08 October 2010

Archbishop Burke Confirms That Laity Have No Right to Any Particular Liturgical Role on the Altar

Clarity, as usual, from Archbishop Raymond L. Burke, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. In this CNS story, His Grace reiterates that no member of the laity has a "right" to carry out any certain role on the altar.

The Archbishop's comments may be helpful to head off any notion that "extraordinary" ministers of Holy Communion, lay lectors, and female altar servers could be forced upon any priest in any form of Mass-- but this seems particularly relevant to priests who celebrate the extraordinary form and who face attempts by hostile parties to infringe upon the Church's liturgical traditions by imposing novelties in the name of avoiding "divisiveness".

Looking to the ordinary form, the Archbishop's clarification of the difference between "allowed" and "mandated" stands poised as a standard waiting for all priests of good faith to rally to restore the dignity of the Mass. Any meaningful attempt by those who advocate a "reform of the reform" must encompass a return to traditional modes of filling the various liturgical roles.

It is time to get the ladies (and the laymen, where possible) out of the sanctuary. There-- I said it.

From CNS:

Lay Eucharistic Ministers not entitled to position, Archbishop Burke clarifies

The rights of girls and Catholic lay faithful to carry out certain roles on the altar are not prescribed as "rights" within the Church, according to the Church's top legal authority, Archbishop Raymond Burke. The statement came in a clarification he wrote about the consequences of the reintroduction of the Latin Rite Mass by Pope Benedict.

The Catholic Church of Germany recently printed a commentary on the application of Benedict XVI's 2007 motu proprio, "Summorum Pontificum," which made Pope St. Pius V's Latin Rite Mass more widely available. In the preface of the volume, printed for the third anniversary of the motu proprio, Archbishop Raymond Burke clarified some confusion about the legislation's practical use.

Archbishop Burke is the prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, which is often described as the supreme court of the Catholic Church.

According to Vatican Radio, the archbishop explained in the preface that due to the motu proprio's papal origins, it is not just an act of legislation brought about as a "favor" to a specific group for the celebration of the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, the Mass in Latin, but one that applies to the entire Church.

Archbishop Burke wrote, "it is about a law whose finality is the protection and promotion of the life of all the mystical body of Christ and the maximum expression of this life, that is to say, the Sacred Liturgy."

It implies an obligation of the Church "to preserve liturgical tradition and maintain the legitimate celebration of both forms of the Roman Rite, that preceding the Second Vatican Council and that which followed it," he said.

Archbishop Burke pointed out that the Holy Father himself explained that for the communion of the Church in the past and the future, "universally accepted uses of uninterrupted apostolic tradition" must be observed.

This, he he pointed out should be done "not only to avoid errors, but also to transmit the integrity of the faith, so that the law of the prayer of the Church might correspond to her law of faith."

The American archbishop went on to point out that certain elements may need to be clarified in this regard. For example, he wrote, among the "rights" of the baptized, assistance by "persons of the feminine sex" at the altar is not included. Additionally, serving as a lector or as an extraordinary distribution of communion is not a right of the laity, he noted.

As such, out of respect for the integrity of the liturgical discipline within the Roman Missal of 1962, these more modern modifications are not observed in the extraordinary form.

This clarification comes just a week after L'Osservatore Romano writer Lucetta Scaraffia published an article on the altar server pilgrimage to the Vatican which drew thousands of boys and girls alike. She drew some attention as she proposed that the introduction of girls into the position of serving at the altar "meant the end of every attribution of impurity to their sex ... it meant a different attention to the liturgy and an approach to the faith in bringing it near to their very hearts."

Archbishop Burke clarified, however, that the reality of the matter is that neither the presence of girls at the altar, nor the participation of lay faithful "belong to the fundamental rights of the baptized."


Almost said...

+Burke for Pope

Kansas Catholic said...


Athelstane said...

It is time to get the ladies (and the laymen, where possible) out of the sanctuary. There-- I said it.

Amen, Timman. Amen.

I go rarely to novus ordo masses now - typically Dominicans when I must - but I am always struck by this (suburban parish) spectacle when I do: Perhaps four to five hundred attending, and up in the sanctuary, (say) three ordained, usually two priests and deacon. For that number of communicants, three ministers should be more than enough - how long would that really take? Instead, we see the usual troop of 12-15 EMHC's, most or all of them white women "of a certain age," traipsing up to the altar after (or even before!) the consecration.

Why is it necessary? Well, I think we all know the answer.

And God help the young, more traditional priest who comes into such a parish and has a notion to cut down on this nonsense. The Thirty Years War ain't in it.

Jane Chantal said...

Yesssss!!! Thank you, Archbishop Burke!

Anonymous said...

And how about them screech (song) ministers, wanna be opera stars ?
Ain't they somethin'? And them corny warm up jokes before Mass?
And EVERYone goes to communion !
In shorts , ball caps, Bud Light shirts, scuffs ; hugs and kisses .
A collosal flop if it weren't so sad .....Funny it ain't.

Col.Jubilation T. Cornpone

Anonymous said...

I do not know why I read this blog, all it does is upset me, I should join the Baptists.....
there, I said it!

Latinmassgirl said...

This needed to be said, and I'm not surprised that it was Archbishop Burke who was the one to talk frankly about this abuse.He is going to hear a lot of flack from feminististas everywhere who feel that unless they are on the altar, they are somehow considered second class citizens. Blessed Mother is the Queen of all Saints and the only person born without original sin. I think that says enough of how loved and esteemed women are to God and His Church.

Anonymous said...

As usual, His Grace speaks with great clarity.

Anon at 22:35 ... bye!

dulac90 said...

Anon at 22:35. I wouldn't want you to join a Baptist Church, but I wouldn't want to turn the Catholic Church into one either.

Anonymous said...

"It is time to get the ladies (and the laymen, where possible) out of the sanctuary. There-- I said it."

I wonder why you dislike women so much.

thetimman said...

Dear Anonymous,

This assumes facts not in evidence. Of course, I do not dislike women (though my marriage to one may be taken as evidence of either side of the argument--just ask her!) I have consecrated my employment, my family, and myself to the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is the only sinless human creature ever made-- and who happens to be a woman. Only through women can human life be nurtured and brought into the world. To hate women is to a priori hate one's own life.

Your comment evidences a misunderstanding of the Mass and of the differences in roles between the sexes.

The Church's liturgy, despite the unfortunate happenings of the last 41 years, is not intended to be a fabrication by some feel-good committee buffeted by the winds of whatever social causes are blowing at the time. Her liturgy is handed down, it is timeless, it makes God present on the altar.

As such, the priest, who acts in persona Christi capita, must be a man; the various liturgical roles--designed to be filled by clerics-- must be filled by men. When clerics are not available for certain roles, laymen may of necessity fill some (not all) of these roles.

You think this unfair? You may as well blame God for not allowing men to give birth.

The liturgy is of Divine inspiration, and to say that giving liturgical roles to men is a sign of hatred of women is to lay that charge at God's feet, too.

I am sure you do not intend this, and this is why the lack of Catholic formation in liturgy and doctrine for the past many decades must be corrected.

Instead of modernizing the Mass, as the "reformers" stated they intended, they instead made it captive to the zeitgeist of their particular time. This is why the novus ordo attendee often feels like they stepped back into 1969 during Mass. The "modernized" Mass no longer feels timeless; it feels very much time-bound.

StGuyFawkes said...


A lot of this goes to what is called the "nuptial" dimension of the Mass whereby Christ's marriage to his people, or Church has as the only available human icon, the intimacy and self giving of man to woman, woman to man in marriage.

If you populate the altar with women or even worse, old uncles and and grandfathers who presume to be "eucharistic ministers" the conjugal symbolism of the Mass is thoroughly blurred.

A priest from one of the traditional orders once joked that if a woman acts like a priest, or pretends to take on the role of a priest during Mass then the sacrament becomes lesbian.

He was kidding in order to make a perfect point. To use the human as a sign of the divine a Mass must have a pure groom -- a priest standing in for Christ -- who through his chastity is dedicated singly to a pure bride (the congregation or The Church).

The current representation on the altar is polygamous, polyandrous, gay, staight and basically a muddy Woodstock of fumbled meanings. It's a group grope without and symbolic significance.

With John Paul II's "Theology of the Body" some talk of the nuptial meaning of the Mass is returning and so forward looking prelates like Archbishop Burke are starting to make the Mass semantically coherant.

St. Guy

X said...

Yeah yeah, but why do you hate women? Also, Adam and Eve were likewise created without sin.

Anonymous said...

Burke can blather on all he wants. This won't change a thing.

Latinmassgirl said...


Excellent and very good explaination to the misiunderstanding Anonymous.

I know you are not serious! And Timman can't hate girls as he is surounded by them!

Anonymous Oct. 11,
Burke blather?! Only dopes blather, and he clearly is not remotely anything but intelligent and informed.

Peggy said...

St. Guy,

Very thoughtful explanations.

I wonder if it's worthwhile to debate or argue with those who refuse to consider what the Church really means and teaches on these subjects.