Gaudium et Spes 29

Gaudium et Spes 29 seems tame, though there was a day when it would have read radical:

Since all (people) possess a rational soul and are created in God’s likeness, since they have the same nature and origin, have been redeemed by Christ and enjoy the same divine calling and destiny, the basic equality of all must receive increasingly greater recognition.

Hmm, all are redeemed. Okay. The basis of human rights is in the spiritual nature of the human being, as well as our creation in God’s image. According to the Church, it holds true for women as well:

True, all (people) are not alike from the point of view of varying physical power and the diversity of intellectual and moral resources. Nevertheless, with respect to the fundamental rights of the person, every type of discrimination, whether social or cultural, whether based on sex, race, color, social condition, language or religion, is to be overcome and eradicated as contrary to God’s intent. For in truth it must still be regretted that fundamental personal rights are still not being universally honored. Such is the case of a woman who is denied the right to choose a husband freely, to embrace a state of life or to acquire an education or cultural benefits equal to those recognized for men.

And an issue is raised: inequity amongst the world’s people as a whole and within nations or groups. One could rightly ask the question if or when economic differences indeed cause scandal and thwart social justice. Our experience of the past several decades shows that social differences are indeed a factor that destabilizes society. A fearless and truthful diagnosis is needed to assuage (or overcome) the objections of those who claim that wealth is an earned right.

Therefore, although rightful differences exist between (people), the equal dignity of persons demands that a more humane and just condition of life be brought about. For excessive economic and social differences between the members of the one human family or population groups cause scandal, and militate against social justice, equity, the dignity of the human person, as well as social and international peace.

In the sphere of the laity, our task is laid down for us:

Human institutions, both private and public, must labor to minister to the dignity and purpose of (humankind). At the same time let them put up a stubborn fight against any kind of slavery, whether social or political, and safeguard the basic rights of (people) under every political system. Indeed human institutions themselves must be accommodated by degrees to the highest of all realities, spiritual ones, even though meanwhile, a long enough time will be required before they arrive at the desired goal.

Accommodation is a difficult road for the impatient. I don’t think that believers can pussyfoot around ultimate goals in the dialogue with those who would tend to oppress human beings. But there is a wish to accomplish something substantive to improve the quality of human life in some way.

The prudential judgment on how fast is fast enough–this is a tough one. On the ever-present abortion issue, do believers accommodate a compromise which would save unborn lives, but keep legal abortion on the books? Gaudium et Spes would seem to suggest this is possible.

Commentary?

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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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