Recently the discussion of the use of the terms “Romanist,” “Romish” and “Romanism” have been discussed here and elsewhere. Several non-Catholic bloggers joined in to object to Dr. Beckwith’s blog entry on the subject, including myself. Many Catholics have used these or similar terms, but typically in different context. Many other Catholics are offended when non-Catholics, especially those who attack our Faith, use the terms as apparent slurs. The saddest part is that even when these non-Catholics are told these terms are taken by many as hurtful and bigoted, rather than doing the charitable thing they entrench and defend themselves and point to out-of-context references when they simply could just avoid using these terms. Why insist upon using them when these apologists know the terms are offensive to some and there are many other acceptable terms available? To continue using the terms in the face of such knowledge of offense can only be seen as what it is, bigotry.
The above being said, does that mean EVERY use of such terms are bigoted? No, it does not! As the non-Catholic bigots would be quick to point out, there are several places they can point to where Catholics have used the terms, some even embracing them – but in context one can clearly see that when a Catholic uses the terms, they are not being hateful bigots! In fact some may use the terms in the face of bigotry to stave off or dissuade the bigots from continuing. For example, I could say that since I am in communion with the Bishop of Rome, the Pope that I am papist – however for a non-Catholic apologist to say to me “You Papist,” that would most often be taken as a bigoted slur.
I was born and raised in the Lutheran Church (LCMS and later WELS) and I was taught at a very young age that the very term “Lutheran” used to be considered a bigoted slur – but those who followed the teachings of Martin Luther eventually embraced the term – so much so that it became accepted by virtually everyone – including “Lutherans.” Perhaps the same thing may happen with the terms of “Romanist,” “Romish” and “Romanism,” but as for now – except in limited situations, these terms are seen as offensive by many.
It would seem the best approach for Catholic apologists to take is to refrain from being “offended” by the use of such terms. Beyond a casual pointing out the fact that some take those words to be offensive, just consider the source and move on. In my experience those non-Catholic apologists who do continue to use the terms only make themselves look bad to Catholics and semi-unbiased readers who may be following along – however though that is one way of “winning” – our goal should be to get them to act more like Christians rather than getting them to entrench into non-Christian behaviors.
Feel free to add your comments.