to the Editor
response from readers on the subject of limiting the
service of altar girls and eliminating applause and
dancing during Mass was overwhelmingly critical of what
many saw as a significant leap backward for our Church.
Recently, VOTF has learned in NCR that the Vatican supporters
of such changes have reconsidered and will not, at this
time, be advocating several of the proposals, which
generated considerable controversy and shock among Catholics.
Nonetheless, your response tells us a little more about
who we are and what we're thinking even beyond specific
liturgical changes Be sure to give some thought to this
month's "What Do You Think?" and many, many thanks
for your spontaneous and articulate response to this
first foray! Respond to email@example.com.
Where are the lessons learned from Vatican II? One day
the Church will be needing women for ministry of all
sorts. This would represent another retrenchment. As
far as officiating with other clergy - where is our
ecumenical movement? We should be emphasizing our similarities,
not our differences. Have we learned nothing?"
the deck chairs on the Titanic is another analogy that
comes to mind. It makes me sick that this is where our
authority figures place their efforts."
was furious after reading the article in the Charlotte,
NC Diocesan paper regarding restriction of altar girls,
applause, and liturgical dance, Many forms of worship,
whether cultural or simply expressive of love of our
Creator, using our talents such as dance or applause
in moderation, express encouragement or acknowledgement
for another. Dear God, help me keep the Faith."
the latest proposed changes, I could just cry when I
realize that this is what has been on the minds of our
leaders with the world in such a sorry and needy condition
Pauline Reynolds, Providence, RI
been involved in Ecumenical dialogue for some fifteen
years, and also in Muslim/Christian and Jewish/Christian
dialogue for as many years, in Montreal, I have but
one comment: I think it's absolutely ludicrous!"
have been blessed to have been able to travel quite
extensively. My wife quips that there is no church we
have ever seen that we have not visited. This is especially
true of non-American churches. Worldwide, churches are
the repository of the history and art of an area. Each
one is a museum of culture and beauty. One can learn,
and enjoy, much by making these visits.
the American church has been healthier than others around
the world. People attended US churches and participated.
In recent times, however, a malaise, similar to that
of other countries, is starting to take hold. We are
becoming cynical. The sins of the hierarchy, the ugliness
of the pedophile tragedy, the disgusting focus on donations,
the denigration of females in general, the refusal to
follow through on the wonders of Vatican II, the mismanagement
and so much more. And now a small thing, but emblematic
of so much that is wrong with the church - the proposal
from Vatican sources that altar girls might be welcome
no longer. It took so long to allow them to participate
and now this stupidity. Sometimes it is just a small
straw that breaks the proverbial camel's back."
really don't think much of the ideas presented. It has
taken centuries to try to break down barriers that artificially
separate and someone wants to put all of that behind
us? As to the idea of banning poetry, etc., I have always
thought that the majority of priests (I'm an ex-seminarian)
didn't really understand what was going on in the lives
of the people in the pews. If something can be uplifting,
then there is certainly nothing wrong with using it.
We all recognize why we're at a Mass - to receive the
Body and Blood of Christ. If we can be uplifted and
feel good while we're there, then hooray!
hope there are new guidelines demanding more reverent
and worshipful behavior at Mass - the sooner the better.
Maybe it will remind Catholics what the Mass is, or
should be, all about."
are two thoughts regarding 'What Do You Think?'
First, the very act of asking us what we think is novel
and deeply necessary for a modernization of the Catholic
Church in America. We hold democratic and representative
rule very near to our hearts, yet the Church always
dictates and never asks. Please keep asking opinions
on different topics and present aggregate findings to
the Church. This is a model that can be used to better
involve the laity. We believe that we are the Church,
we are God's Hands, and yet we are treated like stupid
keep the girls involved!!! As a Catholic woman raising
a Catholic daughter, I think we need more opportunities,
not fewer. Except for women religious, we don't have
any role models for involvement. DON"T let the Church
undo what tiny progress has been made. Finally, bless
you for starting and maintaining a Web site to be a
Rosellen Kraus, Orlando , Florida
shall refuse to eliminate altar girls in our parish,
and my daughter, a former professional dancer with an
MFA in Dance, has a teen liturgical dance ensemble that
will continue to participate in liturgies.
must admit that applause does nothing for me. As a matter
of fact, I think it takes away from the divine moment
and cuts it off. We do have applause in our parish and
I do not participate. As one involved in theatre, I'm
fearful that we could confuse liturgy and theatre."
often applaud without any thought and dance is a big
part of many cultures. Would it be helpful if all the
women in our churches stayed home for two full weekends
and see what we would have?"
believe the Church needs to continually strive to eradicate
the sexism that has existed for too long. I do notice
that there seems to be an abundance of altar girls these
days, which would point to the need for men to model
their involvement in the Church so that being an altar
boy remains appealing to boys.
dance should continue. It is a valid expression of worship.
In the US we have not used our bodies enough as an expression
of worship. Too many Masses are so dry that it is increasingly
difficult to sit through them. We need more exuberance
and energy in the Mass.
at Mass has always blessed me. Continue when it is appropriate.
I have never been to a Mass when applause has been used
is ridiculous! This is the kind of thing that is driving
me away from the Church. I can't believe our Church
turned a blind eye to rampant pedophilia by priests
- tacit institutional approval of such practices for
decades. Now they are worried about dancing, poetry,
and applause? No. The attempt to further exclude girls
and women from meaningful participation in the Church
is even more distasteful. I urge VOTF to continue to
present the view of the laity so that the Church will
another example of how OUT OF TOUCH the Church leadership
is. The "male" clergy in general have made a mess of
things. We need more not less 'female' influence to
clean it up."
believe that the idea of limiting girls' roles in the
Church (or the roles of women in general) emphasizes
Jesus' gender at the expense of His humanity. I believe
that limiting expressions of human creativity and joy
in our central mode of worship, the Mass, similarly
denies much of the humanity that Christ experienced.
For example, He attended weddings where the host ran
out of wine. Even a small stretch of the imagination
suggests that dancing or poetry readings (or singing)
were responsible for that thirsty group (either that
or we are left with an image of the historical Jesus
hanging out with a purely drinking crowd).
Catholics believe that Christ is among us humans based
on our fundamental religious document, the New Testament,
and the various Acts and Letters of the early Christians.
Everyday observation of the behavior of other humans
and honest self-reflection upon our own behavior reveals
to any rational being that Jesus is among all of us,
but not entirely in any one of us. Therefore, our life-long
search for Christ requires us to look for him in all
whom we encounter. Logically (and even statistically),
this search is most complete when as many humans as
possible can present themselves to others in their entirety.
That entirety may take expression in someone's femininity,
masculinity, ability to write poetry (or express appreciation
for this talent in others), ability to dance (or express
appreciation for this talent in others), or the kindness
to recognize that other faiths may also give people
access to God.
whenever we deny opportunity of expression to any human,
we are denying ourselves an opportunity to find Christ."
Jerry J. Cura, PhD
seek the more open, flexible services that are few and
far-between in Charleston, South Carolina. One Monsignor
evidently knows theology and rather than speak down
to his congregation expects them to walk beside him
as he explores unique interpretations of the day's readings.
However, Bishop Baker has given his blessing to the
Latinate Mass. It seems this is more significant than
the dramatic changes Vatican II attempted to effect
at the behest of Pope John XXIII."
years ago we attended Mass in Wisconsin. To our surprise
there were no kneelers in the pews. The congregation
stood during consecration! Novel? Yes. Involving? Yes.
the Holy Spirit descend upon you and grant you hope
and fortitude to continue your vital work."
James N. Letendre
problem with having well-meaning applause during Mass
for, say, installation of Parish Council officers or
following a baptism is that you have to be consistent
and fair and allow other vocal demonstrations, e. g.,
booing if some are inclined. We would be horrified at
booing, but at ball games booing and applause are two
sides of public expression. Don't think you can allow
one and prohibit the other.
get rid of poetry. We had a priest who loved to read
Helen Steiner Rice calling-card selections. The problem
was he was aware that it was not well-received but continued
to read anyway. There should be ample food for thought
from the Scripture readings; that's why other Christians
refer to them as lessons.
However, I don't think the Church has to be concerned
about altar girls in the future. I don't think there
will be that many people attending Mass. The emphasis
for young people is away from the Catholic Church. Does
it make me sad? Yes, it does. I am now 60 years old
and still a practicing Catholic. But if I were raising
my children today, I would have to think twice about
raising them Catholic."
a Canadian in the Diocese of Victoria/B.C. we not only
have taken Vatican II to heart but had a Synod, which
supports the increasing involvement of ALL the laity.
We certainly are dead against any changes that would
inhibit our female altar servers from being a part of
to the non-Catholic participation, our thrust in the
Cowichan Valley and in the diocese is towards more,
not less ecumenical outreach. Dancing is an integral
part of Judaic/Christian worship and, where appropriate,
will, we state, continue - applause, likewise.
watch with interest the movement of VOTF in the States
and look forward to contacting others who might help
form a 'cell' of action here."
note - we have put Peter in touch with others in his
kind of men spend time and energy on such questions?"
Mary Lou LoVecchio
holy sacrifice of the Mass is not a theatre production
and does not require applause or dancing. As for altar
girls, this should be reserved for boys as the priesthood
is. On the subject of conduct at Mass, the trading of
non-Catholic ministers at each others churches for homilies
is not in accord with Catholic teaching."
John R. Lang
proposals would take the Church ONE GIANT STEP BACKWARDS!
Whatever happened to the Ecumenical movement? With the
advent of altar girls (my daughter is one), the Church
took one small step forward for women. The next, long
overdue step is the full participation of women in the
Church as priests, bishops, and even, Pope someday.
As for dancing, they might as well eliminate music,
too. Dancing can also be a way of worship, as is singing.
What's wrong with prayerful poems and readings that
aren't from the Bible? Thank you for soliciting my opinion.
Will anyone in the Vatican hear me?"
Eileen M. Craffey
am a convert to Catholicism. I have practiced my faith
for over 30 years. The trend I have seen is to become
more like the Protestant religion by relaxing the rules
and allowing liturgical dancing, applause, etc. I see
people chatting during the Mass, children getting up
and leaving to go outdoors for a little while and return
when they feel like it. Half of the people no longer
genuflect when they go into church. Mothers of teenagers
coming into church in SHORT shorts and allowing their
daughters to come in with shorts and spaghetti strap
blouses with their midriffs exposed. There is an overall
lack of respect for the Church and what it represents.
There is no longer any sacredness attached to the Mass.
One of the reasons why, I believe, is that the Church
has stopped teaching proper behavior during the Mass.
And having the Blessed Sacrament stuck over in some
obscure corner does not help at all. In our church the
Crucifix is also off to the side and the bishop's chair
is front and center. The priest tells jokes and, quite
frankly, it is more like a day for fun than a day for
prayer and reflection. I believe the Church must put
respect back into church, by teaching the rules to be
observed during the Mass. In addition they should observe
the rules themselves."
banish girls from altar service, or texts that do not
come directly from Scripture, or applause or dancing,
would be a serious misdirection of our call to love
and serve God and our neighbor. The leadership of the
Church should be looking for ways to help us live more
genuinely Christian lives, which would include being
open to ministers of other Christian faiths or to lay
persons assisting at liturgies of various kinds. Social
justice, humility, poverty in spirit, purity in hearts
should be our concern, not narrowing our certification
of Roman Catholic identity. Priests and bishops and
faithful followers have better things to do."
of our servers in our small southern Church are female.
As for applause, that was what I heard first when I
completed the conversion process many years ago. It
made me feel welcome. Thanks for your work in helping
to change the Church and God Bless."
girls are fine with me, also good liturgical dancing,
but poetry? Why don't we stick to the loveliest poetry
of all - the Psalms? I should add that I love to go
to a Gregorian Mass once in a while, too. I can do this
at the 9:15 Sunday mass at Our Lady of Sorrows in Kansas
City, Missouri. The church is host to a Gregorian community
in addition to the "regular" pastors - a great combination."
Kay Miles, Missouri
barely hang onto my faith. Sometimes I think the best
thing is to share your thoughts and prayers with Jesus
and eliminate the middleman (formal Church) completely.
That is what most of the younger generation does."
can do without liturgical dancing and non-Biblical readings.
I don't need wine for everybody and think the 'sign
of peace' is silly. I hate applause in church, except
at a concert. But I think not allowing women and girls
to participate as altar servers, readers, cantors or
Eucharistic ministers would be totally wrong. If they
do their jobs with reverence and efficiency they belong
there. Keeping non-Catholics from participating is also
a stupid idea. Haven't we gotten past the idea that
God loves only Catholics?"
I read the article about the suggested changes in the
Church in my local newspaper, I almost fell out of my
chair. If these 'suggested' changes are approved it
will only show how out of touch Rome is with the American
feel most American Catholics like the Church just the
way it is. Sure, it took some time for us to accept
English, Communion in the hand, and, yes, even altar-girls;
but these are some of the best things that have happened
in our lifetimes in our Church. Let's hope cooler and
clearer heads prevail in Rome before they add more fuel
to the recent scandals."
really see this as a feeble attempt to retain a power
that has gotten out of the box. Thanks to organizations
like VOTF, I do not ever see our Roman Catholic Church
being put back in the box. But if the laity becomes
apathetic or if we do not understand our responsibilities,
little snips at our freedom will occur.
A deeper concern that I see in the article is the last
item, 'There is also a proposal to inhibit pan-religious
participation in the Mass, a practice that had taken
root during decades of ecumenical enthusiasm in the
Catholic Church. Representatives of Protestant or other
non-Catholic sects should not take part in the service
beside the priests, according to the proposal.'
a baptized Christian I am baptized into the Body of
Christ, not the Roman Catholic Church and not any other
Christian denomination. In ecumenical weddings, it is
preposterous and offensive to ask a non-Roman Catholic
minister to participate in the wedding but not to allow
any participation in the service beside the priest.
In the Nicene Creed, a truly ecumenical creed because
it was developed by the early Christian Church before
any division occurred, we proclaim, 'We believe in one
holy catholic and apostolic church.' In grammatically
correct printing of this creed, the word 'catholic'
is not capitalized. That is because the word 'catholic'
does not equal Roman Catholic.
the baptized need to claim the spirituality of our baptism.
'There is...one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God
and Father of all, who is over all and through all and
in all.' (Ephesians 4:4-6)
Don E Siegal, Lemoore, CA, Diocese of Fresno
half of the Catholics throughout the world are female.
How is it conceivable to consider excluding females
from the same roles allowed for males during Mass? This
mentality has the Church in a position now where we
do not have enough priests to carry on the role of serving
the parishes. Think of where the Church would be if
lay people were not serving in the various ministries!
A large percentage of these volunteers are in the Autumn
of there years. We need to start thinking 'out of the
box' to save the future of our beloved Church."
I think that these "possible changes" are a step backwards
and insult the laity once again. Not only are these
changes divisive, they come at a time when our Church
needs to concentrate on building community, not focusing
on trivial matters. Thank you for providing this opportunity
to express my views. Blessings and PEACE!"
Toni Bastoni, VOTF member in Santa Rosa, California
think the restriction of freedoms within the Catholic
church recently show fear on the part of the governing
[male] hierarchy within the Church. Dialog diminishes
with fear, and dogmatic ultimatums (with the threat
of being 'unfaithful' for the noncompliant) increase.
proposed changes appear to be reactionary and based
upon insecurity. The theological strengthening of the
'God-priest' coupled with the reduced participation
of the 'non-priest' laity (are we now the "god-less,"
I wonder?) won't negate the current crisis within the
Church. Resurrecting the "we vs. them" mentality is
not only regressive, it is downright alienating.
love our faith, which is why this is so disturbing.
I will pray that our church management has the courage
to face their fear and begin to realize that true communion
is only a dialog away."
Mrs. Virginia Pierson
the buzz about eliminating girl altar servers, liturgical
dance, and applause, it seems that this is an attempt
to eliminate the female energy and service in our liturgy
celebrations of the Eucharist. What would Jesus do?
He would, without any doubt, welcome everyone and their
gifts to His table. How can we survive and deal with
all the serious issues of our day when our Church leaders
are focusing on such demoralizing actions? God help
them to wake up and fill up with the Holy Spirit! Sincerely
your sister in Christ."
Mary Ann Barry, Prayerful Voice Rep., St. Theresa's
VOTF, Harvard, MA
are they going to stop applause? Call the police? Take
tapes of who is clapping and threaten them with excommunication?"
burkas next? I really don't think these proposed changes
will happen. I think the People of God are not going
to be pushed back behind the altar rail to a passive
role in THEIR Church."
Ellen Healey, Indianapolis
role of women and girls in ministry should not be limited.
I believe that gender apartheid is just as wrong when
practiced in the Catholic Church in the United States
as it is when practiced by the Taliban."
Shirley Stokes, Archdiocese of Milwaukee
diocesan news here in North Carolina covered the proposed
changes in liturgical practice very briefly, reporting
that the instruction '... recognizes a bishops authority
to permit girls and women to serve at the altar BUT
NEVER WITHOUT A JUST PASTORAL REASON' (caps mine). Could
not the needed "reason" be that we as female are Gods
own loved daughters?
At 67 years of age, I would have hoped for so much more
from our bishops. But I rejoice that VOTF is, after
having been birthed in enormous pain, alive and growing,
and giving hope to us all. Blessings to you, VOTF."
Thomas J. Gumbleton of Detroit has written a letter
to the editor of Commonweal (Oct. 10, 2003) that is
very supportive of VOTF. The bishop ends his letter
by saying, 'We can only hope that Voice of the Faithful
and other lay groups will have the stamina to persist
in their efforts to hold the bishops accountable and
to bring structural reform to the Church.' Progress
comes slowly, but it will come.
John Gallagher, Westminster, CA
the already pathetically small role of females at mass
(for instance, by eliminating girl altar servers) might
just succeed in finally driving me out of the Church.
I say this as a woman who's been a lector almost since
the admission of lay women to that function was introduced.
It's one thing for us to progress slowly, quite another
to destroy advances already made. What on earth (or
in heaven) harm has been done by letting girls feel
their Church values their assistance?
I don't have strong feelings about most of the other
issues, though I've always disliked the practice of
applauding during Mass. We're not an audience, and the
liturgical dancers are not performing for our benefit.
I once attended a demonstration of Tibetan monks chanting.
Though they were on a stage in an auditorium, we were
asked in the program not to applaud because the monks
did not wish to shift the emphasis to themselves from
That to which their chants were addressed. The tension
in the silences between chants was palpable; people
wanted to applaud. Not being allowed to do so made us
focus on the purpose of the extraordinary sounds we
were hearing. I'd like to see a similar focus maintained
The use of non-biblical readings is acceptable if their
choice is carefully monitored by a trained liturgical
committee. I'm strongly in favor of cooperative liturgies
involving other clergy alongside priests. I favor a
pluralistic approach in such situations: let different
perspectives exist side-by-side rather than 'blanding
down' to a single mutually acceptable prayer or ceremony.
That's a matter for the pastor to decide on a case-by-case
basis, though, in my opinion.
Thanks for opening this discussion. I hope our words
get passed on... or upward."
learned of these possible limitations on Monday, September
29. It felt like a slap in the face, especially because
on Sunday, September 28 I served on the altar for the
first time in my life as a Minister of Ceremonies, being
the principal assistant to the priest at Mass.
As a child I went to daily Mass during the school year
and also on Saturday in Lent. I knew all the Latin,
and because my missal was English/ Latin I KNEW what
the Latin meant. I knew what the altar boys did and
when to do it, and I knew every movement the priest
made. I was always on time, awake and alert - while
the boys often were not. But I could never go and help
the priest, I could not assist at Mass. I was a girl
and that was that.
It took 45 years for me to assist at Mass. And the very
next day I read that this tiniest of accommodations
may be taken away. Discrimination is a terrible thing
and that is what this amounts to. I am hurt and angry.
I also understand that another recommendation is to
re-install a communion rail, keeping the priest away
from the congregation. Are these really the things that
senior Church leadership is concerned about???? 'Out
of touch' does not begin to describe the chasm between
hierarchy and laity if this is the case."
a short note, as a Roman Catholic still in shock over
the recent incidents in our Church, I just wanted to
give you encouragement to continue your good work. And
if and when a chapter comes to the Boca Raton, Florida
area I will be in attendance.
group presence for this extremely good cause to save
the Catholic church and the real roots of the Catholic
religion is an inspiration. I have not attended Mass
since the exposure of Cardinal Law and his group of
merry men. I must get over it and seek a Catholic Church
that has our true meaning of what religion is all about.
There has to be more humility and spirituality for all.
May God bless each and every one of you."
note: We have put the writer in touch with our Florida
for all you do and have done. Many active Catholics
see the crying need for change. We love the message
of Jesus and want to follow Him to His Father."
level of control is counterproductive to the gospel
and the movement of the Holy Spirit! VOTF is a critical
movement for hope in the Catholic Church."
opinion is that women have an important role in the
future of our Church. I honestly think we have drifted
away from the beauty and solemnity of our religion.
Dancing is one of my loves but I don't see its place
in a church.
Attendance at Mass is somewhat of a three-ring circus
at times. Children go back and forth to the bathroom
to pass the time. (We didn't even know there was a bathroom
in the church and if we did we would have been embarrassed
to distract everyone by strolling back and forth.) People
don't show reverence for the Blessed Sacrament - they
talk throughout the Mass. Teenagers are bored because
they don't have the opportunity to feel the sacredness
of the same Mass that thousands of us felt 30 or 40
years ago. People are never admonished to dress appropriately.
That would be another assault on their free will.
We Catholics used to see the need for rules, standards
and good manners. Now we go with the tide of complacency.
Wake up and restore the Church as it was meant to be.
Priests and bishops should stand up and be counted.
Today many are a disgrace to the Church and its mission.
Instead of dancing in the church, look at the more important
issues before it's too late. Render to Caesar the things
that are Caesar's and to God the beautiful things that
are His. How about the beauty of the Church before Vatican
you VOTF for strengthening my belief. I waited 35 years
for understanding. Keep the Voice strong."
Bob Schwiderski, a victim/survivor of Catholic Clergy
Suggestion: We have listed as a goal 'to change the
Church'. At the same time we have had difficulty being
accepted and recognized by our bishop. During the months
of September thru December the Rockville Center Diocese,
NY is holding Synod Parish Listening Sessions. The Bishop
is offering to hear what the people have to say. Are
we (VOTF) as an organization using this opportunity
to "voice" our concerns, hopes, and dreams? Is the organization
encouraging its members to attend and participate in
their parishes? This is an opportunity to 'put our money
where our mouth is.' Is the organization truly interested
in this opportunity to be heard or is VOTF only interested
in being recognized as an organization? Something to
think about from a VOTF member!"
of the Faithful, VOTF, "Keep the Faith, Change the Church,"
Voice of Compassion, VOTF logo(s), Parish Voice, and
Prayerful Voice are trademarks of Voice of the Faithful,
of the Faithful is a 501(c) 3 tax-exempt organization.