Column: Language war at center of the battle of cultures

by Ron Kelsey

As we continue to battle the culture of death, it is important to be aware of the significance of the language war that is at the center of this battle.

Language is used to communicate and convey ideas and thoughts. Properly used, language conveys truth; deceptively used, it can hide the truth or present falsehoods.

As individuals and as a society, we can easily become misled, desensitized, and propagandized by language that becomes broadly used. Faith and critical thinking skills are therefore very important in order to stay grounded in the truth.

The truthful use of language is further eroded by the moral relativism that is common today. Moral relativism basically says, “My will, not Thy will.” Yet we know that Christ is the way, the truth and the life. Ultimate truth is not relative to one’s opinion.

When we succumb to moral relativism, we try to rationalize our position when it contradicts the truth. Language then becomes a convenient vehicle to use in this rationalization effort.

Now let’s look at some of the specific uses of language within the culture of death. Notice that this language attempts to hide the humanity and dignity of the individual. In stem-cell research, the term “early stem cell” is used instead of “embryonic stem cell.”

“Cells in a petri dish” is a term used instead of “embryonic stem cells.” This language hides the humanity of the embryo.

With abortion, the medical term “fetus” is used instead of “unborn baby.” It sounds better to terminate a fetus rather than kill an unborn baby. “Blob of tissue” is even less offensive. How can you kill a blob of tissue?

Patients in a long-term state of being unconscious and unaware may be referred to being in a “persistent vegetative state.” It is a lot easier to deprive one of food and water if they are merely a vegetable rather than a human being.

Perhaps the most pervasive misuse of language is the so-called contraceptive pill. The con of the use of the term, contraceptive pill, is that it can cause an abortion rather than prevent conception. But if we never acknowledge the possibility of the presence of the child, who may be prevented from implanting in the womb because of the effect of the pill, it is much easier to use the pill.

How should we engage in battle in this language war? First, this is a spiritual battle. Prayer is thus the primary weapon. We also need to listen with humility to the Catholic Church and follow its teaching. It is the voice of Christ, the voice of truth. Then we must witness to the truth.

Ron Kelsey is the archdiocesan consultant for the pro-life office.

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