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When I was a little girl, I had to wear a hat to Mass on Sunday. I hated wearing a hat. In the balmy California weather, a hat only trapped heat that might have dispersed from my uncovered head. The elastic strap bit into my chin. It was all so…uncomfortable. Of course, my sister was in the same boat. My mother covered her head with a lace veil, which was pretty, but not as pretty as her hair, which made her look like Jackie Kennedy.

Why, I asked, did I have to wear a hat when my brother and father did not? My mother tried to make the experience positive: We GOT to wear hats. Hats are cute! She refrained from the truth, which was that the Church saw women as lesser beings, who needed to cover their “crowning glory” for modesty’s sake. Modesty was apparently desperately required of a four-year-old girl in the Catholic Church.

I also wondered why the word “men” came up so often in Mass. In the Profession of Faith, for example, we said, “For us men and for our salvation, He came down from Heaven.” I wasn’t a man. What was up with that? “‘Men’ means all of us,” my mother explained. “It includes women.” Then why didn’t we say “people”? I wondered. I had no idea just how openly sexist the Church really was.

Back in those days, a woman couldn’t even set foot on the altar. Things changed with Vatican II, but the real changes came out of desperation: Not enough male volunteers? Well, it was probably okay for women to read the readings and act as Cantors. A serious lack of altar boys? Okay, girls can serve, too. But they never changed the language. Christ still came for “men’s” salvation.

Not long ago, a new translation of the Mass was put into place. It’s supposed to be a good thing, this new translation, as it brings us back in line with the original Latin. That’s fine. All well and good. Only now women aren’t the only ones being left out. During the consecration, the line that used to speak of Christ’s sacrifice, his blood poured out for “you and for all” now says: Take this, all of you, and drink from it: for this is the chalice of my Blood, the Blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

Notice: It’s no longer “all”…just “many.” Not even “most.” Salvation just keeps getting more and more exclusive. With so many people falling away from the Church, you’d think inclusivity would be on the menu. You’d think it would be a priority, in fact. Instead, the Church — my Church — continues to suffer from the same hubris that put a Borgia in the Pope’s robes.

It’s time to address inclusivity in the Body of Christ, not just of women or the fallen-away, but also of the divorced, of gays and lesbians, of those who do not wish to retreat to the “good old days” of Latin and veils but want to forge ahead into the future. The faith of many hangs in the balance.

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Have a Mary Little Christmas

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