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5 Catholic phrases that need to go away, now



Tommy Tighe - published on 08/19/16

Some things must be said, of course. And some things must be said in new ways or banished.

Within Catholic social media, there exists a plethora of phrases that get bandied about with an atrocious regularity.

I’m not talking about liturgical phrases or phrases coined by papal encyclicals, but rather those invented by well-meaning lay folks which have taken on a life of their own and have led to shrugs, eye rolls, and face palms from those of us who just…can’t…even.

After doing a little crowd-sourcing on Twitter to discover what a range of Catholics feel are deserving of dialectic capital punishment, here is the definitive list of the five phrases that need to be cut from the everyday Catholic lexicon:

“Modest is hottest”

The topic of modesty can be a hot button issue. From knee-length skirts to mantillas at Mass, there’s a huge (and largely positive) push for Catholic women to recognize their value and dignity are not based on turning a man’s head as they walk by.

As a part of that, the phrase “modest is hottest” has begun to pop up in the Catholic world, and it needs to stop. While the point of the phrase — that modesty in dress is valued not only by our faith but counter-intuitively by the male members of our society – is inarguable, the phrase itself weakens the intended point. Dressing modestly isn’t about being hot, it’s about understanding we are made in the image and likeness of God and desiring to present ourselves in a way that matches up with that understanding.

To say that women dressing modestly are “hot” only goes to underscore our culture’s destructive view of a woman’s value; it also suggests that objectification is okay as long as the knees are covered.

“Contraceptive mentality” 

There’s nothing like imparting guilt on those struggling married folks who try to live in accordance with the Church’s teaching on married love and contraception.

Imagine, if you will, after years of using contraception you finally come to see the truth of the Church’s teaching and take on the difficult task of responsible parenthood via Natural Family Planning. Now, picture yourself explaining to another NFPer about how challenging it can be to abstain during fertile periods in order to postpone a pregnancy you just aren’t quite ready for, only to have them come back with the assertion that you are using NFP with a contraceptive mentality.

Once again, here is a phrase that is trying to make a good point, but ends up bringing mental anguish to those trying to be the best Catholics they can be. No, you should not be postponing pregnancy via Natural Family Planning in order to have enough money to buy a boat or go on a fancy vacation.

I have never met anyone using NFP who was actually using it for that purpose.

NFP is hard. Using contraception is easy. And yet, many of us push forward with a life of NFP because we know it’s right, we know that the Church’s understanding of unconditional love between spouses makes sense.

The last thing we need is someone telling us we’re “doing it wrong,” and accusing us of being, essentially, “dry drunks.”

“In the Spirit of Vatican II”

The Second Vatican Council is one of the most maligned and misunderstood councils in Church history, typically by individuals and groups who haven’t even taken the time to read the documents.

“The Spirit of Vatican II” is used as an excuse to suggest making all sorts of changes to the Church that were never intended by the council itself. Ordination of women? The Spirit of Vatican II! Protestant hymns in the Mass? The Spirit of Vatican II! Sliding the tabernacle out of view, or sticking it in another room all together? You guessed it!

In reality, the documents of the Second Vatican Council continue the traditions that existed since the time of the Apostles. So, let’s stop making Vatican II sound as if it did otherwise.

“Catholic guilt”

From stand up comedians to the barista at your local coffee shop, everyone loves to crack jokes about good ol’ Catholic guilt. Apparently, just being Catholic leads to a life filled with suffering and guilt for things meant to make us happy. “Catholic guilt” is shorthand for a “Catholic conscience.” Which no one is supposed to have anymore.

Sadly, the term continues to perpetuate an annoying stereotype about Catholics as a group, especially foolish considering most of us are carefree and joyful rather than mopey and guilty.

“Emotional chastity”

This may be the granddaddy of them all.

The typical tweet promoting the concept of emotional chastity will encourage people to guard their hearts from getting too emotionally involved with someone other than God. The term alludes to the idea that those of us who have dreamed about a life with someone else (the marriage, the kids, the house, and all the rest) as a way of meeting our emotional needs are actually using that other person in a way that actually violates the virtue of chastity.

Typically, when we think of someone being unchaste, we think of a serious sin that constitutes the need for the Sacrament of Confession. When we take that term and apply it to someone making a Pinterest board of wedding dresses because they just met a guy they like at Mass, it just confuses the whole deal and makes everyone feel worse.

Most of these Catholic phrases have good ideas behind them; they point to truths that we should keep present in our minds. The problem is that they take things a bit too far, and end up making people feel worse when they are trying their best.

Life is hard. Living a life where you strive to follow the teachings of the Catholic faith is even harder. Let’s take a step toward helping everyone out on the journey, and cut these phrases out immediately.

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