success stories

Vatican's "Lexicon of the Family"
Leaves No Room for Ambiguities

Aimed at Terminology That Sows Seeds of Confusion

A voluminous Vatican study entitled "Lexicon of the Family" clarifies numerous terms that seem innocuous but could otherwise hide ideological objectives.

The much-awaited lexicon will go on sale in Italy early next year. No date has been set for an English edition. Dozens of international specialists have collaborated on the close to 1,000-page volume produced by the Pontifical Council for the Family.

"Voluntary interruption of pregnancy," when referring to abortion, and "reproductive health," when talking about contraception, are only two examples of the terms endorsed by many countries which introduce grave moral confusion, the lexicon warns.

Even expressions that seem unequivocal, such as "matrimonial indissolubility" and "conjugal love," can open the doors to a new manipulation of language, the Vatican work says.

During the extraordinary consistory convoked by John Paul II in the spring of 2001, Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, announced a new "vademecum" of family ethics.

A work of this type was needed to underline the doctrinal foundations in light of new situation and to put a halt to the family-linguistic "conspiracy."

"When the family is discussed in the U.N. or in national parliaments, ambiguous terms and concepts impede a real understanding of the speaker's intentions," Cardinal López Trujillo told the Italian newspaper Avvenire.

"Four years ago, we organized a meeting with some international experts and we tried to write a list of the 'risky' definitions: those that, behind apparently positive formulas, hide debatable objectives," he said.

The exercise revealed "worrying results," he noted. The "greater part of references to the family, to children, to woman, are vitiated by an almost Orwellian language. Phrases are articulated that never define clearly the concept that is really being expressed."

There are hundreds of examples of this, the cardinal continued. When there is talk of "discrimination of woman" in reality "there is no concern for the feminine condition, but a desire to put across that the family is the place where woman's aspirations are abused," Cardinal López Trujillo contended.

In other words, "to speak about discrimination of woman too often becomes an accusation against the family," he emphasized.

Another term addressed by the lexicon, which masks debatable concepts, is "gender."

"At present there are many experts who no longer refer to the biological fact, but to the cultural option," said the cardinal. "According to this logic, sexual identity should not be rooted in human nature, but in the tendency that the individual is free to embrace. In this way, an attempt is made to put heterosexual and homosexual couples on the same plane."

There is also talk of the importance of "sexual education." "But no mention is made that education is directed to affectivity and interpersonal relations, not to sexual techniques," the cardinal stated.