In my Sermon to Catholic priests I referred to the discrepancy between their benign intentions and their poisonous words. I wish priests could hear women voice their feelings about sitting in church and hearing Spirit consistently limited to a male individual—“HeHimHis.”
Herewith some comments. Aletha:
What does annoy me is the reference to God as He or Father. God is neither male nor female; God creates all things; how God does this is of course a Mystery. Some of God's creations on earth can reproduce without sex and what we refer to as the advanced forms of life have been given bodies (by God) that use sex in order to reproduce. What is so difficult with saying "God" (or "Yahweh") each time one refers to God?Some years ago, Jews made an issue of Christians speaking and writing about “Yahweh” because Jewish tradition holds the name of what we call God so holy as to forbid saying or writing it. The Hebrew Scriptures ("Old Testament" to Christians) abbreviated God's name as YHWH. From this evolved "Yahweh," using vowels from the Hebrew word for “Lord”—adonai. To this day neither Jewish nor Christian scholars know what the 4 consonants called the tetragrammaton stood for. In contemporary times some Jews preserving the inhibition write "G_d." Would that they expressed the same sensitivity to gender insults!
One ridiculous belief flows out of the Father-Son monopoly—the belief that a male produced a son without any contribution from a female. That’s impossible in nature, but the reverse happens—females can reproduce without males. It's called parthenogenesis.
Nancy has a thoughtful comment:
Oh dear, Jeanette, there is no progress because we are bathed in masculine god-talk from the womb. There is no progress because the male of the species is not about to give up his dominance in all things, not just religion. There is no progress because women are not about to tell the males of the species to go take a walk until they are willing to truly share power. The last is a dangerous move for any woman to make for it invites physical violence as we so well know from the newspapers.Sometime. Yes, it’s what I hang on to.
I have no suggestions. The Source is our only source and all we can do is believe that somehow, somehow all will come right. Certainly not in our lifetime, but sometime, sometime. I choose to believe that somehow, all the suffering, all the injustice are not for nothing.
Maxine’s comment is the feistiest:
You Go Girl!!!!! I get fed up with all the sweetness and all the caution in reply to inclusive language. Let's be done with only Father, Brother, Warrior, etc. and let's start USING Mother on a regular basis - from the pulpit! If the pastors and priests called God Mother the congregation would follow along.This expresses some of my frustration. You clerics who can do something about this, please hear us.
Thanks for your work!
PREACHING TO PRIESTS continued (December 12)
Karen Tate, surmising the reason for hierarchical intransigence, wrote:
It's easier to take when I realize it's about their fear they might not have gotten it all right, that their invested position is shattering.Religious sisters apparently have decided they can effect change better by doing it very gently, to avoid shocking large segments of the public not yet ready for change. Karen’s naming of hierarchical fear is dead on.
I think you gotta upset their apple cart. Some people don't ever change and some people have to be forced to change. They've had a lot of time to do it on their own—now the Sacred Nudge.
And I think the nuns should MUTINY.
But again I point to Roman Catholic Womenpriests (RCWPs), who, by the way, are supported by many religious sisters. Patrician Fresen, a former Dominican nun of South Africa, was ordained a priest in 2003 and a bishop in 2005 by a male bishop whose identity is locked away in a bank vault, not to be disclosed until after his death. Three other male bishops were in attendance.
Patricia (RCWPs eschew titles) studied theology in Rome where her obvious knowledge and intelligence led male seminarians to tap her for tutoring. She taught in South Africa’s national seminary at Pretoria, where, according to her, she was
constantly discriminated against . . . it happened almost without people thinking. . . . women were often the worst.As soon as she heard about women priests, she recognized the parallel lines of injustice in the Church and in South Africa—or “the apartheid of sexism in the Catholic Church”—both crying out for moral resistance. Like Nelson Mandela in South Africa, like the civil rights movement in the U.S., Roman Catholic Womenpriests act contra legem ("against law"—canon law, that is) in prophetic disobedience of a law obviously unjust, contrary to the facts of Church history and to the movement of history discernible today.
Responses to the "apartheid of sexism" keep coming in and I'll keep posting.
Karen Tate added:
For anyone interested in hearing an interview with Roman Catholic Womanpriests, tune in to Voices of the Sacred Feminine radio the first Wednesday in January.
To call in: 718-766-4662
To listen: Click on Voices of the Sacred Feminine.
POSTSCRIPT (December 19)
More thoughtful response has come in following my "Sermon" on November 28. From David Steeves:
Language has been used forever to shape and control people’s thoughts. George Orwell in his fictional 1984 called it “newspeak” and showed how totalitarian abuse of language could be used to control people. Marshall McLuhan’s statement that “the medium is the message” also makes the point that there is power in how we use words.Carol wrote,
The church knows this and has shaped its worship services and interpretation and translations in the Bible to insure it maintains control of the thoughts and attitude of the congregation. Male gender words for god insure that women are thought of as second class humans. What is shameful is that many women have bought into the language and ideas and helped the church to continue this distortion. It is shameful for all humans, for it also makes god who created all things, human. If there is a god, it is much more than any human could ever hope to be.
Inclusive language is important to me, too. However, I don’t believe in using either just Mother or Father. Using Mother is attractive, of course, but your main point is to not give a gender to God, right? Yes, let’s just use “God” as is.She’s right about my main point. I suggested using both "Mother" and "Father" to answer the argument that we need “Father” for a warm, personal, intimate image. By mixing female with male images we would educate people to the incomprehensible transcendence of what we call God. It’s the exclusiveness of male images that deliberately misleads.
"God" alone also has drawbacks. For one, it lets persons steeped in the male Christian image continue their narrow view. I think the best way to refer to the Source, the great Presence, is to use a variety of names to show the inadequacy of any particular image.
I’ve noticed that, when pressed about a source of spiritual reality, avowed atheists use words like “grand” and “incomprehensible”—very good expressions. By confining the Ultimate to a humanlike male, Christian God-talk earns the contempt of atheists.
MALE DOMINANT CHRISTMAS
Here’s more follow-up to my complaint about “God-He” language. From a religious sister:
Just want to say that I appreciate your letter to priests. For my part, whenever I am lectoring I do not use “he, his” etc.Notice her lovely names for "God." A Benedictine friend quoted Ralph Marston for me:
In gratitude to you and our Beloved/Love Source.
There will be times when you give all you have, and end up with nothing to show for it. Keep giving though, for the rewards are surely there, even if they are too profound forI am blessed with surety about speaking out because “the still, small voice” keeps prompting me. I can’t not do this. And, at least most of the time, I can let go the results, satisfied that I’m planting seeds.
you to see just yet.
The disappointments may sometimes be so painful that you feel like giving up. Remember though, it is your caring that makes the disappointment possible, and that very same caring
will pull you up and push you forward.
An anonymous male writes:
We're living among the gravestones of a passé form of Christianity which is wedded to US Empire. Neither has a future. Throwing a rock at one or other is the same. Both are moribund enough that a couple rocks aimed with care would bring the houses of cards tumbling down.He’s pointing to the era we’re evolving toward that I’ve written about (Check out the “Post-Christian” posts in my Index). “Post-Christian” does not mean the end of this religion but the passing of its “passé form” and its domination in Western society. I expect Jesus of Nazareth to be revered well into the future while institutional Christianity continues to lose its influence. It's possible that humanity will grow in appreciation of Jesus' real contribution to our spiritual life as shallow idolatry of Jesus wanes.
It's just a matter of time. Fear? No room for that at this time. Both these hollow empires are riddled with enough fear and panic even if they pretend not to let these emotions show.
Christmas illustrates the drag that religion places on evolving consciousness. We sing traditional Christmas carols that tell stories we know are fictional. Choristers and instrumentalists perform texts they don’t believe literally, but the sounds bring us together in nostalgic circles and warm us all. Enthusiastically I join in the singing, male-dominant words and all, because they're familiar and no one wants to change them. It’s part of cherishing Christianity and, more intensely, cherishing the traditional ties that bind us.