ASK FATHER: Proper Form of Address for Former Cardinal McCarrick

From a reader…

Following the resignation of Cardinal McCarrick from the College of Cardinals, I have noted various articles that refer to him now as Mr McCarrick.

It occurs to me to wonder what the correct style would be in these circumstances for the former Cardinal. Presumably he remains (at least for the time being) within the estate of archbishop such that one would continue to use the style of ‘Your Grace’ or, I suppose, ‘Excellency’?

I guess so.

I think the style sheet of Hell’s Bible (aka NY Times) often uses “Mr” for just about everyone.  When will they finally embrace toleration and diversity and no longer harass the Masses with these choice-stifling patriarchal modes of oppression?!?

Anyway, how to address former Cardinal McCarrick….. How to address… him.

It sure as hell ain’t “Cardinal Emeritus”.  There’s nothing merited in that one.

How to address … McCarrick….

Lemme see.

How about… “Hey, you!”

Perhaps with a jab of the finger.  Rather… a finger.  A finger-jab.

If you are from S. Philly, S. Boston, or S. Bronx you might try a fervent, “Hey, a******!”  See also finger comment, above.

There is also, I believe, a special greeting sound called the Raspberry (aka Bronx Cheer).   That might work.  If it’s good enough for the Fishwrap, after all, its good enough for him.

If you are from more reticent places, such as Minnesota or Wisconsin, “Ummm, excuse me…?”, might be widely understood, though – as I think about it – also not merited.

For me, however, the best bet would be not to address him at all.  Perhaps a cold and still stare?  People who know me well, well know the stare I’m talking about.

Unless it is in the confessional.  Then I would have a few more things to say.  And, thanks be to God, I’d be behind a grate… for his sake.

In any event, did you know that the index finger was called in Latin by our ancient forebears the digitus salutaris?  The Salutary Finger?  Salute Finger?  Ancient Romans held up their index fingers when greeting people. I believe that in modern usage, at least on roadways, a different finger is more commonly employed.

I’d recommend a return to the use of the digitus salutaris, at least among frequenters of the Traditional Latin Mass.   Be sure that your visitors don’t mistake what is being done.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. benedetta says:

    What I would like to know, and I think I have a right as laity to know, especially given the situation, at this point, is, how did he attain the rank in the first place? What was the behind the scenes process, in other words. Who spoke up on his behalf and urged that it be so. Especially given what was more or less already known. What was the timeline and who was involved. I would like names. I think we are entitled. I don’t think people involved should be able to hide behind some cloak of process here. What happened that the rampant rumor and knowledge was somehow set aside, and other, more deserving prelates, discounted from elevation?

    [This not really part of the topic of the post.]

  2. mcferran says:

    Judging by newspaper reports (since I have no personal knowledge of this situation) it would seem that His Excellency the Most Reverend Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, D.C., [That would be it.] has not always acted with appropriate human dignity. But that is no reason not to treat him with the human dignity which all of us have been given by Almighty God. Satan desires that we not treat others with human dignity (and that we call each other all sorts of nasty names). We shouldn’t let Satan win. [The rest is a little off topic. ]

  3. Fr_Andrew says:

    Perhaps “Cardinal Demeritus” ?

    [Pretty good!]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  4. Imrahil says:

    “His Excellency (or Grace) the Most Reverend Archbishop emeritus of Washington”.

    And then let’s wait for the due process. If it ends in defrocking (it seems unlikely, but if the accusations prove true, why shouldn’t it – at the least and among other punishments), then will be the time to call him Mr McCarrick (still remembering the validity of the sacramental character, of course).

    [Excuse me if that should turn out a double comment. The first one seems to have disappeared due to technical problems.]

  5. frjimt says:

    Read fr Gordon McRae in “these stone walls” blog.. A priest unjustly accused, sentenced & abandoned by his ‘mitre’
    Or perhaps Msgr Bill Lynn, of philadelphia, thrown under the ‘bus’ by +cullen of Allentown..
    They were/are called: Prisoner #*****…
    That’s the way Ted & his “gang” :Chicago, Newark & Wash cardinals, as well as Farrel in Rome.. Should all be addressed…
    And Holy Mother Church will be better off for it..
    Bernardino was right: a cardinal will go to prison, but not for the Gospel of Christ.

  6. mepoindexter says:

    In a manual of style perhaps “Disgraced former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick” and thereafter simply “Mr McCarrick”.

  7. Chuck Ludd says:

    I understand the emotion but…

    “I thank God every day that I belong to a Church which was established for sinners, and not for the perfect.” — Fr. Z.

  8. James in Perth says:

    I assume that ordination to each of the three holy orders (deacon, priest, and bishop) leaves an indelible mark on the individual. So, for the time being, he is still a retired archbishop and we should use whatever form of address applies to such an individual.
    If the canonical tribunal recommends a punishment (laicization, penitential isolation, public degradation a la Dreyfus), then we will reconsider!

  9. Ages says:

    Fear not, Chuck. The man can stay in the church—as a layman, repenting of his sins through public acts of penitence such as kneeling at the door of the church, begging for forgiveness. He can be communed on his deathbed, but be a weeper until then.

    That’s how the early church dealt with such things.

  10. Chris in Maryland 2 says:


    Thank you…that is…to paraphrase St. Paul…”the most excellent way.”

  11. robtbrown says:

    McFerran says,

    has not always acted with appropriate human dignity. But that is no reason not to treat him with the human dignity which all of us have been given by Almighty God. Satan desires that we not treat others with human dignity (and that we call each other all sorts of nasty names). We shouldn’t let Satan win.

    Actually, your suggestion has been the MO of the Montini Church up to the present time, and it has produced the likes of McKarrick.

    The concept of mortification and penance has all but been lost. The Sacrament of Penance is sadly now referred to as the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which takes on a smarmy hue.

    The difficulty of the mortification (which can include humiliation) is proportionate to the seriousness of the sin. The acts attributed to McK are not merely sodomy (of the sexual sins, only second to bestiality and necrophilia), they are sacrileges because he’s in Holy Orders.

    Because of his position the penance McK should also be to discourage others.

  12. Imrahil says:

    Dear robtbrown,

    while you may be right with your criticism of what you think McFerran implies, and what perhaps McFerran does imply, obviously what McFerran writes is quite undisputably the truth such as it stands there.

    We always have to honor the human dignity even in those who we punish… as the judges imply when they finish their sentence with the words “hanged by the neck until dead; and may God have mercy on his soul”.

    Which is, among other things, why Archbishop McCarrick is, for now, a defendant in a canonical case accused of very grave crimes; and still “Archbishop McCarrick” for us until the situation changes.

  13. Simon_GNR says:

    I’d think it should be “Bishop McCarrick”. In the disgraced state he is in he surely cannot take the honorary title of Archbishop Emeritus of Washington. He was, however ordained a bishop, and he has not (yet) been laicized, so he remains Bishop McCarrick. He has no bishopric but he remains a bishop.

  14. Imrahil says:

    Dear Simon_GNR,

    one of the problems with the resignationism of modern times is that it so often serves to shy away from the harsh decision whether to put someone into disgrace or into honor. So, right now he is an Archbishop who was once a Cardinal and subsequently offered his resignation, which was accepted. Thus, alas, the responsible tribunal loses the satisfaction of throwing him noisily in disgrace out of the Cardinal’s college (though they still have other satisfactions to go with). Which is why I’d had thought it still better if his Cardinalatial dignity had only been suspended until the process was finished; if the Pope had said “if you lose the Cardinaltial dignity for this, it is going to be my punishment; it will not have to do anything with the acceptance of an offer you make”. But then, what we do have is not so bad either.

    So, he is not in disgrace yet; [Oh, I think he is.] and also, let’s face it, “emeritus” is little more than the customary phrase for “the former” where bishops and university professors are concerned.

  15. Gregg the Obscure says:

    Being that I have the stereotypical Saxon proclivity to wrath via my maternal grandfather, I blanche at the thought of my reaction to seeing “uncle Ted”

  16. robtbrown says:


    Have you ever been to La Verna? You can see the caves where St Francis and companions lived and the ledges on which they slept. Do they honor human dignity? Hardly.

    Do you know what Army Rangers go through in training? Or Navy Seals? Do their exercises honor human dignity? I don’t think so.

    Are you aware of the training necessary to be a neurosurgeon? It’s anything but an honor to human dignity.

    Have you ever run wind sprints until you throw up? And do the same at least three times a week? Hardly honoring human dignity.

    Mortification is necessary for all because of Original Sin, Personal Sin, and the infinite superelevation of man’s Last End. We’ve lost the idea of mortification. How many people abstain on Fridays? Not many.

    Saints are said to receive not only enough grace for their own salvation but also for others. What McCarrick did not only destroyed his own life but also injured the faith of many others. I remember when the first priest scandal broke in the US in Lafayette, La. The parents of the victim refused to keep quiet and sued. Their lawyer (Lafayette is very Catholic) said afterwards that he would never set foot in a Catholic church again.

    So the punishment of McC must not only be for his sins but also as a deterent for other clerics (incl bishops). As far as I am concerned, no punishment would be too severe. Last night, I spoke with a friend of 60+ years, a cleric now retired and former prof of moral theology. We agreed that an appropriate punishment for McC would be to pillory him, so that passing people can throw rocks at him and vinegar on his face. Dropping him in the Mojave desert might be another idea.

    It will be interesting to see whether this changes the pope, whose partner in crime Maradiaga (the prince of airport bishops) now has serious problems.

  17. Imrahil says:

    Dear robtbrown,

    1. I haven’t actually seen them, but they honor human dignity, and the harder they are, the more do they do so, especially seeing that they went out to do this penance of their own free-will.

    2. I do not precisely, having been just a normal mechanized infantryman in the IFV backside. (I wonder why people always seem to think that only Special Forces are soldiers.) But the military obviously has all sorts of traditions, and it is really easy to draw a line here: some of what you might possibly mean, and I think the lesser part, consists of young boys bullying even younger boys out of a mistaken boyish belief that to be suchlike would mean to be a soldier. That violates human dignity (even if mostly in an almost negligible manner); also, coincidentally, it is of zero military value. Every decently-trained officer will treat his subleaders who engage in such behaviour as the naughty boys (or, rarely, worse) they are.

    But then, the greater part consists of drilling people to the hardest degree possible, training them into physical strength, and so forth. That is the part that is of actual militarily; also, coincidentally, it does not dishonor human dignity. What would dishonor human dignity (in slight measure) were not to do so.

    3. No, I am not aware of the training to be a neuro-surgeon, that is: at all. I can only say that if it really did violate human dignity, then a good Catholic society, if we had it, would have to go without neuro-surgeons and let the respective diseases run their course. If, on the other hand, as I imply from the context of your other examples, you merely mean “it is laborious work to learn it”, then that is not “anything but an honor”, but a great honor for human dignity.

    4. Let us, again, put in some distinction here. As for throwing up, to train oneself (we are not talking about imminent enemy attack) unto that point on purpose is actually problematic with the virtue of moderation and is, at best, in the words of Msgr Knox on a similar point, “a pardonable excentricity, [which however] has nothing to do with Catholicism”.

    As for the rest, the good training in fitness and sportsmanship, including unto exhaustion, I can only say that I have to admit that I do not honor my own human dignity to such a degree at present. (See where I am going with this?)

    5. You seem to think that mortification and human dignity are somehow opposites. That is not the case. Though I am actually rather pleased that the “mere gesture” (to quote Msgr Knox again) of not eating meat on Friday, something that even I manage to do (when not visiting family or the like), counts as a mortification at all.

    6. That part is, however, punishment and not strictly speaking penance, which is why the punishment is imposed by a tribunal (in this case, I guess, the Pope in person or the judges appointed by specific decree), not the Confessor. If Archbishop McCarrick is repentant (assuming, again, that he actually did what he is accused if), then he undergo the punishment in a spirit of penance, and that is that. (Hairsplitting point. I do not disagree in the main, I only disagree that this would amount to “treating him with human dignity”.)

    7. There’s another chance to draw a fine line with what is and what is not opposed by human dignity.

    So, I specifically find it un-Christian to have a pillory with rocks. I do not say that it is in all cases damnable to condemn a man to death by stoning; but I do say that if we want to exercise justice through death by stoning, we owe the perpetrator – because he is a human being, after all, and yes, has human dignity – at least the “common courtesy”, to quote a military movie, to hand him a death sentence that condemns him to death by stoning explicitly and without minced words. The Pillory is quite imaginable as a punishment, but only with precaution that it is not fatal (though I wouldn’t be sure whether a prison sentence would not then be harder); and not because it would then capital punishment (the Church’s dissuasion of which is on a much lower level and much more circumstance-dependent), but precisely because it would kill the man without even having the decency to openly be capital punishment. “If we must kill him, we must kill him outright” (Frodo about Gollum).

    (Seeing that I come from a state which has made this concept called “human dignity”, which really is a Christian doctrine, its own undisputed secular core principle, I had better explain what it actually means.)

  18. Arthur McGowan says:

    Seeing one of those photos of Bergoglio going to confession in St. Peter’s, I realized what I would be compelled to say if I were one of those priests: “I cannot give you absolution until you have resigned the papacy.”

    I am dead serious.

  19. jflare29 says:

    If I’m reading another post correctly, this particular man may no longer hold an office with a ministry in the Church. I guess “Bishop McCarrick” would not apply.

    Until he should be laicized then, he still holds the rank of ordained priest, doesn’t he? I should think “Father McCarrick” would then be most appropriate.
    ….with apologies to all properly ordained and ministering priests.

  20. JerseyGirl says:

    How about your Ex-excellency?

    This one hits home. Beach house was a few blocks from us. Local priests and Bishop who often talk about immigration and not separating families have not said or written anything about it yet. Not only did his actions apparently cause some to abandon the Church, as a convert it has created a barrier to bring others into the Church, including close family members. Talk about separating families!

  21. Pingback: McCarrick Watch: VVednesday Edition – Big Pulpit

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