Posts Tagged ‘How to Address Clergy’

Frequently I hear TV journalists address clergymen as ‘Reverend Smith” or simply as ‘Reverend’.  I think these are incorrect.  Am I wrong?
       — BH in Maryland

Dear BH,
Here’s what the standard in formal communications.  In writing use:
  The Reverend (Full Name)
  The Reverend Bennett Smith
      The conversational form (and what you use in a salutation) is:
 Pastor/Father/Dr./etc. (Surname)
  Pastor Smith | Father Smith | Dr. Smith | etc.
      Since not all communication is formal. If you are on the equivalent of being on a first-name basis.– the familiar, informal, version is often:
 Pastor/Father/Dr. (Given name)
    Pastor Bennett | Father Bennett | Dr. Bennett | etc.
What about Rev. (Name)?
“Rev.” is a shorthand version of “The Reverend”.  And indeed Rev. (Name) is the preference of some, but not all, clergy. Therefore use it when you know it is their preference.  If you don’t know their preference – ask.  Asking is always appropriate.
When Rev. is the preference rather than Pastor/Father/Dr./etc., use Rev. conversation and in a salutation. But in writing use the standard formal form – the Reverend (Full Name).
— Robert Hickey 


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How do you address a former pope of the Roman Catholic Church? I bet you never considered that!
          — B. E. in Georgia

Dear B.E.,
It’s less that I have not considered it, than the Roman Catholic Church didn’t have a formal style for how to address a retired pope in it’s modern literature.
I don’t define how anyone is addressed … I just keep track of how current organizations address their current and former officials – so those of us outside their domain can address them correctly.
Now they’ve established there can be a former office holder.
Some would have guessed that Pope Benedict would return to the form of address to which he was entitled before assuming office — cardinal. There are already retired former office holders at that level. Having a retired cardinal addressed in the same way as current cardinals presents no confusion, since being a cardinal is not a singular (only-one-office-holder-at-a-time) position.

* For example, when Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands abdicated the throne to her son Willem-Alexander in 2013, she returned to the form of address to which she was entitled prior to taking office: Princess.

However, In the UK, “Queen Elizabeth” – the Queen Mother (Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother was the mother of Queen Elizabeth II, the present British sovereign, and the widow of King George VI) continued to be addressed as Your Majesty when her daughter assumed the throne without much mishap.

These situations are, of course, a bit different, but they are modern examples of how other hierarchies dealt with titles of office holders.
       — Robert Hickey 

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How should a pastor go about signing his or her name?  I’m wondering whether I should be signing my name as “Rev. (Full Name),” “(Full Name), Pastor,” or ” Pastor (Full Name).”
     — DPM

Dear DPM,
When you say signing your name …. well, actually we just sign our names as … our name.
I never sign Mr. Robert Hickey …. I just sign Robert Hickey.
Physicians don’t sign their prescriptions (if you can read their signature) as Dr. (Name), they sign as (Full Name).  Full Name, MD appears in writing on the form, so they don’t need to include MD in their signature.  Even the President of the United States just signs his name to correspondence.
So, it would be odd to give yourself an “honorific” when you sign your own name.
Formally in writing your name is written (e.g., on the letter for you to sign above, in the weekly bulletin, or a sign outside your church} as:
   The Reverend (Full Name)  or
              The Reverend (Full Name), Pastor
In up to you to let others know how you like to be addressed in conversation or a salutation — Rev. (Name), Pastor (Name) etc..  So if you prefer pastor, a salutation would be:
    Dear Pastor (Surname).
       — Robert Hickey

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Dear Mr. Hickey.
I will be meeting the Pope. If I introduce him, would you say, “May I introduce the Holy Father, Pope Francis” or would you say, “May I present His Holiness” and not use Francis in the introduction?
~ Meeting the Pope

Dear Meeting the Pope:
(All this is covered on page 282 in my book.)
The Holy Father is so high he is never introduced to anyone: individuals are presented to The Holy Father. He requires no introduction: anyone about to meet the Pope already knows who he is. Rather he is announced …. as he enters a room an aide says so all can hear  “His Holiness” … and that’s it.
It is more likely you, are any of the rest of us, will be introduced to the Pope. In that case the introducer would say “Your Holiness may I present (name of the other person).”
As to whether his name is ever used: Neither you, I, nor anyone else ever will call him Francis … he is addressed in conversation as “Your Holiness.” So that’s how you will reply to your introduction.
This not using the name is also the rule for other very high officials.  For example, the Queen of the United Kingdom is never addressed as Queen Elizabeth… she is always addressed as “Your Majesty”
 — Robert Hickey    http://www.formsofaddress.info/faq.html

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How do I address my (Roman Catholic) bishop? Is he Your Excellency? Are there more and less formal forms of correct address?
~ Barbara Montgomery

I taught catechism for years and when the kids prepared for a visit by the Bishop for confirmation they were always told to say Your Excellency or Bishop (Name).
~ P.D.

Dear P.D. and Ms. Montgomery:
In conversation it’s correct to call the bishop Bishop (Surname).
A Roman Catholic bishop is not an Excellency — he’s a Most Reverend. So when you address an envelope, write The Most Reverend (full name) and on the second line Bishop of (diocese).
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops suggests to address bishops with the courtesy title the Most Reverend.  See how they list their member bishops ON THIS PAGE … their advice makes sense.
Excellency is the courtesy title used with the accredited representative (ambassador) of one head-of-state to another head-of-state. The term was invented and established at the Conference of Vienna in 1814 for that purpose
So a papal nuncio … the accredited representative from His Holiness to a foreign head-of-state is addressed as His/Your Excellency … because he holds the rank of ambassador.
It is not used correctly when addressing bishops in general.
– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

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How would Catholic priests address each other in correspondence? Especially if they were in seminary together. Would they be casual as two non-religious friends calling each other by their first names? Might they call each other ‘brother’? I am writing a story and wish to be accurate in the manner in which priests would write letters to each other in the early 1980’s. They are friends from seminary school who have become priests with placements in different parts of the world.
— Carole Schaeffer

Dear Ms. Schaeffer:
       If they were on a first name basis … they would address one another by first names … Bob and Bill
      It’s not any different than two doctors who knew one another in medical school.
      However, if they were later on different hierarchical levels …. then that might change things.
      E.g., if Bob had become the Pope, them Bill would probably address him asYour Holiness unless Bob said …. “Oh Bill, call me Bob like you always have.”

– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

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How do you address an Episcopal Deacon in the U.S. who is also an attorney?  In The Episcopal Diocese of Kentucky, deacons are normally addressed, “The Rev. ABCD.”  Deacons who have a PhD are addressed, “ The Rev. Dr. ABCD.”  Normally an attorney will not use “Dr.,” but will use “Esquire” or Esq.” as a post nominal title.  Can you advise?  This would be for an written address.  Thank you.
— H. Engle

Dear H. Engle:
The rule is that if one has a courtesy title … you don’t get anything after the name.
So if you put “The Reverend”  “The Very     Reverend” “The Most Reverend”  “The Honorable” “Your Excellency” before a name … they don’t get anything after their name.
Many members of Congress are JD’s  …. but none are:
  The Honorable (full name), JD  
They are simply:
   The Honorable (full name)
   So a deacon who you are addressing as a deacon is
   The Reverend (full name)
If you are addressing him as an attorney at his law office address the envelope as:
  (Full Name), Esq.
You suggest that “The Reverend Dr. (Full Name)” is typical.
I’d say I see it now and then, but actually is what called the “compound form” … a  form based on the British style (and the German’s do it too) in which one includes everything to which one is entitled. Your full name basically being your resume. For example an accomplished person might end up with:
   His Excellency The Right Reverend General Dr. Sir (Full name), CBE
In the USA we use a simplified form in which we only use what’s pertinent to the conversation.  So military doctors are never Captain Dr. (Name)  …… Senators are neverSenator Dr. (name) ….. Mayors are never The Honorable Dr. (full name).  You would see all of those if you follow the British style.
I see the compound forms most typically in the USA among Episcopalians … who are probably using British etiquette books.  I am not saying they are wrong … but its a form that is not consistent with what’s done in forms of address used in other organizations in the United States. That form would be:
The Reverend (Full Name) 
on the envelope or letter’s address block. And he or she held a doctorate it would be
Dr. (Surname)
– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

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