If one gets a full fledged dictionary there is usually a section on formal writing which includes the accepted diplomatic titles that are used in writing papers, correspondence etc. This will give the appropriate titles that are used in educational settings, diplomatic activities, and polite society when addressing Clergy of various denominations including the Rioman Catholic Pope.
And which of these full-fledged dictionaries advises an educated writer to refer to the Pope of Rome as "the Holy Father"? It's been a few years since my days as a journalist, but I am quite sure that The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law
advises no such thing, nor does Follett's Modern American Usage
and certainly not the estimable A Dictionary of Modern English Usage
by H.W. Fowler. For that matter, I am fairly sure that neither does The Chicago Manual of Style
, and I would be rather surprised if Webster's Third New International Dictionary
recommends any such thing in its style guide (although I'm sure that the dictionary itself has an entry under "Holy Father" for definitional purposes).
Is Holy Father even an official title of the Pope, or is it simply a popular term of endearment, which pious Roman Catholics use to refer to the Pontifex Maximus
? (Or must I follow style guide stipulations and write "Supreme Pontiff"? No foreign language phrases allowed, ya know, especially if they are in Latin.)
P.S. Fowler, ever perspicacious, has this to say in his entry on Titles (I think this situation is analagous and the principle is certainly applicable):
A curious & regrettable change has come about in the last twenty or thirty years. Whereas we used, except on formal occasions, to talk & write of Lord Salisbury, Lord Derby, Lord Palmertson, & to be very sparing of the prefixes Marquis, Earl, & Viscount, the newspapers are now full of Marquis Curzon, Earl Beatty, Viscount Rothermore, & similarly Marchioness this & Countess that have replaced the Lady that used to be good enough for ordinary wear...our adoption of the fashion is more remarkable than pleasing.
Indeed, all the English usage guides in my little library call for one to write about "Pope Benedict XVI," but to otherwise write about the "pope," who decided to give a homily in St. Peter's Square yesterday. Any other fashionable trends in diction are more remarkable than pleasing.
Or, in this case, more a matter of popular Roman Catholic piety?