Watch Your (Catholic) Language!


America magazine has announced it will no longer use the words “liberal” or “conservative,” when describing people or positions. Great idea!

Actually I suggest it is time for a major clean-up of our language used in liturgy, writing and speaking about people and movements, and of course when addressing people like your local bishop, archbishop, or cardinal.

To begin with of course, we need to use inclusive language, in our writing, in our speaking, and in our prayer. None of that “for us men” stuff. It is offensive and simply incorrect. When I say a prayer publicly or read from the Scriptures at a liturgy, I always use inclusive nouns and pronouns. This is not a “nice” thing to do. It is the correct thing to do. If the authorities are upset, that is their problem not mine.

Next we need to deal with pompous hierarchic nomenclature. Never again refer to a bishop as “your excellency” or a cardinal as “your eminence.” The middle ages have been gone for more than a few centuries.

Now for the pope. How refreshing when Francis appeared on the balcony, some long minutes after the white smoke from the Sistine Chapel, and announced that he was the new “Bishop of Rome.” Let’s follow his example. Drop “his holiness” and “supreme pontiff.” As well as other Renaissance superlatives. “Bishop of Rome” is fine and fitting.

Now for some appropriate adjectives for our Catholic brothers and sisters:

When they know little or nothing about Catholic history or biblical exegesis, they are Catholic “illiterates” or “ignoramuses.” A few bishops deserve these descriptive nouns, unfortunately.
When some Catholics would rather live in the former century of Vatican I, like the former Bishop of Rome now in poor health, we should not call them “conservative” but “rooted in a nineteenth century ethos.”

And when these people cannot accept any other vision of God, humanity, and church, let’s be honest and call them “Catholic fundamentalists.”

Well this is a starter. We need to clean up our Catholic vocabulary.

I no longer use the word “priest” but prefer a much more Christian term “ordained minster.”

And I don’t like calling the twenty-five year old ordained minister, whom I helped educate over four years, “father.” I should really call him “son” 🙂

But for now, his first name will do and perhaps “Reverend” In public. I call my doctor “Arnold” and my dean and professorial colleagues by their first names. And I call one of my best older hierarchical friends simply “Cardinal.” And he calls me “Jack.”

And I call my wife of nearly 45 years “honey-bunch.”

We still have linguistic work to do. Not an unimportant issue.

Words have consequences.

Thank you America!

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8 thoughts on “Watch Your (Catholic) Language!

  1. “None of that “for us men” stuff”
    I have been arguing this point for a while. Simply by leaving out the word “men” we are making the phrase non-gender specific and insulting no one. That is the way I have said it for many years, always trying to emphasize it out loud.

  2. A couple of mottoes to govern respecters of persons:

    Nullus homo reverendus.

    Pater nolite vocare vobis; super terram unus enim est Pater vester qui in caelis est.

    Cardinal avis est, non homo.

  3. Christian “ordained minster”?

    Also: Did Jesus really drink from a chalice?
    But “we eat this bread and drink this cup.”

    I “eat this bread and drink this wine.”

  4. My evil twin sister rather enjoys calling our local Archbishop, a known violent verbal abuser of women, as “Your Grace.” Ah, the irony.

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