protestants.  The first would be their approaches to scripture - many conservative Protestants read scripture literally - they argue that the earth was created only a few thousand years ago and that it was done in 6 days.  They reject much science. Liberal Protestants do not read scripture literally and this is the approach taken by the Roman Catholic church at least since Pius XII, with the beginnings of a departure from literalism starting a bit earlier. But, a century or so ago, the RCC was also interpreting scripture literally still.

I would suspect that at this point, the other major issue dividing "liberal" and "conservative" Protestants is something not mentioned in your list, but related to how they approach understanding scripture (literally or not literally) - and that is their different understandings of the place of homosexuals in the church. Some totally reject homosexuals and condemn them in no uncertain terms. The liberal Protestant denominations are wrestling with the issue and some have made decisions that offend conservatives. This is one issue on which the conservative Protestants and Roman Catholic official teaching do coincide.

 Other than that, there is little difference in terms of Protestants' universal rejection of many RCC teachings - papal infallibiity, transubstantiation, the definition of sacraments, Marian theology, birth control, denial of ordination to women. Conservative Protestants no more agree with the Catholic church on these things than do liberal Protestants and yet they are growing in membership - without the boost of immigration. 

Beyond scriptural fundamentalism, the other reason many conservative Protestant churches are growing is the style of their worship - it tends to be warmer, more inclusive of the non-clergy, and livelier than that of either the Roman Catholic or the mainline Protestant churches.  From the studies I have read and the anecdotes people share, these congregations are very welcoming and offer a strong sense of real community - rather hard to achieve in most urban area Catholic churches with thousands of parishoners, most of whom come to church and leave again without even recognizing more than a handful of people, if that.
Jack Barry
5 years 7 months ago

Walter  -  You base your argument from statistics on the "relatively stable membership our church (sic) has experienced".    Taking comfort from recent Hispanic immigrants supporting the population of the US Church is a parochial view in the secular sense of the word.   Each Catholic immigrant to the US is a loss of one Catholic in the country of origin.   As seen from the Vatican, the net change in the Americas due to immigration of Hispanic Catholics to the US is zero.   What does that say about "our church"?   

Statistics can commonly be used to show whatever one wants when accompanied by suitable hypothetical explanations, as you know.   A step toward plausibility if not irrefutability would be to look separately at the US sub-population of recent Catholic Hispanic immigrants and the US non-immigrant Catholic sub-population.  What do you find? 

Thanks, Anne C.  Please keep it up.

Norman Costa
5 years 7 months ago
Re: The American Catholic Church and  immigration:

The following is an excerpt from my comment on Bishop Timothy Dolan's article on "The Catholic Schools We Need." I believe it is relevant to the discussion here about Catholic immigrant populations. I am quoting Bishop Dolan on the decline of Catholic Schools as a result of changes in immigration of Catholics. Following the quote is my commentary.

2. "[T]he drastic shift in demographics of the late-20th century that saw a dramatic drop-off in Catholic immigration from Europe;" -Bishop Timothy Dolan

Agreed! Faith, the Church, native language, and social cohesion enabled arriving Catholics to survive and then prosper. The Church was a great socializing influence in creating U.S. citizens who could participate in our democracy. This country's debt to the American Catholic Church and schools, for the mainstreaming of immigrants into our nation, is incalculable. 

One question becomes obvious after noting the decline in immigration of Catholics. Are there not enough Catholics already in this country whose children can benefit from Catholic schools, even with declining birth rates? If the survival of Catholic schools is dependent upon large numbers of immigrant Catholics, yesterday and today, then something was missing all along in Catholic education. It seems as though Catholics are just now trying to find out what was missing. -Norman Costa
David Siefker
5 years 7 months ago
I am somewhat surprised by the treatment of Lumen Gentium (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church) in this article.  I'm afraid these quotations are quite distorted from their original contexts.  Here is the relevant section from the article:

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).

The reference to charisms is given below in its context (Lumen Gentium #12).  Note that these charisms are juxtaposed with the role of "the sacraments and the ministries of the Church."  The latter are not included as a subset among these charisms.  But for the sake of arguemnt, even if they were included in the charisms:  "judgment as to their genuinity and proper use belongs to those who are appointed leaders in the Church."  This is exactly what the good Reverend Lankeit is doing.

12. ... It is not only through the sacraments and the ministries of the Church that the Holy Spirit sanctifies and leads the people of God and enriches it with virtues, but, "allotting his gifts to everyone according as He wills,(114) He distributes special graces among the faithful of every rank. By these gifts He makes them fit and ready to undertake the various tasks and offices which contribute toward the renewal and building up of the Church, according to the words of the Apostle: "The manifestation of the Spirit is given to everyone for profit".(115) These charisms, whether they be the more outstanding or the more simple and widely diffused, are to be received with thanksgiving and consolation for they are perfectly suited to and useful for the needs of the Church. Extraordinary gifts are not to be sought after, nor are the fruits of apostolic labor to be presumptuously expected from their use; but judgment as to their genuinity and proper use belongs to those who are appointed leaders in the Church, to whose special competence it belongs, not indeed to extinguish the Spirit, but to test all things and hold fast to that which is good.(116)

The reference to "there is neither male nor female..." is given below in its context (Lumen Gentium #32).  Note that the paragraph begins by saying that "all the members have not the same function."  And again immediately after the quoted section, the council fathers reiterate, "If therefore in the Church everyone does not proceed by the same path..."

32. By divine institution Holy Church is ordered and governed with a wonderful diversity. "For just as in one body we have many members, yet all the members have not the same function, so we, the many, are one body in Christ, but severally members one of another".(191) Therefore, the chosen People of God is one: "one Lord, one faith, one baptism"(192); sharing a common dignity as members from their regeneration in Christ, having the same filial grace and the same vocation to perfection; possessing in common one salvation, one hope and one undivided charity. There is, therefore, in Christ and in the Church no inequality on the basis of race or nationality, social condition or sex, because "there is neither Jew nor Greek: there is neither bond nor free: there is neither male nor female. For you are all 'one' in Christ Jesus".(193)

If therefore in the Church everyone does not proceed by the same path, nevertheless all are called to sanctity and have received an equal privilege of faith through the justice of God.(194) And if by the will of Christ some are made teachers, pastors and dispensers of mysteries on behalf of others, yet all share a true equality with regard to the dignity and to the activity common to all the faithful for the building up of the Body of Christ. For the distinction which the Lord made between sacred ministers and the rest of the People of God bears within it a certain union, since pastors and the other faithful are bound to each other by a mutual need. Pastors of the Church, following the example of the Lord, should minister to one another and to the other faithful. These in their turn should enthusiastically lend their joint assistance to their pastors and teachers. Thus in their diversity all bear witness to the wonderful unity in the Body of Christ. This very diversity of graces, ministries and works gathers the children of God into one, because "all these things are the work of one and the same Spirit".(195)

Therefore, from divine choice the laity have Christ for their brothers who though He is the Lord of all, came not to be served but to serve.(196) They also have for their brothers those in the sacred ministry who by teaching, by sanctifying and by ruling with the authority of Christ feed the family of God so that the new commandment of charity may be fulfilled by all. St. Augustine puts this very beautifully when he says: "What I am for you terrifies me; what I am with you consoles me. For you I am a bishop; but with you I am a Christian. The former is a duty; the latter a grace. The former is a danger; the latter, salvation" (1*).

Note also how St. Augustine is quoted above by the council fathers:  He refers to his Prieshood using words like "terrifies me," "duty," "danger."  Does that sound like a "clerical caste," or an exclusive club?

Also, perhaps some attention should be paid to a response from the CDW in 2001, which discusses exactly this topic:

In accord with the above cited instructions of the Holy See such an authorization may not, in any way, exclude men or, in particular, boys from service at the altar, nor require that priests of the diocese would make use of female altar servers, since "it will always be very appropriate to follow the noble tradition of having boys serve at the altar" (Circular Letter to the Presidents of Episcopal Conference, March 15, 1994, no. 2). Indeed, the obligation to support groups of altar boys will always remain, not least of all due to the well known assistance that such programs have provided since time immemorial in encouraging future priestly vocations (cf. ibid.)

With respect to whether the practice of women serving at the altar would truly be of pastoral advantage in the local pastoral situation, it is perhaps helpful to recall that the non-ordained faithful do not have a right to service at the altar, rather they are capable of being admitted to such service by the Sacred Pastors
Michael Barberi
5 years 7 months ago
IMO, the most important issue is not the teachings of the Protestant and Catholic Churches from the standpoint that this is the primary reason for a decrease or increase in Mass attendance or Catholic Church membership. Clearly, the change in Church membership is caused by many factors and one of them could be disagreement with Church teachings. However, most Catholics (I can't substantiate this) choose to remain Catholic and elect to fight for reform in their own way. Some have given up the fight or refused to fight because they believe it is futile.

The most important issus is hypocracy, the inconsistency and contradiction in how certain teachings are applied in real life circumstances. The other troublesome issue is authoratatively closing debate on the most profound issues that cause much suffering and divide the members of the Roman Catholic Church (abortion to save the life of the mother when the fetus will die with certainty under all circumstances: contraception use to space pregnancies and as security when spouses want no more children for good reasons, the use of condoms by serodiscordant couples, in vitro fertilzation using the husbands sperm, etc). It is our failure as a Church not to strive continuously for soldiarity. Instead we have ecclesiastical positivism, without remainder. It is driven by pride that tradition and the papal utterance is the Divine truth regardless if such teachings lack of a convincing moral theory.

 For example, when Humanae Vitae was issued in 1968, Paul VI asserted that he could not accept the conclusions of the Pontifical Commisson on Birth Regulation (PBCC) because there was not a complete agreement among the (72) members and that the conclusions were in tension with "the constant doctrine on marriage" taught throughout the centuries. Unfortunately, the doctrine on marriage was never static but constantly changing since Augustine. The very lack of a complete agreement that Paul VI used to dismiss the Commission's conclusions, was in contradiction, used by Paul VI to embrace the Minority Report, supported by only 4 theologians, and the conclusions of a one-country Commission in Poland, limited to Polish bishops and theologians, headed by Karol Wojtyla. Seventy-five percent of the PBCC members voted for the conclusions of the Commission Report representing a wide cross-section of bishops, theologians and laity from 5 continents. Yet, Paul VI choose to embrace the conclusions of a narrow Polish commission and a few theologians that voted for the Minority Report. The inseparable connection between the unitive and procreative meanings of the marital act, the moral absolute at the heart of HV, was first articulated by Karol Wojtyla in his 1960 book Love and Responsibilty (L&R).  Therefore, it is not an exaggeration that L&R, HV and the Theology of the Body were the integrated theory of one man, Karol Wojtyla/John Paul II. Paul VI was searching for a reason to embrace tradition, and he found it. However, there was no complete agreement or a constant teaching on marriage to support it. 

Each week, there are hundreds of Catholics who practice contraception and stand in line to receive Eucharistic Communion, condemned by the Vatican as intrinsically evil, a mortal sin. The priests of each parish know this and ignore it. The rationale: if those Catholics are following their informed consciences, there is no sin. They are simply invincibly ignorant.  The hypocracy is that for those few Catholics that confess the sin of contraception, they receive absolution without a firm purpose of amendment under the princilple of graduation that apply to habitual sinners. But, this principle does not apply to other habitual sinners like the divorced and remarried Catholics.

I could go on, but I would just be repeating myself. It is not surprising that we have a crisis of truth in our Church today.
Norman Costa
5 years 7 months ago
@ David S.

I am not being facetious or snide when I ask, what is the point you are trying to make, or trying to support with your quotes, above?

I am not clear where you are going.  
Michael Barberi
5 years 7 months ago
My comments followed several other blog comments about the various opinions of Catholics concerning the teachings and practices of the Church and the relationship to the profound disagreement over female alter servers specifically and the role of women generally. The statistics cited in these recent blog comments point to a Church divided and some possible reasons for a Church in Crisis.
My comments were related to one reason, the moral method called ecclesiastic positivism. As such, I offered examples of how inconsistency and contradiction in the formation and application of some Church teachings have impacted the opinions of Catholics and have in many ways lead to a distrust in the Magisterium as the authority on morals. Why we have a crisis of truth in the Catholic Church is most complex and while my comments are simply my opinion, I hoped to shed a wider light on this general subject, but if I added to ambiguity, I apologize. 
Is this a clearer description of my point?
Anne Chapman
5 years 7 months ago
Michael (#162), I believe Norman was addressing his comment to David S (#159). 

Thank you for the background information that traces the source of Humanae Vitae to Karol Wojtyla.  I had long been aware of the fact that Pope Paul VI ignored the recommendation of the vast majority of the Commission who had studied the matter for several years, but had not been aware of the Polish/Wojtyla connection.
Norman Costa
5 years 7 months ago
@ Michael:

Your clarification is a welcomed bonus. 
David Rudmin
5 years 7 months ago
The Human (Anthropological) Argument for the Preferability of Male Altar-Serving:

           What is altar-serving?  Altar-serving is a venue where a person steps up before the community and performs functions that represent the service of the community as a whole. The community, as a "nation of priests" (Ex. 19:6, I Pe. 2:9) offers mostly spiritual gifts to the priest (their time, treasure, daily sacrifices, prayers, etc.), who in turn then offers these prayers, sacrifices, etc. of his congregation up to God in the Mass, in union with the offering of the sacred Body and Blood of Jesus Christ on the altar.  Since we are all priestly by our baptismal anointing, then technically anyone, male or female, can perform this symbolic role of bringing the gifts up to the altar in his (or her) capacity as an altar server. It is like the Levites in the old testament who were at the disposal of the Aaronic priesthood to assist and do whatever Aaron and his sons-the consecrated priests-needed (Interest fact: All the Levites, male and female ate of the sacrifices, though only the men did the work in the inner court).
           But in a ceremonial sense, altar-serving is more than this: It is service . . . WORK . . . servant-hood. Although there is a rich Biblical tradition of various women referring to themselves as "handmaids of the Lord" (the female counterpart for the term "servant")-including our Blessed Mother-this is NOT something, I argue, that women should particularly aspire to. Why? It goes back to the differing natures of male and female work:
            MAN's BODY IS CONSUMPTIVE AND HIS SPIRIT IS BY NATURE PRODUCTIVE; CONVERSELY, WOMAN'S BODY IS BY NATURE PRODUCTIVE, AND HER SPIRIT IS CONSUMPTIVE [Capitalized since this is a general principle].  Now since altar-serving occurs tangibly, in the physical realm, we can for the moment discount the spiritual half, and focus just on the physical half. Since woman's body is by nature physically productive, she doesn't need to work in the physical realm to justify her existence . . . after all, it happens for her naturally (i.e. by 1st Act, the act-not of DOING anything, which is known as "2nd act," but-of simply BEING who she is), in the generation of new life.  Just by being who she is (again, 1st act), she already has an incredibly larger amount of work to do that men don't, and so she already has her work cut out for her.  However, man's body is not by nature productive, and therefore he has a very real need to work and do tangible things (i.e. through 2nd Acts of DOING things) to express in a physical way his spiritual value and thereby justify his existence. For this reason, men have a psychological need to DO something to show for themselves, and they therefore excel not at BEING perfect (as women do) but at trying to DO things to perfection. A man longs to do not just a satisfactory job, but the perfect "end-all, be-all" job that perfectly and essentially represents and models that sort of work. He doesn't just want to do any old firefighter's work (unless he's so worn out that his spirit doesn't care anymore). . . . No, he wants to do a superior, outstanding job of firefighting! (Contrariwise have you ever found a woman who was obsessed with doing her job "to a T"? . . . If you did, at least we can admit that it's comparatively rare.) Of course this isn't always true (e.g. sometimes in the interest of time even men have to accept 2nd-rate work), but it often is, and therefore illustrates the principle:  Men must DO well to find their flourishing.  
                Consequently, in altar-serving where most especially there is the need to do not just an ordinary job, but an EXCELLENT job (indeed, the very best that we as a community can offer to God!), a man is much more suited to what the situation calls for.  For a man feels in his bones and tendons the riveting, sacred, and intuitive knowledge of the virtuous actions which he is modeling and carrying out.   In serving then, and by being stirred by the act of what he is doing, he finds his calling, his "vocation," his flourishing, that is, of being himself intuitively sanctified by the sacred service which he is rendering.  Women do not have such strong senses and muscular movements, and so they do not intuitively feel every little action (and its inner spiritual significance), to quite the same degree that men do.  In showing himself a model of virtue, faith, and servanthood then, that is, in carrying out his role to the best that it can be done (Essentially, ceremonially, ritualistically, i.e. "to a Tee"), man finds his flourishing, his ultimate self-identity, and this can occur in no other way, except by physically (i.e. in action) stepping into that role and DOING it, to the point of becoming identified with it.   A man then has a need to express himself FULLY in his work, and this is especially true in the sacred and demanding work of altar-serving.  
            Does this mean then that women are unable to be altar servers? Of course not! It just means that a woman's flourishing isn't expressed in the act of physically DOING the altar-serving, so much as a man's is. By contrast, woman's flourishing is expressed more in other things: If she really wants to excel to perfection in something (i.e. thru 2nd Acts of 'doing'), then it is more natural for her 2nd acts of doing to occur in the spiritual realm (e.g. by praying, doing spiritual sacrifices, making acts of faith, hope, and love, etc.-which is also why so many nuns became wonderfully DEEP mystics, very close to the heart of Christ-just look at Dante's Paradiso). Conversely, within the physical realm, woman's work occurs by doing things not with perfection, but merely satisfactorily-e.g. showing her family sufficiently clothed and taken care of (Note: There's no "best" or "ultimate" at this sort of thing). Of course, we must not forget that woman's flourishing and radiance in the physical realm occurs more naturally by 1st Act-i.e. by the bearing of children. Consequently, in regard to the Mass, it's best for all parties involved, if a woman just accepts the general role (which applies to nearly the entire congregation anyways, both male and female), of offering her weekly sacrifice spiritually, symbolically, and through the hands of (the altar server and) the priest, and doesn't seek the extraordinary role of doing it in front of everybody on the altar. Instead, a girl should be urged NOT to worry about the fact that she never gets an opportunity to be an altar server (It doesn't realy matter, after all, anyways!). Instead, she should be urged to concentrate on excelling in those areas where she can and really does surpass the boys (since they're often busy worrying about physical things)-i.e. in assisting the mass in its true dimension-spiritually-though making spiritual offerings and imbibing and hence growing in the spiritual virtues which are really more integral to being a Christian anyways (see Pius XII's encyclicals: "Mystici Corporis Christi" and "Mediator Dei"), inasmuch as Christianity has always been more about BEING than about DOING (Though by God's grace doing can also lead back to and cause new existence, new being). 

            So ladies, certainly step up if the situation calls you to it! But all other things being equal, please give as many guys as possible the chance, not because you can't do it, but because they can, and moreover, they NEED to, in order to forge a self-identity and become who it is that they need and wish to be.  Physical servanthood, just as much as soldiering ("servant" and "soldier" were synonyms in ancient times), is an essentially male activity.

-   -   -
            Note: Just because women can, if necessary, be altar servers, doesn't mean that they can, if necessary step up and be ordained priests, because that's an entirely different situation.  In ordination, the ordinained stands as a symbolic sacramental sign of Christ, "in persona Christi;" either as Christ the prophet and preacher (for deacons), or as Christ the priest (for priests), or as Christ the king (for bishops), and for all of these, male-ness is a definite requirement, since Christ was male and performs the service in his capacity as a male, as the heavenly bridegroom, calling (Deacon), sanctifying (Priest), or saving (Bishop) his church.  Also, this sort of ordination is purely spiritual-i.e. at the rational level-not partially physical and partially spiritual (as altar serving is)-i.e. at the sensate level-and so it has higher standards of purity (rational purity) than altar-serving does (mere sensate purity). 
Norman Costa
5 years 7 months ago
@ David Rudmin:

Where did you get this stuff? I am sure that what you wrote is sincerely believed and deeply felt. It is my personal view that it is deeply offensive to my daughters, my women friends and colleagues, and many men. 

I remember, well, a book in my college library in the 1960s titled, "Catholic Psychology." It translated Freudian notions, long discredited, about men being active and penetrating, and women being passive and receptive. You might as well have said that anatomy is priestly destiny.

You talk about "...a rich Biblical tradition of various women referring to themselves as "handmaids of the Lord" (the female counterpart for the term "servant")...". Let's be clear that male authors and redacters of the bible wrote about "women referring to themselves."

In many cultures, especially in prehistory, women were the shamans, the priestesses, and the mediators with the goddesses.  They knew the secrets of Nature's remedies and elixers. They were the birthers of a spiritual sense and a connection to all of nature. Agriculture was more the domain of women in the transition from hunter gathering to farming. Today in many cultures, it is women who make daily offerings, outside her front door, to deities that can be of help. Go anywhere in Thailand, or India, or Bali in Indonesia. You find it in godless Hong Kong, for Pete's sake. 

If there is anyone who knows about spirituality, an intuituve sense, sanctification, intercession, offerings and sacrifices, a regard for the holy, and shepherding, it's a woman.  
Jane & Francis Thomas
5 years 7 months ago
    David Rudmin - I don't mean to respond in kind or unkindly but your overly long entry is full of half-baked, psuedo-psychology, pseudo-theology that amounts to analyis by assertion.  I'm sorry that some men are unable to accept a God that is gender neutral because of your own limitations.  The arrogance of these assertions is stunning and I'm really left dazed by how narrow-minded this perspective is and how out of line it is to superimpose on our God. what are outdated discredited ideas even to humans  Thankfully most of the Catholic world has grown up from such ideas and has really come to understand our loving God is limitless in his love.  It isn't that men and women are not different but how you can believe God wants to limit how any of us serves and loves him is beyond me.  I am tempted to say, "how dare you," and "shame on you." but I know you and others who hold similar views are sincere.  What you don't realize is that you display an immature undrestanding of God, of men, and certainly of women.  I will continue to pray for those who hold such extremist ideas whose anticidents are historically rooted in the prejudices, fear, and simple-mindedness of Western thinking several centuries ago.  Yours might be slight updated, or wrapped in paper, but it's not hard to see where the origin of such ideas lie - not in God but superstition and fear.  I pity those who hold such views and will indeed pray for you.
Jane & Francis Thomas
5 years 7 months ago
Is anyone else amused by the following:

Those advocating a 1950s (and before) orthodoxy show great respect for the clergy with whom they agree and great hostility and disdain to the clery they disagree with.  Moreover, these same folks seem to feel they are completely qualified to interpret and selectively quote from official publications laying out Church teaching, while discrediting theologians and the clergy who read these documents differentl or hold different views.

The same extremists also find it quite easy to tell everyone else to do what their bishop says or their local priest, so long as they agree with those bishops/priests.  Only a few of those who support kicking the girls off the altar say that it is up to the pastor or bishop.  Overwhelmingly these lay men (and a few women) don't leave it with the pastor or bishop.  Nope.  THe take up 15 inches of space on this comment log to argue why they in their self-proclaimed expert opinion know why the girls should be kicked out.

Some might call this being a cafeteria catholic!
Leonard Villa
5 years 7 months ago
This editorial does not know anything about working with boys. First of all we have a male crisis in the church of monumental proportion which is not being addressed. Men stay away from church in droves. Many consider this women's work and business. The claim to advance women or concern about this is simply dancing to tunes set by the secular culture hence the editorial's seeming unwillingness to accept the definiteive teaching that women cannot be ordained. The Castelli study done years ago pointed out the feminization of the Church: the majority of EM's, lectors, etc. in a parish are women. Men are the vanishing species when it comes to church and in many parishes the only male in the sanctuary is the priest. Parishes which promote altar girls will see the gradual disappearance of the boys because they will see this as a girl thing. If you couple this with the male crisis in general in the Church you can see its devastating effect on vocations. Boys have to see that the priesthood is a manly vocation and not a refuge for fops, retreads, or other individuals deemed unable to make it on the outside. Many boys in the past have discovered their vocation precisely by service at the altar. It's time for the Church and your magazine to address the male crisis in the Church and not dance to the agenda and tunes of a secular feminism.
C Walter Mattingly
5 years 7 months ago
The sentence with the question mark I referred to was in #139, second paragraph.
Thank you for your response. From my point of view it was genuine, helpful, and adequate and furthers an important dialogue.
I think your point on what is and isn't "liberal" is well taken. You may have noticed I was more comfortable with the term "mainline"; I switched to "liberal" becaue that's the term Tom Piatek used in his statement I referred to, as well as the NCS study. Ultimately, we are speaking here about support for Protestant reforms already generally taken by mainline and most Protestants contrary to Church positions, many advocated by commentators here, and recent demographic trends in the various US Christian churches. I have limited my comments primarilty to the US Church, as almost all commentators here are in America and therefore more familiar with and immediately affected by the Church here.
Still, the question does arise as to why certain "conservative" Protestant churches, such as Pentacostal churches which I'll address separately, are maintaining and gaining membership while their mainline bretheren are so steadily losing membership. You mention as a valid distinction that the positions of mainline Protestantism on the one hand and the Church and those "conservative" sects not losing membership on the other is their postiion on abortion. Agreed, and it is obviously an immensely controversial and seminal one. Nothing else involves the loss of a million innocents annually in our country. That may be the largest issue in terms of social justice of any mentioned.
You also add as a distinguishing characteristic the position of the conservative Protestant churches on holding to the literal words of the Bible as opposed to both the Church's and mainstream Protestantism's acceptance of figurative speech. I would agree with this on questions concerning the Old Testament, which is so obviously figurative and poetic, but would demure to an extent on the NT. We have encountered, for example, Christ's words in the NT on the nature and the indissolubility of marriage. You and many others maintain that His overriding concern here was with the social and economic damage a man divorcing a woman could cause and was not proscribing divorce per se but merely protecting the woman. That was clarified when dealing with his apostles' objections, He made clear the mutuality of male and female in the marriage vow: "He said to them, 'Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.'" The reciprocal obligation is made clear; denying it is a serious stretch of casuistry that runs counter to Christ's clear reciprocal intolerance of divorce for either party. With these words of intolerance for divorce, we are told, Jesus not only caught grief from his disciples but also lost many followers. And so has the Church. But it has gained something also: it has in this instance been true to Jesus' words and, therefore, true to itself. In doing so on hard, unpopular issues it gains a certain authenticity which has enabled it to thrive despite its constant and disheartening failures from Peter on down to the present.
On the issue of transubstantiation, which as you point out is rejected by all Protestant sects, I would add an addendum. This rejection came about in part as the result of a rising historical consciousness and the growth of what would become logical positivism. When the celebration of the eucharistic meal became merely a rememberance rather than a reaccomplishment of Christ's passion, the experience of liturgical, mythic, eternal time and event became a historical remembrance of something that happened long ago. A sense of a tangible, living evidence of God's immanent presence centrally contained within the liturgy of the Mass was diminshed. Several commentators in these threads have spoken that they have either remained in the Church or converted to it because of the spiritual graces they experience in the Eucharist.
The Pentacostal Protestant churches, in particular, have managed to restore that living, immanent Presence in their liturgy through glossolalia, God's immanent presence in the chords and words of the person through whom He speaks. That could also have something to do with both the Church and Pentacostal Protestant churches having more stable/growing members than the mainline churches. This may also help account for the more fervent nature of the liturgy in these churches.
Anne, thanks again for your informed response. I am going to respond to the immigrant factor question Jack Barry brought up separately.
Anne Chapman
5 years 7 months ago
This thread shows that patriarchy in the church is not only not dead, but is being deliberately brought back to life. The priest in Phoenix is anti-female and anti-laity. The bishop in the same place is also anti-woman and has a clericical superiority complex that is a bad example for the rest of the priests in his diocese. He's probably the reason the priest who banned the grils from the altar figures he can be so "in your face" to little girls (how weak is that?), and to all laity. These examples are encouraging lay men to think that they can also be as openly oppressive to women as they want.

These people who think they are men are weak. They think men can't compete on an equal playing field with somen, so women need to be put back in their "place" and it is men who decide what that place is. The misognists are crawling out from the dark places again. 

The posters  of some of this nonsense should name the sources of their statements. A lot of it sounds like John Paul II, who was not a friend to women. Or maybe they're  getting it second-hand from far right bloggers, like the one that one of the  posters mentioned.
5 years 7 months ago
I tried to read Post #165 but got lost in its glacial, its chilling projections as to what Church is all about, leaving me as it were in a glaze and in ecclesial vertigo! The Church Mr. David Rudmin believes in  ( and he truly believes what he projects) seems chained to itself, bogged down in the klunk, klunk, klunk, of massive rstraints, destined to move little, or at best trudge in a kind of twisted circular trod.

It's not how I understand the teaching of Jesus, which was very liberating to women. Mr. Rudmin's scholarly conclusions based I suspect  on the mistakes of saints and the confused myopia of scholars, from whose flawed teachings the Church continues to suffer in some  ways, is disheartening. The Church I love and would die for,  still continues to do wrong things, even if for supposed right reasons creating an almost unsolveable dilemma for many. About 99% of the Church is laity, of which the majority is female. Clergy amount for less than 1% of membership. A woman is "Mother of the Church" and her daughters are banned from serving the Family Table in their own home? Something is messed up there!
C Walter Mattingly
5 years 7 months ago
Thank you for the reservations and the question.
Regarding discarding or discounting American Church membership for immigrants, I personally find that inapplicable in this casem first because we are after all talking about US Church membership, and secondly, it seems particularly inappropriate in the American Catholic Church to do so, as America is an immigrant nation, and the American Church, correspondingly, is an immigrant Church.  Nonetheless here is some information I found from the Obama administration's Department of Homeland Security.
I refer here to the years 2009 and 2010, as these are the two years covered by the 2010 and 2011 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches I referred to.
According to the Obama administration, those two years saw the deportation of over a half million illegal, very largely Hispanic immigrants. During those two years, about 180,000 Mexicans, by far the largest group of Hispanics, became naturalized citizens. Again, according to the Obama administration, the number of illegal immigrants present in the US dropped from 11.8 to 11.2 million. So if you give credibility to the Obama administration's figures, concluding that the increases in American Catholic Church membership was built by Hispanic immigration in those two years of 2009 and 2010 is questionable in itself. Not only Obama's deportation program, which he claims deported the greatest number of illegal Hispanics per year ever, affected these two years, but also the severe recession discouraged Hispanic immigration to the US, illegal or otherwise. I do not have the time to research the topic thoroughly, I'm sure other relevant info could be brought to bear.
Norman Costa
5 years 7 months ago

@ Frank:

How many women in this discussion have talked about their love of the Church, desire to serve the Lord, and give their all for the people of God. Yet, you characterize them as reflecting and advancing a secular feminist agenda.

These women are not fleeing the Church, they are asking to participate fully - no more, no less than the men. But, you cannot see them doing any more then intruding and barring the return of men who have fled. Who can justify the call for women to go and hide so they don't scare away the absent men who might return?

If everyone were to flee, one by one, I guarantee that the last person standing would be a woman. It had already happened. The women at Capharnum were probably the most dependable of Jesus' supporters, friends, and contributors. These were intelligent, savvy, successful women of some means. Do you believe that Jesus' ministry was all one-sided? Do you not imagine that as much as they listened and learned, they also conversed, shared, advised, and even argued with Jesus? Can you not allow that Jesus the man would listen and learn from these women, that he valued their company, depended on them, and trusted them? Is it too far a stretch of the mind and heart to accept that Jesus had faith in them, as they had faith in Him?

Have you heard of the recently discovered religious text, "The Gospel of Misogynah." I quote one of its verses: "And I say unto you, 'Behold, woman will only impede the path of man to righteousness. Have her stand to the side as he flees so he may return if it so move him.'"
Thomas Piatak
5 years 7 months ago
Mr. Mattingly,

You are right, I have largely lost interest in this debate, although I appreciate your continued interest in fighting the good fight.

I would recommend to you again the piece I cited in comment 64 above.  It is from a mainstream researcher and does a very good job showing that the Catholic Church in the US is growing and will likely continue to do so.

I would also recommend this piece, from the same source:

As this piece shows, there is not a great difference between whites and Hispanics in terms of their remaining within the Church in the US.  The 2008 General Social Survey showed a retention rate among white Catholics of 68% and among Hispanic Catholics of 75%.  In other words, the Catholic Church is not doing better than mainline Protestant churches solely because of immigration.  Retention rates for mainline Protestant denominations are far lower than either of these figures.

As I noted, liberal mainline Protestantism is declining everywhere.  These groups already have female clergy, no prohibition on divorce, no prohibition on contraception, largely approve of homosexuality, and more democratic church governance than the Catholic Church.  If changes in these areas were the key to growth, these groups would be booming.  They are not.  Conforming the Church to the demands of the contemporary world is not the way forward, as the experience of mainline liberal Protestantism clearly shows.
D Morgan
5 years 7 months ago
To the has been stated already, Holy Mother Church is NOT a democracy. She is the Bride of Christ and is legislated by the successor of St. Peter, along with the Bishops. And although some are terrified that the gains made by some of the more modernist elements within the Church since Vatican Council II concerning liberalizing the Church and her tenants may be stepped back, your duty and mine is to submit in filial obiedience to the Church. That includes Your Bishop and Your Priest.  
 If and when a Diocesan Bishop decides that in His Diocese alter girls will not be allowed, that is his perogative. He is within his Rights as the Shepard of his Diocese. If He feels that this issue is having a negative impact on boys serving at Alter and possibly gaining a discernment toward the Priesthood, so be it. Women cannot be ordained. Period. So why continue to flog a dead horse hoping that somehow a wedge can be created that will somehow lead to an eventual change in this? That is the Only reason that i can discern as to why so many are complaining as to the +Bishop's decision. The age old tactic of the disenters that continual cracks can become a hole. If Women want to more fully follow Christ, and serve His Church in a more fulfilling manner, I suggest there are numerous methods and services that can be rendered which do not include serving at Alter. This entire issue boils down to a simple issue: some Catholics, especially in the western churches disregard the teachings of the Church and want to mold their own brand of Catholicism. The tired arguments of the 60's, 70's and 80's are wearing thin, a movement to regain sanctity and Holiness is emerging and The Holy Father is leading by His example. I Pray  that we can all follow this lead and become an obedient, Faithful people once again. And if you call that returning to the dark ages, fine. Make it so Lord!

"A lie is a lie even if everyone believes it. And the Truth is the Truth even if no one Believes it"  +Bishop Fulton Sheen

Read 2nd Timothy, Chapter 3
Read Pascendi Dominici Gregis by His Holiness +Pope Saint Pius X

Pax Chisti
Michael Barberi
5 years 7 months ago
D. Morgan:

It is a tiring exercise to beat a dead horse. But, this is a simplistic metaphor that is not appropriate for such a complex subject. By complex subject I don't mean to limit it to alter servers, but to a mindset of the Church that influences its formaluation of doctrine, and pastoral theology. It is not, as you assert, the dissenters who want to mold their own brand of Catholicism. It is much deeper than that.

As I mentioned earlier, as member of the Catholic Church, no Catholic has a right to disagree with a Church teaching or pick and choose what teachings are true and not true, what teachings will be followed and those that will be ignored. However, every Catholic must never go against his/her informed conscience. A conscience that is not a knee-jerk reaction to a teaching or practice of the Church, but a conscience informed by facts, prayer, and a constant questioning until all questions are answered. The issue must be serious, and in tension with one's reason. One must be respectful of the Church's teachings, and use every means possible to understand the complexity of issues. Given that, one must understand philosophy and theology in order to be able to argue on a theological basis, with indifference and not based on emotivism.  

It is true that a teaching that is not receive can be true, but it is also true that a teaching not received possesses not power to change behavor. The Church has changed many of its teachings and has erred. So do millions of average Catholics. It is not a matter of blind faith, but the convictions of ones heart, mind and soul that should determine the truth, not relative to the desposit of faith, but relative to complex ethical issues where their is legitmate philosophical and theological arguments for thinking differently.

The issue of female alter servers and the justification by using a theory of physical differences, minimizes the body-spirti unity. You cannot separate the physical from the spiritual. In heaven, there are no female or male. A male does not serve God any differently than a female. God love us all as an emspirited body and an embodied spirit. If millions of the Catholic laity and theologians, and many priests and bishops do not receive a teaching, it is cause for the most profound reflection and action.
D Morgan
5 years 7 months ago
Mr. Barberi, with all due charity your discussion smacks of relativism.
 You state:"It is not a matter of blind faith, but the convictions of ones heart, mind and soul that should determine the truth, not relative to the desposit of faith, but relative to complex ethical issues where their is legitmate philosophical and theological arguments for thinking differently."

 This interpretation on discerning truth is addressed numerous times by Church Doctors and Popes. Free will as given us by Almighty God is a double edged sword. We have the choice to either accept the teachings from The Church or reject them. We cannot role out our own flavor de jour to fit that particular day's moral and societal impulse. The Truth is constant. It has to be. God cannot lie, and when our Lord gave "the Keys to the Kingdom" to Saint Peter, and his desendants, he also gave them Binding and Loosening powers. I Trust the Holy Fathers in all things pertaining to Dogma and the Faith. I may personally wonder why a decision is made, but it is not my place to question said decision. And as long as a position is not heretical i extend the same level of trust to my +Bishop and Priests. Relativism is a cancer used by satan to divide and destroy. I again point to the Encyclical from His Holiness +Pope St. Pius X on modernist errors. This document transends time to speak to both the issues facing The Church in His day and our current situation as well. Just because a teaching is old,does not render it antiquated and worthless.
 We in the west have an ideology that requries "rights". We tend to desire to bend and shape to our own whims and wishes. We lack the Faith of the Saints to submit to the Church and Her Teachings. Everything must be shiny and new and modern. No dust, smells and bells for us! This mindset went ballistic after the second Vatican Council and the damage is plain to see. If the Church is to survive in the west we must seek to return to a belief structure of obiedience rather than "rights". Of Faith rather than questioning every aspect of the Church. Of yielding to the Will of God rather than our own whims. and of accepting the admonishments, teaching and wishes of the Church Hierarchy.
  I discussed the Faith with an unbelieving co-worker. He thinks my Faith is a joke and a crutch. He does not understand my willingness to believe and remain Faithful to the Teachings of the Church. My answer was simple: If I am wrong and everything that I believe is a sham, I am only loosing out on a hedonistic lifestyle. If you are wrong you are in danger of loosing your Eternal Soul. I choose the former.

Pax Christi
Michael Barberi
5 years 7 months ago
Dear Mr. Morgan:

You misread my commentary. The use of the word "relative" in the sentence you are referring to is not relativism. With a little discernment, it should have been clear that I was not suggesting that the tenents of our faith, that we hold to be the absolute truth, is being relativized. Rather, some complex moral issues, i.e., many sexual ethical teachings, is simply not a matter of blind faith, but something that must ring true to our minds, hearts and souls. If there is tension between a Church teaching and one's reason, the Church has also been explicitly clear about how a Catholic should proceed. I mentioned some of the things all Catholics should consider before they follow their informed consciences.

You assert the Truth is constant. In terms of faith issues, I agree. In terms of "some" moral issues, I do not. However, you confuse the definiton of truth with all papal encyclicals, teachings, proclamations and whatever the Papal Magisterium says is the truth, without remainder. Consider:

The Syllabus of Errors of Pius IX.
The three Papal Bulls condemning usury.
The changing definition of the ends of marriage from Augustine to John Paul II.
The different poisitions of the Church over the centuries on slavery and capital punishment.

For centuries, sex was only for procreation, sex during mentrual periods was a mortal sin, sex during pregnancy was forbidden and sex had only one licit position. These were the opinions and teachings of theologians and bishops that are now abandoned. Is our understanding of the truth about contraception more clear, more compelling, more universal than these older teachings? 

Being obedient to every teaching of the pope and the Church. does not make such teachings right and the absolute moral truth. But, to criticize those who follow their informed conscience on certain Church teachings as unfaithful, disrepectful and reflective of individualism or relativism, is a form of extremism and emotvism. As I made clear, if there are legitimate philosophical and theological reasons that are in tension with a Church teaching, following your informed conscience is a "moral obligation".  To follow a Church teaching and go against your informed conscience is a grave sin.

If you truely open minded, and want to read an essay that illustrates ambiguity and contradiction regarding the philosophical and theological arguments about contraception, I will be happy to send you a paper that is currently being reviewed for publication. You may be surprised that their is legitimate reasons for disagreement. You are correct in being skeptical, and we all should have a healthy skepticism. However, when it comes to certain moral issues, it is not a matter of being obedient or recalcitrant, as you assert.  Nor is everyone who disagrees with a Church teaching a victim of the secular world or invincible ignorant. Nor do these Catholics necessarily have a distorted reason. 

An individual's opinion is one thing. However, consider that certain teachings, i.e., contraception, is not received by 97% of world-wide married Catholic women, the majority of theologians, 40% of priests and many bishops. Opinion polls are never a reason for doctrine formation or revision. Nor are they a litmus test for our faith. However, when you have such a profound division within the Church itself, it is called a Crisis of Truth. The 176 blog comments covered many issues. But one theme that is clear is hat the Magisterium is not doing anything about our profound lack of solidarity. One such cause of this crisis of truth is called ecclesiastic positism.

I wiish you the best. When we all get to heaven, we will all know the truth.
5 years 7 months ago

I am a post Vatican II vocation, fostered and enriched by inclusively and accessability to the table; "All are welcomed". With the current liturgical changes and improvements to that which is and for some of us, was, the sacrament of life, I wonder what the American Catholic Church would look like if the women of our parishes and dioceses would boycott the collection, the work of fundraising and the education of the youth? I wonder. I bet that the patriacharchal church would only realize that abuse settlements would not be met.....

Michael Barberi
5 years 7 months ago
Bravo Sister Charlene. An wise epigram of wonderment

 I also have wondered if the threat of holding back financial contributions and other fund raising work, will work. Perhaps Catholics could also protest collectively and demand that the pope heal our divided the Church. Envision one morning the pope walking onto his balconey over-looking St. Peter's square and seeing a million Catholics from around the world calling for immediate action to address the issues of discontent, the loss of credibility of the Magisterium, and a Church that has lost its ability to listen and learn. Would it not be the Spirit of Christ blowing through St. Peter's square if B16 suddenly announced that he had a dream the previous night, to call for a special Synod of Bishops to address our profound crisis of truth.  A proclamation that all members of the Body of Christ will participate in new process of healing. A process that will be without prejudice or exaggered fear of outcome. One that will be inclusive of theologians, religious, clergy, bishops and the general laity. A Synod that will not shy away from controversy but will seek a better understanding of the truth. A Synod that will be open to all issues and debate and be brought to consensus by B16 himself.

It is funny that one of the most orthodox of Magisterium theologians, Germain Grisez, wrote an essay in 1986, entitled "How to Deal with Theololgical Dissent". It was common knowledge that long before 1986 our Church was in a crisis of truth, a Church ruled with authoritarian vigor by the papacy, a Church that could only offer moral absolutes as solutions, and a Church characterized by entrenched poisitions. Grisez's solution? He proposed a special Synod of Bishops to heal a Church divided. To bring theologians back into their sacred role as consultants, researchers and educators. A role that the hierarchy needed. Today, theologians are separated from the Body of Christ, much like the laity is separated. The only part that seems to be intact is the head. Grisez's dream was solidarity.

Well, I can dream and pray as well, perhap with those like Sr. Charlene, that someday this will happen, maybe not in my lifetime, but maybe in the lifetimes of my children and grandchildren.
Sarah Neitz
5 years 7 months ago
Thank God I was an altar server!  As a 21 year old, I still serve as an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, and I can say definitively that my devotion to the Eucharist is rooted in my experience as an altar server.  We need women and men who are devoted to the Eucharist!  Altar serving is an awesome way to let girls and boys experience the Mass in an important way, to realize that communion is about giving as well as receiving.  It would be detrimental to the life of the Church to not allow girls to experience the source and summit of Catholicism in this way.  I haven't chosen to be a Catholic because of my devotion to the male priesthood; I'm Catholic because of the Eucharist!
Mark Wonsil
5 years 7 months ago
If a "cafeteria Catholic" is one who picks and chooses what they believe then wouldn't the opposite be called a "Jenny Craig Catholic"? One who eats only what's spoonfed to them? Just wondering...
Norman Costa
5 years 7 months ago
Well said, Sarah Neitz. 
D Morgan
5 years 7 months ago
Mr. Barberi. you commented: 

"Opinion polls are never a reason for doctrine formation or revision. Nor are they a litmus test for our faith. However, when you have such a profound division within the Church itself, it is called a Crisis of Truth. The 176 blog comments covered many issues. But one theme that is clear is hat the Magisterium is not doing anything about our profound lack of solidarity. One such cause of this crisis of truth is called ecclesiastic positism."

You needed to stop before the "However". I do acknowledge that The Church has changed her positions during the ages on several issues. and as I stated earlier, although i do not always agree, I give obedience to The Church on these issues. I have to. The Faith is entrusted to the Holy Father, the Magesterium and The Church By our Lord Jesus Christ. Who am i to challenge the collective wisdom and insight of them? I am dust. I defer to The Church, Pray for Her constantly, and attempt to live as prescribed by Her. That is all we have. To trust in our own wisdom is folly, and from the evil one. Does the Hierarchy make mistakes? Yes. Does that give us the right to pick and choose? NO.

Sister Kostuk, It is an Altar, not a table. Big difference, in both actuality and theology.

Pax Christi
Mary Sweeney
5 years 7 months ago
@ Michael J. Barberi I think what you describe in your 3rd sentence of paragraph one would be called "Occupy Vatican City":). I do believe it is coming. As for the special Synod, I guess that would be Vatican III. The odds of that having any positive effect, however, are very small because of the criteria used to appoint Bishops over the past two Pontificates. The institutional Church has painted itself into a corner. It has been about job security, maintaing the party-line so as to "advance" — not terribly inspring when compared to the sayings of Jesus. But then, Jesus did not found an "institution" as such. He called us to follow Him. That is the only way out of the corner...
Michael Barberi
5 years 7 months ago

Mr. Morgan;
You indeed have a right to be obedient and I respect your faith and obedience. It is not my style or approach, but I criticize you not. My objections had to do with other statements and issues you raised that I hoped would benefit from my own opinions. I enjoyed the exchange.

Mary Sweeney:
A Synod of Catholic Bishops would not be a Vatican III because a Vatican III would be an World-Wide Christian Ecumenical Council. I don't believe we will see any such thing for a very long time. It is true that the criteria for appointing bishops during the papacies of JPII and B16 is only to appoint orthodox priests to such positions. However, just as there are "silent pulpits", so are there "silent episcopates". Most priests and bishops don't speak their mind in fear of the CDF or pope. If a Synod of Bishops, was to be constructed along the lines suggested by Germain Grisez, I believe it would produce much needed results. However, I am not naive or idealogical enough to believe there would be an ephiphany.

In the past, such as the 1980 Synod of Bishops on the Family, JPII allowed debate, but he had no intention of accepting any disagreement with orthodox teachings, especially Humanae Vitae. This is a kind description of his style. The issue we have been facing for the past 50+ years is a one-way street Vatican.  The only issues discussed are subjects of their choosing. Unfortunately, the closing of debate on issues that divide us is exactly the debate the bishops of the Church need to have without ecclesiastic bullying, limitations, or second agendas. Mary, you make a wise contribution when you say "Jesus did not found an institution as such; that is the way out of the corner". Thank you.

Norman Costa
5 years 7 months ago
@ Michael:

Thank you for sustaining this thread with clear and cogent discussions. I learned a great deal. Your characterization of the one-way street Vatican is spot on. 
Christopher Conant
5 years 7 months ago

 This arguments in this article are emotional and they do not pierce the core of the matter. 
Why does a pastoral decision in Phoenix Arizona at one parish, lead the Editors of this magazine to seek justification for women ordinations?

The tradition of the Church is not something made up to make people feel good at any point in history.  The Church holds that all participate in the life of Christ by conforming their lives to Christ, who was both Priest and Victim! This participation does not take place in a Cathedral or Church, that is the sacramental duty of the ordained priest. In reality if people want to actively participate in thelife of the Church, then it is time that we stand up for Christ and His Church, preach that Gospel and prepare ourselves to suffer as Our Lord did. Please, enough with these childish arguments, for its is time that we all live as Christ did. We all should pour out lives so that others may live!

Christopher Conant
5 years 7 months ago

 This arguments in this article are emotional and they do not pierce the core of the matter. 
Why does a pastoral decision in Phoenix Arizona at one parish, lead the Editors of this magazine to seek justification for women ordinations?

The tradition of the Church is not something made up to make people feel good at any point in history.  The Church holds that all participate in the life of Christ by conforming their lives to Christ, who was both Priest and Victim! This participation does not take place in a Cathedral or Church, that is the sacramental duty of the ordained priest. In reality if people want to actively participate in the life of the Church, then it is time that we stand up for Christ and His Church, preach that Gospel and prepare ourselves to suffer as Our Lord did. Please, enough with these childish arguments, for its is time that we all live as Christ did. We all should pour out lives so that others may live!

Michael Barberi
5 years 7 months ago


Clearly 'some' of the comments in this blog are emotional. However, many are based on solid philosophical and theological reflection.

I agree we all should live as Christ did. However, this does not mean that when the pope and bishops shout "jump", we shoudl all ask "which way, on the way up".
You can disagree with Church teachings (if you follow the process the Chuch outlines for those whose conscience is in tension with a teaching) and still be a faithful Catholic. Not everyone who disagrees is emotional, unfaithful, dissenters, invincibly ignorant, mislead by the ills of the secular world or members of the culture of death. Such descriptions divide us futher. We all are faithful to seeking the truth and living a life as Christ did. However, as Mary Sweeney and others have pointed out, our Church is not a perfect reflection of an institution that Christ founded in terms of how it should function and be managed today.

Lisa Weber
5 years 7 months ago
@ D. Morgan in 174.  "If Women want to more fully follow Christ, I suggest there are numerous methods and services than can be rendered that do not include serving at Alter."
My experience with this line of thought is that the suggested ways women can serve are in ways that render them invisible and are no intellectual challenge.    
Anne Chapman
5 years 7 months ago
Lisa,  Jesus clearly did not want to restrict or limit women's roles in the church. Jesus  was very open in teaching that women were not to be limited to roles defined by men - that women, as fully equal human beings made in God's image, must claim their right and responsibilities to work as equals to men in building the kingdom.

 The meaning of the story of Mary and the empty tomb is so glaringly obvious, that only those totally deaf and blind (due to having spent their lives internalizing the patriarchal mindset that has characterized most cultures of the world up to the 20th century) can fail to get the message. And yet many of the men among Jesus's own followers at the time, products of a patriarchal system that did not understand women to be fully human, missed Jesus's meaning over and over again. This is clear if you start listening with unplugged ears and open eyes.  For example, several years ago, I heard the story of the miracle of the loaves and fishes for the first time.  I had listened to the story countless times without hearing it. The evangelist unconsciously reflects the patriarchy of his culture - the bottom line is always that Jesus fed 5,000 (or 4,000 depending on which gospel) with a few loaves and fishes - AND also women and children - who did not figure in the 5,000 head count (of full human beings).  The men of 2000 years ago missed Jesus' point in his teachings and actions (they missed a lot, actually). What is truly sad is that the men who run the Roman Catholic church two millenia later are still missing the point. The Holy Spirit has been banging their heads against the stone walls of the Roman fortress for decades now.  Yet John Paul II tried to even stop all discussion of the fullness of roles women should play in the church - by fiat.  Well, it seems that this hasn't worked - perhaps because it's tough to silence the Spirit?

Jesus many times teaches the full equality of women in how they can serve God's kingdom. One favorite story is Jesus's visit to Mary and Martha, which provides a powerful message to both women and men.  Jesus and his male followers came to their house, dusty and dirty, after being in the desert. They were also hungry and thirsty.  Women were normally denied formal religious education in that era - they participated in the worship and prayer life of the religious community, but were not students.  Martha automatically assumed the traditional female role - in the kitchen, cooking and serving - she did not join the men to listen and learn from Jesus as a student.  Mary, however, broke with the cultural norms and remained with the men to listen to Jesus teach - to learn.  Jesus did not tell her to leave the gathering, which would have been the "expected"  thing - a woman did not remain in a room ordinarily if she was the only woman among a group of men and wasn't serving them in some way. It wasn't "done". But Mary stayed, Mary listened and Mary learned - claiming for herself the role of a religious disciple.  When Martha complained, Jesus told her that Mary had done the right thing.  In this story Jesus not only teaches men tthat women are fully equal to men in the community, made in God's image, it also teaches women that they must claim their rightful leadership roles in the community - as equals to men - to go out and teach the good news.  Jesus gave the men a powerful message through his explicit approval of Mary joining the gathering as an equal instead of staying in the kitchen - the only "proper" realm for women as defined by men .Through his words to Martha, he told women that they should not remain passive and that there are no limits on which roles they should play in the community - according to their individual gifts. There are many gifts and many roles, and none are barred to women.

Mary claimed her full equality - some of the men may have protested along with Martha because they didn't understand what Jesus was doing. Jesus was once again turning everything upside down - the cultural and religious norms that defined and limited women to certain roles.  Two thousand years later, many men still don't get it (as evidenced in this thread).  But, it took the world, including the church, more than 1900 years to finally "get" that slavery is evil.  The Catholic church, as is too often the case, lagged both civil society and other christian churches in asserting that slavery is evil.  It is much the same in its teachings about women.  The church that should be the beacon, lighting the way for the world, is too often found bringing up the rear instead.
Norman Costa
5 years 7 months ago
On behalf of my daughters, granddaughters, and the women in my ife, I would like to say thank you to all of the women who participated in this discussion.

Sister Charlene, and
Anne Chapman
5 years 7 months ago
Thank you, Norman.

And I would like to thank you and  also the more than two dozen other men who took the time to post on this thread who do "get it."  It will take a while for the last remnants of patriarchy and misogny to finally be obliterated in the church. But, since the church does have men who are not threatened by women, there is at least a chance that someday the hierarchy of the church will realize that it is a sin to continue to choose to operate with half a brain.
C Walter Mattingly
5 years 7 months ago
And if you attended parochial schools, you could probably add a few dozen nuns to your list. Thank you too for your regular attempts to keep the conversation open to all points of view. Also note the heartening comment of Sarah Neitz on why she is a faithful Catholic: because of her devotion to the Eucharist. A good example of the benefit of the Church being true to itself against fervent attempts by earlier reformers to dissolve the Eucharist in the form it was known to its believers. Had that reform succeeded, we would have no Sarah.
Michael B,
Even more than your generally well-informed and balanced point of view, I especially value the devotion and love of the Church which underlies all your calls for what you consider to be progressive reform. No desire to attack the Church or ill will in your posts that I can see. For those reasons I am especially drawn to your comments.
In an earlier thread you asked what actions we as laity could take that might more effectively move the Church in a generally progressive direction. My thought would be to pick and choose what you support carefully. Following are thoughts on that which have made sense to me.
First, go for the low-haniging fruit, ie, choose a path that does not call for the Church to be untrue to itself and is most easily supported. As you know at its best the Church has long built upon two foundations, the Biblical testaments and Church tradition. In that light the case of married priests, for example, is a promising subject. There is both the testament of the Apostles and a limited tradition of married priests to build upon. In addition, Pope Benedict has recently accepted into the Church married former Anglican clergy. It evidently occurred in a special exceptional format, but nonetheless it has an impact: married priests in the Church.So this is a promising place to concentrate upon.
The case of women in the priesthood is, I think, a more difficult one. Unlike the married apostles it has no direct counterpart in the NT, while the case for its presence in the tradition of the Church to a large extent is yet to be formed. This is why the altar girl issue is a vital one: it begins to build a Church tradition. And the concession of Pope John Paul II to permit altar girls at the discretion of the bishop is a done deal and no small step. That might best be approached most effectively from building a base of tradition rather than an all-out push which might be premature. Consider too that a married priesthood would almost naturally introduce the influence of the spouse into the experience of the Church that would also prepare a tradition of further association of women with the priesthood. So it goes with the possibility of introducing birth control to shape rather than deny the families of the married, as opposed to advocating abortion/adultery (which I hope would never come in to the Church.)  It all would take time, generations perhaps. The best and worst thing about the Church is that it is slow to change. Steadfastness supplemented by patience is required. So is love of Christ's Church in itself.
Michael Barberi
5 years 7 months ago
Thank you Walter, and Norman, et al., for your kind words.
Martin Nicol
5 years 7 months ago
Its a boys club. They have set the rules and they decide who gets into leadership roles. If you say something they do not like, they silence you. If they do not like what you do, they condemn your behaviour as absolute evil and exclude you. Can't we see that having girls sitting up there near the really important seats, is all wrong???

Girls have their place, they can clean churchs and control little children but they must be kept right away from priests, you know, because promoting an image of normal human relationships, might threaten their club houses - church property.

Cardinals want to control life, rather than to serve people in their relationship with God and each other. Life is very messy, with lots of different voices.  A smaller purer church, just like Pope and cardinals, think it should be, that is what is being encouraged. Surely God will be happy with that, surely God doesn't want everybody in his kingdom.

Paul Hursh
5 years 7 months ago
I am not surprised - This is the same diocese that is eliminating Communion in both species.  See below...

PHOENIX (Sept. 21, 2011) — The Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix announced today its intentions to implement new norms for the distribution of Holy Communion under the forms of bread and wine that are in keeping with new universal Church standards for the distribution of Communion.
The new norms will promote unity in the celebration of the Eucharist all around the world, and come from the revised General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 3rd Edition, together with the final edition of The Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds for the Dioceses of the United States of America, published in June 2011.
The priests of the Diocese of Phoenix recently discussed the new norms and a provisional text for its local implementation. At the present time, these diocesan norms, together with a time frame for implementation in the Phoenix Diocese, are under preparation and should be completed within the next few months.
Since the 11th century, the Latin Rite Catholic Church distributed Holy Communion to the faithful under the form of bread. At the end of the Second Vatican Council, the Fathers of the Council directed the Sacred Congregation on Divine Worship to provide for occasions where the practice of distribution and reception of Holy Communion under both kinds to the laity could be restored. In the Roman Missal (1975), 14 instances were provided when the chalice could be offered to the Laity.
From 1975 on, the United States, United Kingdom and Oceania were given experimental privileges for the distribution of Holy Communion under both kinds. These privileges expired in 2005 and were not renewed by the Holy See. The new norms issued in June 2011 are what guide the liturgical practice today and in the future.
These universal norms for the distribution of Holy Communion under both kinds greatly expanded those times when the chalice could be offered to the lay faithful for most of the Catholic world (since in most countries their practice was virtually non-existent). In the Diocese of Phoenix, like other places where the practice of reception from the chalice became frequent or even commonplace, the new norms call for the practice of less frequent distribution of Holy Communion under both kinds than the faithful may have been accustomed.
Though these norms are for the universal Church, latitude is given to the local bishop to apply them for his particular diocese. In the Diocese of Phoenix, the norms provide for the distribution of Holy Communion under both kinds for special feast days and other important occasions (e.g, the Chrism Mass, Holy Thursday, the Feast of Corpus Christi, retreats, spiritual gatherings, weddings, and more).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches in paragraph 1390, "Since Christ is sacramentally present under each of the species, communion under the species of bread alone makes it possible to receive all the fruit of the Eucharistic grace."
Michael Barberi
5 years 7 months ago
Thanks Paul for bringing up this important issue.

IMO, the real issue is whether the bishops will truly implement all the norms for the distribution and reception of Eucharistic Communion. For example, Catholics are forbidden to receive Eucharisitic Communion, if they practice contraception. I also believe, but cannot be certaint, that priests are forbidden to distribute the Eucharist to Catholics if they believe to be practicing contraception and have not confessed this sin and received absolution.

The contradiction is the fact that every priest knows that few, if any, Catholics confess contraception as a sin. For those few that do confess contraception as a sin, they receive absolution under the principle of graduation for habitual sinners. In other words, these Catholics receive absolution without a firm purpose of amendment. The theory goes that these Catholics will eventually have an epiphany and change their sinful sexual behavior by frequent use of the Eucharist, Mass, and prayer. Yet, other habitual sinners, i.e., the divorced and remarried Catholics and homosexuals do not receive absolution under the principle of graduation.

This issue becomes acute since most priests know that 97% of married women practice a form of contraception condemned by the Vatican as intrinsically evil, and these same Catholics stand in line every Sunday to receive the Eucharist.

How is the picking and chosing of some norms while ignoring others, not a dilberate willful act in contradiction to a moral obligation?

Lisa Weber
5 years 7 months ago
Thank you for your reply.  What I find amusing about the story of Martha and Mary is that it is still forbidden (by women) for a woman to sit in the living room with the interesting guest while another woman cooks and serves.  Martha complains to Jesus and he affirms that Mary has the better part and it shall not be taken from her - this is a radical stance even today.  Much of the lack of progress in the church is due to what happens, or doesn't, on the feminine side of the church.

Michael Barberi,
If 97% of the married women in the church disagree with a church teaching, church leaders should consider the possibility that they are wrong.  Natural family planning works well for the celibate, but not for the vast majority of married couples.  Another thought here is that the church can't afford to deny the Eucharist to those who don't abide by the church ruling on contraception.  They would have to close 97% of the parishes.  That would hardly be a part of effective evangelization.

Thanks to all for an interesting discussion.
Michael Barberi
5 years 7 months ago

@Lisa Weber:

You are correct, but that was not my point. According to the Chruch, disagreement with a Church teaching proves nothing theologically. So, while I agree that opinion polls should be taken seriously, these are not considered factors in the formulation of Doctrine or for revisions in teachings. However, the fact that 97% of married women have not received Humanae Vitae, should open the debate on this subject, which is closed at the moment.

With respect to your wise opinion, my point is better understood as: Should embracing, implementing and teaching a norm be based on economics (the closing of parishers due to less parishioners and inadequate weekly contributions) or on moral principle and obligation?

If priests would speak honestly from the pulpit about contraception and the norms of receiving Holy Communion, or at least post a sign in the vestibule of the Church
to bring clarity to these norms and teachings, we would have a more transparent and effective teaching Church. Consider what would happen if you found a sign on the wall as you entered your local Church that said:

"According to the USCCB Norms for the Distribution of Holy Communion, Catholics who practice contraception, and are not absolved from this sin, should not partake of the Eucharist. This would be a sacriledge. The exception is the judgement of your informed conscience, that can easily err, and would be in contradiction to the Divine Wisdom of the Holy Father, the Pope. Guidelines for an informed conscience is in the box in the vestibule."

Yes, there would be a fire storm of catastrophic proportions, leading to a much smaller Church, which B16 is perfectly comfortable with, and the closing of many parishes due to a significant erosion of weekly contributions and parishioners.

It is not about effective evangelization but about moral responsibility. Acts of omission are just as serious as acts of comission.


Lisa Weber
5 years 7 months ago
@Michael Barberi
I understand that opinion polls are not the basis for theological arguments, but when 97% of married couples ignore a church teaching, the church logically should address the issue in a more reasonable way.  To say that married women have not received the teaching leaves out the fact that most couples agree on contraception.  Presumably, 97% of married men also have not received the teaching.

The church says it exists to evangelize - certainly a reasonable statement.  If a particular, possibly wrong, teaching interferes with evangelization, then it stands in direct opposition to the reason for the church's existence.  In that case, lack of transparency about the teaching is probably a matter of putting evangelization at a higher priority than the teaching.

Being everyone ignores the church's teaching on contraception anyway, it probably isn't worth discussing further.  I do appreciate your thoughts on the subject, though.
Michael Barberi
5 years 7 months ago

I apologize that I do not understand your perpective. Perhaps I have not been clear myself and have contributed to some misunderstanding. Let me clarify what I believe is the confusion.

1.  You stated "To say that married women have not received the teaching leaves out the fact that most couples agree on contraception". The term "not received" is used by the Church to mean that Catholics do not agree with the teaching. The reasons that a teaching has not been received vary.

Therefore, the statement you made does not make sense to me. If a teaching is not received, it cannot mean that most couples agree with the teaching. It is just the opposite.

2. Evangelization is certainly a goal of the Catholic Church but the Church has many goals. I am not familiar with any argument or statement of purpose that a Church teaching should be changed because it interfers with evangelization. I am familiar with a heirarchy of truths, but not with a heirarchy of goals, or if one goal is superior to other goals or should one goal be sacrificized for the benefit of another.

I am open to further dialog if contributory.
Norman Costa
5 years 7 months ago
I think Lisa makes a very good point about evangelization and Church teachings. Let's change the concept from evangelization to ecumenism and see how Church teachings aid or hinder Christian unity.

In my view, the declaration of Papal infallibility at the First Vatican Council in 1870 has done a great deal to alienate the Roman Church from other Christian denominations, not to mention other religions and secular institutions. Papal infallibiliy has an escape clause that states that if a Pope should demonstrate ex cathedra fallibility, then he would cease, at that very instant, to be Pope. The whole thing makes no sense. The Pope is infallible except when he makes a mistake, in which case he is no longer the Pope. 

The only sense I can make of Papal infallibility is that it was, and still is, a desperate attempt to preserve authority when the Church could no longer claim to be the arbiter of truth in science and secular matters, the Church was losing all material assets in the Papal States, it could no longer raise an army, it could no longer legislate and enforce secular matters, and the Church lost all prerogatives to execute people under Church law.

What the Church is left with is a near impenitrable barrier to real union with other Christian communities. If one believes in the guiding power of the Holy Spirit, then why limit the functioning of the Holy Spirit to a Declaration of Infallibility with a silly 'crossed-fingers-behind-your-back' escape clause?

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Greg Hicks as "Richard III" (photo: Alex Brenner)
It would be fascinating were the producers able to arrange a quick transfer to a venue somewhere near the White House.
David StewartMay 26, 2017
In the hyper-curated, beautiful world that Dev lives in, a scene that conveys the touching, ugly stubbornness of marriage seems totally impossible.
Eloise BlondiauMay 26, 2017
This image released by the Minya governorate media office shows bodies of victims killed when gunmen stormed a bus in Minya, Egypt, Friday, May 26, 2017 (Minya Governorate Media office via AP).
The attack in central Egypt today killed at least 26 people, including children aged 2 to 4, and wounded 25 others.
Gerard O'ConnellMay 26, 2017
The data and facts are clear: If you care about working families and sound economic policy, SNAP is the program for you.
Meghan J. ClarkMay 26, 2017