Girls or Boys at the Altar?
Earlier this week an old debate in the church was revisited in the US concerning a conservative view that the Catholic Church has become ‘too feminized’ when David Gibson’s story “San Francisco priest bars altar girls, sparks another controversy,” Religion News Service, 27 January 2015 (http://ncronline.org/news/faith-parish/san-francisco-priest-bars-altar-girls-sparks-another-controversy) was reported, in which Fr. Joseph Illo, a newly instated Roman Catholic priest of a San Francisco parish has banned the practice of altar girls in the Star of the Sea San Franciscan parish, the only archdiocese to do so. For those who do not know, a diocese, meaning ‘administration,’ is the district under the supervision of a church bishop, which is then divided into parishes. An archdiocese then, is led by an archbishop with some form of importance due to either size or historical significance.
The two main arguments that were made by Illo for this move were that, as girls tend to do a better job in the altar service, the boys usually lose any interest in joining. His second argument leading from this is that the altar service is inherently tied to priesthood and acts as a direct lead into the seminary. As the Catholic Church does not ordain women, Illo arguments that the role of altar girls is redundant, as they will never be able to continue this service. Many of Illos’ words echoed those of Cardinal Raymond Burke earlier in the month in another story of David Gibson “Cardinal Raymond Burke: ‘Feminized’ church and altar girls caused priest shortage,” Religion News Service, 7 January 2015 (http://ncronline.org/news/people/cardinal-raymond-burke-feminized-church-and-altar-girls-caused-priest-shortage), in that both state that many priests start off in the altar service as young boys, at an age when they want nothing to do with girls. Since many of these altar girls do good jobs, fewer boys join the service leading to, in their minds, a deficit in men entering priesthood, as well as an unnecessary feminization of the church since, as stated above, the Catholic Church does not ordain women. The way the article reads, Illo blames the Catholic Church for allowing girls to help out in mass, as it means fewer boy will grow up to be priests. However, the Catholic Church disallows women to be ordained, and yet he accuses these women as having ‘feminized’ the church, because in modern times we have ‘erred’ by believing that the souls of men and women are the same.
That the Catholic Church is one of the few current Christian denominations that refuses to ordain women leads to conflict with other churches, but is part of their beliefs. That some of their churches are now denying young women the chance to help out in religious mass, which was originally allowed due to a lack in young boys doing so, on the belief that the presence of these girls is keeping the boys from developing an interest in entering into religious service, is not to me a very good argument.