Some while ago an assemblage of the Great and the Good – including Justin Welby – produced a ‘A Pope Francis Lexicon’, outlining the meaning behind the Holy Father’s customary vocabulary. The following is intended as a modest sequel to an invaluable book
Synod: A quasi-democratic gathering of bishops whose primary purpose is to appear to discuss and agree position papers drafted by Papal appointees. Contentious changes in doctrine and morals can then be attributed, not to the Pontiff himself, but to the ‘mind of the Church’ – thus avoiding challenges from cardinals, theologians and others. Quasi-democratic bodies, however, have a disconcerting habit of exceeding their initial brief: consider the events of 1789.
Rigid: A term used to vilify a class of persons overly concerned to uphold minutiae of the moral law and niceties of doctrine. A useful test for ‘rigidity’ in a person is to consider his or her attitude to the provisions of the Decalogue. For example: it is NOT rigid to adhere strictly to the Sixth commandment (as witness the Holy Father himself), on the other hand it IS UNACCEPTABLY rigid to affirm the Seventh. The first four are considered rigid only in ecumenical and inter-faith contexts. There is no rigidity in upholding Eight, Nine and Ten, though rigid people may well show a sentimental attachment to Five.
Watch this space as these judgements may change without notice.
Neo-pelagian, neo-donatist etc: These are simply contentless terms of abuse, like sh*t and bu**er, but they have the added advantage of making the user sound learned and theological.
Clericalism: A tendency to exalt and cling to the clerical state. Victims of clericalism will show symptoms of addiction to elaborate clerical attire (white excluded). They will probably be ‘rigid’ (q.v.), be inclined to keep each other’s company and have more Latin than the rest of us. They are given to issuing ‘dubia’ and ‘testimonies’. They will evince an ’inward-looking’ view of the Church and may well celebrate Mass ad orientem. Clericalism is a known cause of child-abuse.
The Great Accuser: A blanket term for opponents, esp. a synonym for Carlo Maria Viganò (who should come out of hiding immediately and surrender himself to lawful authority… or it’s bell, book and candle for him).