Gaudium et Spes 44

In Gaudium et Spes 44, the Church expresses a reality both humble and confident.

Just as it is in the world’s interest to acknowledge the Church as an historical reality, and to recognize her good influence, so the Church herself knows how richly she has profited by the history and development of humanity.

The experience of past ages, the progress of the sciences, and the treasures hidden in the various forms of human culture, by all of which the nature of (humankind) is more clearly revealed and new roads to truth are opened, these profit the Church, too. For, from the beginning of her history she has learned to express the message of Christ with the help of the ideas and terminology of various philosophers, and and has tried to clarify it with their wisdom, too. Her purpose has been to adapt the Gospel to the grasp of all as well as to the needs of the learned, insofar as such was appropriate.

Note this statement, which presumes a confidence in the faith, as well as a faith in the incorruptibility of the Church’s core message in light of the non-Christian tools which may be used from time to time to further the gospel.

Indeed this accommodated preaching of the revealed word ought to remain the law of all evangelization. For thus the ability to express Christ’s message in its own way is developed in each nation, and at the same time there is fostered a living exchange between the Church and’ the diverse cultures of people.(22. Cf. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Chapter II, n. 13: AAS 57 (1965), p. 17.)

Jesus approved of this certain savvy approach:

To promote such exchange, especially in our days, the Church requires the special help of those who live in the world, are versed in different institutions and specialties, and grasp their innermost significance in the eyes of both believers and unbelievers. With the help of the Holy Spirit, it is the task of the entire People of God, especially pastors and theologians, to hear, distinguish and interpret the many voices of our age, and to judge them in the light of the divine word, so that revealed truth can always be more deeply penetrated, better understood and set forth to greater advantage.

The entire Church shares in the discernment, according to Vatican II. Pastors and theologians do possess a special need to discern what can be sued in non-religious circles to spread the gospel. But those who live in the world also have a “special” contribution to make. This would be one instance in which it was discovered it is no longer wise or effective to lean on the ordained for the exclusive discernment of right and wrong.

Since the Church has a visible and social structure as a sign of her unity in Christ, she can and ought to be enriched by the development of human social life, not that there is any lack in the constitution given her by Christ, but that she can understand it more penetratingly, express it better, and adjust it more successfully to our times.

Again, the confidence of our foundation in Christ enables this statement to be presented.

Moreover, she gratefully understands that in her community life no less than in her individual (children), she receives a variety of helps from (those) of every rank and condition, for whoever promotes the human community at the family level, culturally, in its economic, social and political dimensions, both nationally and internationally, such a one, according to God’s design, is contributing greatly to the Church as well, to the extent that she depends on things outside herself. Indeed, the Church admits that she has greatly profited and still profits from the antagonism of those who oppose or who persecute her.(cf. Justin, Dialogus cum Tryphene, Chapter 110; MG 6, 729 (ed. Otto), 1897, pp. 391-393: “. . .but the greater the number of persecutions which are inflicted upon us, so much the greater the number of other men who become devout believers through the name of Jesus.” Cf. Tertullian, Apologeticus, Chapter L, 13: “Every time you mow us down like grass, we increase in number: the blood of Christians is a seed!” Cf. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Chapter II, no. 9: AAS 57 (1965), p. 14.)

This expresses in part why I find myself impatient with those who complain about anti-Catholicism. In my own life experience, I have also experienced antagonism from peers, at work, in parishes, and my goal has most often been to utilize opposition for my own ends. It does little good to complain about opposition–it is a simple fact of the human existence. Conflict and division are part of the shadow of mortal life.

Opposition has the potential to strengthen the talents and the tenacity of those persecuted. While I think that threats should be taken with an appropriate degree of seriousness, it is also important to present the face of self-confidence, not a wail of persecution. Do we believe in Christ’s founding of the Church. Or don’t we?

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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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