Current Issue: Volume 3, Issue 1/2Updated March 18, 2013
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is pursuing an unpopular campaign to discipline American nuns who supported the Obama administration’s healthcare initiative. The campaign has boosted the nuns’ popularity and further damaged the Catholic hierarchy’s public image. In response, the bishops have adopted Dorothy Day’s sainthood cause as a means of regaining authority and of criticizing disobedient Catholics safely. The bishops shift the focus from present difficulties to their official role in the making of saints to bolster their authority. To persuade Catholics to support their campaign against birth control they reconfigure Dorothy Day as an exemplar of orthodox belief. Keywords: American Nuns, Bureaucracy, Canonization, Catholic Church, Safe Criticism, HHS Mandate, Prosopopoeia.
In his essay, “The Rhetoric of Civility: Power, Authenticity, and Democracy,” Thomas W. Benson focuses on uncivil communication in the political context. The purpose of the current article is to extend Benson’s characterization of civility and incivility beyond the realm of politics. Specifically, this article focuses on uncivil communication in everyday life and the rhetorical processes that underlie such occurrences. Everyday civil communication is characterized as that which is ethical and based on respect, restraint, and responsibility. Aristotle’s concept of ethos, Habermas’s ideas concerning universal pragmatics and communication competence, and Austin’s and Kaulfield’s characterization and application of speech act theory are used to explain instances of civil and uncivil communication. Everyday incivility is perceived as a serious societal problem that can be harmful to our mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Both civility in politics and civility in everyday life are governed by shared rhetorical norms that serve as guides for appropriate communication-related behavior. However, whereas political incivility tends to be deliberate and strategic, everyday incivility may be accidental and result from confusion about the rhetorical norms that influence perceptions of civility. Keywords: Civility, Communication Competence, Ethics, Ethos, Incivility, Millennials, Respect, Responsibility, Restraint, Rhetorical Norms, Social Media, Speech Acts, Universal Pragmatics.