The critique of cultural change with its emphasis on individualism has been strong, yet the bishops see that recent cultural changes also have some positive aspects. In paragraph 52, they write:
Among the positive aspects of this cultural change is the fundamental value of the person, his or her conscience and experience, the search for the meaning of life and transcendence.
First of all, the bishops note, these changes point to the value of the human person, personal conscience, and the search for meaning. For the bishops, as for much of Catholic Social Thought, the value of the person is fundamental, but the person is not conceived of as an “individual,” one totally separated from others: the person is a social being.
They return to the search for meaning and note the value of what is “weak and small (pequeño), which the bishops relate to the incarnation of the Word in a manger, taking on the humble condition of a poor person.
(52) The failure of the reigning ideologies to respond to the deepest search for the meaning of life has allowed simplicity and recognition in what is weak and unpretentious in life to emerge as a value, with a great scope and potential that cannot be underestimated. This emphasis on appreciation of the person opens new horizons, where the Christian tradition acquires renewed value, especially when it is recognized in the incarnate Word born in a manger who takes on a humble condition, as one who is poor.
The search for meaning and the need to shape one’s own life can also lead to a strong sense of the value of community. This is not something new: As the US Catholic Bishops have written in Economic Justice for All, ¶14: “Human dignity can be realized and protected only in community.”
53. The need to shape one’s own destiny and the yearning to find reasons for existence can set in motion the desire to be together with others and share lived experience as one way of responding. This is an affirmation of personal freedom, and hence of the need to question oneself in the depth of one’s own convictions and options.
Personal freedom is not in conflict with community.
Though, personal responsibility is critical, there remains the problem of access to the goods of society – a social problem that is found throughout Latin America.
54. But along with the emphasis on individual responsibility, in the midst of societies that promote access to goods through the media, paradoxically, access to those goods is denied to the vast majority, including goods that are basic and essential for living as persons.
This section concludes with a call for showing faith in deeds. Testimony of life is a theme that is strong among the people I work with in rural Honduras. It is central to the bishops call for the evangelization of culture.
55. The emphasis on personal and lived experience leads us to regard testimony as a key component in living the faith. Deeds are valued insofar as they are meaningful to the person. It is in the language of giving testimony that we can find a point of contact with the persons who comprise society and of them with each other.