Tuesday, August 21, 2012

I am confusing as well as confused.

Sometimes answering someone's questions just confuses everyone more.

We're hiring at my work, and one of the applicants listed Sister So-and-So as a reference on her application.

My Chinese coworker wanted to know if Sister was the lady's name, because that was a pretty funny name. So I explained, no, at least in this case, she was a nun. Nuns are called sisters as a title.

Obviously she concluded that a male nun would be called a brother.

I explained I was pretty sure that monks, aka male nuns, were usually called father. Or friar, which, that's pretty much just brother in Latin or French or something, so she was kind of right, I guess (I left that part out of my explanation).

"I think you call monks father, but I'm not really sure, because you never see monks anymore. There are lots of nuns, but very few monks. I think if you're male and you want to be a monk, you just go be a priest instead," I explained. Which probably shows how much I know about the Catholic church, but for real. I know lots of nuns, but no monks.

Anyway. Then she wanted to confirm that nuns and monks couldn't marry each other. "No, you can't marry anybody if you're a nun or a monk." Pretty sure that's still true.

"But," said Chinese coworker (I need to give her a codename. Let's use Lucy), "if you're a priest you can marry."

"No, priests can't marry. Well, Catholic priests can't. Anglican ones can, maybe? And Protestant pastors can. But they're not priests. Mostly."

Lucy's eyes sort of glazed over. She had no idea what I meant by Protestants versus Catholics. And I really shouldn't have introduced Anglicans, because I'm not sure they're Protestant or Catholic.

Lucy switched tactics.

"At the university, there is a church," she said. "What kind of church is it?"

I explained it's a Methodist church, which is a kind of Protestant church. This took rather longer than it sounds like it ought to have taken.

"So can that priest marry?"

"Probably. Most Protestant pastors can marry. Let's look him up." I looked up the pastor's biography on the church's website. Somehow I missed the part where he talked about his wife and just saw the bit about building forts with his kids.

"He has kids," I said, "so he must be married. I'm pretty sure you can't be a pastor and have kids and not be married."

"Unless they're adopted," she pointed out.

I admitted that could be, but then found the part about his wife and told Lucy that he was in fact married.

"So that building, it's a Catholic church?" she asked, circling back to our earlier confusion.

"Methodist." I countered.

"What's that?"

"It's a Protestant church. So there's Catholics, and then there's Protestants, but Protestants include all kinds of churches, like Methodists and Presbyterians and Lutherans and Baptists and all kinds."

I clearly was not making any sense to her. She sort of smiled and nodded and quickly escaped across the hall to the bathroom.

Our other coworker chimed in, "Wait, one of the job applicants is a nun?"

I give up.


  1. LOL! I would be just as confused. All I know (from growing up in Catholic schools and from marrying JM) is that Catholic priests cannot get married, neither can nuns. But Protestant pastors can. Also, some pastors can be women, I think?

    1. That's the trick, is that all the different kinds of Protestants have their own rules WHO THE HECK REALLY KNOWS. You can even have different rules within one kind. Like, ELCA Lutherans can have women pastors, but LCMS Lutherans can't. But they're both Lutheran.

      And I guess in the Greek Orthodox church, priests can't be married unless they get married before they become priests. But they can't get married while in seminary. They have this tiny window of opportunity in which they can marry. And I only know this because one of our family friends who's about my age married one, but they had to keep their relationship a secret and then get married really quickly in that little window, and then move to Canada because Canadian Greek Orthodoxians are more accepting of married priests. Or something.

      All I know is that Luther (who started out as a Catholic monk) argued against/abolished the celibacy of the clergy and ended up marrying an ex-nun named Katie. What people have done with issue since the sixteenth century, I really don't know.

    2. But since my impression is that Christianity is still rather frowned upon in China, "Lucy" has pretty much zero background for any of this and was really, really confused.