Disgruntled Catholic

As a frequent poster on mailing lists and other online forums, I am subjected to many peoples' opinions of the Church, most of them negative. It seems to me that most of these negative opinions are misinformed, uninformed, or just plain prejudiced. Most people just seem to parrot nonsense they hear from their friends or the mass media, which no one seems to trust unless it is saying something they like. The whole thing leaves me very frustrated and disgruntled, hence the title.

My Photo
Location: Leesburg, Virginia, United States

I live with my long-suffering, sainted wife Jennifer, without whom I'd be hopelessly lost, instead of just lost, and four children, Ian, Simon, Francine and Jeremy who challenge, enlighten, amaze, inspire and irritate me on a daily basis. I'm a long-time software developer and have worked in many industries in the past 20 years. I also teach CCD at St. John the Apostle Catholic Church because time spent with children is never wasted. These opinions are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employers, past or present, the Government, the Church or the effects of CIA mind-control lasers. Not that anyone would want them.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Missing the Point

About two weeks ago, I went to Mass at the church my parents attend in Smithfield, Virginia. It is a small parish, as are most outside of the few big cities in Virginia, and due to the tragic lack of vocations in the Richmond diocese, it must share its sole priest with 3 other parishes. Nevertheless, Father had an interesting sermon about why the Gospels focused one story between the infancy narrative of Jesus and his preparing to start his public ministry: The story of Mary and Joseph finding young Jesus in the temple teaching.

However, I noticed something odd in the parish bulletin after Mass, and this I think is a good example of why I started this blog in the first place. There is a page, which is probably boilerplated into each week's edition, called "Q&A: Inclusive Language".

The basic idea of course, is the politically correct guilt that stems from the fact that English has no gender-neutral singular pronouns. Or to be more precise, it has no obvious gender-neutral pronouns. In fact, just like Latin, Spanish and a whole host of other languages, the masculine subsumes the gender-neutral role. Since we are talking about gender and not sex, this is a purely grammatical construction, but just like with Orwell's Newspeak, the political correctness crowd believes that language creates thought, and not the other way 'round. Ironically, Mass was said in Latin for, which likewise has no gender-neutral singular pronouns, for the better part of two millennia, and this never seemed to be a problem.

Right away I have a problem with this, and here's why: The Mass is supposed to be universal. The Mass transcends language, culture and custom. I am supposed to be able to go to Mass anywhere in the world, and even if I am unfamiliar with the language, it should be readily recognizable, with no explanations necessary. Now we will grant that it is quite possible that there are parishes in the U.S. where Mass would be less recognizable to me than some small chruch in the most remote place in Africa or Asia, that's another story for another day, but the fact that you have to issue a disclaimer for how you conduct the Mass is to me a warning sign. It's a warning sign that they expect people to have a problem with what they are doing. If, in fact, the rites of the Mass itself have not been changed, then I don't think there's any reason to need a full page to explain the use of English to an English-speaking audience. But, if the rites are being reworded, I think anyone, even a priest, is stepping beyond his role and doing something that should not be done.

The letter starts out pointing out that we have rightfully abandoned archaic language that is no longer commonly used, citing "thee" and "thou" as good examples. That's fine. It goes on to describe what it refers to as "horizontal inclusive language", which refers to "men and women" instead of "men" and "brothers and sisters" instead of "brothers", or the Anglo-Saxon "brethren". I don't have a problem with this, and in fact often do it myself.

However, there would be no reason to issue such a disclaimer unless, in fact, these people were changing the words of the Mass and scripture themselves, in some deeply misguided attempt to avoid hard feelings. "Don't mind us, we'll clean up that nasty Bible, and that barbaric Mass so as not to offend your twenty-first century sensibilities." That's really it, isn't it?

The problem I have is when people take it upon themselves to retranslate on the fly, replacing those and similar words when reading Scripture during Mass. We have specific translations approved by the Church for a reason. Small, simple changes in language can effect huge changes in meaning, and I don't think anyone, even a priest should trust his cognitive wherewithal to spot all the possible ramifications of altering Scripture on the fly to suit to some misplaced sense of propriety. Doesn't Scripture itself warn us against changing it?

Now granted that adding "and women" or "and sisters" is quite unlikely to have any deleterious effect on the meaning of a particular passage, but I've also heard reference to "Abraham and Sarah, our parents in faith" at Mass in Georgetown, Washington, DC. Now, I'm no theologian, nor an expert of Scripture, but I'm pretty sure that God chose Abraham specifically to lead His people, and while Sarah is very important, being his wife and mother to his children, she was not chosen to lead the Israelites. Here we have a clear cut change to the meaning of Scripture. At the time, my jaw literally dropped, but apparently I was alone as a quick glance around revealed that no one else gave any outward indication that anything was amiss. If God had chosen Abraham and Sarah as "co-presidents" of His chosen people, I think He would have made it clear, but that is not the case. You might think I'm picking nits here, and maybe I am, but how much change is too much change? Where do we draw the line? We've already tried the idea of people translating and interpreting Scripture for themselves and the end result of which is some 20,000 Christian denominations.

On a similar aesthetic note, I find it quite appalling to hear the Gloria butchered "Glory to God in the Highest, and Peace to All people on Earth." or "Peace to God's people on Earth." In fact, I was at one Mass where one singer sang "all" and the other sang "God's" and had to quietly chuckle at the sheer absurdity of people thinking they are far too wise and sophisticated to follow the backwards example of Christ Himself. Yes, that's the meat of the matter really. There are many people who think they are smarter than Jesus, Who very clearly and unequivocably instructed us to refer the God as "Our Father". Are these people embarrassed to use the words of Christ Himself? If not, then what's the problem?


Post a Comment

<< Home