This is me, Eccles

This is me, Eccles
This is me, Eccles

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

How to address the clergy

If you are reading this blog, you probably encounter clergy on a regular basis - whether Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox, or something else - and indeed you may even be a person of the cloth. However, you may not be precisely sure how to address them, and how to treat them.

Deacon Brodie

A deacon or "Reverend Mister". Often he has a second job, e.g., burglar.

Deacons are customarily accorded the "Reverend" title, which means that they should be revered, or held in reverence. When two deacons meet, they say things like "Oh how I revere you!" or "No, I revere you more than you revere me!" Of course being a deacon doesn't make you immune to hypocrisy (you have to be a bishop to achieve that level of purity): I once knew one who had enough planks in his eyes to make an entire shed.

murder at the vicarage

Murder at the vicarage! All in a day's work for a priest!

So we come onto the priesthood, where again "reverence" is the appropriate reaction. Priests come across many sins in their daily round, of which murder is perhaps the most common. The priest above was an Anglican, but the same applies to Catholic priests, of course. Some (particularly the Catholic priests) are addressed as "Father". Not "Dad", not "Pop", just "Father".

Fr Brown

Fr Brown. (The raised umbrella on a dry day is a liturgical error.)

After that it gets complicated. There are lots of clergy with titles such as Canon Street, Metropolitan Line, Marble Archdeacon, etc. but I think we'll move straight on to Monsignor.

Ronald Knox

Mgr Ronald Knox. What is it about the clergy and crime?

These chaps used to be regarded as Very Reverend, or in some circumstances Right Reverend, but have now been downgraded to "Reverend". Since future Monsignors will have to be at least 105 years of age, it won't matter how you address them as they won't be able to hear you anyway.

the bishop murder case

Bishops, then...

You address a bishop as "My Lord", although they are also "Right Reverend". This shows that they are the bosses, are always right, and should obeyed under all circumstances. In return for your squirming in their presence, they undertake always to be loyal to the Pope, the Queen, the Magnificent Archdruid of the Luminous Feet, or whatever the big cheese in their church is called.

rolling stones

Four young members of the dissident group ACTA, turned away by a faithful bishop.

Archbishops are a bit more senior. I was told "Say 'Your Grace', Eccles, when you meet Archbishop Nichols," but the poor man looked disconcerted when I began "For what we are about to receive..." So this one is a mystery to me.


Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor ("His Eminence").

Cardinals are "His Eminence" or "Your Eminence". This is a bit of a come-down, really, as being "eminent" is less impressive than being "reverend", surely. It's not much better than just being a celebrity, like Eminem. Still, these are the princes of the Church, so should be regarded as eminent in the same way, as, say, Prince Harry.

pope and doves

A Pope, with birds of pray.

Popes are very busy men, asked to give many off-the-cuff newspaper interviews in addition to their ecclesiastical responsibilities. If you meet a pope - perhaps performing papal duties at your local bird sanctuary - call him "Your Holiness". This is to emphasise that he's not merely eminent, like a cardinal, but is in many ways a saved person. If he then says "Bless you!" it would be discourteous to point out that you didn't sneeze.


  1. Darling eccles, since Bosco says not to call anyone father, what did he call your father? :). Jess

    1. The unbelievable reality of Vatican II is that Bosco is not afr off the nutters who threw out the baby with the font.

      In 1993 in the Benedictine Abbey of St Michel de Cuxa, I began my confession, addressing the priest as "Father". He stopped me with exactly those words you quoted from Bosco:

      "Call no one father except your Father in heaven."

      Showing he missed the whole point of his vocation.

  2. Will ya? Will ya be my gurlfriend? That's a friend who's a girl. Will ya?

    1. yeaah. yous wants a gulfrend, right? but is you a boy who is a girl? cus if you is, I's know a boy who is a boy who's wants to be ya gul, right.

      Virago Femen. Ph.aD, Whymen? Stud. Theological Dept. Pontificul Lateral University.

  3. One way might be to write it like this
    The Rev, Fr O'Driscoll OMI
    The Vestry
    St Patrick's Church
    Devalera St.,
    Irish Republic

  4. Those 4 boys are from the St Louis Jesuits rock group. They wrote hymns like "Come to the Jagger"; "This Ronnie Wood"; "Watts you hear in the Dark"; "Like a Richard" and "My Stone Has Gone Away".

  5. Dear Don Rabbi Eccles,

    I hope you publish this. Here in Tunbridge Wells we are tired of seeing superficial nonsense from people such as Ferdinand Mass-Trousers, and I wish you to know that we are not all ACTA supporters here. (Or indeed pissed ignorant deacons in bad standing.)

    All Catholics used to know the simple rules about how to address priests and religious. No one dreamed of calling Fr Hunwicke “You Inflated Staggers Dinosaur,” or addressing Sister Wendy Beckett as “My Dear Arty Potboiler”

    Once everyone rose as a sign of respect when a priest or religious entered the room but then came Vatican II and most priests, brothers and sisters preferred to be addressed as “mate”, “you guys”, or just “pay up and get out, you don’t belong in a gay bar.”

    This was called embracing the “signs of the times.”

    In the spirit of degradation to the world, the habit and cassock were abandoned. Together with this, all signs of respect paid to the persons who wore them. Confusion set in: what do you call a priest in a pierrot suit who says, “Just call me Colin the clown”?

    Well, frankly, tosser.

    (Raising the standard of debate.)

  6. We must say, Master Eccles, your ecclesial ignorance is outstanding! We hereby offer you an honorary degree from Episscopus Eminentusstoes University.

    But if I may correct you on one or two totally dismissable points from the perspective of the current and raisins Pope:

    1. The Pont-in-a-tiff, is addressed: your most Kissable Sarastic Toeyiness.

    2. A Cardinal, is addressed: your most Kissable Seditious Purple.

    3. A Patriarch, is addressed: your most unKissable Buttidude.

    4. An Archbishop, is addressed: your most Kissable Streetcred Ringworminess.

    5. A Bishop: your most Bowat the Wasteable.

    6. A Monsignor: Reverend Father.

    7. A Priest: Reverend Father.

    8. All other male idenitying religious as, Bros.

    9. Female identified religious as: Phat Sistah, or Mothah Phat.

    We sincerely hope this helps.


    Phat Sistahz of the Rainbow C.M.,O.C.D.,P.C.,B.U.J,S.T.D.,D.S.S.,Episscopus Eminentusstoes University. Online D.I.Y.

    p.s. we would appreciate it if you wouldn't allow comments dissing Mr Mass-Trousers, our dear Motha Phat.