In Defense of Altar Girls: Lessons learned while serving at Mass

It is a Sunday morning in 1992, and I am 10 years old and visiting relatives in the midwest. We head to church, pile into a pew, sit, stand and then sing the entrance hymn at Mass. I happen to look up from my missalette just as two girls who are about my age walk up the aisle; they are wearing robes and their light brown hair is pulled back into ponytails. My eyes widen and I look at my mother. She gives me a look that says, “I know. We’ll discuss later.” But throughout Mass the questions swim through my head: Why are there altar girls at this parish? Will we ever get altar girls at our home parish in Massachusetts? Can I ever be one of them?

For years, the answer to that last question had been a resounding no. There were no female altar servers in my parish, a fact that, in my mind, always seemed arbitrary and unfair, especially since my younger—younger!—brother already was able to become an acolyte. I longed to be more involved in the Mass, but the chances of my being able to join him on the altar always seemed slim. These girls gave me hope.

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And so, two years later, when  female altar servers were allowed, I signed up immediately, despite the fact that I was now in seventh grade and would have to spend my rookie year being trained alongside second-graders. For years my place at Mass reached only to the red carpeted steps of the altar. Now I would get to see the sacraments up close; I would get to serve my church and live my faith in a whole new way.

After our training sessions, I was asked to serve with two of my male classmates at the opening Mass for our school year in October. It was this fortunate timing, far more than any merit, that meant I became the first female altar server to serve a Mass at our parish.

The change was big news in our diocese. A reporter from our city paper called me before the Mass to get a quote for her story about new female servers. I paced across the floor of my parents’ bedroom as I talked into our cordless phone. This was my chance, I thought, to let my city know how meaningful it was to me to become an altar server.

And then, the next morning, there was my quote: “I had always wanted to do it—to serve at the altar,” I told the reporter. “I think it’s a good idea. I think I would feel pretty important. It will be neat to go up there and serve God.”

I read these words with some dismay. “Neat”? That was all I had come up with? I was not exactly the 12-year-old theologian I had imagined myself to be.

Now, 20 years later, I have had a chance to compose my thoughts. And in light of recent criticisms of the role of female altar servers, I would like to take the opportunity to add a bit of nuance to my original sentiments. I served as an altar server for six years, and the role helped to deepen my understanding of what the church is and can be, as well as my responsibility for helping it to become better. Here is some of what I learned.

The church is accessible. In order to serve at the church, I did not have to be anyone other than myself. When I became an altar server, I felt more comfortable climbing the steps to the altar, not because it lost its mystery, but because being there helped to deepen my experience of the Paschal Mystery. The space became at once more familiar and more sacred. I felt at home in my church in the best way possible.

The church is tangible. The church is not simply an idea; it exists through individuals and through sacraments and sacramentals. The objects and symbols that accompany the sacraments became real to me as an altar server. I learned to swing a thurible; I learned the difference between a purificator and a corporal, and a chalice and a ciborium. I learned that these words and objects were part of a faith that has a vast and fascinating history, vocabulary and tradition—and that I was part of that history.

In all things, humility. As predicted, I did at times feel “important” while serving on the altar. But most days I simply felt grateful to be part of something more important than myself. I was humbled every time I held the book aloft to be read, carried the unconsecrated hosts to the altar so they could be transformed, poured out the water that washed the priest’s hands, rang the bells at the consecration. I grew in my faith as I learned about and participated in the many small, sacred actions that surrounded and celebrated this banquet.  

Priests are people, too. I learned that priests forget where they put the keys to the rectory or where they left the Sacramentary. They don’t always understand how microphones work or which light switches turn on the lights by the altar. They sometimes can be rushed or late or grumpy. They also can be hilarious, kind, encouraging, enthusiastic and thoughtful. In short, they are just like everyone else. Knowing this also meant that, later, when I learned about the horrible crimes of sexual abuse by members of the clergy, I could mourn the failures of our church and work to correct them knowing that many good priests I had met along the way were doing the same.

The church is communal. One of the most coveted gigs as an acolyte was to serve at a wedding. This was in large part because each server typically got $20 from the happy couple. But I also found joy in the fact that I got to hold the wedding rings while they were blessed, to see the dresses up close and, most important, to contribute in a small way to the celebration of two people making a commitment to a lifetime of love. I felt honored to be a part of a faith community that supported such a commitment. This sense of community also was reinforced by the chance to look at the faces of the congregation from the altar. I was especially moved every year at the Easter Vigil, when each face was lit by a candle, from the front pew to the choir loft—and to see in each one the body of Christ.

We are accountable to one another. The elderly ladies commended me or corrected me on my serving skills after Mass. My parents beamed each time I served with my two siblings on the altar. In short, I learned that our actions as servers affected how others experienced the Mass. And so I strove for flawless execution of the book-holding or cross-carrying. But I also made mistakes. One Holy Thursday I spilled the entirety of the foot-washing water across the altar. The sacristan pitched in to help clean up, and her smile let me know that I was not the only person ever to make a mistake at Mass. On her knees beside me, she saw my mistake as an opportunity to demonstrate the spirit of service we prayed about that day, to pitch in and to teach me a lesson: Do not place large bowls of water too close to the edge of the altar steps. And God’s grace is not easily thwarted by our own imperfections.

You don’t always get to choose the people with whom you serve. I served beside a boy who ate the wax off candles; another who feared ringing the bells; and a guy who always seemed one second away from lighting a cigarette with the hot coals meant for the incense. There were occasional arguments over who got to carry the cross (the tallest server often won) and who would be forced to carry the boat. And yet we almost always found something to laugh about in the sacristy. We learned to get along, to be O.K. with not getting our way.

Our faith must be lived publicly. Sometimes it must be lived in front of a crowd of people, some of whom think that what you’re doing is strange and wildly uncool. Occasionally, I felt a bit idiotic as I walked up the aisle in my blousy white robe with a red yarn rope around my waist—attire that screamed I am a religious teenager!—while trying to avoid catching the eyes of my classmates, whom I occasionally saw at Mass. But on most days, the privilege of participating in the Mass outweighed the fashion faux pas it required. And more often than not, I found my classmates more interested in learning than judging, as they wondered about the smell of the incense or the weight of the chalice.

Altar girls are a good idea. I’m sticking with this sentiment. Young women should have the chance to serve at the altar today, not just because they might feel “pretty important,” as my 12-year-old self predicted, but because they are important to the church. Young people are not simply the future of the church. They are the church right now. We adults are not always good at reminding them of that fact. Involving young people—boys and girls—in the Mass can help them to understand more deeply the honor of serving at the Lord’s table, and the importance of serving one another, from wherever we stand.

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Lisa Weber
2 years 7 months ago
Thank you for explaining why it is important to have girls and women serving at the altar. The memory of being excluded from serving when I was a girl is still painful. And it's sad that an article defending girl servers needs to be written. The truth is that altar serving is the most fun a person can have in church and I can't imagine why anyone would miss the opportunity!
Martin Eble
2 years 7 months ago
As it stands no priest can be forced to use altar girls for good pastoral reasons. The two holdout dioceses, one of which recently ceased to be a holdout, have the highest and in the top ten per capita vocations rate. This is one of the reasons why traditionally the Church has not permitted women service at the altar and why it remains in the hands of the pastor of a parish to make the final decision.
Lisa Weber
2 years 7 months ago
Are the holdout dioceses retaining Catholics at an average rate? If they have vocations but the pews are emptying, the vocations rate is nothing to brag about. A high per capita vocations rate may be because the overall population is small. Statistical outliers tend to exist in small populations. More information is needed before valid conclusions can be drawn about the vocations rate and girls or women serving at the altar. So the two holdout dioceses are down to one holdout diocese - this discussion is about over anyway. The consensus must be that "good pastoral reasons" for excluding girls and women from altar service do not exist.
Paul Ferris
2 years 6 months ago
Lisa, I am with you 100% on this. Some people's God is so small they cannot even imagine vocations without stepping over young girls and women. Shame, shame on them. As Catholics we believe the Trinity created the universe. You think the Trinity cannot create vocations...and what is a vocation anyway...St. Peter himself proclaimed the priesthood of all believers which as the article so beautifully stated, including everyone even young girls.
Martin Eble
2 years 7 months ago
"Shame, shame on them" is really nonsensical. There is no requirement for using females in altar service, good pastoral and theological reasons not to, and Peter was not talking about altar service, the priesthood, or anything outside the scope of his comments in context. There is no shame in resisting the ramming down of these politically correct approaches because of sound theological and pastoral reasons.
Martin Eble
2 years 6 months ago
Well, you certainly do know who you hate and how you like to attack them. I don't think after reading your comments you can ever mention rule 4 with a straight face again.
Paul Ferris
2 years 6 months ago
Martin, I deleted the comments not because there is not a lot of truth in them but it is not my place nor my style as a loving Christian to whom God has shown mercy countless times in my life and continues to do so. You have many issues with the Catholic Church and disagree with many of its faithful but you should have the decency to leave this one alone. These are young girls we are talking about. I have eight grand daughters under the age of twelve so I do take your unnecessary contribution here very personally. If the Diocese of Nebraska chooses to go it alone it maybe there is something wrong with their perspective. The idea that that is the reason they have more than average vocations is simple nuts. Is God so small, the Creator of the Universe so weak that the Trinity needs such a tactic to influence vocations. Remember Mary was said to be a 14 year old teenage girl when the Holy Spirit descended on her and she became the Mother of the God/Man Theotokos. This isabout the same age and gender that you would choose to deny the honor of serving at the altar. Or do you think that all the other dioceses of the United States are just dupes to political correctness ? If you believe there are real pastoral and theological concerns to keep our girls from serving then I strongly suggest you find another church, start your own church or stay in Nebraska. There I go again violating rule #4. By the way Pope Benedict XVI allowed girls to serve his Mass. He was pictured on the cover of America Magazine once with an altar girl present. Probably deficient in pastoral and theological understanding, eh ?
Paul Ferris
2 years 6 months ago
Ah the sting of rejection! Now maybe you can know what it feels like to be a young girl who wants to be an altar girl and is rejected by a couple of bishops and/or pastors.
Martin Eble
2 years 7 months ago
Yes, the two dioceses mentioned have higher vocation rates, higher retention rates, and lower incidence of accusations of abuse. Lincoln has had zero sustained allegations and zero lawsuits. Lincoln also does not participate in the USCCB's program regarding child abuse because it followed Canon Law which made it unnecessary. The reasons for or against the use of females serving the altar are not subject to "consensus" or "discussion". There is going to be no vote on the matter. It is primarily a theological issue, and secondarily a pastoral issue. Even if a bishop approves the use of females serving the altar - and outside English-speaking North America and Western Europe it is not the norm - no priest may be compelled to use females. Parishes with active altar boy programs aimed at introducing young men to the possibility of vocations may continue them.
Kate Gallagher
2 years 6 months ago
Hmm. I live in Eastern Europe. Some parishes have altar girls, others do not. Moreover, in my (admittedly limited) experience of these churches, permitting altar girls is not correlated with any other "more liberal" attitude. My local parish church permits altar girls, and no one raises an eyebrow (I personally think the girls are terrific) but otherwise the parish is quite traditional. The Franciscans, on the other hand, are quite socially liberal by the standards of this part of the world (I personally am a fan of these friars), but expressly do not permit altar girls. In sum, if a girl wants to be an altar server here, she can. The sky has not fallen.
Paul Ferris
2 years 7 months ago
I wish our Bishop Mansour of the Maronite Eastern Eparchy would read this. I went to a meeting at St. Joseph Maronite Church in Watervile and brought this issue to our parish council; the pastor, deacon, subdeacon, and seven parish council members all voted to have altar girls. Bishop Gregory Mansour of the Maronite Eastern Eparchy votes no. His vote prevails to the detriment of our parish. I wish he would read this and stop being so stubborn and fixated. Ironically because I attend Maronite Liturgies all over the country with my job at FEMA I have seen altar girls in the Maronite Churches of the Western Eparchy Of Saint Maron. More irony, when Jesus died on the Cross, the disciples, except for John, all fled while the women stood close by. The Mass is the unbloody sacrifice of the Cross and women are excluded.
Ellen Marie Dumer
2 years 6 months ago
THANK YOU Kerry! I am amazed that this continues to be an argument by some that having girls on the altar takes a space for a boy who in later years may be called to the priesthood. If God wants a man, the message will come across. And who knows, maybe the girl on the altar will be the mother, sister, friend, cousin...that encourages a man to become a priest because of her experience!!! Or maybe she will become a religious or a woman of great faith who evangelizes others to come to Christ because of her experience on the altar!
Luis Gutierrez
2 years 6 months ago
Until such time as we can have altar women (i.e., women priests), altar girls are a sign of hope. Let us pray that the Church is liberated from misogyny disguised as theology.
Paul Ferris
2 years 6 months ago
I think making a connection between altar girls and women priests should be avoided. It is just what those who don't want women priests want to hear. I also think it puts too much weight on the shoulders of young girls. Let them be children.
Luis Gutierrez
2 years 6 months ago
You may be right, but in this regard I am more concerned about the boys. We should allow the boys to be children too, rather than burdening them with implied images of clerical male hegemony.
Annette Magjuka
2 years 6 months ago
But there is a connection, and most of the faithful want women priests!
Carol Quella
2 years 6 months ago
I'm not sure where you live, but I am very faithful and active as are my friends. I do not know anyone who supports women priests. Women have a huge role in the faith - just not necessarily as priests.
Bruce Snowden
2 years 6 months ago
With the transgender shocker of Bruce Jenner, a larger problem (no problem for me) of girls serving at the altar may be looming for the Church. Suppose a priest after many years of fruitful ministry seeks transgender status, what happens to his priesthood, since women cannot be priests? Was he ever a priest? Will all his priestly functions be invalid since psychologically I guess, he was always a woman in fact. And what about a Bishop admitting transgender status? Will all his priestly ordinations be invalid, or will all of this be an opportunity to apply the long standing principle, "The Church Provides" Or what? What a huge problem this could become!
Luis Gutierrez
2 years 6 months ago
No big deal. Surely the Vatican already has a plan for this contingency, and the official statement will start by saying, "As the Church has always taught..." and end with a reassuring "Nothing has changed." :-)
Paul Ferris
2 years 6 months ago
Ha ha...Roma locuta, cause finita !
Luis Gutierrez
2 years 6 months ago
With regard to the ordination of women to the priesthood, "Roma locuta, causa confusa" :-)
Martin Eble
2 years 6 months ago
The genetic make-up of a human being cannot be changed from one sex to another. Sex reassignment surgery alters secondary characteristics, usually supplemented by hormone treatment. Making a man *look* like a woman does not change a man *into* a woman. Therefore, there is no “problem”, looming or otherwise. A priest would never receive permission to undergo this immoral procedure, so the result would be a laicized former clergy. The reason for the immorality of sex reassignment in Catholic morality was summarized by Pope Benedict XVI in a December, 2012, address to the Curia: "According to this philosophy, sex is no longer a given element of nature, that man has to accept and personally make sense of: it is a social role that we choose for ourselves, while in the past it was chosen for us by society. The profound falsehood of this theory and of the anthropological revolution contained within it is obvious. People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves.” From the perspective of Catholic teaching sex reassignment is not a medical procedure, as is removal of cancerous testicles or uterus, but mutilation. The Church has consistently taught that there are two sexes and they are complementary. Secular notions of sex and gender are irrelevant to a genuine Catholic moral analysis. The Church does recognize that sexual abnormalities, like any disease, are exceptions to the rule. So-called “intersexed individuals” are not eligible for ordination. The moral issues involved in surgery involving intersexed individuals are complex and beyond the scope of a comment.
Paul Ferris
2 years 6 months ago
This is one of the most sensitive and beautiful articles I have read on this subject. What a great witness. I would only say the title with the word Defense is unnecessary. No sane person would even argue the point.
Annette Magjuka
2 years 6 months ago
Not true. In a parish in SF, alter girls were recently banned. Many Catholics are unaware of the destructive behaviors of many ultra-conservative bishops and priests. Banning alter girls, firing LGBT teachers and parish workers, and refusing to give communion to "sinners"--these things are happening in 2015! Fifty years after Vatican II! We are the church, we are the Body of Christ. We must speak up for the church we want. Most Catholics know beyond a doubt that discrimination against women, LGBT people, or any group of people is wrong. The Holy Spirit has made our hearts sure. We must speak the truth of our informed consciences. We must fight for justice not despite being Catholic, but because of it.
Stuart Bintner
2 years 6 months ago
Even stating that there is any need to defend the concept of female altar servers seems odd.
Robert Corbett
2 years 6 months ago
ok, I'm sorry but this article has left me confused. When did girl altar servers again become a question? Here in the heart of the Midwest that barrier was breached 20-25 years ago. What am I not understanding?
Susan Lawrence
2 years 6 months ago
I live in the Arlington, VA diocese. The bishop leaves the decision up to each pastor, so its hit or miss here. The church he resides at, St. Thomas More Cathedral in Arlington, does NOT allow altar girls!
Deb Richards
2 years 6 months ago
It's hard to believe this is even up for discussion. It's a good article. Just so sad that it needs to be addressed or defended.
Marci Abels
2 years 6 months ago
This article very clearly expresses the feeling of countless girls. I remember so well the disappointment that I could not be an altar server when my brothers could. Just as I remember the joy I felt when my daughters were able to serve at Mass. And, Martin, vocations are a universal concept. We all have vocations, and none is more important than another. A vocation is whatever God has called us to be: spouse, parent, single, priest, sister, brother. We are all made in the image and likeness of God. And, hopefully, we all carry out the vocation He has set for us. I do not believe one vocation is better than another, just a different path. We are all, hopefully, working our way to God's graces, regardless of which vocation He has set for us as individuals.
Annette Magjuka
2 years 6 months ago
Most people do not know that a parish in SF has now banned alter girls. www.sfchronicle.com/.../Banning-girl-altar-servers-takes-Catholic-Church- 6... I loved this article, and would like to add that women priests and inclusion of LGBT people as full members of our faith would be good ideas, too.
Susan Grimes
2 years 6 months ago
Amen!
Carol Quella
2 years 6 months ago
I'm all for altar girls, but can't go so far as to say I would support woman priests. LGBT are invited in as full members of our faith - they must do so following Christ, which means abstinence. The same that is asked of all single adults. Our church cannot change with the wind of society and culture.
Bridget McLaughlin
2 years 6 months ago
Annette, I think your comment is much more the reason why anyone might object to girl altar servers. Men and women are different and have different roles to fulfill- and that is not an insult or disrespect Certainly, there is no need for the church to "include" members of the LGBT community. The church is inclusive, but the teachings are that marriage is between a man and a woman, and sex is for procreation within the confines of marriage, and everyone else must be celibate. Not necessarily easy, but life here on earth is not intended to be easy. We all have crosses.
Carol Quella
2 years 6 months ago
In reading the comments many ask why must girl Alter Servers be defended. There is a movement in many diocese to stop this practice and go back to boys only. Some diocese have this policy. Their argument is that being an alter boy is special and helps boys think about becoming a priest. Some blame altar girls for the shortage of priests, which, by the way, is turning around. Seminaries are filling up. They say it somehow lost it's 'specialness' when girls were invited in. Personally, I love that my girls were able to serve along with their brother.
Madonna Burke Quinn
2 years 6 months ago
Thank you so much for this article! You made me remember the deep sense of faith connection and joy I felt during my high school years at my parish Our Lady of Victory. Peter, Dana and I were chosen to be lectors at our Confirmation liturgy during the spring of eighth grade. I continued with the eight o'clock Mass all through high school. I appreciated all of your comments about being able to see the community at Mass. I have never given up my habit of appreciating the variety of God's people as they approach and receive the Eucharist. A bit of the finest praise I ever received was when our family's butcher commented that I read the epistle in a way that he clearly heard. I had known him since babyhood, and I knew he was a generous, kind and deeply faithful man. To deny ANY young person that opportunity to participate in the Eucharist and in the community of faith in an active and responsible manner is a disservice to the Gospel and to our communal faith life. When many young people are not active within our faith community, we are only isolating more individuals if we deny girls and young women the available roles within the celebration of the liturgy.
Michael Maiale
2 years 6 months ago
When I was an altar boy, there were altar girls. I never knew anything different and it did not occur to me to think that it should be a single sex endeavor. I think that the church benefits from both from having single sex roles for each sex and from having "coed" roles. It should be able to engage boys as boys and girls as girls, and both together as equals. Too often, when people discuss altar girls, the value of at least one of those types of settings is ignored.
Paula Kiger
2 years 6 months ago
I loved this. My acolyting experience is in the Episcopal church, but my experiences echo yours. Here's a blog I wrote about them: http://biggreenpen.com/2013/07/14/blowing-out-the-flame-for-now/
Kathleen Herman
2 years 6 months ago
From what I understand, the first "servers" were the women who presided over what were the first Eucharistic Celebrations of the Mass, the meals prepared and served after the Jewish Sabbath on Saturday, which was on Sunday, when they distributed the bread they baked. The men would never have done the baking or the serving, so women and girls would have always been the ones to distribute the bread and wine. Back to basics?
Martin Eble
2 years 6 months ago
To speak of a “ban” on females serving at the altar indicates a fundamental misunderstanding. Females serving at the altar is prohibited both by long custom and specific law. In the way of an indult, a generous exception to the law, the Church *permits* bishops to authorize females to serve at the altar. In the worldwide Church the dioceses authorizing females to serve at the altar are a *minority.* The CDF has made clear that even if a bishop authorizes females to serve at the altar, no priest may be *forced* to do so. There are sound theological and pastoral reasons for *not* using females to serve at the altar. In some places there are sound cultural reasons. The entire world is not the United States, the entire world does not share a Western viewpoint, and the rejection of the complementary nature of the sexes is a secular notion, not a Christian one. If a pastor wishes to use serving the altar as a source of vocations, he has the Church’s blessing and law on his side. Calling clergy who choose not to use the indult “ultra-conservative”, calls to “fight for justice”, and so on are misguided. Since no one is entitled to service at the altar, service at the altar can never be demanded in justice. This same misunderstanding, from the same secular view, results in calls for the ordination of women over two decades after a formal declaration citing the ordinary and universal Magisterium that a male only priesthood is to be held always, everywhere, and by all, as belonging to the deposit of the faith. http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19951028_dubium-ordinatio-sac_en.html
ed gleason
2 years 6 months ago
Also " belonging to the deposit of the faith.' slavery, no interest, sun goes around the earth, burning at the stake etc.. and democracy stinks .
Martin Eble
2 years 6 months ago
In not a single instance was one of these erroneously oft-repeated “examples” a matter taught from the ordinary Magisterium, either in fact, or in the sense in which the citer believes it was taught. Were the Church’s teaching so completely unreliable, a person would be a fool to pay the least attention to it, and in fact be a fool to adhere to the Catholic Church.
ed gleason
2 years 6 months ago
"get the last word' Martin' we are all called to be a fool for Christ.. let's add 'error has no rights' to your unique deposit of faith... to go along with no altar girls,.women lectors and woman Eucharistic [Extra-ordinary Real Extra-ordinary] Ministers.. I also think there were more women than men burned at the stake. With your knowledge of Church history why can't you see the Holy Spirit helping ALL of us making changes and corrections as we move toward the Kingdom?.Do you really believe you have the only road map? . .
Martin Eble
2 years 6 months ago
The notion of infallible teaching by the ordinary and universal Magisterium from the Deposit of Faith goes back to St. Paul, through the schoolmen, Vincent of Lerins, was reiterated at Vatican II, and cited repeatedly in teaching documents and the Catechism. Therefore, it is neither mine nor unique. There are several problems with your hypothesis. - It conflates teachings, which cannot change, with disciplines, which can change, and actions of individuals who happen to be clerics, which differ not a whit from anyone else's actions, and suggests that the same rules apply to each. - If the Holy Spirit was "asleep at the switch" while the Church was teaching all those things you say it previously taught and then reversed, and therefore Pope St John Paul II's teaching in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis does not bind, there is even less reason to favor your innovations since your bona fides, and those who agree with you, are considerably less authoritative than his. - If the Church can do 180 degree turns, I have no reason to adhere to anything it proposes if it displeases me. - While we are called to be fools for Christ, we are not called to be just foolish, which is what we would be if we accepted teaching from a Church that regularly did U-turns. - A Church which comports with your hypothesis is indistinguishable from a garden variety Protestant sect. Given that several of them make lesser moral demands than the Catholic Church, a smart consumer of religious purveyors would select one of them. The argument is with the Catholic Church, not with me personally, since I state nothing not fully consistent with and supported by the Church's teaching documents. Holding that teaching in low regard unless it happens to please you, you cannot cite any authority in favor of your position except that you happen to like it, nor claim the Holy Spirit as your guide.
Bill Mazzella
2 years 6 months ago
As Pope, John Paul II, officially made public apologies for over 100 wrongdoings The legal process on the Italian scientist and philosopher Galileo Galilei, himself a devout Catholic, around 1633 (31 October 1992). Catholics' involvement with the African slave trade (9 August 1993) The Church's role in burnings at the stake and the religious wars that followed the Protestant Reformation (May 1995, in the Czech Republic). The injustices committed against women, the violation of women's rights and for the historical denigration of women (29 May 1995, in a "letter to women") The inactivity and silence of many Catholics during the Holocaust (16 March 1998)[] For the execution of Jan Hus in 1415 (18 December 1999 in Prague). When John Paul II visited Prague in 1990s, he requested experts in this matter "to define with greater clarity the position held by Jan Hus among the Church's reformers, and acknowledged that "independently of the theological convictions he defended, Hus cannot be denied integrity in his personal life and commitment to the nation's moral education." It was another step in building a bridge between Catholics and Protestants. For the sins of Catholics throughout the ages for violating "the rights of ethnic groups and peoples, and [for showing] contempt for their cultures and religious traditions". (12 March 2000, during a public Mass of Pardons). For the actions of the Crusader attack on Constantinople in 1204. To the Patriarch of Constantinople he said "Some memories are especially painful, and some events of the distant past have left deep wounds in the minds and hearts of people to this day. I am thinking of the disastrous sack of the imperial city of Constantinople, which was for so long the bastion of Christianity in the East. It is tragic that the assailants, who had set out to secure free access for Christians to the Holy Land, turned against their own brothers in the faith. The fact that they were Latin Christians fills Catholics with deep regret. How can we fail to see here the mysterium iniquitatis at work in the human heart? ".[3][4][5][6] On 20 November 2001, from a laptop in the Vatican, Pope John Paul II sent his first e-mail apologising for the Catholic sex abuse cases, the Church-backed "Stolen Generations" of Aboriginal children in Australia, and to China for the behaviour of Catholic missionaries in colonial times.] An excuse is worse and more terrible than a lie, for an excuse is a lie guarded. — Pope John Paul II
Martin Eble
2 years 6 months ago
In the pilgrim Church sinful and saint cohabit and will until the End Time. Attributing the sins and errors of Catholics to "the Church" as though one impugns the other is an old rhetorical trick which has the advantage of obscuring the reality of Christ's Church, and the disadvantage of being deceitful. What the Church actually teaches is that when it teaches from the Deposit of Faith, it cannot error. That is true though Catholics - even some in the hierarchy of the Church, even the Holy Father - are sinners, sometimes flagrant sinners. http://www.ewtn.com/library/COUNCILS/V2CHURCH.HTM “25. .... And this infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed His Church to be endowed in defining doctrine of faith and morals, extends as far as the deposit of Revelation extends, which must be religiously guarded and faithfully expounded. And this is the infallibility which the Roman Pontiff, the head of the college of bishops, enjoys in virtue of his office, when, as the supreme shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, who confirms his brethren in their faith, by a definitive act he proclaims a doctrine of faith or morals. And therefore his definitions, of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, are justly styled irreformable, since they are pronounced with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, promised to him in blessed Peter, and therefore they need no approval of others, nor do they allow an appeal to any other judgment. For then the Roman Pontiff is not pronouncing judgment as a private person, but as the supreme teacher of the universal Church, in whom the charism of infallibility of the Church itself is individually present, he is expounding or defending a doctrine of Catholic faith.” Your argument is directly with the Church's teaching authority.
Bill Mazzella
2 years 6 months ago
It is also in the deposit of the faith that the pope has power and dominion on all secular leaders. http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Bon08/B8unam.htm But then there is misogyny for those who prefer to develop Columbettes.
Bridget Ryan
2 years 6 months ago
I live in the Arlington, VA diocese and was in high school when our Bishop decided to allow female altar servers at parishes where the pastor wanted to allow them. I was fortunate to have a pastor who believed that allowing females is the thing to do, and then went to a university where the chaplain feels the same way, because I too felt the way Kerry did when she would visit relatives about feeling left out at home. I enjoyed every minute of my years spent serving at the altar, and can't wait until I'm at a point in my life where I can become a lector so I can continue to serve at the altar (right now I continue to attend Mass at my college campus ministry) rather than just in the choir. Thank you, Kerry, for this article, because many of the things you say that being an altar server helped you understand are the things that I came to realize about the church by doing so.

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