BALTIMORE (CNS) — At the start of their annual three-day fall assembly in Baltimore, the U.S. bishops were urged to restore the luster, credibility and beauty of the Catholic Church in the hearts of its members.

In reading the reviews of this General Assembly and looking at the photo above, it seems that women or women’s issues were only present in the discussion of the nature of “true” marriage and in the archaic (one commentator says creepy) metaphor of bishops being wedded to the Church (personified as a woman).  Working for a female religious leader in a non-Catholic religious institution I am more and more offended, intellectually and even viscerally, by the all-male leadership of our Church. How can we move forward when half our membership (actually probably more than half) is not even represented in the language by which we name ourselves, let alone the authority structure.

Our liturgy continues to say, “For us MEN and for our salvation.”  Why could we not take out “MEN?” How can a years long review of the liturgical language not give that small concession to the women in the Church? Simple!  There were no women in the “we” that decided on the new translation, only men and why should they care to change it even if they noticed its sexism, and I doubt they did. Just as there were no women present when the leaders of “our” Church met to discuss our national concerns and blithely continued the use of a gender-specific metaphor that inherently denies the possibility of women ever being included in the ranks of priests and bishops.  How can a female bishop be spiritually wedded to the Church personified as a woman?

Language does not just convey meaning it creates meaning, and hence changes how we perceive reality.  If we cannot change our Catholic language – our pronouns and metaphors – we have no hope of changing our Catholic reality. And that is a damn shame. No progress only regress.

For those who are interested, the November 2011 General Assembly of the United States Catholic Bishops is available as a video record here:

http://usccb.org/about/leadership/usccb-general-assembly/video-on-demand.cfm

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