January 15, 2006

Gaudium et Spes 7

This section of Gaudium et Spes attempts to diagnose the problem of society's upheaval. Is it a problem with rebellion? Are the present (1960's or 21st century?) institutions capable of rising to the task? The question is raised, but without an answer:

A change in attitudes and in human structures frequently calls accepted values into question, especially among young people, who have grown impatient on more than one occasion, and indeed become rebels in their distress. Aware of their own influence in the life of society, they want a part in it sooner. This frequently causes parents and educators to experience greater difficulties day by day in discharging their tasks. The institutions, laws and modes of thinking and feeling as handed down from previous generations do not always seem to be well adapted to the contemporary state of affairs; hence arises an upheaval in the manner and even the norms of behavior.

Religion is undoubtedly affected. The council bishops were aware that in 1965, the world was already experiencing a disconnect between large numbers of people and their religion. There was a good side to the experience of the modern world, namely the separation of the magical from the religious.

Finally, these new conditions have their impact on religion. On the one hand a more critical ability to distinguish religion from a magical view of the world and from the superstitions which still circulate purifies it and exacts day by day a more personal and explicit adherence to faith. As a result many persons are achieving a more vivid sense of God. On the other hand, growing numbers of people are abandoning religion in practice. Unlike former days, the denial of God or of religion, or the abandonment oœ them, are no longer unusual and individual occurrences. For today it is not rare for such things to be presented as requirements of scientific progress or of a certain new humanism. In numerous places these views are voiced not only in the teachings of philosophers, but on every side they influence literature, the arts, the interpretation of the humanities and of history and civil laws themselves. As a consequence, many people are shaken.

The shakenness remains with us today. Sixty to a hundred years of separation from values (I would date the modern decay at last to the period after the Great War; the 60's was merely continuing a trend begun earlier as far as the disconnect between Christian values and society is concerned) has spread to more than just the examples given here. The influence of television and global economic structures is undeniably a part of it.

Anything the bishops or I have missed you'd care to elaborate upon?