By Mary Kate Boylan
Monday, December 6, 2010
"He" and "mankind" have been dropping from some religious texts in favor of gender-neutral terms. Lacking a papal initiative, priests who modify the Catholic liturgy are doing it one by one.
The decision to allow priests to use an alternative, gender-neutral text sparked outrage in some quarters.
"It is political correctness. It is quite unnecessary," the Rev. Stuart Hall of the Scottish Prayer Book Society was quoted as saying by the Telegraph, the U.K. daily. "The word man in English–especially among scientists–is inclusive of both sexes. Those who try to minimize references to God as the father and Christ as his son have great difficulties, because the New Testament is shot through with these references."
Ashley Cross, head of the women and gender studies department and an English professor at Manhattan College, does not agree that "man" can be considered universal.
"Descriptions are prescriptive, whether we want them to be or not," she said.
When the U.S. Declaration of Independence granted freedom for all men, Cross pointed out, they meant men--and white men--not women. Men owned land and voted, not women. In the same way, the Catholic Church--with its all-male priesthood--can't be expected to treat gender universally, she said. When its texts say men, that means men.
Cross says the gender-neutral language debate is as old as the debate over the wage gap; despite years of effort, women are still making about 75 cents to every dollar earned by men.
"The language we speak shapes the reality we live in," she said.
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Mary Kate Boylan is a Women's eNews intern and communications major with a concentration in journalism at Manhattan College.
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