Previously, the document expressed the conciliar plan in Gaudium et Spes to engage the modern world through bridge building. Presumably, the image involves the evangelizer forming a construction to reach across a divide.
Beauty may well be a good bridge, despite varying standards across generations, between cultures, and how two or more human pairs of eyes behold it. Let’s read:
In this perspective, the Way of Beauty seems to be a privileged itinerary to get in touch with many of those who face great difficulties in receiving the Church’s teachings, particularly regarding morals. Too often in recent years, the truth has been instrumentalized by ideologies, and the good horizontalized into a merely social act as though charity towards neighbor alone sufficed without being rooted in love of God.
For the sake of salvation, this is certainly true. The impulse for doing good, however, predates Judeo-Christianity. However one views the inspiration behind charity, it would seem to be a movement contrary to the strict interpretation of the survival of the fittest, a notion not entirely supported by what biologists see among all living things.
Doing good involves a desire to complete a moral act. Morality can be rooted in something outside of Jesus Christ, or for monotheism, apart from the One True God. Can we be certain God has not worked in the conscience and actions of social acts?
Relativism, which finds one of its clearest expressions in the pensiero debole, continues to spread, encouraging a climate of miscomprehension, and making real, serious and reasoned encounters rare.
My brief research needed to include that term, pensiero debole, and what exactly it means. “Weak thought” is how traditional-leaning philosophers describe the post-modern phenomenon of Friedrich Nietzsche, the 19th century thinker.
Admittedly, I find philosophy tiring. Maybe I needed to take a college course in it all those years ago. I’m aware of the criticism of relativism, but I’m not sure it is always accurately diagnosed. A poor parent stealing a loaf of bread for starving children may be an objective crime. A child stealing a loaf of bread on a dare from a peer is the same crime from the viewpoint of the merchant. Lacking an authority to judge, the penalty for each act would seem the same.
Relationships, however, may alter a sense of justice. The young thief may be the daughter or son of a wealthy family and the merchant may be poor. The concerned parent may have been priced out of groceries by a wealthy merchant. Is this relativism?
I think a sense of unfairness in society, and the Church’s occasional role in this makes the casual observer wonder about religious behavior. The Church’s own teaching on so-called just war has always struck me as a convenient relativism. People make judgments, sometimes good and sometimes less so. Once we can admit our faults–with Christians obliged perhaps to initiate this–serious discussions can result.
The full document is here.
Image: the rose window at Notre Dame in Paris, By Zachi Evenor based on File:North rose window of Notre-Dame de Paris, Aug 2010.jpg by Julie Anne Workman – CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=60404628
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