Is Altar service Holy Orders?

Title gets to the point. Thanks.

Do you have to be ordained to be an Altar Server?

No, you don’t have to be ordained. It used to be a part of the Minor Orders, but they have suppressed since the 1970s, though two are still around. There were four Minor Orders: acolyte (now altar server), exorcist, lector (now reader), and porter.

The Eastern Catholic Churches still have the Minor Orders.

An altar server is not an acolyte!

In the Latin Church, acolyte is the commissioned office that in most dioceses is reserved to seminarians. In my diocese it is for theological seminarians, that is, those who are in the second half of their training.

An altar server is a lay person who can be chosen by the pastor. An altar server fulfills the ministry of acolyte in the absence of a true acolyte.

Neither acolyte nor altar server are holy orders in the Latin Church. They are both carried out by lay persons. Acolyte used to be a minor order in the Latin Church. It was abolished with the rest of the minor orders.


Thanks for the correction and clarification!

The minor orders haven’t been abolished (nor can they be, as can be seen by a quick read of the 23rd Session of the Council of Trent), dude. :slight_smile: The 1983 Code of Canon Law makes provision for both acolytes and lectors (indicating that there are still those ordained to do such ministries). There are permanent acolytes in the Archdiocese where I live, as well as seminarians who are transitional acolytes.

Here’s what the Council of Trent puts forth on that issue:

Chapter II.

On the Seven Orders.

And whereas the ministry of so Holy a Priesthood is a divine thing; to the end that it might be exercised in a more worthy manner, and with greater veneration, it was suitable that, in the most well-ordered settlement of the Church, there should be several and diverse orders of ministers, to minister to the Priesthood, by virtue of their office; orders so distributed as that those already marked with the clerical tonsure should ascend through the lesser to the greater orders. For the Sacred Scriptures make open mention not only of priests, but also of deacons; and teach, in words the most weighty, what things are especially to be attended to in the Ordination thereof; and, from the very beginning of the Church, the names of the following Orders, and the ministrations proper to each one of them, are known to have been in use; to wit those of subdeacon, acolyte, exorcist, lector, and door-keeper; though these were not of equal rank: for the subdeaconship is classed amongst the greater Orders by the Fathers and Sacred Councils, wherein also we very often read of the other inferior Orders.

Canon II. If any one saith, that, besides the Priesthood, there are not in the Catholic Church other Orders, both greater and minor, by which, as by certain steps, advance is made unto the Priesthood; let him be anathema.

Decree on Reformation. Chapter XVII.

In what manner the exercise of the minor orders is to be restored.

That the functions of holy orders, from the deacon to the janitor,-which functions have been laudably received in the Church from the times of the apostles, and which have been for some time interrupted in very many places,-may be again brought into use in accordance with the sacred canons; and that they may not be traduced by heretics as useless; the holy Synod, burning with the desire of restoring the pristine usage, ordains that, for the future, such functions shall not be exercised but by those who are actually in the said orders; and It exhorts in the Lord all and each of the prelates of the churches, and commands them, that it be their care to restore the said functions, as far as it can be conveniently done, in the cathedral, collegiate, and parochial churches of their dioceses, where the number of the people and the revenues of the church can support it; and, to those who exercise those functions, they shall assign salaries out of some part of the revenues of any simple benefices, or those of the fabric of the church,-if the funds allow of it,-or out of the revenues of both together, of which stipends they may, if negligent, be mulcted in a part, or be wholly deprived thereof, according to the judgment of the Ordinary. And if there should not be unmarried clerics at hand to exercise the functions of the four minor orders, their place may be supplied by married clerics of approved life; provided they have not been twice married, be competent to discharge the said duties, and wear the tonsure and the clerical dress in church.

– Nicole


Minor orders are no longer orders, and men are no longer ordained to these ministries.

Welcome to the 20th century.


Have we gone back in time?!

Tell that to Archbishop Joseph Naumann. He ordained a permanent acolyte in the last two years.

– Nicole

You’ll need to provide a source stating that. Because my sources say that acolytes were installed.

Have we gone back in time?!

Tongue in cheek. Of course it is the 21st century now, but when one wakes up from Trent, one takes it a few centuries at a time.

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