Can a non-Catholic serve as an Altar server?


Can someone who was raised as a Catholic but no longer identifies serve as an altar server, refraining from doing any liturgical readings and receiving the eucharist? This would be at a church with a severe lack of membership. The tasks such as; carrying candles, ringing the bells, or taking the offertory basket to the back, or directing new altar servers on how to properly perform different roles?


Not unless said Catholic went to confession and resumed the practice of the faith.


I have attended many a funeral in which lapsed catholics would do a reading.I’m guessing that they were never vetted.


Such ideas would guarantee “a severe lack of membership.”


No. You would be better off with the priest doing everything himself.


People are being very short with answers.

Can the original poster give us some more information? Is this a one-time event, or a regular function? Why would someone in this position want to be a server? Any information would be helpful.


One time situation, Christmas Eve Mass, a visiting bishop. There are younger people who can do the actual serving but do not know how/when the “special stuff” (like incense, differences in bishop/priest, etc…) should be done. They just need to be pointed around, go here, go there, grab this, don’t forget this, this is coming.

The person was a long-time member of the community and nobody would second-guess them being on the altar. The reasons for low membership have to do with the area, not the altar servers [edited].


You asked the question and people gave their answers/opinions. I don’t see any rudeness in any of the answers. Maybe you should ask your pastor.


While this is ultimately up to the prudence of the celebrant, I would personally say it would be improper dependent upon the motivation of the server. The entire intent of serving is a participation in the liturgy on earth in reflection of the heavenly liturgy - the altar server is a type of a lesser angel serving the court of the heaven. If this individual would like to give praise to God [and since the Latin Church does not require ordination to enter the sanctuary] then it is proper. If the individual is simply doing it for any other motivation, as phil said, it is better that the celebrants serve themselves.

Again, these are questions of prudence. When in doubt, ask the priest. Hope that helps.


PaulfromIowa was the only rude one.


Keep in mind that an “altar server” is merely a “Straw” or Substitute Acolyte.
Traditionally, the acolyte was a minor order and would have been required to receive the Eucharist, much as a priest or deacon who was concelebrating or assisting.
If you cannot receive the eucharist, then what business have you in assisting the priest in offering the sacrifice? Ask yourself, is that right of me? Do I believe in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist? If you do, then go to confession, get right with the Lord, and serve at his table. If you don’t, then don’t approach the altar either as a communicant or an assistant.

Just my thoughts on it.

I pray for you on your journey and especially that you come back to your home, the Church.


I agree that the decision should be left to the pastor.

While it’s certainly not preferable that he is an altar server, given that he no longer practices the Faith, if we follow the strict interpretation some people are suggesting, the Church would be out of a lot of help.

I’ll give an example which may be more common: It’s entire acceptable to hire an organist who is not Catholic, if the parish does not have a volunteer who is able to play the organ. This is also true with other musicians. If we were to bar them from serving at Mass as musicians, we would be out of quite a bit of help.

However, since the music lends a certain amount of solemnity to the liturgy which is not possible without it, we hire non-Catholic musicians to play during the Mass.

By that train of thought, a Master of Ceremonies (or “Lead Altar Server,” or whatever title you prefer) lends a degree of solemnity to the Mass by his careful planning and knowledge of the liturgy. Although it would be preferable to have a Catholic serve in this role, I think that it would be acceptable to have a non-practicing Catholic do this, if that was the only option.


I saw a foreign reality show once where a non-observant Jew serves for Mass including the readings. He came away with a very positive view of the Catholic faith.

To my knowledge, there are no rubrics prohibiting it. They should be expected to perform all their duties including the responses. If they still want to serve, hallelujah! The prodigal son hasn’t repented yet but at least he’s come home.


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