Recently, Facebook updated its policy on user profile names. The bottom line is that Facebook will no longer allow for occupational prefixes to to be included in a person’s public name – a change that has some concerned.
This affects Catholics particularly because there are many priests, deacons, and religious in the ecosystem who currently have a profile name with a “Fr.” or “Sr.” or “Deacon” as part of their name. Many are objecting to this citing that the priesthood is not a mere occupation but is a sacramental reality, or that it is otherwise anti-Catholic. I don’t think that bill fits religious, but it’s a religious argument pinned up against a secular institution.
To me, it is a rather silly thing to change, but I don’t necessarily think this is anything alarming or any jab against religious freedom. To me, so long as they are consistent, this should not make too much of a fuss. For example, Facebook should make sure it enforces with the same intensity those with “Dr.” or “Ph.D” or “Pastor” or “M.D.” in their names. I would have a significant difficulty with Facebook if Catholic priests were not forced to drop the designation from their name, but allow, say, a senator to allow “Sen.” or “Senator so and so” to theirs. Equal application.
There’s another piece to this that some opponents don’t consider the significance of either: fake profiles.
There are a number of people who have been scammed by clever social media users into divulging information or creating friendships that are false and based on lies. Catholic’s should be concerned. Just today I saw that a religious sister I am friends with was tricked into becoming friends with someone who owned an account that purported to be that of a religious sister from another convent. Her realization of this foul lie troubled her greatly and I wondered how much worse the situation could have been.
Imagine a priest posting good messages on multiple faux accounts over a period of time, gaining thousands of friends, and one day asking for donations for some seemingly worthy cause. How shocking that would be! But that’s the trouble of the online world. I’ve never met 99% of the other bloggers out there, or their friends who from time to time *do* ask for a donation for some desperate matter. Jesus did not tell us to call the FBI before making friends but in the 21st century there are wolves lurking, as my nun-friend learned. Praise God it did not end worse!
This change from Facebook might be fair, and could be a very smart move if it is one that helps become a solution for today’s deceptive persons and identity theft. If that means that the rest of us have to give up a couple characters on our “names,” it’s worth it to me. I think too many people think Facebook is a tool that directly reflects reality. It’s doesn’t. Just because someone is “married” on Facebook doesn’t make it lawful, let along sacramental. Just the same, a priest, deacon, or doctor having to remove their prefix or other occupational title does not reduce their credentials and reality.