Irish priests have warned their bishops against adopting a new lectionary, saying that the translations to be used in it are “diminishing and disrespectful” of women.

– Don’t follow the path of English, Welsh and Scottish Churches

Ahead of its Annual General Meeting October 28, the Irish Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) – which represents over 1,000 clerics – republished on its website a letter its leadership team sent in August to the country’s bishops, warning them against giving the green light to the use of the English Standard Version (ESV) Bible translation at Mass.

In July the Scottish Bishops announced preparations for a new lectionary based on the ESV, alleging that that translation allows for greater “accuracy” in communicating the Word, as well as for heightened “dignity, facility of proclamation, and accessibility”.

In their statement communicating their move, the Scottish prelates added that the ESV was already being used in churches in England and Wales.

The Scottish Bishops’ decision has lead to speculation about whether the Irish Bishops will follow suit. And the debate is by no means an idle one, given that hundreds of Catholics in England, Wales and Scotland have been protesting the gender-exclusive translations in the ESV.

“In choosing this translation over the inclusive Catholic version of the New Jerusalem Bible, the Bishops have chosen to exclude at least fifty percent of the ecclesial community”, reads a petition to the English and Welsh bishops posted on change.org that has attracted over 700 signatures since late last month.

“Language shapes thoughts and attitudes, and the impact of rendering Holy Scripture in this way is to deny the inclusion of female disciples of Jesus, not only in the language of the liturgy, but in the good news of salvation”, the petition continues.

– “Acceptance of exclusive rather than inclusive terms will be interpreted as demeaning and insulting by many women (and men)”

In their letter to the country’s bishops, the Irish priests voiced many of the same concerns as the petition campaigners, and decried that “the ESV translation does not allow for the use of inclusive language and favours the use of generic terms like ‘man’, ‘mankind’ and ‘brothers’”.

“Such terms are not just out of sync with modern usage but are culturally regarded as diminishing and disrespectful of women”, the ACP alerted.

“At a time when efforts are being made – internationally, nationally and at diocesan and parish level – to enhance the role of women in our Church and to encourage women to continue their invaluable participation in church life, acceptance of exclusive rather than inclusive terms will be interpreted as demeaning and insulting by many women (and men)”, the priests continued.

Urging their bishops to avoid “at all costs” a change to an ESV-based lectionary, the priests of the ACP alerted of the danger that “other episcopal conferences may expect, indeed presume, that the Irish bishops will cooperate in giving the nod to a version of the Lectionary that will cause not just division, disunity and damage in our parishes but offer to women, especially younger women, yet another argument for jettisoning their connection with the Church”.

The ACP highlighted that their statement on the proposed new lectionary “represents not just our own members but the generality of priests in Ireland who know from personal experience in their parishes the contribution women make, and the need to support them – not to diminish or demean them”.

Out of their awareness of the widespread opposition to the use of ESV translations at Mass, the Irish priests warned their bishops that any move to the lectionary proposed for the English, Welsh and Scottish Churches “would hasten the exit of even more of the faithful and add to the already large number of Irish people who simply see [the Church] as irrelevant”.

More news on liturgical matters, on Novena:

German Catholic women push for inclusion in calendar of saints of forgotten New Testament female apostle

European Bishops warned of dangers of virtual Church post-COVID-19, temptation of sacramental “home delivery”

Dublin archbishop fights back against “very serious distortion” of Vatican document on return to Masses post-COVID

Irish priest warns bishops’ cozying up to alt-right is “reaping a bitter whirlwind”


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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.