A student at the Catholic Loyola Marymount University was dismayed to find out her professor deducted points on her final paper because the student referred to God with the masculine pronoun “he.”
The student, who decided to remain anonymous, was marked down by Professor Cecilia Gonzalez-Andrieu, a professor of theology and theological aesthetics. In a filled-out rubric, Gonzalez-Andrieu explained why the student had lost points on her essay, writing that she “Uses male-gendered language for God repeatedly.”
The student contended that her paper, which was written for a religion course entitled “Care of our Common Home,” should not have lost points for using language consistent with the Bible and her Catholic beliefs. In an email to the professor, she noted that at “multiple times throughout the Bible, God is referred to as ‘he,’ then going on to say “I feel targeted by your comment, as I was raised in the church with the belief that God is a male.”
She also cited the Apostle’s Creed, which includes references to God as “the Father almighty” and refers to him with the word “his.” The student added, “This is my belief and at a Catholic university and in a Christian course you should not be able to take any points off for this.”
Gonzalez-Andrieu responded to the student by reaffirming her decision to penalize her for using male pronouns in reference to God. Gonzalez-Andrieu told the student that in order for her to receive the points back, she’d have to “have a conversation with other scholars” in the footnotes. She also requested that the student “resubmit your paper and add a footnote stating your reasons as a scholar to opt to preserve male language for God.”
The original languages of the Bible very clearly use male references for God, both in explicitly gendered pronouns and in depictions of God’s attributes. That is why all accurate English translations of the Bible use male pronouns for God as well.
Mark Brumley is a Catholic apologist, author, and the president of Ignatius Press, a Catholic publishing house. Brumley, who holds a master’s degree in theology, defends the use of the term “Father” for God in his article “Why God is Father and Not Mother.”
He points out that, rather that solely calling God “Father,” Jesus also “actually used a more intimate word, Abba or ‘Daddy.” He continues, contending that “Anyone who wants to fiddle with how we talk of God must reckon with Jesus,” who is himself “the fullest revelation of God.”
In a press release from the California College Republicans, president of the LMU College Republicans and Chairman of the statewide organization Will Donahue condemned the professor, saying he is “appalled by this blatant heresy coming out of the theology department,” going on to decry the “compelled speech” as an “attack on one of my member’s freedom of religion.”
Donahue also decried the general direction of the university, which claims to be “institutionally committed to Roman Catholicism,” noting that “their actions this semester have shown utter disregard for their Catholic heritage and their students,” in reference to a fundraiser that the university held for Planned Parenthood and requirements for students to list their pronouns on assignments.
Neither Department Chair Amir Hussain nor Gonzalez-Andrieu responded to requests for comment.