The principles that rule this blog

Principles that will govern my thoughts as I express them here (from my opening statement):

  • Freedom of the individual should be as total as possible, limited only by the fact that nobody should be free to cause physical injury to another, or to deprive another person of his freedoms.
  • Government is necessary primarily to provide those services that private enterprise won't, or won't at a price that people can afford.
  • No person has a right to have his own beliefs on religious, moral, political, or other controversial issues imposed on others who do not share those beliefs.

I believe that Abraham Lincoln expressed it very well:

“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot
so well do, for themselves — in their separate, individual capacities.”

Comments will be invited, and I will attempt to reply to any comments that are offered in a serious and non-abusive manner. However, I will not tolerate abusive or profane language (my reasoning is that this is my blog, and so I can control it; I wouldn't interfere with your using such language on your own!)

If anyone finds an opinion that I express to be contrary to my principles, they are welcome to point this out. I hope that I can make a rational case for my comments. Because, in fact, one label I'll happily accept is rationalist.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

How do you address him?

There's a Catholic priest who, at least in the past, has regularly read this blog, and is one of the few who has posted comments. I recently got a “tweet” which he broadcast, in which he mentioned visiting Washington, D. C. on the 4th of July. I was thinking that it might have been nice to have met him in person and spoken to him. Too bad I didn't know he was in the area. But this made me think of a question, which applies to all Catholic priests I am, or will be, in touch with: How do you address him?

If I were ever to meet President Obama, of course, I would address him as “Mr. President.” There is no question that he is the President of the United States, even though I twice voted for his opponent. If I were to meet a Protestant minister with a Doctor's degree in Divinity, similarly, I would address him as “Dr. So-and-so,” acknowledging his degree, which is a valid doctorate. But the normal mode of address for a Catholic priest is “Father So-and-so,” and this has always been a problem to me, even fifty years ago, when I was in graduate school, and a fellow grad student, also a Catholic priest, became a friend. I had discussed this very question, saying that, since I'm not Catholic, I don't consider him my spiritual father and in no other way is he my father (or anyone else's, given the celibacy of the Catholic priesthood). This priest, fifty years ago, told me to call him “John,” which still was not quite satisfactory to me because it seemed disrespectful to the office. I mostly avoided using any name or title in addressing him.

The priest that I was talking about in the opening sentences of this post is in a slightly different situation. I've been in contact with him, by Internet chat or e-mail, since he was a 13- or 14-year-old boy. I've come to think of him as “Josh,” though he, unlike the other priest, has not suggested I call him that. If he were to say that I should call him by his first name (actually a nickname, since his first name is legally Joshua) I would not find it as difficult as calling the other Catholic priest I mentioned by his first name. But he has not suggested that, and it still seems that there is a dignity to his office that requires a more formal mode of address.

So this is a quandary. What does a non-Catholic call a Catholic priest, whom he does not consider his “father” in a spiritual or any other way, but whom he wants to address with respect?

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