The Vatican's newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, printed an article in early August in which they praised the use of altar girls: "The exclusion of girls from all of this, for the sole reason of their being female, has always weighed heavily and represented a deep inequality within Catholic education." They paper also refers to altar serving as an important and informative experience. As the Catholic News article points out, the L'Osservatore article was printed the same week that Pope Benedict thanked 53,000 altar services, 60% of whom were girls, for their important service to the Church.
Now fast forward two weeks. The Cathedral for the Diocese of Phoenix is now barring altar girls from serving at that parish. This will not affect the other parishes in the diocese and it was made clear that this was the decision of the rector of the Cathedral. Nevertheless, I cannot believe that a decision like this is made at the Cathedral without the bishop's approval. The rector states that he wants to have only boys in an effort to attract vocations to the priesthood, but there is not proof that this practice has ever led to more vocations. In addition, this action is very strange when one considers that the Pope just thanked tens of thousands of girl altar servers for their service. The rector stated that girls could be sacristans, but that is a slap in the face. To the rector, all girls are good for is ironing and washing clothes. Perhaps the bishop and rector in Phoenix should pay attention to the Pope and L'Osservatore Romano.
A Faithful Catholic