Friday, December 17, 2010

Neither O.P.L. nor T.O.P. Be, But Straight O.P. -- See?

See the unfortunate child in the picture?  She is being fed a spoonful of cod liver oil.  Notice the expression on the face of the kid in the background, who appears to be next in line for the treatment.  I feel like that sometimes.  Now, if you are more observant than I am (it took me six months to realize I had a sliding pocket door at one end of my kitchen), you will have noticed that the identifying information above my profile picture (the chimpanzee at the typewriter) has changed.  Whereas before, it said "Anita Moore, O.P.L., Esq.," it now says "Miss Anita Moore, O.P., Esq."  This is because I have just had a cod liver oil moment.

St. Dominic founded the Dominican Order to preach, so the Order is officially known as the Order of Preachers (Ordo Praedicatorum in Latin).  Dominican friars (the First Order) and nuns (the Second Order) are identified by the letters "O.P." after their names (Ordinaris Praedicatorum, "of the Order of Preachers").  Dominican laity (the Third Order, or tertiaries) have hitherto been identified by the letters O.P.L. (Ordinaris Praedicatorum Laici) or T.O.P. (Third Order Preachers.)  T.O.P. is really the  more accurate designation, since the Third Order includes some congregations of religious sisters and even some deacons, priests and bishops who are not friars (St. Louis de Montfort and Ven. Pius XII, for example, were Dominican tertiaries).  

The reason friars are called the First Order, nuns the Second Order, and laity-plus the Third Order, is because these designations denote the chronological order in which these branches of the Order of Preachers came into existence.  St. Dominic started with friars.  Then came Dominican nuns.  Then came the tertiaries.  That's it!  It's as simple as that.  It has nothing to do with who's better, who's holier, who's more valuable or who ranks whom.  But there are those who somehow got their britches in a twist over the idea  that these designations pointed to a sort of caste system within the Order, pursuant to which the "lower" orders were being oppressed, kept down, marginalized, etc. etc. etc. by the "higher" ones.  Undeterred by the non-existence of such a caste system, the britches-in-a-twist crowd has not been idle.

Fast forward to a few years ago, when an international meeting of Dominican laity resolved on the use by the laity of the designation "O.P.," which had hitherto been reserved for priests and religious.  This was approved by the Master of the Order.  A petition to the General Chapter in Rome to revert to "O.P.L." has now failed to achieve the desired result.

Hence my cod liver oil moment.  I am obliged to abandon "O.P.L." in favor "O.P.,"  affixing the title "Miss" or "Dr." to my name in order to show that I am a layman and not a religious.   I am obliged, I repeat, to identify myself as a Dominican tertiary in this manner; but since this is not a doctrinal matter, I see no reason why a record should not be made of why this is a lousy idea, just as stare decisis is no reason why an appellate court's ruling should not also include dissenting opinions (which it frequently does).  So: reasons why this is a lousy idea:

-- It creates more ambiguities than it resolves.  How, for example, could you tell whether "Fr. John Smith, O.P." was a member of the First Order or a member of the Third Order?  "Fr. John Smith, T.O.P." versus "Fr. John Smith, O.P." would resolve that issue quite nicely.  Further, how would calling myself "Dr. Anita Moore, O.P." distinguish me as laity, particularly in an academic setting, when there are plenty of religious who may also be entitled to use the title "Dr."?

-- The Order of Preachers was founded to preach the truth.  Veritas ("truth") is a motto of the Order.  The reasons for making this change are not based on reality, since the caste system which this innovation is meant to attack does not exist.  This scheme is therefore an assault on the truth and a subversion of the Order's whole reason for being.

-- Not one inch should ever be conceded to the liberals.  Concessions to liberals are bad enough in themselves.  But by giving in here to the liberals, the Order is passing up an opportunity to teach the truth about the First, Second and Third Orders.  This is most un-Dominican.

Ah well.  Causa finita est, at least for the time being.  None of this changes anything.  Still, one of the things that does not change, even after this little victory for the liberals, is the fact that it is they who ought to have to swallow the cod liver oil.              


  1. Why is it that liberals with their britches all twisted don't ever have someone come along and stuff said twisted britches down their throats to keep them from doing any more damage to the rest of us?

  2. Exactly. Or as I would put it, tell them to change their diapers and move on.

  3. Was it not the case that the moniales were established before the friars?

  4. St. Dominic founded a monastery for women in about 1205, before the Order of Preachers was solemnly approved; but nuns were not brought under the government of the Order until much later. See:

  5. We in the Eastern Province of St. Joseph had the same reaction, two years ago. I, for one, have gotten use to it. In fact, now I'm proud of it. I belong to an Family that sees no difference between its members. It's particularly attractive to my chapter, Our Lady of Mercy, because we follow the spirituality of Pere M. Jean-Joseph Lataste, OP. Pere Lataste saw no difference between the prisoner and the priest.

  6. Well...but there IS a difference between priests and laity, and between nuns and persons out in the world. I do not possess the awesome dignity and immense power that a priest possesses, and I never will. This is a fact. It is a fact even if the priest is the worst scoundrel on the planet, and I am the holiest person short of the Mother of God. To recognize this fact is to serve the truth. To try to obscure the fact does not.

  7. Hi Anita and Faith,

    I see the points that both of you have raised; To some extent, I can see both sides of the debate, but there is no doubt that the new form creates unneeded ambiguity, particularly with regard to Third Order priests, as Anita pointed out. But I am a relatively new Dominican, and so I feel that I do not have the experience necessary to present a weighty opinion about the matter.

    But what I do know is that we in the Southern Province, being relatively new, were in a limbo state on this and other matters for quite some time. I saw that having a definitive decision that could be consistently enforced was a positive development for us. But who knows whether it will change in the future!

    Gratia vobis et Pax,
    Mr. Alan Phipps, O.P.

  8. Hi Anita,

    I think T.O.P. has never stood for "Third Order of Preachers"; rather it stands for "Tertia Ordo Penitentiae" (Third Order of Penance) - because this is how they refer to us in the Acts of General Chapter in the early 20th Century! Thus T.O.P. can signify a Lay Franciscan as well...

    A clue is found in a handbook for tertiaries, fr. Roland Potter OP: "A Dominican way" (London, 1958). In the chapter "The avoidance of worldliness" we can read:

    'Really wordly people don't become Tertiaries (...) So, normally, we never have the right to suspect of fellow-Tertiaries of being "worldly", even as we have, with our own eyes, seen Timothy Snookes, T.O.S.D., entering a cinema or diving into a bar.'

    In fact, I suspect that tertiaries where not in the habit ;-) of using neither the abbreviation T.O.P. or T.O.S.D. after their names in the old days! I would like to know of any known parish newsletter article, letter, or anything, where any Dominican tertiary used TOP after his/her name before 1960? The first proven observation of a "lettered" tertiary!

    Happy New Year,
    Mr. Jan Frederik Solem, O.P.

    1. Just a little correction of my claim that "T.O.P. can signify a Lay Franciscan as well" [as a Lay Dominican]. A Franciscan friar (OFM) asked around for me, and he reports that he has found no indication that "T.O.P." has ever been used in the Franciscan family.

  9. Hello Anita:

    One thing you can summarily conclude per history and correspondingly, Mr. Solem's letter, is that the tertiaries did not use the designation "O.P." prior to 1960. The term "third order" was often in use, i.e. Schillebeekx' work entitled "Old and New Style" c. 1960. It is not a stretch to believe T.O.P. predated Schillebeekx' writing. Whatever the custom, the term "third order" was used.

    The designations T.O.P. and O.P.L. are normative because each reflect a role of the Laity.

    While we are all one family, it is certain that there is a distinction within the family, as Christ is head of the Church and we are members of His Body. The use of O.P. or O.P.L. does not make the Order of Preachers any more or less a family.

    While I wholeheartedly agree we are one family, the use of O.P. by every person in the family misleads others to believe that we share in the same role and headship role of the family.

    The controversy over the lay use of the term, O.P., is not yet history. It also has an ironic and humorous side to it as well.

    Happy New Year!

    Dr. John Keenan, O.P.[L.]

  10. Coming to think of it, I have seen T.O.P. used on some old lists - namely, lists of residents of a French friars' convent! Apparently, they had some resident tertiaries - like conventual oblates.

    Personally, I think it's OK for Lay Dominicans to use O.P. - if we are to use anything at all. But perhaps only if we wear the habit as well?;-) I note that in the obituaries in the Danish Catholic weekly in the 1950s and later, the fact that very active and well-known Catholics were tertiaries is _never_ mentioned. The question is whether we Lay Dominicans should go around wearing ANY "letter habit" around at all...

    BTW, the Dominican nuns were granted the right to use OP (instead of OSD) in the 1860s or thereabouts, and the Dominican sisters of apostolic life (third order regular...) were granted the same right in 1923 if I'm not mistaken.

  11. Also BTW, "OPL" was never considered outside the English province and some American provinces. It never gained a foothold in any European province apart from England. In the Polish province, they suggested using "OPs" (s for secular). Elsewhere, the only options considered were TOP and OP.

    - Jan Frederik

  12. Actually, the "Order of Penance" much predates both St. Dominic and St. Francis. It was the first "order" for lay people and began in Italy in the 1180s. All lay penitents were members of the "Brothers and Sisters of Penance" (no order specification) until the Franciscan Fra Caro tried to subordinate them all to the Franciscan friars in the 1280s.

    But many local groups resisted this Franciscanization and established informal links with the other mendicant orders. The groups that had Dominican spiritual directors and wore Dominican "colors" became know as the Black Penitents (like "Black Friars) or the "Dominican Penitents. But they kept their independence until they were aggregated to the order in the early 1400s, principally through the efforts of the biographer of St. Catherine (a "Black Penitent" or "Mantellata") in the early 1400s. He also composed the so-called "Rule of Munio of Zamora." The group then become know as the "Dominican Third Order of Penance" == T.O.P.

    You can read about this in my book, _Cities of God: The Religion of the Italian Communes, 1125-1325_, chapter 2. And in the wonderful collection of texts _Dominican Penitent Women_. Both are available on Amazon.

    I was very sad to see the ancient form "Order of Penance" dropped. But I respect the autonomy of the Dominican laity in these matters.

  13. Thanks! I'll order your book - I already have the other one.

    I was very sad to see the ancient form "Order of Penance" dropped. But I respect the autonomy of the Dominican laity in these matters.

    Well, I think that only a very small minority had much of a say in these matters - at least at first. The Rule of 1964 (where the most important change since the 1923 Rule was that "Study" was now introduced as a priority) was not allowed to stand because the three French provinces (Paris, Lyon, Toulouse) submitted a protest to the General Chapter of 1965 (Bogota), seconded by the South Belgian province.

    So, it was the wish of the Francophone Dominican tertiaries in Europe. The majority never had a say, neither those kept behind the iron curtain (Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Croatia) or the Vietnamese (who all by themselves made up - and still make up - the majority of Dominican tertiaries / Lay Dominicans on this planet).

    This protest led the General Chapter to start the Rule work from scratch, concluding with the Rule of 1969. The international meeting in Montréal 1985 more or less kept the 1969 Rule, and our current Rule was then promulgated in 1987.

    I have seen no Acts of the Montréal meeting, so I have no idea of how representative it was - and what issues they discussed. Would be interesting to see the Acts - do anyone have a copy?

  14. Among the Discalced Carmelites, because there has never been a distinction between the friars and nuns as "first" and "second" orders, there was a similar reform recently to emphasize that the OCDS is part of the same Order under the same Rule of Life.
    Conversely, I've heard that the SFO have answered the "call of Vatican II" by emphasizing their distinctness from the first and second order Franciscans, and since the Second order isn't 'under' the First Order, the Third Order shouldn't be, either.

    I can see what you're saying, but I think the "confusion" factor is going to exist either way. People see "OCDS" after my name and they think I'm a religious, a priest, or an obsessive-compulsive advertising my mental illness.

    However, part of the answer is that Seculars are generally supposed to reserve the signs of our Orders to when we are engaged in the work of the Order. So we're really only supposed to use the initials within the order, or when engaging in an apostolate we're doing for the sake of the order (i.e., blogging) or maybe parish work. So any situation we would be using the initials would be one where any possible confusion would be easily rectified.

    And I don't think it's *that* big a deal if someone confuses a diocesan priest who's in a Secular Order with a religious priest. They're both still priests.

  15. All the Orders are engaging in similar reforms, given Vatican II's teachings regarding the laity. The OCDS have recently re-reformed to emphasize that we are part of the same order as the Friars and Nuns, since the Carmelites don't have an official distinction between "first and second" orders. On the other hand, the Franciscans apparently have taken the SFO out from under the direct control of the First Order since the emphasize the equality of the First and Second.

    I can see what you're saying about possible confusion, but does it really matter if someone confuses a diocesan priest in a secular order with a religious priest?

    I find that people get confused sometimes when I use the initials OCDS, anyway. They think I'm a priest, or at least a monk, or they think I'm advertising that I have a mental health problem. We're really only supposed to use the initials when we're doing the work of our Orders or engaged in our apostolates (which may include our jobs, blogs and/or Facebook). So any situation where we are allowed to use the initials would be one where such confusion is easily dispelled.

    And, as it is, how many people think Catherine of Siena was a nun?

  16. St Dominic first founded the order of nuns at Prouille, France before he organized any men. Reread your copy of "The Life of St. Dominic" by Bede Jarrett.

    -Another OPL

  17. Yes, but these nuns only actually came under the Dominican umbrella after the friars were founded and under a successor of St. Dominic.