By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Girl Altar Servers Endorsed by Vatican Newspaper

Boy (pun intended), this story must be causing heartburn among traditionalists (notice that I use a lower-case "t," not the upper-case "T" that is appropriate for the Tradition, encompassing but not limited to Scripture, the Tradition that is the stream of divine revelation, as reaffirmed by Vatican II).

Yet, before continuing on the topic of girl altar servers, let me first make a brief, introductory comment especially for non-Catholic readers. Let me clarify that very "intra-Catholic" or "inside baseball" posts like this one are necessary because of the need to combat the tendency to "pharisaism" in the Catholic Church, a tendency also very much present and in some significant instances more present in non-Catholic traditions. By "pharisaism," I mean, in the Catholic and Christian context, the tendency to overemphasize legalistic and ritualistic restrictions at the expense of the heart of the Gospels, where Jesus' biggest confrontations-- indisputably and obviously-- involve his robust attacks on such pharisaic tendencies. Periodic posts such as these are, unfortunately, a necessity to combat the pharisaic tendency which is a perennial temptation for religious people.

Recently, the leading Vatican canon law authority clarified that girl altar servers were not allowed in the form of the Roman rite predating Vatican II (a form of the rite commonly, albeit inaccurately, known as "Tridentine"; see source). In contrast, the Vatican allows bishops to authorize the use of female altar servers in the more common, ordinary form of the Roman Rite arising after Vatican II. A recent article (Aug. 7, 2010) in the official Vatican newspaper (key part translated here from the Italian) strongly affirmed the value of female altar servers. The article was published after a recent August 4, 2010, gathering of both male and female altar servers with the Pope at the Vatican (the majority--60%--of the altar servers were female; see source). See the photo (credit to Paul Haring/Catholic News Service) above left.

Yes, the very conservative Pope Benedict XVI and the official Vatican newspaper have embraced the reality of female altar servers. That embrace will cause heartburn among some traditionalists who view the practice of female altar servers as wrong and terrible and also view the Pope as carrying out their favored traditionalist agenda. What do I infer? The Pope does not share the traditionalist agenda carte blanche. Sorry.

Update: A longtime Vatican reporter (generally viewed favorably by persons on both the theological left and the theological right) agrees that the recent gathering of altar servers at the Vatican signals "clear Vatican support for the practice." See link.