Now here is a strange one.
You can call me picky, but, hey, when it comes to messing with the fine points of Trinitarian theology, the Orthodox are known to be a bit picky. So please be patient with me for a moment.
So what we have here is your basic Associated Press follow-up report about Rome’s response to the petitions by some Anglo-Catholics seeking a safe haven in these crazy times. The focus, in this one, is on the issue of whether this move represents a weakening of Rome’s commitment to celibacy for priests in the Western churches (there were dozens of stories about that angle, of course).
It’s in that context that we read the following, which contains one very strange twist that is definitely not in the Bible of journalism, the Associated Press Stylebook. Pay attention, because here we go:
On Monday, the Vatican reaffirmed its resolve to leave the celibacy requirement unchanged. … It praised priestly celibacy as “a sign and a stimulus for pastoral charity.”
Apparently seeking to squash any speculation that Rome had been courting the disaffected Anglicans, the Vatican said the “Holy Spirit” inspired Anglicans to “petition repeatedly and insistently to be received into full Catholic communion” individually and as a group.
Did you catch it, or should I say “them”? I am referring to those quote marks — call them either “scare” or “sneer” quotes — around the words “Holy Spirit.”
What do you think is going on here, precisely? Why is the existence or the activity of this one member of the Holy Trinity now subject to grammatical doubt? Has one corner of the Trinity been demoted?
Maybe this is part of a larger change in AP style. If so, are Christians now followers of “Jesus Christ”? When people survive some horrible disaster, are we supposed to report that they felt comforted by the presence of “God”? Do people now praise or express anger at “God” when wrestling with the big issues of life? I guess that when President Barack Obama ends a speech now, journalists are supposed to quote him saying: ” ‘God’ bless you and ‘God’ bless America.”
Or did someone at the AP simply decide that Rome must have had other motives in this case and, instead of being honest, these tricky voices at the Vatican attributed their actions to — well, you know — the “Holy Spirit.” It wasn’t really God’s work. It was “God,” with a wink of doubt. Or maybe someone simply messed up a larger direct quote, while cutting it down to size.
Really strange. I hope the AP style committee sees this and has second thoughts.