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Inclusive language revisited.

(The note below is from the Ordo for the Jubilee Year 2000 A.D., for Canada, published by the Office of the Canadian Council of Catholic Bishops. The note intimates an ecclesiastical approval which, in fact, this "inclusivity" does not have).



a) Inclusive language: avoids masculine terms when speaking of men and women in general. Thus: "Christ died to save all" is inclusive language; "to save all men" is discriminatory or exclusive. In Canada and the United States there is a growing sensitivity to avoid language that seems to exclude one-half of the human race of the Church.

b) Papal visits: During the preparations the Canadian bishops asked the Holy Father to use inclusive language--especially in English--in his homilies and talks. It was obvious that he did try to do this carefully. The prayers used in English avoided discriminatory language, and some were amended by the NLO with ICEL's permission.

c) Policy decision: At their plenary meeting in October 1984, Canada's bishops approved the following recommendations as firm policy:

* At the national level that the Commission for Liturgy continue to negotiate firmly for correction in the liturgical texts, and that all commissions of the CCCB be more sensitive to use inclusive language;

* The bishops of Canada develop policies to foster a growing awareness of the importance of inclusive language in a Church of communion, and take steps to implement them (liturgies, homilies, hymns, etc.) with pastoral prudence.

This follows the approval of ICEL's statement of principles by the English sector bishops in the fall of 1980 (see Bulletin 100, pages 219-224).

d) Sacramentary texts: Over the years, inclusive language will be incorporated as books are revised. In the meantime, suggested changes for collects and prefaces are incorporated where applicable in the notes for Sundays and seasons in this calendar.

e) Other action: The National Council for Liturgy is working on amendments, and encourages homilists, teachers, speakers, and writers to try to use inclusive language on all occasions.

In his October 2, 1979, address to the XXXIV General Assembly of the United Nations Organization, Pope John II said, "the most frequent pitfall for human activities is the possibility of losing sight, while performing them, of the clearest truths, the most elementary principles."

In the name, I suspect, of Cardinal Newman's inspired observation, "A gentleman keeps his eye on all his company," the International Commission for English in the Liturgy (ICEL) has of recent years introduced into the English Liturgy--even into translations of the Bible--something which it calls "inclusive language." As I say, it seems to have done so in the name of keeping its eye on all its company, especially women, who, it believed, had hitherto been excluded by English renderings of liturgical texts.

In so doing, ICEL lost sight of a clear truth; namely, that for language to be inclusive, it must include both sexes. The Commission meant well, but its assumptions were wrong. The statement made in the pastoral note, that '"Christ died for all men" is discriminatory or exclusive,' is not true.

And ICEL also lost sight of an elementary principle, namely, that Scripture is the word of God from the pens of men inspired by God, and is, therefore, something to be instructed by, not something to instruct. Hence the tradition, Scriptura interpres Scripturae.

Biblical language

The claim that the sentence "Christ died for all men" is discriminatory or exclusive is false. The bible uses the word "man" or "men" as inclusive of women in the first chapter of Genesis ("And God created man to his own image; to the image of God he created him. Male and female he created them," v.27).

Karl Stern, in Flight from Woman, points out the easily overlooked fact that this is said before Eve is even created. "Man" is not exclusive of woman in Biblical language. Adam, in fact, is told by God not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil before Eve was even created. "On what day soever you shall eat of it, dying, you shall die the death." Is anyone under the impression that women do not die?

Ordinary language

"Man" is not exclusive of woman in secular language, either. "Man, proud man, Drest in a little brief authority, plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven, as make the angels weep" (Shakespeare's Measure for Measure). Does anyone suppose that Shakespeare meant to say that only males abused their authority, when he wrote these lines at the end of the English throne's long occupation by a woman, a woman whose abuse of regal authority is writ large in the history of the time? Writ large especially as it affected Catholics, as Blessed Edmund Campion can testify.

Has anything changed since? Are modern speakers of English under the impression that "man" includes males only--"seems to exclude one-half of the human race and of the Church," as the note says? Are modern speakers of English unable to tell from the context whether "man" is being used as synonymous with "male" (as in "is that person coming towards us a man or a woman?"), or whether it is being used to include both male and female (as in "Man is mortal"). It is hardly flattering to one's audience to suggest, that it has become too obtuse to see these shades of meaning anymore. Far from being "sensitive," it is as insulting to women as to men. The truth is that women are patronized by inclusive language, not honoured by it.

Axes to grind

Why, then, do they tolerate it? Some do not, of course, but most, I think, are used to suffering fools gladly, and are too busy with their families to give it a lot of time in any case.

For the least offensive aspect of the inclusive language is its gaucherie. I once heard a priest begin a homily with "Ah, but a man (or woman's) reach should exceed their grasp. Or what's a heaven for?" I quoted that to a daughter of mine who was majoring in English, and the witness of her face registered the death sentence for the atrophy visited upon Browning's beautiful poem. But illiteracy, prevalent as it is, is the least of the disorders implicit in the "inclusive" approach to the Liturgy.

To begin with, there is a linguistic atrocity involved in the very idea of the project, for it implies an attempt to force the language to change. The growth of language does not lack for mystery, but language takes a peculiar vengeance on those who try to force it to change, or we would not have nursery rhymes like "Little Jack Homer."

"Politically correct language" is a phenomenon of the current age, and it is a simple attempt to use fear in a certain way. In former times we had things like Holy Name Societies which inculcated the keeping of the Second Commandment ("Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain)" out of fear of God. Now we inculcate the use (or avoidance) of certain words out of fear of man, a most unworthy motive, one identified by Our Lord in St. John's Gospel (5:44) as incompatible with faith: "How can you believe, when you look to one another for approval, and are not concerned with the approval that comes from the one God?"


Bad as it is, that is as nothing compared to the context of the project, for this would-be respect for womankind is inseparable from feminism--not the feminism of REAL Women, for example, or Women for Life, Faith, and Family, who inculcate respect for men and women both, and eschew the lie that "man" excludes women, but the feminism which espouses an antihuman-life stand in the name of liberty. Such feminism has become inseparable from

* contraception

* prenatal infanticide

* divorce, and, more recently,

* sodomy and lesbianism.

It is evident, to paraphrase Father George Rutler's keen observation, that the sexual revolution and the culture of death are two sides of the same bad coin. A feminist newswoman was reported some time ago to have been the recipient of ogling by U.S. President Bill Clinton. Her remarkable response was to report that she would gladly perform oral sex on him just for keeping abortion legal.

The abominations listed above form the context in which this kind of feminism thrives. The worship of this Zeitgeist (the spirit of the times) is trying to replace the worship of God--has been trying to do so for thirty years in Canada. The mighty irony is that this Zeitgeist is supposed to be the salvation of women, freeing them from oppression, when, in fact, any one of those four evils implies a lethal oppression of women, and the four together constitute an assault on the feminine (and on the masculine) unequalled in history. This idolatry is high-tech.

Inclusive language is not the answer. Inclusive language cannot shake itself loose of the shackles of the Zeitgeist even if it would. I say "even if it would" because the Zeitgeist, on the one hand, is as loud, frenzied, and "in your face" as its so-called music, and, on the other hand, is as mendaciously timid and guarded as its "politically correct" language.

Political correctness

It is impossible for congregations not to notice the similarity between the politically correct language of the age and the politically correct language of the new liturgical texts. Take a mild example, Mt 26:24, translated, "The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born." (I say nothing about the weakness, the banality of that last sentence as compared with the original, "it were better for that man if he had never been born," but such is inevitable when your real goal is not fidelity and charity, but the elimination of "man" and "he").

But why this change in the first place? Was not Judas a man, even if one were to subscribe to the truth-less proposition that "man" meant "male" and nothing else? Is it permissible to use Scripture, and that gratuitously, to throw a meaningless sop to someone with a feminist cast of mind? Can such a rendering be anything disrespectful of women? Are women charmed by obsequiousness? Can women not tell the difference between toadyism and charity? And can such a rendering fail to bear the unmistakable mark of the guarded and tentative language of the secretive politician, something to which Scripture is a total stranger? Scripture is the word of him who has always spoken openly, in the marketplace and where all the Jews resort, and in secret has spoken nothing (Jn 18:20).

In addition, however well meaning ICEL and the Liturgy Commission of the Canadian Catholic Conference in Ottawa were at their inception, they have now generated responses like "Just get used to it!" to objections to their increasingly unacceptable suggestions.

It is not as if there were nothing for ICEL or the Liturgy Commission to do. Inclusive language efforts continue in lieu of sorely needed efforts to make liturgical language and practice reflect sound doctrine and inculcate authentic holiness. Instead you have "Although he was Son" (Hb 5:8) changed to "Although he was a Son," as though there were more than one second person of the Blessed Trinity, as though dogma could be flouted in favour of something that sounded more familiar to the ear.

Inclusive is really exclusive

It is inclusive language, but it should be "exclusive" because it excludes women from the race of "men." Its installation (even into Scriptures) by edict, not by organic growth, gives aid and comfort to what may be the most pernicious philosophical error of the day; namely, the doctrine that truth is whatever anyone wants it to be.

Justice Anthony Kennedy of the American Supreme Court, writing the majority decision in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey (U.S. Supreme Court, 1993), said, "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." But Christ said (Jn 8:32), "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." The U.S. Supreme Court says that truth and freedom are incompatible, or, perhaps more accurately, that there is no such thing as objective truth, so how could you know it? Besides, if you were bound by it, you would not be free.

The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb 4:12). The Scriptures' very last warning (Rv 22:18-19) amounts to saying that swords make dangerous playthings. Do not add to the word of God; do not subtract from it.

When you think of the world's current disorders--the silent conspiracy especially of its professions, medical, legal, educational, political, artistic, journalistic, to stifle opposition to the current culture of sterility and death, expressed at its most virulent by a slaughter of the innocent that would make Hilter and Stalin blush, and then think of the truthless vocabulary of this conspiracy, "inclusive," "sensitive," "discriminatory," being employed to alter the very Liturgy of the Church, you are coming close, it seems to me, to describing the abomination of desolation standing in the Holy Place (Mt 24:15), (Mk 13:14), (Dt 9:27).

Thank God for the Magisterium, which spent two years ridding the Catechism of the Catholic Church of its "inclusive" language before publishing it in English.

But our wrestling is not with flesh and blood, it is with principalities and powers. So what are we up against? Satan's kingdom. And what is Satan's kingdom like? We have been told that Satan's kingdom is not divided against itself. The enforced exclusion of women from the genus "man"--and at the same time the attempt to favour women at the expense of men--is congruent with Satan's kingdom, not the kingdom of God. God made two sexes, not just one. God made not only the differences between the two sexes, but their complementarity. Satan it is who divides them, and he cares not whether he divides them by denying their complementarity, or by denying their differences. Satan's kingdom is not divided against itself, and its perfect unity consists in its consistent opposition to God and His world, God who made the world and everything in it, including man, male and female, and their interrelationship. Inclusive language militates against all three, male, female, and their interrelationship.
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Author:Thompson, Joseph
Publication:Catholic Insight
Date:Nov 1, 2000
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