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Sincere but flawed defense

February 27, 2015
Ted Weber Jr.
San Francisco

Father Illo makes what is undoubtedly a sincere but also a very flawed defense of his decision to ban altar girls. His remarks appear on Page 14. Three pages earlier there is a Catholic News Service article reporting Pope Francis’ statement that he fully recognizes the need “to ensure women they are not guests but full participants in the various spheres of the life of society and the church, a more widespread and incisive female presence in the community is hoped for.”

Father Illo appears to contradict himself when he says “the church prefers altar boys” after only two paragraphs earlier admitting that 49 of the 50 parishes in the city accept altar girls. A vote of 49-to-1 against him hardly indicates that he is speaking for the church.

Something of the same criticism could be made of his reference to the Diocese of Lincoln where he suggests a cause-and-effect relationship between the diocesan ban on altar girls and a vocation rate which is higher than other dioceses. That may or may not be a valid inference but what is true is that the Diocese of Lincoln is the only diocese in the country which does not participate in the U.S. bishops’ annual compliance audits of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People refuses to allow an audit of clergy sexual abuse. Coincidentally, four pages earlier Catholic San Francisco reports that Cardinal Sean O’Malley says that dioceses which do not comply with rules adopted by their bishops’ conference “must face real consequences.”

The writer is a parishioner at St. Mary’s Cathedral.

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