U.S. and Irish bishops are right in asking that four readings not be used at Masses
By Tony Staley
Two commissions of Irish bishops are to be commended for
making a recommendation that agrees with one put forward 10
years ago by the U.S. Catholic bishops.
The bishops of both countries have asked that certain New
Testament passages not be included in their country's
Lectionary, the book of readings for Sunday and daily Mass.
The passages - Col 3:12-21, Eph 5:21-32, 1 Pt 3:1-6 and Ti
2:4-5 - all contain lines that, in the words of the Irish
bishops, give "an undesirably negative impression regarding
women" and sometimes even seem to justify violence against
Each of these readings contains lines to the effect that
"wives are to be submissive to their husbands."
Unfortunately, the pericope from Colossians is used each
year for the feast of the Holy Family. The passage from
Ephesians was just used in the Mass for Aug. 27, the 21st
Sunday in Ordinary Time. Both the readings from 1 Peter and
Ephesians are options for weddings. The reading from Titus
is used only at daily Mass.
Even worse than the use of these readings, few preachers
probably attempt to place them in their historical context
or to consider their theological application. For example,
in the reading from Ephesians, the author says the
relationship between the spouses in a Christian marriage
should be like that between Christ and his church - that is
one of loyalty, service, love and devotion.
All these readings make it clear that, while in keeping with
the times these letters were written, wives are to be
submissive to their husbands, husbands are to love their
wives as they do their own bodies (Eph 6:28), to avoid any
bitterness toward their wives (Col 3:19), to be
self-controlled (Ti 2:2,6), and to treat their wives with
respect (1 Pt 3:7). And rather than "return evil for evil or
insult for insult, return a blessing instead" (1 Pt 3:9).
Thus, none of these readings can be seen as a justification
for husbands to physically abuse their wives. Anyone who
thinks that is wrong.
But because some men apparently have that erroneous idea,
the U.S. and Irish bishops were right in asking the Vatican
to remove these readings from the Lectionary. We all should
hope that the Vatican agrees and acts quickly.