The PJ Tatler

Facebook Tells Monsignor to Drop Title or Lose Site (Video)

Facebook is notoriously sensitive to a wide spectrum of “gender identities” and is eager to accommodate users wherever they see themselves on the spectrum.

Facebook now includes nearly 60 new custom options for genders, including: Gender Variant, Genderqueer, Intersex, Neither, Neutrois, Non-binary, Two-Spirit, and Other.

But Facebook is not sensitive to titles. Especially religious ones, as a Washington, D.C., area priest recently discovered.

Msgr. Charles Pope, a well-known blogger and writer in the Archdiocese of Washington, has been blocked from Facebook for using the title of monsignor on his personal-site profile.

Via Fox News:

Monsignor Charles Pope has held his title in the Catholic Church for 10 years.

“More people call me ‘Monsignor’ than call me ‘Charles,’” the soft-spoken Washington, D.C.-area priest told FoxNews.com on Thursday.

So Pope was perplexed earlier this week when Facebook informed him, after six years using the social-networking service, that they didn’t think he was using his real name.

“I thought it was a scam,” Pope said.

It wasn’t.

Facebook’s policy is to not allow titles on personal site profiles, a spokesman explained, something that goes for religious figures just as much as for politicians and celebrities. There is more flexibility for a Facebook “page.”

If  Facebook’s policy is to not allow titles, the company should enforce that rule evenly. It doesn’t. A quick Facebook search using the titles “Father,” “Monsignor,” “Reverend,” and “Rabbi” brings up scores of individuals with religious titles — many of whom have personal sites.

“I thought, this is a strange abuse of power – and why should they care?” said Pope, who is assigned to Holy Comforter St. Cyprian Parish. “‘Monsignor Charles Pope’ is the name I routinely go by. I’m a priest and I’m always called ‘Monsignor’ or ‘Father.’ This is the name I go by.”

Pope had been on the site with his title for a number of years, and said he sees other Christian, Jewish and Muslim figures use their titles on their personal profiles. While he said he doesn’t believe he’s being singled out for his religious beliefs, it does appear someone has personally flagged his profile. Facebook would only initiate a name change such as the one that happened to Pope if another user reported the breach of the site’s “community standards.”

“Facebook is entitled to do whatever they want,” Pope said. “I just think it’s incredibly foolish on their part to try and treat people this way. I can understand if people have something ugly or nefarious or scurrilous in their name.”

Deacon Greg Kandra, of the popular Catholic blog The Deacon’s Bench, said the same thing happened to him last February.

I tried to sign in again, again using my three-name ID—Deacon Greg Kandra—and again the little box popped up saying, in effect, “No. Change it.” The box offered an unhelpful link to the Facebook name policy page.

So I changed it. It seemed easier than fighting with Facebook about it. Which is why my FB friends will now see me as “Greg Kandra.”

A few weeks back, priests were fuming about this development and some online were hinting that some form of religious discrimination was at work.  (A petition was even launched to have the policy changed.)

In a post reacting to Facebook’s action against Monsignor Pope, Kandra said:

This issue has gotten considerable attention since it first surfaced several months ago, and various public complaints haven’t done much good. It’s Facebook’s candy store; they can run it however they wish. But it strikes me as bad business, and bad policy—engendering a lot of ill will and hostility, not to mention a fair amount of negative press.

Somehow, though, I don’t think the gurus running FB really care.

Indeed. When Fox News asked a Facebook spokesperson if their new “inclusive spirit” should be applied toward figures with religious titles, the answer was  “the current policy stood and was not up for review.”

Monsignor Pope, meanwhile, has discovered a Catholic alternative to Facebook:

It’s good to know there’s an alternative to Facebook for the monsignor, but at a Catholic forum, he’ll be largely preaching to the choir.

If his objective was to reach out to non-Catholics, Facebook has denied him that opportunity.