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*Image: The Good Shepherd fresco by an unknown artist, c. 200 [Catacombs of Priscilla, Rome]

By Stephen P. White, The Catholic Thing, Sept. 9, 2021

Stephen P. White is executive director of The Catholic Project at The Catholic University of America and a fellow in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Stephen P. WhiteThey say that in writing, “you must kill all your darlings.” For those who don’t fancy themselves writers, what this means is that a writer ought to ruthlessly eliminate pet phrases that, however cute or clever, might distract from the substance or argument of a piece of writing. It’s excellent advice, and hard to follow.

For a long time now, ecclesial writing has suffered from a growing number of “darlings” – a multiplication of platitudes, swaddled in jargon, masquerading as prose. (The problem predates this pontificate, for what it’s worth.) The length of official Church documents, you may have also noticed, has grown in inverse proportion to the artfulness of the prose. As an aesthetic problem, such writing is bad enough. But clumsy ecclesial prose is also an impediment to the mission of the Church. Muddled language obscures the Gospel. …

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