The Gos on Fr Z – from the horse’s mouth

Ever wondered who on earth Fr John Zuhlsdorf is and how he manages to spend so much time blogging?

Well get all the gos from the horse’s mouth before the National Catholic Fishwrap publishes some distorted version of it here: http://wdtprs.com/blog/2011/08/waiting-for-zagano/

About Schütz

I am Catholic, married to Cathy, father of Maddy & Mia. Since 2002, I have been the Executive Officer of the Ecumenical & Interfaith Commission of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. I was once a Lutheran pastor, but a "year of grace" and soul-searching led me into the Catholic Church. It was a bumpy ride, but with the support of my (still Lutheran) wife, I was finally confirmed on June 16, 2003.
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38 Responses to The Gos on Fr Z – from the horse’s mouth

  1. matthias says:

    A man of integrity and honesty-that ‘s why he ‘s a priest . These two virtues seem to be lacking in some journalists lately.

  2. Peregrinus says:

    I don’t read WDTPRS, and have no opinion one way or the other about Fr. Zuhlsdorf. I also don’t read the NCR(F), and have no opinon about it and, consequently, about the spat between the paper and the priest. So I have no horse at all in this race.

    But if Fr Zuhlsdorf hopes to dampen curiosity about himself, I don’t think he will succeed. Having read his piece, I am much more curious about him now than I was before!

    How come an American from Minnesota is incardinated in the comparatively obscure Italian diocese of Velletri-Segni? There are more than two hundred dioceses in America; would none of them have him? Or did he not apply in any of them and, if not, why not? Did he undergo his formation in Italy? Apparently not, if he was ordained along with Fr. John Corapi. He lives in the US, and doesn’t currently hold any appointment in his diocese; the Velletri-Segni website doesn’t suggest that he ever did. Why, in short, is he a priest of this diocese?

    I’m not suggesting there is anything scandalous, or irregular, or gossip-worthy here. I’m just fascinated that what he says about his canonical status points to an unusual, and I suspect interesting, story about who he is and how he came to be where he is today. I’d like to hear it.

    • Schütz says:

      He was ordained in Rome, and worked for a while in the Curia. I think that’s the Italian question answered. If he is working on a doctorate and living as a mendicant, pursuing a particular journalistic apostolate with his Bishop’s blessing, what’s more to ask? – except how he pulls the whole thing off!

      • Peregrinus says:

        Well, an Italian connection, possibly, but a Velletri-Segni connection?

        Possibly – wild guess coming up – the suburbicarian dioceses are sometimes used to “sponsor” bright young things who have been earmarked for a curial career. In which case abandoning the curial position and “freelancing” as a mendicant without any regular appointment is definitely a surprising career development. Again, I smell a story of considerable human interest!

        Another wild guess, but if Fr Z is correct that the NCR doesn’t like him, then possibly what he fears is that the thrust of the story will be that he is operating without any effective disciplinary supervision. His bishop has incardinated him and granted him faculties, but because he lives outside his diocese, has no diocesan appointment (and does not draw on diocesan resources) takes no further interest in what he does. And, unlike other mendicants, he has no religious superior to account to. So he is free to be a “loose cannon” if he wishes, and he suspects that that is exactly what the NCR will say that he is.

        • Clara says:

          I think Peregrinus does have some valid points . . . even mendicants are subject to the authority of a superior. I have known some charming – very orthodox (or so it seemed) priests who thought they knew better than their superiors and took off on their own tangent with a considerable following – they are no longer exercising their priesthood.

          I am suspicious of celebrity priests – many are like politicians who start out with good intentions but the ego too often takes over. When everyone was praising Fr Corapi I visited his website and thought he had more than a passing resemblance to bouncers I have seen at night clubs . . . but I kept my reservations to myself (after all even bouncers are entitled to a conversion experience). A few times I have checked out Fr Z but never found him to be compelling or convincing (I am not talking about his intellectual abilities, I just find him too smooth – and I think in his defence he seems to protest too much). Maybe it’s just me.

          • Peregrinus says:

            Look, I absolutely don’t intend to be critical of Fr Zuhlsdorf. I have no reason to be, if only because any criticism I would make would be rooted in ignorance. And I don’t regard him as a “celebrity priest”.

            His interest for me lies not in the fact that he is (apparently) controversial, but that he is unusual – a convert from Lutheranism who started off on an unusual and interesting clerical career path, and the departed from it into an even more unusual and perhaps even anomalous one. What he writes in the passage two which David links largely addresses his canonical status, which is a bit like telling us that Fr Frank Brennan has been admitted to the Bar of the High Court of Australia. Whether you like Frank Brennan or loathe him, that’s not really what’s interesting about him. Apart from the substantive content of Fr Zuhlsdorf’s blogging – which I understand is largely about liturgical matters – what seems to be interesting about him is his remarkable – in Catholic terms – degree of independence and autonomy as a priest.

            I think this is a legitimate matter of public interest, especially as he himself draws attention to his priestly status (presumably because it lends credibility to his status as a commentator on matters of liturgy). If you visit his blog, you pass through a “redirect” page which not only refers to him as “Fr. John Zuhlsdorf”, but also contains a (quite clever!) ideogram made up of typographic characters which represents a head wearing a biretta. Then when you get to the blog page the header alone contains five textual references to him as a priest, plus a picture of him vested for mass. He is variously referred to as “Fr John Zuhlsdorf”, “Fr Z” or simply “Father”. His name, apparently, can be abbreviated or dispensed with entirely, but his clerical moniker, never.

            All of which is fine. But since his status as a priest is the one aspect of himself that constantly draws attention to, he should expect that people will pay attention to it. And since it does, on examination, seem to be a status which is worked out in a strikingly unusual way, even people who aren’t hostile to him or who don’t take issue with what he writes will probably be curious to know more.

  3. PM says:

    Won’t he have to change the name of his blog now that we have a new translation of the Missal (or, better, at last we have a translation)?

  4. Marco says:

    David,

    While I have no feeling either way with Fr Z, is this not just the “new media” way? Put your head up and someone is always going to have a shot at it, stand for something and someone is always going to disagree with you. The price of having a blog with huge hits is that people will try to discredit you and so, they think, your message.

    BTW: what happened to the formatting on this post – are you posting via email??

    M.

  5. John Nolan says:

    All of the above assumes that priests should be cloistered in parishes. Completely unhistorical.

    • Peregrinus says:

      No, but it assumes that priests – secular priests, anyway – should be subject to the leadership, supervision and discipline of their bishops, which is historically (and theologically) a very well-grounded proposition.

      • John Nolan says:

        Then how do you explain why all the bishops, bar one, the martyred St John Fisher, abandoned their Church and their apostolic calling to follow their adulterous sovereign into schism?

        • Peregrinus says:

          Huh?

          Look, the sacerdotal order has its origins in the apostolic period. The last of the three orders of priesthood to develop, it arose as local churches grew too large for the bishop to provide effective sacramental ministry to the whole (local) church. The fundamental vocation of the priest is to assist the bishop in providing the sacramental ministry and spiritual leadership which the church requires. This is not changed by pointing to particular historical instances where bishops went into schism.

          Now, this is not an absolute and inflexible rule, because obviously there are priests engaged in other kinds of work. Most obviously, there are members of religious institutes, who engage in the apostolate of that institute – teaching, preaching, monastic life, missionary work, whatever. They do so under the leadership of their own superiors, who may be but usually are not bishops. However, those superiors in turn liaise with the diocesan bishop, securing his permission to establish and operate in his diocese, and agreeing with him what role the establishment in his diocese will play. Thus the essential feature that the priest assists the bishop is, indirectly, maintained. It’s just that religious priests have a collective relationship with the bishop, through the structures of their institute, rather than an individual relationship with him.

          And of course you also have secular priests who are not actively engaged in “normal” pastoral ministry because they are studying, retired, on some special assignment or simply on leave. They are, however, still subject to the leadership, support and supervision of their bishops, but in practice this may be expressed with a fairly light touch. This is normally a temporary state of affairs; people finish study, or come back from leave, and resume ministering to the local church, or they retire after a long career of doing so. But it can sometimes be a long-term state of affairs, as where a young diocesan priest disappears into the maw of the Roman curia. (I know one man who did precisely one year as a young curate in his diocese before heading to Rome, where he remained for twenty-seven years in various curial positions. He would probably have remained there for his entire career had he not been appointed a diocesan bishop a few years back. )

          Fr Zuhlsdorf is in the category of secular priests not currently engaged in pastoral ministry. But, even here, his position seems to be somewhat anomalous. I can’t find that he has ever ministered in assistance of the Bishop of Velletri-Segni, and it may be that it was never intended that he would. And it doesn’t appear that the “internet ministry” for which he is mostly known nowadays is of any interest to his bishop. As far as the bishop is concerned he has no assignment. And this does raise the issue that, so far as his internet ministry is concerned, he may be effectively freelancing.

          This may be a good think or a bad thing, but it’s certainly an interesting thing, and one worth discussing. In our globalised, highly mobile and increasingly online world, is the territorial model of the local church still viable? If Fr Zuhlsdorf’s connection to Velletri-Segni is basically nominal, do we need to develop new structures in which priests collaborate in the ministry of the church? It’s not just a matter of good management, that every worker in the “professional” church should have a properly defined role and a clear structure of management and accountability (though it is at least that); it’s also a question of our understanding of priestly ministry, which for the last two thousand years has very much been that it’s not freelance, that it is collaborative, and that the connection between priests and their bishops is of the essence of what priests are called to do. We may need to understand and express this in new ways – I think we probably do – and it may be that Fr Zuhlsorf’s situation can be studied as a ground-breaking case (or an Awful Example?). But, either way, it’s worth talking about and reflecting on.

        • Susan Peterson says:

          You mean, in England in the 16th century. That isn’t a universal context, you know. As you can tell by the “huh?” you drew. Yes, there are bad bishops, but priests are still supposed to be subject to them. Which I am sure Fr. Z would agree with. I am sure his bishop is aware of what he does. I think his blog is his cure, his “care of souls” and that he has already had an impact on Catholicism in America. Perhaps that is the intention of those on high who have allowed him to do what he does.
          Susan Peterson

  6. Concerned Catholic says:

    My Fr Z story is one of a pilgrim lost in the wilderness of the electronic superhighway.
    A few days ago I was passing on the road to Wikipedia and stopped at Fr Zs “well” for a chat and a glass of living water. I am a lifelong practicing Catholic but had never heard of Fr Z before. There was a notice up saying that his well was run by my brothers and sisters in Christ so I trustingly spoke to the strangers present there. I asked a very simple question about alter girls and to my surprise was immediately jumped on by his centurions. It seems I had wandered into alien lands and fallen into the hands of modern day Pharisees. They immediately “beat” me. They ridiculed me at length; they cast doubts about my identity and motives .They gave me biology lessons, bullied me and talked down. Fr Z set me up in full view of the world as a target for his circus – less than a person I was a thing to be beaten, stoned and vilified.
    Now where have we heard a “parable” like that before?
    When I wrote to complain of this rudeness he suppressed my response. He told his followers that I had responded but that my response was too “rude” to publish. ….He tested my faith for a week and in so doing brought me to a deeper understanding of Christ’s passion. ……

    This was my own personal experience of Fr Zs “pastoral care” for his internet flock. I knew nothing of him before the above incident. I am very concerned about this celebrity priest …….. I think he must be unwell.

  7. Dr. Robert Brown says:

    I happened on this thread and, though I realize it is a year old, can’t resist a comment or two.

    1. I have known Fr Z since 1993, when we studied Latin under Fr Reginald Foster. After his conversion he tried an American seminary (redundant to say it is liberal), and it didn’t work out. He then went to Rome to study, obtained the STB at the Lateran (the diocesan theologate of Rome), living in an appropriate Italian seminary. As I understand it, he began to help out at Ecclesia Dei, then headed by Cardinal Augustin Mayer, a monk of the German abbey of Metten. It was Cardinal Mayer who, impressed by the young seminarian, was able to get him ordained for Velletri. After ordination, Fr Z lived in Velletri in the seminary, commuting to Rome for Latin study ands his grad studies in Patristics at the Augustianium, which granted him the STL.

    2. He is in good standing with his bishop in Velletri and the US bishop in whose diocese he lived. Were the latter to have any problem with Fr Z, he could easily contact the chancery in Velletri.

    3. IMHO, one of the problems people have in understanding his situation is the narrow-minded notion, quite common in the US, that diocesan priest = parish priest. And so the question arises: Why isn’t he in a parish? The answer: Why should he be?

    4. It is not uncommon that priests who are writing a doctoral dissertation find an independent or quasi-independent situation (e.g., chaplain to houses of nuns or sisters). They say mass, and are free the rest of the day. Fr Z was in a similar independent situation, though not as a chaplain, when he started his blog (he had originally worked with Catholic Online Forum).

    5. I am sorry that someone above had her feelings hurt on the blog, but she raised a hot button issue. My experience with various blogs is that even though they often provide a legitimate exchange of ideas, people often use them as little else than an opportunity to rant and insult and are not interested in true discussion. That is simply the reality of a blog

    Perhaps the lady should have taken her question to Catholic Answers.

    6. Although I’m certain that people who participate in WDTPRS have at times actually learned about Catholic thought, IMHO, its greatest contribution occurred just after Summorum Pontificum was promulgated. There were chanceries that immediately sent letters to all their priests telling them to ignore SP. Some of these letters were FAXed to Fr Z, and a representative number of them appeared on the blog–which meant that there were people in the Vatican who read them. What followed was a soft shoe contest among various chanceries who were trying to explain that the letters didn’t mean what they had actually had said.

    7. The Internet in general and blogs like Fr Z’s have been very important in exposing those who are more interested in imposing their own liberalism, not only on the laity but also on the newly ordained, than in propagating the Catholic life.

  8. Concerned Catholic says:

    Dear Dr Brown.
    Thank you for your kind response to my “experience with Fr Z”. It is good to hear from someone who can verify that Fr Z is in fact a real person, so you have put my mind to rest on that point. The”incident” is (as you note) an old one and I am at peace about it. I hope that Fr Z prays for me as I pray for him. I’m sure in his own way he felt that he was defending the faith in what he did. I am also sure that his reaction was “spur of the moment” and totally aligned to the culture of blogging that you allude to. However in that moment of “friendly fire” on a perceived “enemy” (like St Peter in the garden) he “cut off my ear”….This incident stands as a reproach to all those who would create a climate of warfare and faction fighting within the church. The message that the Holy Spirit has sent to Catholic bloggers, using both Fr Z and myself as unworthy vehicles, is that you can destroy in the blink of an eye what you hold most dear if you fight about it. Create a war zone and innocents will wander into it and get blown to pieces. There can be no place for wars and labels (traditionalist vs. modernist) within the Catholic Church. (Anyone who wants to protect the church should stop blogging for five minutes and say the rosary). My final entreaty to ALL bloggers Catholic and otherwise is – if you can’t blog politely don’t blog at all……..for you know not what you may be doing…………

  9. David Green says:

    I have just read the posts by concerned catholic, and I sympathise with what is being said. With due respect to Dr Brown, while I agree that relatively harsh treatment does tend to be dished out on on blogs, it happens with an alarming degree of frequency on wdtprs. I have visited this site for some years now and I often find Fr Z’s approach to be surprisingly aggressive and nasty, and it has got worse over time. It seems that anyone not in agreement with Fr Z is, in his mind, a “liberal” and therefore fair-game for verbal abuse and disrespectful treatment. And his views are to say the least extreme. His recent posts on gun control for instance, including one in which he delights at taking his gun for a day out at a shooting range, can surely not be considered uncontroversial when coming from a Catholic priest.

    • Schütz says:

      Hi Dave,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m not very active on the blog at the moment, but this post on fr z remains popular. I too am disturbed about his support for the gun lobby. I have written to him about it. I don’t mind him enjoying hunting – his recipe for squirrel casserole was a hoot – but gun control does not mean the end of hunting – it just means licenses. Anybody outside the US can see that they have way too many gins per capita for any healthy society.

  10. Peter Rother says:

    Concerned Catholic,
    I have found the post and comments from Fr. Zuhlsdorf’s site to which you refer and am puzzled by your reaction. Nearly every entry treated you as one who was eager to serve the Lord and offered each person’s honest perspective on the issue. Some were more direct in their writing than others but I on the whole I found nothing for you to be upset about unless you happen to possess an unusually sensitive constitution. May I suggest that perhaps you were not ready to actually have responses that disagreed with you?

  11. Dave Green says:

    Dear Peter Rother,

    I feel reticent to wade in here, but I will!! I do so because I feel strongly about wdtprs and the poor impression of catholic life that it represents. I believe that ‘concerned catholic’ has good reason to feel the way they do as I have witnessed this sort of unpleasant treatment frequenly on wdtprs. Am I being over-sensitive? I don’t believe so. Please take a look at the following: http://wdtprs.com/blog/2013/01/fr-zs-2013-new-years-resolutions/
    In particular, please look at Fr Z’s responses to ‘deacon tony’. I feel the tone and manner of his responses to be entirely unacceptable, certainly coming from a priest.

    Why would a priest feel it odd, or indeed annoying, to be questioned about why they want to carry a lethal weapon? I don’t get it. Furthermore, I think its crass for a catholic priest to post this sort of stuff (and follow up thereafter with various gun celebration posts) after Sandy Hook. It doesn’t matter if you think public gun ownership has nothing to do with these tragedies, you know that other people might think so and therefore act out of respect. It seems to me he is neglecting his pastoral responsibilities.

    Fr Zs blog is available for public consumption, and to many people visting I would imagine they see it as synomous with a catholic point of view. I think the blog gives a poor representation of the Catholic faith. That is my concern.

    I should say I am not of the NCR persuasion at all, rather more of the traditional perspective which is why I ended up at wdtprs in the first place.

    Dave

    • Schütz says:

      I just want to make it perfectly clear to all that as moderator of this blog I am happy for the discussion to continue but that the views expressed by commentators are not synonymous with those of the blog owner. Please do attempt in your comments to avoid anything that may be construed as slander or ruining the reputation of another.

  12. Peter Rother says:

    Dave Green,
    I understand your perspective. It is twice now that you have made that point. However, I was addressing the specific blog posting and comments that upset Concerned Catholic. In that instance, Father Zuhlsdorf specifically instructed commenters to behave and, to my mind, by and large they did.

    As to your comment, I would concur to some extend that the nature of a blog environment lends itself to rude behavior based primarily on distance and relative anonymity. There have been instances in which I have not carried myself in a manner befitting a Catholic due to this. Now, I try to be more careful and reflective in my postings.

    However, I will say this: a call for respect for all opinions is misplaced. I am not speaking of the post you mentioned as I have not formed my opinion on that issue in all respects. I am speaking about Truth in general,

    Regards,
    Peter

  13. Dave Green says:

    Dear Peter,

    You make very good points. Of course I agree that the Truth should not be presented as relative. The issue for me is the manner / attitude in which it is delivered.

    Coincidentally, I have just read an interesting article in this week’s Catholic Herald (UK paper) on this topic entitled “Pope: let’s love more and rant less online”. There is a version of it here

    http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2013/01/24/social-networks-need-more-logic-love-and-less-ranting-says-pope/

    The jist of the article is that the aggressive nature of some Catholic blogs is of concern to the Pope.

    Best wishes,

    Dave

  14. Peter Rother says:

    Dear Dave,
    I shall read it. Thank you.
    Oremus pro invicem.
    I shall do so for you now.
    Peter

  15. Dave Green says:

    Dear Peter,

    And I for you.

    Best wishes,

    Dave

  16. Concerned Catholic says:

    Dear Mr Rother
    You claim to be “puzzled by my reaction” to Fr Zs treatment of me, and seem to find the content and tone of the comments made to me on his blog an acceptable representation of pastoral care from a Catholic priest to a member of his flock. You say that – “NEARLY every entry treated you as one who was eager to serve the Lord” – This clearly indicates (through your own words) that you could also see that SOME entries didn’t afford me that courtesy.
    You state that “SOME were more direct in their writing than others”. Well at least you acknowledge that some were “DIRECT” as you describe it.
    You also say that “ON THE WHOLE I found nothing for you to be upset about”. So by inference – “ON THE PART” – there must have been SOME PART OF THAT WHOLE left over, wherein you tacitly acknowledge that there was something for me to be justifiably upset about.
    You diagnose me as being someone of an “unusually sensitive constitution”. In so doing you patronize me and insinuate that emotion rather than intellect is the source of my protest at Fr Z’s blogging style. You write as if you know me and have the right to “warn the world of my girlish foibles”. But – you don’t know me. Therefore you don’t know how “sensitive” I am or am not. You personalize the discussion and fail to address the issue.
    You also say “May I suggest that perhaps you were not ready to actually have responses that disagreed with you?” Well no, you may not suggest anything of the sort because – that is not THE TRUTH. I did not even try to set out a viewpoint for anyone to disagree with. I simply asked a question about alter girls and was “stoned”.
    You employ the same kind of patronizing personal subversion of me that Fr Z and his cohorts used. You insinuate that in some way I am seriously lacking in emotional and intellectual stability, and you attack the person, rather than address the question raised.
    Your comments once again clearly demonstrate that for the entire world to see that there is a significant difference between having a civilized blogging debate, and throwing stones, patronizing, and talking down. Saying that dark is light doesn’t make it so for those who see.
    By the way Cardinal Arinze answers my question about alter girls clearly and without fuss on the webcast below. Would that I had found him instead of Fr Z as I wandered the internet super highway. Cardinal Arinze sets the gold standard for Catholic “blogging” .View this link and “go figure” as they say in America. It is easy to see why Francis Arinze is a cardinal, and Fr Z is –well – Fr Z.

  17. Peter Rother says:

    Dear Concerned Catholic,
    Thanks for the video from Cardinal Arinze. It is very good.

  18. Concerned Catholic says:

    You are very welcome Mr Rother. I have a feeling that when I was “stoned “ by Fr Z and his cohort I was mistaken for a Ms Z who Fr Z is obviously irritated by. I am not Ms Z……….and I think all the Zs are putting us to sleep now ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ – and we all need to “move on”.
    I am who I claim to be – a lifelong catholic who was worried by the controversies I had stumbled across on the internet and was genuinely seeking clarification. I strongly recommend Cardinal Arinzes webcast for everyone who is similarly worried by all the arguing amongst a vocal minority of Catholics on the web. It is easily found on U tube. Cardinal Arinze explains about the Latin mass and changes to the Novo Ordo among many other interesting talks. His webcast is a masterpiece of love – he loves his flock and will not let them stray. He does not attack them – he informs – and loves the person asking for guidance. This is the religion I was brought up with. This is the church I know. Questions answered clearly and with charity. Love above all – not fighting or squabbling. We must examine out motives as we blog.
    I went to a talk about Benedictine Spirituality yesterday – given by a monk from a famous abbey in Sussex. Part of the talk led us to a discussion about true motive. The monk advised that when we do things – even acts of charity we need to pause and examine our motives. An act of charity done for the wrong motive can become tainted in the giving – and is better postponed until motive can be clarified. The monk said that if we think of a pool blown by the wind of life – with lots of waves on it – that is our confused mind – and our motives will be similarly confused. If we pray hard, with the help of the Holy Spirit we can get the pool to become clear and calm – only then is our motive pure and clear. Only then should we act motivated by love. We must pray about what we are doing – before we do it. The pool must be clear so the act is untainted. (Blogging included).
    When we act to defend the church we must look at the man on the cross. Are we doing it for his sake, or for some other motive that is linked to ego? We must be truthful with ourselves about this. If we are not acting to lessen the pain of the man of the cross – we should not act –We should “stay in our monk’s cell and pray” until our motive becomes purified by God. This is what the monk told us and I pass it on to you all as wisdom from the powerhouse of a Benedictine Monastery.
    Pray before you do anything public in the name of the church. Pray before you blog for our words most of all can cut into the flesh of the man on the cross as he suffers. Be sure your motive is pure as you blog .

  19. Peter Rother says:

    Dear Concerned Catholic,
    Please make no mistake, I thought very carefully about the words I posted and I stand by them. I merely thought it prudent to leave your words stand as they are. At this point in time there are likely only four people in the world who still visit this rather old thread (and that includes our kind host) so there is no one for either of us to posture for to prove some point. I am glad you have come to understand the importance of encouraging only boys to serve the altar. I wish you no ill will.

  20. Concerned Catholic says:

    Dear Mr Rother
    Thank you for your kind wishes. It has been a long journey – starting with such a simple question about altar girls. In my UK based diocese altar girls have been allowed for so long without controversy that I was very surprised to see the acrid debate on the internet. It was very worrying – hence my search for the truth. Thankfully I now have an answer to my original question and note the cardinals very full and truthful response that – “traditionally boys serve mass – they supply our clerics –please give them maximum attention”. He says “there is no obligation to have girls serving but the church has allowed it so we go along with it”- “it is not divine law that girls shall not serve mass”. I am relieved to learn that it is not working against Gods divine purpose to allow altar girls. I have been innocently attending masses with altar girls for years and would have been appalled to have found myself to have been “duped” by my own church in a matter of divine law. The Cardinal advises that favouring boys will produce more priests and he vocalises a worry that we can all acknowledge – that once on the altar a girl will get frustrated by wanting to be a priest and that is forbidden by divine law. This frustration of priestly ambitions among altar girls has not happened in my diocese/parish. There is no upsurge in altar girls wanting to be priests – and we have had girl servers for many years. Clearly God is not allowing the girls to get a priestly calling or we would have by now seen a significant number of perfectly normal and devout young women wanting to be priests. What we do have however is an upsurge in male vocations to the priesthood – even with years of girls standing at their side!!! (All praise to God). This must provide food for thought to any fair minded individual. My observations based on a real life diocese with years of serving girls is that having altar girls does not affect male vocation. Our faith is strong. We pray for vocations and our prayers are answered. God provides.
    What everyone seems to forget is that it is God who calls the boy to the priesthood? Nothing we do as human beings can change that divine purpose. Self evidently God is not calling the altar girls to the priesthood in my diocese. Our motive in allowing the altar girls was pure. Presumably our cardinal allowed it motivated by love – and the outcome has been pure. There is no tumult and demand by young women to become priests despite years of girl altar servers. Our Cardinal has permitted altar girls – and I’m thankful to find that he is acting correctly doctrinally. I think we must all trust God more and not fret about these matters. God will not let the altar girls become “frustrated” as Cardinal Arinze fears – because God simply will not and does not call altar girls to the priesthood.
    It is my observation based on the above experience that the strength of male spirituality in the church is not dependent on having a zero rate of female participation on the altar. The experience of years of altar girls in my diocese is one of increased male vocation running in parallel with increase female participation in the miracle of the Holy Mass. We were created to work together –male and female – one helping the other – and this is permitted by the church and motivated by a great and pure love of its female congregation – love cannot be denied its way- most especially on the altar of God.

  21. Peter Rother says:

    Dear Concerned Catholic,
    Thank you for your further reflections. I am not so sure that the building demands of women to the priesthood from some misguided quarters is not, at least in part, due to the widespread (and in my view intentionally so) promotion of girls serving at the altar for the last several decades. One thing does tend logically to follow the other which culminated in Pope John Paul II’s Ordinatio sacerdotalis in 1994–only about 25 years or less after girl altar servers became commonplace.

  22. Concerned Catholic says:

    I understand your concerns about a minority of women wanting to be priests. I personally can’t understand anyone who brings discord and division into the body of Christ even in the pursuit of what they might consider to be a high ideal. Like Cardinal Arinze – none of us were consulted about the changes to altar girls. Like him -it is way beyond our power to change such things -and unlike him our vocation is to follow not lead. Like most Catholics I don’t really think deeply about such changes. I assume they are approved and was very shocked to hear that there was upset about it in other parts of the church. I’m a “pew Catholic”. I just assume that all is well – I have followed my good shepherd right through Vatican 2 and had no reason to question such changes. I just pray and hope the all will be well. I’m convinced that we have been saved from error in our diocese by purity of intention… We must trust in God.

  23. Peter Rother says:

    Dear Concerned Catholic,
    As our Blessed Mother said:
    “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
    My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”
    Do the best you can and may God grant you His grace.

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