CHAPTER II of Gaudium et Spes is entitled “The Community Of (Humankind).” The first paragraph here sets out an important definition, that of “dialogue.”
One of the salient features of the modern world is the growing interdependence of (people) one on the other, a development promoted chiefly by modern technical advances. Nevertheless … dialogue among (people) does not reach its perfection on the level of technical progress, but on the deeper level of interpersonal relationships. These demand a mutual respect for the full spiritual dignity of the person. Christian revelation contributes greatly to the promotion of this communion between persons, and at the same time leads us to a deeper understanding of the laws of social life which the Creator has written into (human) moral and spiritual nature.
Play it again, Sam:
(D)ialogue among (people) does not reach its perfection on the level of technical progress, but on the deeper level of interpersonal relationships.
Dialogue is not, as many conservative commentators suggest, a sort of caving in to another’s viewpoint. Nor is it a matter of casual or surface cocktail conversation. The bishops said it: good dialogue does not depend on the accurate representation of facts or truths, but on a deeper (presumably deeper than what has previously passed muster as sufficient) level.
I think Pope Benedict might grasp this better than his predecessor. At least if the fabled dinner with Hans Kueng and recent discussions with the SSPX are any indication. What the SSPX’ers, and much of St Blog’s, fails to grasp is the importance of relationship. The internet makes it easy to divorce relationship from one’s emotional toolbox. That’s why, in part, anger and sarcasm are grafted into the character of the conversation.
The council bishops may well have had three years’ experience in deepening their ties with their fellow bishops. If it worked for the council, why couldn’t we dream it would work in the world?
Since rather recent documents of the Church’s teaching authority have dealt at considerable length with Christian doctrine about human society,(cf. John XXIII, encyclical letter, Mater et Magistra, May 15, 1961: AAS 53 (1961), pp. 401-464, and encyclical letter Pacem in Terris, April 11, 1963: AAS 55 (1963), pp. 257-304; Paul VI encyclical letter Ecclesiam Suam, Aug. 6, 1964: AAS 54 (1864) pp. 609-659.) this council is merely going to call to mind some of the more basic truths, treating their foundations under the light of revelation. Then it will dwell more at length on certain of their implications having special significance for our day.
So then, Gaudium et Spes is not meant to be in itself exhaustive, but building on tradition.