In the 9/22/2011 Catholic Messenger issue two letters to the editor disapproved of a priest’s decision to limit altar servers to altar boys.
Redemptionis Sacramentum (see http://catholic.com) had two pertinent paragraphs: It is altogether laudable to maintain the noble custom by which boys or youths, customarily termed servers, provide service of the altar after the manner of acolytes, and receive catechesis regarding their function in accordance with their power of comprehension. Nor should it be forgotten that a great number of sacred ministers over the course of the centuries have come from among boys such as these (47).
Girls or women may also be admitted to this service of the altar, at the discretion of the diocesan bishop and in observance of the established norms (47).
The sentence “Nor should it be forgotten that a great number of sacred ministers over the course of the centuries have come from among boys such as these” particularly grabbed my attention. To me, this is another way of saying “if it works, don’t fix it.”
I keep hearing that the Catholic Church needs good holy priests, and if this is a way to increase chances of getting more priests, I’m all for it. I suspect the girl altar servers won’t suffer permanent psychological damage if they are relieved of this duty.
Another article I read somewhere observed that many more boys are willing to become altar servers if only males are accepted as such. That’s not politically correct. But the Catholic Church, the Church I believe in, isn’t a democracy. We have a pope, a magisterium, sacred Tradition and a mighty God! We need to be obedient in our Church where it’s requested and be more discerning in picking our battles, for example, where real admonishment is necessary and in fact a work of mercy.