A few days back I asked this question about labels in the Catholic church, after mod Caleb said that he would like to see such a question. I later self-answered. My question was eventually closed as "too broad".

The question listed some Catholics and labels and asked the question, 'who all these Catholics were'.

When are the various assorted labels for Catholics applied and how are they related? - on hold by Flimzy, fredsbend, Andrew Leach, Mawia, and Affable Geek

I would like to hear some feedback from especially the close voters (anyone else are welcome to contribute) on what it means in a situation like this that a question might have "either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format." As a point of reference, my question arose from Monica Cellio's earlier question about Vatacan II objectors which currently has 4 answers (with current upvotes 9, 7, 6, and 5) and is not closed.

My thinking is that if the Q was broad, the original question must have been broad because of the number of good answers, Jews/ Nostra Aetate portion remains unanswered, and my question which arose from it has been deemed too broad!

In what way is my question more broad than that? Can anyone suggest a reasonable way to approach this question in a way that puts all the assorted labels in context without being too broad?

It was quite discouraging and deflating to have the [on hold] decision come after I had answered.

I believe my answer to the question resolves this post and demonstrates that the Q & A is just fine and the answer is correct and the question not broad.

Curiousdanni understood I had answered, and I have resolved whatever his remaining concerns were, and therefore I have answered him fully from the way he understood the question.

  • 1
    I felt like your meta post here was difficult to follow, so I edited it to be what I think you were saying.
    – user3961
    Commented Aug 15, 2014 at 23:18
  • @fredsbend You did an excellent job! Thank you!
    – user13992
    Commented Aug 16, 2014 at 1:11
  • 3
    My impression of your original meta post was that it was very prickly—even combative—and was not inviting very constructive responses. I have taken the liberty of re-writing it from scratch in a way I think would be more representative of a constructive attitude in general. As the original Q and A are available for review, I also removed the full copies of them from this post as they made it very difficult to read and understand what the meta issue was. I hope this (and any subsequent answers) will be more educational and suggest a path forward instead of just arguing about a judgment call.
    – Caleb
    Commented Aug 16, 2014 at 11:24
  • @Caleb Any chance to provide a Q&A example for comparison purposes with mine? After all I posted the Q in response to your suggestion.
    – user13992
    Commented Aug 16, 2014 at 22:10
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    @Caleb 'instead of just arguing about a judgment call.' Why keep misreading me when my original post asked 'demonstrate the reason'. I would appreciate you desisting from trying to cast me in a mold.
    – user13992
    Commented Aug 16, 2014 at 23:01
  • 2
    Your recent edit indicates that you totally misunderstood the last point of my answer, which was: when talking about votes and closing, don't compare your question with another one and say "this other question is still open, so mine should be, too." That's not the way SE works. Commented Aug 16, 2014 at 23:20
  • @Ward Please recall you are the one who misunderstood my question in the Q&A. Here I am drawing a logical conclusion: if mine is broad that must be broad because mine arose from that. I completely agree with 'That's not the way SE works' on unrelated posts.
    – user13992
    Commented Aug 17, 2014 at 0:19
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    In the end, this has been a good example of why it's often better to just vote and move on: I don't think the extensive feedback has really done any good. Commented Aug 17, 2014 at 1:53
  • Not fruitful because those who put the question on hold (and closed?) can't support their decision. Nor consider their while to educate. On a basic level, there is also unfairness.
    – user13992
    Commented Aug 17, 2014 at 7:06
  • @FMShyanguya Just for the record I'm a guy not a girl. I'm not offended at all, I wouldn't expect anyone to know!
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 5:54
  • @curiousdannii I am so glad you were not offended. My sincere apologies. Thank you for all you do for the site. I do appreciate it.
    – user13992
    Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 6:44
  • @Caleb Thank you mod Caleb. I admire your edits. Very neat. I am learning something. If you noticed, I have reworded some of my sentences. This was because of your input My impression of your original meta post was that it was very prickly—even combative—and was not inviting very constructive responses. Thank you for bringing that to my attention. PS From this process, I was thinking of another feature-request, another format where all involved can collaborate to resolve an issue. I would like to explain myself and know the best way to proceed.
    – user13992
    Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 7:53
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    You may have been able to come up with an answer, but the question is still too broad. Lots of broad closed questions have answers.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Commented Aug 20, 2014 at 7:25
  • @curiousdannii I have moved on ...
    – user13992
    Commented Aug 20, 2014 at 7:59

5 Answers 5


I can't vote to close, but I did flag it as too broad and commented something like: "This is more like 10 questions."

It's too broad because what you're asking is, "what are all the different ways the Catholic Church can be considered to be structured." And that clearly - to me, at least - calls for several very long answers.

You've kept your answer fairly short (I've seen longer posts here and on other SE sites), but it's woefully incomplete, which makes it confusing. For example, your section on rites doesn't even mention all the Byzantine-derived churches or the Chaldean and Armenian. Wikipedia's summary is substantially longer, and doesn't even get to the differences in rites. This could be a reasonable question on its own (or, probably, a couple questions - about what the "Particular Churches" are and how they developed.)

Your section on Ecclesiastical Structures is also incomplete, leading to confusion. You mention Personal prelature (there's only the one, so far) and the Personal Ordinariate, but you don't mention the parallel to Military ordinariate, how any of these developed and what they're for. Again, the summary on Wikipedia about Personal prelature is quite long and could be part of a reasonable Q/A on its own.

And what about the overall hierarchy of the church? Bishops, Priests, Deacons, Parishes, etc.? Those are labels applied to parts of the church, but you've got nothing in your answer about them.

To me it's obvious that by the time you actually turned this into a clear, reasonably complete summary of all the structures of the church, it'd be way way way too long.

Finally, a couple notes about how SE works:

  • Close reasons are often approximate. I'd say the original question could just as easily have been closed as "Unclear what you're asking," since it's not clear which structures you're interested in.

  • A legalistic approach is the wrong way to deal with a question you don't think should be closed. Pointing to another question and saying "my Q is like this other one that's still open," is never going to work. There are vagaries in voting and closing and anyone who's been around SE long enough accepts them (I'm tempted to link to a recent physics.SE discussion where someone is unhappy about a particular Q&A getting tons of votes from being on the hot questions list.)

  • Thank you for acknowledging the brevity of my answer. 1) the question wasn't asking what rites were. The question asked who all these Catholics were 2) None of the examples of 'who all these Catholics were' belonged to the Military ordinariate 3)The question never asked for the structure of of the Catholic Church, how it is organised, etc. Point on how SE works well made and taken.
    – user13992
    Commented Aug 16, 2014 at 1:07
  • "what are all the different ways the Catholic Church can be considered to be structured." This is where the misunderstanding is. Please see the comment above.
    – user13992
    Commented Aug 16, 2014 at 1:15
  • PS Your honesty is admirable and appreciated.
    – user13992
    Commented Aug 16, 2014 at 7:22
  • @Caleb There is no response from you, the mods, and all who participated in this post that a user has voted and made a decision based on his own misunderstanding of the question?
    – user13992
    Commented Aug 16, 2014 at 22:37
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    @FMShyanguya No, I'm sorry to say but at this point you are the one with the misunderstanding. Neither this user nor any of the others involved with their votes, edits or here trying to help you are doing anything wrong. They are using the system the way it was designed to work. You don't seem to be listening to what they are trying to show you. Do you want help with this question and with your posts in general? You've begged for feedback but you seem to be rejecting it when you get it. Are you really interested in accepting help including constructive criticism?
    – Caleb
    Commented Aug 17, 2014 at 7:20
  • @Caleb How can one one understand 'what are all the different ways the Catholic Church can be considered to be structured' from 'who all these Catholics were', when the Catholics and labels have been listed? That was a very pointed question.
    – user13992
    Commented Aug 17, 2014 at 7:23

You asked these questions:

  1. In what context are all these labels used,
  2. what do they signify,
  3. and what is their canonical status according to the RCC?
  4. Are some or all of them considered schismatics by the RCC?

about these groups/labels:

  1. Traditional Catholics
  2. SSPX - Society of St. Pius X.
  3. Opus Dei
  4. 'Ultra-Conservative'.
  5. Jesuit.
  6. Conservative
  7. Liberal
  8. 'Neo-Catholic'.
  9. Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in the UK
  10. Eastern Rite Catholic

To fully answer your question would require 4x10=40 answers. That's why I flagged it as too broad. This time I think the burden of proof is clearly on you to show that it isn't too broad!

  • I have already answered the question.
    – user13992
    Commented Aug 16, 2014 at 1:09
  • I don't think you covered each of those 40 combinations.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Commented Aug 16, 2014 at 1:37
  • PS We may not always agree, but your input has always been valuable and appreciated. Your honesty is admirable and appreciated.
    – user13992
    Commented Aug 16, 2014 at 7:24
  • 'I don't think you covered each of those 40 combinations.' Please specify which combination(s) I have yet to cover.
    – user13992
    Commented Aug 17, 2014 at 7:08
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    @FMShyanguya Your answer is confusing and hard to read. I don't think you really explained the context of how any of them are used. You don't explain what SSPX, Opus Dei, Jesuit or any of the political labels mean (or whether those political labels have any non-political sense like they do in protestantism.) I guess you've answered the last two questions in your post on this page, but you didn't do so consistently in the answer on the question itself. But in general it's very messy. Why not answer each question in turn for each group?
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 1:34
  • But in general it's very messy. Why not answer each question in turn for each group? Thinking .., I will rewrite, please standby. Thank you for the continued engagement.
    – user13992
    Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 4:07
  • Please see my re-written answer and the addition to the question above.
    – user13992
    Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 23:51

First of all, it shouldn't come as such a shock that your question was deemed to be too broad. I warned you specifically this would be a challenge before you even asked the question:

@FMShyanguya I would like to see a question that helps sort out the different labels used both inside and outside the Catholic church. It seems it might be hard to do it without being too broad, but maybe a couple for the various aspects (Rites, schismatic groups, other labels, etc.) Such question(s) would be a good complement to this one. – Caleb♦ Aug 13 at 7:33

I specifically refrained from VTC'ing your question, but I was not in the least surprised it got closed. In fact I agree with the judgment call of those who did vote.¹ The question was too broad and too confusing. The first comments and answers being so different suggested that it wasn't clear to people reading it what the main focus was. Wax eagle commented asking for clarification about the requested perspective and The Freemason went off on the definition of 'Catholic' because you'd miss-quoted a creede. One answer ever took the liberty of addressing only one aspect of the question as if than was the whole question and we had to deal with that separately on meta. Not all of these only the fault of the question, but neither did it give a clear enough focus to avoid those sort of issues.

I believe part of the reason it was confusing was simply the formatting. Usually people make the opposite mistake and don't format their posts enough to be clean and readable. You quite often err in the opposite direction and format your posts to death! There is so much bolding and italics and sequencing schemes and line breaks going on that it becomes very difficult to just read your posts².

In addition to the excessive formatting, your posts have a tendency to be dis-jointed. Even if you can just read them through it is often unclear how the points connect from one paragraph (or ever sentence) to the next. The content just doesn't flow³.

These formatting and writing style problems may be a matter of preference and style, but they work against you when it comes to posts like the one we are discussing. When the reading experience is disjointed, even simple issues appear complicated. Excessive bullet points and bolded terms make a question seem broader than you might have intended it to be.

In addition to the general technique issue I see you struggling with, the question that prompted this meta discussion really does cover too much topic space. Dannii's response highlights just how many issues you tried to pack into one post. Besides the laundry list of labels that needed disambiguating, you also tacked on stuff about the RCC's views. This would require not only an overview of how people label themselves and how all the labels overlap, but dealing with whether each label was RCC sanctioned or schismatic, etc. The combinations quickly become unwieldy.

I would suggest this needs to be broken down into several questions, each with a specific focus. Some of these may already have been asked and they could be broken down in other ways depending on your interest as well, but here is a suggestion for one way it could be split up:

  • Who uses and how the terms that sound like political ones relate to each other (traditional, liberal, conservative, etc)?
  • Who is the SSPX, especially in relation to Sedevacantism, and what labels are appropriate for them?
  • How group names (e.g. Jesuit, Opus Dei, Neo-Catholic, etc. rather than general labels) relate to each other and the RCC?
  • What is a 'Rite' and how is it different from other kinds of labels?
  • What makes something schismatic according to the RCC and is what groupings does this tend to apply (e.g. would groups, labels, or rites be labeled schismatic)?
  • What does in mean when somebody identifies as 'Catholic' but goes on to include extra details such as a 'personal ordinate'?

There might be more, but those should be plenty to get started⁴. Most of those are still very broad questions, but I think if each one is focused on the specific issue without dragging in too many other layers they should be each answerable in their own right.


  1. Incidentally those who vote to close questions do so at their best discretion. Responding to your initial version of this meta post, the burden of proof is not on those who vote to close. They do not need to be put on trial for their judgment call. You can request feedback from them about why they made the judgment call they did, but they are under no obligation to participate further. Asking questions on this site is considered a privilege—not a right—and if you disagree with the community's collective judgment on issues such as closures, the burden of proof is on you to prove that your question fits the site guidelines. This is part of the reason I re-wrote your post to solicit feedback about how it could be fixed rather than argue about the closure.

  2. I would hazard a guess that some of the unexplained downvotes you've been so concerned about stem from this. Even though you usually give accurate answers and often have good references, it's not always easy for a reader to process the way you present the the information. If the logic is hard to follow, somebody might be inclined to downvote even if the content is technically correct. Since votes are intended to sort answers based on relative perceived usefulness, it's possible that answers that are easier on the eyes with sequential logic and clear articulations are more likely to get upvotes than ones that appear to be piece-meal fragments (even if they make perfect sense in your head).

  3. This is often exacerbated by your edits. You add relevant information and references (which is good) but they are frequently not well integrated into the other content (creating an even more disjointed feel). Rather than becoming progressively more clear and cohesive, they become progressively more of a hodge-podge.

  4. I'm not saying you have to ask all of these. Maybe only one or two of them actually catch your interest. I would suggest only asking ones that you personally are interested in learning. It is very difficult to compose "staged" questions. Even though self-answering is encouraged, it is hard to do well and I have watches some of the most knowledgeable people with the best writing skills around struggle to do this well. I've also had this problem first hand. A number of questions I wrote so that I could answer them got closed. Some stayed that way, a couple others were rescued by a third party stepping in to re-write the question. Jon Erikson once wisely noted, "Asking good questions is hard and asking good questions you already know the answer to is exponentially harder."

  • Not worried in the least. Eventually all things will be revealed. It is truly amazing how stuff is edited, merged, and hidden ...
    – user13992
    Commented Aug 16, 2014 at 22:09
  • I warned you specifically this would be a challenge before you even asked the question Then the original question must be broad. That potion of the question and another remain unanswered.
    – user13992
    Commented Aug 16, 2014 at 22:19
  • It should not be forgotten that I was trying to get some answers for a user. I was trying to make a contribution. Perhaps those who targeted my Q&A, and it is targeting! especially Flimzy, Andrew Leach, Mawia, and Affable Geek, should come up with their own Q&A in the first place to contribute to Monica Cellio's question.
    – user13992
    Commented Aug 16, 2014 at 22:33
  • Why it targeting: A couple of times that I have now tried to get to the bottom of things, it has been turned around, 'It's your posts, your formatting, etc.'. May I remind you that am the top new user in reputation. This may be just humans being humans, one reason could be just plain jealousy. ShadowWizard at META StackExchange wrote: 'I looked at your main profile, most of your stuff there is good and upvoted'. This is the issue: the targeting of good stuff.
    – user13992
    Commented Aug 16, 2014 at 23:12
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    Wow, that's a level of arrogance I haven't seen in a while - "I'm so great that the only reason anyone would downvote me is to personally attack me." Commented Aug 17, 2014 at 1:55
  • @Ward You are really amazing! Where is 'I am great' in my comment? Good stuff is not equivalent to great me and it is not me who said it. That person countered what some have been trying to project here.
    – user13992
    Commented Aug 17, 2014 at 7:09

I did not close-vote; I do not have the required reputation, and even if I did, I hope to consider myself a friend and thus would probably recuse myself.

That said, I do feel the question is too broad to adequately answer in the typical format. The question ends:

who all these Catholics are - and how does the Roman Catholic Church view those who –say– identify themselves as Traditional, Liberal, etc.?

(emphasis added) That "say" at the end gives the implication that information is desired on more groupings than just the ones specified in the question. Since no clear "umbrella grouping" exists for all these, the question invites the possibility that information is desired on all groupings in the Catholic Church—a very broad question indeed. I would suggest editing the question to remove that wording.

Even then, however, I think the question is over-broad. Consider the answer supplied. This does indeed seem to touch on everything, or virtually everything, asked: but in a very cursory way; it's not what I would consider a sufficiently complete answer. For example, I think a discussion of the Society of St. Pius X should certainly include mention of the excommunication of bishops for illicit ordination of priests; and a discussion of the status of Jesuits within the Church needs to include a discussion of the suppression of the Order.

I just feel that the amount of detail necessary to answer the question well would give an answer nearly as long for each organization as the single answer supplied for all organizations; and that's really too long to read in the Stack Exchange format. This, in my mind, is what makes the question too broad: to quote the closure notice, "good answers would be too long for this format".

Perhaps there could be one question about the Jesuits, one question about personal prelatures and ordinariates, one about rites, one about traditionalists and SSPX, and one about conservatives, liberals/progressives, and neo-Catholics. I think that is about as broad as one can get in a Stack Exchange question and still hope for the possibility of a good answer.

  • Thank you for the friendship and it is valued and appreciated. –say– identify themselves as Traditional, Liberal, etc.? The listing that follows puts a limit to the say. In any case, any suggestion to edit the question so as to limit it to the listing given? That should resolve your concern.
    – user13992
    Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 20:17
  • That will resolve the concern about the question. I'm still apprehensive about whether the answer will be too long. As I suggested, it may be necessary in my opinion to break up the question into several sub-questions. Does this make sense to you? Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 20:21
  • MattGutting curiousdanii would disagree as I believe she has been answered. Did you take a look at my rewritten answer
    – user13992
    Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 20:24
  • PS Do not forget my fiend the initial reach out to you to formulate the question ...
    – user13992
    Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 23:47

To be honest, I followed Flimzy's suit on this one. The text of your question was pretty long, Flimzy commented that it was too broad and already cast a close vote, and I am not terribly knowledgeable of the subject.

So, in fairness, if you get two reopen votes, I'll cast the third.

  • Thank you for your honesty and your continued professionalism. It is admired. That's what will make this site great.
    – user13992
    Commented Aug 16, 2014 at 0:56
  • So, in fairness, if you get two reopen votes, I'll cast the third. I have cast a vote to reopen. I believe a restitutive act from your end would be, in addition to casting the reopen vote, canvass for votes required to reopen.
    – user13992
    Commented Aug 16, 2014 at 7:02
  • 1
    @FMShyanguya Rather than arguing with people trying to get them to change their minds or disagree with the judgment call already made, it would be much more constructive to focus your energy on evaluating and fixing the concerns that were raised. At this point trying to get re-open votes without editing and resolving the issues that have been raised would be an exercise in futility as I (and I'm pretty sure a few others) would just vote to close it again until the issues get fixed and it is narrow enough that the question scope won't be an ongoing source of confusion.
    – Caleb
    Commented Aug 16, 2014 at 12:45
  • @FMShyanguya You don't have the rep to make reopen votes. You must mean that you nominated it for reopening. That means it will be placed in the reopen review queue where we all will see it and decide. There is currently one reopen vote. I will vote to reopen if you garner one more.
    – user3961
    Commented Aug 16, 2014 at 16:34
  • @fredsbend If you feel you have done all you could to right the situation, then rest easy. Thank you!
    – user13992
    Commented Aug 16, 2014 at 22:38

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