Bush Violates Papal Protocol
People are apparently upset that President Bush violated protocol in his meeting with Joe Ratzinger this morning.
US President George W Bush drew gasps at the Vatican on Saturday by referring to Pope Benedict XVI as “sir” instead of the expected “His Holiness”, pool reporters said. They could clearly hear the US leader say “Yes, sir” when the pope asked him if he was going to meet with officials of the lay Catholic Sant’Egidio community at the US embassy later during his visit.
This causes gasps? Really?
Bush isn’t Catholic. He’s the leader of the dominant country on the planet. Aside from the age gap, it’s rather remarkable that he’s addressing the pope as “Sir.” Why on earth should he address him in the third person, let alone pretend that he considers him “holy”?
UPDATE: Ed Morrissey guesses that Bush likely called Ratzinger “Your Holiness” several times and that this was just a single answer to a direct question.
In Michael’s comments, I joked that “if I met the head of the KKK, I wouldn’t address him by whatever exalted title that comes with that position, either.” Perhaps differing with Christopher Hitchens, I don’t consider the pope and the Grand Wizard moral equivalents. But honorifics that apply within a particular society don’t automatically extend outside it, either.
I’d address Tony Blair as “sir” or “Mr. Prime Minister.” I’d address Queen Elizabeth II as “m’am” out of deference to her age and responsibility but certainly wouldn’t address her as “Your Majesty” nor kneel in her presence. I’m not her subject. “Sir” or “m’am” connote respect; “Your Holiness” or “Your Majesty” imply subservience.
Furthermore, heads of state are not subservient to one another. The United States is a sovereign country and Bush is its leader. Kowtowing to religious leaders and monarchs would be unbefitting his station.
Similarly, I wouldn’t think the head of other churches would address Ratzinger as “Your Holiness” nor would another monarch address QEII as “Your Majesty.”