March 25, 2006

Gaudium et Spes 36

Gaudium et Spes 36 addresses the common fear that the Church is an agent for the stifling of the human spirit as opposed to a supporter of human endeavor:

Now many of our contemporaries seem to fear that a closer bond between human activity and religion will work against the independence of (people), of societies, or of the sciences.

As with anything, individual human beings do work to thwart human expression in a sinful way. Some of these human beings reside in the Church, where they may wreak havoc in the name of the same Church.

If by the autonomy of earthly affairs we mean that created things and societies themselves enjoy their own laws and values which must be gradually deciphered, put to use, and regulated by (people), then it is entirely right to demand that autonomy. Such is not merely required by modern (humanity), but harmonizes also with the will of the Creator. For by the very circumstance of their having been created, all things are endowed with their own stability, truth, goodness, proper laws and order. (Humankind) must respect these as (it) isolates them by the appropriate methods of the individual sciences or arts. Therefore if methodical investigation within every branch of learning is carried out in a genuinely scientific manner and in accord with moral norms, it never truly conflicts with faith, for earthly matters and the concerns of faith derive from the same God. (cf. First Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith, Chapter III: Denz. 1785-1186 (3004-3005))

For the skeptic, the Church is in a position to labor to prove its words. The past statement I found interesting on two fronts. First, the notion that aspects of God's creation possess qualities, notably truth. Truth as a philosophical concept or ontological one is a quality of a scientific or artistic aspect of the universe. The obvious scientific item of the past would be the heliocentric model of the universe as championed by Galileo. Of the last century would be the elaboration of Darwin in developing the evolutionary model, and how it applies not only to biological creatures, but cosmology, geology, and perhaps even economics, to mention just a few disciplines.

Artistically (and my second point of interest is the pairing of sciences and the arts) one might find that music contains certain truths as well. Religious chant might have an artistic and scientific basis for producing a certain psychological state of mind--a state conducive to prayer. It would be found that other forms of music, aside from Gregorian chant say, would have a comparable or superior effect. That would be a truth, an aspect of God's creation, that would be undeniable.

Indeed whoever labors to penetrate the secrets of reality with a humble and steady mind, even though (she or) he is unaware of the fact, is nevertheless being led by the hand of God, who holds all things in existence, and gives them their identity.

A consciousness of the agency of God in one's work is not required for such work to be part of God's plan.

Consequently, we cannot but deplore certain habits of mind, which are sometimes found too among Christians, which do not sufficiently attend to the rightful independence of science and which, from the arguments and controversies they spark, lead many minds to conclude that faith and science are mutually opposed.(
Cf. Msgr. Pio Paschini, Vita e opere di Galileo Galilei, 2 volumes, Vatican Press (1964))

Remember where we found this.

But if the expression, the independence of temporal affairs, is taken to mean that created things do not depend on God, and that (humankind) can use them without any reference to their Creator, anyone who acknowledges God will see how false such a meaning is. For without the Creator the creature would disappear. For their part, however, all believers of whatever religion always hear His revealing voice in the discourse of creatures. When God is forgotten, however, the creature itself grows unintelligible.