Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What's in a name?

Late posting, and I'm going to keep this brief.

I've been reading all week about Pope Francis' interview with the atheist Eugenio Scalfari, and I've noticed something.

The substance of the interview has been discussed to death, and given that there's some good evidence for problems with the translation in English as well, I'm going to hold off on commenting about the content, except to say that I think that if you start from the premise that the Holy Father is talking to an atheist you're not going to be unduly startled by anything that gets said.  I'm not a scholar or theologian or anybody at all but a lay Catholic woman, but when I talk to atheists I tend to do the same thing: try to figure out where they are, what their basis for ethics and morality is (because everybody has some basis for these things) etc., and go from there.  I will grant you that this interview might be startling to people who only talk about religion to other people who not only share their Catholic faith but also dwell in the same sort of "Catholic niche" together and lead the same sort of lives, practice the same sort of devotions, and receive the same sort of political mailings from the same political party (both the heavily underlined printed ones warning of dire threats which require immediate emergency funds and the emailed FWD:FWD:FWD versions) and so on, but anybody who has ever actually talked about Catholicism to people who are not Catholic or not Christian or not believers at all, and who range from mildly curious to openly hostile with every permutation in between, will not faint at the idea that one's exhortations to one's fellow Catholics are going to sound a little different from an introductory conversation to someone who abandoned a rather strict Bible-based fundamentalist creationist church and is now an atheist, or to someone whose parents were atheist fundamentalists themselves and raised their child to disbelieve in God with evangelical fervor.

But that's not what I've noticed.

What I've noticed is that here in America Catholics on the right (roughly speaking) have apparently switched places with Catholics on the left (again, roughly speaking) in terms of how they speak of the Holy Father, or at least how they write about him.  In fact, you can tell what someone things of the Holy Father by their use of this particular device:

The Catholics on the left called (and still call) Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI by the dismissive name: "Ratzinger." 

The Catholics on the right are starting to refer to Pope Francis as "Bergoglio."

It's odd that when it comes to American Catholics, you can now tell what they think of any given pope by their willingness to call him the Holy Father, Pope [Fill-in-the-Blank] as opposed to referring to him by his pre-election last name.

1 comment:

Cojuanco said...

It's simple - a lot of Catholics in America only care if he is a banner for their political causes, not because he's the Vicar of Christ. Also, We Americans seem to have an annoying tendency to make everything fit a particular secular political concept, which is, I suppose, expected for a nation of apostate Puritans.