Here’s what P-t P (to whom thanks for an interesting and thought provoking comment) had to say, with my comments interspersed.
I think you have a point when you call for an increased respect for the sanctuary and it is easy to see how the removal of altar rails may have resulted in a lack of reverence for a holy place within a holy place. I have no argument with a call for more reverence on and for the sanctuary.A civil post, starting with points of agreement: always a courteous strategy, and one I could adopt more often, perhaps...
However the call to keep the sanctuary all-male is dubious. You claim authority from the Old Covenant but in the Old Covenant the Holy of Holies was only accessible to a select few.I think that this slightly misunderstands my point. I was not claiming authority from the Old Covenant, but example. There is a difference. I think the Jewish people were formed in this way for a reason, even if we do not fully understand it.
When Jesus died the veil of the temple which divided the holy of holies from the court of the priests was torn from top to bottom marking the end to this exclusive access and the beginning of the New Covenant. In this New Covenant, all, Greek or Jew, woman or man, slave or free can receive the incarnate God body, blood soul and divinity.Indeed, but the question here isn’t about reception of the incarnate God. [NB Another tradition I like is not using the Holy Name in normal conversation: we always used to talk about 'Our Lord' when mentioning Him in this kind of context.] There has never in the history of the Church, as far as I am aware, been any move to exclude women from reception of Holy Communion. The issue is about ways of service, and there is an unbroken tradition, instituted by the Incarnate God Himself, of male-only priesthood. So the question becomes: does service in the sanctuary follow the traditions and laws associated with admission to the priesthood or those associated with admission to the reception of Holy Communion?
Neither can you argue the idea of a sanctuary can be traced unbroken down to the institution of the New Covenant. It is something that emerged under the guidance of the Holy Spirit as the Church grew. If we accept that God guides the Church are we to beleive [sic] that he stopped guiding it so that it could go astray and allow women on the sanctuary? Is it not more likely that this, too, is part of God's guidance?I do not know of any evidence that demonstrates female ministration at the altar, or at the ‘breaking of the bread,’ even at the earliest times. I think the idea that this 'emerged' is speculative. I have noticed that those who challenge traditional practice often make claims about earlier practice in absolute terms, when they are in fact speculation. I don't blame P-t P for this, as I suspect he or she has 'learned' this from someone else... There has been a lot of dubious misinformation put about to support some of the 'progressive' changes.
The second point here, about God’s guidance, is more thought-provoking. However, we know that the Church has never claimed to be inerrant in terms of practice. Indeed, the urgent need for a better translation of the Mass than the very poor one foisted on us by ICEL in the late 60s and early 70s demonstrates that the Holy Spirit allows the Church to wander off-track for short periods in areas that do not directly contradict Faith and Morals. I believe that admission of women to the sanctuary (and many other aberrations permitted since the Second Vatican Council, but never authorised, let alone mandated, by it) is an example of such an error.
If forced to choose between the Church’s tradition for centuries and a fad of a few decades, I will give the tradition far more weight. When one looks at the cumulative effect of the de-sacralisation of Catholic worship in Europe, I think it is hard to argue that this is all under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Our children are abandoning their Faith in catastrophic numbers, our priests and nuns are in decline, our Catholic population is barely Catholic (given the numbers contracepting, the paucity of attendance on Holy Days of Obligation, the lack of queues for confessionals, and the appalling irreverence and ignorance betrayed by so many who wander round our sanctuaries - or indeed any other measure you care to look at...). I think most of this is in accordance with the permissive will of God (ie allowing us to make mistakes and to sin), not His active will.
I don't think you have made your case (and neither did William Oddie - the decline in vocations preceded the introduction of female altar servers)Yes, I think Dr Oddie’s case was poorly made, too. As for mine - clearly I think I have made it, but then I am not precisely an unbiased observer... What I would say is that the decline in vocations may have been (and causality is always hard to prove: post hoc propter hoc and all that...) a result of the cumulative changes made in the name of (though not in strict obedience to) the Second Vatican Council.
What I am really interested in, though, is how you explain to Mrs Trovato, Antonia, Bernedette [sic] and Dominique how their presence on the sanctuary (without a vacuum cleaner) desecrates it. And assuming you are ever that reckless, how they respond.A great question, and the one that really provoked this response (the rest, as I was candid enough to admit early on, was largely a ramble...)
The answer is actually very simple. We attend the Extraordinary Form of Mass (typically once a month) and the Ordinary Form the rest of the time. They observe, and they draw their own conclusions. None of them would venture onto the sanctuary, and none of them feel ‘excluded’ or ‘de-valued’ or anything else negative as a result. They simply recognise the wisdom of the Church’s historic tradition in this area as in so many others. It works - and they all prefer the Extraordinary Form, as they find it more prayerful, more sacred.