Monday, May 09, 2011

Altar girls at the Traditional Mass - again

There's a flurry on the blogosphere about female alter servers being used at the Traditional Mass. It is surprising that this should happen now. Until Cardinal Burke's statement on the matter - of which more below - the legal situation may have appeared unclear, but even if a priest has the right to do a thing it does not mean that it is right for him to do it. The pastoral consequences would obviously be negative - it would be upsetting to to a great many people in the congregation, it would cause division and bitterness - and the concession of female altar servers was only made to allow bishops to permit the deviation from the 'noble tradition' of male service of the altar for 'particular reasons': presumably, cases of pastoral urgency (I quote from the 1992 ruling of the Congregation of Divine Worship which issued the permission for female altar servers in the context of the 1970 Missal).

How can there be a special pastoral reason for doing something which is pastorally damaging?

The situation has been clarified, however, and we now know that female altar servers are NOT PERMITTED at the Traditional Mass. Changes made for the 1970 Missal don't automatically apply to the 1962 Missal, and in this case the concession has not created a right belonging to anyone: no one can demand to serve at Mass. Cardinal Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, has written

"As such, out of respect for the integrity of the liturgical discipline within the Roman Missal of 1962, these more modern modifications are not observed in the extraordinary form."

Without wishing to speculate about any priest's motivation, there is a danger in this case, as in other cases, of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass being made to serve an ideological or political purpose at odds with the traditions and teaching of the Church: to further the ideology of feminism, for example.

The law of the Church and the authority of bishops, and of the Holy Father himself, is designed to preserve and foster the traditions of the Church, not to undermine and destroy them. As the Pope Benedict has said

"It is not the Pope's role to put forward his own ideas, but merely to re-present and serve the Tradition of the Church." (See Fr Ray Blake)


  1. Jackie Parkes1:05 pm

    "Altar" servers Joseph! Is the EF Mass called a "Traditional" Mass? I like to think the OF is "traditional" too..

  2. Joseph Shaw1:12 pm

    Why 'Altar' in inverted commas?

    Yes the EF is commonly referred to as the Traditional Mass. You may have noticed.

  3. Anonymous5:30 pm

    Those who made the OF, which Ratzinger described as a 'banal, on the spot fabrication', considered it to be something vastly new and different, revolutionary and breaking with the past and tradition. So many who experienced that change at the time.