Posted by: Christine Johnson | June 20, 2007

Why Words Are Important

Pro-Choice or Pro-Abortion or Pro-Abortion Rights?

Pro-Life or Anti-Abortion or Anti-Choice?

Homicide or Assisted Suicide or Physician-Assisted Death or Death with Dignity or Gentle Death?

Every aspect of the conflict between the Culture of Life and the Culture of Death is important, but the use of words, the choice of words, the re-definition of words, really, are paramount.

Those of us who wish to have a Culture of Life have been too passive in allowing those who continue to advance the Culture of Death to define and re-define words. They went from being Pro-Abortion to being Pro-Abortion Rights to being Pro-Choice, as if there are no choices on our side of the issue. They also have been striving – and succeeding in the general media – to re-define our views of the issues, as well. We have gone from being called Pro-Life to being Anti-Abortion to being, in some of the more stridently Pro-Abortion circles, Anti-Choice.

And in the arena of the end of life, while we may not be looking, the Culture of Death is working hard to make medicalized homocide (as Wesley J. Smith puts it) more palatable by changing the terminology again and again. Smith, in his latest post, says:

Euthanasia activists are obsessed with lexicon. They believe that if only they can find the right words to use in identifying mercy killing and assisted suicide, people will see the wisdom of their proposal and embrace medicalized homicide.

This obsession with words and terms has marked the euthanasia movement from the very beginning. Indeed, euthanasia, the current word for mercy killing, once meant a pain free natural death, experienced in a state of grace, and ideally, surrounded by family–akin to the modern concept of hospice. But as Professor Ian Dowbiggin noted in his splendid book, A Concise History of Euthanasia, the word was co-opted in one of the first modern essays supporting mercy killing, authored in 1870 by a school teacher named Samuel D. Williams.

Father Pavone has spoken on this topic numerous times. If we continue to allow those who are a part of the Culture of Death to re-define words this way, then the new definitions of the words are what will stick in the general culture’s collective mind. Even for those of us who are Pro-Life, if we hear that someone favors a “choice,” instantly we think of abortion. I had no idea whatsoever that the word “euthanasia” meant anything but the purposeful taking of a life to relieve suffering.

It is vitally important that we insist on words being used properly and that actions are define accurately. A doctor killing another person is not merciful, it is evil. It is not gentle, it is murder. It is not dignified, it is sinful.

You can read the rest of Smith’s post here. I highly recommend it.


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