Catholic Feminists Fume Over ‘Sexist’ Bible

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by Jules Gomes  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  November 16, 2020   

Campaign to cancel faithful ESV translation from liturgy fizzles

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WESTMINSTER, England (ChurchMilitant.com) - A campaign by Catholic feminists to "cancel" the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible chosen by anglophone bishops' conferences for reading at Holy Mass has flopped.

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Indian clergy and laity celebrate the success of the ESV Bible

A mid-September petition urging the bishops' conferences of England and Wales (CBCEW) and Scotland (BCOS) to withdraw their approval of the ESV Catholic edition garnered only 850 signatures by mid-November.

The campaign accused the bishops of choosing to "exclude at least 50% of the ecclesial community" by favoring the "gender-exclusive" ESV "over the inclusive Catholic version of the New Jerusalem Bible."

"Their [the bishops'] choice of Bible translation can but speak of an attitude that continues to judge women second-class citizens in the Church," claims Bridget Kennedy, who launched the petition.

Campaign Claimed 'Five Continents' of Support

On Saturday, Kennedy announced she would be posting the petition to CBCEW president Cdl. Vincent Nichols on behalf of a campaign representing "a truly Catholic group of diverse individuals from across five continents."

Kennedy insisted she was seeking to raise awareness "that the Church may take the radical inclusivity of Jesus ever more seriously and allow its language to reflect that inclusivity ever more rigorously."

Feminists decided a long time ago that changing language was a powerful means to effect revolution.

The left-wing Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) is also objecting to the use of the ESV in Ireland, contending that the translation does not allow for the use of inclusive language and favors the use of generic terms such as "man," "mankind" and "brothers."

"Such terms are not just out of sync with modern usage but are culturally regarded as diminishing and disrespectful of women," the ACP asserted.

Scholar: Veiled Attack on Christianity

But distinguished professor of English literature Janice Fiamengo told Church Militant that the feminist campaign was "not about 'inclusivity,'" adding that "the Bible has always been inclusive, as is evidenced by its extraordinary appeal to all peoples. The objection to the ESV is really an objection to the content of Christian belief itself."


"Insisting on 'inclusivity' is a way of saying that the biblical text must be governed by the interests of feminist ideological purity rather than scholarly accuracy," Fiamengo noted.

ESV: Most Accurate, Literal Translation

A Rome-based biblical scholar told Church Militant that the ESV was now regarded in the anglophone world as the most accurate and literal Bible translation based on the best Greek and Hebrew manuscripts.  

Insisting on 'inclusivity' is a way of saying that the biblical text must be governed by the interests of feminist ideological purity rather than scholarly accuracy.

"Finally, in terms of faithfulness to the Greek and Hebrew, we have an alternative to the 'dynamic equivalence' of the New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) and the New American Bible (NAB) translations," he stressed. "The NJB and NAB often slip into paraphrase and interpretation and are of no use for serious study."

"The lack of a 'formal equivalence' translation, which takes into consideration the most recent linguistic, manuscript and archaeological discoveries, has put evangelical Protestants miles ahead of Catholics," the scholar remarked.

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Academic Janice Fiamengo slams feminist critics of the ESV Bible

"I was researching at Cambridge University when the ESV translators were meeting. They were evangelical outstanding scholars totally committed to accuracy, but also to preserving the cadences, poetry and literary style of the older traditions of English translations — which were sadly jettisoned by later liberal Catholic scholars," he noted.

The biblical scholar explained that the ESV was hated both by Protestant and Catholic feminists precisely because it was born as a conservative alternative to the theologically liberal and "gender inclusive" New Revised Standard Version.

The ESV Catholic edition was the fruit of a joint project between Bangalore-based Catholic publishing house Asian Trading Corporation (ATC) and U.S. evangelical publisher Crossway.

Nigel Fernandes, CEO of ATC, told Church Militant that the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CBCI) and Catholics of India had enthusiastically welcomed the scholarly translation.

Appealing to modern ideas of gender inclusivity is a slippery slope. What may satisfy feminist demands today may not satisfy tomorrow.

"We launched the ESV in Catholic parishes in February 2018 after 18 months of collaboration by top Indian Catholic biblical scholars with Crossway, making sure that the translation adheres to the rules given by the Vatican in the 2001 document Liturgiam Authenticam," Fernandes said.   

Earlier, Dr. Sarah Parvis, senior lecturer in patristics at Edinburgh University, had argued that "the U.S. evangelical Protestant provenance of the ESV translation is also a concern."

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Publisher Nigel Fernandes, pioneer of the ESV Catholic edition

"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 commented.   

'Powerful Means to Effect Revolution'

But Fiamengo warned Catholic faithful not to "underestimate the significance of attempts to influence and change biblical wording."

"Feminists decided a long time ago that changing language was a powerful means to effect revolution," said Fiamengo, author of Sons of Feminism: Men Have Their Say.

The eminent critic of gender theory also told Church Militant that the "feminist objections are actually quite childish, like the tantrum of a much-petted member of a family who yet cries 'What about me? What about me?' at every opportunity."

"To state that the ESV Bible will 'deny the inclusion of female disciples of Jesus not only in the language of the liturgy, but in the good news of salvation' is utterly ridiculous — an insult to the intelligence, common sense and faith of women now and throughout history," she pointed out.

Fiamengo elaborated:

Appealing to modern ideas of gender inclusivity is a slippery slope. What may satisfy feminist demands today may not satisfy tomorrow. Why stop at additions of female pronouns or words? Why not gender-non-conforming pronouns such as ze, zir, and zem? Should not the gospel be made inclusive of the transgendered, the gender fluid and the gender non-binary? What about the trans-specied?

"Fortunately, the petition to Cdl. Nichols does not seem to be garnering a large number of signatures, perhaps reflecting that most members of the Church find the feminist argument beside the point," she added.

As Western feminists continue to object to the so-called sexist Bible, the ESV has now been approved by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei (CBC-MSB), and is "destined to become the definitive text for Catholics — both in the liturgy and for study — across the anglophone world," Fernandes noted, describing the remarkable success of the ESV in India.

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