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New Australian archbishop opts not to have women as altar servers

September 19, 2013

The newly installed Archbishop of Hobart, Australia, has drawn a flurry of attention by saying that he prefers not to have adult women serving at the altar.

Archbishop Julian Porteous said that altar boys are usually of primary-school age, and he did not object to having girls of the same age serving at the altar. However, he said, “When you move into high school I think it's more appropriate that we have men, young men who are serving on the altar." He explained that altar service has traditionally been seen as a form of encouraging young men toward the priesthood.

The archbishop’s stand could bring him into conflict with anti-discrimination policies in Tasmania. Robin Banks, the anti-discrimination commissioner, said that a policy excluding women could be allowed for a religious institution only “if it’s required by the doctrines of the religions.”

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