Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Is God "Mother" or "She"?

Recently, I was at confession and the priest called God “She.” This is something that I’ve heard a lot recently and have posted on before. Is it appropriate to call God “She” or “Mother?” I have taken the time to think and pray about this, and I think that it is inappropriate. I’ve been told that I’m making a big deal out of nothing, and I really don’t think I make a big deal out of this. It’s not something I go around talking about unless it comes up. When people say I’m making a big deal, I ask them: is it a big deal because what I’m saying is untrue or because I make my response too philosophical? Philosophy is the language of theology.

I’ve been told that saying “He” and saying that “She” is inappropriate hurts the faith of some Christians, in particular those who have been hurt by their fathers and women. That makes this a pastoral issue, not just one of doctrine. I don’t know if this is something I would ever preach from the ambo. Wouldn’t this be something to speak to someone one on one about? Wouldn’t that include lots of listening on my part first? Indeed. It would include helping the woman see how the abusive father is nothing like our true Heavenly Father. And while there may certainly be occasions when I listen to others use this language which I find theologically inaccurate and say nothing at that time, I would never myself use that language because to do so is to encourage it.

The reason for this is that we are growing still. While one may at one time not be ready to understand why Jesus revealed God as Father in the prayer he gave us to say, and not “parent” or any other term, at some point the theology behind it must come to light to help the faith of the individual Christian grow. Some frame the whole issue as a pastoral one and not one of revealed theology, but the truth always sets people free and any fear on our part to testify to it would be a betrayal of love for God, self, and the person with whom we are dealing. It may be hard to accept, like the Eucharist, but Jesus preached that, too. If this teaches us something about God, reality, and ourselves, it is something that at some point we must preach.

First, just because some large figures in the history of the Church did something does not justify it. Saint Thomas Aquinas was wrong on the Immaculate Conception, but we must not follow in his error.

Now, obviously to understand God as actually male in sex would be simply wrong as well. This is another danger one must guard against. This is why priests must be teachers. As usual, the truth is really the golden mean. The problem is that theology here is being done bottom-up and not top-down as revealed. God is three-persons, and when we say “Father” we are speaking to only one of them. To whom is the person saying “mother” referring? Earthly fatherhood is named after the Fatherhood as found in the Trinity’s very essence, not the other way around. We are the ones made in His image, not He in ours. To understand the Father as a mother is to alter the way in which He and the logos (which is the feminine side of God) relate. Christ called God Father for two reasons. The first is that Mary was His mother. The second was because in the Trinity’s very nature the Father is the active one, not the receptive one. We have been baptized into Christ’s Body, and so we must call God “Father” as well. Similarly, to call God “she”, as alters the way in which we view God’s grace being given to us. Like in intercourse, God puts grace into us, not the other way around. In all seriousness, I think calling God-mother has implications which help to justify homogenital activity. It makes the Father-Son relationship one that cannot be fruitful. That people are confused about all the issues involving women is because people do not know the beauty of receptivity and degrade it. To better understand the beauty of receptivity, I would recommend Person and Being by Father Norris Clarke.

1 comment:

Lopeztj said...

Donato, again, you're right on! Your points are nicely put and, better yet, your points here are perfectly in line with Catholic teaching. So, by all means, don't sweat the 'mother' or 'she' references made by that priest. Like you, I'm coming from a Jesuit university and, as many people are becoming more and more aware, you need to watch it with a lot of these Jesuits, particularly at Jesuit schools. Still, it's not just Jesuits, but many priests, nor am I arguing that all Jesuits are unfaithful. In fact, when they're good, they're great. Nevertheless, when they stray, they stray big.