A BISHOP CANNOT FORCE FEMALE SERVERS ON HIS PRIESTS
A recent letter to an American bishop from Jorge Cardinal Medina Estevez, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, affirms that a bishop cannot force a priest under his authority to use altar girls at Mass and, more over, if a bishop permits the use of altar girls in his diocese, it is incumbent upon him to explain the pastoral necessity for the innovation to his flock.
The full text of the letter, protocol number 2451/00/L, dated July 27, 2001 and pub lished in Notitiae, Vol. 37, with the following introduction, states:
"A Bishop recently asked the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments whether a Diocesan Bishop would be able to oblige his priests to admit women and girls to service at the altar. This Dicastery has considered it opportune to send this letter to the Bishop in question, and given its particular importance to publish it here.
Further to recent correspondence, this Congregation resolved to under take a renewed study of the questions concerning the possible admission of girls, adult women and women religious to serve alongside boys as servers in the Liturgy.
As part of this examination, this Dicastery consulted the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts which replied with a letter of July 23, 200l. The reply of the Pontifical Council was helpful in reaffirming that the ques tions raised by this Congregation, including the question of whether par ticular legislation could oblige individual priests in their celebration of the Holy Mass to make use of women to serve at the altar, do not concern the interpretation of the law, but rather are questions of the correct application of the law. The reply of the aforementioned Pontifical Council, therefore, confirms the understanding of this Dicastery, that the matter falls within the competence of this Congregation as delineated by the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus, n. 62. Bearing in mind this authoritative re sponse, this Dicastery, having resolved outstanding questions, was able to conclude its own study. At the present time, therefore, the Congregation would wish to make the following observations.
As is clear from the Responsorio ad propositum dubium concerning canon 230 para. 2 of the Codex Juris Canonici of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts and the directives of this Congregation, which the Holy Father had mandated in order to provide for the orderly implementation of what is set out in canon 230 para. 2, and its authentic in terpretation (d. Circular Letter to the Presidents of Episcopal Conferences, Prot. N. 2482/93, March 15, 1994, see Notitiae 30  333-335), the Diocesan Bishop, in his role as moderator of the liturgical life in the diocese entrusted to his care, has the authority to permit service at the altar by women within the boundaries of the territory entrusted to his care.
Moreover his liberty in question cannot be conditioned by claims in favor of a uniformity between his diocese and other dioceses which would logically lead to the removal of the necessary freedom of action from the individual Diocesan Bishop. Rather, after having heard the opinion of the Episcopal Conference, he is to base his prudential judgment upon what he considers to accord more closely with the local pastoral need for an or-