Progressive Friar Defends Reference to God As “Her,” Calls Male Portrayal of God “Damaging”


A progressive Catholic priest is defending his controversial reference to God as “Her” which he believes to be “not contrary to our faith” while depicting God as male is, on the other hand, harmful and patriarchal.

Father James Martin, characterized by LifeSiteNews as a popular Jesuit figure, had originally shared a take from the Catholic Women preach organization on Twitter that referred to God as female.

“God will let you glimpse Her power,” he commented.

These unorthodox comments, as you can imagine, attracted the ire of many a more traditional Catholic.

Martin reacted with a defense of his take in the Jesuit publication America Magazine, where he serves as “editor at large.”

In a piece titled “God is not a man (or a woman),” Martin defended his reference to God with the feminine pronoun.

Martin suggests that he had not realized the post that he had shared as part of the “reflections” he prefers to share on social media on Sunday, a day on which he typically takes a break from the digital public square.

He received a message that evening, however, that he’d “stirred things up” by sharing the post referring to God as “her.”

Most of the commenters on social media enjoyed the talk. But some people, as my friend indicated, were outraged, accusing her (and me for posting it) of heresy, apostasy and blasphemy, mainly for using the offending word “Her.” I considered commenting, “I was simply reposting the summary from Catholic Women Preach.” But that would imply I had a problem calling God “Her.” And I don’t.

God is not a man. And while Jesus Christ was (and is) a man and invites us to call God the Father, that does not mean that God is male or that God is only masculine. Is just as theologically correct to use feminine imagery about God as it is to use masculine imagery. It is also not contrary to our faith, since it’s part of Scripture, albeit an overlooked and even ignored part.

He points to a Catholic feminist work by Sister Elizabeth Johnson (not to be confused with the figure behind our website, Elizabeth Johnston) which ultimately blames the male conception of God as being the driving force behind oppressive systems of patriarchy.

He goes on to describe a rather mystical perspective that “[t]he mystery of the Triune God goes beyond the confines of sex or gender.”

Father Martin concludes with a final nod to the spirit of progressive theology by concluding that “one good reason why one should use more feminine imagery for God” is to “restore balance, expand our minds and remind us that God is larger than our most beloved, treasured and traditional images.”

He cites the Jesuit priest Carlos Valles who wrote, “If you always imagine God in the same way, no matter how true and beautiful it may be, you will not be able to receive the gift of the new ways he has ready for you” (emphasis ours).

The more traditional view of Scripture and the Gospel is that God’s ways are contained within its autoreactive pages. In fact, the Apostle Paul distinctly warned us not to listen to a Gospel other than that which we have received.

“So God is Father, Creator, Ground of All Being, Mystery of Love. God is also Mother, Sophia, Wisdom, Shekinah, She Who Is. Praise Her!” Martin concludes.

The term “Shekinah” is a reference in the Kabballah tradition to the “divine feminine aspect.”

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