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Eight Reasons Why I Should Not Read InsideCatholic | Catholic Life

Eight Reasons Why I Should Not Read InsideCatholic

If you don’t get this, don’t worry about it. If you do get it, then I would welcome any thoughts you may wish to share. Where is the justice in upholding tradition when it just so happens to only attack changes which benefit girls?

To raise the possibility of an all-celibate liturgical ministry is to invite tribulation.

Those who prefer the traditional arrangement of celibate altar servers, lectors, and so on are nervous about vocalizing their convictions, let alone acting upon them. This in itself is significant: Regardless of where one stands on the issue, it should give us pause that many Catholics, from the pious in the pews to prelates in the Vatican, stand in fear of being stigmatized as supporters of a 1,500-year-old tradition, faithfully kept by God’s chosen people from the days of Abraham until the Catholic Church began changing its practices in the 1970s.

But let us have courage and look again with fresh eyes. Such an investigation is necessary, especially if we wish to continue admitting sexually active persons into the service of the sanctuary. G. K. Chesterton once complained of would-be reformers that they “do not know what they are doing because they do not know what they are undoing.” His grievance was that reformers either do not sufficiently study the original rationale for the thing they are dismantling, or they assume “all their fathers were fools.” Yet advocates for married liturgical ministers might go further and say that our fathers were not fools but worse: Puritanical, gnostics, prudes. This forces us to ask: Are sins of bias the real reason behind a celibate liturgical ministry? What precisely are we undoing?

To address these questions, we turn to eight distinctions.


1.  Allowed vs. Encouraged

The Holy See allows non-celibate married lectors, extraordinary ministers of Communion, and altar servers, but it does not necessarily encourage them. Despite the fact that papal Masses have married readers, permission for this has an officially optional, provisional, and exceptional nature (see Canon 230.2).

2.  Liturgical vs. Non-liturgical

Saying that sexually active people shouldn’t serve in the sanctuary says nothing about the leadership of married persons elsewhere in the Church or other ministries open to them. Liturgy is a unique animal: It has its own rules, logic, and, as we shall see, symbolic demands.


3.  Holy vs. Sacred

“Holy” and “sacred” are not synonymous. To be holy is to be filled with and transformed by the Holy Spirit, whereas to be sacred is to be consecrated for special use. The opposite of “holy” is “wicked,” but the opposite of “sacred” is “profane,” a word that literally means “outside the temple” and has no necessarily negative connotations.

Both the married and celibate are equally called to holiness, while they are called to different roles regarding the sacred. As Augustine explained, it is better to be a good sexually active married person than to be a bad celibate person.

4.  Function vs. Symbol

The virgin verses the sexually active person’s differing relations to the sacred is connected to the innate typology of the Mass. For if the celibate are the custodians of the sacred and physically fruitful married couple the embodiment, we should find this in the Church’s supreme act of worship.

And thus our fourth distinction, between function and symbol. From the very first Mass in the Upper Room, which deliberately took place during the ceremonially rich Passover, the liturgy has never been a matter of pure utility. Everything in liturgical tradition has deep significance: In this case, the virginity of its ministers is an icon of the nuptial embrace between Christ and His Church, a dramatization of the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.

5.  Mars vs. Venus

Celibate custodianship of the sacred is also linked to sacrifice. Although offering oneself as a sacrifice is equally incumbent on both the celibate and the non-celibate married, the celibate are the only ones follow Christ’s example of giving oneself entirely to God.

6.  Good for the Gander, Not the Goose

Altar service is also good for the celibate because it encourages religious vocations and teaches all single persons to serve generously and to respect families, which are sacred, with reverence and awe. It is not so for the sexually active. Let us be honest: When we allow a non-celibate to serve at the altar, we are lying to him. We place him in the courtly role of page and tell him he can never be a lord.

7.  Top-Down vs. Bottom-Up

But wouldn’t the Vatican’s prohibition of non-celibate liturgical ministers invite howls of protests from those keen on tarring the Church with the dread label of gnosticism and the terrifying metaphor of “turning back the clock”? Undoubtedly, but change needn’t happen by centralized proscription. There could be a grassroots movement in which parishes or dioceses restore the nuptial signs of the Eucharistic sacrifice for themselves. Such a movement could grow organically until it transformed the way the faithful approached liturgical worship.


8.  Thermometer vs. Thermostat

Some think we should downplay our hoary traditions in order to fit into our democratic, egalitarian society, as this would render us better citizens. But the opposite is true. The more we differ from society, the more we have something to contribute to it. The last thing our culture needs is more Yes Men bowing before the gender idols of the age; it needs Dutch uncles informed by a loftier view of things. Borrowing a distinction from Martin Luther King Jr., Catholics need to be a thermostat setting the temperature rather than a thermometer reflecting it. An all-celibate liturgical ministry would be an effective way of preaching the Good News about the higher meaning, so tragically overlooked now, of the noninterchangeable dignity of both the sexually active and the celibate.

9 Responses to “Eight Reasons Why I Should Not Read InsideCatholic”

  1. Fr. Christian Mathis 29. Oct, 2010 at 8:53 pm #

    We haven’t had a continuous 4,000 year tradition of celibate ministers Rae. Depending upon whom one talks to it began to be more solidified in either the 5th or 11th Century. The Eastern Churches have had married clergy for hundreds of years. My understanding is that they are to abstain for a certain period before celebrating the liturgy, similar to our rules of fasting. My own thoughts of late, in fact, would have me believe bringing back an appreciation for fasting would do more to strengthen celibacy than almost anything else.

    • Rae 30. Oct, 2010 at 7:04 am #

      It was late last night when I was editing this, and that slipped through. But I don’t really feel badly, because I think that there was as much of a perfectly continuous 4,000 year tradition of celibates as there was of perfect female exclusion. After all, is baptism not a liturgical function?

      Do you understand that this is entirely parody with a few words changed from another person’s post?

      • Fr. Christian Mathis 30. Oct, 2010 at 9:19 am #

        It was late and so I didn’t pick up on the satire. Makes more sense now.

    • Sistra Cristiana Shawnequa Reyes 14. May, 2017 at 7:03 pm #

      I remember Fr. Christian’s ordination well. It was amazing to see him poised so precariously on his knees to service the bishop with those big, pink Irish hands atop his head to hold him tight. Indeed, it was quite a sight to see him throwing himself so nervously yet enthusiastic into the effort, bowing and bobbing his head so reverently as all watched in silence seeing him begin the matter somewhat squeamishly like an untrained ballerina taking the stage for the first time, then soon continuing more confidently like a prima donna diva giggling as she partakes with greatest abandon of the most delectable chocolate covered cherry ever imagined. That part was what made it such a spectacle and so memorable. I haven’t gone to an ordination since.

  2. Tara Meghan 30. Oct, 2010 at 8:07 am #

    Nice! I wonder why it is that your post seems like the sensible one, and the other seems like the skewed parody… Maybe because marriage really is a function, and can be dissected as such, but gender is an “is”, and can’t be examined in the same way.

    I’ll try to read the original post with fresh eyes later, but my gut reaction, as always, is a great big *sigh*. I get verrrrry nervous when men (or anyone I suppose) try to quantify “a woman’s place.” It reminds me of the Hanna Arendt quote: “Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it.” I think the Church does an extraordinary job of telling the story, without trying to define us. And then somebody has to pull out the clipboard and checklists… *le big sigh*

  3. Kathleen 31. Oct, 2010 at 5:07 am #

    I admit I didn’t get the parody either. :) I don’t get Inside Catholic and I have no idea what you’re referring to. Perhaps I should? Want to share? I was freaked out enough by this that I got back on a day later to respond. LOL. Sorry. I’ll plead “long week”!

    As a married person who has been involved in liturgy since long before I was married, whose parents were involved in liturgy since the day I was born, I am very protective of the participation of the non-celibate. :)

    • Rae 31. Oct, 2010 at 7:01 pm #

      I am so sorry to have offended you! The first link is to the original article which gives “reasons” why liturgical ministry (including lecturing) should be reserved for males. I found it bothersome, but not worth a response which actually explained why each point was wrong. So instead I just used the example of the same logic applied to married persons rather than female persons. Absurd, no?

      • Kathleen 01. Nov, 2010 at 5:24 am #

        You didn’t offend me. Just scared me, that’s all. LOL. Frankly, I don’t think I’m going to read the article, b/c it would REALLY upset me. Because the logic that you used in parody echoes murmurs that do go around in certain circles. Or maybe I’m generalizing a comment from one of Those people who made this inordinately big deal of his status as an EXTRAORDINARY Eucharistic minister. When I got to know him better it was clear that he was all over this huge division between ordained and not ordained, which to me is unhealthy both for clergy and lay people, and serves 1) to isolate the ordained from ordinary, healthy interactions with lay people, and 2) implies that lay people are not as good as or as important as clergy.

        Anyway, suffice it to say, I wholeheartedly agree with your overall point! :)

  4. practicinghuman 01. Nov, 2010 at 12:03 am #

    I think I too am missing the base reference that you’re playing in parody. Yet I also believe fasting is what is needed, even if that fast is simply abstinence for a time. Although the Orthodox Church has a majority of married priests, we also have one of the strictest Eucharistic fasts that begins at midnight. In many ways, the people who cannot keep the Eucharistic fast for whatever reason are the exception rather than the rule.

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