Instituted Acolytes - Men Only?

Okay, so this question is being spawned from 2 other threads regarding the directive about EMHCs and communion vessels.

It was suggested that a way to “get around” this directive would be to just “institute” as acolytes all the EMHCs, sacristans, altar servers, etc. who may currently be performing the duty of purifying the sacred vessels after mass.

But in looking up the ministry of acolyte, it seems that it is reserved to men only, even though it is clearly a lay role/faculty/ministry (the minor orders were suppressed in 1972).

Even though the church says that women cannot receive orders (because of some kind of ontological barrier), this same reasoning cannot apply to receiving the ministry of acolytes, since women are clearly lay people and acolyte is clearly a lay role.

Is there another reason for reserving this ministry to men? Or is the church being blatently discriminatory against women?

It is mostly because it is proper that only men serve in the sanctuary. All allowances for women in any liturgical role does not negate the ideal. There are many threads on the issue of only men in the sanctuary so I will not go into the whys at the moment.

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 .

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).

Your thinking may be correct. IMO, The ability of women to be instituted into the offices is a rule of Canon Law and could be changed. It won’t be any time soon, but could be.

Acolyte is the highest of the traditional minor orders a man attained on the road to priesthood. There were four minor orders. Here they are listed from lowest rank to highest rank.

  1. Porter
  2. Reader
  3. Exorcist
  4. Acolyte

After which there were the major orders.

  1. Subdeacon
  2. Deacon
  3. Priest

Since it is an order on the road to the priesthood, I can see the logic in reserving it for men only.

Yes, it could nominally be changed, but since the lay role of Acolyte is a direct counterpart to a clerical role in both the Eastern Catholic Churches AND the Orthodox Churches any change would be antagonistic to those churches.

I think we can all agree that placing additional barriers to reconciliation with the Eastern Churches would not be ecumenically beneficial.

So it would be more in line to Vatican II’s Decree on Ecumenicalism to hold any discussions on the institution of women into any Stable Ministry should be best held until all our Churches are unified.

From what I have seen, it seems that only seminarians as they move through Theology are actually instituted as readers and acolytes anyway (leading to the joke of calling them “very mister” and “most mister”). elsewhere, everyone just stays as a lector or Altar server.

I think that in a lot of places, men moving through diaconate formation are also instituted as lectors and acolytes around the time they have about a year left before ordination.

Unfortunately there is the thinking that women should be able to serve as men in all situations. This is not a Catholic thought, but secular thinking infiltrating the Christian mindset.
Anyone who is obedient to Christ looks for obedient ways to serve Him and preserve truth. Modern non-christian thinking is that anyone who wants to help should be able to do what they want. It is hard to get away from the secular mindset as it is part of our culture and if you really want to help you should be able to.

This is answered by making one example, that just because a prostitute might satisfy a husband sexually it is not her place or the right thing to do.
Everyone has a place even in secular thought.

This is even more important in the Christian mindset. We each have our place to serve God, not as we desire but as ordered by God.
So men cannot serve in the image of women and women cannot serve in the image of Christ\a priest. This transfers down from Jesus to Bishop on down to Acolyte. As those are all priestly functions.

Any women who is truly obedient to Christ looks at her life as service not as oppression. This is so different from modern secular thought that many nuns even have a problem understanding their proper place of service in the Church. Even as some priests do that they are servants of God and the people, not servants of their own desires.

This can be expanded, to tradition small “t” as many have substituted the thinking of tradition to custom\preference. Small t traditions are a reflection of truth. Changing them to not reflect truth is wrong, changing them to better reflect truth is ok.
So expanding a Baptistry to be able to immerse is ok.
Changing the Crucifix for a Dove is misrepresenting truth, and wrong, no matter how well intentioned.

In the same way Acolytes, Deacons, Priests, Bishops must be men, as they are a reflection of the male priesthood of Jesus

God Bless

In many places “it was an order on the road to the priesthood”. But the 1972 Motu Proprio Ministeria Quaedam of Pope Paul VI had:
“Generally, though not every where, these minor orders were reserved to those who received them as steps toward the priesthood.”

And it changed the situation with: “3. Ministries may be assigned to lay Christians; hence they are no longer to be considered as reserved to candidates for the sacrament of orders.”

The full document is at .

Brian wrote: “From what I have seen, it seems that only seminarians as they move through Theology are actually instituted as readers and acolytes anyway (leading to the joke of calling them “very mister” and “most mister”). elsewhere, everyone just stays as a lector or Altar server.”

In some places, but for example Bishop Robert Vasa wrote on 22 September 2006 about how he instituted men who are not seminarians and the importance of doing so. His article is at .

Even if men are instituted as acolytes while seminarians or during formation as deacons, a fair percentage will not continue to ordination but will remain instituted acolytes.

Bp Bruskewitz institutes non seminary men into the orders of Acolyte and Lector. It would horrify me if the rule were to change and open it up to women. It would be carried way way way way way way way overboard in Liberal dioceses and we would have hordes of women mini priests running all over the sanctuary. Changing the rule is just asking for big time trouble and further problems with the shortage of priests. Perhaps its time to do away with EMHCs and get on with life. Or perhaps close the minor orders to those who are on their way to holy orders…

mea culpa, I tend to forget deacons. which is a sign of a church or at least nation-wide problem of forgetting the sacred place of the deacon.

Minor correction:

Subdeacon is a minor order and not in the catagory of major orders. One does not receive a major order untill they actually receive Holy Orders through the imposition of hands at the Deaconate.

Bishop Vasa hit the nail on the head at the end of his letter, and this can be applied to any contemporary liturgical issue:

"One would be inclined to believe, in light of the opposition to this implementation, that some in the Church truly do not desire an implementation of the Second Vatican Council but rather only an incomplete, politically correct, implementation of what they believe should be implemented and any other ‘interpretation’ is simply rejected as a “giant leap backward.”

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