The Church as “She”?

Q. Why is the Church described as “she”? Is it appropriate to use that pronoun?

Raymond, Cleveland, Ohio

A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D:

The marriage covenant is the most intimate adult human relationship. In Old Testament revelation, God used the marriage covenant as an analogy for His infinite love for His people.

For example, “And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride / so shall your God rejoice in you” (Is 62:5b); “I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you … and you became mine” (Ez 16:8b); “For your husband is your Maker; / the Lord of hosts is his name” (Is 54:5).

The New Testament speaks of the Church as the bride of Christ. “For I am jealous of you with the jealousy of God, since I betrothed you to one husband to present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (2 Cor 11:2). In addition, St. John reported, “I saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem [the Church], coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rv 21:2), and, “One of the seven angels … said to me, ‘Come here. I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb’” (Rv 21:9). This is why personal pronouns referring to the Church must be in the feminine gender. The Catholic Church is the Bride of Christ.