We communicate with words, words we all agree on. For example, if I
were to speak of a red rose, you would immediately visualize a red flower
with a thorny stem. However, if in my mind, I'm calling a lily a rose, then
all I'm going to do is confuse you. I couldn't say "Well, that's 'your'
definition of a rose, not mine." In short, we may sound like we're speaking
the same language, but in reality, we aren't.
There was an old brain teaser that went something like "What you think I said
is not what I meant." Sometimes these misunderstandings can come about by
our 'listening to the headlines'. For example, the Church teaching "Outside
the Church there is no salvation", on the surface, seems elitist and
exclusionary. Yet, if one reads past the title, they see how the Church has
always deemed those who follow God as they were taught about Him, as members
of the Church. But we also have the problem of hedging on words, making them
fit what we want. A child may say that he won't play with matches. But when
caught with matches say that he wasn't playing, but was trying to light the
candle. Language is a tool we use to convey our thoughts and feelings. But
as any con man knows, language can also be used to confuse, mislead and
A recent study said that boys in school are ten times more likely to
receive special attention than girls. However, what the study failed to
mention was that the boys were ten times more likely to be disruptive and
THAT was the cause of the special attention. Not an anti-female bias.
This confusion in language seems to be more prevalent today than ever
before and all sorts of things are affected by it, even Church teaching and
the Scriptures. For example, St. John writes "In the beginning was the
Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1). Yet, in the
Jehovah Witness scriptures we read it as "In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god." A simple word, yet the
difference is from night and day. That Christ is not God, but rather 'A'
Even well intentioned translations can cause great changes and errors.
Martin Luther believed in the Immaculate Conception, writing in 1527, "The
infusion of Mary's soul was effected without original sin…From the first
moment she began to live she was free from all sin." (Sermon "On the Day of
the Conception of the Mother of God.") Yet, he felt that the angelic
greeting to Mary was better translated as "highly favored" rather than,
'"full of grace". Yet, from his translation came the error that Mary was
'only' highly favored and not full of grace. That she was made sinless at
the moment of the angel's greeting or was never sinless.
And then there is the normal word changes that are used to confuse. In the
King James version, the commission added 'firkins' to John 2:6. Today, one
would be hard pressed to know a firkin was an English unit of measure, about
a quart or a barrel. It may have clarified things to the British in the 17th
century, but we'd have no idea what they meant.
In the Douay-Rheims Bible St. Paul is quoted as saying "Know you not that the
unjust shall not possess the kingdom of God? Do not err: neither
fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor the effeminate, nor liers
with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor railers, nor
exhortioners, shall possess the kingdom of God" (1 Corinthians 6: 9-10).
Today it reads: "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the
kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor
adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor
revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God."
Many will use the fact that the term homosexual was not used until the
1800's as an excuse that St. Paul never condemned homosexual activity.
Though words may change, it doesn't take a lot of work to see what is meant.
But today, we seem to be seeing language that is so vague and ambigious
as to be left open to all sorts of interpretaions. For example, in the Mass,
at the offertory, we say, "May the Lord accept the sacrifice from your hands,
for the praise and glory of His name. For our welfare and that of His
church." But we once said, "May the Lord receive this sacrifice at Thy
hands, to the praise and glory of His name, to our own benefit, and to that
of all His holy Church." Is the implication that the Church is no longer
holy? We know that the people IN the Church may not be holy, but the Church
is. What change in teaching can this be used to promote? That the Catholic
Church is NOT the Church founded by Christ? That there is no difference
between the Catholic Church and other Christian denominations or other
religions? Coupled with definition of the word catholic to imply that ALL
things are universally accepted, does imply the Church must accept all
things, beliefs, etc?
"We are Church" is another. Is it, "We are A Church", "We are THE
Church", or what? Does it mean that the people are the teaching authority of
the Church (the slant of the "We Are Church" campaign of Call To Action)?
All sorts of things can be inferred from this phrase.
Many may also hear this before a Mass. "Today's Presider is Fr…………"
Presider? According to the dictionary a presider is one who acts as a
chairman of a meeting, who directs or controls a meeting. Is that what the
priest is at the Mass? Is he presiding over a meeting of the community? A
prayer meeting? Sure, Protestant pastors and ministers can be called
presiders, but not Catholic priests. Since they 'celebrate' the sacrifice of
the Mass, they are more Celebrant than Presider. Even the dictionary
acknowledges this. "One who celebrates, esp. the officiating priest in the
celebration of the Eucharist." Does one have to be a priest to 'preside' at
a meeting of the faithful? Any one can 'preside' but only a priest can
'celebrate' the Mass.
More and more, one may hear this in the Mass. "Lamb of God, who takes
away the SIN of the world….." Sin? Singular? Which sin specifically did He
take away? I've heard it said that SIN can be used as a singular as well as
plural. I can't find any justification of that view. But it seems odd that
such a broad sweep would seem to be acceptable when, at the same time, we
have to be specific in view of gender.
We can't say we are brethren (denoting a spiritual brotherhood, among men
and women), no, we have to specify sisters and brothers. We can't say Christ
came to redeem all mankind, but all humankind. We can't say God the Father,
but we must couch it in vague generalities, such as Creator, Redeemer,
Many of these may not be 'wrong', but without a solid understanding, they
can, and will, lead off into error, just as Luther's "highly favored" led
many to deny Mary's Immaculate Conception and her unique position in THE