No altar girls = More priests?

By Bryan Cones| comments | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
blog

It's a strange-looking equation, I know, but another priest has used it to justify his decision to ban girls from serving at Mass. Father John Lankeit, rector of the Phoenix diocesan cathedral, SS. Simon and Jude, argued, "The connection between serving at the altar and priesthood is historic. It is part of the differentiation between boys and girls, as Christ established the priesthood by choosing men. Serving at the altar is a specifically priestly act," according to the Arizona Republic. Girls will be allowed to be sacristans, preparing things for Mass like the altar societies of old.

Lankeit points out that not permitting girls to serve is part of the pastor's prerogative, but I wonder what would happen if he started restricting the ministry of lector to men, since that office, like the instituted ministry of acolyte, was also formerly part of preparation for priesthood. For that matter, "porter" was once the first step to holy orders, so by that logic hospitality ministers should all be men, too.

The main problem here, though, is baptismal: Does that baptism of girls and women not configure them for service among the people of God. So far Rome has said that it doesn't for the ministries of priest and bishop--deacon still being an open question. But altar server? And just for practical purposes, how much longer will the parents of girls keep taking them to a church that now won't even let them serve at the altar, much less eventually become priests?

UPDATE: A press release from the Diocese of Phoenix on the change in policy: "Experiencing personally the consequences of the priesthood shortage and noting the absence of strong fatherly presence in society in general, and religious practice in particular, Fr. John Lankeit, rector of Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral, recently restructured the program for boys and girls who serve at Mass. At the Cathedral, boys can train to serve at the altar, and girls can train to serve as sacristans."