Josh+? On the use of the sign of the cross (plus sign) in clergy signatures

This is, admittedly, a half-baked opinion. However, I need to get back in the habit of blogging/writing regularly, so here goes.

In my opinion, the use of the sign of the cross in clergy names/signatures—unless it’s done in official ecclesiastical communication or immediately after a blessing or prayer for the recipient—is pretentious. It’s showy. At the very least, it conveys or connotes pretentiousness.

Note that I’m not making a claim about the *people* who use crosses in their signatures, their inner thoughts, or their intentions. For all I know, every single clergyperson out there says a prayer of blessing for their recipients every single time they use the sign of the cross in a signature. I’m also not writing this about any person in particular.

I’m merely observing what I take to be the *connotation* of a particular speech act.

It’s one thing to use a signature with the sign of the cross in, say, a letter to a parishioner that you end with “May the Lord bless you and keep you.” In that case, it’s more obviously functioning like a written replacement for the sign of the cross that one would make with one’s hand if one were giving a priestly blessing in person.

However, apart from the immediate context of a blessing or prayer, I dare say that most people just think it’s a plus sign. Perhaps a typo when one meant to hit backspace? A new subscription service for personal communication? Or maybe the new-and-improved version of so-and-so now that they’ve turned a corner in their life and things are looking up?

I’m not saying that we clerics need to stop using the sign of the cross in our signatures altogether! A poor connotation for something (say, wearing a clergy shirt in public) doesn’t mean we should abandon it. I’m just suggesting that we should be more judicious in its use.

By Joshua Steele

Software engineer using "dead" languages to help the living. Learn more at joshuapsteele.com.