Editor’s note: OnePeterFive is republishing today and tomorrow under the name of their author a pair of articles that first appeared in 2015 under the pseudonym Benedict Constable. With the progressive envelope-pushing discussion in the Church of whether women might be “deacons” or “priests” (in spite of repeated statements to the contrary by the Magisterium), it is crucial to put on the brakes and ask: Why are we going down this road to begin with? There is a prior question: Should women be performing any liturgical functions in the sanctuary? In this article, Dr. Kwasniewski takes up the question of female lectors. Tomorrow we will publish his response to objections. He has taken up the question of female altar servers at NLM (1, 2).
Given that Catholic churches throughout the world swarm with lay liturgical ministers of both sexes , it may seem a bit late in the game to offer theological arguments against the practice of female lectors . But there are several good and urgent reasons to do so at this time.
First, the ever-increasing number of parishes and chapels in which the Extraordinary Form is celebrated have reintroduced all over the world, to the relief of traditionally-minded men and women, the custom of male-only service in the sanctuary. But the very experience of this once-universal practice necessarily prompts Catholics to raise the question of why it “had” to change at all, and the related question: Is the Church better off for the change, or, as with communion in the hand while standing or communion under both kinds, worse off?
Second, we are living in an age when many believers are revisiting and critically examining the blithe assumptions and hasty moves of the past half-century—and are finding, perhaps to their surprise, that the rationales behind many of the changes are shallow at best, ideological at worst.
Third, now that the evil fruits of a disordered feminism are far more apparent in society and in the Church than ever before, Catholics who have their heads screwed on straight are more open than ever to a fundamental critique of the modern tendency to treat men and women as interchangeable entities.
To ignore differences of sex or to pretend that such differences make (or should make) no difference in the fulfilling of liturgical roles is surely to ignore, and probably to contradict, the “theology of the body” given to the Church by Saint John Paul II. Especially in our times, when confusion about sexuality is rampant, how we conceptualize and implement male and female roles in the Church cannot fail to have huge ramifications in our theological anthropology, moral theology, and even fundamental theology, extending all the way to the inerrancy of Scripture and the trustworthiness of apostolic Tradition.
The question I shall pose is not whether female lectors are permitted at this time (since it is obvious that they are permitted by ecclesiastical law), but whether the practice makes theological sense, and to what extent it has introduced confusion into the minds of the faithful. After all, if it turned out to make no sense and to be harmful, it would not be the first time the Church has blundered in regard to a disciplinary matter with doctrinal implications.
Moreover, why was there an unbroken practice for nearly 2,000 years (or more than 3,000 years, if we include the worship of the Israelites as preparatory to the New Covenant)? Were our predecessors all chauvinists who didn’t understand the “genius of women” and the contributions they could make to the life of the Church? That seems really unbelievable when one looks at the facts .
In the form of a Thomistic question, I will present arguments on both sides, resolve the question in favor of the Church’s Tradition, and respond to the initial objections.
Whether Women Should Read the Readings at Mass
Objection 1. It would seem that it is most appropriate for women to read the readings at Mass. For a woman is capable of representing more perfectly the Church as our Mother, to whom the Word of God has been entrusted. It belongs to a mother to instruct her children in the ways of God. Therefore a woman appropriately delivers the Word of God to the faithful.
Objection 2. To read Scripture is proper to every member of the Church, for the Roman Pontiffs have constantly recommended that all Catholics read Scripture and have even enriched this activity with indulgences. Reading Scripture at Mass is nothing more than doing what is proper and recommended for all. Therefore it is indifferent whether men or women serve as readers.
Objection 3. In the traditional liturgy, the lector is not an ordained minister, even if he is in minor orders. Therefore one does not have to be ordained to be a lector. Now, it is only ordination that is reserved to males. Therefore lectorship is not reserved to males. Much less, then, is the function of reading reserved only to males.
Objection 4. The Apostle says: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). Hence it is irrelevant whether a reader is male or female, so long as he or she is a Christian.
Objection 5. The Church has allowed women to read the readings at Mass. Therefore, it must be good to do so.
On the contrary: The Apostle declares to the Corinthians: “As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church” (1 Cor 14:33–35). Moreover, the same Apostle says to Saint Timothy: “Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent” (1 Tim 2:11–12).
In accordance with this apostolic judgment, the Church, for nearly 2,000 years, did not permit any woman to exercise a liturgical ministry in the sanctuary. Thus, the Council of Laodicea (365 AD) stated in Canon 44: “Women may not approach near the altar.” But the Church, being guided by the Holy Spirit, cannot err in the pleasing worship of Almighty God. Therefore her constant customs indicate a divine disposition, and all discordant novelties are to be rejected.
I respond: It ought to be said that in Sacred Scripture the Word of God is always compared to seed, and the preacher to the one who plants the seed in the soil. The one who hears the Word is the mother whose faith receives the seed—the womb in which the seed is implanted, begins to grow, and with patience bears fruit. For this reason, the congregation of the faithful is the image of the Virgin Mary, while the lector is the image of God the Father, implanting in their hearts the seed of the Word, Jesus Christ, even as He did through the instrumentality of the Archangel Gabriel at the Annunciation.
Hence, for a woman to be proclaiming the Word is self-contradictory: it makes the female who receives the seed the male who issues the seed. If one denies this symbolic dissonance, one must go one step further and maintain that being male or being female is metaphysically incidental and irrelevant, and that there is no religious symbolism to being male or being female. Such views suggest that the archetypes handed down in Scripture are conventional, changeable, and even false, rather than based on nature, permanent, and true. Such views also suggest the heresy of the Manichaeans, who denied that bodily realities were made by the good God as manifestations of His wisdom.
Hence, the now nearly universal custom of women reading at Mass deserves to be abolished as the historical aberration and theological danger that it is. Such a restoration of ancient discipline would be one more way to celebrate and consolidate the authentic teaching of the Second Vatican Council, which did not breathe a word about opening up liturgical ministries to women, and which expressly stipulated: “there must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 23).
To the first objection, therefore, it should be said that all of the sacraments have been entrusted to Holy Mother Church, and the Mass is her chief glory. If the above argument were true without qualification, it would be fitting, or more fitting, for all the sacraments to be performed by women. Indeed, there would be no metaphysical argument against female priests, but only a positivistic argument: Jesus chose men, therefore the Church chooses men. At this point we will have abandoned the enterprise of theology, faith seeking understanding (fides quaerens intellectum). While on earth, the Lord Jesus did not do things arbitrarily. If males ought to be priests, then males ought to be lectors, servers, ministers of communion, and so forth, because all of these are roles of giving, of acting upon, while the response made by the faithful is always one of receiving and of being acted upon. This, of course, is the very point of the metaphor of planting or sowing the seed versus taking it into the womb of the ground where it germinates and bears fruit.
To the second objection, it should be said that Holy Mass is not a moment of private prayer or a Scripture study, but a public liturgical act offered to God by Jesus Christ the Eternal High Priest, at the hands of ministers who are conformed, more or less perfectly, to the image of this High Priest. Hence, it is not proper to every member of the Church to be a public reader of Scripture, any more than it belongs to any member to preach the word of God to a congregation, as the Apostle teaches in the aforementioned passages.
To the third objection, it should be said that denying that ministers in the sanctuary need to be conformed to the Eternal High Priest as regards their human constitution amounts to a denial of the mystery of the Incarnation, in which the Son of God became not just human (homo), but a man (vir). Hence, although a lector need not be ordained, it is fitting that the lector be ordainable, that is, one who is of such a nature as to reflect the concrete personal identity of the Incarnate Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth.
It may be said, in addition, that rationalism has played far too great a role in the liturgical reform and the evils that have followed from it, as Joseph Ratzinger frequently observes. We are considering here a poignant example. Could anything be more rationalistic than ignoring the raw, earthy, elemental differences between man and woman? Could anything be more Cartesian than pretending they are the same, or indistinguishable, or interchangeable, or substitutable? Our age will surely go down in history, if there is much of history left, as the age in which common sense met its demise. Anyone with the slightest knowledge of human nature knows that when a child wants or needs its mother, no one else will do; when a situation demands the father, no one else will do. When the Church, for her part, needs a ruler, teacher, or sanctifier, she chooses and appoints a man, for no one else can represent the face, the voice, and the hands of Jesus Christ. It is not a matter of loving and suffering as Christ, for it seems that many more women are Christlike in that sense; it is strictly a matter of who may formally act in His person (in persona Christi), when making present His redemptive action upon us who receive its fruits.
To the fourth objection, the Apostle cannot be saying that sexuality no longer exists after baptism or no longer has any role to play in the Christian life, otherwise his comparison of the relationship of husband and wife to the relationship of Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5) would carry no force.
Moreover, grace does not destroy nature but elevates it. Therefore, while grace heals and elevates equally the souls of men and women, other things being equal, it never cancels out their sexual difference. Since only a woman can be a mother, it was the Blessed Virgin Mary who enjoyed the greatest privilege known to creation—namely, to give the Son of God His body and nurture Him in her womb and on her breast. Since only a man can be the image of Christ in His total incarnational reality, Christ chose only males to exercise His priesthood at the altar of sacrifice, as foreshadowed by the priests of the Old Covenant.
To the fifth objection, the history of the Church furnishes numerous examples of permissions that were unwisely granted, and later, wisely taken away. For example, the Church has the authority to attach indulgences to donations, but this arrangement in practice was so susceptible to abuse (“the sale of indulgences”) that the Church withdrew the permission.
Moreover, there is a crucial distinction between allowing and encouraging. The Church allows her children to go to confession and communion only once a year, but that does not mean she encourages them to receive the sacraments so seldomly. The Church allows married couples to have relations out of motives of lust so long as they remain open to life, but that is hardly the ideal of conjugal intimacy. Thus, merely because something is allowed does not mean it is, or should be, encouraged. For, as the Apostle says in a similar context, “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful” (1 Cor 6:12).
Moreover, one must reject the minimalist mentality that asks: “What can I get away with, without disobeying the Church?” for the same reason that one should reject the minimalist mentality behind the question “What is the least I must do to get into Heaven?” The very fact that one is thinking that way indicates a serious deficiency in one’s mentality. We should be striving to do what is most excellent, fitting, and appropriate.
Postscript. In the end, to sustain the appropriateness of female lectors, we would have to conclude that the People of God (Israel and the Church) were committing a serious error for more than 3,000 years in their restrictive public worship, and that all of our forefathers—including the Church Fathers and Doctors and hundreds of Popes—were wrong to limit these ministries to men, until the enlightened 1960s showed us a new and better way. Given all the good things we got from the sixties and seventies, forgive me for thinking that the absurdity of these conclusions requires no further comment.
Editor’s note: Subsequent to the response to this article, Benedict Constable wrote a follow-up offering greater insight into the male-female symbolism present in liturgical roles and action.
 Note that I do not say “gender,” which is a grammatical concept, but “sex,” which is an anthropological reality. The almost universal shift away from speaking of the male and female sex, something present in the very body of a person, to male and female gender, something merely attributed as a convention, is a significant cultural indicator of the triumph of subjectivism over realism.
 A word about the use of the term “lector.” Broadly speaking, this word has come to be synonymous with “reader.” In a stricter sense, “lector” refers to a male officially instituted and set aside for the ministry of reading, as occurs in many seminaries at a certain point in the formation process. While it may be true that the sudden creation of squads of (male-only) instituted lectors would offer a pragmatic solution to our query, it is much more valuable theologically to ask about the thing in itself: is it more appropriate for a man, as such, to give the readings at Mass, than for a woman, as such? I will follow the common custom of referring to both male and female lectors as well as readers, but one should nevertheless bear in mind the distinction made above.
 In her marvelous book Women in the Days of the Cathedrals, Regine Pernoud demonstrates that women were, if anything, more appreciated, more influential, and more capable in the Middle Ages than in the more “enlightened” centuries that followed.
 See “Incarnate Realism and the Catholic Priesthood.”
This article was originally published on August 12, 2015 under the pen name of “Benedict Constable”.
Dr. Peter Kwasniewski is a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College and The Catholic University of America who taught at the International Theological Institute in Austria, the Franciscan University of Steubenville’s Austria Program, and Wyoming Catholic College, which he helped establish in 2006. Today he is a full-time writer and speaker on traditional Catholicism whose work appears online at, among others, OnePeterFive, New Liturgical Movement, LifeSiteNews, The Remnant, and Catholic Family News. He has published eighteen books, including Reclaiming Our Roman Catholic Birthright: The Genius and Timeliness of the Traditional Latin Mass (Angelico, 2020), The Ecstasy of Love in the Thought of Thomas Aquinas (Emmaus, 2021), and Are Canonizations Infallible? Revisiting a Disputed Question (Arouca, 2021). His work has been translated into at least eighteen languages. Visit his website at www.peterkwasniewski.com.
Thank you for your logical remarks. And thank you for a chuckle-worthy post script! 🙂
Men of God, of the Church need to stand up and act like men once again. Women need to stop trying to act like men and follow the example of the Blessed Virgin, Mother of our Lord. She is the perfect woman and example.
This is once again written by sexist men who think that God loves them more than any woman.
Do you mean the Church, the article or my comment? I’m not a man. I believe there is a reason God created men and women differently (besides the obvious reasons)- and this in no way belittles, maligns or lessens women. Women today have done this to themselves.
I am a woman, and I will say with Windsong, let women imitate the Blessed Mother, the woman of attentive silence, and let men be men.
You’ve hit it on the nail. Men are to do as Christ asked, not women. Women need to mirror the grace and humility of our Mother Mary.
I’m also a woman. I believe that it is only through imitating the virtues of the Blessed Virgin that women are able to find true happiness. Mary could have pressed to be the leader of the apostles, but she didn’t. Biblical womanhood is an amazing experience which requires true trust not only in your husband, but also in God. God loves me just as much as he loves any man. He also recognizes that their gifts are not my gifts, and their calling is not my calling.
I agree with your words on the dignity and privileges of women.
Men have to remember that the first man was made from dirt.
The first woman was made of something better.
Furthermore, women are touched by God (when a child is conceived in her womb) in a way that no man is touched. Consequently women have a great dignity and must be respected and defended.
Each are equal creations of God. The ‘something better’ part leaves me a bit off, sounding as if women are better than men. We are equals. God did not make either one of male or female better than the other. That is of our own free will choices? That is my humble opinion.
Your confidence in the integrity of your opinion is exhibited by voting your self up. Hilarious.
Chronic misanthropy and Anti-Catholicism are the only two remaining acceptable bigotries.
No reflective adult believes that inserting Woman into every position merely because they whine about “sexism” while demanding greater consideration and deference is a good thing.
Woman and girls displace men and boys in the liturgy because of ideological imperative counter to nature.
Very nicely broken down and easy to follow! I really liked your answer to objection 5 using the example of indulgences for donations. I also agree that the minimalist mentality seems to have become very popular in almost every aspect of religion and morality.
I am on my way out, so I can’t give the references, but it is worth noting that every major theologian from the Fathers to the 20th century gives those passages from Paul as crucial reasons why women can’t be priests. In other words: Priests must preach, but women can’t preach because they are to remain silent (St. Paul), therefore women can’t be priests. It is hardly surprising, then, that with women now acting as lectors, Catholics are confused about who can and cannot be a priest.
I, for one, and being brand new to the church, prefer male altar boys, male lectors, and our priests. Woman was never meant to be any one of those, and I for one prefer to stay with what Christ established, over siding with modern ideas which are bordering on things that may jeopardize souls. (& yes, I’m a woman).
Thanks for not being politically correct. This conversation is long overdue.
I ask the following questions honestly and not flippantly
1. Observation: when girls become altar servers, boys tend to quit—boys do not really like to be around girls all that much. When there are mixed gatherings of adults, the room tends to separate into groups of men talking to each other and groups of women talking to each other—adult men do not particularly like to be around adult women and vice versa. What is it that they are detecting and disliking?
2. What does it mean to be masculine or feminine? When one examines this, one can come up with a number of general characteristics: men are generally taller, more men like watching football, more women like shoe shopping, etc. The list is long. And yet those characteristics do not apply 100% to every man or woman. Some men are short, some women like football, etc. Are short men or football-loving women defective in some way? What really is the essence of masulinity and femininity if we have no accurate yardstick with which to measure it?
1. Girls are more detail-oriented and socially aware than boys the same age. Also they are more physically developed. It is intimidating to boys. As for mixed gatherings of adults, it is not my experience that separation by sex is the rule. This degree of social insecurity in adults I would consider evidence of arrested development on both sides, and a warning that I’m in the presence of desperately boring people with nothing at all to say.
2. The essence of sexual differences is the complementary ways we come together to procreate new life: the motivations and inhibitions beforehand, and the adjustment to the presence of new life afterwards.
All true—but again, only on the basis of probability. The probability is high that (say) girls will be more developed than boys at a certain age, or that most adults want to marry and have children. But we are not talking certainties. One can only say that something like 87% of girls are more developed than boys or that 73% of adults want to have children. It’s never 100%. It would seem that one only asymptotically approaches masculinity or femininity, one never *is really* masculine or feminine. Yet so much of the discussion around what men and women “ought” to do or be is treated as if presence of XX or XY chromosomes implies 100% certainty of Trait A or Trait B….
When women are prevented from taking part in the church (as alter servers, lectors, or even the preisthood) it sends a message that God cares more about males than females. This perpetuates the idea that a man is inherently better than a woman.
Actually, it perpetuates the idea that men and women have different and unique roles to fill…… Not that one is better or worse. Further it suggests that when one tries to complete the role of another, we tend to fight against Our Lord’s plan.
So, by your logic, our Lord essentially told his Mother that she, the perfect model for all Christians, is inherently inferior to men, because he did not make her one of the Apostles. Mr. Taylor’s comment is on the mark. It’s not a matter of better, just of different roles.
Anyone who thinks clerics are “better” than the rest of us just because they’re ordained has a serious case of clericalism.
BTW, I’m sure that our Blessed Mother would be the first to remind us that, notwithstanding the unique graces she’s received, it’s her Son who’s the perfect model of Christians.
I think you’re right; in her great humility that’s exactly what she would say.
This is a message only to those who know not the true faith nor do they seem to believe what Scripture teaches.
When women are allowed to serve in the sanctuary, it sends a message that sexual differences are without significance, and even that God cares more about utility than deep truths. This perpetuates the idea that worship is purely formal, not a sacramental engagement of the whole person.
“… it sends a message that sexual differences are without significance…” But what exactly ARE those sexual differences? Not all men are tall, not all women like shoe-shopping, etc. etc.. You can add to the list and make it as long as you like. But you will never find a perfect correlation between XX chromosomes and Trait A or XY chromosomes and Trait B. Stereotypes have some basis in reality, certainly. But biological sex is not perfectly predictive of personalities.
I am not interested in personality. The core of sexual difference is that one sex is father; the other is mother. In humans, this means one is bridegroom and one is bride — and that it does no one any good to obscure the difference.
Hope this helps.
This is quite simple. Men are in fact better at being men than women are. This is a self evident truth.
I disagree. I feel that the ‘God cares more’ is of our own construct. God loves us all, but Christ again set the church with men in the roles the church required. It’s an insult to have a woman priest, because Christ was a man.. not a woman. Henceforth, why only men should be in the priesthood. I hate to think what the justice will be to the priests who brought women into the role, and to the women themselves. I will remain as God intended we women to be. God’ anger is a frightening thought.
As a trained reader, I will get up and read if the scheduled person is a no show and there is an awkward delay in anyone else volunteering. Otherwise, as a woman, I do think it is a good thing that men take the lead in this. Several years ago, I wrote a letter to my pastor telling him I would no longer be on the roster and would pray that the men step up.
I do not think God loves men more than women for heaven’s sake.
My poor pastor, he would appreciate this article and I will forward to him.
You can remind your pastor that Jorge Bergoglio, both before and after he was elevated to the See of Peter, has decried the clericalization of the laity.
The Nervous Disordo isn’t even Catholic; it’s a non-issue.
Funny how this article completely elides the existence of deaconesses in the New Testament, the first centuries of the early Church and even longer in the East. This would suggest that the two extremes in the debate on the role of women in the Church generally and in the sanctuary specifically are false.
The existence of deaconesses is not really relevant to the question, since as far as we know they did not have the liturgical role of reading the scriptures.
Deaconesses were NEVER ordained ministers with a liturgical role.
Your claim is a non-starter.
According to Vatican II and Church history women cannot be instituted as lectors. I would prefer the priest or deacon read or chant the readings. mass has turned into a news desk with commentators readers like some strange and very amateur new program or comedy with funny voices.
Or a talent show for attention whores.
Yes, on no female lectors. And no female altar servers, either. And no communion in the hand. And forget about communion under two specials (drop the cup). And turn the priest around to lead, not face the people. Do these all these things and we are off to a good start to celebrating Mass as it should be. : God is there, we need to show proper respect which leads to love. That’s what the show is all about folks!
More importantly, back to the true teachings of the Catholic Church and a prayer that those who lost the faith, or never had it, who introduced a Protestant worship service calling it a Catholic Mass, return to or find the one, true faith.
Perfectly stated! Thank you.
I like receiving the Precious Blood. I would say do it by intinction, or use a fistula or golden straw to drop it in communicants’ mouths. In the Byzantine rite, the Body of Christ is soaked in Precious Blood and dropped on the communicants’ tongue with a golden spoon.
My first Latin Mass, about 3 weeks into going to Mass before I was even baptized I love how the priest faced Christ, not us. As it should be. Give full attention to our God. The sight of priests giving communion in hand makes me anxious for the souls of the priests who should know better! I first took communion in hand, then saw a video that snapped me out of that nonsense. I also confessed my sin in confession for forgiveness of this. As all whom still do it should ask forgiveness and stop. As I see it, my hands were Never consecrated by God to touch the precious eucharist, and therefore I should not touch it, but receive it as it was meant.. on the tongue! If you’re not a priest, stop doing it.. plez!
This article came at a perfect time! I have been contemplating this very issue for the last few months and finally resigned from being a Lector after approx. 20 yrs. I enjoy it immensely and have been told I have a gift HOWEVER I must follow the truth and this article makes 100% sense to me. I agree that alter servers should be male so when I had to look at myself personally it was a bit difficult at first because as I said I really enjoy it. I think one must really understand what the Liturgy is to be able to grasp the truth. I feel a burden has been lifted and that I am doing the right thing by resigning.. must try to practice what I preach. Faith and reason.. this is reasonable. I follow Our Lady’s example. If you have never read they Mystical city of God by St. Mary Agreda you should! Mother Mary clearly gives many details on her role while hear on earth. Que Viva Cristo Rey and Our most merciful Mother Mary.
I love the format. I’ve been writing with thomas’s format on theological issues lately too. Keep it up!
Ha ha. Deacon Greg Kandra has latched onto this, reposting part of it and calling it bizarre. I really wish Pewsitter would warn us when it is going to link to a Patheos site. And of course the deacon does not allow comments. (I’m so tired of the poorly-formed deacons we are churning out in America.)
It is a sad commentary on how far afield the Church has gone when her clergy simply point and exclaim “Bizarre!” when confronted with what once understood as elementary Catholicism. He didn’t even advance an argument against Constable’s essay, just gawked as if confronted with some strange novelty.
I have zero positive exposure to Permanent Deacons including Kandra over the last twenty years and have long advocated for their elimination. They are just another appendix in the bowels of the church with little utility when health but deadly when gangrenous.
Pious platitude dispensers or imperious dolts.
yes and no… When they’re good, they’re really, really good, e.g. Deacon Jim Russell.
I am citing personal experience and exempted media personalities from consideration.
The part he calls bizarre — sexual symbolism — is common in scripture and tradition, especially in some of the greatest scholastics. St. Albert the Great uses it frequently in his biblical commentaries. For instance, discussing the Pater Noster in Mt. 6, he relates fatherhood to implanting a seed and God’s implanting of grace and supernatural life, etc.
“Mr. Constable” is in good company.
Benedict Constable has just posted a followup to this article. You may all find it of interest:
Male-Female Symbolism in Liturgical Roles: Not Bizarre, Just Catholic https://onepeterfive.wpengine.com/male-female-symbolism-in-liturgical-roles-not-bizarre-just-catholic/
Bishop Schneider has hit this point several times. From his talk in DC this past February:
“All those who exercise an active role in the liturgy, such as lectors, or those announcing the prayer of the faithful, should always be dressed in the liturgical vestments; and only men, no women, because this is an exercise in the sanctuary, close to the priesthood. Even reading the lectionary is directed towards this liturgy which we are celebrating to Christ. And therefore only men dressed in liturgical vestments should be in the sanctuary.”
Benedict Constable is the nom de plume of a noteworthy traditional Catholic scholar and author.
Is he afraid to use his real name?
Anyone who takes the precaution of using a pen name does so, I think, with good reason. Perhaps they’re a parish priest under an unsympathetic bishop, are in the process of joining a religious order that can’t be associated with controversy, hold a teaching position at a Catholic university which requires the “Mandatum” (which can be used against them, if the bishop so determines), or is employed by a Catholic publication that must retain careful neutrality in its relationships with the bishops. There are many reasons why, and I only publish writers under a pen name when I am convinced that the threat to their daily work and the good of souls is sufficient that a disguise is warranted.
Chesterton famously wrote that “The act of defending any of the cardinal virtues has to-day all the exhilaration of a vice.” If it were true in his day, it is exponentially moreso now. Vindictive bishops, a Vatican that fires its political enemies, gotcha journalism, unscrupulous donors pulling more than just purse strings…it’s a dangerous time to be a Catholic with eyes to see and to say something about it.
I’ve heard from so many people working in various capacities for the Church who have great insights to offer but cannot bear the risk of doing so openly without risking their jobs or apostolates. It is one of my great pleasures to give them a platform and allow their voices to be heard.
Thanks for the reply!
Pure Chesterton: “The act of defending any of the cardinal virtues has to-day all the exhilaration of a vice.”
Thanks for that quote Steve Skojec!
That’s one to memorize and use when things get boring at the next family get-together.
I’m against women lectors (and women Eucharistic ministers and women putting their hands in the Tabernacle, etc). Yes, the Word is known as a seed. But, by that argument alone that the lector is/should be male, then the congregation should *only* be female. I can see feminists making that counter-argument, so I don’t see it as a very good explanation to give. What my husband and I tell people is that because the Church is represented as female and the only ones allowed in the altar area should be male, because female lectors, altar servers, etc etc represents a “lesbian” thing.
This followup from the author may help with the confusion: https://onepeterfive.wpengine.com/male-female-symbolism-in-liturgical-roles-not-bizarre-just-catholic/
Makes sense now! Thanks!
I can understand the line of thought you are pursuing, but the same “problem” exists even more so on the macro level of the Church as Bride. The Church being the Bride of Christ poses “issues” for the unordained men in the Church, wouldn’t it?
Since this is obviously untrue, then the same conclusion must be reached in the lesser instance of the congregation at Mass.
I may agree with the assertion, but I’m here to tell you – this is *not* the hill you want to die on. My parish is conservative, we have weekly TLM and it would still be a firestorm of bad PR to attempt to do this. Better to be rid of the EMHCs. Liberalism wins over the culture by slowly turning up the heat on the frog. We need to employ a bit of that technique if we don’t want to have all the focus on what isn’t really the point.
Whether it can be accomplished right now or not is one thing. Whether people know that it’s something that should be accomplished at some point is another.
We can only move toward truth once we identify it and understand the “why” of the thing.
As anyone who attends a TLM regularly knows, the reading of the Epistle and Gospel is a strictly clerical affair. We’ve forgotten more than we know.
We need to see the entire battlefield, as well as features of the terrain that suggest how to proceed.
But should we proceed gradually, feature by feature, or all at once?
The parish we attend right now has “split the difference”: their 8am NO Mass is all-male lectors, servers, and EMHCs, their 11am NO Mass retains that heady mix of males and females popularized after Vatican 2.
What about nuns, female religious, in convents and monasteries all over the world? Do they not violate this male-only service at the altar that you argue for? What about female cantors? The psalmody is integral to the Liturgy of the Word and it is led in most churches from the ambo. Indeed, are not a great number of Doctors of the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church women? Can St. Hildegard von Bingen be defined as a feminist planting seeds in her followers? When lectors only recall the Inspired Word from the Old Testament and from the epistles and leave the Holy Gospels (the words of Christ) to be spoken by the rightly male priests, is that not holding true to Church teaching and the proof texts you cited? I agree with you in part, but not in whole – in particulars, but not in general. Therefore, it leads me to think that your argument may need to be further contemplated.
First off, I prefer the Extraordinary Form. And that’s where I go on Sundays. During the week I attend a novus ordo mass. I refuse to take communion from anyone but a priest. But I’m not sure why there can’t be female readers in the novus ordo. I agree that women can’t be priests. And i certainly hate to see laity giving blessings. But despite what someone wrote here the vast majority of masses at least in Canada and the U.S. are the novus ordo. How does a woman reading in that type of mass hurt? I’ve read the explanations and it’s still not clear to me. By the way, given women are in the church, they are theologians, sisters, teachers, nuns and run church councils I would say we already have some feminization. But isn’t that OK given the half the world is female and the number of female saints we love including the Blessed Virgin Mary? And let’s not forget St. Joan of Arc, who had more courage in her little finger than most men have in their whole bodies. Someone explain the exact prohibition against female readers in the novu ordo.?
If you are bringing up female competence and spunk and devotion, I can only agree that you are not getting the explanations. Our Lord is the Bridegroom. Women cannot stand as symbols of this. Because the only indispensable person in the celebration of Mass is the a priest, other persons active in the sanctuary are there only as additional hands and feet — extensions of his body, so to speak. (The Italian word for altar boy is “chierichetto” — a little cleric). Female servers at Mass obscure and de-signify the maleness of the priest-celebrant.
I think we’re in agreement. In my case the female/male question when it comes to serving the host is moot because I think only priests and deacons should do it I have not interest in a female priesthood. But is this the same thing, your point as “stand as symbols” when it comes to reading the OT, the Epistle or the Psalm? That part I don’t get. I understand your argument but not as it applies to lectors. Again, I go to Trad Latin Mass on Sundays so it’s not an issue. It only comes up at the novus ordo which I attend during the week or if I can’t get to my regular Sunday parish. There are very few parishes in Toronto that celebrate the Extraordinary Form. Too bad, really. But the way it is.
What a perfectly laid pile of poop.
So, nothing to offer other than this juvenile comment?
Juvenile comment for a juvenile article.
Well, that was…bizarre.
Ed, please clean up the poop. I await the searing logic and delicately turned phrases.
I don’t pick up poop laid down by others, but may I suggest you read a certain novel: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, by Patrick Suskind. A quicker version would be the movie. May I also suggest there are many Jean-Baptiste Grenouille’s in this world.
I don’t pick up poop laid down by others, but may I suggest you read a certain novel: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, by Patrick Suskind. A quicker version would be the movie. May I also suggest there are many Jean-Baptiste Grenouille’s in this world.
You must not be a parent or pet owner. 🙂
I agree. (Good luck if you’re the one telling them they’re no longer wanted. )
As more and more women begin wearing veils at Mass fewer and fewer will participate as lecturers and extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist.
This is my humble opinion.
Very good arguments. I would say to anyone who says the analogy of the Word of God as seed doesn’t work because there are men present in the congregation, we don’t hear the Word of God individually but communally. The congregation stands in for the Church as a whole, which is a she.
I do think that bringing back Communion kneeling and ad orientem worship are preferable hills to die on.
Women AND lay
men shouldn’t do the readings. Priests
and even deacons already know how to read.
I don’t know when ‘reading’ became a ‘ministry’. The whole thing is ego. I have an enormous ego but have to keep it in
check. On Judgment Day is Our Savior
going to say, “Come on into heaven, you were great on a microphone.” ???
Without all this brilliant argumentation, this is why I stepped down from being a lector several months ago. I just knew it was unwise.
Did it cross your mind that St Paul, who was a disciple and not an apostle, was not inspired by the Holy Spirit but was only expressing his own opinion? And, as such, Catholic women, are regulated to just sitting in the pews each and every day.
A long response posted at Vox Nova blog
In my opinion the same applies to praying the rosary out loud in a group – formal or informal – in a church or church setting, or in public, unless either there is no man present, or no man willing or capable of leading the rosary present.
You do realize that women do read the Scriptures aloud daily in the reading of the Liturgy of the Hours, and have been doing so as long as men have, right? And if the Divine Office is a true part of the liturgy and is considered true worship which it is, your argument is nothing more than ersatz theology rather than anything substantive.
[…] (and at times creepy) as they are unrealistic. One particularly strange essay entitled, “Should Women Be Lectors at Mass?” was (wisely) originally published under a pseudonym. Written in the form of a Thomistic […]