Monday, October 15, 2007

True but Profitable?


A simple word on the surface, but quite dangerous in application. For instance, say you strike up a conversation with a healthy pregnant woman. Would "big," which can mean something positive like "robust," be a proper compliment to pay her womb?
You would be speaking truth and not intending anything untoward or negative. However, the woman would more than likely take the word in its more common sense when applied to persons, "fat."

A similar two-faced word is "anti-Catholic." Its common definition is one who is bigoted or hostile toward Catholics. The Know-Nothings were notoriously anti-Catholic in this sense. Also, those who concoct lurid conspiracy-fantasies about Catholics or knowingly and inexcusably twist Catholic doctrine are conducting anti-Catholic behavior.

"Anti-Catholic" also has a more technical definition, namely anyone who believes Catholicism does not possess the Christian gospel and also makes a point of contending against Catholic belief with the goal of leading Catholics from the fold. Using this definition I could be termed "anti-Mormon" or "anti-Jehovah's Witness."

A frustrating amount of digital ink has been spilled over this distinction, especially in regards to Reformed-Baptist apologist James White and others like him who have mounted vigorous attacks on Catholic doctrine and do not believe Catholicism to part of the Christian fold. Many Catholic apologists insist on labeling Dr. White as anti-Catholic since he meets the criterion for the second meaning. Dr. White objects because the label carries heavy baggage from the first meaning, which to my knowledge he does not meet.

Much like the robust pregnant woman above, the average person generally thinks of the common sense of a word when they read or hear it. Therefore, while one might be technically correct to label someone like Dr. White "anti-Catholic," it is also misleading to those who do not understand the less common meaning.

In brief, the average fella has a good chance of coming to the conclusion that Dr. White is anti-Catholic in the Know-Nothing/Maria Monk sense, which he is not. We should strive for accuracy, not only in the technical sense but also, insofar as we are able, in what those who hear us understand. Charity demands this.

So, departing from the norm a bit, this blog will only be using "anti-Catholic" in the common sense.

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