How do you address a Catholic Archbishop informally? (need answer fast)

I’ve googled this, but looking for precedents to not use the correct, formal answer.

We’re having an event today (in about two hours) where the Archbishop is coming to dedicate a building. Prayers, sprinkle holy water, read the gospel-- the whole shebang. It will be a very informal outdoor event. There will be about 100 people attending, many of them greeting him, shaking hands, getting their picture taken, etc.

Googled answers say to address him as Your Grace or Your Excellency… which I’m sure is the strictly correct, formal answer. Would it be okay to call him “Father”? Would that be a huge social gaffe resulting in being condemned to the fires of etiquette hell (even for us non-Catholics who don’t believe in hell)?

Are you hosting the event?

If I was there, but not hosting the event, I’d call him Mike.

Assuming his name was Mike.

Ok, ok. What’s wrong with “Archbishop Smith”?

It’s not wrong, but you usually wouldn’t call the Chief of Patrol Division “Officer,” even though he is, in fact, a police officer. He’d be “Chief Cartwright,” or “Captain Cartwright,” or whatever title his department uses for a division chief.

Unless you’re outside the United States, in which case different customs might apply, your initial address to an archbishop should be “Your Excellency,” and in subsequent conversation “Bishop,” as opposed to “Father.” Again: it’s not incorrect to call him “Father,” but it’s more correct to call him “Bishop.”

“Wotcher Bish!”

This is kind of what I was thinking.

I’m not hosting the event. It’s a non-profit organization; I’m on the staff that is organizing the event. I probably won’t even meet him.


I see no reason why a non-catholic should feel obligated to call him “Your Excellency”.

There are those who call him… Tim.

You see, this sort of answer is not helpful.

Okay, leaving for the event. Thanks for the replies. :slight_smile:

For the same general reason that a non-Mexican would call Enrique Peña Nieto “President,” and a person would refer to Charles as “Prince,” even if they’re not a citizen of the UK and Drew Faust “President” even if not a student at Harvard.

Polite society recognizes the titles and forms of address conferred by institutions that polite society recognizes as legitimate. “Legitimate,” in this case, does not imply an acceptance of the theological structures but simply of the long-standing, wide-spread social presence of the conferring organization – especially when the individual is the guest of honor at the social event in question.

I agree which is why I think it’s perfectly appropriate for a non-catholic to refer to a hypothetical bishop or archbishop as Bishop [name].

A non-catholic should not feel obligated to refer to a bishop or archbishop as “Your Excellency” any more than a non-muslim should feel obligated to append pbuh after mentions of Muhammad.

Bullshit…I’ll call him “Bishop”, because he’s a Bishop. Nieto is a President, and Charles is a Prince. The Bishop is a Bishop and I have no problem addressing him as such, but “Excellency” shouldn’t be expected from a non-catholic.

So you also wouldn’t address Chuck as “your Highness”, or expect me to address your President as “sir”?

You don’t see a difference between calling someone “sir” and referring on an individual as “Excellency” based upon his status in a religious organization?

I don’t see what would be wrong with calling Prince Charles “sir” or even…gasp…“Prince Charles”. And “sir” isn’t an honorary title for our president. “President” is his title. And you’d be fine just calling him “Mr.”. Anyway, “Your Excellency” isn’t a title, it’s an ecclesiastical address, and pretty damned formal. He’s not going to be offended if you just call him Bishop Smith.

‘Bob’, unless his name is ‘James’.


Cue Angela (theme from Taxi)

And the first things that actually popped in to my head was the theme from Hill Street Blues.

So I’m going to go ahead and blame you for getting that stuck in my head for the rest of the day. Your Excellency.

I would be put off by heartily plain man of the soil, addressing someone by their job title — ‘How do you do, Bishop ?’, ‘Good Evening, President’, ‘Hullo, Carpenter’ — which is why these formalities, such as Your Grace, Excellency, Altesse were invented.
Of course, American presidents like to be called Mr. President, and government ministers in other countries are called Minister etc. to their faces, but in those cases that is the formality. And implies no respect needed whatsoever, just politeness in using recognised forms.

Of course it’s polite. But it IS simply referring to them by their position.

“Grace”, “Excellency”…those are not simply titles of position or everyday formalities. They are adjectives if you will, indicating a person is uniquely favored by a diety or exceptionally pure or holy.

I’ve known two Austin bishops. I asked one of them what the formal address was, and he told me, “Oh… I can never remember that myself.” He was perfectly happy to be addressed as “Bishop,” but answered to “Your Eminence” oir “Your Excellency” or anything else that was respectful.

Point being, unless the bishop is a real jerk, he WON’T be looking for an excuse to lecture you on the proper form of address. If you address him as “Bishop Jones,” he’ll probably be fine with that.