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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By Will Hazell
A Catholic relationship and sex education programme being used in UK schools says that contraception is “wrong” and suggests gay people should abstain from sex
Faith-based sex education resources which say men were “created to be the initiator in sexual relationships” and that women act as “receiver-responders” are being used in UK schools, i can reveal.
The resources, which form part of a Catholic relationships and sex education programme called A Fertile Heart, also say that contraception is “wrong” and suggests that gay people should abstain from sex.
A Fertile Heart was produced by a group of priests from the dioceses of Birmingham, Cardiff, Clifton and Shrewsbury, and has been approved by the Archbishop of Birmingham.
The programme was piloted in 43 primary and thirteen secondary schools in the Archdiocese of Cardiff, but is also being taught in at least one school in England.
One chapter seen by i advocates “complementarity” – the idea that men and women were designed to have specific roles, particularly in sex and relationships.
It suggests that “within a romantic relationship between male and female, masculinity is more about initiating”, whereas “femininity is more about receiving and responding”. “Looking at things biologically, it does appear that man has been created to be the initiator in sexual relationships, and woman the receiver-responder”.
Discussing wider differences between the sexes, it says that “many couples find the woman tends to be better at communicating her emotions, whereas the man is sometimes better at knowing when to move on from such analysis”.
Gay marriage not ‘real’
The resources say that homosexuality should be treated with “sensitivity”, but adds: “We cannot deny the objective reality of sex being directed towards procreation and family, nor the link between this and marriage, commitment and parenthood.”
It links to a YouTube video featuring the American Catholic campaigner Jason Evert, who argues that gay people cannot have “real” marriage and should abstain from sex.
The resources cite the hormone oxytocin as a biological reason why “a woman tends to find it more difficult to enter uncommitted sexual relationships and is prone to suffer mentally and emotionally if sexual relationships fail”.
Pupils are told that the Church is clear that “all artificial contraception” is “wrong” and that “the pill bulldozes through and prevents the young woman understanding her fertility and femininity”.
A suggested lesson activity says pupils should discuss “whether contraception has truly liberated women, or actually made them more ‘available’ and vulnerable to being used”.
Dr Ruth Wareham, education campaigns manager at Humanists UK, said: ‘All the best evidence shows that outdated abstinence-based models of sex education like that peddled by A Fertile Heart don’t work and can even have a negative impact on sexual health outcomes”.
She said the resources used “pseudoscience and half-truths to back up its flimsy arguments”, and had “no place being taught in schools”.
‘Open to misinterpretation’
A spokesman for A Fertile Heart told i the programme was “designed primarily though not exclusively as a resource for Catholic schools”, and that the current revised edition was “in full conformity with the Church’s moral teaching” and had the “endorsement and active support of several Catholic bishops”.
The spokesman said that some paragraphs in an earlier textbook “were open to misinterpretation” and had been subsequently “edited”. The reference to men being initiators was “not speaking in terms of who decides whether sex happens or how”, but was about the the marital relationship of “mutual love and respect”. He said the reference to the effect of oxytocin was “written in the light of current research”.
On fertility, he added: “At a time when adolescents, especially female adolescents are getting attuned to the significant changes in their bodies, and learning to ‘read’ them, the claim that there is a potential risk that the Pill bulldozes through and inhibits a young woman understanding her fertility properly is a valid one not least as hormonal contraception can cause depression and high anxiety levels particularly in young girls.”
What the Government guidance says
In November, the Labour MP Stella Creasy asked the Government whether the material published by A Fertile Heart was permitted to be used for relationship and sex education (RSE). The schools minister Nick Gibb said it was “for schools to decide which resources they choose”. He did not directly criticise A Fertile Heart, but said that “schools should not work with agencies that take extreme positions, and this should also be reflected in the school’s choice of resources”.
The Department for Education’s guidance on RSE says schools should be “alive to issues such as everyday sexism, misogyny, homophobia and gender stereotypes and take positive action to build a culture where these are not tolerated”. It says that by the end of secondary school students should be given “the facts about the full range of contraceptive choices, efficacy and options available”.
It says religious schools “may teach the distinctive faith perspectives on relationships, and balanced debate may take place about issues that are seen as contentious”.
Humanists UK said the Government should “remove the faith-based carve-outs to the law on RSE”.
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— NJ minister seeks to help lesbian clergy find acceptance
By Deena Yellin
As an ordained minister and clinical social worker for over three decades, Bergenfield’s Pamela Pater-Ennis has grown all-too familiar with what she calls “religious trauma.”
Many of her clients have been abused by clergy, ostracized by religiously judgmental families, or rejected from their churches when they came out as gay, she recalled in a recent interview.
Faith is supposed to offer a sanctuary from suffering. But it can turn ugly, said Pater-Ennis, 62, who runs an interfaith counseling service with offices in Teaneck and Hoboken. Her mission, she said, is to help people “make sense of it when religion turns bad.”
Pater-Ennis, who was ordained in 1984 in the Reformed Church in America, a mainline Protestant denomination, said she’s both saddened and fascinated by the ways in which religion can cause pain. She recently launched Sanctuary Healing, an online spiritual coaching and therapy program to help clients address such trauma.
That followed the publication last year of “Out In the Pulpit,” her book chronicling the journeys of 13 lesbian clergy who have struggled to reconcile identities as Christians and lesbians. The book grew out of her angst as a straight ally, she said.
The women she profiled were heavily involved in their churches growing up but were shunned when they came out as gay, said Pater-Ennis. They grieved the loss and yearned to return to religious life, but first, they needed to reexamine their own spiritual identities, explore their pain, and find their way to a community where they could be accepted.
Eventually, all of them were ordained.
One of the women featured in the book is Ann Kansfield, now a minister in Brooklyn. During her teenage years, she struggled with suicidal thoughts as she came to the realization that she was gay. An internalized homophobia forced her to keep quiet about her sexual identity, Kansfield told Pater-Ennis.
In particular, she feared revealing her secret to members of the downtown Rochester, New York, church where her family worshipped. It was there that she had found refuge from bullying classmates who tormented her for acting and dressing differently from the other girls.
But at age 18, when Kansfield came out, she was pleasantly surprised by the warm reaction of members at her First Reformed Church. “The congregation loved me the way I was,” she recalled. Inspired by their faith and unconditional love, she decided to become a minister.
Yet after Kansfield studied in seminary for several years, the church declined to grant her ordination, she said.
Expelled from seminary
Other women in the book recounted similar roadblocks. Some were kicked out of churches and seminary programs; others still fear they will be stripped of their religious station. Many struggled for years with guilt over their sexual orientation.
“The issue of homosexuality in mainline Protestant churches is currently considered the most divisive and debated issue,” Pater-Ennis writes. “There appear to be existing attitudes within congregations that prevent the hiring of lesbian clergy. Many of the clergy who sexually identity as lesbians still found that they need to remain closeted to maintain their employment and their ordination status.”
Pater-Ennis has never served in a church but performs her ministry through her counseling service, she said. She’s also involved in Reformed Church leadership in Bergen and Hudson counties and at the Clinton Avenue Reformed Church in Bergenfield, where her husband, the Rev. Mark Ennis, is pastor.
Homosexuality has sparked fierce debates among denominations around the world. Passages in the Bible condemn the practice, which has historically been considered taboo by many houses of worship. The Catholic Church, for example, teaches that gay people must be treated with dignity and respect but that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered” since they “close the sexual act to the gift of life.”
But views have been shifting. A 2015 Pew Research Center survey of religious beliefs in the U.S. found that 54% of U.S. Christians say homosexuality should be accepted. An increasing number of churches across the country now conduct same-sex marriages and permit the ordination of gay and lesbian individuals.
Several Protestant denominations have been at the forefront. When the United Church of Christ ordained an openly gay man in 1972, it was called a first in the history of Christianity. The Evangelical Lutheran Church elected its first gay bishop in 2013, and the Presbyterian Church welcomed the first openly lesbian pastor in 2012.
But that doesn’t mean the path has been easy for all.
After studying at the New Brunswick Theological Seminary in New Jersey, Kansfield was informed that the Christian Reformed Church in North America wouldn’t grant her ordination because she was an open lesbian. She subsequently was ordained by the United Church of Christ in 2011.
Leaders of the Reformed Church also suspended her father, Norman Kansfield, an ordained pastor who was president of the New Brunswick seminary, for performing his daughter’s marriage to Jennifer Aull in 2004. He was defrocked the following year, but reinstated in 2011.
Outcry over a wedding
“There was an outcry about our wedding which was definitely uncomfortable,” Ann Kansfield recalled. “My dad got fired for performing our wedding…. It was a great sadness for many in our denomination.”
Today, Kansfield is co-pastor with Aull at Greenpoint Church in Brooklyn, where they aim to reach out to the economically disadvantaged and create an inclusive space for all worshipers, she said. Kansfield, who started there in 2003, said she is working on social justice issues as well as running food ministries for the underprivileged.
The congregation “chose me to be their pastor knowing who they were getting” and gave her a home, “where I could be myself in spite of systemic homophobia that is present throughout society,” she said.
By 2015, Kansfield was sworn in as the first female and first openly lesbian chaplain in the history of the New York City Fire Department. She said she tries not to focus on prejudice that might be sparked by her identity.
“I’m sure there is a lot of sexism and homophobia out there but I tend to not look for it,” she said. “If you look for it, it’s very easy to find, and once you find it it can be disruptive and painful.”
Many who’ve experienced prejudice from within their religion subsequently shut the church out of their lives, said Pater-Ennis.
But the author urges survivors to seek counseling from a religious professional to work through those issues and then to return to some type of spiritual realm where “they can find their own inner peace.
“As humans, we crave community,” she said. “It’s in our DNA.”
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by Harry Brent
A CATHOLIC priest has admitted that the Church has traditionally treated woman very badly, and effectively still does.
Fr Kevin McNamara of Moyvane, Co. Kerry made the admission during a documentary about the decline of Catholic traditions within the Church today.
“As a church we have been very, very, very hurtful to women and still are,” said Fr McNamara in The Confessors, which aired on RTE One on Monday night.
“The Church is all male, all the time. We really need to look at that,” he added.
“We should put our hands up sooner rather than later.”
He went on to admit the devastation he felt at the flood of revelations of child sexual abuse perpetrated by the clergy.
“I actually cried my way through a Mass at the height of the child sexual abuse [scandal]. How people in authority could have blatantly told so many lies, or opted not to tell the truth,” he said, before adding that staying quiet about such atrocities was “the devil’s work”.
With the tagline “a study of sin and redemption as told by Irish priests through the prism of the Confession box”, The Confessors features accounts from 15 priests – of all ages and from all corners of the country.
It also features a priest who says he won’t wear a dog collar for fear of being attacked outside work, and priests who admit that confessional boxes go more-or-less unused for most of the year.
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Its errors run from toting a saint’s relics around Scotland to an invitation to a reactionary priest
A grim little vaudeville act is currently touring some of Scotland’s Catholic parishes, featuring the remains of Thérèse of Lisieux, a long-dead French nun. Thérèse died of tuberculosis at the age of 24 in 1897 and was canonised in 1925, becoming Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. By all accounts, this young woman developed an exemplary devotion to her faith and was the author of some beautiful (if slightly ripe) spiritual tracts. I’m not sure she deserved the fate of having some of her remains bumped in and out of cars and through the hills of South Lanarkshire and Paisley for the devoted titillation of the faithful.
These relics of Saint Thérèse are considered to be “first class”, this being the ultimate seal of Vatican authentication. To be accorded this distinction, they must be parts of the bodies of the saints, such as fragments of bone, skin, blood, hair or ash. Apparently, poor dead Thérèse (or parts thereof) has been getting ferried like this throughout the Catholic world since 1994. Is there no one to call a halt to this unedifying distortion of faith? Can we not let this blameless lassie rest in peace?
In secular society, we similarly raise up those who have performed feats of heroism that inspire us to make more of ourselves or to come to the aid of those in need. Behold the Scotland national football team. Our squad hasn’t qualified for a proper international tournament for 21 years and has long been tormented by the feats of better generations. The ghosts of great Scottish managers and players still haunt Hampden Park and our modern performers seem mesmerised by their shadows as they struggle to master the basics of the game. Thus, there were more people interested in attending Scotland’s rugby international against Georgia than our footballers’ encounter with Russia on Friday night. Perhaps we could seek permission from the families of Bill Shankly, Jim Baxter and Jimmy Johnstone to exhume their bodies in the national interest.
A lock of Shankly’s hair or Baxter’s left metatarsal or a bone fragment from Jinky’s hips, which he used to swivel and pirouette away from defenders, could be secured and placed in a casket. These could then be borne aloft through the neighbourhoods that reared these great footballers for the purposes of rekindling interest among these communities for our national sport. Perhaps, too, something of the sorcery interred in their bones might escape into the feet of a passing urchin and transport him to greatness in a dark blue jersey.
When the church’s spinmeisters urge its followers to bow down in medieval veneration to the bleached fragments of dead heroes you know that political machinations lie beneath. Our secular aristocracy relies on the fecundity of the royal family or the sacrifice of its soldiers in contrived theatres of war to avert our gaze from problems nearer to home. And the Roman Catholic church, still reeling from the global crisis of clerical sex abuse, is keen to encourage supernatural devotion like this for the purposes of redirecting scrutiny of its own grievous failings.
The success of the Reformation lay in freeing people from the spiritual slavery of Rome, where the bones of saints and counterfeit fragments of the Holy Cross had become an industry. The profits from this paid for the ruinous and brutal Crusades (and the beginning of Islamophobia).
The reformers offered a purer and less unequal route to heaven and the mercy of God, unencumbered by profiteering, exploitation and superstition. It wasn’t just a theological revolution, but a temporal one, which seemed to say that you didn’t need to wait until you entered paradise to experience equality and fairness.
While Saint Thérèse’s relics continue on their ghostly tour up and down the hills and glens, the visit to Scotland takes place of the American cardinal Raymond Burke, perhaps the most powerful Catholic churchman after Pope Francis. Burke, who has long viewed the current pope’s relaxed and compassionate views on human sexuality and the environment with deep suspicion, has become his greatest critic. He has thus become a totem for rightwing Catholic conservatives, a powerful and influential lobby, which is currently being wooed by Donald Trump and his chosen acolyte in this field, Steve Bannon. Perhaps it’s merely a coincidence that Thérèse’s posthumous visit to Scotland is occurring at the same time as Burke’s live one, but I hae ma doots.
Among the cardinal’s wide range of reactionary views is that female altar servers are a wretched sign of the increased “feminisation” of the church. “The introduction of girl servers led many boys to abandon altar service,” he has said. “Young boys don’t want to do things with girls. It’s just natural.” This is rubbish, of course. Where I grew up, if young female altar servers had been allowed there would have been a stampede among the boys to toil in the Lord’s vineyard alongside them. Burke also views any form of gay relationships as “evil” and has encouraged Catholics not to expose their children to close relatives who are actively gay. He’s had less to say about why the God he purports to serve and who does not make mistakes created, in His wisdom, gay people.
The familiars and acolytes attending this false prophet will include a shadowy assortment of arcane organisations that seek to preserve unfettered clerical control and power by means of exclusion and unholy inquisition. Spare a thought for us Catholics at this time. Not only are we seeking to deal with Brexit in the secular world but leave this shower of ecclesiastical Blimps in the spiritual one.
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