When I was in a parochial school, the nuns taught that “all men” and “mankind” included women, so I never had a beef with inclusive language.
God, traditionally, has had feminine qualities attributes to him. My first point, from the scripture: Isaiah 66: “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.” There are other references in the canon of scripture that attribute feminine qualities to God, as well. Notice that Hokimah, or Sophia (the Wisdom of God) is always feminine: Proverbs 1:20; 4:6; 8:1,11; 9:1; 14:33; Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:35.
Isaiah 66:12’…you shall be nursed, you shall be carried on her hip, and be trotted on her [God’s maternal] knees. . .’
In Luke 13:31-35, God the son, the second person of the Trinity, draws an an analogy between Himself and a mother hen.
My **second point **comes from Jewish tradition: The [Hebrews] insisted that God has no body and is beyond the categories of male and female, incorporating both but limited by neither. The ancient rabbis were aware that God is…unknowable, unfathomable, indescribable-and they regarded all God-language as approximate and figurative. Even in the Bible itself, as well as in mystical texts and other writings, feminine imagery is occasionally employed to describe God.
To address God as Father or Lord or King does not identify the sex or describe the essential being of God so much as it defines certain relationships between Him and us. (From here.)
I have two examples for my third point, where feminine imagery of God has been handed down through Sacred Tradition. The first example is a fourth-century Syrian hymn:
A cup of milk was offered to me,
and I drank it in the sweetness of the Lord’s kindness.
The Son is the cup, and the Father is He who was milked;
and the Holy Spirit is She who milked Him;
Because His breasts were full, and it was undesirable that
His milk should be ineffectually released.
The Holy Spirit opened Her bosom,
and mixed the milk of the two breasts of the Father.
Then She gave the mixture to the
generation without their knowing,
and those who have received it are in the perfection
of the right hand. The womb of the Virgin took it,
and she received conception and gave birth.
So the Virgin became a mother with great mercies.
Second example, from Saint Julian of Norwich’s memoirs, where she draws an analogy between a woman in labor and Jesus on the cross:
We know well that all our mothers bear us with pain and for dying. But our true Mother Jesus, he alone bears us to joy and to bliss, and endless living, blessed must he be. Thus he sustains us within him in love. And travailed into the full time that he would suffer the sharpest throes and the most grievous pains that ever were or ever shall be…the mother may give her child to suck her milk, but our precious Mother Jesus, he may feed us with himself.
My **fourth point **addresses inclusive language today, which is a topic that grows from your question. Seeing God as a mother isn’t a new concept. However, as far as the liturgy is concerned, Fr. Stravinskas deals with this concisely in the Catholic Answer Book, Vol. I. He said, “The English Language is somewhat deficient…and certainly we should be sensitive to language which gives the wrong impression. However, the solution is not to take the language into one’s own hands. That is why the bishop’s conference has a liturgical committee, which is deputed to study such matters and make appropriate recommendations to the Holy See." The USCCB supports this in Strengthening the Bonds of Peace: A Pastoral Reflection on Women in the Church and in Society.
In 1990, the The Catholic Biblical Association of America (CBAA) issued a Criteria for the Evaluation of Inclusive Language. It reads, “English vocabulary itself has changed so that words which once referred to all human beings are increasingly taken as gender-specific and, consequently, exclusive…Words…which were once understood as inclusive generic terms, today are often understood as referring only to males. In addition, although certain uses of “he,” “his,” and “him” once were generic and included both men and women, in contemporary American usage these terms are often perceived to refer only to males. Their use has become ambiguous and is increasingly seen to exclude women.”
Therefore, the English language never meant to limit our understanding of God as specifically male or female. Ultimately, only God can name God. Our language is deficient, but that isn’t going to change the official referring to God as male. And with proper understanding of why, that’s certainly okay.