Saudi Arabia challenges Roman Catholic web hegemony
A few months ago, His Grace wrote about Vatican City having spent $740,000 in applications for control of the top-level domain extension ‘.catholic’ (and the equivalent in the Cyrillic, Arabic and Chinese alphabets). The objective was to be able 'to authenticate the Catholic presence online’. The Vatican planned to permit only those ‘institutions and communities that have canonical recognition’ to use the extension, ‘so people online – Catholics and non-Catholics – will know a site is authentically Catholic’.
Some Roman Catholics thought this a jolly good idea. But His Grace wrote at the time:
The thing is – let’s be honest – that ‘.catholic’ would be owned exclusively by the Latin Rite Church of the Western Empire. Its own claims to universality are not shared by the Reformation churches or those of the Orthodox East: we are no longer in an age of cultural and religious unity or linguistic and liturgical uniformity under the authority of the Pope in Rome. The application to own ‘.catholic’ simply because ‘we decided we were best suited’ is the claim of medieval Christendom. It is the Roman Catholic Church which calls itself Catholic, and has done so since the Emperor Constantine pushed through the requisite religio-political formulae to establish politician-bishops at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, whose task it was to quell the rise of the Arian Christians and, indeed, to obliterate them. Since most of the history books of the time were written by (Roman) Catholic clergy, and most of the libraries were owned and run by monks, it is unsurprising that 'Catholic' became synonymous with 'catholic', and Western canon law became systematised and widely inculcated by missionaries of the Nicene vision.His Grace needed to raise £115,000 in order to contest the Vatican’s application, so he assumed the granting of the domain was a fait accompli.
But it transpires that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has come to the rescue of all those Christian groups who consider themselves to be part of the Universal Church of Jesus Christ, despite the Roman Catholic Church insisting they most certainly are not. In filing a formal objection, the Communication and Information Technology Commission of Saudi Arabia says:
This application is sensitive as the term CATHOLIC which has been applied-for as a gTLD string represents the multitude of Christians across the world.It is kind indeed of an Islamic Gulf state to ride to the rescue of Christian heretics and separated brethren worldwide. It is true that the Vatican 'cannot demonstrate that it possesses a monopoly over the term "Catholic"', and it is equally true that 'Many other Christians use the term "Catholic" to refer more broadly to the whole Christian Church regardless of denominational affiliation'. It is worth noting that the Kingdom has also complained about bids to create top-level domains for .islam, .halal and .ummah on similar grounds (does the Saudi Royal Family read His Grace, perchance?).
The term has been incorporated into the name of the largest Christian communion, the Catholic Church (also called the Roman Catholic Church). However, many other Christians use the term "Catholic" to refer more broadly to the whole Christian Church regardless of denominational affiliation. Other Christian communions lay claim to the term "catholic" such as the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Oriental Orthodox Church.
We do not believe that the applied-for gTLD string (.catholic) should be under the control of one church which cannot, and does not, represent every catholic communion.
Further, we believe that any and all gTLD applications for any name in relation to religion or a specific community should be presented to the whole of that community for evaluation before an application is denied or granted. If this cannot be accomplished then such names should be restricted completely from being used as gTLD's.
Failure to do so would give the use and control of an important religious name to one group, unjustly elevating its influence above others and permit that group to solely represent a spectrum of different churches.
The current applicant cannot demonstrate that it possesses a monopoly over the term "catholic" nor can it demonstrate that its intended ownership of that term is accepted by Catholics around the world.
To allow this string to be registered may be offensive to many people and societies on religious grounds.
Therefore, we respectfully request that ICANN not award this gTLD string.
The Church of England is, of course, Catholic and Reformed, but doubtless would be prevented by the Roman Catholic Church from using (say) 'Cranmer@Reformed.Catholic'. So, His Grace is deeply appreciative that the vastly wealthy Muslim Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has seen fit to throw a few meagre pennies (relatively) at this thorny Christian issue. It is now for secular ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) to arbitrate between the competing theologies and conflicting histories in order to determine an official global ecclesial orthodoxy.
Allah works in mysterious ways.