This past week we were blessed to have Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP come back for another series of lectures. Father has spoken to us in years past onSpes Salvi, and Deus Caritas Est. This time Father's topic was Gaudium et Spes: Faith and Culture. Father took us through the Pastoral Constitution on theChurch in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, one of the documents from the Second Vatican Council.
Father first explained how the documents of the Second Vatican Council, and Gaudium et Spes in particular, have been interpreted in two very different ways because of the two different hermeneutics used to approach the text: the hermeneutic of discontinuity/rupture and the hermeneutic of continuity/renewal. The interpretation based on the hermeneutic of rupture has had the upper hand these past decades since the Council, and Father showed us how by using the proper hermeneutic of continuity the correct interpretation can be arrived at.
Father pointed out Gaudium et Spes's stress on the rights of men and freedom of choice. He showed how the world and the Church have very different ideas on what these two things mean based on how they understand man's dignity. The Church understands that man's dignity comes from being made in the image and likeness of God and it is because of man's dignity that he has certain rights. The world professes that man's dignity comes from his autonomy and the rights necessary to assure this autonomy.
These very different viewpoints have important consequences. The Church professes that every human being from conception to natural death has rights (especially the right to life!) because each has human dignity, having been made in the image and likeness of his Creator. For the world, human dignity is based on man's autonomy. This is why for the world abortion makes sense; an unborn baby, a person in a vegetative state, or the very old are not seen has having human dignity because they do not have autonomy. Therefore they do not have the rights accorded to them that the world secures for those it deems 'human.'
It is our humble prayer that many people, young and old alike, will prayerfully read this beautiful document and engage the world and today's culture in a life-saving dialogue. As Gaudium et Spes clearly affirms, this evangelization of the culture is properly the job of the laity. This is the new evangelization, bringing Christ back into the post-Christian world by being Christs ourselves.This is done most effectively when Christians live joyfully, unapologetically the life they have received from Christ.