Friday, June 10, 2005

I Love the Word "Popish": Steve Hays and Bigoted Anti-Catholic Titles

. . . along with Romanist, Romish, Popery, and Papist. Not because it is a legitimate word, with proper etymological pedigree, mind you, but because it is so patently ridiculous and, well, downright idiotic (would anyone say "fatherish" or "fatherist"?). Just when you think no Protestant is silly enough to actually use this linguistic monstrosity (along with the others in the anti-Catholic catalogue), sure enough, Reformed Baptist apologist Steve Hays (the guy who thinks Catholicism is officially as liberal as American Episcopalianism is), brings it back from retirement.

He has (quite predictably) used the other similar words, too:

Both Romanist and popery.




Hays has chimed in, completely missing the point, as usual. This guy is amazingly obtuse, or else he is purposely provocative (probably a little of both).

Pray for him. Someone who has to continually rely on lies about other belief-systems in his apologetic (not to mention, pejorative terminology), has some big problems to overcome.

The fallacies in Hays' pseudo-linguistic defense are obvious (I wouldn't even trouble myself to point them out, except for the fact that he doesn't get it):

If the Bible is to Protestantism what the pope is to Catholicism (infallible authority), then if Catholicism is "popish", Protestantism must be "Biblish," right? But of course no one uses such an idiotic title. It's left to our anti-Catholic Protestrant brethren to come up with "Popish."

If following the pope as an authority is "popery", then following the Bible as an authority (i.e., within the sola Scriptura paradigm, etc. -- Catholics, too, accept the Bible as an inspired authority) must be "Biblery."

Baptists believe in the authority of local congregations only (strictly speaking). So again, if Catholicism amounts to "popery" and "popish" religion, then congregationalism must be "elderish" or "pastorish" or "elder-ery" or "pastor-ery" religion. If one is a Presbyterian, by this "logic" they are both "Biblish" and "presbyterish" or practice a faith which should be called "Presbyter-ery" or "Presbyterish Christianity".

Hey, Lutherans refer to themselves by use of their founder's name. So it stands to reason that they ought to also legitimately be called "Lutherish" or "Luther-ery" or "Lutherist" or "Lutheranist". Where did this variation of Protestantism begin? Wittenberg, Germany. So obviously, Lutheranism can properly be called "Wittenbergism" or "Wittenbergist" or "Wittenbergish" or "Wittenbergery."

Calvinism was once centered in Geneva, so it is clearly "Genevery" or the "Genevish" faith or "Genevism". Hmmmm. "The Five Points of Genevery." Doesn't quite have the same ring to it, does it? If Calvinism is proper, so must "Calvinish" or "Calvinery" be also.

Undaunted by either common courtesy of address or linguistic convention, Hays waxes condescending:

In any case, I reserve the right to use designations which reflect my theological viewpoint, and not the outlook of my theological opponent.

A Romanist is someone who adheres to the primacy of Rome. A papist is someone who adheres to the primacy of the Pope. And so forth.

Since a Calvinist takes no offense at being denominated a Calvinist, I don't see why a Catholic should take offense at being denominated a papist or Romanist.

[you gotta love how he can't even avoid using the proper term even in defending the improper, pejorative titles: "I don't see why a Catholic . . ."; "I suppose a Roman Catholic would object to . . .," ". . . a Roman Catholic will protest that he is a follower of Christ, . . ."]

Hence, I will continue to opine on the papistical popery of papistically papizing papists in the thrall of papistry and popedom.

Is this not absolutely ridiculous? Yet an intelligent, grown man makes these sorts of "arguments" in defense of his asinine terms for Catholicism.

Heaven help us. As with many things anti-Catholic, one can see considerable humor in this, but it is extremely sad at the same time, that such things are even open for discussion.

Steve "Quixote" Hays made a second, even more remarkable response.

It's now time to break out some dictionaries, to counter this silliness:

The EXPLORE Dictionary of History notes:

Popery (linked)

Historically, the words popery and popish have been used as derogatory terms of Catholicism. They were often used by Protestants to denote the idea that the Pope is a tyrant and his servants, Catholics, worship him. They also refer to the culture of the church, such as Baroque vestments and decoration that Protestants view as effeminate, or excessive and maudlin devotion to Mary.

{italics mine; bolding in original}

Likewise, for the entry, Papist:

Papist is a derisive term meaning "Roman Catholic". It was used during the English Reformation to indicate one who believed in Papal supremacy over the Anglican Church. Over time, as the political nature of the struggle between Protestants and Catholics became heated, it became a pejorative for Roman Catholics. The word ultimately derives from Latin papa, meaning "Pope". "Popish" is an adjective for Roman Catholic used much in the same vein.

While considered offensive in contemporary speech, it was a word in ordinary use until the mid-nineteenth century; it occurs frequently in Macaulay's History of England from the Accession of James II, and in other historical or controversial works from that period. It is also a legal term that defines ineligibility for the throne under the current law of the United Kingdom. Under the Act of Settlement enacted in 1701, no "Papist", nor anyone who marries a "Papist", may succeed to the throne of the United Kingdom.

The word is used by some extremist politicians in the UK (particularly Northern Ireland), such as Ian Paisley.

A derivative perjorative term Apist is used to describe Anglo-Catholics who ape or copy the practices of the Roman Catholics.

{italics mine -- excepting papa and the book title -- bolding in original}

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition, 2000, concurs:


NOUN: Offensive The doctrines, practices, and rituals of the Roman Catholic Church


adj. Offensive
Of or relating to the Roman Catholic Church.


adj. Offensive
Of or relating to the popes or the Roman Catholic Church.


1. Offensive One who professes Roman Catholicism.
2. A student of or authority on ancient Roman law, culture, and institutions.


adj. Offensive
Of or relating to the Roman Catholic Church.

And it's the same in my giant hardcover dictionary, Webster's New 20th Century Dictionary, Unabridged, 2nd Edition, Cleveland: World Publishing Co., 1968 (2129 large pages). For its entries "Romanism," "Romanist," and "Romish" (all on p. 1572), it describes the words as "hostile usage," while the "rare" term "Romanish" is said to be "generally a contemptuous term."

Likewise, "popery" is "an opprobrious term," "popish" is "a disparaging term," and "papist," "papism," and "papistry" are all described as "a hostile term."

This is not rocket science. According to these reference sources (none "Catholic" as far as I know), it is understood that all these terms are offensive, disparaging, hostile, or pejorative. But of course, that wouldn't stop Steve Hays, James White, Phillip Johnson, David T. King, Eric Svendsen, Ian Paisley, Jack Chick, or other anti-Catholics, who insist on continuing to use the terms, knowing full well that they are objectionable. Why? Well, obviously, they have no intention of extending to lowly Catholics even the least amount of charity and common courtesy, because they despise our belief-system so much.

I've argued again and again that even if a group were as heretical and abominable as it is thought to be; that wouldn't give any professed Christian the "right" or prerogative to call them what they don't want to be called, and to use terms with a history of hostility and bigotry attached to them. So this is not only plain stupidity; it is also unethical and unChristian behavior, by any objective criterion.

Somehow I don't get the impression that Steve Hays (or James White or Josh Strodtbeck or anyone who uses these terms) particularly want to even try to be (or appear to be trying to be) charitable towards Catholics. They deliberately adopt this pompous, condescending stance. The language of bigotry always works that way.

They may not care, sadly, but as they are at least doctrinal Christians and brothers in Christ, no matter what they think of us, it can be devoutly hoped and wished that simple, indisputable linguistic reasoning and rudimentary Christian injunctions about charity towards all men may eventually get through to them, by God's grace.

Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin, in a 1997 paper, gives more background as to the origins of these pejorative terms:

Q: When did the term "Roman Catholic Church" come into being?

A: It is not possible to give an exact year when the Catholic Church began to be called the "Roman Catholic Church," it is possible to approximate it. The term originates as an insult created by Anglicans who wished to refer to themselves as Catholic. They thus coined the term "Roman Catholic" to distinguish those "other" Catholics and create a sense in which they could refer to themselves as Catholics (by
attempting to deprive actual Catholics to the right to the term).

Different variants of the "Roman" insult appeared at different times. The earliest form of the insult was the noun "Romanist" (one belonging to the Catholic Church), which appeared in England about 1515-1525. The next to develop was the adjective "Romish" (similar to something done or believed in the Catholic Church), which appeared around 1525-1535. Next came the noun "Roman Catholic" (one belonging to the Catholic Church), which was coined approximately 1595-1605. Shortly thereafter came the verb "to Romanize" (to make someone a Catholic or to become a Catholic), which appeared around 1600-10. Then between 1665 and 1675 we got the noun "Romanism" (the system of Catholic beliefs and practices), and finally we got a late-comer term about 1815-1825-the noun "Roman Catholicism," which is a synonym for the earlier "Romanism."

A similar complex of insults arose around the term "pope." About 1515-25 the Anglicans coined the term "papist" and later its derivative "papism." A quick follow-up, in 1520-1530, was the adjective "popish." Next came "popery" (1525-1535), and then "papistry" (1540-1550), with its later derivatives, "papistical" and "papistic." (Source: Random House Webster's College Dictionary, 1995 ed.)

This complex of insults is revealing as it shows the depths of animosity English Protestants had toward the Church. No other religious body (perhaps no other group at all-even national or racial ones) has such a complex of insults woven into the English language as does the Catholic Church. Even today many Protestants who have no idea what the origin of the term is cannot bring themselves to say "Catholic" without qualifying it or replacing it with a Roman insult.

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