A co-founder of the Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland has criticised the bishops of England and Wales for their lack of consultation in opting for the Catholic Edition of the gender-exclusive English Standard Version (ESV) translation of the Bible for use in a new version of the lectionary.
Fr Brendan Hoban, a retired parish priest in Co. Mayo, noted that the ESV refers to men and women as “men” and translates humanity as “man”. Other translations, such as the Revised New Jerusalem Bible, prefer inclusive language.
Accusing the 22 bishops of England and Wales of “a conspicuously bad decision”, he alleged there had been no consultation with priests, Religious or laity, biblical scholars or liturgical experts.
In a statement on 22 January, the bishops of England and Wales said the ESV was chosen because it is seen as fulfilling the qualities the Church seeks for “accuracy of translation which conveys the meaning of the biblical authors” as well as for the “dignity and accessibility of language needed for a worthy proclamation of the Word of God”.
The Bishops of Scotland announced in July 2020 that they had also chosen the English Standard Version – Catholic Edition for the lectionary.
Writing in his column in the Western People, Fr Hoban noted that traditionally the Catholic Churches of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland cooperate over the publication of liturgical books and their revised editions for financial and other reasons.
He asked if the Irish bishops would now accept the “unilateral England (and Wales) decision”, or would they “follow again the dismal, dangerous example of their colleagues on the other side of the Irish sea?”
Fr Hoban wrote: “Will they compound a problem being visited on the Catholics of England and Wales by regularly and ritually insulting women as they listen to the Word of God being read at Mass – giving them another reason to cut their links with an institution that insists on patronising and disrespecting them to the point of misogyny?”
He added that if the Irish bishops do this, the recent words of the newly installed Archbishop of Dublin on leadership would be meaningless.
Fr Hoban was referring to Archbishop Dermot Farrell’s homily at his installation earlier this month, where he said: “Leadership in the Church is not about telling people what to do; rather it is about promoting co- responsibility and overcoming the mindset which runs the risk of relegating the baptised to a subordinate role, effectively keeping them on the edges of church life.”
According to Fr Hoban, the decision to adopt the ESV translation for the lectionary is “a watershed moment when women may eventually decide that no matter what the Catholic Church says, disrespect for women is sewn into its institutional seams”.
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