|Destroying vocations/church attendance?|
Because it is in the news and because I am the only super-obvious traditionalist writing in the Toronto CR, I am thinking about writing about the crazy controversy around a priest in San Francisco's decision not to invite girls to be altar servers, as is his right. Of course there are many altar girls in Toronto. There have been since LONG before John Paul II gave permission in 1994. Saying "Hey, scram, Petunia!" will not go down well in the T-Dot.
I first found out that the Roman Catholic Church could be divided on anything when as a child c. 1980 I noted that Saint X parish had altar girls and Saint Y did not. I asked my mother why this was and my mother, despite any private thoughts she might have had on the subject of women-in-the-Church very credibly told the unvarnished truth, which was that Saint X was disobedient whereas Saint Y was obedient.
At the time I thought Saint X was right to have altar girls and Saint Y was wrong not to have altar girls, so this word "disobedient" stumped me. (Had my mother gone to my theology school, she would have said it was "prophetic", but I digress.) That priests could disobey what the Church (whom even as a child I did not confuse with the pope, thanks again to my mother) decreed blew my tiny mind. I began to notice other differences between Saint X and Saint Y, which showed that I was not completely dim as, in fact, Saint X was and may still be the most "progressive" Catholic Church in Toronto.
As a little girl ill-suited to the company of the boys with whom I had to go to school, I was very sensitive to slights to little girls. I did not understand why girls should not be altar servers, or why women should not be priests, or why my brothers' cathedral choir school was only for boys. I asked my Grade 3 teacher during Religion class why women couldn't be priests, and she perhaps flippantly told me I should ask the pope. So I wrote a letter to the pope, which Miss W said was too badly written to send. That was very sad, for I am sure John Paul II would have given me a satisfactory explanation. Well, once my parents pored over it for hours and figured it out themselves, that is. (JP2's style is not what you would call pellucid.)
My mother's explanation for the all-male priesthood was so cynical she will deny having said it, but it was "Men would no longer take religion seriously if there were women priests."
Staggering, eh? But is it true? Well, I see that in 2012 23% of Church of England clergymen were women, and that an increasing number of Church of England clergymen are not paid by the C of E. The C of E--the state church of England and Wales--simply does not generate enough income to pay its own clergy, and I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, considering how few Anglicans in England and Wales go to church and put money in the basket. More Muslims and Catholics go to weekly services than Anglicans although we are small minorities in England-and-Wales. And guess who we don't have presiding over them?
Still, how depressing to think that men flee religion because women-in-authority. I mean, this very well may be true, but one could easily construct an argument that goes "Men flee religion because women-in-authority because Fall."
The argument put forward for no altar girls is as follows: Altar service fosters priestly vocations in boys. Boys, however, are put off by presence of altar girls. Fewer altar boys = fewer priests. Therefore, we must not have altar girls.
And, if this is in fact true, fair enough. If the purpose of altar service is, unbeknownst to the boys, to foster their vocations to the priesthood, then naturally only boys should be altar servers.
But why is it that the presence of altar girls puts boys off in the first place? Why do boys dislike "girl stuff" so much? And why do so many girls think "boy stuff" must be so much more valuable than "girl stuff?" Why do women who would never consider joining a women's religious order pine to become Catholic priests?
What do you all think? Men can answer too. But I don't want to hear about "Church is the bride, and therefore priest should be bridegroom." I know all that. I am also capable of reading the New Testament, and I note with everyone else of orthodox faith that Mary, a woman, is the greatest of all human (and solely human) beings and yet is not a priest. What I want to read is why/why not it is good (and natural) for boys and men to reject altar service, ministry and public worship simply because girls and women are involved up front.
Altar girls=cooties, women-with-religious-authority=ugh. God's way of making boys into men, or a symptom of the Fall from Grace?