Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Inclusive Language Dust Up

I have a few "inclusive language" things around...my copy of the documents of Vatican II, the NRSV Bible, and the NAB Bible. But rarely have I ever heard a woman talk about inclusive language, let alone six of them.

A few days before Christmas my new choir had a practice for the upcoming Mass. I selected "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" for the Offertory hymn. They didn't know "Lo' How a Rose E'er Blooming" and we figured the congregation wouldn't either.

In many cases the version I have at the organ differs slightly from the missalettes. At times I have multiple texts for the same tune. I flipped to the version labeled "Standard" figuring it was safe. But when I looked in the missalette it was slightly different.

Meanwhile the choir was chatting and flipping to the hymn. They knew what I was trying to figure out and someone mentioned "sometimes his text is different". When I heard that I realized it did differ. The two were slightly different, only by one word as far as I could tell.

I began, "OK, I see what they did here. Take a look a the second line and you'll see why my version is different...Peace on the Earth good will to all."

They howled. This group of women to my surprise began to curl their lips up in disgust at being treated like a bunch of oversensitive feminists. I was a little taken aback. After all, this is a Novus Ordo parish and aren't they supposed to appreciate this type of thing?

"I am SO SICK OF BEING POLITICALLY CORRECT", one said. The others were all murmuring the same type of thing. These women were insulted. Why would publishers treat them like this? We agreed that no matter what the missalettes had we were all going to sing "good will to men" and the congregation would just have to go along with it.

The thing is, most of us hear inclusive language all day long and our society uses it nowadays even to a fault. Sometimes at the Novus Ordo you will hear the annoying "My dear Sisters and Brothers" at the beginning of Mass. It is so obvious what is going on there, isn't it?

I guess there are two lessons we can get from the experience. The first is that not all women appreciate the politically correct inclusive language. The second is that they will tolerate it to a degree, but don't you dare mess with Christmas carols.


Rich said...

I think, in many instances, people resent monumental treasures, such as hymns, being neutered for the sake of politics. It's like taking the Pieta in St. Peter's and putting Mary in a jumper...because that's the style of the month. It shows a complete disrespect for the creator of the music, sculpture, etc.....

What you've described not only insults women, but men too, because it is a bunch of ivory tower elistists who think that the average person is too ignorant to process what is placed before them - much less find any beauty in it.

Thankfully, these elitists are mostly gray-haired individuals whose time at the helm is drawing to a close. As Fr. Zuhlsdorf says, "It's the Biological Solution."

Patience. Keep at it. Our schola has been at it for 6 years now, and we are starting to make fools of the naysayers... not that that is the goal. Trust in the Church Fathers and let beautiful music stand on it's own. You will get some individuals that will complain.....make note of their hair color and move on.

Moonshadow said...

I always figure I can wait people out too.

But one might ask, as some do, whether to translate great works at all. The Bible, for starters.

It is like Chesterton said, 'tis easier to work backwards in understanding an earlier time:

It is far wiser for a modern man to read the Middle Ages backwards from Shakespeare, whom he can judge for himself, and who yet is crammed with the Middle Ages, than to attempt to read them forwards from Caedmon, of whom he can know nothing, and of whom even the authorities he must trust know very little. If this be true of Shakespeare, it is even truer, of course, of Chaucer. If we really want to know what was strongest in the twelfth century, it is no bad way to ask what remained of it in the fourteenth. Carl Olson's blog.

I read some time ago an anthology of George MacDonald, "all cleaned up," or modernized. I liked it so much, I found the originals online and managed to make sense of the dialogue in Scottish brogue.

Where language is concerned, I don't think everyone can be a master ... there's just too much. Babel, if you will.

owen swain said...

Hi Matthew

Not plugging for radical feminism but when I read, "at the Novus Ordo you will hear the annoying "My dear Sisters and Brothers" at the beginning of Mass" I find it curious as what immediately comes to mind is how the Holy Father (that's the same former president for the Congregation for the Defence of the Faith) opens virtually all of his public addresses; My dear brothers and sisters...

"The whole truth is generally the ally of virtue; a half-truth is always the ally of some vice." - G.K. Chesterton