Gaudium et Spes 2


Continuing the preface, GS 2 begins to lay down some reasoning for exploring the church’s relationship with the wider world:

Hence this Second Vatican Council, having probed more profoundly into the mystery of the Church, now addresses itself without hesitation, not only to the sons (and daughters) of the Church and to all who invoke the name of Christ, but to the whole of humanity. For the council yearns to explain to everyone how it conceives of the presence and activity of the Church in the world of today.

If the Church is serious about this, GS should be the document most often quoted at the Church from the world at large. As it is, this reads as a farewell of sorts from the council: we’ve done the internal work for the past three years; now it’s time to look outside the walls.

Therefore, the council focuses its attention on the world of (people), the whole human family along with the sum of those realities in the midst of which it lives; that world which is the theater of (human) history, and the heir of (human) energies, (human) tragedies and (human) triumphs; that world which the Christian sees as created and sustained by its Maker’s love, fallen indeed into the bondage of sin, yet emancipated now by Christ, Who was crucified and rose again to break the strangle hold of personified evil, so that the world might be fashioned anew according to God’s design and reach its fulfillment.

How do (could?) we see the world? First as God’s creation, “sustained by its Maker’s love.” Secondly, as an object of the Fall. Third, as freed by Christ–the understanding here is that Christ’s salvific event has redeemed the world; believers only need check in. The desired end is not missed: the world is to be remade in accordance with God’s will and achieve fulfillment.

I suppose the obvious question hangs in the air: Does the world want the Church’s opinion? Does it want to be “fashioned anew?” If not, does this document have any purpose outside of the enclosure of the faithful? Anything more than just laying down some general principles for its conduct among unbelievers?

I suspect the world situation of the mid-60′s has something to do with this rather brash presumption. The Roman Church was held in more esteem then than now, probably. The threat of nuclear incineration continued to hang over the world’s people. Less danger today of that, but the intermediate states between the pseudo-peace of a cold war, and all-out mutual destruction have been explored somewhat in the so-called war on terrorism. We have no Cold War; can we thank John Paul for that, in part? We still have governments terrorizing citizens of their own or other nations. If “terror” doesn’t fit, what about pessimism perpetrated by the unimpressive leadership of today’s world?

GS 3 will provide a few answers, but perhaps you have questions or observations of your own.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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