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typography from below

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Jul 07, 2005

Vision Book Cover Prints

In last week's column, the NCR's John Allen discusses, quite sympathetically, then-Cardinal Ratzinger's book The Europe of Benedict in the Crisis of Cultures. This quotation caught my eye:

"Before long it won't be possible to affirm that homosexuality, as the Catholic church teaches, constitutes an objective disorder in the structuring of human existence," [Ratzinger] writes. "And the fact that the church is convinced that it does not have the right to bestow priestly ordination on women is considered, by some, to be irreconcilable with the spirit of the European constitution."

What amused me here is the rigidity of the NCR's politically more-correct-than-thou style-sheet, which obviously forbids capitalizing the initial "c" of "church," even when it functions as a proper noun (this isn't Allen's own doing; it's de rigueur in the NCR) -- a bewilderingly stupid and retrograde affectation, since, ideology apart, it increases semantic confusion instead of reducing it. Ratzinger's original text wouldn't decide matters in this instance, since by the conventions of German orthography all nouns, common or proper, get an initial capital. Still, there's little doubt he'd have no sympathy for these typographical shibboleths, especially in the service of low church Leftist neuroticism. That the NCR should insist on painting its own colors over Ratzinger's prose is an act of parochialism as obtuse as changing "negro" to "African-American" in the speeches of Jefferson Davis.

That said, the NCR at least is an independent entity, with no connection to the Catholic Church beyond the adjective it retains on its masthead, and its goofiness in this regard is a self-inflicted wound. More bizarre and inexplicable is the fact the USCCB's Office of Communications, including the Catholic News Service, adheres to a style-sheet that is almost as flaky. Neither individually nor collectively can the cardinals, archbishops, and bishops of the United States summon the clout to bring about the appearance of "the Church" in official publications, even when the reference is unambiguously to the Catholic Church. Perhaps Sister Sharon Euart wrote the machine-language code for their spell-check software and they haven't figured out how to change it. Taking an example at random, I find at least sixteen instances of "church" in this CNS story where CWN -- or Moscow's Patrice Lumumba University, for that matter -- would have printed "Church." It's not an insuperable obstacle -- as when listening to a person with a speech impediment, one learns to correct the defect more or less automatically -- but it would be gratifying to cure the disease that produces the blemish in the first place.

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