Friday, September 21, 2012

The Documents of Vatican II – Gaudium et Spes – Part 7

In the second part of Gaudium et Spes, the Vatican II Fathers discuss some of the “more urgent problems” facing the world today and illuminate them with the light of Christ. Each of the five chapters in the second part focuses on a particular issue relevant to the modern world: marriage and family, culture, economic and social life, the political community, and peace and international communion.

Here are some of the topics and ideas you'll find in Part II, Chapter II, of Gaudium et Spes.

Chapter II – Proper Development of Culture


* The fullness of humanity is developed through culture, which is “all those things which go to the refining and developing of man's diverse mental and physical endowments.”

* Culture allows people to cultivate the “goods and values” of their nature. It has social, historical, sociological, and ethnological elements.

* A variety of cultures have developed throughout the world, each with a “well-defined, historical milieu” and a rich heritage.

New Forms of Living

* Modern culture is defined by the expansion of technology and the sciences; psychological advances; historical studies focusing on “changeability and evolution”; urbanization and industrialization; mass-cultures; and a wide use of media.

* Culture is taking on a “more universal form.”

Man, Author of Culture

* People create culture.

* Every person has a responsibility to “build up a better world in truth and justice.”

Difficulties and Duties

* Modern culture features “numerous conflicting elements”: unity and uniqueness; dynamism and tradition; specialization and synthesis; participation and complexity; humanism and religion.

* Culture must encourage harmonious and integral development in every human being.

Faith and Culture

* Christians are called to work towards establishing a world that is ever more human. Culture is an important part of the human vocation.

* God wills that human beings improve themselves and serve others as well as work to perfect creation. Therefore, God wills that human beings be involved in culture.

* Academic pursuits contribute to “bringing the human race to a higher understanding of truth, goodness, and beauty, to points of view having universal value.” If practiced in the correct spirit, they lead to wisdom, contemplation, and worship.

* Modern science and technology can be dangerous if people do not recognize their limits or see them as the only means of discovering truth. They can also be beneficial for the service of humanity when they are “infused with divine charity.”

Relations between Culture and the Good News of Christ

* God accommodates His message to each culture and each age.

* The Church makes use of various cultural elements to spread, explain, examine, understand, and express Christian truth.

* The Church is not tied to a particular culture. While remaining faithful to her traditions, she communicates with different cultures in order to enrich both herself and those cultures.

* Christ and His Church renew, purify, elevate, stimulate, and advance human culture.

Proper Harmony between Forms of Culture

* Culture is subordinate to the development of the human individual and the good of the human community.

* A proper balance must be struck between the autonomy of culture and the sciences and the necessity of individual rights and the common good.

* People have freedom to pursue their interests as long as they respect the objective moral order.

* Civil authorities ought to provide an environment that favors cultural development.

Recognition of Everyone's Right to Culture and Its Implementation

* Each person has a right to “human and civil culture in harmony with the dignity of the human person.” This right especially encompasses literacy.

* Each person also has a duty to “develop themselves culturally and to help their fellows.”

Cultural Education

* In today's world, it is difficult to harmonize and synthesize the various arts and branches of learning.

* Even so, every person has a duty “to safeguard the notion of the human person as a totality in which predominate values of intellect, will, conscience, and brotherhood.”

* Cultural education begins in the family.

* Many factors today are tending toward the “development of a universal culture”: prolific book publication, easy communication, fewer working hours, and more leisure time.

* Christians are responsible for infusing culture with the Christian spirit.

* Complete cultural development must include an “evaluation of the meaning of culture and knowledge of the human person.”

Proper Harmony Between Culture and Christian Formation

* The Church has always experienced difficulties in “harmonizing culture with Christian thought,” but these difficulties often “stimulate a more precise and deeper understanding” of the Christian faith.

* Theologians have the job of expressing the truths of the faith to the modern world.

* Pastors are encouraged to use the secular sciences in order to help the faithful develop their full potential as human beings.

* Literature and art explore and express the meaning of human life and can draw people's eyes and thoughts to God.

* Christians should study their cultures, learn about new technology and scientific developments, and evaluate and interpret all of it “with an authentically Christian sense of values.”

* In all branches of knowledge, scholars ought to balance their autonomy of inquiry, thought, and expression with “humility and courage.”

The full text of Gaudium et Spes is available online at the Vatican website.

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