Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Altar Girls, 3: Tradition and Female Ordination

As I have noted, when the Congregation for Divine Worship allowed females to serve the altar, it cited two important problems with it: it is bad for vocations, and it is contrary to the Church's Tradition. To put it another way, having altar girls is bad for sociological reasons, and bad for theological reasons. I've dealt with the sociological issue, the way girls serving the altar undermines vocations to the priesthood, in the last post. The more fundamental issue, which is not totally separate, is what is wrong with it theologically: why the Tradition of the Church is against it. It has never - not even today - been officially recommended or encouraged; up until 1992 it was forbidden. Are there good theological reasons for this?
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Servers processing out with the celebrant, Fr John Saward, at SS Gregory & Augustine in Oxford, past the liturgical schola.

The theological problem with girl servers is related to the impossibility of female ordination. In a nutshell, if women can't be ordained, it is innappropriate for them to assist at the altar in the quasi-clerical role of servers. If there are good reasons, as opposed to mere historical contingency, why women can't be ordained, then it would be natural for these reasons to count against female service at the altar.Link
It is always pointed out in the discussion of female ordination that Christ chose only men to be apostles and, therefore, as priests. Bl Pope John Paul II makes the point with great emphasis that this was a 'sovereign decision', not the result of social convention. To suggest that in a decision like this Our Lord was the slave of social convention is historically absurd (look at his other actions and words), and if true would undermine the whole gospel: if we can reject this decision on these grounds, then what would be left? Nevertheless, it is natural to ask why Our Lord made this decision, and John Paul answers by giving us a theological disourse on the nature and role of the feminine in the economy of salvation. He does this is Mulieris Dignitatem (On the Dignity of Women, 1988), and refers back to this in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (1994) when he makes explicit the constant (and for that reason infallible) teaching of the Church that the Church does not have the power to ordain women. In short, it is because men and women have different characters and different roles in salvation history and the Church, as ordained by God, that God has established the reality that Holy Orders cannot be given to women.

At the bottom of it there is a connection between Christ's role as Priest and Victim and his masculinity. It would in fact be odd if there were not, since the priestly role, and the sacrifice of self for the community, is conformable with with the male role in human society, which I discussed in the last post. The priest as alter Christus must be a man because he is taking on this role himself. The clergy round the altar, and the altar servers, are also participating in this role, and it for that reason fitting that they be men also.
Boy scouts queing up to assist with the distribution of communion at the Chatres Pilgrimage 2010.

It really does not take a long chain of reasoning to see the application of the teaching about the all-male priesthood to girl servers. It is not possible to ordain women because it is not appropriate to their nature: saying Mass it is not part of their role in the Church. If it is totally impossible for women to say Mass, it is not appropriate for women and girls to assist the priest in the role of server. The server plays the part of a cleric: the laity serve when a cleric is not available. It is a quasi-clerical role, and it is not right that women play a clerical role.

Theology is not mathematics: theological argument does not advance by deductive syllogisms. What we have here is a case of something being, as the Scholastics constantly said, 'inconveniens': inconvient, inappropriate, unfitting. It is simply unfitting for girls to serve, because it runs contrary to the female role. In the same way it would have been unfitting for Our Lord to have been born of a woman not a virgin, for Our Lady's body to have been left in the tomb, and so on. To say that it runs against the symbolic and indeed ontological grain of the economy of salvation and the roles assigned to the sexes by the Creator is enough. It should not be done.
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Servers about to process out at Mass at the St Catherine's Trust Summer School 2010.
But don't take my word for it; listen to this brilliant talk by Fr Brian Harrison (MP3), which he gave in the wake of the decision to allow female servers in 1992. His practical points at the end have been overtaken by events, but his theological analysis is acute. As he points out, it is perfectly clear that there is a connection between the desire to have altar girls and the desire to have women priests, nor are the most serious proponents of altar girls blind to this connection. If girls can have the quasi-clerical role of altar servers, this serves to undermine the teaching of the Church that women cannot be ordained.

Bl John Paul II's teaching on the different roles of men and women in the economy of salvation is equally true when Mass is said according to the Ordinary Form or the Extraordinary Form. The significance of this issue for the EF specifically is that the EF is the 'Traditional Mass': the Mass said, as Summorum Pontificum describes it, according to the Church's 'former liturgical traditions'. This is the Mass in which we adhere to the traditions which were current for the whole Church until a very short time ago. These are good traditions, and it is good for the Church that they be preserved. If they are lost in some contexts, it is especially good that they be preserved in others. The very document allowing girls to serve described male altar service as a 'noble tradition', and it is precisely for the preservation of traditions such as these that the 1962 Missal has been presevered - and preserved in its integrity.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Altar Girls Part 2: vocations

As I noted, Church documents allowing altar girls do so with evident reluctance, citing two reasons: the 'noble tradition' of the Church on the subject and the importance of male altar service for priestly vocations. Here I deal with the latter issue first, as being the less fundamental. It is nevertheless clearly a matter of considerable concern to successive Prefects of the Congregation for Divine Worship, even when the substantive issue, of the permission for altar girls, has already been conceded. Why are they so worried?
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LMS Server training in Blackfriars, Oxford.
Serving at the altar is an extraordinarily intimate participation in the Holy Sacrifice. If you haven't done it as a child or an adult, you'll have to trust me on this. I served (the Novus Ordo) intermittently as a child, and I've learnt to serve the EF as an adult. In a certain way it makes you a fellow-worker with the priest. You can see and hear more of what is going on, the mechanics of the ceremonies, if you like, and this serves also to emphasis still more the things you still can't see or hear. You get to handle more of the sacred things used on the altar, and this serves to emphasise still more the sacred things you still must not touch. Unless you are completely dead to any sense of the sacred, it is borne in on you how privileged your position is: the position of being a servant of the ceremonies and of the priest. This serves to emphasise still more the privilege of the priesthood: not the privilege of freedom, of any kind of tyranny or creativity, but the privilege of servitude, of serving in the most intimate ways the greatest Lord of them all. In short, service at the altar makes one understand and appreciate the priestly vocation.
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Altar servers at the St Catherine's Trust Family Retreat.

This is so in the context of the Traditional Mass, vastly more than it is with the Novus Ordo. In the EF the server has much more to do, and more to say, and his role is much more important, and much more sharply distinguished from that of the congregation. Nevertheless, it is true in the Novus Ordo as well. It is fitting, natural and inevitable that the service of the altar is a seed-bed of priestly vocations.

Those in favour of altar girls may accept this point and say that we can have altar servers of both sexes. Well, at best this cuts the number of boys serving, but in reality the results are more drastic than that. When girls start serving, boys become reluctant to do it. You can see this in many, many parishes around the world, where if care is not taken altar service can become an exclusively female occupation.

This is for reasons of male psychology. A great deal has been written about this, so I will direct the reader to other sources and give a very brief summary of what seems to make sense to me. The fundamental issue is that masculinity is made, or achieved, not born. The distinct role of women in society is obviously founded on their reproductive role. Their role in having children is essential, it is long-term, and it is dangerous. For those three reasons they deserve (and need) support and respect. The male role in reproduction is quite different: it is momentary and safe. If men are to be tied in to a useful role in society which entitles them to respect - if they are not simply to muck about - there has got to be something else. They have to be persuaded to take on a male role which, where social and instinctive promptings are working in harmony in a structured way, can commit them to relationships and get them to take on their share of dangerous tasks (for which, after all, they are physically well suited). It is the voluntary taking on of dangerous things which is most obviously masculine trait, and something we see little boys doing to prove their masculinity, to be accepted by their peer group as masculine.
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This is the basis of practically every play-ground gibe directed at boys you have ever heard. Boys have an in-bred horror of the sissy, the cowardly, and the feminine (as something associated with themselves, that is). They are obliged by enormously powerful instincts and peer pressure to shun these things to establish their masculine credentials. This is perfectly normal and healthy, and while feminists may not like it, it is something we have to live with. It follows that boys are particularly unwilling to do things which make them look foolish or effeminate.

Religion can easily be characterised as sissy. If we are not to lose men completely from our congregations, and from the hope of salvation, it is imperative that this perception be combated. Real religion is not sissy, in fact: it is serious, difficult, and dangerous. It is fit for real men to be involved in, and something boys can be proud of associating with. The boy scouts who do the Chartres Pilgrimage can be proud of what they do because of the physical difficulty. The boys who serve Mass can be proud of that too, because be joining the serving team they are joining an exclusively male group, where they are taught an important, difficult and male role by men. At least, that is true where serving is done by males.

This perception of serving is rapidly destroyed by female involvement. Boys of a normal psychological make-up immediately start to feel uneasy about it, and we see a spiral of feminisation. Now this is not a theological issue: it arises out of the contingencies of psychology and social convention. This kind of argument invites the response: 'It should not be so!' Well, too bad, it is so. We have to live in the real world; we have to reach people where they are.

Here is Michael Voris on the subject of masculinity and Catholicism, and female altar servers. This makes the general point I've been making, and extends it is certain ways.

At much greater length, and more profoundly, I recommend a talk given by Dr Leon Podles, author of 'The Church Impotent' on the problem of the feminisation of the Church and the effect this has on male involvement. You can download the MP3 here. Among other things, he points out that the more liberal a Christian church is, the fewer men in the congregation; the Traditional Mass, by contrast, attracts a healthy 50% men. Podles makes an obvious point: men will sometimes die rather than appear unmasculine: indeed, it happens all the time. Do you really think you can make the Church touchy-feely and feminine and still attract them?

Podles' book can be viewed online here; this treats the issue historically and theologically; I'm not sure I agree with all of it by any means, but it certainly gives the issue a much wider context.

Feminists will hate this argument because they hate gender-specific social roles. This is related to a bigger issue, however: the theological issue, and the small matter of admitting women to priestly ordination. I'll deal with that next.

Photos from the FSSP Ordinations: 2 - Fr McCarthy's first Mass

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Fr Matthew McCarthy FSSP was ordained on Saturday 21st and on Sunday 22nd he said his first Mass: a Solemn Mass in the chapel of the Carmelite Convent of Jesus, Mary & Joseph at Valparaiso, a 30-minute drive from the FSSP Seminary.

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Distribution of communion to the Carmelites, through a grill.

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Fr McCarthy's deacon was Fr Matthew Goddard FSSP, another English Fraternity priest. Fr Goddard is currently based in Ottawa, Canada, where the Fraternity have a long-standing and thriving apostolate.

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The chapel is classical in form and quite lovely. Here is the mosaic in the dome. The altar comes from an abandoned church and was in storage for a long time before being installed here.

Relations between the Seminary and Convent are close. The Carmelites have re-adopted the Traditional Mass and Office, and three of them are sisters of young men in the Seminary up the road. I was privileged to see the Mother Superior and most of the community through the double grill; it was a truly heartening to see so many young women dedicating themselves to this contemplative vocation. Since arriving in Lincoln diocese they have made two foundations and more are being planned.
Here is the double grill, with a curtain behind it; the curtain was drawn aside and we were able to talk to the nuns. Please say a prayer for them; perhaps one day they will establish a foundation in the British Isles.

There are more photos: slideshow, set. Soon I will post again about the Seminary.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Photos from the FSSP Ordinations: 1

On Saturday 21st May Matthew McCarthy FSSP and Christopher Pelster FSSP were ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz at the Seminary of the Fraternity of St Peter in Denton, Nebraska (not far from Lincoln, the seat of Bishop Bruskewitz's diocese). Here are some photos.
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Bishop Bruskewitz presides at Terce before Mass. This room, here set up as a chapel, was in fact the Seminary chapel until the new chapel was completed.

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Bishop Bruskewitz processes in through a guard of honour provided by Knights of Columbus.

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Bishop Bruskewitz at the throne; Matthew McCarthy, the English ordinand, can be seen in front with a candle.

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The laying on of hands: Bishop Bruskewitz lays on his hands on the two ordinands; all the other priests present do the same.

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Fr Armand de Malleray lays his hands on Matthew McCarthy; in front can be seen Fr Matthew Goddard FSSP, another English priest, lining up to do the same.

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The new priests are clothed with a folded chasuble.

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Having had their hands annointed, the new priests' hands are bound together.

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Following the ceremony of the ordination, Mass resumes with the Gospel.

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The new priests, kneeling at special prie dieus, and each with a missal and an assistant, follow the canon of the Mass, which the celebrant (uniquely) reads out loud.

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Fr Matthew McCarthy gives the kiss of peace to Fr Armand de Malleray.

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The superb liturgical schola singing the Communion antiphon.

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Bishop Bruskewitz gives the final blessing.

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Procession out.

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Bishop Bruskewitz, Fr McCarthy and his family.

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Bishop Bruskewitz speaks at the lunch following the ordinations.

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The Seminary's cloister, where three newly ordained priests were giving first blessing: not only the two ordained that day, but Fr Damon Sypher FSSP, who ordained earlier in the month in Sydney by Cardinal Pell.

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The British contingent at Denton. Top row, left to right: Leo Darroch, President of the Una Voce Federation, Fr Armand de Malleray FSSP, Fr Matthew McCarthy FSSP, and Ian Verrier, an English seminarian; bottom left and middle two first year seminarians (still in lay clothes); bottom right, me. All FSSP seminarians from England and Wales are sponsored by the Latin Mass Society.

There are lots more photos: slideshow, set.

Next I'll post about Fr McCarthy's first Mass, which took place on Sunday.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Altar Girls: why not

The recent Instruction 'Universae Ecclesiae' on the interpretation of the Motu Proprio 'Summorum Pontificum' has made it clear that various liturgical permissions which were introduced for the transitional missals and the Novus Ordo since 1962 do not apply to the celebration of the usus antiquior, the Traditional Mass, where they conflict with the 1962 rubrics. There is a certain amount to be said about what this includes and excludes but it does include the rule in force in 1962 forbidding females serving at the Altar. If there are no men or boys to serve, a woman can make the responses and ring the bell from the communion rail: no women or girls should go into the Sanctuary of the church during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, when celebrated according to the 1962 Missal. The legal position is one thing: another is the point of this rule.

As is well known, female alter servers were permitted in 1992, after a long campaign of disobedience towards the Church's norms. It was permitted with considerable reluctance, and clearly the motivation was to avoid the scandal of open warfare on the subject: Pope John Paul II was far from convinced that it was actually a good idea. A 1994 ruling from the Congregation for Divine Worship hedges the matter about with caveats and reservations, which are still in force. Having conceded the possibility of altar girls, it goes on:

2) The Holy See respects the decision adopted by certain Bishops for specific local reasons on the basis of the provisions of Canon 230 #2. At the same time, however, the Holy See wishes to recall that it will always be very appropriate to follow the noble tradition of having boys serve at the altar. As is well known, this has led to a reassuring development of priestly vocations. Thus the obligation to support such groups of altar boys will always continue.

3) If in some diocese, on the basis of Canon 230 #2, the Bishop permits that, for particular reasons, women may also serve at the altar, this decision must be clearly explained to the faithful, in the light of the above-mentioned norm. It shall also be made clear that the norm is already being widely applied, by the fact that women frequently serve as lectors in the Liturgy and can also be called upon to distribute Holy Communion as Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist and to carry out other functions, according to the provisions of the same Canon 230 #3.

4) It must also be clearly understood that the liturgical services mentioned above are carried out by lay people ex temporanea deputatione, according to the judgment of the Bishop, without lay people, be they men or women, having any right to exercise them.

The rule against altar girls is not some forgotten rubric of the Middle Ages: it was embedded in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal when the new Missal was published in 1970, and in the new Code of Canon Law of 1983 (though certain ambiguities arising from the notion of lay people substituting for instituted acolytes led eventually to the 1992 ruling). The restrictive nature of the 1994 document was reiterated by the Congregation for Divine Worship in 2001. Indeed, as well as reiterating that it was the bishop's right alone to determine whether to permit altar girls, regardless of what neighbouring bishops had decided, the importance of male altar service for the promotion of vocations, and the fact that no right to serve is established, it emphasised that priests could never be forced to use them:

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".

In other words, if any bishop, or any priest, determined not to use altar girls, this would be in conformity not only with the tradition of the Church but would have the support of the Church's highest authorities, who regard such a decision as a priori 'very appropriate'.

These are legislative texts of course and not theological ones so the reasons counting against altar girls are referred to in a summary way: namely, the 'noble tradition' of the Church, and the promotion of vocations. Both are correct and of great importance, but one may still ask: why does the Church have this tradition, and why is this important for vocations? I intend to address this is two separate posts.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Walsingham Walking Pilgrimage 2011: update

I've already mentioned this but the dates -Friday 26th to Sunday 28th August- are slowly coming closer and some details have been confirmed.

You can register online!

The Latin Mass Society is organising a walking pilgrimage from Ely to Walsingham, a distance of about 55 miles. It will take place over three days from Friday 26th to Sunday 28th August, which is the Bank Holiday weekend. It is modelled on the very successful Paris to Chartres pilgrimage which takes place every year, and is also a continuation of the mediaeval practice, when pilgrims would travel from all parts of England, and indeed Europe, to the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham.
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Overnight accommodation will be provided in campsites and village halls, and there will be support vehicles to transport pilgrims' luggage. Bottled water and evening meals will be provide, but pilgrims are asked to bring with them food to eat during the day.
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(Oxburgh House)
Pilgrims are asked to gather in Ely, the home town of St Etheldreda, on the Thursday evening, and there will be Mass early on Friday morning. Mass on the Saturday will be in the chapel of Oxborough Hall, a 15th century mansion which has been in continuous Catholic ownership since the Reformation. On Sunday, the walkers will be joined for Mass at the Shrine of Walsingham by other pilgrims travelling by coach and private car. Finally, pilgrims will walk the Holy Mile into the village of Little Walsingham.
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Don't let us leave without you!

More photos of last year's pilgrimage.

Come with us from St Ethelreda of Ely to the Lady of Walsingham.
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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Juventutem Oxford Mass on Friday 3rd June

The newly formed Juventutem Oxford group will be having a Mass followed by a meal together on Friday 3rd June.

Mass will be in SS Gregory & Augustine, it will be Sung, at 6pm. It will be accompanied by the Schola Abelis.

The Mass formulary - the prayers and chants - will be the same as for the Ascension, 'Viri Galilaei'. So if you don't get to the Ascension at 12.15 in the Oxford Oratory (which will be Low), or even if you do, come along to hear the Mass sung in SS Gregory & Augustine.

The Juventutem 'social' which follows is in the Chaplaincy; here's a (rather bad) photo of one last term. We bought about 20 pizzas from the 'Pizza Artisan' pizza van parked outside Christ Church, which were delicious; I ate about 15 on my own - or I feld like I had. It actually has a wood-fired oven in it, and they make the pizzas in front of you from scratch. Certainly a big improvement on the kebab van which used to occupy that spot of an evening.

And look, someone (not me for once) has taken a photo of it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Oxford Pro-Life Witness

Pro-Life Witness in Reparation for Abortion and Prayers for All Unborn Babies and Their Mothers

28th May

25th June

(Last Saturday of each month)

3pm- 4pm

We will be standing at the entrance of the John Radcliffe Hospital (Headley Way, Oxford). Please come and join us- and bring a friend.

Refreshments available afterwards.

Contact Amanda Lewin 01869 600638

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Photos of SS Gregory & Augustine

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I've finally taken some photos of a splendid new monstrance at SS Gregory & Augustine, so I thought I'd put them up here.
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Fr John Saward was giving Benediction.

This was the day before the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima; the one side altar in the church is dedicated to her: here is her altar on her feast.
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Sadly I will miss the Feast of St Augustine of Canterbury coming up this Thursday, but the Schola Abelis will be accompanying a Traditional Mass at SS Gregory & Augustine in honour of their secondary patron, with their customary Renaissance Polyphony. So please come along:

Feast of St Augustine of Canterbury, 26th May, 6pm, Missa Cantata.