Some Catholic women in Britain are backing an online petition that urges the Church’s leadership in England and Wales to reverse their decision to use the “gender-exclusive” English Standard Version of the Bible (Catholic edition), instead of the Jerusalem Bible translation, at mass.
“In choosing this translation over the inclusive Catholic version of the New Jerusalem Bible, the Bishops have chosen to exclude at least 50% of the ecclesial community,” reads the petition to Cardinal Vincent Nichols (Archbishop of Westminster and president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.
“Their choice of Bible translation can but speak of an attitude that continues to judge women second class citizens in the Church,” it adds. “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 has received 347 signatures as of early Sunday.
“It was to mutual interdependence that Jesus entrusted a woman and a man as he died upon the cross,” writes Bridget Kennedy, who started the petition. “It was a woman Jesus commissioned first Apostle of the Resurrection. It was the stories of the women of faith that Jesus heard the men repeating as they made their way together to Emmaus. The Bishops might have taken their lead from Jesus.”
She added that Pope Francis greeted the faithful “together as ‘fratelli e sorelle’ (brothers and sisters)” at his election address. “The Bishops might have taken their lead from the Vicar of Christ.”
Sarah Parvis, senior lecturer in Patristics at the University of Edinburgh, criticized the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland when it announced that leaders had decided to introduce the ESV for the lectionary in Scotland.
“They really need to consider more carefully the pastoral impact of continuing to prevent Catholic women from recognizing themselves as referred to in the words of Scripture in this way,” Parvis said at the time, according to The Tablet. “The U.S. evangelical Protestant provenance of the ESV translation is also a concern.”
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Last April, the pope addressed “all Christian young people” in a document, calling for a church with “open doors” that could be attentive to women seeking “greater justice and equality,” according to The Washington Post.
He wrote that if a church remains on the defensive, it would stop listening to others or allow room for questions and turn into a “museum.”
“How, then, will she be able to respond to the dreams of young people?” Francis asked.