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?

Answer

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)


Catholic Answers Staff