Ad Gentes 22

The council bishops discuss the interplay of theology and what a “young Church” may have to offer the universal Church.

The seed which is the word of God, watered by divine dew, sprouts from the good ground and draws from thence its moisture, which it transforms and assimilates into itself, and finally bears much fruit. In harmony with the economy of the Incarnation, the young churches, rooted in Christ and built up on the foundation of the Apostles, take to themselves in a wonderful exchange all the riches of the nations which were given to Christ as an inheritance (cf Ps. 2:8). They borrow from the customs and traditions of their people, from their wisdom and their learning, from their arts and disciplines, all those things which can contribute to the glory of their Creator, or enhance the grace of their Savior, or dispose Christian life the way it should be.

The bishops encourage theological speculation, even term it necessary. This “speculation” seems to be lensed through the cultural experiences of cultural traditions, art, etc.. Naturally, one would wonder why such explorations wouldn’t be part of a renewing, life-giving spiritual openness for Europe. After all, the bishops spend considerable time lauding non-Christian culture as a place from which to mine spiritual riches. Is it different to have a Christianized culture rethink and rework aspects of human expression than a non-believing one? What if Europe’s “problem” isn’t an abandonment of Christian values, but more of a clinging to aspects of religion which no longer provide ample grace? In other words, this field may be plowed nearly to death.

To achieve this goal, it is necessary that in each major socio-cultural area, such theological speculation should be encouraged, in the light of the universal Church’s tradition, as may submit to a new scrutiny the words and deeds which God has revealed, and which have been set down in Sacred Scripture and explained by the Fathers and by the magisterium.

This “faith seeking understanding” is a classic definition of theology. The bishops presume it can be a good starting point, with the intent of looking for points of harmonization with Christian values.

Thus it will be more clearly seen in what ways faith may seek for understanding, with due regard for the philosophy and wisdom of these peoples; it will be seen in what ways their customs, views on life, and social order, can be reconciled with the manner of living taught by divine revelation. From here the way will be opened to a more profound adaptation in the whole area of Christian life. By this manner of acting, every appearance of syncretism and of false particularism will be excluded, and Christian life will be accommodated to the genius and the dispositions of each culture. Particular traditions, together with the peculiar patrimony of each family of nations, illumined by the light of the Gospel, can then be taken up into Catholic unity. Finally, the young particular churches, adorned with their own traditions, will have their own place in the ecclesiastical communion, saving always the primacy of Peter’s See, which presides over the entire assembly of charity.

The council bishops again call for cooperation among bishops and dioceses:

And so, it is to be hoped that episcopal conferences within the limits of each major socio – cultural territory will so coordinate their efforts that they may be able to pursue this proposal of adaptation with one mind and with a common plan.

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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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