Sunday, July 18, 2010

Caritas in Veritate: Time, Change, and the Church

I mentioned, in my last post about Caritas in Veritate, that the encyclical's section 11 is 500 word long. That's a long paragraph.

The two paragraphs I'm reading today are shorter: an average of about 253 word each.

No wonder so many seem to read the 'gospel according to Newsweek,' instead of keeping up on what the Holy See is saying.

That's not a criticism of the Vatican's literary style. I could condense those 500 words of section 11 to "God matters:" but I'd be leaving out a very great deal of important detail.

The point is, I'm jotting down a few points I notice while reading. If you want what Caritas in Veritate says: read it. I'm using the Vatican's English translaiton, online.

'Vatican II Changed Everything?'

One thing about the Catholic Church that I think quite a few folks - Catholic and otherwise - have trouble with is that its teachings never change - and are always changing.

I've used our rules about liturgical dance as an example. It's forbidden. And encouraged. Depends on where you are. That's not being inconsistent. The Catholic Church is literally universal, and dance doesn't mean the same thing in every culture.

Then there was Vatican II. Some folks here in America saw the weird antics committed 'in the spirit of Vatican II,' and got the idea that the Holy See had gone insane. The actual documents of Vatican II, the ones I've read, don't support the Cromwellian tradition-smashing that went on here. But that's another topic.

I discussed some of the Vatican II connection to Caritas in Veritate, when I wrote about my take on sections 10 and 11.

Section 12 gives what I think is a pretty good discussion of how the Catholic Church takes received truth and shines it on the times and places we pass through:
"The link between Populorum Progressio and the Second Vatican Council does not mean that Paul VI's social magisterium marked a break with that of previous Popes, because the Council constitutes a deeper exploration of this magisterium within the continuity of the Church's life[19]. ... Coherence does not mean a closed system: on the contrary, it means dynamic faithfulness to a light received. The Church's social doctrine illuminates with an unchanging light the new problems that are constantly emerging[22]. This safeguards the permanent and historical character of the doctrinal 'patrimony'[23] which, with its specific characteristics, is part and parcel of the Church's ever-living Tradition[24]...."
(Caritas in Veritate, section 12)

Times Change, The Church Doesn't - and it Does

First-century Rome wasn't like Ming Dynasty China,1 or feudal Britain, or 21st-century Minnesota. The Catholic Church has adapted its one unchanging message to many people, in many times: which explains the tree that we drag inside before Christmas each year in my part of the world. (January 10, 2010)

Section 12 wasn't about evergreen trees, of course. The topic at hand was the Church's social magisterium. Picking up where that excerpt left off:
"...Social doctrine is built on the foundation handed on by the Apostles to the Fathers of the Church, and then received and further explored by the great Christian doctors...."
(Caritas in Veritate, section 12)
At this point, Caritas in Veritate is still reflecting on Populorum Progressio, a document that was part of the Church's efforts to implement the Vatican II teachings.

Again, what the Catholic Church was trying to do with Vatican II: not what groovy gurus and magazine subscribers here in America thought was kinda now and kinda wow. My take on Populorum Progressio and Caritas in Veritate is in that other post.

Section 13 continues with Paul VI's handling of Catholic social doctrine in the 20th century. By then, the rest of the world was catching up to the Church, in terms of having globe-spanning social systems. Which was a sort of good news - bad news situation:
"...he grasped the interconnection between the impetus towards the unification of humanity and the Christian ideal of a single family of peoples in solidarity and fraternity. In the notion of development, understood in human and Christian terms, he identified the heart of the Christian social message, and he proposed Christian charity as the principal force at the service of development. Motivated by the wish to make Christ's love fully visible to contemporary men and women, Paul VI addressed important ethical questions robustly, without yielding to the cultural weaknesses of his time."
(Caritas in Veritate, 13)
Today, in at least some American subcultures, we don't have to convince folks that people living in another country are people worthy of respect and to be treated as fellow-creatures: not 'natives.' That's the good news, as I see it. The bad news is that the global culture is no more perfect than the national ones which we're more accustomed to dealing with.

I'm not discouraged, though. The successors of Peter have the same assurance that Jesus gave the fisherman. That's good enough for me. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 552, Matthew 16:18)

Links to other posts about my study of Caritas in Veritate:
1 Ming Dynasty China? Yep: Catholics were there. Franciscans.

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.