Friday, January 30, 2015

Male Altar Servers

This week, we had Catholic news from Our Lady, Star of the Sea parish, in San Francisco. The pastor, Fr. Joseph, is switching from having male and female altar servers, to just having male altar servers. He said there are two reasons.

1. Young boys and young girls usually don't get along well. It's easier to have just boys or just girls.

2. The point of being an altar server is to prepare you for becoming a priest. Since girls can't be priests, it's contradictory to let them be altar servers.

Unstated Reason #3 is "that's the way it was, before the 1990's."

Some people are upset about this, and they want the local archbishop to step in. Legally, that's impossible. Church law says that a bishop cannot force a priest to include female altar servers, which means the local priest gets to make the decision.

What do you readers think? Is this a sexist power play? Or is it a logical consequence of the premise "altar servers are priests-in-training"? There is a girls-only Catholic group at that parish, so it's not like gender-separated activities is a completely foreign concept to them.

Personally speaking, I'm more interested in why people think altar servers are necessary, or why they think altar servers must be children. The truth is that altar servers are optional, not mandatory, and there is no age limit. I'm not sure how "kids only" became the norm, but it's been that way since at least the 50's. I've only seen teenager/adult altar servers in places where there are no kids. I think it would make more sense, if they only had priest-age altar servers. That'd better connect it with the idea that being an altar server is preparation for priesthood.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My priest switched to all male alter servers not too long ago, and when he did he started training girls to be sacristans so they had a role in the mass, and hopefully discern the religious life. I don't think it's sexist that both genders have their own roles. As for why alter servers are usually kids, my guess is its to train boys from an younger age so they can discern earlier? There are a lot of boys at my church that are discerning priesthood and they serve. Also it gives children a place to serve their parish.