We continue with the very long fourth section. This paragraph begins with a premise very familiar to those in 12-Step recovery. Read over the steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and see if you can’t discern there the importance of the personal conversion mentioned here:
The synod at the same time spoke about the reconciliation of the whole human family and of the conversion of the heart of every individual, of his or her return to God: It did so because it wished to recognize and proclaim the fact that there can be no union among people without an internal change in each individual. Personal conversion is the necessary path to harmony between individuals.*
The footnote here is a substantial citation from the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World:
The Second Vatican Council noted: “The dichotomy affecting the modern world is, in fact, a symptom of the deeper dichotomy that is in (the human person). (They are) the meeting point of many conflicting forces. In (their) condition as a created being (they are) subject to a thousand shortcomings, but feel untrammeled in (their) inclinations and destined for a higher form of life. Torn by a welter of anxieties (they are) compelled to choose between them and repudiate some among them. Worse still, feeble and sinful as (they are, they) often do the very thing (they hate and do) not do what (they) want (cf Rom 7:14ff). And so (they feel themselves) divided, and the result is a host of discords in social life.” Gaudium et Spes, 10.
Our hyper-critical modern society seduces a gaze away from the self. Bullies poke at the faults and fears of others. Victims decline to pile on themselves in critique. And often, who can blame them? Many aspects of modern life counsel people to decline to admitting fault. This runs from Miranda warning, to advice from insurers and lawyers, and ego-stroked celebrities, to the use of the third-person when speaking about oneself. So-called Christian cultures are usually the ones most disinclined to look at the negative.
Authentic Christianity provides a prophetic voice. And when the Church isn’t prophetic on the admission of discord, we can likely be assured it isn’t speaking with the authority of Jesus.
When the church proclaims the good news of reconciliation or proposes achieving it through the sacraments, she is exercising a truly prophetic role, condemning the evils of (humankind) in their infected source, showing the root of divisions and bringing hope in the possibility of overcoming tensions and conflict and reaching (communion), concord and peace at all levels and in all sections of human society. She is changing a historical condition of hatred and violence into a civilization of love. She is offering to everyone the evangelical and sacramental principle of that reconciliation at the source, from which comes every other gesture or act of reconciliation, also at the social level.
Many Christians, within the Catholic fold and even outside of it, provide a sound and solid witness in this. Other religions lack no authentic witnesses to “communion, concord, and peace.” The Church’s witness is far from perfect, and we do well to set our gaze seriously and unflinchingly to our own people, cultures, structures, and expressions. Once we make more serious efforts in this regard, our witness to non-believers and to other Christian communities will be far more credible and fruitful.
This document is Copyright © 1984 – Libreria Editrice Vatican. The link on the Vatican site is here.