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No more altar girls?

Emily Klejeski | Tuesday, October 14, 2003

I was sorry to see the frustration expressed in Anna Nussbaum’s Oct. 10 letter. While this issue is open to legitimate debate, I’d like to offer reasons the Church might decide to disallow female altar servers (which, I should add, they haven’t yet).

The fact is, boys and girls are different. Girls are natural volunteers; they jump in and help wherever needed. It’s hard to find an area of parish ministry that isn’t mostly performed by women anymore, and more power to them. The unfortunate fallout is that religion is often viewed as women’s domain. All too common is the Mass where the priest is the only prominent male, looking rather cowed by the overwhelming female presence. Hardly the image of an “alter Christus” whose example boys may want to follow.

Having only altar boys provides boys a way to serve that appeals to them. In parishes where girls serve, they often overtake that ministry, while the boys drop out of what becomes yet another girls’ club. Giving the boys a chance to be boys at church is an opportunity to learn from the priest and each other about a faith of heroic sacrifice, a faith worth living and dying for and, yes, a faith even worth getting up earlier on Sunday for.

Historically, altar serving has been a stepping stone in training for the priesthood, and the Church would like to return to that tradition. The results of this were shown by the Arlington, Va. diocese, which has only male altar servers, and is now among the top two U.S. dioceses for priestly vocations.

Finally, I’d like to address a misconception the letter seems to imply. Our culture has misconstrued gender equality to consist of performing the same tasks. This reflects a demeaning, utilitarian view of the human person. Rather, we should understand that while men and women are intrinsically different, and thus serve Christ in different ways, the Church has always proclaimed their equal dignity. Remember that we uphold a woman as the highest created being (just look on top of the Dome).

Emily KlejeskisophomorePasquerilla East HallOct. 13