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San Francisco church’s new policy bans girls as altar servers


A Catholic priest from San Francisco has prohibited girls from acting as altar servers, according to a new policy.

The Star of the Sea church in the Bay Area of San Francisco has sparked controversy nationwide in a new policy. The policy bans girls from serving as altar servers, though girls who have already been trained will be permitted to continue serving. The church has a school in which the altar servers conduct Mass, practicing their skills.

The policy was started by Father Joseph Illo, who recently began serving as the priest of the Star of the Sea. He admits that the policy has pushed parishioners away, however he believes the decision will bring in more parishioners in the long run. He said that they “have seen an overall increase in numbers, and income is up.”

The Ban Indicts Backlash from Parishioners

One parishioner, Dustan Albanza, was not pleased with the policy change. “Those who can or cannot serve based on gender: that is discriminatory.” He added that if their argument is in the numbers, “that’s very shallow.” A young 7th grader came forward, saying that the policy felt insulting, and it “makes me feel that I’m not good enough because I’m a girl.”

Many others are upset about the policy as well, though one parent, Nancy Bye, believes it is “a few people, I think a lot of the people who are upset are not parishioners.”

What the Church has to say

Father Illo claims that the church was in danger, and needed the change. On November 27 of 2014, Father Patrick Driscoll and Father Illo agreed on the new policy. And Father Illo says it was for two reasons. The boys-only program prevents the altar boys from getting bored with the job “because girls generally do a better job.” He hopes it will allow the boys to develop their own skills and potential. “We support female-only programs like all-girls schools, sororities and the girl scouts for the same reason.”

The other reason is that in the Catholic Church, altar service is tied very deeply with priesthood. They don’t currently ordain women. “Nothing awakens a desire for the priesthood like service at the altar among the brotherhood of young men.”


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