We begin five posts on the heading/question/section on II-2 How can the Via Pulchritudinis be a Response?
Reminding those following here, or especially if this discussion is new, that part II addresses the “proposal” that the Church consider the “Way of Beauty” as a means of presenting the Good News to the wider world. This document is squarely in the tradition of Gaudium et Spes, the Vatican II directive that we must explore ways of being more engaging, attractive, and fruitful in places we are called to move. These places are not always welcoming of Christians. Can Beauty help us? Some think so. First up, the last pope of the 20th century with a surprising call for philosophy, not a favorite subject of mine.
Pope John Paul II, an untiring scrutinizer of the signs of the times, indicates this way in his Encyclical Fides et Ratio: “I have unstintingly recalled the pressing need for a new evangelization; and I appeal now to philosophers to explore more comprehensively the dimensions of the true, the good and the beautiful to which the Word of God gives access.
My assumption is that this appeal is for philosophers within the Church, given the situation in 1998 (and now) that Christian cultures are hemorrhaging believers. The “newness” of evangelization is, in part, an attempt to address people who have been exposed to Christianity as a significant portion of their lives but, for whatever reason, have rejected it. It seems less likely that this is a uniform ignorance of beliefs. I’d say it’s more likely that bad behavior has turned off a significant portion of people who were once Christian or who have witnessed poor behavior of believers.
Pope John Paul II saw this as a serious challenge:
This task becomes all the more urgent if we consider the challenges which the new millennium seems to entail, and which affect in a particular way regions and cultures which have a long-standing Christian tradition. This attention to philosophy too should be seen as a fundamental and original contribution in service of the new evangelization.”[JOHN PAUL II, Fides et Ratio, 14 September 1998, n. 103]
His argument in this cited section, part of the document’s conclusion reads:
Philosophy moreover is the mirror which reflects the culture of a people. A philosophy which responds to the challenge of theology’s demands and evolves in harmony with faith is part of that “evangelization of culture” which Paul VI proposed as one of the fundamental goals of evangelization. (Fides et Ratio 103)
The full document Via Pulchritudinis 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