Women as lectors in the Ordinariate?

Everywhere I go in Catholic Churches,  I see women lectors, altar girls and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, often in situations where there are enough clergy to do the job.

In my little parish, however, the only time I publicly read anything was during an Advent Lessons and Carols service.   Women and girls are not in the sanctuary during Mass.  I prefer it that way.

Father Z has launched a discussion on his blog about women lectors.  He writes:

First, only men are instituted, “official” lectors. Women can only substitute for them in their absence. Thus, they are an permitted exception to the rule.

Second, the very idea of women entering the sanctuary to perform a liturgical role is a historical oddity.

Third, we need a deeper understanding of “active participation”.

Fourth, because the lectorate has always been a step to Holy Orders, women reading in the sanctuary can be seen by some as a step to the ordination of women to the priesthood.

 

I know some women lectors who proclaim the words of Scripture beautifully, with meaning and grace.  I also know women who act as EMHCs who are wonderful Catholics but are not sticklers for traditional liturgy.

What is the practice in other Ordinariate parishes?

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15 Responses to Women as lectors in the Ordinariate?

  1. cav513 says:

    At St. Athanasius in Boston, women as well as men serve as readers during Mass; there are several lay people who serve in a rotation.

  2. Ioannes says:

    Thankfully, Fr. Bartus’ group in Santa Ana, California, is devoid of women at the Sanctuary. There were Oratorians and other priests assisting the last time I attended Mass with them.

    First, let me say: The issue of female lectors is morally neutral; but we are obliged to follow any proclamation coming from valid and competent authority. (The same that allowed the establishment of the Ordinariates.)

    Traditionalists resist against the presence of women at the Sanctuary. It’s not misogyny, or contempt for the abilities of women, or based upon profound hatred of women (If this is so, then perhaps our devotions to the Mother of God is a ruse, and I should stop praying the Rosary.) but a fight against the feminization of our religion, and instead putting forward a vigorous, vital, and masculine religion, the same which would prefer courageous martyrdom and boldness rather than comfort, flaccidity, weakness, anemia, and lack of confidence in its own teachings.

  3. Although we’re not an Ordinariate parish, we’ve been in existence for quite a while as an Anglican Use parish, and in our thirty years we have had no female lectors or servers, nor have any of our girls or women ever expressed the desire to serve in such a capacity.

  4. Paul Nicholls ofs says:

    The Sodality of the Good Shepherd only uses male lectors and servers. I had the privilege of serving as lector at an Advent Service of Carols and Lessons, although I was not a former licensed lector or former member of the ACCC, having become RC many years ago after leaving the ACC, The practice of using male lectors and altar servers will continue and the members of this congregation, both male and female, prefer this. I have posted pictures of our mass at http://oshawaordinariate.blogspot.ca/2013/01/epiphany-mass-at-good-shepherd.html , so that you can see for yourself.

  5. Pingback: Women as lectors in the Ordinariate? | Catholic Canada

  6. Rev22:17 says:

    Deborah,

    You wrote: Everywhere I go in Catholic Churches, I see women lectors, altar girls and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, often in situations where there are enough clergy to do the job.

    In my little parish, however, the only time I publicly read anything was during an Advent Lessons and Carols service. Women and girls are not in the sanctuary during Mass. I prefer it that way.

    The competence of the minister is much more important than the sex (gender) of the minister. I much prefer that the reader be a competent female than an incompetent male.

    From your quotation: First, only men are instituted, “official” lectors. Women can only substitute for them in their absence. Thus, they are an permitted exception to the rule.

    In the Catholic dioceses of the United States (and probably also in Canada and most of the rest of the developed world), the only persons actually being installed in the official ministries of Lector and Acolyte are seminarians studying for ordination. Those who leave the seminary after receiving these ministries are generally relatively small in number, and there is no obligation for the diocesan bishop to give them faculties for the exercise of these ministries. In fact, the circumstances under which they leave the seminary frequently are compelling reasons to withdraw such faculties, and many diocesan bishops undoubtedly find it more expedient to withdraw such faculties pro forma rather than trying to explain why they might withdraw faculties from one daparting seminarian and not from another. Thus, the practical reality is that very few parishes have members who hold current faculties for the exercise of these ministries.

    The present law of the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church permits qualified members of the lay faithful to fulfill these ministries whenever installed ministers with faculties to exercise these ministries are not available, which is the typical scenario in most Catholic parishes. This provision of the law makes no distinction whatsoever between males and females.

    The law governing extraordinary ministers of communion also states that persons installed in the ministry of acolyte, with current faculties for the exercise of that ministry, and members of religious orders should take precendence over other members of the lay faithful when it is necessary to use extraordinary ministers of communion. But again, there are very few parishes that have such individuals and the law permitting lay people to fulfill this ministry makes no distinction whatsoever between males and females.

    From your quotation: Second, the very idea of women entering the sanctuary to perform a liturgical role is a historical oddity.

    This is certainly true if one looks at the second millennium, but it’s not so clear that it was an oddity during the first century. The ancient Greeks held women in very high esteem, so it is not clear that they would have excluded women from such roles.

    From your quotation: Third, we need a deeper understanding of “active participation”.

    Yes, I agree completely — but this is true not only of the ordinariates, but also of the whole church. One of the reasons why many women seek ordination in the first place is a rightly motivated desire for “active participation” in places where “active participation” by the laity is deficient.

    From your quotation: Fourth, because the lectorate has always been a step to Holy Orders, women reading in the sanctuary can be seen by some as a step to the ordination of women to the priesthood.

    The clear intent of the Second Vatican Council was to dissociate the ministries formerly regarded as “minor orders” from the path to ordination and to entrust those ministries to qualified members of the laity.

    You wrote: What is the practice in other Ordinariate parishes?

    I suspect that many of the ordinariate parishes will begin to admit women to these ministries over some period of time, as permitted by the present law of the Catholic Church that governs such matters. Of course, there is no compulsion for any ordinariate parish to do so.

    Having said that, women who exercise these ministries should wear the same vesture as men who exercise these ministries.

    >> The alb, being the robe of baptism, is the liturgical vesture proper to all laity who exercise any liturgical ministry.

    >> It is permissible for lay persons to wear a surplice (which is a shorter version of the alb) over a cassock in lieu of an alb.

    Of course, cassocks worn by women must be tailored to fit their figures and thus would be cut differently than cassocks worn by men.

    Norm.

    • cav513 says:

      I am not sure that it is “The clear intent of the Second Vatican Council…to dissociate the ministries formerly regarded as “minor orders” from the path to ordination”, as it was not a document of Vatican II that abolished the minor orders, but Pope Paul VI in a motu proprio. And while it is true that only those on the path to ordination are instituted as lectors and acolytes (thus acting counter to Pope Paul’s intent) in practice, I think that is largely because the hierarchy has been afraid of what would be said if we did have only men serving in these roles (being male is a requirement for institution to the two ministries).

      • Stephen K says:

        Well, it is true that it was Ministeria Quaedam that explicitly disassociated the minor orders from priestly training, but I think Norm’s point still holds. The fact is that since the Motu Proprio they are so disassociated and likely to remain so for all the reasons Norm outlines. If you consider the relevant paragraphs in Sacrosanctum Concilium you will see that even there in embryonic form is the intent to increase and diversify the roles of “the faithful” in the promotion of active participation. And though Pope Paul said that the roles of leader and acolyte were reserved to men, this was “in accordance with ancient tradition”. In other words, the reservation is not proposed as anything intrinsic. Traditions can be and often are replaced by practices that may or may not become new traditions. Really, I fail to see why having a woman read the Readings is so unacceptable or so abhorrent. As Norm implies, the effectiveness of the proclamation of the Scriptures and edification of the congregation might reasonably be thought greater from a competent female than an incompetent male.

      • Rev22:17 says:

        cav513,

        You said: I am not sure that it is “The clear intent of the Second Vatican Council…to dissociate the ministries formerly regarded as “minor orders” from the path to ordination”, as it was not a document of Vatican II that abolished the minor orders, but Pope Paul VI in a motu proprio.

        Yes, you are technically correct that it was a papal document (in this instance, motu proprio) that actually implemented the reform — but this is true of every reform directed or suggested by the Second Vatican Council.

        You said: And while it is true that only those on the path to ordination are instituted as lectors and acolytes (thus acting counter to Pope Paul’s intent) in practice, I think that is largely because the hierarchy has been afraid of what would be said if we did have only men serving in these roles (being male is a requirement for institution to the two ministries).

        The decade after the Second Vatican Council formally closed (1966-1975) really was a period of “sorting out” the implications of the reforms on many levels. It’s quite interesting to look at the earliest “back and forth” between competing values. The original decree allowing episcopal conferences to authorize women to serve as readers, for example, required the episcopal conferences to designate a place, at least presumably outside the sanctuary, from which such women would proclaim the readings. Here in the States, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) voted to authorize this, and then went on to say that women who fulfill this ministry should proclaim the scriptures from the same place that men do because the symbol of reserving a single place for the proclamation of scripture is more important than the person, male or female, of the minister. This decision obviously drew objections from traditionalists in the Vatican, but it ultimately won the Vatican’s approval. Most other episcopal conferences subsequently adopted the same policy, at least in the west.

        That said, your point of bishops deciding to limit the formal ministries of lector and acolyte to candidates for ordination due to the restriction in the prevailing law is quite correct. There has been some discussion recently about removing the restriction and conferring these ministries much more broadly on qualified laity, both male and female, in order to bring about the real intent of the reform, but I’m not sure where that stands.

        Norm.

  7. EPMS says:

    It is entertaining to read the 99 comments on this posting at Fr Z’s blog, most of them expressing anti-woman sentiments (including those apparently by women) and contrast that with Mrs Gyapong’s observation that female readers, servers, and EMHCs are “everywhere.” Does the Ordinariate wish to become a sanctuary, in both senses, for those seeking a “masculine” religion, apparently a niche market?

    • Ioannes says:

      To be fair, you can have a sanctuary full of men and the entire affair becomes effeminate. I recall from a certain documentary (Which had featured Fr. Phillips and his lovely family, and other married priests) interviewing a bishop whose name I had forgotten, that the homosexual culture in seminaries have driven away good men from the priesthood.

      So it’s not necessarily the presence of women. But on the other extreme side, we certainly can’t have women with close-cropped hair and call themselves “Pat” “Chris” or “Mel” go around the Sanctuary with cassocks thinking they’re “one of the guys”. See, the presence of women in the sanctuary will only make things so complicated.

      Now, the Ordinariates, I don’t think, left the mess which is Anglicanism, to end up with the problematic mess facing the Catholic Church. Can no one really see what the Ordinariates are offering here? They are given a clean slate! It’s like a new start for them, but bringing with them something old and venerable for the good of the whole Church! Are they destined to become another detestable diocese with nothing going on for it but mediocrity and banality? I think not! These men and women sacrificed lofty positions and relationships from their previous communities because they believe the Catholic Church is worth joining! I know that they did not make a mistake.

      Church attendance in the liberal, modernist churches is going down either because the young had left, and the old are dying; there will be little in their collection plates. Traditional Catholicism, which encourages full immersion in the faith, large families from which many priests will come, and faith beyond the pews, unimpeded by the heresies of modernism is destined to regain its rightful place in the Catholic Church! I believe the Ordinariates are a part of this great momentum!

  8. Not Joe Biden says:

    At St. Thomas More in Scranton about half the lectors are female and they all proclaim the Word with dignity and grace. The lectern is located in front of the altar rail on the epistle side, so that only those who serve at the altar are within the sanctuary during Mass.

    Proclaiming the Word of God is a responsibility for every Christian and should not be seen as simply a task for clergy. Every Christian, after all, participates in some degree with Christ as Priest, Prophet, and King.

    It should be entirely uncontroversial that the feminine genius ought to be welcomed in service to the people of God in every possible form. Impossible forms being, of course, only the sacramental Holy Orders. Forms that touch most obviously on the roles of Priest, Prophet, and King in their sacred ministerial forms need only prudence applied to avoid confusion (for example, calling only boys to serve at the altar during Mass but welcoming women to care for the altar before and afterwards).

  9. Joe Catholic says:

    FYI, if you see a female on the altar in a Catholic church, you’re in the wrong (not Catholic) church. Altar girls, female lectors, and so on is anathema. Yes, they do it a lot now in these whacked out churches, but it’s been papally condemned dozens of times (and therefore contradicts Catholicism) and has never been a problem until past several decades. In other words, it’s a brand new innovation. Stay clear.

    • Ioannes says:

      At least no women were wearing chasubles or stoles. I could think of worse things people can do. In fact, I’ve seen some of them. Things that made me physically, literally nauseous and forced me to leave the “mass”. So the altar girls, female lectors, yeah, I disagree with those, but that’s small-league.

    • Rev22:17 says:

      Joe Catholic,

      You wrote: FYI, if you see a female on the altar in a Catholic church, you’re in the wrong (not Catholic) church. Altar girls, female lectors, and so on is anathema.

      Unfortunately, you are misinformed here. A couple decades ago, the Vatican began approving particular law adopted by several conferences of bishops that allow women to serve in all liturgical ministries proper to the laity, including the ministry of altar server, in the territories of those conferences of bishops. At least in Europe and the Americas, nearly all of the conferences of bishops have now adopted this practice.

      Norm.

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