XV. The CHURCH and The MODERN WORLD
49. The Church in the Modern World
- The Church must propose Christ as the Perfect Man and live according to His example, in order that She may dialogue with the world, cooperate with men of good will, and assist in rectifying the world’s problems, with the ultimate goal of evangelizing the world.
A. Objectives of the Second Vatican Council. “To impart an ever increasing vigor to the Christian life of the faithful; to adapt more suitably to the needs of our own times those institutions which are subject to change; to foster whatever can promote union among all who believe in Christ; to strengthen whatever can help to call the whole of mankind into the household of the Church” (SC1). Or, in summary, “an internal renewal of the Church, the spread of the Gospel in every land and a dialogue with the world of today” (PO12).
B. Christ as Model of Life and Love. To these ends, the Church proposes as the model, for He, “Who is ‘the image of the invisible God’ is Himself the perfect man” (GS22) “fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear” (GS22). That calling is one of love, or charity, for “man, who is the only creature God has willed for his own sake, cannot fully find himself except in the sincere gift of himself” (GS24). Thus, “by manifesting Christ the Church reveals to men the real truth about their condition and their whole calling, since Christ is the source and model of that redeemed humanity, imbued with brotherly love, sincerity and a peaceful spirit, to which they all aspire” (AG8).
C. The Human Person.
a. General. The Church wishes to see to it that “the human person . . . be preserved [and] human society . . . renewed” (GS3).
b. Universal Brotherhood of Man. Thus She “offers to mankind the honest assistance of the Church in fostering that brotherhood of men which corresponds to [their] destiny” and achieves this goal (GS3). The Church expects Her people to “maintain good fellowship” with all and to “live in peace with all men” (NA5).
c. Proper Understanding of the Human Person. The Church achieves this universal brotherhood by “proclaiming the noble destiny” of “man himself whole and entire, body and soul, heart and conscience, mind and will” (GS3), and thus, help to “promote among men a sharper insight into their full destiny, and thereby lead them to fashion the world more to man's surpassing dignity, to search for a brotherhood which is universal and more deeply rooted, and to meet the urgencies of our ages with a gallant and unified effort born of love” (GS91).
i. Spiritual Nature. Most importantly to this end, the Church promotes and demands “a mutual respect for the full spiritual dignity of the person [to which] Christian revelation contributes greatly” (GS23).
D. Rectifying the Problems of the World.
a. Goal. To fulfill Her duty to “preserve the human person and renew human society … (GS3)
b. Interpretation of all things Worldly. “ . . . the Church has always . . . scrutiniz[ed] the signs of the times and interpret[ed] them in the light of the Gospel” (GS4), apart from which “the riddles of sorrow and death . . . overwhelm us” (GS22) for they seem meaningless. By “judg[ing all things] in light of [Divine Revelation]”, the Church can “add the light of revealed truth to mankind’s store of experience” (GS33).
i. All Christians as Co-Interpreters. To “hear, distinguish, and interpret the many voices of our age” (GS33) is the task of “the entire People of God”.
c. Understanding of the World. The Church “must therefore recognize and understand the world in which we live, its explanations, its longings, and its often dramatic characteristics” (GS4).
d. Work of the Holy Spirit. To achieve this, however, the Church must do so “with the help of the Holy Spirit” (GS44). For it is “only God, Who created man [that] provides the most adequate answer to the questions
. . . through what He has revealed in Christ” (GS41).
. . . through what He has revealed in Christ” (GS41).
E. Church Role in Secular Affairs.
a. Concern for Temporal Affairs. The Church is very much concerned with temporal affairs, for “while earthly progress must be carefully distinguished from the growth of Christ's kingdom, to the extent that the former can contribute to the better ordering of human society, it is of vital concern to the Kingdom of God” (GS39).
b. Influence in One’s Milieu. Christians thus “render service to the [entire] human family” by “exert[ing] their influence in their own milieu” (GS89).
F. Church Dialogue with the Modern World.
a. General. The Church must engage in “sincere and prudent dialogue” (GS21) with the World.
b. Respect and Love for All. To assist dialogue, “respect and love ought to be extended also to those who think or act differently than we do in social, political and even religious matters”, for “the more deeply we come to understand their ways of thinking through such courtesy and love, the more easily will we be able to enter into dialogue with them” (GS28).
c. Repudiation of Error. Though “error . . . always merits repudiation”, the person in error . . . never loses the dignity of being a person” (GS28). This distinction must always be made.
d. Relationships. This “brotherly dialogue among men does not reach its perfection on the level of technical progress, but on the deeper level of interpersonal relationships” (GS23).
e. Christian Unity a Prerequisite to Dialogue. “The . . . faithful can (fruitfully) engage in dialogue” with the modern world only if “we foster within the Church herself mutual esteem, reverence and harmony” for one another (GS92).
G. Cooperation with Men of Good Will.
a. Fraternal Cooperation in Service. Christians must “pattern [themselves] after the Gospel” in “work[ing] as brothers in rendering service to the [entire] human family” (GS92). This is because “all men, believers and unbelievers alike, ought to work for the rightful betterment of this world” (GS21) and pursue such apostolic aims in “cooperation [with] those who do not profess Christ's name but acknowledge [Catholic] values” (AA27).
b. Prerequisites in the Church. For this “mission” of unity with modern man, “mutual esteem, reverence, and harmony” is “required” in the Church Herself for this relationship to be “fruitful” (GS92).
H. Openness to the World.
a. How the World can Benefit the Church. The secular can even help the Church “examine [the truths of faith] and more deeply understand [them], that she might give it better expression in liturgical celebration and in the varied life of the community of the faithful”, and thus “enrich the Church” (GS58).
50. “Practical Christianity” and Inculturation: Bridging the Gap
- The Church should try to “bridge the gap” between the Christian faith and the secular world, through drawing out what we have in common, through excellence in secular affairs, and through inculturation.
A. Practical Christianity.
a. Christian Seeds in the Secular. First, “the Church . . . has used the discoveries of different cultures so that in her preaching she might spread and explain the message of Christ to all nations. . . . [Thus] she can enter into communion with the various civilizations, to their enrichment, [using] the spiritual qualities and traditions of every people and of every age, then strengthens, perfects and restores them in Christ” (GS58).
b. Secular Excellence. Secondly, “when man gives himself to the various disciplines of philosophy, history and of mathematical and natural science, and when he cultivates the arts, he can do very much to elevate the human family to a more sublime understanding of truth, goodness, and beauty, and to the formation of considered opinions which have universal value. . . . In this way, the human spirit, being less subjected to material things, can be more easily drawn to the worship and contemplation of the Creator. [Furthermore, they] provide some preparation for the acceptance of the message of the Gospel” (GS57).
a. General. The Church has always practiced, “Inculturation” in the service of the Gospel, imbuing “the cultural manifestations and collective activity . . . with a human and a Christian spirit” (GS61).
b. Education in and Pursuit of a Higher Degree of Culture. The Church must also see to it that all “be carefully educated to a higher degree of culture through the use of the immense resources available today [and] the education of youth from every social background . . . undertaken” to provide men of “refined talents [and] great-soul[s]” which are “desperately required by our times” (GS31).
c. Evangelisation. For it is through culture that the Church can evangelise. This is possible because “when man gives himself to the various disciplines of philosophy, history and of mathematical and natural science, and when he cultivates the arts, he can do very much to elevate the human family to a more sublime understanding of truth, goodness, and beauty, and to the formation of considered opinions which have universal value . . . In this way, the human spirit, being less subjected to material things, can be more easily drawn to the worship and contemplation of the Creator. [Thus they] provide some preparation for the acceptance of the message of the Gospel” (GS57).