Two New Rules [Akin]


#1

Have been added to Da Rulz:
23. The following terms are pejorative and their use as actual descriptors (as opposed, for example, to quoting someone else’s use of them for purposes of critique) constitutes rudeness: “Romanist,” “Romish,” “Roman” (when used to mean or as a substitute for “Catholic”), “Roman Church” (when used to mean the entire Catholic Church, as opposed to the Roman church sui iuris that exists within the Catholic Church), “Papist,” Papistic," “Papistical,” “Popish,” and any cognate terms based on the terms “Roman” or "Pope."
24. It constitutes rudeness to make inflammatory assertions that one is not prepared to back up by anything more than hearsay (e.g., “Mother Theresa prayed to Hindu idols. I know because my friend said so.”).

More…


#2

From Jimmy’s new rules:

The term to be used on this blog is Catholic, without scare quotes.

I’ve encountered this or similar on other forums and I’m glad to see Jimmy invoke such a rule (but then when does Jimmy ever really let us down? :D). I remember one guy who had to close almost every one of his posts in dialogue with Catholics with “Catholics just don’t get it” or “Catholics don’t understand Scripture”…sort of acting as his own personal cheerleader, comforting himself openly…it was quite a display of self-consciousness…
Of course his arguments were awful.


#3

On another Catholic forum a JW came to post, probably in an attempt to retrieve his JW buddy who had been asking questions.

His opening sentence to one of the Catholic posters was, “Hello, papist.”

I explained to him that we don’t open our posts with “hello, heretic”, and that is insulting to us just the same.

I don’t want to start a JW flaming match here, or trying to paint them with a broad brush, I’m just describing an experience I had.

I wasn’t insulted as much as surprised.


#4

I won’t stay long on this site, either, to read the infantile and infantalized nonsense about the RCC from those ignorant of Her but I am surprised, too, by how widespread casual use of prejudiced terms here and elsewhere. On the BBC website, I managed to convince the moderators to delete one post with papist in it, which deforms a perfectly beautiful word into ignorance and hate.

That word almost amuses me because I thought it had died out in the nineteenth century.


#5

When I encounter slurs, I play dumb. “Papist? What the heck is that?” I force the person using it to explain it. Then I say, “Oh, you mean a Catholic.”


#6

I am more fortunate: if anybody has insulted me as a Catholic, it has been in forms more subtle. I am surprised to read such words. If I heard them, I would have to control myself.


#7

I also take issue with my Church being called RCC. I don’t call Protestant churches Pc’s, or Anglican churches Ac’s, or Russian Orthodox RO. I think all these abbreviations are simply endruns around existing forum rules concerning disrespectful nicknames. I dislike the slurs and I dislike the endruns around the rules.


#8

The new rules seem sensible and consistent with CA’s purpose and practices.


#9

How about “non-Evangelical Catholic”?

Or “Catholic: non-Evangelical”?

Is that rude?


#10

A reader writes:
I grew up in a non-Christian religious household, eventually left to become an atheist, and since, because of reading philosophy, have become convinced that God exists. Since one of the key philosophers I have been looking at is Catholic, I started considering the Roman Church. Forgive me, for “Catholic” means both “Universal” and “Whole”. To accept the Roman Church as “whole” would, in my mind, be the same as agreeing that the Roman Church finds its author in Christ. This may very-well be true, and that is what I hope to explore.
But until I grow in this, either to the point where I become united to the Pope in belief, or where I abandon the idea altogether, I cannot in good conscience use the term “Catholic” to describe those united to the Pope. I need more time before I can do this.
I wanted to first say that I understand why you created the rule. People have become unreasonable and insulting. I do not use the above term “Roman Church” as an insult, but rather as the only name I feel comfortable with (I would like to know another, more respectful name). I also wanted to thank you for your deep understanding and Christian charity you show me (maybe it is hypocritical that I refer to followers of Jesus as though they have been given Chrism marking them as Priest, Prophet and King/Queen, but that is another issue I have not yet worked out very well).
There are many questions I have. The forums have scared me away, for the most part. I am talking with a Monsignor, but at the same time, I want to find good resources, so that I might learn more about the Church.
I want to begin by saying that I appreciate the reader’s simultaneous openness and conscientiousness. I understand fully the dilemma he finds himself in, and I have been in similar dilemmas before. In fact, so have a lot of religious people. Given the names that religious groups give themselves, people of conscience often find themselves scrupling–at least a little bit–about how to refer to them.
The situation is understandable from both the perspective of those who give themselves such names and the perspective of those who are reluctant to use the names. Religious groups often name themselves after one of their beliefs, so if Group A believes it is the one true faith then it may choose to call itself The One True Faith to advertise this fact. That’s understandable. That’s what they believe about themselves. On the other hand, those who are members of Group B are not going to want to call somebody else The One True Faith.
So this is just the kind of situation that humans are going to get in, given the present (pre-eschaton) condition of mankind.
I don’t imagine that that many blog readers are currently starting their own religions, so I won’t offer advice here about how to name them, but a great many readers are likely to wonder how to handle the situation when they encounter people with theologically objectionable names, so I’ll offer some thoughts on that.

  1. When you’re using language to communicate directly (as oppose to something else with language, like telling a story or insulting a person–both of which communicate things only indirectly) the #1 goal is intelligibility. If you aren’t intelligible to your audience then you’ve failed to communicate.
  2. Ideally, you want all parts of your communication to be equally intelligible, but sometimes this isn’t possible. Sometimes, for example, you may have to use an ambiguous phrase to communicate yourself (for example, because you can’t think of an unambiguous one in time or because using a totally unambiguous one would be horrendously clunky). In these situations, the thing to do is strive for the core of the message to be clear, and you just have to live with the fact that part of the message is ambiguous.
  3. A secondary goal in direct communication is communicating in a smooth manner. This means delivering your message in a way that is euphonious and acceptable to the audience. In other words, you don’t cause them to get distracted from your message by the way you deliver it. Distractions can include things like clunky delivery, so much excess verbiage that the message gets lost, or insults to your audience that will get them focused on the fact they are being insulted rather than thinking about what your main point is.
  4. Direct communication occurs in the context of language communities. These language communities are based not only on the overall language that the community speaks (English, Spanish, Russian) but also the dialect of the speakers (American English, British English), the subculture(s) to which they belong, incuding not only regional factors but also how old they are, whether they are urban or rural, and what beliefs they have (are they politically liberal or conservative, are they religiously this or that, are they supporters or opponents of a particular technology).
  5. Each act of direct communication, to the extent possible, should be crafted to be as intelligible and as smooth as possible for the language community that you are talking to (however broadly or narrowly that is defined).
    Now let’s apply these principles to the case of religious groups with theologically problematic names, and I’ll start out by naming two groups whose names I have theological objections to: the Jehovah’s Witnesses and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
    I object to the former because I do not believe that they are, in fact, witnesses for Jehovah. I think their understanding of God is profoundly flawed in countless ways and that their organization has not been commissioned by God to provide for his witness.
    I object to the latter because I do not believe it to be a church in the proper sense of the term (that is, it does not have validly ordained bishops) and because I do not believe it was authorized by Jesus Christ and because I reject the theological underpinnings of the idea of there being “Latter-day Saints” in the sense intended by this Church (i.e., that the early church apostatized and so had to be re-founded by Joseph Smith in the “latter-days”). I also don’t like it because it’s clunky (with that double genitive construction–“of . . . of”), but that’s a stylistic rather than a theological objection.
    What am I going to call these groups?
    Well, per principle 5, it’ll depend on who I’m talking to. If I’m talking directly to a Jehovah’s Witness or a Mormon (for example, in an effort to show them the problematic aspects of their respective bodies’ teachings), I’ll want to make my communication as intelligible and smooth as possible for them. That means that I’ll probably start using some of their own in-house ways of phrasing things rather than imposing a Catholic idiom on everything (e.g., “One of the problems with your baptism is that it does not impart sanctifying grace”–that will mean nothing to either a Mormon or a JW).
    As I talk with them, I’m going to hit places where the natural, smooth thing to their ears will be to refer to them using their preferred terms, which would be “Jehovah’s Witnesses” and “saints.” I find both of these theologically objectionable, so what am I going to do?
    I could, of course, take a confrontational approach and, whenever I hit one of the spots in the conversation where one of these terms is called for, I could sub in something deliberately calculated to offend, like "members of your awful, horrible false religion."
    I might even rationalize this decision with myself by telling myself that it’s a kind of “tough love” tactic that confronts them with the reality of what their religion is.
    While there is a place for tough-love statements, the great majority of the time I’m not in a situation where this kind of statement is going to be productive when talking to members of a particular religion.
    Christian charity impels me to do what will be productive in whatever situation I am in, and so the great majority of the time I shouldn’t be talking to people of a particular faith with that kind of confrontational strategy. I want them to think about what I have to say and take it seriously, and most of the time that will mean not insulting them in the process of delivering the message.
    This gives me a reason to work within their preferred terminology to the extent possible.
    In the case of calling Mormons “saints,” the answer is a flat-out no. I’m not going to call them that.
    Why?
    The obvious reason is that I don’t think that adhering to Mormonism makes you a saint, but that’s the reason I find the term objectionable. It’s not the reason I won’t use it.
    Suppose, for example, that a new religion started that called itself “the Saints” and there were no other avaiable terms by which to refer to members of this group. Well, in that case I’d grit my teeth and refer to people of this group as Saints. The goals of direct communication are to be intelligible and smooth and if I use elaborate circumlocutions every time I want to refer to members of this group then I’ll have to fail at at least one of those goals.
    This is the kind of situation I find myself in with groups like the Church of Christ (pick whichever group calling itself the Church of Christ that you want). I don’t believe that such groups are the Church of Christ (I believe that’s the Catholic Church), but there is no other intelligible and smooth way to refer to these groups, so I live with the only established term for them. (Note: Depending on the group in question, I could call them things like “Campbellites”–but this is likely to be offensive or even unintelligible to many of them).
    Thus per point #2 (above), with a group like “the Saints,” I’d make sure my core message is intelligible (“The Saints are not the true followers of Jesus”) even if it means that part of how my message is phrase will be ambiguous (because I’m relying on the hearer to figure out that by referring to “the Saints” I am not, in fact, conceding that they are saints; I’m just using the term for the sake of intelligibility).
    But that’s not the situation I’m in with Mormons.
    There are other terms in common usage which, even though they are not the terms Mormons prefer, they are terms that Mormons will recognize and accept. The term “Mormon” is the obvious one, and it is my preferred term, so it’s the one I use except when special circumstances call for me to give the technical name of their church.
    With Jehovah’s Witnesses matters are similar but different. Historically they’ve called themselves a number of different things (e.g., “Bible Students”), but in discussions with them I’ll have the same reasons to not encumber my message with confusing or insulting references if I want them to hear what I’m telling them.
    Even if I’m not talking directly to them there can be reasons to use their preferred term. In this blog post, for example, I’ve been using it for the sake of clarity, though I could also use a substitute like "JWs."
    In the end, what to call a group with a theologically objectionable name seems to me to depend on how five numbered points listed above play out. If there is an alternative terms that is clear and non-insulting (even if it is not the preferred term) then I’d try to use that with such a group.
    On the other hand, if there is no such term then I’d go ahead and use the theologically problematic one and let the reader figure out (if it isn’t blindingly obvious to him) that I’m not really conceding that is group is what it names itself.
    Given that I’m an apologist for the Catholic faith, he’s likely to figure that out rather quickly.
    I therefore don’t need to encumber my message to him with needlessly clunky or offensive flourishes.
    To come full circle back to the reader who wrote, I would say that you need not scruple about speaking of Catholics or the Catholic Church.
    As long as people know you aren’t Catholic, it’s implied that you aren’t conceding to the Catholic Church the fact that it is the universal church.
    The same refers to referring to Christians as Christians. They are people who claim to follow Christ, and you can refer to them as such without necessarily conceding that Jesus is the Christ.
    In the (unlikely) even that anyone ever asks you why you use these terms, you can easily say, "Well, I’m not (yet) convinced that these terms are fully accurate, but I haven’t made a secret of the fact that I’m not yet a member of one of these groups, so you can infer that I’m not fully signing off on them. It’s better to just go ahead and use the terms for ease of communication so that we can get at the truth rather than encumbering the discussion by using terminology that constantly points out the obvious (I’m not a Catholic) and runs the risk of being offensive. We’re all smart enough here to know that if a non-Catholic or a non-Christian uses these words that he’s not fully endorisng them."
    At least that would be the approach I would take if I was in the reader’s position. I respect those who would still feel bound to scruple on these terms, though.
    BTW, I wish the reader well in his journey, and in case it helps I’d invite him to consider how the Catholic Church got its name and what implications this may have for its use of the name.

More…


#11

A reader writes:I grew up in a non-Christian religious household, eventually left to become an atheist, and since, because of reading philosophy, have become convinced that God exists. Since one of the key philosophers I have been looking at is Catholic, I started considering the Roman Church. Forgive me, for “Catholic” means both “Universal” and “Whole”. To accept the Roman Church as “whole” would, in my mind, be the same as agreeing that the Roman Church finds its author in Christ. This may very-well be true, and that is what I hope to explore.
But until I grow in this, either to the point where I become united to the Pope in belief, or where I abandon the idea altogether, I cannot in good conscience use the term “Catholic” to describe those united to the Pope. I need more time before I can do this.
I wanted to first say that I understand why you created the rule. People have become unreasonable and insulting. I do not use the above term “Roman Church” as an insult, but rather as the only name I feel comfortable with (I would like to know another, more respectful name). I also wanted to thank you for your deep understanding and Christian charity you show me (maybe it is hypocritical that I refer to followers of Jesus as though they have been given Chrism marking them as Priest, Prophet and King/Queen, but that is another issue I have not yet worked out very well).
There are many questions I have. The forums have scared me away, for the most part. I am talking with a Monsignor, but at the same time, I want to find good resources, so that I might learn more about the Church.
I want to begin by saying that I appreciate the reader’s simultaneous openness and conscientiousness. I understand fully the dilemma he finds himself in, and I have been in similar dilemmas before. In fact, so have a lot of religious people. Given the names that religious groups give themselves, people of conscience often find themselves scrupling–at least a little bit–about how to refer to them.
The situation is understandable from both the perspective of those who give themselves such names and the perspective of those who are reluctant to use the names. Religious groups often name themselves after one of their beliefs, so if Group A believes it is the one true faith then it may choose to call itself The One True Faith to advertise this fact. That’s understandable. That’s what they believe about themselves. On the other hand, those who are members of Group B are not going to want to call somebody else The One True Faith.
So this is just the kind of situation that humans are going to get in, given the present (pre-eschaton) condition of mankind.
I don’t imagine that that many blog readers are currently starting their own religions, so I won’t offer advice here about how to name them, but a great many readers are likely to wonder how to handle the situation when they encounter people with theologically objectionable names, so I’ll offer some thoughts on that.

see below
%between%


#12
  1. When you’re using language to communicate directly (as oppose to something else with language, like telling a story or insulting a person–both of which communicate things only indirectly) the #1 goal is intelligibility. If you aren’t intelligible to your audience then you’ve failed to communicate.
  2. Ideally, you want all parts of your communication to be equally intelligible, but sometimes this isn’t possible. Sometimes, for example, you may have to use an ambiguous phrase to communicate yourself (for example, because you can’t think of an unambiguous one in time or because using a totally unambiguous one would be horrendously clunky). In these situations, the thing to do is strive for the core of the message to be clear, and you just have to live with the fact that part of the message is ambiguous.
  3. A secondary goal in direct communication is communicating in a smooth manner. This means delivering your message in a way that is euphonious and acceptable to the audience. In other words, you don’t cause them to get distracted from your message by the way you deliver it. Distractions can include things like clunky delivery, so much excess verbiage that the message gets lost, or insults to your audience that will get them focused on the fact they are being insulted rather than thinking about what your main point is.
  4. Direct communication occurs in the context of language communities. These language communities are based not only on the overall language that the community speaks (English, Spanish, Russian) but also the dialect of the speakers (American English, British English), the subculture(s) to which they belong, incuding not only regional factors but also how old they are, whether they are urban or rural, and what beliefs they have (are they politically liberal or conservative, are they religiously this or that, are they supporters or opponents of a particular technology).
  5. Each act of direct communication, to the extent possible, should be crafted to be as intelligible and as smooth as possible for the language community that you are talking to (however broadly or narrowly that is defined).
    Now let’s apply these principles to the case of religious groups with theologically problematic names, and I’ll start out by naming two groups whose names I have theological objections to: the Jehovah’s Witnesses and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
    I object to the former because I do not believe that they are, in fact, witnesses for Jehovah. I think their understanding of God is profoundly flawed in countless ways and that their organization has not been commissioned by God to provide for his witness.
    I object to the latter because I do not believe it to be a church in the proper sense of the term (that is, it does not have validly ordained bishops) and because I do not believe it was authorized by Jesus Christ and because I reject the theological underpinnings of the idea of there being “Latter-day Saints” in the sense intended by this Church (i.e., that the early church apostatized and so had to be re-founded by Joseph Smith in the “latter-days”). I also don’t like it because it’s clunky (with that double genitive construction–“of . . . of”), but that’s a stylistic rather than a theological objection.
    What am I going to call these groups?
    Well, per principle 5, it’ll depend on who I’m talking to. If I’m talking directly to a Jehovah’s Witness or a Mormon (for example, in an effort to show them the problematic aspects of their respective bodies’ teachings), I’ll want to make my communication as intelligible and smooth as possible for them. That means that I’ll probably start using some of their own in-house ways of phrasing things rather than imposing a Catholic idiom on everything (e.g., “One of the problems with your baptism is that it does not impart sanctifying grace”–that will mean nothing to either a Mormon or a JW).
    As I talk with them, I’m going to hit places where the natural, smooth thing to their ears will be to refer to them using their preferred terms, which would be “Jehovah’s Witnesses” and “saints.” I find both of these theologically objectionable, so what am I going to do?
    I could, of course, take a confrontational approach and, whenever I hit one of the spots in the conversation where one of these terms is called for, I could sub in something deliberately calculated to offend, like "members of your awful, horrible false religion."
    I might even rationalize this decision with myself by telling myself that it’s a kind of “tough love” tactic that confronts them with the reality of what their religion is.

see below
%between%


#13

…of course to some of us the term “heretic” (which is too often bandied about in these parts) is just as offensive. To me it conjures up images of folks being burnt at the stake. Not a good word to use if you want to convincingly promote your faith.

Oh, and now I am really confused on how Roman Catholic can be offensive. In my small town there is one Catholic church (St. Anthony’s). There is a sign in my town that says “St. Anthony’s Roman Catholic Church” along with a left arrow. Did somebody forget to tell these folks?


#14

[quote=mozart-250]…of course to some of us the term “heretic” (which is too often bandied about in these parts) is just as offensive.
[/quote]

‘Heretic’ is a technical term. You can invent a definition to ‘prove’ your ‘point’ but that doesn’t get any credibility.

What you are implying is that, because you cannot defend your point of view with reason and reference, those opposing your point of view should be censored: names for practices should be relanguaged so as to be meaningless. Good luck on that score!

:rolleyes:

[quote=mozart-250]Oh, and now I am really confused on how Roman Catholic can be offensive.
[/quote]

No doubt you are confused. Try reading the link I provided. That should alleviate your confusion. Or are you also of the bent of those who comment on a post before reading it?


#15

#16

Heretic also has historical connotations dating back to Iranaeus and they are not pretty. People were burned alive for being heretics.

We do not use the word heretic with folks with which we merely disagree. For example although I am not Catholic and remain quite unconvinced on a number of Catholic distinctives, I can’t think of one Catholic dogma or doctrine that is so blatantly false and damaging that I would label those who adhere to this doctrine as “heretics”.

Unless I have vision problems, you did not provide a link.

My point of confusions is “why would a very small Catholic church in my community put a sign with the name Roman Catholic on it if the term Roman Catholic were universally regarded as a slur.” I doubt whether a link would answer that question (but I could be wrong of course).


#17

The parish is a Roman rite church, not Byzantine rite, not Maronite, or others. Its usage is correct there.


#18

Yup, I sort of assumed it is a Roman rite church. Would you expect a small parish in rural Vermont to be something other than Roman rite (I’m sort of ignorant here)?

What I can’t reconcile is why a church would advertise itself to the the surronding community in terms the community would interpret as pejorative if in fact they are pejorative. Do you understand what I am saying?

But really this is small potatoes with me anyway. If y’all want to be called Catholic instead of Roman Catholic, I’m cool with that.


#19

Is it possible that the person to whom the JW was responding had “papist” in his user name? I’ve been on several multi-denominational forums where a Catholic member has a user name like “Papist” or “Papist1” or “Proud to be Papist” or some-such. If that is the case on your other forum, then it is probably not meant as a slur, rather the JW was addressing the other member by his user name.


#20

It’s not pejorative in the context you described. RCC can be pejorative because of “R” or “Roman” when the context is referencing something that is not exclusively Roman. For example, sometimes the media or whoever will be discussing abortion or some other moral issue and mention the Roman Catholic churches stance. It’s a not-so-subtle way of putting the emphasis on Roman and not on Catholic and it excludes the Eastern Rite churches.


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