A Catholic woman writes about women in the sanctuary

A guest post from a Catholic lady:

“When I was in my teens my parish was one of the last parishes in the diocese to have an all male sacristy.  I remember when the parish priest broke the ancient tradition and allowed girls to serve at the altar. A few girls signed up and as is so often the case, many of the boys stopped serving.

From the start the girls looked out of place, indecent in their altar robes – earthy, pagan, and distracting. The elegance of an all male sacristy was gone. And for what?  The girls who served, while well intended, I’m sure, had broken into a man’s role and it didn’t suit them, it never does.  It was painfully obvious, the girls allowed to begin a path which they could never fulfill, the priesthood, were superfluous.

I have heard that when a woman enters into a all male arena the men act differently. I can not know this firsthand but I believe it. My husband disliked serving at the altar with girls and said the atmosphere in the sacristy just wasn’t the same. I’d argue that the entire atmosphere of the parish is affected as well the women are misguided and their feminine roles neglected.

Our family attends the Traditional Latin Mass. Where the tradition of an all male sacristy has been preserved. No lectors, no extraordinary ministers, no altar girls. An elegance remains, there is a sense of peace and happiness within each respective role, not resentment or envy.

With the men and boys serving at the altar, ushering and taking up these roles the women are free and encouraged to take up their roles. An altar guild has been organized. The women clean the church,  sew and repair vestments, replace prayer candles, tend the Marian garden, take care of the flowers on the altar, decorate the church for high feasts. No,  it is not serving at the altar, there is no feminine equivalent to that and so what? These duties are still important and women shouldn’t have to, shouldn’t be encouraged to, masquerade as men to feel involved in the parish or to foster religious vocations. It helps no one.”



9 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Roman Lance on June 4, 2017 at 5:30 am

    This is what happens in my parish. Though at the Novus ordo, within the same church building, women routinely walk around the altar, etc.. My boys hate it, my wife hates it.

    But we are told to respect it…blah blah.


    Gives us a male space, damn it. Frig! Something please…just leave us be!


  2. Posted by Julian O'Dea on June 4, 2017 at 12:19 pm

    “earthy, pagan, and distracting”

    Yes. This is the initial reaction one has. At first one might regard this as simply due to the novelty. But it doesn’t wear off. There remains an atavistic sense that it looks and is wrong, perhaps because of the associations with pagan priestesses.

    Also women are spectacle. They can’t help this. But everybody automatically finds the appearance of women intriguing and distracting.

    Lastly, I have known even secular and liberal women express the view that it feels more natural to have a man represent the community. Women are derived beings in our foundation stories whereas men represent the species Man. Christ came as a man, not a woman, presumably for a related reason.


    • Posted by Glengarry on June 4, 2017 at 7:46 pm

      Have you made the acquaintance of any female priests? A year or so ago, I had the opportunity of meeting and chatting with a handful of them on a vacation resort for a week. While the lesbians should be burned at the stake, even the non-degenerate ones were simply unsuitable as community spiritual leaders.

      I think with a bit of post-hoc pondering on female psychology, emotion before rationality and principles, lability and neurosis, etc, it seems fairly clear why.


      • Posted by Glengarry on June 4, 2017 at 7:51 pm

        On a lighter note, it was a bit like The Vicar of Dibley with Dawn French, except for real. And without the laugh track and writers forcing good endings. OK, not all that light after all.

      • Posted by Julian O'Dea on June 4, 2017 at 9:38 pm

        No. Never. Being a Catholic, I don’t come across females in this role. Altar girls are as far as it goes and women reading the epistle.

        I did follow the introduction of females into positions in the Anglican Church including here in Australia. Oddly I saw altar girls in that church because I was with an Anglican girl once. This was before women were allowed to be priests in that denomination.

        It is hard for women in ministry to retain credibility and sound dogma. Not simply because women tend to stray by their nature but because they are appointed for unsound reasons and they start off as embodied error themselves.

      • Posted by Glengarry on June 4, 2017 at 10:28 pm

        Good point. You basically by definition have to start out with a certain class of women, those who don’t take the dogma seriously. The ones I talked to didn’t, but furthermore gave no signs of any theological depth in the first place.

      • Posted by Julian O'Dea on June 4, 2017 at 10:52 pm

        I am not sure how relevant it is, but I am reminded of a remark made by a woman blogger I used to be friendly with, to the effect that one shouldn’t accord any woman the status of “honorary man”. Women, even the most reasonable, remain women.

        There is a temptation which some church people fall into to say, in effect, well this girl will be OK on the altar or this woman would make a good priest because she is a fine person. But a woman is still a woman and she retains her female propensities. This is why the hard line the Catholic Church runs is best. Exceptions cannot be made even for the best women. Because, even in a human sense, a woman cannot fully escape her nature.

  3. Posted by fuzziewuzziebear on June 5, 2017 at 4:19 am

    While I have never met a female priest, I did meet a female rabbi. She was unaware that The Ark of the Covenant was physically dangerous to people handling it.


    • Posted by Julian O'Dea on June 5, 2017 at 4:27 am

      Well, I wouldn’t condemn her for that. But the fact is that being a priest or a rabbi is one of the most “gendered” occupations there is. It has always been a man’s job. Naturally enough, women don’t do it well. It’s like asking a woman to be a father.


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