Gaudium et Spes 59

Continuing our look at Gaudium et Spes, this last part of the section treating the development of culture starts off by saying, in essence, that culture is a tool for human beings, and not elevated to its own level:

For the above reasons, the Church recalls to the mind of all that culture is to be subordinated to the integral perfection of the human person, to the good of the community and of the whole society. 

We have another list:

 Therefore it is necessary to develop the human faculties in such a way that there results a growth of the faculty

  • - of admiration,
  • - of intuition,
  • - of contemplation,
  • - of making personal judgment,
  • - of developing a religious, moral and social sense.

Culture is identified as a natural result of human interaction as social beings. As such, it serves the common good; it doesn’t set itself up as an unlimited good unto itself.

Culture, because it flows immediately from the spiritual and social character of (people), has constant need of a just liberty in order to develop; it needs also the legitimate possibility of exercising its autonomy according to its own principles. It therefore rightly demands respect and enjoys a certain inviolability within the limits of the common good, as long, of course, as it preserves the rights of the individual and the community, whether particular or universal.

Look! Vatican I is quoted:

This Sacred Synod, therefore, recalling the teaching of the first Vatican Council, declares that there are “two orders of knowledge” which are distinct, namely faith and reason; and that the Church does not forbid that “the human arts and disciplines use their own principles and their proper method, each in its own domain”; therefore “acknowledging this just liberty,” this Sacred Synod affirms the legitimate autonomy of human culture and especially of the sciences. (First Vatican Council, Constitution on the Catholic Faith: Denzinger 1795, 1799 (3015, 3019). Cf. Pius XI, encyclical letter Quadragesimo Anno: AAS 23 (1931), p. 190.) 

The boundaries of human freedom of expression are set liberally:

All this supposes that, within the limits of morality and the common utility, (humankind) can freely search for the truth, express its opinion and publish it; that it can practice any art it chooses: that finally, it can avail himself of true information concerning events of a public nature. (Cf. John XXIII, encyclical letter Pacem in Terris: AAS 55 (1963), p. 260.) 

Just as the Church is content to permit the expression of human culture a liberal breadth, so too, it is not keen on the abuse or corruption of culture by other human entities, such as government or business:

As for public authority, it is not its function to determine the character of the civilization, but rather to establish the conditions and to use the means which are capable of fostering the life of culture among an even within the minorities of a nation. (Cf. John XXIII, encyclical letter Pacem in Terris: AAS 55 (1963), p. 283; Pius XII, radio address, Dec. 24, 1941: AAS 34 (1942), pp. 16-17.) It is necessary to do everything possible to prevent culture from being turned away from its proper end and made to serve as an instrument of political or economic power.

I realize this isn’t as sexy as women’s clothing, but this is also an open thread, ready for 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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