Gaudium et Spes 56

In these conditions, it is no cause of wonder that (humankind), who senses (a) responsibility for the progress of culture, nourishes a high hope but also looks with anxiety upon many contradictory things which (it) must resolve:

This short section of Gaudium et Spes concludes with these five significant challenges. Are they more or less relevant for the world of the early 21st century?

What is to be done to prevent the increased exchanges between cultures, which should lead to a true and fruitful dialogue between groups and nations, from disturbing the life of communities, from destroying the wisdom received from ancestors, or from placing in danger the character proper to each people?

More true today, especially where Western culture has strongarmed itself into a position of prominence in non-Western societies.

How is the dynamism and expansion of a new culture to be fostered without losing a living fidelity to the heritage of tradition. This question is of particular urgency when a culture which arises from the enormous progress of science and technology must be harmonized with a culture nourished by classical studies according to various traditions.

Still significant today, though I think fewer people at large are concerned with being nourished by classical studies.

How can we quickly and progressively harmonize the proliferation of particular branches of study with the necessity of forming a synthesis of them, and of preserving among men the faculties of contemplation and observation which lead to wisdom?

Probably even more of a concern, especially in that in many disciplines, it is impossible to keep current on all relevant developments in the field. I’d like to think that among the sciences, there’s more of an openness to cross-fertilization amongst partners who formerly had no interface.

What can be done to make all (people) partakers of cultural values in the world, when the human culture of those who are more competent is constantly becoming more refined and more complex?

Maybe. What appears to be more competence and more complexity may not necessarily be of lasting value.

Finally how is the autonomy which culture claims for itself to be recognized as legitimate without generating a notion of humanism which is merely terrestrial, and even contrary to religion itself.

Yes, this too is still with us.

In the midst of these conflicting requirements, human culture must evolve today in such a way that it can both develop the whole human person and aid man in those duties to whose fulfillment all are called, especially Christians … united in one human family.

On these issues of culture, I find it hard to swallow the conventional wisdom that Gaudium et Spes has somehow been eclipsed by Dei Verbum, regardless of the personal tastes of bishops. These cultural issues remain with us, and GS carries the torch for the issues of the Church-culture interface. The notion that Vatican II’s reflection on divine revelation alone tells us what we need to know seems naive to me. What about for you?

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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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