Section 53 of John Paul II’s 1979 apostolic exhortation Catechesi Tradendae forms the basis of this section. Six duties are listed:
203. These duties form an organic whole and are briefly expressed as follows:
– to know in depth the culture of persons and the extent of its penetration into their lives;
– to recognize a cultural dimension in the Gospel itself, while affirming, on the one hand, that this does not spring from some human cultural humus, and recognizing, on the other, that the Gospel cannot be isolated from the cultures in which it was initially inserted and in which it has found expression through the centuries;
– to proclaim the profound change, the conversion, which the Gospel, as a “transforming and regenerating” (Cf. Catechesi Tradendae 53) force works in culture;
– to witness to the transcendence and the non-exhaustion of the Gospel with regard to culture, while at the same time discerning those seeds of the Gospel which may be present in culture;
– to promote a new expression of the Gospel in accordance with evangelized culture, looking to a language of the faith which is the common patrimony of the faithful and thus a fundamental element of communion;
– To maintain integrally the content of the faith and ensure that the doctrinal formulations of tradition are explained and illustrated, while taking into account the cultural and historical circumstaces of those being instructed, and to avoid defacing or falsifying the contents.
These expressions may be “brief” in their presentation, but there’s a lot of work to do in order to assess them correctly. Lack of attention to a careful discernment will ensure catechetical and evangelical efforts will miss the mark. My own brief thoughts:
- Many Catholics miss the indifference millions of ordinary people have to the secular culture in the west. If the Church is treated with indifference, you can be sure that the emptiness of materialism, consumerism, competition, and celebrity (to name just a few factors) is profoundly disturbing to some, and vaguely troubling to many. especially those touch by grace in some way. My own sense is that a culturewar mentality borders on silly. Authentic believers do not make war on people who are the targets of invitation, conversion, and God’s grace.
- Some of our more excitable sisters and brothers betray, perhaps, a lack of confidence in the Gospel. They forget the ability to persuade, and opt instead for a rationalist authoritarianism.
- Looking for seeds of the Gospel in the culture is important. Even in disciplines that seemingly have no redeeming features. One big blind spot these days within Catholicism, especially its more conservative individuals and speakers, is looking to non-Christian religions with suspicion, if not contempt. This indulgence for antagonism only hurts us.