Catholic schoolgirls in Brisbane, Australia, have been banned from using the biblical language of “Lord,” “Father,” and “Son” in prayers in order to instill the idea of a gender-neutral God.
A number of top-tier Catholic schools including All Hallows, Stuartholme School, Loreto College, and St. Rita’s College Clayfield are pushing for a feminist interpretation of the Christian Bible, eliminating masculine terms that could convey the idea that God is male.
In a move toward more inclusive language, authorities at Stuartholme School, which charges upwards of $40,000 a year for tuition and board, are teaching their pupils to use the words “God” and “Godself” in place of “him” and “himself.”
“As we believe God is neither male or female, Stuartholme tries to use gender-neutral terms in prayers,” a school spokeswoman told the Sunday Mail, “so that our community deepens their understanding of who God is for them, how God reveals Godself through creation, our relationships with others and the person of Jesus.”
The director of the Catholic Office for the Participation of Women, Andrea Dean, said she was “thrilled” about the changes, calling the move towards inclusive language “terrific.”
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference itself suggests that schools use gender-neutral terms where appropriate.
For its part, Loreto College has expunged the word “Lord” from school prayers since it conveys maleness and the school’s principal, Kim Wickham, said that prayers composed for school use avoided assigning God a gender.
According to its website, Loreto’s mission is to “transform the Church and the world particularly by empowering women to seek truth and do justice.”
At St. Rita’s College Clayfield gender-neutral terms are preferred but gendered language is still permitted for certain traditional prayers such as the Our Father.
Brisbane’s number-one Catholic boys’ school, St Joseph’s College, has followed suit, substituting the expression “brothers” with “sisters and brothers” and “brotherhood” with “international community.”
A spokesperson for the school said that changes made to a number of prayers attempted to make them more “gender-inclusive.”
“This has been an area of growth for us in recent times,” he said.