Female Acolyte


#1

As far as I’m aware, female acolytes are not instituted or permitted within the Catholic Church however there is a particular parish in my diocese which seems to allow female acolytes. On the limited occasions that I have visited the parish I have noticed this. How can this be? Is there a possible explanation to this? Surely by now I imagine the Bishops in my diocese are aware of this and would have stopped this practice if it isn’t allowed.
:confused:


#2

[quote="future_deacon, post:1, topic:310302"]
As far as I'm aware, female acolytes are not instituted or permitted within the Catholic Church however there is a particular parish in my diocese which seems to allow female acolytes. On the limited occasions that I have visited the parish I have noticed this. How can this be? Is there a possible explanation to this? Surely by now I imagine the Bishops in my diocese are aware of this and would have stopped this practice if it isn't allowed.
:confused:

[/quote]

Might these have simply been female alter servers?


#3

[quote="Tietjen, post:2, topic:310302"]
Might these have simply been female alter servers?

[/quote]

That is my thought too. One of the parishes we used to attend had both female and male "acolytes." In reality these were just adult altar servers, but they wanted to dress it up and differentiate the adults from the children that served the altar. Call it what they might our diocese doesn't have instituted acolytes regardless of gender.


#4

The assumptions above are most likely correct. Institution as an Acolyte requires one to be male. There is no gender-based requirement for altar servers. In a case where the name "Acolyte" is used, unless they are "instituted", they are simply altar servers. Based on that, the gender of a non-instituted Acolyte is irrelevant.


#5

Paul VI envisioned installed acolytes taking over the duties of the subdeacon when he suppressed that order in Ministeria Quaedam.

For whatever reason, installation of acolytes never formally caught on, and the duties reserved to it (and the installed reader) fell largely on the shoulders of unofficially-appointed altar servers and lectors, I suppose because of the difficulty of coordinating such appointments at the diocesan level.

Strictly speaking there is nothing wrong with this in the ordinary form, though it is not ideal for women to serve at the altar. I believe Ecclesia Dei ruled a while ago, though, that women could not take the place of subdeacons in the extraordinary form of the Mass in order to head off the very strange possibility of a woman vested as a priest.


#6

In many Christian denominations, an acolyte is anyone who performs ceremonial duties such as lighting altar candles. In others, the term is used for one who has been inducted into a particular liturgical ministry, even when not performing those duties.

The word acolyte *is derived from the Greek word ἀκόλουθος (*akolouthos), meaning an attendant, via Late Latin acolythus.


#7

In the Eastern Orthodox Church and Eastern Catholic Churches, the nearest equivalent of acolyte is the altar server. At one time there was a rank of minor clergy called the taper-bearer responsible for bearing lights during processions and liturgical entrances. However, this rank has long ago been subsumed by that of the reader and the service for the tonsure of a reader begins with the setting-aside of a taper-bearer.

The functions of an acolyte or taper-bearer are therefore carried out by readers, subdeacons, or by non-tonsured men or boys who are sometimes called "acolytes" informally. Also, the term "altar-boys" is often used to refer to young altar servers. Subdeacons wear their normal vestments consisting of the sticharion and crossed orarion; readers and servers traditionally wear the sticharion alone.

In recent times, however, in many of the North American Greek Orthodox Churches, for the sake of uniformity, readers have been permitted to wear the orarion (The Bishop presents the reader, who is to serve on the altar, with the orarion). Readers do not cross the orarion while wearing it, the uncrossed orarion being intended to slightly distinguish a reader from a subdeacon.

In the Russian tradition, readers wear only the sticharion, and do not wear the orarion unless they have been specially blessed to by their bishop. (This might be done if a reader must occasionally serve in the role of a subdeacon, or for some other reason the bishop believes is fitting.) If a server has not been tonsured, he must remove the sticharion before he can receive Holy Communion.

In the early church, a taper-bearer was not permitted to enter the sanctuary, only a subdeacon or above was allowed to go in. Nowadays, however, servers are permitted to go in, but they are not permitted either to touch the Holy Table or the Table of Oblation.


#8

Until 1972, the acolyte was the holder of the highest of four minor orders. By Pope Paul VI's motu proprio Ministeria quaedam of 15 August 1972, the term "minor orders" has been replaced by that of "ministries". Two such ministries, those of reader and acolyte are to be kept throughout the Latin Church. A prescribed interval, as decided by the Holy See and the national episcopal conference, is to be observed between receiving them. Candidates for diaconate and for priesthood must receive both ministries and exercise them for some time before receiving holy orders. The two ministries are not reserved solely for candidates for holy orders, but can be conferred only on men. The ministries are conferred by the ordinary: either a bishop or, in the case of clerical religious institutes, a major superior.

The motu proprio assigned to the acolyte the functions previously reserved for the subdeacon, and national episcopal conferences are free to use the term "subdeacon" in place of that of "acolyte". The functions of the acolyte are specified in the motu proprio, and have been indicated also in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, no. 98, which says: "The acolyte is instituted to serve at the altar and to assist the priest and deacon. In particular, it is his responsibility to prepare the altar and the sacred vessels and, if it is necessary, as an extraordinary minister, to distribute the Eucharist to the faithful. In the ministry of the altar, the acolyte has his own functions (cf. nos. 187-193), which he must perform personally."

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal adds: "In the absence of an instituted acolyte, lay ministers may be deputed to serve at the altar and assist the priest and the deacon; they may carry the cross, the candles, the thurible, the bread, the wine, and the water, and they may also be deputed to distribute Holy Communion as extraordinary ministers."

The term "instituted acolyte", which does not appear in the 1972 motu proprio, is used in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal to distinguish those on whom the ministry has been conferred with the prescribed rite from others who, while sometimes called acolytes, are less ambiguously referred to as altar servers. While, in the absence of an instituted acolyte, an altar server (male or female) may perform most of an acolyte's functions, some are reserved for an instituted acolyte alone. Thus only an instituted acolyte is authorized to purify, wipe and arrange the sacred vessels after Holy Communion.


#9

Thanks to all those who answered. Going on the answers, I would have to say that they use adult altar servers. Which I think is still weird because they could use children from the local catholic school. :thumbsup:


#10

That's a presumption. Altar servers do not have to be children, nor should they preferably be children either. Adult altar servers carry with them a wealth of experience, which is especially valuable in important positions such as Master of Ceremonies, so it is good to have at least a few of them. On the other hand, the experience of being an altar server is a deeply enriching one for the youth and can inspire them to take up a priestly vocation, and having many of them maximises the chances that one of them will feel the calling, which is why they usually (and should) make up the bulk of the manpower. Hence, both adults and children are important.

My diocese only has male altar servers, so apart from this, I can't contribute much of my personal experience to this discussion. :)


#11

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