January 25, 2006

Gaudium et Spes 12

Gaudium et Spes Part I, Chapter I is titled, "The Dignity Of The Human Person" and runs for eleven sections. Henceforth, I'll transcribe the full footnotes into the text, for your convenience.

According to the almost unanimous opinion of believers and unbelievers alike, all things on earth should be related to (humanity) as their center and crown.

I was struck by this. Environmentalist-leaning people might dispute it. Radical traditional Catholics, too, probably. But the notion is Scriptural. Let's leave it aside for the moment, unless somebody feels urged to make a strong case for the Green side.

But what is (humanity)? About (themselves they have) expressed, and (continue) to express, many divergent and even contradictory opinions. In these (they) often (exalt themselves) as the absolute measure of all things or (debase themselves) to the point of despair. The result is doubt and anxiety. The Church certainly understands these problems. Endowed with light from God, she can offer solutions to them, so that (humankind's) true situation can be portrayed and (their) defects explained, while at the same time (their) dignity and destiny are justly acknowledged.

More of the same theme from the introduction: an acknowledgement of the created goodness of humanity, yet the helping hand of understanding and clarity is offered. The rest of GS 12 turns to Scripture to provide the theological basis for this contention:

For Sacred Scripture teaches that (people were) created "to the image of God," (are) capable of knowing and loving (their) Creator, and was appointed by Him as master of all earthly creatures(Cf. Gen. 1:26, Wis. 2;23) that (they) might subdue them and use them to God's glory.(Cf. Sir. 17:3-10) "What (are we) that you should care for (us)? You have made (us) little less than the angels, and crowned (us) with glory and honor. You have given (us) rule over the works of your hands, putting all things under (our) feet" (Ps. 8:5-7).

But God did not create (human beings) as a solitary, for from the beginning "male and female he created them" (Gen. 1:27). Their companionship produces the primary form of interpersonal communion. For by his innermost nature (humans are social beings), and unless (they relate themselves) to others (they) can neither live nor develop (their) potential.

Therefore, as we read elsewhere in Holy Scripture God saw "all that he had made, and it was very good" (Gen. 1:31).

In sum, we have a statement of which Matthew Fox would approve. Overall, the document takes this original aspect of creation as a launching point for what follows. Our longing for God and for right relationships with God and one another will color how the Church sees its relatinship with the modern world.