Saturday, June 20, 2009

Bushwa Is Still Bushwa (Even When One Is Talking in the Ecclesiastical Sense)!

While I am waiting for a translation of the last piece I need to finish my article on whether St. Athanasius wrote The Discourse on the Holy Theotokos, I happened to visit Turretinfan’s website and saw that he still trying to defend his usage of the pejorative “papist” in an article entitled, “Papist Propaganda.” After noting that the word was coined in 1534 in France, Turretinfan states:

The term "papist" was not coined as derogatory term, nor need it carry derogatory connotations. It does not (contrary to the most bizarre piece of propaganda I recently received) mean "pope worshiper." Although some people do use it in a derogatory manner, you will not find this blogger using it that way, but rather in a way that is descriptive of ecclesiology.

At the outset, Mr. Fan fails to establish in what context the word “papist” was first used in 1534. I have never seen it used in the English language in any context other than an opprobrious manner. I have never seen it used in any context in the French language other than in an opprobrious manner. Since Mr. Fan has identified that the word was first coined in 1534, he should produce the writing in which the word first appeared so one can determine whether word was first used in a context other than in an opprobrious manner.

Moreover, Mr. Fan’s argument is a facile one. Anyone familiar with etymology could use the same sort of illegitimate argumentation that Turretinfan uses to attempt to make the word “nigger” something other than a racial epithet. However, I will not offend anybody’s sensibilities in doing so. The simple fact is that in this country, assuming for the moment that the pseudonymous Mr. Fan is a citizen of this country, the term papist has been used almost exclusively by Klansmen, Know-Nothings, nativists, Neo-Nazis and anti-Catholics as a term of derision and calumny. Is that the kind of companions that Mr. Fan wishes to associate himself with particularly when he claims all the time that he is not anti-Catholic?

Finally, the definition itself as given by Mr. Fan is faulty. As a Catholic, I am not an adherent of a pope. I am an adherent of Catholicism which is made up of the doctrines of the “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.” Catholics do not follow the teachings of a man, unless that man be Jesus Christ. For example, there are several people on this planet at the moment who call themselves “pope.” For example: Pope Shenouda III of the Coptic Church. He is a good, Christian and holy man, but I do not follow him or his teachings because he is a “pope.”

Rather, Catholics follow the teachings and doctrines of the Catholic Church. A pope may promulgate doctrines and teachings in the course of his papal office that we may be obliged to follow by virtue of our recognition of the validity of the authority of his office within of the Church. However, to use the ecclesiastical sense, as Turretinfan wishes us to use, the best one could argue then is that I am an adherent of the papal system of church government. In that case, one could legitimately say I am a papalist, which accurately describes the ecclesiology of how the Catholic Church as an institution is governed.

To say that I am “an adherent of the pope” or “papist” is like saying that Turretinfan is the adherent of the dead French lawyer, John Calvin. If I were to do so ignores the fact that he professes to be a Presbyterian which in the sense of ecclesiology (which Mr. Fan claims is the all-important underlying justification for using the pejorative term “papist”) is a different Protestant institution of governance or denomination than a Reformed Baptist, Reformed Dutch Church or some other flavor of Reformed Protestantism. Calling someone a Calvinist in the sense of ecclesiology is no more accurate than calling someone a "papist."

Of course, there is a slight difference here. In a theological sense, Mr. Fan himself uses the label "Calvinist" as descriptive of the set of doctrines and teachings first invented by John Calvin to which Mr. Fan may ascribe. However, the term "papist" was imposed on Catholics by Protestants. We have never applied that label to describe ourselves or our form of governance or our doctrines and teachings.

The word “papist” is a religious epithet, pure and simple. Its continued use in today’s society and religious discourse can not be justified given its historical usage in the English-speaking world. Even if Mr. Fan were to establish conclusively beyond a reasonable doubt that the word once meant something other than an epithet 450 years ago when it was first coined, that word has lost that meaning centuries ago. It is time to stop using the term to describe Catholics or if one intends to keep using the term, stop denying that one is an anti-Catholic.

God bless!


Reginald de Piperno said...

Hi Paul,

Well done.


Paul Hoffer said...

Hi RdP,

Thank you for the compliment. I did have to do some slight editing. It was hard typing the article with a 17 yr. old cat on my lap wanting attention.

Turretinfan said...

"We have never applied that label to describe ourselves or our form of governance or our doctrines and teachings."

If you read your friend Dave's blogroll, you'll discover that your statement isn't true.

As for whether you don't like the term (which is all this complaint boils down to), when you stop using terms that we don't like because we don't like them, you'll be in a position to throw stones at us for using terms you don't like.

Until then ...

Paul Hoffer said...

Thank you for your thoughts Mr. Fan. I was aware of Dr. Blosser's usage of the word in the title of his blog as well as a Facebook group called "Proud to be Papist." I had never noticed Mr. Peter's blog before you pointed it out.

With that being said, those folks' usage of the word in the title of their blogs does not take away anything from my argument. I think you would find if you were to actually check the reasoning behind their usage of the word is to poke fun at Protestants who use it. As the Facebook group states, they use a term of derision coined by Protestants and turn it into a term of glory. I am sure that you are not using the term to glorify Catholics, are you?

As far as not liking the term, I thought my argument went beyond my personal tastes. I pointed out using your own criterion that the usage of "papist" is not accurately descriptive in the sense of ecclesiology. If your intention in using the perjorative is noble as opposed to base, as you claim; if being accurate is the goal; if you do not intend to offend, then why use that particular word when if fails to accomplish any of those aims? Your defense of the word is full of hubris.