Sunday, September 19, 2021



Am I the only one scandalized by this English translation of the 25TH Sunday in Ordinary Time, year B, Gospel reading for Mass where a child is referred to as an “it” not once but twice?

Taking a child, he placed it in their midst,
and putting his arms around it, he said to them,
“Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me;
and whoever receives me,
receives not me but the One who sent me.”

Do you think the translator was following the translation ideology of gender inclusivity? 

Throughout school, our English teachers always told us to use the masculine pronoun even if the intent was inclusive of male and female. The word “it” for a human being, male or female would be considered a dehumanizing insult, no?

And throughout the English speaking Catholic world, those parishes using this translation of the Gospel are hearing a child dehumanized by calling him “it” and thus contributing to the culture of death. 


John Nolan said...

Not so. It is correct, both grammatically and in general usage, to refer to a child using the neuter pronoun, as in 'before a child reaches its first birthday it ...' True, most translations of Mark 9:36 use 'him', for example Douay-Rheims: 'And taking a child, he set him in the midst of them'. The Vulgate makes it clear that the child is a boy (accipiens puerum, statuit eum in medio eorum) which might have influenced translators.

The Greek has 'labon paidion, estesen auto en meso auton'. Note the neuter pronoun 'auto' (accusative case).

German, like Greek, Latin and English, has three genders; the word for child is neuter (das Kind).

rcg said...

Father, it is probably your lectionary version. My OF reference uses both “eum” and “him”. You must have a hip translation.

Fr Martin Fox said...

The reason for this is, of course, to avoid like vampires flee crucifixes, the oppressive "he/him/his."

Once upon a time we knew that "he/him/his" was used to indicate either male or female when that was indeterminate; same with "all men are created equal..." But someone decided that such a concept is too hard; so now we make a hash of English.

Many hymns have, for the same reason, been wrecked. "Hark the Herald" was made gnostic. "Whatsoever you do for the least of my brethren" was changed to "my people," which totally changes the meaning and loses a key concept: God came down to *our* level.

Oh well, at least it's not sexist anymore. Better to deny the Incarnation.

the Egyptian said...

Thank you Fr Fox, my wife says I'm too touchy, but my teeth grind when I hear a good hymn and it's rhythm ruined my "correctness". It it bugs me just as much as the idiotic "show tunes" used throughout mass, GAG !

Thomas Garrett said...

I'll admit, I noticed the strange pronoun, but promptly forgot about it. I'm so used to lousy translations, I don't want to waste my energy pursuing THAT particular losing battle any longer. It's just another sign of the crumbling edifice.

Mark said...

I also found it a bit odd but also appreciate John Nolan’s point that it is a correct usage of the third person gender neutral pronoun. Should we conclude, then, that it is a correct usage, but perhaps for the wrong reasons?

John Nolan said...

'Brethren', the archaic plural of 'brother' is useful in an ecclesiastical context in that it has long been seen as gender-inclusive. When preaching, priests would often address the congregation as 'my dear brethren'.

There is no general rule in English that the masculine pronoun includes men and women; if one is referring to a generic group e.g. politicians, writers, pianists, it clearly does, since it is obvious that women can be politicians, writers and pianists; if, however, one is referring to a specific group, e.g. pupils in a mixed school, it's a different matter.

The latest assault on language and common sense is from the 'trans' lobby who would ban the use of the word 'woman' even when discussing menstruation and childbirth.

I had to google the 'woke' version of 'Hark the Herald Angels', since it's unknown over here. I can't believe anybody sings it. I still follow the instructions of my music master at school who insisted on the correct pronunciation of 'deity' (dee-ity, not day-ity).

And although I accept that language changes, I refuse to use the plural they/them/their if the antecedent noun is singular. It may be accepted, but it's none the less barbarous.

John Nolan said...


At the risk of sounding pedantic, the third person pronoun 'it' is not 'gender neutral', it is 'neuter gender'. The plural form 'they' might be described as 'gender neutral' as it can be masculine, feminine or neuter depending on the context.

Fr Martin Fox said...

FYI, in case you are wondering how "Hark the Herald" was ruined:

"Pleased as man with men to dwell" -- changed to, "pleased as man with US to dwell," and:

"Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give us second birth" changed to:

"Born to raise US FROM the earth..."

The latter is gnosticism, straight up.

Mark said...

John Nolan,

Thank you for the clarification. You are right; I was imprecise and stand corrected.

Howard said...

I always sing "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" with the original lyrics, regardless of what is printed in the hymnal, and on rare occasions when I have visited a parish that was supposed to sing "Sing a New Church", I sing "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" instead. No one notices, but it salves my conscience.

As for the use of "it" for babies and children, I strongly suspect this is much older than you realized. In spite of the Norman influence, English is basically a German language, and in German the grammatical gender for most words dealing with people who have not reached puberty is neuter: das Kind, das Baby.

The German influence does not stop there. German has separable-prefix verbs, in which something very much like a preposition gets put at the end of a sentence. I suspect this is why, grammar teachers notwithstanding, most English speakers think a preposition is a fine thing to end a sentence with. ;-)

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Of course, Hark the Herald Angels Sing is a Protestant carol forbidden to be sung in Catholic Churches prior to Vatican II. It is like Amzaing Grace and How Great Thou art also forbidden to Catholics prior to Vatican II.

Is it a good thing that the post Vatican II Church now embraces Protestant hymns, to include all three I mention?

TJM said...

We sang Hark the Herald Angels Sing prior to Vatican II in my parish, although not at Mass

John Nolan said...

Christmas carols are traditional, although in many cases the tradition is fairly recent. They belong more to the genre of folk-song than that of hymnody, and cannot be characterized as 'Catholic' or 'Protestant'. Some Latin carols (e.g. Personent Hodie, Quem Pastores) predate the Reformation, and the famous In Dulce Jubilo is a good example of the medieval macaronic tradition (alternating Latin and the vernacular). See also the 'Boar's Head' carol.

The most popular carol in the English-speaking world is Adeste Fideles (O come, all ye faithful) which has a Catholic provenance, being attributed to John Francis Wade (1711-1786), an English Catholic exiled after the '45 rising. According to Professor Bennett Zon of Durham University, the Latin text contains a number of coded Jacobite references.

John Nolan said...

Stop press. The MCC has announced that it is amending the laws of cricket to eliminate the word 'batsman' in favour of 'batter' in order to conform with inclusive language criteria. The fielding position known as 'third man' also has to be renamed. Twenty years ago this would have seemed a joke.

Women have played cricket since the 18th century but separately from men as in most sports.

Bugger about with liturgical and hymnological translation as much as you like; I can and will stick to the Latin. But this is far more serious.

rcg said...

These reasons for these changes to cricket nomenclature are only slightly less incomprehensible than the game itself.

DJR said...

John Nolan said..."Stop press. The MCC has announced that it is amending the laws of cricket to eliminate the word 'batsman' in favour of 'batter' in order to conform with inclusive language criteria."

When I first went to work for the Feds, the judge I worked for covered two separate divisions, with courthouses about 50 miles apart.

My first week of employment, I was told to go to the second courthouse to acquaint myself with the area and to meet the man and woman who worked there. The judge's secretary told me, "Be sure to introduce yourself to Johnnie and Carol."

When I returned to work the next day and was speaking to the secretary, she asked how my trip was and whether I had met Johnnie and Carol and introduced myself to them. I told her yes.

Then she chuckled and said, "I bet you weren't expecting 'Johnnie' to be female and 'Carol' to be male, were you?"

I laughed and said, "No, I wasn't."

Johnnie was the female clerk, and Carol was the male janitor. Lol.

John Nolan said...


There is a form of limited-over cricket where each side bowls only 100 or 120 balls. Players wear coloured clothing, it's played under floodlights with a white ball, there's lots of razzamataz, and it amounts to an unsubtle slogfest. It's enormously popular with people who don't really like (or understand) cricket. I'm surprised it hasn't caught on in the USA, but then you have baseball.

The Usus Antiquior (the four- and five-day game played in whites with a red ball) is the real McCoy. Everything else is Novus Ordo; superficial and providing instant gratification.