In a heading, Gaudium et Spes 54 describes “The Circumstances of Culture in the World Today,” starting with:
The circumstances of the life of modern (humankind) have been so profoundly changed in their social and cultural aspects, that we can speak of a new age of human history.(1. Cf. Introductory statement of this constitution, n. 4 ff.) New ways are open, therefore, for the perfection and the further extension of culture.
Ways of “perfection” and “extension” are not necessarily Christian, but keep in mind that culture, in order to achieve lasting and authentic (See? I can use the word!) progress, must integrate the principles of the Gospel.
These ways have been prepared by the enormous growth of natural, human and social sciences, by technical progress, and advances in developing and organizing means whereby (people) can communicate with one another. Hence the culture of today possesses particular characteristics: sciences which are called exact greatly develop critical judgment; the more recent psychological studies more profoundly explain human activity; historical studies make it much easier to see things in their mutable and evolutionary aspects, customs and usages are becoming more and more uniform; industrialization, urbanization, and other causes which promote community living create a mass-culture from which are born new ways of thinking, acting and making use of leisure. The increase of commerce between the various nations and human groups opens more widely to all the treasures of different civilizations and thus little by little, there develops a more universal form of human culture, which better promotes and expresses the unity of the human race to the degree that it preserves the particular aspects of the different civilizations.
The bishops, through GS, communicate a hopefulness about the non-sacred sciences that can be applied to the improvement of human life. Doubtless there would be somewhat more detractors today. How would you see the proper balance for the Catholic Church and the world of 2006? Is there still stuff off the barque to get excited about? Or are we better off circling the wagons?