Female altar servers were a liturgical abuse (explicitly forbidden in the 1986 Code of Canon Law) which was permitted by Pope John-Paul II in 1994, solely because it had become so widespread that it could not be suppressed. Similar stories explain the development of communion in the hand and the routine use of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (although we are still at the awkward stage of 'officially forbidden but universally done' with the latter). It is not hard to fathom that Catholics attached to the Traditional Mass are, among other things, trying to escape these liturgical innovations, which are inspired by many ideas hostile to Catholicism, especially radical feminism. It seems that Canon Collins realises the potential for the spread of the Traditional Mass to roll back the advance of feminism and liberalism, and is determined to stop this. This potential is one reason why the spread of the Traditional Mass is so important to the future of the Church.
The Latin Mass Society's argument, that celebrations according to the 1962 missal should be in accordance with the 'liturgical law' (rubrics etc.) appropriate to that missal, seems sensible. Otherwise, you might as well say that any post '62 change can be back-dated to the '62 Mass.
Fr Z. prefers a different argument: that under the current law of the Church, celebrants cannot be forced to use female altar-servers (see also St Louis Catholic: the law on female altar servers is 'permissive not prescriptive'). Isn't it amazing that what once was forbidden, then allowed in certain cases at the discretion of bishop and celebrant, is now being presented as obligatory?
In either case, Canon Colins has been extraordinarily unjust, rude, and unpastoral. Anyone wanting to make a polite complain to Canon Collins can email him.
Hat-tip to Damian Thompson, who received the following account of events: In late 2007, the Dean, Canon Peter Collins, agreed to a request from Kingsley Lewis, LMS Cardiff Representative, for a Traditional Mass to be celebrated in the cathedral. The Dean himself proposed that it take the place of the usual main Sunday Mass. The LMS therefore arranged for a Pontifical High Mass in the Extraordinary Form to be offered by Abbot Paul Stonham OSB of Belmont Abbey.
The LMS handled most of the arrangements for the Mass, arranging for its senior liturgical expert, Mr Gordon Dimon, to travel from London to MC the Mass, for vestments to be transported to Cardiff and for Sacred Ministers trained in the Rite to be available. The LMS committed much time and expenditure to make the Mass as fitting an occasion as possible. It is understood the LMS now proposes to send an invoice to the Dean for its services.
On the evening of Thursday 15 May Mr Lewis attended a training session in the Traditional Rite for the cathedral servers and the Dean who was to be Assistant Priest at the Mass. It was only then that he discovered that Canon Peter Collins proposed to have a lady server present in the sanctuary during the Mass.
Mr Lewis explained that this was not possible under the rubrics and law governing the 1962 Rite of Blessed John XXIII, but to no avail. Afterwards he consulted with the LMS’s Senior MC and the cleric who was to be Deacon at the Mass, and all were of the same opinion that the 1962 Rite should not be offered if ladies are present in the Sanctuary. The Chairman of the LMS, Mr Julian Chadwick, confirmed that this was the firm policy of the LMS.
Certainly, if the Mass had gone ahead with LMS involvement, the ordinary faithful with an attachment to the Extraordinary Form would have been scandalised and there would have been uproar afterwards.
Mr Lewis telephoned Canon Collins the following morning (Friday) to inform him that in conscience the LMS would not be able to take part in the Mass. The LMS’s position and that of the faithful attached to the Extraordinary Form is clear: that when the 1962 Rite of Blessed John XXIII is used, the rubrics and law integral to that rite must be respected and this does not allow the use of lady servers. Canon Collins refused to change his mind or take account of the consciences and clear wishes of those attached to the Traditional Rite.
Therefore, Mr Lewis emailed Archbishop Peter Smith asking him to intervene to ensure that the Mass proceeded on a basis compatible with the rubrics of the Rite so that scandal would not be given to the consciences of those attached to this form. However no response was received.
The LMS posted an announcement on its website on Friday evening but at such a late date it was not possible to contact those many faithful who were planning to travel long distances to assist at the Mass. On the Sunday some arrived by coach. The LMS had representatives outside the cathedral to explain to the faithful what had happened. Inside, a new rite Mass was concelebrated. The cathedral was almost full with about 300 worshippers instead of its usual 35-40 but they were expecting a Traditional Rite Mass. It is understood that the LMS office on Monday received heavy traffic by email and telephone from faithful who were deeply upset at what had happened and felt they had been deliberately let down by the cathedral authorities.
What leaves a bad taste is the great discourtesy shown by Canon Collins to the Sacred Ministers who were due to travel and offer the Traditional Mass and the discrimination against the many faithful who gathered to assist at the celebration of the 1962 rite expecting the rubrics and law to be followed only to find that the Canon had planned to violate their consciences.
It is clear that Pope Benedict in his Motu Proprio intended that the Extraordinary Form of the Rite be widely available and celebrated in accordance with its own rubrics and law; what Canon Collins proposed was in effect an act of defiance to the Pope’s wishes.
It has been suggested that the LMS prepare a report on this matter for HE Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, President of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, who in June comes to Westminster Cathedral to celebrate the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.