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A modest proposal: seat men, women (+boys, girls) apart during Mass? September 23, 2014

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, catachesis, family, General Catholic, Latin Mass, Liturgy, manhood, priests, sanctity, Tradition, true leadership, Virtue.

Well, the Jews did it, and I think orthodox Jews still do, and the Catholic Church is the perfection of the Old Covenant of Judaism, but……..what do you make of Father Carota’s proposal to seat men and women (including boys and girls) apart from each other at Mass?  It’s more than a proposal – apparently at St. Catherine of Siena in Phoenix, where Fr. Carota serves, this is being implemented.  Women and girls on the Gospel/Our Lady side, men and boys on the Epistle/Saint Joseph side.  Have any of you long time Catholics seen this in your lives? Has this been practiced widely in the Church in centuries?  Has it ever been common in the US?

I can think of several concerns I’d have right off the bat, but Father Carota gives some arguments for why he has felt called to make this initiative (emphasis in original, I add comments):

Recently, here at St. Catherine, we have started the re-introducing the tradition of men and boys sitting on St. Joseph’s side of the Church and women and girls on Our Lady’s side.  If you are observant, you have observe that the statue of St. Joseph was always on the right side and Our Lady on the left side of the altar……

……As a child, I remember that in the churches of Mexico, the men sat on one side and the women on the other.  Many men and women still do that today, but it is also mixed now.  My friends from India say that it is still a divided congregation there today where they go. [Interesting. I have heard this was done, but thought it was long, long ago. I did not know it was done until recently, and/or still going on elsewhere.  Any of you have personal experience of this?]

In the 1917 Canon Law, separation of men and women was strongly advocated. [Very interesting.]

Canon 1262, § 1. “It is desirable that, in harmony with ancient Church order, the women in church be separated from the men.”

Many people say it was not Catholic tradition.   But they simply have selective memory or total ignorance to Catholic tradition from the past.

When the 1917 Canon Law is invoked or quoted in favor or tradition, it is dismissed as a long dead and buried dinosaur of the dark ages or an archaeological specimen from the caveman time of the Catholic Church.  This outdated Canon Law has now been supplanted by the “enlightened” “modern” Canon Law of 1983 that is in conformity with the beliefs of “sophisticated” modern man. [No argument there. That was a danger in codifying the Canon Law in the first place, once you do that, you make it a lot easier to monkey around with.]

I have yet to see the world, the United States or the Catholic Church improving.  But what I do daily see everywhere in the world and in the Church, is scientific evidence of violence, dysfunctional families and emotionally destroyed and aborted children.

So I, and many other wise people, have learned to trust Catholic tradition found in the Church’s 2000 year history.  I no longer trust the progressive, evolutional and modernistic ideology.  It is only leading us to our own self destruction as it has eventually produce everywhere it is enforced, like in Russia.

We Catholics are Judeo-Christians.  Our roots are jewish.  We believe in both the New Testament and the Old Testament.  Yes, Jesus came to fulfill the Old Testament, but He did not condemn it.  Jesus was constantly quoting passages from the Old Testament to re-enforce what He taught.  So it is an error to throw out the God given traditions that the Jews.  Jesus came to correct and fulfill, not to destroy.

In that light we look at the separation of men and boys from women and girls in the Jewish religion…….[there follows an exposition on past and current orthodox Jewish practice]

…….As Catholics, why is this Canon Law and tradition a blessing.

1) Men can identify with St. Joseph and try to be holy like him. [I’ll take that as a given, and number 4, but both sexes should emulate the heroic virtues of both parents in the Holy Family.]

2) I contend that it is good so that we men are not distracted by the women around them and are not sexually tempted by their sexy clothing in church.  (You have no idea how many times men confess sexual temptations in church by how the women are dressed). [Well, that is a scandal. And one for which the congregation should be frequently, if gently (or not?) admonished. But the worst sexual scandal I ever had in Church was when a ~16 year old girl in a miniskirt decided she needed to show me she had no panties on in the football stadium type seating at St. Peter’s in Boerne (laity seated in “stands” on each side, large “playing field” for the priest to prance around, altar at one end, jacuzzi baptismal font at the other.  The people faced each other (inwardly turned “community!”), not the altar or tabernacle, which like in so many SA parishes, was not even present).  So, this may not be a complete deterrent.]  One friend of me told me he no longer went to church because he was always distracted by the women in front of him, especially their beautiful hair. [Ummm……I’ll pass]

3) Boys can identify with their dads and learn how to be a man who prays. [OK.  This is not impossible when both sexes are seated together]

4) Women can identify with Our Lady and be holy like she is.

5) It helps women to be themselves and to not have to show off to get men’s attention.  They can pray in peace. [Are they forced to show off?  Why do some women feel compelled to troll at Mass?]

6) Girls can identify with their mothers and how women pray.

———–End Quote————

I am actually quite fascinated by this. I think all of us struggle mightily, knowingly or unknowingly, with cultural conceits and errors we have absorbed from the frothing waters of modernism/materialism/leftism/sciencism in which we swim.  Many of us may hold what would have been considered truly radical beliefs 100 years ago, without even being aware we hold them.  So, when it comes to resurrecting some past practice that is very contrary to the prevailing “wisdom” of the world, I’m generally pretty receptive.  I have sadly seen trads sometimes defend just as vociferously some of those things they’ve unwittingly absorbed from the culture as they do any Church Doctrine.  Which is odd, but true.

Having said that, I do have some concerns with the proposal.  Take my family.  It wouldn’t be such a big deal now, but a few years ago, in this situation I would be sitting all alone while my wife struggled with 6 kids, 5 young girls and an infant boy (I assume the infants are still with the mom, especially if they nurse?).  I helped out quite a bit for a long time, and still do today, with keeping the kids in line during Mass, especially High Mass on Sunday, which tests their patience a bit.  There are a lot of families with disproportionate numbers of boys or girls.  That could leave one parent floundering while the other gets to enjoy a rather trouble-free Mass.  So, there’s that.

The other major concern I have is that is possible to take good practices too far. I am told – though I have no experience of such myself – that there are traditional parishes where there are silent, or even open, expectations that women, especially, dress very dourly, never wear makeup, and generally make themselves as unattractive as possible. I won’t go into details, but I’ll just say it’s almost a muslim-type thing.  And there have been some bad things come of this, especially from young ladies raised in this environment, where the repression of natural modes of expression becomes too great and the girls wind up cracking and falling into really bad behavior.  I’m not saying Father Carota is even headed in this direction, but it is something to keep in the back of one’s mind.

Overall, I would say……interesting, and it bears watching, to see how this plays out. There could be some real benefits. One of the greatest of which was not mentioned by Father Carota: it would reinforce the truth, in the face of a monstrous lie perpetrated by the culture, under omnipresent influence of marxist-lesbians, that men and women are fundamentally different.  Not incompatible, by any stretch, but also not interchangeable.  It might help young people develop a greater appreciation of both the virtues of the sexes, but also the wide gulf between them.  And it might help them take male-female interaction less casually, which approach has led, over time, to the travesties of early fornication and other experimentation, pregnancy, unwed mothers, collapsed families, and all the rest.

I am one who feels that the best approach to young male-female, single relations is courting under the somewhat distant but watchful eye of the family.  If this seating arrangement at Mass would help bring more courting about, I could support it strongly.  But, as I said, there are some concerns.  Perhaps  it should be implemented on a strictly voluntary basis, with understanding given to large families with many young children who may need both parents’ involvement to keep in line.  I hate to see kids shuffled off to the cry room on a routine basis – doing so is a necessity at times, but should be avoided as a regular behavior so that the children may learn to love and appreciate the Mass at the earliest possible age.  I have always felt it is natural and helpful for families to assist at Mass together, literally.  But maybe that’s one of those unthinking assumptions that isn’t the best practice?

So…..what do you think of this?  I say kudos to Father Carota for caring enough, and knowing enough, to try.  As I said, I am interested to see how this plays out.  It might be a glorious development.


1. Dismas - September 23, 2014

Well, I have seen this at masses in Mexico and in Brazil. Always TLM, of course. But even at the TLM, it is not that common in those countries.

Where I have assisted at those Masses, I have really appreciated this custom.

2. David L Alexander - September 23, 2014

“Have any of you long time Catholics seen this in your lives? Has this been practiced widely in the Church in centuries? Has it ever been common in the US?”

I was born in 1954, and can remember life in the late 1950s, in a very Catholic part of the country, but I have no recollection of such an arrangement being common. I know that some Eastern Rite Catholic parishes (such as the old Ukrainian church I used to visit just north of Johnstown, PA) still had the arrangement as recently as the mid-1980s. I have not seen it anywhere since then.

While the seating arrangement dates to some of the earliest centuries of the Church (a holdover from Jewish practice, no doubt), and while it is enshrined in the 1917 Code, it does not appear in the 1983 Code, and therefore does not have the force of law. In the general norms of the present Code, it does say that a lower authority cannot restrict what a higher authority allows. While a case can be made for this practice, and the cooperation of his flock may be commendable, I fear that the good Father may be overreaching his authority in requiring such an arrangement, if I understand his explanation correctly.

I only hope and pray that he has an opportunity for reflection on this decision, before a higher influence is brought to bear (as, I beg to submit, they would have every right to do).

3. Baseballmom - September 23, 2014

We always did (and still do) this at our K-12 school in Napa CA. It is a lay run Catholic school, offers the Mass in both Rites.

4. Chad - September 23, 2014

I think that this is a culture to culture part of tradition, and one of the very few. Personally, I think many men would have a much harder time of keeping spiritual head of household in the US if this was instituted, but I could be wrong.

One has to be careful of avoiding scrupulosity, the death of hope and joy, and this could overstep into that area

5. Elizabeth - September 23, 2014

I remember that as a child in Catholic grade school in the 1960s. And yes, I think it’s a marvelous idea.

6. LaGallina - September 24, 2014

My first thought when I read this at Father Carota’s site was how difficult it would be to deal with babies and tots alone. But I was happy to note that at our TLM Mass we have Mary and St. Joseph in their proper place. I always love seeing Our Lady on my left and St. Joseph on my right when I go to Mass. But I didn’t know that was their traditional place.

I do think there needs to be a balance when it comes to women looking as dowdy as possible. As a child I was really turned off by some of the religious people we knew who were so unattractive and out of style because of their religious beliefs. Of course, on the other hand you have the issue of vanity… Mary is a perfect role model for our daughters.

7. Sonya Holmes - September 24, 2014

I think it is a good idea. I know the Orthodox still do it.

8. TLM - September 24, 2014

Ummm….yes, in my Catholic Grade School we did it this way….girls on the Blessed Mother side, boys on the St. Joseph side. I grew up in Indiana, but am probably showing my age. One thing that is glaringly modernist now about our Catholic Schools in general….. Mass is once a week if they are lucky……We on the other hand, had to be at Mass at 8:00 am sharp EVERY day. It’s how we started our school day. If you weren’t there for Mass, you were ‘tardy’……..E V E R Y D A Y…..not every WEEK or in some schools every OTHER week. We now have a good number of children in our Catholic schools that are not Catholic. Parents send their kids to Catholic schools for the education, as it is superior to public schools. I think they are ‘accommodating’ the non Catholic kids. In other words, as I have read in certain messages from the Blessed Mother……..’In their effort to fit in with the world, the Church is jumping into the cesspool WITH the world.’

9. Molly Alley - September 24, 2014

I saw this at a mass for the knights of the holy sepulcher and have been a proponent of the idea ever since. I also attended a single sex high school, and find all these experiences of single sex environments to be good for too many reasons to list. Our society, wrestling with all these issues on gender, needs more of those kinds of experiences.

As far as children, there wasn’t often a differentiation before age seven or so, with even a lot of silly old pictures of little boys wearing what look like dresses. Until about that age, or first communion, whichever comes first, they should be able to be with whichever parent is most convenient.

The biggest problem I could see with this policy is that in every parish I’ve ever been to, the men’s side would be drastically underpopulated. As a bishop in Florida stated in his response to the recent survey, 80% of the parishioners in his diocese are women.

10. Marguerite - September 24, 2014

It wouldn’t work, especially if the girls/women aren’t taught to dress modestly first. Prancing into Church and up to Communion in a vulgar fashion would still get the attention of the males in the congregation and this would be even worse as they are about to receive the Body and Blood of Our Lord. We need metanoia–conversion of soul first and then one would automatically dress and behave appropriately in and out of Church.

Tantumblogo - September 24, 2014

I did have that thought – and that’s why I left the far too telling comment I did. If people still dress inappropriately, I don’t think this is going to make too big a difference.

11. Kevin Shook (@DFWSHOOK) - September 24, 2014

I don’t believe that this was the tradition in the U.S. My mother tells me of visiting her Grandparents in the late 40’s, early 50’s and her Grandparents “rented” a pew where the family sat during Mass. It was a way for a small town Parish to raise funds. BTW – Here is a link to a video on the recent restoration of the Church. (http://youtu.be/RFTf82PX3BU) It was built in 1925 and most of the parishioners were farmers. In fact my great Grandparents donated a year’s earnings just to pay for the Eternal Lamp. When people complain of the “riches” of the Catholic Church, they don’t realize that those “riches” were donated and paid for by the treasure of individual parishioners. Their generosity gave us the beautiful sanctuaries we have today. It is our inheritance; we should not squander it.

12. TG - September 24, 2014

I went to Catholic school in the 60’s and I don’t remember being seated separate from the boys. I recall we were all seated by grades. This wouldn’t work in a NO parish. Our church does have Our Lady on the left and St. Joseph on the right but I sit on the side of St. Joseph because this is where the priest distributes the Eucharist. Personally, I think families should sit together. I think it could work for children in a Catholic School attending Mass.

13. maggycast - September 24, 2014

We sat separately (girls on the BM side…boys on St. J) during the once a month mass in my grade school. I absolutely LOVE the idea of separating the sexes…way to go Father! It is especially needed to combat the gender insanity of our time.

Per dealing with the little ones. When you’re surrounded by women i.e. mothers/mother’s to be, you instinctively take care of the children around you whether they are yours or not. If it was a true Catholic community the women would know each other and their kids well enough to help during mass.

God bless~

Tantumblogo - September 24, 2014

“When you’re surrounded by women i.e. mothers/mother’s to be, you instinctively take care of the children around you whether they are yours or not. If it was a true Catholic community the women would know each other and their kids well enough to help during mass.”

That’s what my wife says. She laments the fact that women don’t help each other out more, and that some older/childless women seem to have sort of an opposition towards doing so.

She says that if women helped each other like they should/used to sitting like this would be no problem.

LaGallina - September 24, 2014

I never thought about how this arrangement would affect relationships (women helping each other for example). Interesting.

14. guiseppi - September 24, 2014

I think that would be a useful arrangement for a Catholic school Mass, especially for the older grades. For the family attending Mass, not so much. This is from the perspective of a mother with 6 children, 16-6. The family is the domestic Church, and as such can draw grace as a family (together) when they attend Mass. The family has such few times to be together overall in these busy times, and it seems a shame to turn this into an instance where there is not the close proximity to each other. It speaks volumes to the children specifically, and congregation in general, how IMPORTANT attending Mass is together as a family, and it is planting the seed for future generations. Together as a family you set an example for other families as well, to worship together and to message that DADS ARE IMPORTANT. BEHAVIOR: it’s hard not to miss proper behavior when both parents are modeling it in close proximity, and we help each other. That won’t happen as effectively if we’re separated. DISTRACTIONS: sit up front. Jesus wants you as close to him as you can get, and distractions are minimal. Gives you a better view to watch for people trying to steal the consecrated host instead of looking at what people are wearing in the Communion line. CHILDREN:as husband and wife we both brought them into this world, we both get the opportunity for holiness as we wrestle them through Mass. That would have been the time to attend Mass separately, and we decided it more important for us to go (suffer through) together as a family. That was my husbands preference, and in hindsight he was absolutely correct. BTW, different children preferred a different parent during Mass, most of the children wanted their father to hold them. Could be a problem with my daughters crying for Daddy at the most inopportune time across the church. No, I am not in favor of this. There are enough forces pulling us apart, and while some things are worthwhile doing segregated (bible studies, prayer groups, ACTS) celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass individually without my spouse is not. We were married together at Mass, we always attend Mass together, and always will attend together. My prayer is that my children realize the importance of this and continue it with their own families (if they aren’t a priest or nun!) in the Catholic Church.

Lorra - September 24, 2014

Back when families were strong and intact, we didn’t have this obsession about doing things “as a family.”

guiseppi - September 24, 2014

Lorra, my family is large, strong and intact NOW. I’d like to think that my family members actually like each other because they like doing things together by choice. As I look at families (or splintered pieces of what is the modern family) it occurs to me more people would benefit from what you call an “obsession”. They can start small like eating a meal together.

15. Lorra - September 24, 2014

I remember it. Another thing I remember is pew rent. When you came into church, you dropped some coins in a box.

16. Annie - September 25, 2014

Our unity as a family does NOT come from sitting together in a pew, per se. Rather, it can only come from and through God. Unity comes when we place God first in our life. Unity comes when we worship God reverently and devoutly in the manner prescribed by Him. Unity comes when we all uphold God’s truth. It is on account of the supernatural virtues (faith, hope and charity) infused by God in us that we humans can be united. When each individual in the family does their best to worship, obey and love God as best they can, then we will have a true and unbreakable unity in our families.
Thus, the real question we ought to discuss is if separating men and women in our church will render a more devout, reverent and perfect worship of God for the majority of the faithful at Mass. This priest obviously believes it does. I am sure the fruit flowing therefrom will be very indicative.

From personal experience, I know that many people are greatly distracted when sitting near and around people of the opposite sex, even at Mass (or especially at Mass).
From my own experience I have learned that my family often benefits more from splitting the family up at Mass, even if it means going to different Masses. We only attend the TLM. I can often take care of the youngest baby better and my husband enjoys helping the other children learn to pray and meditate more at Mass. We have never felt that splitting our family at Mass or in different Masses has detracted from our unity. Plus, we have plenty of opportunity to pray as a family together: morning prayers, prayers before meals, the daily family rosary, evening prayers, etc.

I also feel at this time this separation of men and women only works in the TLM, where everything is oriented towards the proper worship of God. I have been to very few Novus Ordo Masses where there was a proper orientation towards God and not towards man.

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