Cleansing Fire

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When a priest is ‘gender confused’ about God… Part I

February 17th, 2014, Promulgated by Diane Harris

This past weekend, one local parish had a letter on the front page of its bulletin from a priest in the parish, olol bulletin 2-16-14 crop2which I’ve cropped in order to — for the moment — avoid giving away the identity of the parish and of the priest.  It is a hard decision to make.

  On the one hand, it would be preferable to send the bulletin “as is” to our new bishop so that he can take the appropriate action, and perhaps I will.  But on the other hand, I find it quite outrageous that, at the priest’s own admission, this is the way he is talking to the children.  Because of the children, and their parents, it seems some immediate action is needed. 

What do you think?  How would you handle?  The reason for posting something now is so that, by word of mouth at least, there will be some challenge to which worried parishioners can point, and know that their concerns have been noted.  As Bishop Bruskewitz told me (described in an earlier post on this website) God has chosen to reveal Himself in the masculine gender, as Father and as Son, and the Greek text about the Holy Spirit also uses “he.”  And, so, we respect the words God has used. 

How then can a priest encourage so much gender confusion, especially with children?  The world may be confused these days, but God’s word isn’t!  If enough people feel that the parish should be disclosed, I may do so, especially as a protection for the Faithful.  What do you think?  How would you handle it?

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12 Responses to “When a priest is ‘gender confused’ about God… Part I”

  1. avatar Bernie says:

    Well, the author of the bulletin article is just plain silly. I have come to believe that most people out there recognize this kind of thing, now, as just stupid stuff. I am not sure its worth doing much more about it than just laughing.

    God, of course, has no gender. Referring to God as He/She,His/Her only serves to emphasize gender differences and raises the specter of division or duality; it destroys the idea of unity that is the Godhead. It also derails our train of thought of whatever point is trying to be made and shifts our attention to gender “equality”. It’s just a dumb thing to do. We might better just refer to God as “She” except for the fact that, as you say, we should follow revelation’s lead.

  2. avatar y2kscotty says:

    I agree with Bernie. It’s better to just laugh at the silliness.

  3. avatar militia says:

    I don’t think I can laugh. Not where children are being misled.

  4. avatar Choir says:

    I would have no problem sending the bulletin to the bishop – not one bit.

  5. avatar Scott W. says:

    Even without the he/she nonsense, it’s still stubbornly superficial even for children and is typical demasculinization of everything. Heavenly fatherhood is a model for us earthly (and yes, imperfect) fathers, which means BOTH loving gentleness and justice. Making Our Father all nurture and no justice turns him into Santa Claus without the naughty list. I.e., a pushover who can’t and shouldn’t be taken seriously.

    Whether to report? I’m generally in favor of a paper trail and this tickles my General Principle of Dissent: It’s never just one thing. For every roach you see, there are thirty you don’t. A paper trail prevents people diving down the “This is the first we are hearing of trouble.” escape hatch.

  6. avatar Ludwig says:

    A thousand times “yes” to Scott.

  7. avatar Jim R says:

    “Gender” is an artifact of many languages. That is, it is a linguistic term. Because of a poor understanding of language it has recently come to be synonymous with “sex.” Sex, however, is a biological matter. In French, “le livre” means the “book” and has masculine gender. A book is NOT male and does not have sex or any sexual attributes. Interestingly, the Russian word for book is “kniga” and is NOT female but has feminine gender – again without sex or sexual attributes.

    Where people have gotten confused is that with biological creature (like human beings) which have sexual attributes gender typically follows the sex of the creature. Thus a male takes masculine gender and a female takes feminine gender. Of course, English widely uses the neuter for non-sexual things. Many languages, like French and Russian above, do not widely use the neuter.

    A word with a particular gender will take a pronoun of the same gender. An interesting translation issue is how to translate the pronoun used in, say, French, – “il” for “book” – “he or “it.” A literal translation would be “he.” A better translation, IMHO, since “book” is neuter in English is “it.” Many people scream for literal translations related to the Bible and liturgy, but just wait for someone to translate the pronoun for something like “Hagia Sophia” (Greek for Holy Wisdom [of God]) – and they scream murder because it comes out “she.” In any event it is an interesting issue.

    So how do we refer to God? God in Greek (and Latin and Hebrew) is masculine, so any early translation would have used the masculine pronouns naturally. The use of “He” thus may be an issue of revelation – or it was simply an issue of language noun-pronoun agreement. Jesus certainly was a male human being with sexual attributes. “He” is totally appropriate. God the Father is a bit more iffy. “Father” certainly implies sexual attributes of maleness. That would call for “he.” But, the attributes are non-sexual since God the Father is non-biological, i.e., the attributes are metaphorical. Do we then use the neuter? Historic usage is clear – use the masculine, but that, too, is hardly dispositive since it may be nothing more than a simple reflection of the noun. How do we deal with a metaphor? Usually the gender would follow the metaphor even in English, but it doesn’t mean it must. In addition, we know there are metaphors in the Bible for God that are female in nature. God the Holy Spirit is even more unclear since the Holy Spirit is pure spirit – images of a dove notwithstanding. Is “It” the appropriate pronoun for the Holy Spirit? Of course, “It” in modern English usage does have a rather sterile nuance.

    Then what of the God-head? Does Jesus’ nature overrule the others? What of the Father metaphor? What of the less common but real female metaphors? And, heck, a dove could be either male or female, or do we fall back on the neuter? Of course, historical usage cannot be ignored. There really is nothing magic about the pronouns – and no special meaning should be attached if you ask me. I also think the “he/she” construction is unwieldy and silly.

    However, if people are made to feel excluded (and I’ve known many women to claim exclusion) by the use of pronouns should we care? If so, which way do we care? Are we too rigid to demand the historic usage even to the point of offending? Are those who are offended too thin skinned? Not being a female, I don’t really want to wander into that thicket. By the same token, I see the arguments – both ways.

    I will end with saying, it seems to me it’s easiest to read the black and do the red when it applies – and don’t get too wound up about such things as pronouns. Otherwise, IMHO, use the historic usage – for simplicity if nothing else. But, again, I’m not the one offended.

  8. avatar y2kscotty says:

    Jim R has explained the matter to my satisfaction.
    Does our Bishop want us to give him “paper trails”? Those who were trying to discredit Jesus attempted a paper trail about this man who eats with sinners and observes the Sabbath in a seemingly less strict way. I think our Bishop is interested in more substantial matters as in his desire to ask the parishes to contribute to a special Heating Fund that Catholic Charities will distribute to help those who can’t pay their heating bill. Am I wrong?

  9. avatar Scott W. says:

    Does our Bishop want us to give him “paper trails”? Those who were trying to discredit Jesus attempted a paper trail about this man who eats with sinners and observes the Sabbath in a seemingly less strict way.

    I think good bishops welcome lay input to ensure that their priests are teaching truth and not falsehood, so I think comparing such efforts to people trying to discredit Our Lord is wildly unfair and uncalled for.

    I think our Bishop is interested in more substantial matters as in his desire to ask the parishes to contribute to a special Heating Fund that Catholic Charities will distribute to help those who can’t pay their heating bill. Am I wrong?

    Yes, you are wrong because this is a false dilemma.

  10. avatar Mary-Kathleen says:

    I agree with Choir. Send it.

  11. avatar JLo says:

    I don’t think it’s silly and of no account, and I don’t think it needs a lesson in pronouns and their development and use, nor does that matter in the context of our Faith! I believe this “teaching” by a parish leader is another occurrence in a long line of “chipping away at the Faith”. I think the priest in question should be admonished by his bishop, and his bishop cannot address the wanderer and his dismal understanding of God unless the bishop is made ware of what the priest wrote, so I obviously agree with those who advise… send it. +JMJ

  12. avatar flowerchild says:

    I agree with all who believe that our bishop should be made aware of this and can only hope that in the interval of time that has passed since this was posted, that someone who can has sent this to Bishop Matano.


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