Blog Post

Priests Can’t Use “Fr” on Facebook

FrA Facebook rule that does not allow priests or religious to use their clerical titles on their personal pages has ignited a firestorm of protest from users.

The Washington Post is reporting on the policy, which has been in force for some time, but which came to light when the prominent DC Catholic priest, Monsignor Charles Pope, found himself locked out of Facebook because he was using his clerical title on his personal page. When he wrote about it, other priests spoke up to say they had the same experience in the past year, such as Father Michael Paris, chaplain at the University of Maryland, and Father Raymond Harris, a Baltimore priest with a popular online ministry. All have had their accounts locked in the past few weeks until they removed the clerical title from their names.

“Facebook’s policy bans 'titles of any kind' – including doctor, professor or president – from being included in your name on your personal page. Other communities have complained too, including Native Americans, drag queens and Irish people who use Gaelic names,” the Post reports.

The Facebook policy reads: “Facebook is a community where people use their authentic identities. We require people to provide the name they use in real life; that way, you always know who you’re connecting with. This helps keep our community safe,” the policy reads.

The policy does not require a user to use their legal name, however, which is why drag queens and other members of the LGBT community are permitted to do so.

Last year, Facebook issued an extensive apology to hundreds of LGBT users whose accounts were halted because of the name issue.

“I want to apologize to the affected community of drag queens, drag kings, transgender, and extensive community of our friends, neighbors, and members of the LGBT community for the hardship that we’ve put you through in dealing with your Facebook accounts over the past few weeks,” Cox wrote. “The spirit of our policy is that everyone on Facebook uses the authentic name they use in real life. For Sister Roma, that’s Sister Roma. For Lil Miss Hot Mess, that’s Lil Miss Hot Mess.”

But Father Raymond Harris says “Father Raymond Harris” IS the name he uses in real life so why can’t he use this on his Facebook page?

“On August 21, 2015, Facebook (FB) blocked me,” Father Harris wrote on his page. “They were concerned that ‘Father Raymond Harris’ isn't my everyday name. It's my everyday name. People usually do not call me, ‘Raymond Lee Harris, Jr.’ as stated on my driver's license."

He goes on to say, "I’m profoundly grateful for the baptismal name given by my parents. I’m also profoundly grateful that I’ve been ordained, which is something that I didn’t deserve. This isn’t an issue of advancing ‘clericalism’ but keeping others and myself aware of my ‘consecration.’ The ministerial priesthood isn't a career but a way of life. I don’t consider ‘Father Raymond Harris’ as a title like ‘Reverend’.”

To get around the rule, Father designed a large FR which he now uses as his photo so that the title will appear before his name.

While application of the rule does not appear to be discriminatory, this one-side-fits-all policy simply doesn’t fit all.

For instance, doctors do not always use their title outside of their practice, nor is being a doctor necessarily their personal identity. I know doctors who identify more with their sports activities or hobbies than with their profession.

But this is almost never the case with priests and religious sisters whose consecration is an integral part of their personal identity. Rather than earning their title from a university after completing the necessary studies, consecrated souls receive their title from their Creator, through the institution of the Church, and it becomes who they are.

This is why consecrated souls can’t leave the consecration behind when they go out to shoot a few hoops or work in the garden. The conferral of the sacrament of Holy Orders or the recitation of vows is like a permanent mark on the soul. From that moment on, it’s becomes who they are in the eyes of their Creator – a person consecrated to God.

As a result, a petition is underway to get Facebook to relax these rules for the consecrated.

It reads: “We respectfully ask for Facebook to rescind this rule and allow all Priests, Brothers, Nuns and preachers the right to display their titles & names as they are entitled to do in public. . . .These men and women have worked long and hard to earn their titles, and they should be allowed to be identified by their appropriate nomenclature.”

Since it was launched, it has garnered more than 17,000 signatures. Click here to add your voice!

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