Pacem In Terris 161-162: Little by Little

Does reform and renewal always have to be so slow? The impatient traveler in the back seat cries, “Are we there yet?!”

Sometimes the answers, respectively, are yes and no:

161. There are indeed some people who, in their generosity of spirit, burn with a desire to institute wholesale reforms whenever they come across situations which show scant regard for justice or are wholly out of keeping with its claims. They tackle the problem with such impetuosity that one would think they were embarking on some political revolution.

162. We would remind such people that it is the law of nature that all things must be of gradual growth. If there is to be any improvement in human institutions, the work must be done slowly and deliberately from within. Pope Pius XII expressed it in these terms: “Salvation and justice consist not in the uprooting of an outdated system, but in a well designed policy of development. Hotheadedness was never constructive; it has always destroyed everything. It has inflamed passions, but never assuaged them. It sows no seeds but those of hatred and destruction. Far from bringing about the reconciliation of contending parties, it reduces (people) and political parties to the necessity of laboriously redoing the work of the past, building on the ruins that disharmony has left in its wake.”( Cf. Pius XII’s address to Italian workers, Rome, Pentecost, June 13, 1943, AAS 35 (1943) 175)

And yet, we also know that the powers-that-be, either in the economic, political, scientific realms, or even in informal local ommunities are slow to change when change is desperately needed. This is where that queen of virtues, prudence, is so valuable. Sometimes institutions must be shaken a bit. And sometimes what appears on the outside to be questionable impetuousness is really a converted Saul getting his life on track (cf. Acts 9).

What do you think? Is Pope John overstating the need for gradual development? If activists didn’t prod us and prick our consciences, would we ever move?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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