Dictionary on the Family Helps Define Battle Against Doublespeak

Pontifical Council Wants to Clear the Air of Misleading Terms

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ROME, JAN. 28, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Confusion and manipulation of terminology regarding the family and life issues has led the Vatican to write a "Dictionary of the Family."



"Everyone will see that it is a serious and systematic effort to engage in a clarifying dialogue," Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, told ZENIT.

"We do not engage in crusades nor do we go against institutions," he said. "Rather, we try to use the instruments of truth that develop between faith and reason, and in this case, we wish to carry out a dialogue with everyone, educators, politicians and lawmakers."

The cardinal said that the project was carried out at the request of Catholic non-governmental organizations and some governments that participate in U.N. conferences. "Ambiguous terms and concepts impede a real understanding of the speaker's intentions," he explained.

The dictionary is being published in Italian with nearly 1,000 pages, compiled by two dozen experts. Translations are due out sometime this year.

The dictionary reveals the ambiguity of terms such as "reproductive health," a code word for abortion; "domestic economy," instead of reduction of births; and "sustainable family growth," instead of contraception.

Among the contributors is Father Georges Cottier, Pontifical Household theologian, who -- referring to the equality of the sexes -- explains that "equality in the right to participate must go hand in hand with recognition of the feminine vocation itself. It cannot be to its detriment, penalizing maternity and the family, as often happens."

Language that changes the meaning of words is "anti-language," said Carlo Casini, a jurist and president of the Pro-Life Movement in Italy. He cites as an example "replacing the word 'abortion' by 'voluntary interruption of the pregnancy.'"

"The term 'abortion' evokes negative feelings of death, while 'voluntary interruption of the pregnancy' expresses a certain neutrality and removes the image of the lost child," Casini said. It shows, he said, that the "ultimate objective of the anti-life mentality is not only the legalization of abortion, but to free consciences from blame."

In the dictionary, Maria Luisa Di Pietro, professor at the Institute of Bioethics of the University of the Sacred Heart in Rome, criticizes the culture of the new abortifacient pills.

"With the term 'contraception' a series of products of an abortifacient effect are indicated, which are used in the earliest phases of pregnancy," she explained.

These products are not defined as abortifacient but rather as contraceptive, to cover up a stark reality, the professor contended.

"Thus, life is simply destroyed by taking a pill," said Di Pietro. "It is said that this involves less from the psychological point of view" than "surgical abortion, and the woman scarcely perceives the gravity of what she is doing."