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The Murder of a Word

9/5/2003 - 2:25 PM PST

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Deacon Keith A Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC

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“The Church's teaching on marriage and on the complementarity of the sexes reiterates a truth that is evident to right reason and recognized as such by all the major cultures of the world. Marriage is not just any relationship between human beings. It was established by the Creator with its own nature, essential properties and purpose.3 No ideology can erase from the human spirit the certainty that marriage exists solely between a man and a woman, who by mutual personal gift, proper and exclusive to themselves, tend toward the communion of their persons. In this way, they mutually perfect each other, in order to cooperate with God in the procreation and upbringing of new human lives.”

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

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It was the late great C. S. Lewis who coined the phrase, “verbicide” in his Book entitled “Studies in Words”. The term refers to the murder of a word. In the past when writing concerning the fundamental human rights issue of our age, the right to life, I have referred to the current assault against words as “verbal engineering” and maintain that it is the first step in social, legal, political, and cultural engineering.

I have practiced law for 23 years and been involved in what is often called the “culture war” for over thirty. I learned long ago that the one who frames the issue first - and most effectively - often wins the cause or case. Unfortunately, some of my friends with whom I am joined in seeking to build a new culture of life and civilization of love have apparently not yet learned this lesson.

Repeatedly I am witnessing sincere defenders of marriage and family using the oxymoron, intentionally used by the fringe elements of the homosexualist movement, “homosexual marriage”. There simply is no such thing nor can there ever be no matter what Court or legislature may try to impose! However, the more the phrase is parroted, the closer we get to this vision of a brave new world. By even using the phrase, some well intended opponents commit a major strategic error in efforts to defend marriage and serve the common good.

One has only to watch the daily news or read any paper to see that there is a well funded and growing effort by a small fringe element of the radical homosexualist movement to force legal recognition (and legal equivalency) of homosexual unions on the rest of society. The goal is clear, the total re-ordering of society. Proponents of this effort have a clear social, legal, cultural, political and yes…verbal strategy.

The last example of the effective use of such Orwellian doublespeak was the phrase “pro-choice”. It was designed strategically as a description of those who advocate abortion on demand at any stage of pregnancy. The origins of the phrase “pro-choice”, a phrase now unfortunately used even by those who seek to defend the dignity of every human life from conception to natural death, are instructive for us as we embark upon the next chapter in our contemporary human rights struggle.That is what it is my friends. Defending marriage, protecting the inviolable dignity of every human life, these are the true human rights struggles of our age!

I know one of the masterminds of this last propaganda campaign. He helped think of the phrase with other abortionists. Decades later, having discovered the truth about life and through that having come into the fullness of Christian faith, the Catholic Church, he still does penance for the impact that this simple turn of a phrase had on catapulting the current culture of death into predominance.

After all, who wants to be perceived as against “choice”? To oppose “choice” sounds so intolerant, it strikes at the heart of our freedom loving character as Americans. That is why it was such effective verbicide. The aftermath of this verbal strategy is the current horror of our culture of death. Some choices, like the taking of innocent human life, at any age or stage, are always and everywhere wrong. Words pave the way for actions.

What if the law were to change next month and allow one the “choice” to kill a disabled infant after delivery, calling it “mercy”? Most sane people of good will would still insist that such a “choice” would never be right, insisting rightly that it is anything but “mercy” and should be prosecuted! Yet, some of the proponents of the expanding concept called the “right to choose”, enamored with the notion of an autonomous self and infected with a view of “freedom” as a raw power over others, are actually seeking to expand this newly discovered “right to choose”. Calling it “a choice”, rather than barbarism, they march ahead in their crusade of death on demand.

Well, the verbal engineers are at it again. ...

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