GDC 22: “Religious factors”

GDC then turns to consider briefly the religious factors in the modern field, both the rejection of religion and the rise of new ways of looking at religion:

22. Amongst the elements which make up the cultural heritage of a people, religious and moral factors are of particular interest to the sower. There is in contemporary culture a persistent spread of religious indifference: “Many however of our contemporaries …either do not at all perceive, or else explicitly reject, this intimate and vital bond of man to God”.(32)

Atheism, understood as a negation of God, “must therefore be regarded as one of the most serious problems of our time”.(33) While it can take various forms, it often appears today under the guise of secularism, which consists in an excessively autonomous view of man and of the world “according to which it is entirely self-explanatory without any reference to God”.(34) In the specifically religious sphere there are signs of “a return to the sacred”,(35) of a new thirst for transcendent reality and for the divine. The contemporary world acknowledges in a more comprehensive and vital way “the renewed interest in religious research”.(36) Certainly this phenomenon “is not without ambiguity”.(37) The widespread growth of sects and new religious movements and the revival of “fundamentalism” (38) are factors of serious concern for the Church and require careful analysis.

Atheism was clearly a concern back in 1965, before Catholics tussled with the prominent atheists of the 21st century.

Despite the hand-wringing about “new age” practices, is there something this tells us about the lack of connections between modern laity and institutional or traditional Christianity? Is it enough to blame those who “thirst for transcendent reality and for the divine,” but who don’t find it in the Catholic Church? Is an insistent scholastic philosophy really enough? I don’t think so. Can anyone make a case for it?

Notes:

  • (32) Gaudium et Spes 19.
  • (33) Gaudium et Spes 19.
  • (34) Evangelii Nuntiandi 55; cf. Libertatis Conscientia41 and Gaudium et Spes 19.
  • (35) Synod (1985), II, A 1.
  • (36) Christifedeles Laici 4.
  • (37) Cf. Redemptoris Missio 38.
  • (38) Centesimus Annus 29 and 46c.
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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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3 Responses to GDC 22: “Religious factors”

  1. Stijn says:

    Again, I think that the quotations from GS are not unproblematic. It has often been noticed that the way in which the texts of V2 bring about renewal, is via conjunctions: Both the tradition and the renewal are stated side by side (see J. O’Malley, What happened at Vatican II?). That makes quoting V2 very difficult.
    It think these quotations from GS show that. It is true that GS 19 has this critical remark about atheism as “one of the most serious problems of out time.” It is also true that GS 19 sees atheism as (at least partly) a problem of believers: “believers can have more than a little to do with the birth of atheism.”
    The same pattern is visible in GS 21 (on the position of the church on atheism): firm rejection next to believing that the questions atheism poses ought to be examined seriously and more profoundly, and cooperation for the good of the world.
    Quoting just one part (especially if it’s not the part that came forth from the renewal at the council) is problematic, especially since the other parts are important for catechesis, too. I for one, read the instruction to “examenie the questions atheism poses seriously and more profoundly” as an important catechetical remark.

    • Stijn says:

      apologies for the typos…

    • Todd says:

      I’m not sure these passages are as problematic as you suggest. Atheists pose a problem to believers–this is true. They compete with fence-sitters as an ideology, and they raise questions for the faithful, questions that perhaps the institution would prefer to avoid. Or questions for which we lack a thoughtful of convincing answer.

      On the other hand, if the only social service agency in a community or region was run by atheists, why wouldn’t the Church cooperate in matters where common goals–some of them, anyway–were in alignment?

      Isn’t there a difference between cooperation with evil, and cooperation with the religiously uninformed?

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