Catholic World News

Vatican newspaper praises girl altar servers

August 10, 2010

In an article in the August 7 edition of L’Osservatore Romano, Lucetta Scaraffia defended the 1994 Vatican decision to permit female altar servers. Describing service at the altar as an unmatched formative experience that allows children to collaborate directly with the central mystery of the faith, Ms. Scaraffia says that permitting girls to serve at the altar “has meant the idea they were impure because of their gender came to an end.” Scaraffia-- a 62-year-old journalist and historian-- noted that girls constituted the majority of the tens of thousands of altar servers who met with the Pope last week.

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  • Posted by: samuel.doucette1787 - Aug. 11, 2010 11:36 AM ET USA

    The extraordinary form of the Roman Rite has altar boys. Look for future vocations from these ranks. I too have noticed the "altar server = girl thing" phenomenon. In fact, everywhere girls and women are allowed to do things that only men previously did in liturgical circles, they tend to take over and boys/men tend to stay away because it's not seen as manly. Look at your typical parish choirs: mostly female voices. Lectors: mostly women. Eucharistic ministers: mostly women.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 11, 2010 3:56 AM ET USA

    Ms. Scafaffia has done what many have done with the women "priests" issue- reduced it to an issue of equality;the idea that girls weren't good enough to serve at the altar. It's a pity she has taken this line of argument. As others have pointed out,where there are female servers,there are few boys serving as it's regarded as a "girl's job"- this has consequences down the line in terms of vocations to the priesthood which priests should aim to foster in their altar boys.

  • Posted by: Miss Cathy - Aug. 11, 2010 1:47 AM ET USA

    Strange, I never associated that girls not serving at the altar had anything to do with impurity or equality. How is this praise of altar girl servers. I have yet to hear a story from any female altar server how this strengthened her vocational commitment to Christ and the Church. How many female altar servers have gone on to enter convents?

  • Posted by: tasha1996 - Aug. 10, 2010 9:49 PM ET USA

    As an Oriental mother of three boys and three girls, I am uncomfortable watching young altar girls bringing the wine and water, the basin and water before consecration, and opening the sacristy door for a young, able-bodies priest at the end of the Mass. Those are images of "serving young maids" in the Orient. Those girls are not trained to be dignified ladies.

  • Posted by: New Sister - Aug. 10, 2010 9:17 PM ET USA

    Where we have girls as altar servers, we find other forms of ontological confusion...such as laity mimicking priests (e.g., "pastoral associates" calling shots, parishoners praying in the orans position during the Our Father) - what a mess. Surely the Holy Father recognizes this link?

  • Posted by: - Aug. 10, 2010 8:02 PM ET USA

    I can attest to this being a "girl" activity now. In my sons 6th grade class all of the girls are servers and a handful of the boys. Those who aren't say it is for girls. It was a regrettable decision.

  • Posted by: garedawg - Aug. 10, 2010 7:56 PM ET USA

    That's one of the reasons I'm glad to be Byzantine Rite. Without downplaying the valuable gifts that women bring to the Church, I can say that having a strong male presence in the sanctuary greatly enhances the liturgy.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 10, 2010 6:37 PM ET USA

    As your poster Gil125 puts it, it can become a "girl thing" and the boys are walking away, very unfortunately. This probably accounts for the "majority" of the servers being girl altarboys as reported.

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Aug. 10, 2010 1:24 PM ET USA

    I wonder if they have ever considered that allowing girls (and women) to serve at the altar makes it a girl thing and that real boys don't want to do girl things, and so don't want to be altar servers. Which has a direct effect on priestly vocations. Not every altar boy went on to become a priest, but vast, vast numbers of priests were once altar boys. I, for one, am sure that although that's not the only reason for a lack of vocations, it contributes in a big way.

  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Aug. 10, 2010 10:26 AM ET USA

    I never felt impure because I was a female. I do, however, get an occasional feeling of inadequacy because I want to do things associated with being feminine. Talk about gender role confusion!