Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A non-loaded question. Really.


Two separate Jesuits, Fr. Martin over at America Magazine and the very estimable Mark Mossa's have in the course of writing on one issue or another made reference to the Holy Spirit as "She."

I'm asking the following question in all sincerity and honesty and with an utter lack of malice*: Why?

Just curious,


* No, really, I am. Don't go there. (You know who you are...even if nobody else does.)


  • At 4:58 PM, January 27, 2008 , Blogger David said...

    (The same comments I offered previously and deleted, with a clearer last sentence.)
    I can't proffer reasons for why Mark or James Martin used the feminine pronoun, but if I were to do so, my reasons would be for the sake of variety. As I see it, feminine language is not any more or less "correct" than masculine language, and to use both would highlight the fact that human language cannot completely express the mystery of God (and, admittedly, could be confusing). A good thing to keep in mind, in my opinion, is that the tradition's words for the Spirit, ruach (Hebrew), pneuma (Greek), and spiritus (Latin) are female, neuter, and male gender nouns, respectively. So masculine, feminine, and neuter pronouns are equally adequate (or inadequate). My personal preference is for neuter language; "it" is unsatisfying on some levels, but referring to the Spirit in gendered language, male or female, has always seemed strange to me.

  • At 2:57 PM, January 28, 2008 , Blogger John M. DeJak said...

    Excellent points, David. Personally, the use of "She" seems to me to be a fad of recent vintage in Jesuit scholasticates and theological faculties in general. While not taking issue with your comments, the public expression of the Mystery is important. In light of this, I suppose that my comments are not a criticism of theological discussions at a relatively high level with those conversant with the doctrines and languages of the tradition, but rather of a common man-common sense approach and its impact on the man in the pew.

    Over the years in reference to the Holy Spirit in the writings of the Popes and in sound theological writings (cf. Hardon's Catholic Catechism among others) have constantly referred to the Holy Spirit as "He." This is not unimportant (indeed for pastoral and doctrinal reasons)and I would venture that those who begin assigning gender interchangeably deviate in some respect from traditional usage and therefore traditional understanding of the Godhead. While I respect David's preference for the use of the neuter, the concept and reality of "person" is not satisfactorily conveyed in our--arguably materialistic--English language.

    Certainly we know that God is God; it it true that He revealed Himself to us in a particular way--certainly very clearly as Father and Son. Likewise (and by way of example) in speaking of the Holy Spirit, what would the connotations in the popular mind be if we speak of Mary "conceiving by the Holy Spirit" if the Holy Spirit is a "she?" I submit that this would lend to even more confusion.

    Admittedly, the use of analogy has always been employed in speaking of God. Admittedly, theological speculation and reasoning is legitimate and ought to be encouraged under the guidance of the Magisterium. What is troubling is the rather haphazard use of such terms that do more harm than good for the faithful in the pew. If political correctness is the reason, 'tis not a good one. If it is a demonstration of theological learning and spohistication, 'tis also not a good one when writing in a popular forum.

  • At 11:35 AM, January 31, 2008 , Blogger Joe said...

    My worry is that some (NOT Mark, definitely, and I hope not Fr. Martin) emply the "She" specifically because (for the most part, anyway) the Holy Spirit has been traditionally seen as a "He."

    I reflexively default to the neuter, myself although saying "It" is a bit too Chas. Addams for me. So then I amend myself and use "He."

    And so the long day wore on,



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