Pacem In Terris 159-160: Philosophies and Historical Movements

Pope John advises us to be open to non-Christian philosophies that include laudable elements:

159. Again it is perfectly legitimate to make a clear distinction between a false philosophy of the nature, origin and purpose of (human beings) and the world, and economic, social, cultural, and political undertakings, even when such undertakings draw their origin and inspiration from that philosophy. True, the philosophic formula does not change once it has been set down in precise terms, but the undertakings clearly cannot avoid being influenced to a certain extent by the changing conditions in which they have to operate. Besides, who can deny the possible existence of good and commendable elements in these undertakings, elements which do indeed conform to the dictates of right reason, and are an expression of lawful (human) aspirations?

Rather than suggest the Church was wrong in the past for declining to associate and is now right for collaborating, a prudent judgment might lead us elsewhere. It might be that today the time is right.

160. It may sometimes happen, therefore, that meetings arranged for some practical end—though hitherto they were thought to be altogether useless—may in fact be fruitful at the present time, or at least offer prospects of success. But whether or not the moment for such cooperation has arrived, and the manner and degree of such co-operation in the attainment of economic, social, cultural and political advantages—these are matters for prudence to decide; prudence, the queen of all the virtues which rule the lives of (people) both as individuals and in society.

As far as Catholics are concerned, the decision rests primarily with those who take a leading part in the life of the community, and in these specific fields. They must, however, act in accordance with the principles of the natural law, and observe the Church’s social teaching and the directives of ecclesiastical authority. For it must not be forgotten that the Church has the right and duty not only to safeguard her teaching on faith and morals, but also to exercise her authority over her (daughters and) sons by intervening in their external affairs whenever a judgment has to be made concerning the practical application of this teaching. (Ibid., p. 456; cf. Leo XIII’s encyclical epistle Immortale Dei, Acta Leonis XIII, V, 1885, p. 128; Pius XI’s encyclical letter Ubi arcano, AAS 14 (1922) 698; and Pius XII’s address to the Union of International Sodalities of Catholic Women, Rome, Sept. 11, 1947, AAS 39 (1947) 486. AAS 39 (1947) 486)

So we are being told that if we believers stray a bit, the hierarchy will be watching us, and prepared to correct us. I am not surprised that the Holy Father reserved such authority. Practically, this means our bishops and pastors. What do you think about that?

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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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