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Euphemizing Our Own Destruction

Colin Young-Wolff /Invision/AP
FILE - This Jan. 11, 2014 file photo shows actress Gwyneth Paltrow, left, and her husband, singer Chris Martin at the 3rd Annual Sean Penn & Friends Help Haiti Home Gala in Beverly Hills, Calif. Paltrow and Martin are separating after 11 years of marriage. A message posed on the 41-year-old actress' blog Tuesday, March 25, says that the couple has "come to the conclusion that while we love each other very much we will remain separate." Paltrow and the 37-year-old musician married in 2003. The couple has two children, 9-year-old daughter Apple and 7-year-old son Moses. (Photo by Colin Young-Wolff /Invision/AP, File)
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Don’t let the culture of death set the terms of the debate.

Gwyneth Paltrow recently received much-deserved criticism for her remark that she and her husband—the father of her children—were not divorcing, but choosing a “conscious uncoupling.”

Wait.  What?

This kind of euphemism really should not come as a surprise.  Think of any contemporary social issue: We call same-sex unions “gay marriage.”  We call pornography “adult entertainment.”  We call the slaughtering of the unborn the “termination of pregnancy.”  The list is endless.

These moral and ethical issues are ripping apart the fabric of our society, and we cannot even call them by their proper names.

Our media and influential people seem to have run with the idea that language should be therapeutic and make people feel better about trying to justify decisions that many deem to be unhealthy, selfish, or destructive.

In addition to damaging personal accountability, this overuse of euphemisms prevents meaningful debates from occurring.  We cannot, for example, reduce Blessed John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, which is largely about the Church’s teachings on marriage and sexuality, to fit into a framework that allows for “conscious uncoupling” or “gay marriage.”  The beauty of the Church is her willingness to profess the Truth, not some augmented version of reality that will temporarily mollify her flock.

We cannot accept the terms proposed by a secular society increasingly hostile to religion because they simply do not allow for thinkers in the Thomistic or Aristotelian tradition to adequately articulate their deepest convictions about human dignity or the “good life.”  As college students, we have a duty to use our resources on campus—professors, classes, readings, clubs, events—to learn the language in which we understand the Truth of human nature and institutions.

If we want to engage productively and honestly in dialogue about bleak social realities, we must do so in our own rhetoric.  We can no longer afford to allow for a therapeutic naming of these most crucial issues.

Lilia Draime is a junior at a Catholic university in the United States. Her biweekly column addresses issues that impact young students struggling to live their faith on college and university campuses, whether those institutions be Catholic or not.

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