Saturday, May 10, 2008

Fr. Fessio On The Reform Of The Reform And Girls As Altar Servers

Every week or so will ask some questions of Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J., founder of Ignatius Press and Chancellor of Ave Maria University in Naples, Florida since 2002. If you have a question about the Catholic Church, Ignatius Press, or current events you would like to ask Fr. Fessio, please send it to editor Carl Olson and he will consider asking Fr. Fessio to respond to it.

Q: What's going on with the Reform of the Reform?
Fr. Fessio:
Yes, we've seen some good documents on the Eucharist and a slowdown in ICEL's influence, but we've seen a set back when the USCCB mandated that standing is the normative posture for receive Communion. Is the Reform of the Reform gaining any ground anywhere? Is there any movement on re-translating the Novus Ordo or even modifying the rubrics to more faithfully reflect what Vatican II intended? Can the new Liturgical Institute started by Cardinal George be seen as a positive development? Fr. Fessio: I believe that the "reform of the reform" has made progress. You mention the USCCB mandating standing as a normative posture to receive Communion. However, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has made it clear that this is not a norm in the sense of a requirement. Rather, Catholics are free to receive communion standing or kneeling at their choice. The relevant letter from that congregation can be seen at the Adoremus web site.

The Novus Ordo has been re-translated the draft has already been circulating. In the form in which I saw it, it was a great improvement on the previous (mis)translation. Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, Australia is the chairman of Vox Clara, the commission which is overseeing this translation so I have every hope that it will be a vast improvement over what we now have. My own view is that no rubrics really have to be modified in order to reflect more faithfully what Vatican II intended for the Mass.

There are many legitimate options in the Novus Ordo. Many priests regularly choose those options which are most in continuity with the Church’s continuous liturgical tradition. I do think that Cardinal George’s new Liturgical Institute is a positive development.

Q: Why do we in our US Catholic Churches have female altar servers?
Fr. Fessio:
The answer to your question is much more complex than the matter appears. I have it on authority of a Roman canonist who has been involved that even to this day, technically, female altar servers are not permitted by the Code of Canon Law.

There has been a permission given to bishops to allow female altar servers in their dioceses. Note that this is only a permission to allow, not to require. The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has clearly shown its preference for the traditional male altar servers and also made it clear that no priest can be required to have female altar servers. However, bishops are not reluctant to overstep their authority and introduce the practice as a requirement.

Since priests who do not go along with this can be reassigned to unpopular places, and because good priests want to obey their bishops even when the bishops are not speaking authoritatively, the practice has become widespread.

Link (here)


Fr. Erik Richtsteig said...


Check the spelling in the header.

Joseph Fromm said...

Fr. Erik,

altar, not alter


Anonymous said...

When popes visited roman parishes they celebrated with young girls as altar server.
Why do you American always be more catholic than the pope?

Joseph Fromm said...

It has to do vocations and women in or around the altar area.

Anonymous said...

I understand Joseph, but what do you think about the Pope that has celebrated with young girls as altar server? I can post pictures.
Is the pope wrong? Or sometimes is the pope ok (the motu proprio) and sometimes wrong (altar girls, and when BXVI gives communion to italian politicians pro-choice).
Who decides when the pope is wrong or ok? Fr Fessio?

Joseph Fromm said...

I believe Fr.Fessio quoted Canon Law correctly. I also think that he explained why there are altar girls. Link the picture in the combox. There will be no woman priests in the Catholic Church, so what is the point of female altar servers. Lectors , cantors, readers and extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist is were female lay participation is warrented and encouraged. Female altar servers are not normative to the Church.

Anonymous said...

you don't answer my question.
The Pope himself celebrated with female altar server,and very often, in the Roman parishes. What do you thing about THIS?

Joseph Fromm said...

That's fine, he is the boss.

Anonymous said...

I never would have become a religious sister if I had not been an altar server as a girl. It was fundamental to my formation as a young Catholic woman and helped me to grow in my knowledge of my faith as well as my love for Christ and the Church. It was the singular most influential experience in my formation as a Catholic and in helping me to recognize that God was calling me to the sisterhood. It has helped many young women to discover that they can do a real and valuable service to the church. I strongly believe that disallowing girls to be altar servers will severely stifle any growth in the sisterhood.

Joseph Fromm said...

It is a difference of opinion, thats all.

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I completely agree with the post.