Wednesday, October 5, 2011


A while ago I was reading an article about six words that we should stop using.  I only remember one and I think it was because after being made aware of it I was starting hear it everywhere.  The word was “myriad.”  The article made the assertion that nobody used that world anymore.

This got me thinking; there are a number of words and phrases that I would like to take out of our Catholic lexicon.  Words that should be banned from use (IMHO) in the Catholic conversations either because they are confusing, over used, have lost their meaning, or are just plain unhelpful.  So Fr. Pf. and I sat down and came up with our own personal list of words and phrases I will call:


Here are the first two:  “Conservative” and “Liberal.”

One would think that if these two words were put together one could cover the entire spectrum of Catholic theology and practice.  Hardly.  The area of Catholic expression that these label tend to be rather narrow.  In fact, the words have come to mean almost exactly the same thing; it is only the details that change.

A definition might go something like this, “A narrow and limited expression of the fullness of the Catholic faith with a tendency toward (insert.)”

In the end they are two shades of the same thing.  What does one mean when one is labeled “conservative?”  Sometimes it means someone who is attracted to the traditions of the Church.  Sometimes it simply means that one is orthodox.  Simply accepting the teaching of the Church on a topic such as a male priesthood might label some as conservative.  It might also mean someone who only accepts earlier expressions of the faith.  It can mean everything and nothing.

And what does liberal mean?  If we were going to use the word in way that is helpful it would mean someone who is open to the full expression of the Church as opposed to a conservative who might have a bent away from innovation.  But usually it is a person who likes just as thin a slice of the pie as those labeled conservative but with a different set of chess pieces.  Unfortunately, the title has become used by those who step off of the Catholic playing field altogether, perhaps mixing it with terms such as “progressive” and “innovative” and “contemporary” (or as a more recently coined word puts it – contemprovent.)  The idea is that the individual knows better than the rest of the Church or its 2000 year history and is “where God is at” and waits for everyone else to catch up.

My vote is to toss both of these terms out.  Get rid of them.  They have been too misused in abused.  In place of these I recommend words such as orthodox or unorthodox.  Those might be augmented by terms such as traditional or contemporary but those terms are starting to get an unfair shake too.

Toss them out!


Anonymous said...

How about Catholic or not.

melody said...

I agree that those terms have their limitations. I would prefer to use (and usually do use) the terms orthodox and heterodox. Unfortunately, these have their limitations as well. Generally, people (even faithful Catholics) are confused by the word "orthodox" and think it refers to the eastern rites. Unorthodox (or heterodox) is limited because it is calling someone flat out wrong, as in opposing the Church. Sometimes, a gal just has to pull out words that most people understand to have a certain meaning. If someone tells me that they have a "liberal" pastor, I assume that he either plays a bit loose with the liturgy or waffles on moral issues, etc. I will almost always ask for clarification but am usually correct in my assumption. If someone calls a priest heterodox, I would assume they meant he actively opposes Church teaching.

It is not a perfect solution to replace confusing words with misunderstood words... similar result. The solution is to have an educated faithful with good communication... then we could all just use accurate and descriptive words. I think most people use the word "liberal" to describe those who push the envelope of orthodoxy. Most people don't want to be calling others heretics unless they are

As I said, I use the term orthodox and heterodox when I can. What do you mean by unorthodox? Do you mean opposed to the faith? That is what I would understand it to mean (according to my understanding of the word "orthodox") so just seeking clarification.

Anonymous said...

"Liberal" and "conservative" are useful for defining the the particulars of which you wrote, Father.

But your point is well-taken.

Helping the poor, for example, may be done in different ways by "liberals" vs. "conservatives." But the "liberals" do it in a way that the "conservatives" think is not useful and vice versa.

Same with the way women in crisis pregnancies are dealt with, etc. There are those who say that we want to "force" the woman to have the "unwanted" baby.

We do need to pray for the wisdom of Solomon.

lgreen515 said...

Two things:

1. Who was it that said "Orthodoxy is my doxy and heterodoxy is your doxy?" Was that Chesterton?
2. I would like the full set of chess pieces with my pie, please.