A growing number of Catholic women are claiming that a Bible set to be used in masses across the country actively excludes women from its pages. A petition is now calling on the Bishops’ Conferences of England and Wales to reconsider their decision to embrace the English Standard Version - Catholic Edition (ESV-CE) over the original 'New Jerusalem Bible' (NJB), insisting that the language portrayed in the ESV-CE is non-inclusive towards females.
In the Change.org petition addressed to Cardinal Vincent Nichols, organiser Bridget Kennedy argues that "in choosing this translation over the inclusive Catholic version of the New Jerusalem Bible, the bishops have chosen to exclude at least fifty percent of the ecclesial community".
"Their choice of Bible translation can but speak of an attitude that continues to judge women second class citizens in the Church," the petition adds.
It goes on to argue that "language shapes thoughts and attitudes" and the "impact of rendering Holy Scripture in this way is to deny the inclusion of female disciples of Jesus, not only in the language of the liturgy, but in the good news of salvation".
The controversy erupted again in July when the Scottish Bishops decided to officially introduce the ESV in replacement of the New Jerusalem Bible. As part of the announcement, it was also detailed that the Bishops Conference of England and Wales would accept the ESV-CE as the basis for its new lectionary.
In a statement at the time, Bishop Hugh Gilbert, President of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, said:“In reaching a decision about a translation for the Lectionary, the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland itself considered the values they would most expect a Lectionary to embody, for example, accuracy, dignity, facility of proclamation, and accessibility.
"It makes practical and pastoral good sense for the same translation to be used in Scotland, England and Wales.”
The petition goes on to celebrate Pope Francis for setting "a tone of inclusiveness" and urged the Bishops to follow suit by rejecting the NJB.
"It was to mutual interdependence that Jesus entrusted a woman and a man as he died upon the cross," the petition continues. "It was a woman Jesus commissioned first Apostle of the Resurrection. It was the stories of the women of faith that Jesus heard the men repeating as they made their way together to Emmaus. The Bishops might have taken their lead from Jesus.
"This issue has stirred within me 'a fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones' (Jeremiah 20.9). My prayer is that you might join me in prayerfully encouraging the Bishops to open their hearts and minds to what the Spirit might be saying to the Church through the anger, disillusionment and disbelief of its faithful women."
Supporters of the ESV-CE insist that the text is a more accurate and literal translation of the original text.