The Southeast Alaska Catholic
January 2012

By Father Ken Doyle, CNS Columnist

I have been married to a Catholic woman for 39 years. I would like to become a Catholic and am wondering what that requires. I have been baptized and am Christian. (Also, I want to surprise my wife, which is why I can’t ask her.) (Southern Louisiana)

I applaud you for your decision, and I am confident that, in addition to presenting your wife with a wonderful surprise, you feel that you will be comfortable in the Catholic Church as your new spiritual home.

You had probably best start with a call to the priest at your wife’s church or to someone on the parish’s catechetical staff. Many parishes have a formal program of instruction for converts, called RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.) This consists of a series of group instructions, often coupled with mentoring by someone long-experienced in the Catholic faith.

Several ceremonies over the course of the year, perhaps including a welcome by the bishop at the diocesan cathedral, would lead to formal acceptance into the Catholic faith at the Easter Vigil service.

In some parishes, there is an accommodation for special circumstances that could shorten the period of preparation; if, for example, you have been attending Mass with your wife for some time and are schooled both in the teachings of the Catholic Church and in its liturgical practices, you might need only some reading material and a few individual instructions, together with ample opportunity for you to ask any questions.

In any case, your local priest and Catholic parish are in the best position to speak with you and to decide on the most suitable approach.

Why, in the new wording of the Mass, do we say in the Gloria “peace to people of good will,” yet, when we come to the creed, we say “for us men and for our salvation”?

As a woman in the secular world, I am made to feel marginalized and disenfranchised — but I expect better from my church.

What was the reason for keeping “men” in one instance, but “people” in the other? (Milwaukee, Wis.)

Your question is a good one, and I have searched in vain for a plausible answer. It highlights one of the inconsistencies in the new English wording, a point made more than once by U.S. bishops during negotiations with the Vatican over the translation.
Certainly, in both the Gloria and the creed, the meaning is the same: Both phrases are meant to include both women and men.

In the Latin text of the Mass (which is, of course, the normative text) the same word is used in both the Gloria and the creed; the Latin noun is “homo (gen. hominis),” which is generic and includes both sexes.
The argument could be made, I suppose, that historically the English word “man” has sometimes denoted inclusivity. (We say, for example, that an especially cold day “is unfit for man or beast.”)

But growing sensibilities are important, and, as your question indicates, some women today hear the words “man” or “men” as inherently exclusive and prejudicial, and they take offense.

I would much prefer that the translators had bowed to that reality and used the generic phrasing in both prayers.

One priest of my acquaintance has adopted the following pastoral approach; in the recitation of the creed at Mass, he simply says “for us — (pause) — and for our salvation”; he is silent at the word “men,” but leaves time for those who want to include it. In that way, according to this priest’s thinking, he is being faithful to the sense of the prayer (which is surely generic) and sensitive to the feelings of some within the congregation, while still allowing for those wedded to a more literal approach.

(Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at askfatherdoyle@gmail.com and 40 Hopewell St., Albany, N.Y. 12208.)