Tuesday, May 1, 2012

On language...

I have borrowed the title of this post from the name of a book by George Bernard Shaw. The provocation for the article is a comment from someone on another blog:
"I was under the impression that the terms “conservative” and “liberal” properly belong to the secular-political realm, and not to the Catholic Church. Regarding the Faith, one is either orthodox or a heretic…"
Oh, how we wish to keep things simple. But of course, we cannot.

I submit that one reason that terms used in political discussion have been applied to discussions of religious views is that these views bear a striking resemblance to their political counterparts. But to dismiss the original complaint, we must bear in mind that in any living language, words are added, others go out of use, and still others suffer alteration of meaning, or are applied to different elements of life than those to which they originally referred, as in the case at hand.

In context, the term was used to describe Pope Benedict, in his nature during the time of the Council. And it is true, he was a liberal, as the term is now used. And in fact, as I recall, Rev. Wiltgen identified him as such, in his not so recent book about the Council, so using the term isn't all that novel.

What is of greater import to me than the words used is whether the comment was thoughtful. So often these days, people fail utterly to engage the brain prior to speaking. If the person in question has given the matter some thought, I am less likely to quibble over words used than when I hear or read some knee-jerk emotional response.

But that's just me....


  1. Language reveals the heart and the soul of the person speaking. I am shocked at the vast majority of Catholics in Ireland and England, for example, who use Marxist language and obviously think they are believing Catholics. Not so. We speak our beliefs. Keep up the good work paying attention in an era of confusion.

  2. Thanks. My mother having been an English teacher who did not indulge in any sort of baby talk with her children, my attention is pretty well embedded in my DNA. There will be those who find my writing too blunt, perhaps even offensive. So be it. I won't mask reality.

    1. People who actually still believe in truth and in reality are often accused of being blunt simply because others don't like the feeling of someone speaking of absolute truth. This is often directed against traditional Roman Catholics as they often appear to be the ones most in love with the Truth, historical, religious, spiritual Truth.

    2. I have lost all patience with those who insist upon "nuance". It has become one of the most notorious weasel words of our time.