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What should I say to a priest who refers to God as “he or she”?

Full Question

The priest who teaches our RCIA class refers to God as “he or she” and expresses open-mindedness about women priests. What can I say to him?


Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition never refer to any person of the Godhead as she or he or she. The word he is always used. This same usage is invariably followed by the Church’s magisterium and in the liturgy and is stipulated in the Church’s translational norms as well.

Jesus began the only prayer he taught us with “Our Father.” A father is a he. Jesus himself is obviously male, so it would be inappropriate to refer to him with a non-masculine pronoun. And Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as he: “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (Jn 14:26).

While the Bible does sometimes use feminine and maternal metaphors for God and especially for divine wisdom—which in some passages seems to be represented as a divine person and has sometimes been theologically identified with God the Son—nevertheless Scripture and the Church’s liturgical tradition agree that God is to be called he, not she. Bottom line: There is no place in historic Christian expression for “inclusive” God language.

Regarding the all-male priesthood, the Holy Father could not have been clearer on this issue. In his apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, he said,

Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32), I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful. (4,2, emphasis added)


1 comment

  1. CJ Reply

    Oh catholicsay. I love you. But you didn’t answer the question. The person already knows it’s wrong to use a feminine pronoun. Evidently it is the priest who does not. What should a person do in such a situation? Talk to the priest? The RCIA coordinator? The bishop?

    This question cuts deeper –RCIA should be the ‘frontlines’ of doctrinal clarity for people coming into the Church. I had a similar experience in RCIA with a speaker telling us that the Eucharist was not Christ’s flesh – not even His spiritual flesh. This did not jive with what the catechism teaches – the Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus, nor with what Our Lord says about Himself in John 6 – “for my flesh is real food..” etc.

    RCIA needs to be doctrinally sound! How many people might be led astray by incoherent or unsound teaching! People’s souls are on the line!

    In my case, I had enough exposure to Catholic teaching at that point and to the Holy Scriptures to know differently that what the speaker was saying was not accurate, or at the very least, was highly confusing.

    (If Jesus is not in the Eucharist, one may as well stay Protestant. He IS in the Eucharist and therefore it is abundantly necessary to become Catholic!) I love the Catholic Church and am so glad God led me to Himself in His Church. Grace to you catholicsay.

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