Monday, July 21, 2008

Papist Assistance

PA'PIST,n. A Roman catholic; one that adheres to the church of Rome and the authority of the pope. (Webster 1828)

A few people have griped about my use of the word "papist." I would use "Roman catholic," except that (a) people get confused and think I mean "Latin Rite," and (b) the term "Catholic" to describe a Roman catholic, or papist, is mis-descriptive.

Here's my request for assistance from those who bridle at the designator "papist."

1. Try to realize that I'm just indicating the definition above. I'm not trying to impugn your character, mock your ancestors, or cast aspersions on your intellect or sincerity.
2a. Try to set aside your ideas that if someone uses that term, they must not like papists as people. For whatever reason (I ascribe it to a sincere belief in the soteriological importance of works), some of the nicest, most personable people I've met have been devout papists. Some of my most stimulating intellectual and theological discussions have been with papists, many of whom are very bright.
2b. That said, I do (strongly) disagree with your doctrine. There is no Scriptural doctrine of the papacy, and it is wrong for Rome to teach such a doctrine, and wrong for you (or anyone) to accept such a doctrine, since it is not from God (notice that this is just a statement of my position, not the argument for my position).
3. In short, do not mentally impose some unintended (by me) negative connotation onto my use of the term "papist".
4. If there exists an accepted synonym for "papist" that lacks the connotations you dislike, let me know what it is. I've seen "papalist," but that - to me - just sounds like someone who doesn't know how to spell "papist."
5. "Catholic," which is what seems to be about the only acceptable label to some of the more vocal complainers on this topic, is not an option for me, because I am unwilling to cede the title "Catholic" to church that is not only not itself catholic, but has departed departed from the catholic faith as defined by Scripture. As I have to remind certain people, your church is not "the Church," and your church is not "catholic" both because it is not universal either in scope (there are Christian churches that are not in communion with Rome) or authority (there are Christian churches that do not owe a duty of obedience to Rome) and because the way of salvation taught by Rome is not the way of salvation set forth in Scripture.
6. Another option, "Romanist," has been similarly tarred as being objectionable, for essentially the same reason that it has negative connotations. Furthermore, "Romanist," runs the risk of being confused as being relevant only to "Latin rite" folks.
7. Frankly, I get the feeling that the main response that is going to be running through the heads of those who accept the authority of the pope and who read this is, "Just call us 'Catholics'!" In fact, I get the feeling that some folks out there are set on being offended by any other label, no matter innocuous it is in itself, or how well or accurately it describes those folks' theological position. I recognize that this post, or a hundred more like it, will do nothing to persuade such people. Such people are not considering the matter rationally, but emotionally. Nevertheless, if there is an easy way to accommodate them without sacrificing the truth, I'd be happy to hear the suggestions.

I welcome suggestions from those who are papists by the definition above, but who might not like that term or who might even find that term something unpleasant or revolting, despite the fact that it simply and accurately describes one's adherence to a principle of church government (much as I am a Presbyterian, while other Reformed folk are congregationalist or episcopalian in their church government).

Remember that your suggestions are primarily for me, although I may share them with others - particularly others who are in the same position as me, of being essentially told that unless we use an incorrect and/or misleading term we're hurting your feelings (something that is not our purpose [well, perhaps I should just speak for myself: it is not my purpose to hurt anyone's feelings by the use of the word "papist" no matter how much people may dislike that term]).

Finally, a word of caution. Some people employ radical double-standards on this issue. I quote from "Julie R." who identifies what offends her as: "Being labelled 'Roman' Catholic. Well, incidentally, I am of the Latin Rite. But on behalf of my non-Latin rite friends... Also, because of the origin of the term in Deformation England. " (source - with more examples)

Notice how she uses the purely derogatory term "Deformation," which is designed to express an opinion about the thing being described, while complaining about the fairly mild (if at all offensive) term "Roman" being affixed to "Catholic."

In the same thread, MaryRita states: "Perhaps I'm thin skinned but the term "papist" really offends me. I guess because it is meant as a slur by those using it." Presumably if MaryRita ever sees this post she'll recognize that I don't use it as a slur, but simply as an accurate description of ecclesiology. I wonder whether she would still insist on being offended by it. I would hope not.

Finally, I should point out that "Seminole Jim" later in the same thread states: "I rather like "Papist" and refer to myself that way if I'm asked what religion I am." His sentiments are immediately echoed by another user "jmcrae." I just happened to stumble across these two today. I can assure you that there are plenty of others who feel the same way.

-TurretinFan

13 comments:

Rhology said...

I've heard an Eastern Heterodox friend say "Papist", and so that kind of turned me on to the term.

Mike Burgess said...

Rhology's glee at the EO's doubtless pejoratively-intended jab notwithstanding, as I indicated to you before, I don't have the same problem you note in others by your usage of the term. But if you're actually asking for substitutions, might I suggest Petrine Primacists? Awkward, maybe, but easily abbreviated with a nice alliterative. Or how about 21ers (in reference to the adherence to the 21 ecumenical councils)?

Ben Douglass said...

Religious discourse inevitably involves some measure of polite accomodation to one's opponents.

Religious groups typically apply names to themselves which imply goodness and legitimacy, a goodness and legitimacy which opposing groups do not necessarily grant. Nevertheless, we generally call each other by each other's self-chosen names because these are the names which everyone understands and which none take offense at being called.

So, I call the Muslims Muslims, even though they are not submitted to God, the Jehovah's Witnesses Jehovah's Witnesses, even though they are not witnesses of Jehovah, the Mormons Mormons, even though they are not more good, the Presbyterians Presbyterians, even though they lack the priesthood, the Episcopalians Episcopalians, even though the lack the episcopacy, the Orthodox Orthodox, even though they are not orthodox (although they are presbyterian and episcopal), and Abraham Foxman a Jew, even though he says he is a Jew and is not, and does lie.

BJ Buracker said...

I think Ben offers good insight. It seems important to me to "compromise" on an issue like this for the sake of charity. While PC has gotten incredibly out of hand, we must be reminded that love is not rude. I would suggest that if "Papist" if found to be rude and offensive to your opponents, then another term ought to be sought. Given that this particular Christian sect is officially named, "Catholic," that seems most reasonable.

That said, TF, I would be shocked to find a Catholic opponent of yours offended by the term "Papist," given the caveats you've set forth here. Plus, your debate style and demeanor clearly shows - to me anyways, and I'm picky - that you are not interested in bashing the heathen but presenting the Truth. This lessens the offensiveness, if there is any to start with, of whatever term you use.

Thanks for the post and information. Keep up the good work!

BJ
Stupid Scholar

Alexander Greco said...

BJ's comments aside, I believe he might be unaware of the etymology of the term "papist." Fact is, the term is abusive because its origins were abusive. Like it or not, nobody uses that term in polite company, neither do they use it charitably. I'm with Ben on this one, and I would likewise be against Mr. Sippo's and cohorts use of terms like "Prots," "Deformers," etc.

Turretinfan said...

AG,

I think you'll find the term (or its Latin and German equivalents) widely used from the 16th century, as a way to distinguish those whose earthly supreme authority was the pope rather than Scripture.

The etymology is very simple: it derives from the word for "pope." It is simply a technical term that accurately describes ecclesiology, unlike "Prot" and "Deformers," the former of which is just a derogatory shortening of "Protestant," and the latter of which is an opinionated (negative) play on the term "Reformers."

-TurretinFan

Turretinfan said...

Dear Ben,

It is interesting that you chose "Mormon" among your list. Most seem to prefer the term "Latter Day Saints" or LDS for short. Mormon is actually somewhat similar to "papist" in that it is a name that is primarily used by their opponents.

As for the Presbyterian issue, I would be delighted to engage you on the issue of whether the Greek word πρεσβύτερος means "elder" (as we insist) rather than "priest" (as seems to be implied in your comment above). I suspect that upon closer consideration, though, you may agree with me.

-TurretinFan

Turretinfan said...

BJ:

The term "catholic church" as a denominational label is a bit of an oxymoron, is it not?

When Rome claims to be the "Catholic Church" it is not claiming that it is a denomination by that name (as with the Assemblies of God, Presbyterian Reformed Church, or United Methodist Church, to provide three examples) - instead it is claiming to be the only real church of Christ, just as the Mormons claim with their self-proclaimed status of "Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints."

Since I don't accept their claim, I have trouble using "Catholic" as a label for them, just as I would have trouble calling the Mormon church the "Church of Jesus Christ...," except using quotation marks. Using quotation marks is a solution, but then people start thinking you mean that they are not sincere members of their organization, as opposed to the quotations being an indication of disagreement over the title itself.

-TurretinFan

Ben Douglass said...

Dear Francis,

Mormons use that name of themselves. It features prominently on their church's own homepage: http://www.lds.org/

If they prefer to be called Latter Day Saints, that works just as well for the point I'm making. I'm willing to call them Latter Day Saints, even though they are not saints. From my persepective, the preferred name of almost any religious group can only be predicated of it equivocally (the obvious exceptions are groups named after their founders: Lutherans, etc). But I'm willing to equivocally predicate these names of these groups for the sake of ease of communication. You should do likewise.

Perhaps we could do a debate at some point on whether there is a Christian ministerial priesthood. It will have to be a month or two from now, though.

Turretinfan said...

Dear Ben,

Not to press the point too far, but I didn't find "Mormon" visibly on the home page you identified.

I refer you to their "style guide."

http://newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/style-guide

But they live with the fact that they are called "Mormons" and perhaps (as long as one recognizes nothing more than accurate technical description is meant) so should papists?

-TurretinFan

Turretinfan said...

"Perhaps we could do a debate at some point on whether there is a Christian ministerial priesthood. It will have to be a month or two from now, though."

My point was more narrowly focused on the meaning of the Greek word from which we derive "Presbyterian," but perhaps the broader topic would be equally as interesting.

-TurretinFan

Ben Douglass said...

Dear Francis,

The page I referenced advertizes the Encyclopedia of Mormonism and a website called www.mormon.org at which one may learn their basic doctrines. I assume that if they like the terms Mormonism and Mormon, they're fine with "Mormons."

I grant that the Greek presbyteros can mean elder. My assertion is that, in the context of ministers of the New Testament Church, it refers to priests.

Turretinfan said...

Dear Ben,

Thanks for the clarification on both counts.

That would be an interesting discussion.

-TurretinFan