Should females be excluded from being altar servers?

May I ask if having female altar servers is fundamentally wrong (at a theological level, e.g. no woman shall receive ordination)? Or is having all-male altar servers just a commendable practice (e.g. priests of the Latin rite are not married, but priests are technically allowed e.g. in the Eastern tradition)?

I asked this repeated question because when I read discussions and articles, the reasons given for encouraging all-male altar servers are usually, but not limited to:

  1. historically helps nurture priestly vocations as altars boys were seen as the priest’s apprentices
  2. boys tend to withdraw from altar serving if/when girls are included in this lay ministry
  3. girls should not dress as priests by wearing albs, surplices, cassocks, etc.
  4. boys and girls are equally children of God but are not identical and this would help children to realise their identities as males and females

Don’t get me wrong, these are** perfect** reasons why parishes should choose to restrict the right the serve the priest(s) at the altar to men and not to women. However, does the use of female servers actually disturbs the mass itself (e.g. clapping during mass, lay homily, etc.)?

Some articles or forum users go on to cite previous important theologians and priests on this matter for the notion that female servers should not be allowed, for example:

  1. Pope Gelasius (
  2. Liturgicae Instaurationes (
  3. Inaestimabile donum (

Then you would obviously get opposing opinions saying the female servers should be allowed, such as this (, or how female servers increase vocations to priesthood and gives women pathway to expressing love for Christ.

In my opinion, woman servers should only be used when absolutely necessary.

Also, in one of my previous posts in the forum (not on this topic), when I used the term “altar boys”, a user ‘corrected’ me to using the term “altar servers”, which is quite disappointing in my opinion. girls


Here we go again! :popcorn::popcorn: (I needed 2 bags of popcorn for this one )

This has been discussed ad nauseum on CAF; most of the threads get closed because of the lack of charity and the fact it’s been debated more times than I care to count. Here’s 4 of the more recent threads: (a quick search using “altar girl” will give you an idea of how many times this topic has been discussed and debated on here)

It is not wrong on a theological level as the Church is incapable of making such an error.

Altar servers receive no ordination.

:smiley: and I thought two bags would be enough!

For goodness sake, this topic has been discussed ad nauseam on this forum. Please do a search, believe me, you’ll have plenty of reading.

It’s allowed–end of discussion! :frowning:

:smiley: :popcorn::popcorn::popcorn: Pass me a beer, will ya?

Oh no, not **this **again??? :sleep:

How could the Church be incapable of making a theological error? This is what you are saying, right? I mean, doesn’t such a statement run the risk of being an human error in itself? Does the Church make such a claim about itself?

I prefer wine but you are welcome to a glass - I think we will see plenty of it here.

Those are just information… the important question I asked was actually…

Is having female altar servers is fundamentally wrong?

It should be a clear yes or no, lol.

EDIT: That means the question is not whether we should encourage all-male servers, but whether female servers are fundamentally acceptable. (I’ll take it as a yes from asia53)

It is allowed, but altar boys are given preference, through several means:

  1. Any bishop, pastor or celebrant has the option not to allow altar girls under their jurisdiction.
  2. Altar boys are given preference in may documents, including the following:

[quote=Redemptionis Sacramentum]47.It is altogether laudable to maintain the noble custom by which boys or youths, customarily termed servers, provide service of the altar after the manner of acolytes, and receive catechesis regarding their function in accordance with their power of comprehension. Nor should it be forgotten that a great number of sacred ministers over the course of the centuries have come from among boys such as these. Associations for them, including also the participation and assistance of their parents, should be established or promoted, and in such a way greater pastoral care will be provided for the ministers.

[quote=Prot. N.2451/00/L]In accord with the above cited instructions of the Holy See, such an authorization may not in any way exclude men or, in particular, boys from service at the altar nor require that priests of the diocese would make use of female altar servers, since “it will always be very appropriate to follow the noble tradition of having boys serve at the altar” (circular letter, 2). Indeed, the obligation to support groups of altar boys will always remain, not least of all due to the well*-known assistance that such programs have provided since time immemorial in encouraging future priestly vocations (cf. ibid.).

It then continues with a cautious tone reguarding allowing females to serve:

[quote=Prot. N.2451/00/L]With respect to whether the practice of women serving at the altar would truly be of pastoral advantage in the local pastoral situation, it is perhaps helpful to recall that the nonordained faithful do not have a right to service at the altar, rather they are capable of being admitted to such service by the sacred pastors (cf. circular letter, 4; cf. also Canon 228.1; interdicasterial instruction “Ecclesiae de Mysterio,” Aug. 15, 1997, 4; see Notitia 34 [1998] 9-42). Therefore, in the event that Your Excellency found it opportune to authorize service of women at the altar, it would remain important to explain clearly to the faithful the nature of this innovation, lest confusion might be introduced, thereby hampering the development of priestly vocations.

All of this seems like more than enough to give boys the preference at the altar. Here’s the big problem: in the middle quote, the Vatican says clearly that we need to support groups of altar boys. However, in the American church, I’ve seen time and time again where girls are allowed to serve, and it disuades the boys from wanting to join. I’ve seen it happen many times (first hand, btw). So by allowing altar girls, are we really following our duty to support groups of altar boys? Some of the most filled altar boy programs are the ones in parishes where girls are not allowed.

In addition, I ran the numbers on the parishes that do not allow altar girls vs the ones that do. For clarity, I’m calling the ones that do not allow altar girls “group t” (for traditional), and the ones that do, “group a” (for average). If all the parishes of the diocese created as many vocations as the ones in group t did, we would have between 3-5 times the vocations in the (both priestly and religious, btw). Yes, I took into account parish size. Out of the 30ish seminiarians we have, almost 10 of them are from 3-4 parishes, all traditionally minded, all not allowing altar girls. Keep in mind, there’s over 100 parishes in the diocese.

The numbers speak for themselves. Things like having only altar boys and being generally more traditional simply fosters more vocations.

All that is reason enough for me.

May I ask you in return, Should females be allowed in church at all?

I be interested to read your answer.

I think you load the question when you ask if the use of altar girls disturbed that Mass like hand clapping or lay homilies. Two of those are not abuses but one is…

BTW…I don’t think a female altar server disturbs the Mass any more then a female reader. I do wish that all altar servers took it a little more seriously…

We do take it seriously but we all have our own ways of showing that. Is being formal means one is taking it more seriously than the one that is being human throughout the service…:shrug:

Maybe it would rank in posting frequency with holding hands during the Our Father, rendering a sign of peace, and communion on the tongue? All “gravissima delicta” abuses, for certain. :rolleyes:

Can I have butter on my popcorn? :smiley:

no but you can have salt on your popcorn since we are being er biblically…:eek:

It’s not something I have to think about. In the EF, all altar servers are male. :smiley:


Yeah, I am starting to wonder this myself. :frowning:

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