+ In Front of Bishop's Name

I was reading the decree establishing the Personal Ordinariate of Walsingham, and I noted that while the Prefect of the CDF signed his name “William Cardinal Levada,” the Secretary signed his name “+ Luis F. Ladaria, S.I.” Can someone explain why Archbishop Ladaira used the + and Cardinal Levada didn’t?

I seem to remember a post on WDTPRS about this a while ago, but I can’t find it because Google (inexplicably) doesn’t recognize characters like + or @ in searches. (If anyone knows of a search engine that does, please let me knowthat as well!)

A more recent post wdtprs.com/blog/2010/12/wdtprs-nobis-quoque-peccatoribus%E2%80%9D-and-joe-bagofdoughnuts-bp-of-black-duck on WDTPRS suggests that bishops use the + because in the early days of the Church, some bishops signed themselves in humility as a sinner, or tapeinós in Greek. The + is derrived from the tau, the first letter of tapeinós. Very interesting, but that does not explain why some bishops use it and some don’t.

Google 101.

The + works in a special way within Google. It tells the search engine to look for something but only to show it if it also has what ever follows the + sign.

To actually search for a + you need to put it quotes, like this, “+”.

I don’t remember the reason, but read the other day that Bishop John Hughes of New York [mid-19th century] always signed his name that way. For that reason he was nicknamed “Dagger John”.

Some google searching turns up the following:
"Some Catholic Bishops affect a “+” in front of their name. It is a cross (a Christian symbol) not a plus sign. The custom derives from the era when medieval bishops would humbly sign their names by prefixing the title “Sinner” or “Sinful Servant.” So an Archbishop might sign his letters in this way:
Your Sinful Servant,
Charles J. Chaput, OFM, Cap.

But in modern times, he signs his name as:
+Charles J. Chaput, OFM, Cap.

The cross prefix is merely a symbol of one being a “sinner” - that is one in need of the redeeming cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

All bishops are entitled to use a cross in front of their names.

Within the College of Cardinals, there is a slightly different practice. All Cardinals who are Cardinal-Bishops, or the Ordinary of a diocese can use the cross in front of their names. So for example, Cardinal Levada is a cardinal deacon and not entitled. If he went back to being archbishop of San Francisco, then he would sign his name as +William Card. Levada, with the cross. This is most obvious if you look at official documents - like the signatories to the Vatican II declarations. I had seen a photograph online some time back but I can’t seem to find it now on Google.

To contrast, you can see Cardinal Bertone’s signature - notice the cross.


The Pope typically does not use the sign of the cross in front of his name.

Very interesting, thanks!

I found two examples related to then Cardinal Ratzinger. The first is from 1985, when he was no longer the Bishop of Munich and not yet a Cardinal Bishop. No +. content.usatoday.com/communities/ondeadline/post/2010/04/in-1985-letter-pope-rejected-call-to-defrock-abusive-calif-priest/1

The second is from 2005, with the +. lifesitenews.com/ldn/2005_docs/ratzingerpermission.pdf

You would this should work, but unfortunately it doesn’t. Try it. Apparently + is a Google operator that does the same thing as quotation marks - returns exactly the text that follows it. One cannot search for the operator itself, however.

According to a Google employee, “Generally, punctuation is ignored, including @#$%^&*()=+].” At present, there seems to be no way to include a + sign in a search. In response to someone who wanted to search for a certain product “5388++”, the Google Employee suggested a workaround, such as including the name of the company with 5388. No way to force the search to return results with the plus sign, however. google.com/support/forum/p/Web%20Search/thread?tid=1be283f8e4894819&hl=en

Praised be Jesus Christ.

if you were formatting the bishop’s signature in word you would select a cross from the symbol menu, not a plus sign, or the old dagger symbol from the proofreading symbol menu. google won’t recognize in a search any of those symbols (copyright, percent, paragraph sign etc.)

I did try it. When you put the + inside of quotes Google knows to search for the + sign rather than using it as an operator.

By searching with + in quotes ("+") I got the result that is posted TheDoctor in post number #4 and as you can see TheDoctor says the results are from a Google search.

I don’t mean to belabor the point, but I’m just not seeing that. When I search for “Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger,” I get 168,000 results. When I search for “+Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger,” I get 168,000 results - and none of the first 30 hits under that search contains the +.

When I search “Charles J. Chaput, OFM, Cap.” I get 67,100 results. Result 4 contains the +. When I search “+Charles J. Chaput, OFM, Cap.” I get exactly the same thing - 67,100 results, Result 4 with the +.

I you can make Google return only results with the +, I’d appreciate seeing the exact search string you use.

When I do an actual Google search with the following:
“+” In Front of Bishop’s Name
I get the following as the first two hits.

+ In Front of Bishop’s Name - Catholic Answers Forums (this exact thread)
Answers.com - What is the plus sign preceding a bishop’s name (the actual answer to your question that was posted earlier in this thread)

So who ever this “Google employee” is that you asked, he does not know as much as he thinks he does. I was trying to be polite in my earlier post, but as you can see, putting quotes around the + does make Google use it as a search word rather than an operator as it normally would.

I think that is enough on this topic. You have your answer.

That is not because your search matched on “+”, but because your search exactly matched the words “in front of bishop’s name”. Try the same search without the “+” at all and it will return the same results. Sorry!

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