language

grieving woman

This post will keep its titular promise. But first, a personal note. My blog has been silent for a while. Crisis in a family shutters engagement with the world outside. It blocks the view of everything foreign to the suffering of our beloveds. The news cycle evaporates; external claims on our attention shrivel. Neither national politics, cultural disintegration, nor Vatican intrigues count a whit. No matter whether the ones we love are endangered by illness, accident, or the incoherences of their own souls, nothing counts except their well-being. Continue Reading
Confusion of Tongues: Language of Sin vs Bureaucracy

To religious minds, the language of sin, its vocabulary and syntax, cuts closer to the heart of things than its secular replacement: the language of bureaucracy. In a religious lexicon, the word sin describes violation of the inalienable rights of the God Who commands. Bureauspeak, by contrast, is a secular rhetorical practice adept at describing violations of standard procedure. Or, if you prefer, offenses against decorum. The sinner says, “Cleanse Thou me from secret faults.” The bureau-rhetor says whatever is needed to minimize negative reaction to slippage among personnel or, perhaps, one’s own. Continue Reading
Alfie Evans & the Lethal Sympathy of Bioethics

Alfie Evans is dead. Deemed unfit, the child was sentenced to death by dehydration and suffocation. We shun the term life unworthy of life but embrace its content. We mask the odor of it with smiling phrases like “end of life care,” cruel details dismissed in the “best interest” of the patient sacrificed to force of law. The act of killing is rephrased in the argot of compassion. Language loosens constraint from the annihilation of life judged undeserving of the means to sustain it. Continue Reading
Jesus, the Male Gaze, & Laudato Sí

Every thoughtful Christian is invited to learn what is possible about Jesus in the context of first century Galilee and Judea. The much publicized Jesus Seminar, with its biases, stagecraft and colored-bead consensus, has skewed popular understanding of what we can grasp of the reality of Jesus of Nazareth in his own time and place. Nevertheless, respect for the tools of modern historical research keep us close to the words of Benedict XVI, spoken in November, 2012: “. . . faith is a continuous stimulus to seek, never to cease or acquiesce in the inexhaustible search for truth and reality.” Continue Reading
Use & Abuse of Language

It is a short walk between linguistic priggery and the verbal bows and scrapes expected of us in talking about the great and the good. That thought nagged at me some months back at a symposium on “Freedom of Religion in the Age of Pope Francis.” To kick-start discussion, panelists were asked to say two things about Francis. Each was allotted a single yea and a single nay. A double yea might have been okay but, please, no double nays. Not even a stand-alone one. Continue Reading