From our readers – January 26, 2017

| January 26, 2017 | 0 Comments

Safe place for all kids

This month, a new mother, certainly experiencing despair and stress beyond imagination, chose to bring her newborn son to the Cathedral of St. Paul, hoping for a better life for her baby. As I read the news reports, I was grateful for the responses of all concerned. All things considered, many would consider this a miracle. And indeed it is, but it is also yet another sign that the Catholic Church is making progress in putting its recent horrific past behind it and regaining its place as a beacon of hope in our world.

I was a member of the task force appointed in 2013 to look at policies and procedures in place in this archdiocese that generally relate to the safe environment offered to those entrusted to our care. While it now seems like ancient history, it is forever seared in my memory. Some of the facts about clergy sexual abuse were horrific and continue to be, for me, unimaginable. The task force issued a report, and the archdiocese accepted it and began the arduous task of implementation. By all accounts, the professionals monitoring the performance believe great strides have been taken. But I wonder if the action of one distraught mother on a bitterly cold winter day in Minnesota isn’t also a sign that progress is being made?

As I see it, she brought the most important person in her life to what she knew was a safe place. She expressed faith and confidence in that big Cathedral, probably said a prayer to God to ask for protection for her son, and did the only thing she could do. It turned out it was a safe place because of the efforts of everyone involved. We have taken huge steps and all recognize that more work lies ahead, but I think it is also a sign that the Catholic Church itself is making progress, and for that I am truly grateful.

Brian Short
Assumption, St. Paul

Explaining God as father

I never like writing these kinds of criticisms, but I had an issue with the response of Father [Kenneth] Doyle in the recent Dec. 22 issue of The Catholic Spirit (“Seeking Answers” on addressing God with a masculine pronoun). It rightly quoted the Catechism on how God transcends gender, but then it neglected to provide any clarity on why we call God “Father” and thus use masculine pronouns in the liturgy. And then he even said, “It is best to stick with the responses given in the Roman Missal and hope that the liturgical translators eventually catch up with the Church’s theology.”

There’s a great deal that I would like to say in response to that, but I’d just like to point out a couple of things: First, Jesus revealed God as father, and so the way we address him is based on Jesus’ own intimate relationship with the father. While the Bible ascribes feminine characteristics occasionally to God, it does so in the same way that it ascribes them to other human figures. For example, Moses asks, “Have I given birth to this people?” (Num. 11:12) and St. Paul writes, “My little children, for whom I am again in the pain of childbirth” (Gal. 4:19). But while it likewise uses motherly imagery in a metaphorical way for God, not once is he actually addressed as mother or referred to with feminine pronouns. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “Christians think that God himself has taught us how to speak of him. To say that it does not matter is to say either that all the masculine imagery is not inspired, is merely human origin, or else that, though inspired, it is quite arbitrary and unessential. And this is surely intolerable; or, if tolerable, it is an argument not in favor of Christian priestesses but against Christianity.”

Secondly, God’s fatherhood has to do with his transcendence, that he is the origin of all things. It’s no surprise that Judaism never used “she” for God, which was not uncommon in pantheistic and pagan religions, because Judaism was the first to have a word for create (“bara”), and thus the notion of a God that is utterly transcendent. While God is also immanent, it is his transcendence which is most particular to God.

My main concern is that the faithful will be confused into thinking that somehow calling God “father” and “he” is just the product of male chauvinism, which couldn’t be further from the truth, especially considering that God’s fatherhood means that we, in a certain sense, come to God as his bride, just as the Holy Spirit is masculine and the soul is considered feminine (in the cosmic principles of masculinity and femininity, not in terms of maleness and femaleness).

I would appreciate hearing some clarification.

Father Joe Kuharski
St. Stephen, Anoka

Editor’s note: Father Kenneth Doyle declined to respond officially, but said in an email that he agreed with some of Father Kuharski’s points and that the letter “does broaden people’s understanding.”

Share your perspective by emailing CatholicSpirit@archspm.org. The Commentary page does not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Catholic Spirit. Letters may be edited for length or clarity.

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Category: From Readers