Friday, 2 November 2012

FIUV Positions on the 1962 Missal

I continue the series of FIUV positions on the 1962 Missal with Position 1 which deals with the service on the altar by men and boys.

Foederatio Internationalis Una Voce 
Positio N. 1
From the General Introduction
These papers, commissioned by the International Federation Una Voce, are offered to stimulate
and inform debate about the 1962 Missal among Catholics ‘attached to the ancient Latin
liturgical traditions’, and others interested in the liturgical renewal of the Church. They are not
to be taken to imply personal or moral criticism of those today or in the past who have adopted
practices or advocated reforms which are subjected to criticism. In composing these papers we
adopt the working assumption that our fellow Catholics act in good will, but that nevertheless a
vigorous and well-informed debate is absolutely necessary if those who act in good will are to
do so in light of a proper understanding of the issues.
The authors of the papers are not named, as the papers are not the product of any one person,
and also because we prefer them to be judged on the basis of their content, not their authorship.
The International Federation Una Voce humbly submits the opinions contained in these papers
to the judgement of the Church.
The Service of the Altar by Men and Boys: Abstract
The tradition of men and boys, to the exclusion of females, serving Mass is a specific instance
of the ‘ancient Latin liturgical tradition’ of whose ‘riches’ Pope Benedict XVI has spoken. Its
value lies most fundamentally in its relation to the Church’s teaching, clearly expressed by
Blessed Pope John Paul II, on the complementarity of the sexes in the economy of salvation, a
teaching intimately connected with the teaching that the ordination of women to the priesthood
is impossible. Women, more perfectly than men, represent the Church as Bride; men, more
perfectly than women, represent Christ as Bridegroom, particularly in his priestly role. This
teaching is manifested not only in men, to the exclusion of women, being ordained to the
priesthood, but also in those closest to the priesthood in the service of the liturgy, also being
exclusively male. This distinction is reinforced by the identification of the sanctuary of a church
as heaven, the liturgy carried out there a foretaste of the heavenly liturgy, and the nave of the
church as earth, the dwelling place of the Church militant. For these reasons the practice of male
service of the altar serves to reinforce, teach, and ‘incarnate’, a fundamental theological truth,
according to the principle lex orandi lex credendi.
Comments can be sent to
Introduction to the series.
The Instruction Universae Ecclesiae (2011) made clear what was implicit in the Motu
Proprio Summorum Pontificum (2007), that Masses celebrated according to the Missal
of Blessed Pope John XXIII must be said in accordance with the liturgical law
appropriate to that Missal. This is a logical consequence of the Holy Father’s stated
purpose in the Motu Proprio, to create a space in the Church for the ‘ancient Latin
liturgical tradition’, both for the sake of those Catholics attached to it, and because of
the value it has in itself. The ‘ancient Latin liturgical tradition’ has many features which,
in different ways, contribute to its special character, and its value for the Church. The
point of these position papers is to explicate these features, their rationale, their
interrelationship, and the contribution they make to the value of the liturgical tradition
as a whole. We hope in so doing to contribute to a debate which will inform the future
development of the ‘Extraordinary Form’ of the Roman Rite.
The Service of the Altar by Men and Boys
1. The issue of men and boys, to the exclusion of females, serving Mass in the
Extraordinary Form is an appropriate place to start this series of papers, since on this
issue the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei has already spoken authoritatively, in
favour of the binding nature of the rules in force in 1962. It is also very evident that
permission for females to serve Mass in the Ordinary Form takes the form not of a
recommended policy but a concession to ‘specific local reasons’ (as expressed in the
Congregation for Divine Worship’s 1994 ruling),1 and the Congregation for Divine
Worship (CDW) has expressly praised the ‘noble tradition of having boys serve at the
altar’, following which is ‘always very appropriate’ (Letter, July 27th 2001).2 This is
very evidently an example of a tradition, characteristic of the 1962 Missal (as well as of
the 1970 Missal as originally conceived), which the Motu Proprio is concerned to
preserve and foster.
2. The ‘noble tradition’ of men and boys serving Mass, to the exclusion of females, is
notably supported by canon 44 of the Collection of Laodicea, dating from the late fourth
century, as well as by innumerable later documents. The value of the tradition does not
derive solely from its antiquity. The concern of Popes and bishops to preserve this
tradition over so many centuries derives from profound theological and pastoral
3. The pastoral consideration mentioned by the CDW in both the documents already cited
is that the intimate collaboration of the server with the priest in the divine service
frequently fosters priestly vocations. The CDW is concerned that this source of
1 Notitiae 30 (1994) 333-335
2 Notitiae 37 (2001) 397-399
vocations may be undermined by the admission of females to the service of the altar.
This pastoral problem follows from an issue of theological principle, which is that,
properly understood, lay servers are substituting for the traditional minor order of
acolyte: they are symbolically, and often causally, closely connected with the clerical
4. The theological reasons are related to the Church’s irreformable doctrine that only men
can be ordained to the priesthood. That teaching, as emphasised by Blessed Pope John
Paul II (Mulieris Dignitatem (1988); Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (1994)), is based on the
distinct and complementary roles of the sexes in the economy of salvation.
5. Early in Mulieris Dignitatem Bl. Pope John Paul II reminds us of the principle ‘Grace
never casts nature aside or cancels it out, but rather perfects and ennobles it.’3 The role
of the sexes in the Church, as willed by God, does not overturn but builds upon and
perfects the complementarity found in human relationships, and the special charisms of
each sex,4 notwithstanding the damage done by Original Sin.5 Bl. Pope John Paul II
speaks of the ‘naturally spousal predisposition of the feminine personality’, which is
exemplified not only in marriage but in virginity, as a form of self-giving.6 God relates
to the Church as Bridegroom to Bride, an analogy found notably in Ephesians 5, and
also in numerous passages of the Old Testament.7
6. As Bl. Pope John Paul II goes on to explain, in the Church every human being—male or
female—is the ‘Bride’ in the sense that he or she accepts the gift of the love of Christ
the Redeemer, and seeks to respond to it with the gift of his or her own person.8
7. Thus also the Blessed Virgin Mary can be described as ‘a “figure” of the Church’, in the
phrase of St Ambrose9 quoted by Lumen Gentium10 and reiterated in Mulieris
Dignitatem.11 Bl. Pope John Paul II concludes that women have a ‘prophetic’ role in
the Church, inasmuch as they ‘manifest this truth’, of the relationship between God and
the Church.12 This has implications for female religious, who can more perfectly
represent the Virgin Bride, the Church: as Bl. Pope John Paul II wrote,
This spousal dimension, which is part of all consecrated life, has a particular
meaning for women, who find therein their feminine identity and as it were
discover the special genius of their relationship with the Lord.13
3 Bl. Pope John Paul II Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem (1988) (MD) 5: ‘Sed gratia, seu Dei actio
supernaturalis, numquam naturam excludit, quin immo eam perficit et nobilitat.’
4 Catechism of the Catholic Church 2333
5 On Original Sin see MD 10
6 MD 20: ‘Natura proin ac sponsalis inclinatio ipsius personae feminae’;
7 MD 23 mentions Hosea, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Isaiah.
8 MD 25
9 S. Ambrosius, Expos. Lc. II, 7: PL 15, 1555
10 Lumen Gentium 63
11 MD 27 ‘Mariam Nazarethanam Ecclesiae esse “figuram”’ Cf. Bl. Pope John Paul II
Encylcical Redemptoris Mater (1987) 44: Mary is a ‘model and figure of the Church’ (‘exemplar ac
typus Ecclesiae’)
12 MD 29
13 Vita consecrata 34: ‘Hac in sponsali ratione quae praecipua est omnis consecratae vitae, mulier,
propriam quasi indolem detegens suae cum Domino coniunctionis, se reperit ipsa.’ This could be
We may further observe in this regard that Consecrated Virginity is a vocation unique to
8. The analogy of Bridegroom and Bride has its corollary in the relationship between the
clergy and the Christifideles, and between the Sanctuary and the Nave of a church
building. On the first, Bl. Pope John Paul II cited Mulieris Dignitatem in his ruling on
the impossibility of the ordination of women.14 If women are able to represent most
perfectly the Church as Bride, it is men who are called to represent Christ, particularly
in his priestly role.15 In recognition of the priest’s role in persona Christi, the priest’s
collaborators and assistants, his living tools, so to speak, are to be understood as being
on the same side of the analogy vis-à-vis the Christian faithful, and this is underscored
by the long tradition of seeing the sanctuary of a church as representing the heavenly
realm, and the nave the earthly one. As the scholar Fr Michel Sinoir writes:
The [Eastern] iconostasis symbolically is Heaven, and its liturgy, which
anticipates Heaven, is celebrated only by members of the clergy. The nave is
symbolically the earth, the abode of men and women who are preparing
themselves to enter into Glory. This is by analogy the same mystery as that of
Christ-the-Bridegroom, renewing in the sanctuary His sacrifice, which is
gratefully received by the Church-His-Bride who is still in pilgrimage here
9. This in turn makes sense of the long-standing prohibition, not only of female service at
the altar, but of any female presence in the sanctuary during the liturgy. Thus we find
that choirs including women are not allowed in the sanctuary by Musica Sacra (1958),17
and female readers are excluded from the sanctuary by the 1975 edition of the General
Instruction of the Roman Missal.18
10. What is at stake is the liturgical representation of theological principles, as we would
expect, on the principle legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi.19 These principles are
not simply reflected by the liturgy, they are illustrated, taught, and in time made second
nature to the assisting faithful: the liturgy can be said to ‘incarnate’ them.20 It is for this
reason that a special value attaches to the preservation of the Extraordinary Form of the
rendered more literally: ‘In this spousal way of thinking, which is the foremost consideration of all
consecrated life, woman, discovering the as it were particular character of her union with the Lord, finds
14 Bl. Pope John Paul II Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (1994) 2
15 Pope Benedict XVI has reiterated the identification of the priest with Christ as Bridegroom of the
Church in explaining the meaning and value of celibacy in the priesthood: ‘This choice [of celibacy] has
first and foremost a nuptial meaning; it is a profound identification with the heart of Christ the
Bridegroom who gives his life for his Bride.’ Post-Synodal Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis (2007)
24; cf. Bl. John Paul II Encyclical Redemptoris Mater 43.
16 Fr Michel Sinoir, ‘La Question de L'Admission des Femmes au Service de L’Autel’, Paris, Pierre
Téqui, 1994, p26, translated by Fr Brian Harrison OS.
17 Instruction Musica Sacra (1958) 100
18 General Instruction of the Roman Missal (1975) 70
19 Pope Pius XII Mediator Dei (1946) 47
20 Cf. Christoph, Cardinal Shönborn ‘Loving the Church: Spiritual exercises preached in the presences of
Pope John Paul II’ (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1996) p205: ‘Yet how important such signs are for
“incarnating” the faith.’ (He is speaking of liturgical orientation in this passage.)
Roman Rite in its integrity, since this Form is the liturgical articulation of a set of
theological principles which are the Church’s own. The ‘noble tradition’ of male service
of the altar gives the Church an apprehensible presentation of the teaching of the Church
on the role of the sexes in the economy of salvation, and Christ’s relationship with the
Church, as Bridegroom to Bride, which itself mirrors God’s relationship with Creation.

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