Bible texts at Mass must speak an inclusive language

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It is no longer acceptable to have gender-exclusive bible readings at Mass. We urge our Scottish Bishops to adopt an inclusive bible translation that is accessible to all.

We are deeply concerned by the Scottish Bishops’ decision to adopt the English Standard Version – Catholic Edition (ESV-CE) for the bible texts to be used at Mass in the future. This translation uses gender-exclusive language – words like 'he', 'man', 'brother' – even when the context includes both male and female, and an inclusive translation is easily possible.

The Bible was written and revised over centuries when patriarchy was the norm, but our cultural climate is markedly different. We now expect both men and women to enjoy the same human rights. In 21st century Scotland, young women and men see themselves as equal partners in the home, in school, in the workplace, and in the eyes of God. They expect no less in their Church. where the outdated generic use of ‘men’ and ‘brothers’ is no longer understood by them to include women as well. It is now felt to be exclusive and is preventing women from recognising themselves as being addressed in Scripture.

Women are already leaving the institutional Church, feeling disenfranchised, and they have the support of their male partners and brothers. Gender-exclusive language is likely to accelerate that exodus. The Church is already in decline, and losing young people as the first teachers of faith of future generations will exacerbate the situation.

We urge our Bishops to consider the serious pastoral impact of their decision to use a translation which will be alienating for many, both inside and outside the Church. Exclusive language is also likely to have a detrimental impact on the Church’s credibility and its mission to dialogue with and invite our wider secular society.

As Pope Francis has said: ”The Bible cannot be just the heritage of some […] It belongs above all to those called to hear its message and to recognise themselves in its words. […] Since it is the people’s book, those called to be ministers of the word must feel an urgent need to make it accessible to their community.” [Aperuit Illis, 4-5; our emphasis]

An alternative translation does exist. We appeal to our Bishops, as pastors, to consider approving the Revised New Jerusalem Bible, which has received much praise for its inclusive language and up-to-date scholarship. We urge them, at the very least, to approve it alongside the ESV-CE so that a choice may be made.

The clear priority should be inclusiveness and accessibility allowing the Word of God to speak to everyone, regardless of gender.

The Core Group of the Scottish Laity Network

 

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https://www.thetablet.co.uk/news/13521/priests-warn-against-language-of-new-lectionary

http://www.openhousescotland.co.uk/a-deeply-flawed-decision/

 

Image: From Risen (2017), dir. Kevin Reynolds