The 1972 Motu Proprio Ministeria Quaedam has: “7. In accordance with the ancient tradition of the Church, institution to the ministries of reader and acolyte is reserved to men.”
OK, its a tradition, but why? I suppose the issue is why does the Church see gender as an issue in determining the suitability of people for particular ministries.
The 2004 letter of Cardinal Ratzinger “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the collaboration of men and women in the Church and in the World” includes:
“8. … Furthermore, the importance and the meaning of sexual difference, as a reality deeply inscribed in man and woman, needs to be noted. “Sexuality characterizes man and woman not only on the physical level, but also on the psychological and spiritual, making its mark on each of their expressions”.
[Footnote 11: Congregation for Catholic Education, Educational Guidance in Human Love (November 1, 1983), 4.]
It cannot be reduced to a pure and insignificant biological fact, but rather “is a fundamental component of personality, one of its modes of being, of manifestation, of communicating with others, of feeling, of expressing and of living human love”.
[Footnote 12: Congregation for Catholic Education, Educational Guidance in Human Love (November 1, 1983), 4.]
This capacity to love – reflection and image of God who is Love – is disclosed in the spousal character of the body, in which the masculinity or femininity of the person is expressed.”
The full document is at vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20040731_collaboration_en.html .
The ministry of instituted acolyte includes aspects of leadership in the absence of a priest and deacon. Leading ceremonies of exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.
“An acolyte or reader who by formal institution has this special office in the Church is rightly preferred over another layperson as the minister designated a the discretion of the local Ordinary to impart certain blessings.” (Book of Blessings, Book of Blessings, Liturgical Press, Minnesota, 1989, ISBN 0-8146-1875-8, Introduction, n. 18).
He has priority to lead Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest, if a deacon is absent: “Those to be chosen first by the pastor are readers and acolytes who have been duly instituted for the service of the altar and the word of God. If there are no such instituted ministers available, other laypersons, men and women, may be appointed;” (Directions for Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest, 1988, n. 30).