Fr. James P. Moroney of the Secretariat for the Liturgy of the National Council of Catholic Bishops had an in depth article in the May 16-22 National Catholic Register telling readers that the purpose of the revised Lectionary is to achieve maximum possible fidelity to the sacred Scriptures, not to bend to the pressures exerted by inclusive language namely, feminist language. But Moroney shoots himself in the foot, for the example he uses to illustrate his point refutes his own contention: The new Lectionary has changed brothers to brothers and sisters when, in a Scripture reading, a mixed group of males and females is being greeted. Curiously, Moroney admits that the Greek word in question, adelphoi, literally means brothers, not brothers and sisters, and that adelphoi is nonetheless used in Scripture when addressing both men and women. So this change is not maximum possible fidelity to Scripture at all. The scriptural writers have been corrected politically corrected.
So why the change? Moroney acknowledges that addressing a group of male and females as brothers was commonly done in the recent past, but he claims that nowadays it would be hard to imagine someone saying that. He doesnt tell us why. But we all know its because of the pressure exerted by inclusive language. Now, maximum possible fidelity is a Vatican norm in translation, and brothers and sisters did somehow get past the Vatican (yes, even Vatican watchdogs sleep on the job from time to time). But it would be nice if Moroney had chosen a better example, and it would be nicer still if we could truly be assured that our translations are not cave-ins to cultural pressure. If brothers is deemed a bit jarring these days, cant we find something less obviously p.c. than brothers and sisters, and something less clunky? If we wish to be truly idiomatic, we should consider using ladies and gentlemen or just folks. Or, better, lets forget attempts at being idiomatic, and go with something solid. Lets go with something thats literal (maximum possible fidelity) and truly eloquent. The obvious choice is brethren, used in the Catholic Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible. And it has a bonus for the faint of heart who agonize over cultural sensitivities, for it has a slightly archaic and wonderfully poetic resonance that just happens to take the edge off the prosaic brothers. Goodness, theres a venerable Protestant denomination called the Church of the Brethren, and no one supposes its a male-only church. Heck, we Catholics still refer to sister parishes in the diocese, and no one would imagine that those parishes are for females only.
But if our Lectionary writers find brethren just too elegant for us bumpkin Catholics in the pews, lets go back to brothers. Under the dispensation of the old Lectionary, when the lector (no, its not lector or lectress) began by reading brothers, he was addressing both men and women, and everyone knew that. We never did see a lady, presuming to be excluded, storm out in protest. Had one done so, we would have recommended, as tactfully as possible, that she call the nearest night school and enroll in a course in remedial English.
St. Francis preached to the animals (and anyone would know we arent referring here to men, who happen to be animals), and lets imagine St. Francis preached to a flock of ducks, both male ducks (drakes) and female ducks (ducks). He would, had he spoken English, have addressed them, Ducks . Would the drakes in the flock have felt excluded? Would they have misunderstood? Would they have demanded that he say, Drakes and ducks ? Ducks may be stupid, but theyre not that stupid. And women certainly arent stupid, even if Lectionary writers sometimes treat them that way.
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