Facebook knows better, even when it’s your name

fb-unlikeIs Facebook going too far by demanding you stick to their rules regarding your name? Over the past months I have seen more than a few people being forced to change the name they use on the social media network, because they are Catholic priests or religious who include their title (Father, Deacon, Brother or Monsignor) in their name on Facebook. The most recent example is noted blogging priest Msgr. Charles Pope, who was locked out of his account and asked to submit multiple pieces of evidence that he is really called that. Or, as Facebook’s rules have it, that that is the name people know him by. It need not be one’s official name, then.

Deacon Greg Kandra, himself a victim of the Facebook name policy, has more details.

Msgr. Pope refuses to accept Facebook’s demands, but others have changed their name, removing the Father, Deacon or Brother from their name, despite the fact that people know them as Father X, Deacon Y or Brother Z.

Facebook, as an independent company, has of course every right to make its own rules. But that does not make them right. The basic rule that people should use their own name(s) is logical, but also very limited. As Deacon Greg points out, Native American users run into the same problems as Catholic priests and religious, and also see their names judged to be not their real ones. The case of a man named Oglala Lakota Brown Eyes who Facebook decided should be called Lance Brown is particularly striking… The entire process of deciding which names are real and which are not seems quite arbitrary and limited.

But, even despite this, the titles of priests and religious are not exactly that. Unlike, say, a doctor, a priest’s title of Father indicates not a profession, but a state of being. This state of being began with his ordination and is forever. Sure, some priests may choose not to use their title, but many do, and rightly say that that is how people know them and relate to them, as Father X (or Deacon Y or Brother Z, as the case may be).

Facebook has a concern for their users’ conduct which may be justified, but goes about it in a heavy-handed, even insulting way for those involved (as, for example, the burden of proof lies with them, not with whoever decides that a name may be inaccurate or even false).

The chronology of Easter

In his blog, Msgr. Charles Pope presents an interesting chronology of Easter: from the discovery of the empty tomb to the Ascension, Msgr. Pope takes the descriptions of events in the Gospels and makes an attempt to work them into a “sequence of the Resurrection events”. It’s an interesting attempt which, in my opinion, helps to ground the often miraculous, but also very human, events that we read in the Bible in the reality of every day. Or at least in the reality of the Apostles after the crucifixion of the Lord.

Msgr. Pope writes the following about his intentions with this chronological sequence:

“So here is a possible and, if I do say so myself, likely chronological sequence of the resurrection appearances. It is a kind of synthesis that attempts to collect all the data and present it in a logical order. There are limits to what we can expect of the Scriptural account, and fitting perfectly into a time frame and logical sequence is not what the texts primarily propose to do. Yet such a chronological sequence can prove helpful and it is in that spirit that I present this.”

The Gospels, and the entire Bible at that, are not primarily history books. But they do describe things that happened at a specific time and place, and so we can try and find that time and place and take from it what may be helpful in our spiritual life. Christ is, after all, not some fairy tale figure who exists purely in our imagination or in some vague place that exists ‘somewhere out there’. No, He became man, became part of us and our history. It is sometimes good to consider Him in such physical and earthly ways, because God chose to close the gap between us and Him through His Son.

Art credit: “The women going to the sepulchre”, by Robert Anning Bell, 1912