Gaudium et Spes 53

Gaudium et Spes 53 begins a new chapter in Part II, entitled, “The Proper Development of Culture”

Not sure what that means? The council bishops give you a definition:

(People come) to a true and full humanity only through culture, that is through the cultivation of the goods and values of nature. Wherever human life is involved, therefore, nature and culture are quite intimately connected one with the other. The word “culture” in its general sense indicates everything whereby (humankind) develops and perfects (their) many bodily and spiritual qualities; (humankind) strives by … knowledge and … labor, to bring the world itself under (its) control. (People render) social life more human both in the family and the civic community, through improvement of customs and institutions. Throughout the course of time (people) express, communicate and conserve in (their) works, great spiritual experiences and desires, that they might be of advantage to the progress of many, even of the whole human family.

The definitions are important to keep in mind. One misunderstood example is “active participation.” People spend a lot of breath, ink, and keyboard time with their own opinion of what that is. Maybe a waste of time: Sacrosanctum Concilium defines it. Ditto a principle like dialogue. If you’ve been keeping up with the documents, you know that dialogue is carefully defined.

The council bishops assume everyone’s on board with their definition of “culture.” They elaborate a bit with some general examples:

Thence it follows that human culture has necessarily a historical and social aspect and the word “culture” also often assumes a sociological and ethnological sense. According to this sense we speak of a plurality of cultures. Different styles of life and multiple scales of values arise from the diverse manner of using things, of laboring, of expressing oneself, of practicing religion, of forming customs, of establishing laws and juridic institutions of cultivating the sciences, the arts and beauty. Thus the customs handed down to it form the (heritage) proper to each human community. It is also in this way that there is formed the definite, historical milieu which enfolds the (people) of every nation and age and from which (they draw) the values which permit (them) to promote civilization.

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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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