The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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September 15, 2000 Issue
Editorial

Drop readings

U.S. and Irish bishops are right in asking that four readings not be used at Masses


By Tony Staley
Compass Editor

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 women.

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.



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