Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Catholic Altar Girl Issue Stuck In 1970's Time Warp

U.S. gave a rally cry as to the Diocese of Arlington Altar Girl issue that is now of the utmost importance because the Washington Post reported it. See their piece Fighting back for female altar servers

This part struck me:

Yes, women do serve in a variety of roles within the parish, including as lectors and extraordinary ministers of holy communion, but allowing them to be altar servers also has an important purpose. The main argument put forth by the church against girl altar servers is that altar service is the first step on the path to ordination, and that allowing only boys to serve will increase vocations to the priesthood. But is the possibility of encouraging boys to serve really worth the damage caused by discouraging young girls from having a role in the Mass?

I've seen a number of parishes where girl altar servers have taken strong leadership roles. I was a member of one parish where a teenage girl not only led the altar servers, she was, outside of the pastor, the go-to person for questions about the liturgy. Any time we had a major liturgical celebration, she was sure to be on the altar, and we knew that everything would run smoothly. Even the pastor would likely say that she was one of the most trusted and reliable members of the parish, regardless of age or gender.

That girl, who has now gone off to college, will likely become a prominent woman in her future parish community. She may even decide to pursue a religious vocation of her own, which may not help us increase the ranks of the priesthood, but would be of great value to the church. And undoubtedly, she learned many important lessons from her years of service and set an excellent example for other young people--both boys and girls--within the parish community.

If parishes continue to eliminate girl altar servers, there is a chance that it could help promote vocations to the priesthood. But there's a greater chance that it will prevent many young women from making valued contributions to their parish and, down the line, will result in fewer strong adult women who are committed to serving their church. In the short term, it will likely alienate more women like those in Virginia, and drive away the lay people who are in many cases the backbone of parish life.

As more pastors consider the question of eradicating female altar servers, they should ask themselves if the potential gains are really worth the likely costs

I feel like that this argument all has a 1970's feel with an analogy to education. There was a time when girls were timid in class, did not go into the Law, into the engineering majors , avoided the math classes so forth and so on.

Now we have the opposite problem. We have young women the majority in many past disciplines where they were the a big minority while we are losing legions of boys in High School that are just dropping out. We have a singular focus on girls while many experts in various fields have been saying we have a huge boy crisis on our hands.

In the Church if you go to you Diocese office its often women running important offices. Most Catholic school teachers are women. Most religion teachers are women, most people that help make sure the youth group runs are women, most people that make sure the retreats go off are women, most people that do Sacrament preparation for kids are women.

We don't have a female leadership problem in the Church but a very critical male leadership problem. A male leadership problems that is not balanced out by a very overworked Priest that a child might seen on occasion. I think perhaps just perhaps like we see in education lots of boys are dropping out.

Maybe just maybe this Priest in South Carolina is right that maybe carving out a special place for boys in this regard is a good thing and that has nothing to do with "Priesthood".

I am not saying it's a cure all. But I am disturbed that this argument seems to be falling into the old camps and a dynamic that now might be very well reversed.

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