17 March 2013

Vatican II: Gaudium et Spes III

From their discussions of some of the specific issues facing modern man, the Council Fathers turn next to the interaction of Christians with the world around them.  Much of this section is about what one would expect -- striving to meet the basic needs of others, treating others with love and respect, etc.  The Fathers are clear that respect toward all does not equate to the "tolerance" preached by modern man, which states that all people must approve of everything everyone else does (unless what other people are doing is expressing a viewpoint that isn't "tolerant" -- that is not allowed):
This love and good will, to be sure, must in no way render us indifferent to truth and goodness. Indeed love itself impels the disciples of Christ to speak the saving truth to all men. But it is necessary to distinguish between error, which always merits repudiation, and the person in error, who never loses the dignity of being a person even when he is flawed by false or inadequate religious notions.
In short: love the sinner, hate the sin  Sound familiar?

The Fathers move on to a general discussion of man's activity and development.  They go to great pains to explain how human development and the works produced by man are not in opposition to God's will or religious thought:
Thus, far from thinking that works produced by man's own talent and energy are in opposition to God's power, and that the rational creature exists as a kind of rival to the Creator, Christians are convinced that the triumphs of the human race are a sign of God's grace and the flowering of His own mysterious design. For the greater man's power becomes, the farther his individual and community responsibility extends. Hence it is clear that men are not deterred by the Christian message from building up the world, or impelled to neglect the welfare of their fellows, but that they are rather more stringently bound to do these very things.
They continue in paragraph 36:
Therefore if methodical investigation within every branch of learning is carried out in a genuinely scientific manner and in accord with moral norms, it never truly conflicts with faith, for earthly matters and the concerns of faith derive from the same God. Indeed whoever labors to penetrate the secrets of reality with a humble and steady mind, even though he is unaware of the fact, is nevertheless being led by the hand of God, who holds all things in existence, and gives them their identity. 
Of course, one of the most strident arguments made by atheists is that the Church is opposed to scientific progress -- they cite the Galileo controversy and not much else and conclude triumphantly that the Church hates science.  (By the way, their portrayal of Galileo is fairly inaccurate.)  The Council Fathers clearly set forth the actual teaching of the Church with regard to scientific progress.

At the risk of repeating themselves, as with the sections on freedom, the pursuit of knowledge, etc., that all human activity must be grounded in faith in Christ in order to lead to true progress:
Hence if anyone wants to know how this unhappy situation can be overcome, Christians will tell him that all human activity, constantly imperiled by man's pride and deranged self-love, must be purified and perfected by the power of Christ's cross and resurrection. For redeemed by Christ and made a new creature in the Holy Spirit, man is able to love the things themselves created by God, and ought to do so. He can receive them from God and respect and reverence them as flowing constantly from the hand of God. Grateful to his Benefactor for these creatures, using and enjoying them in detachment and liberty of spirit, man is led forward into a true possession of them, as having nothing, yet possessing all things.
Tomorrow: the specific role of the Church in the modern world.


Anonymous said...

Jamie D. here. You might consider citing a non-Catholic source to support your argument in the "Galileo vs. the Church" argument. I would guess that "www.catholic.com" is not the most unbiased source. It's pretty much like Rachel Maddow telling me that the President is super awesome.

All that being said, I'm really enjoying following your blog.

Unknown said...

Thanks, Jamie! Glad you're enjoying my nonsensical writings.

And I see your point with regard to the Galileo thing -- unfortunately, it's pretty widely accepted in the secular sphere that the Galileo affair went down in a certain manner, and there aren't many non-Catholics who are challenging that rendition of history.