12 March 2013

Vatican II: Gaudium et Spes I

As a postlude to my Lumen Gentium posts, it's nice to see I'm not the only one calling out the "Spirit of Vatican II" crowd for their horrendous misinterpretation of the Council documents.  And by "misinterpretation", I mean "non-reading".

Gaudium et Spes was the fourth and final major constitution written by the Council Fathers and promulgated by Pope Paul VI.  The subject is the Church in the modern world.  As one might expect given It is a very long document, so for the sake of not taking a week with my posts on it, I'm going to take a broader view than I have been with the other documents.

The Fathers begin with a lengthy section on the current status of modern man.  While recognizing the tremendous advancements of recent decades, the Fathers' overall view of modern man is not a rosy one:
Never has the human race enjoyed such an abundance of wealth, resources and economic power, and yet a huge proportion of the worlds citizens are still tormented by hunger and poverty, while countless numbers suffer from total illiteracy. Never before has man had so keen an understanding of freedom, yet at the same time new forms of social and psychological slavery make their appearance. Although the world of today has a very vivid awareness of its unity and of how one man depends on another in needful solidarity, it is most grievously torn into opposing camps by conflicting forces. For political, social, economic, racial and ideological disputes still continue bitterly, and with them the peril of a war which would reduce everything to ashes. True, there is a growing exchange of ideas, but the very words by which key concepts are expressed take on quite different meanings in diverse ideological systems. Finally, man painstakingly searches for a better world, without a corresponding spiritual advancement.
. . . 
The truth is that the imbalances under which the modern world labors are linked with that more basic imbalance which is rooted in the heart of man. For in man himself many elements wrestle with one another. Thus, on the one hand, as a creature he experiences his limitations in a multitude of ways; on the other he feels himself to be boundless in his desires and summoned to a higher life. Pulled by manifold attractions he is constantly forced to choose among them and renounce some. Indeed, as a weak and sinful being, he often does what he would not, and fails to do what he would.
After these introductory remarks, the Fathers turn to a discussion of the values that were important to the world at the time (many of which remain valid today).  I will take a look at some of these points tomorrow.

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