"The Cardinal's Rough Night"
For some reason, the Inquirer and the TV people focused on the same questioners. Were they the only controversial ones? It's something to think about.
Gratefully, the text of the Cardinal's lecture last night -- on Gaudium et Spes and the role of Catholic higher education -- has been posted on the archdiocesan website.
In all honesty, I really hope that his words about the Council are not lost in the hubbub over the grand jury report. Even if he's getting screamed at about other things, when a bishop teaches, he teaches. And that's an important thing to keep in mind.
Here are some snips from the address.
The first important question treated in [Gaudium et Spes] is the dignity of the human person. This is basic to everything else in the document, everything else in the Church and in university life. This is presumed in everything that follows. Vatican II sees this dignity of the human person as being linked to the fact that the human person is created by God, redeemed by Christ and called to communion with God for all eternity. This was one of the favorite themes of John Paul II for the twenty-six and a half years of his pontificate. He was constantly inspired by this conciliar vision. In season and out of season, he proclaimed the dignity of the human person.
Linked to the dignity of the human person, however, are the ever relevant questions of conscience and human freedom. Gaudium et Spes describes conscience, saying: “In the depths of his conscience, man detects a law which he does not impose upon himself, but which he is bound to obey. Always summoning him to love good and avoid evil, the voice of conscience can when necessary speak to his heart more specifically: Do this. Shun that. For man has in his heart a law written by God. To obey it is the very dignity of man. According to it he will be judged” (no. 16). If obedience to conscience is part of human dignity, then reflecting on it must touch the realm of Catholic universities.
Intimately linked to the theme of conscience is that of freedom. The Council insists that the dignity of the human being demands that he or she act according to a knowing and free choice, which excludes “new forms of social and psychological slavery” (no. 4). In effect, God wanted the human being to be able to say no precisely so that his or her yes would be authentic and meritorious. The dignity of the human person demands that he act according to a knowing and free choice. Gaudium et Spes recognizes authentic freedom as “an exceptional sign of the divine image within man” (no. 80)....
Later on in Gaudium et Spes we will find a remarkable text about the truth of our identity as human beings. It states: “We are witnesses of the birth of a new humanism, one in which man is defined first of all by his responsibility to his brothers and sisters and toward history” (no.55). I submit that the birth of a new humanism is very much connected, whenever it occurs, with the activities of Catholic universities, and that the “new humanism” of Vatican II—the humanism of solidarity, indeed of being defined in relationship to others, must be an evangelical guiding light for the orientation of all Catholic higher education. What great dignity, what great responsibility, what a great mission is entrusted to the human person! And what service the university can fulfill in being a herald of this “new humanism”!
In 1987, in continuity with Gaudium et Spes, Pope John Paul II amply developed the theme of solidarity and the act proper to it, which is collaboration, in his encyclical letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis. Included in Gaudium et Spes there had also been a splendid treatment of reverence for the human person. This emphasis by Vatican II was subsequently developed magnificently by John Paul II in his encyclical the Gospel of Life and in many other documents. Meanwhile, Gaudium et Spes had given us a summary of what is opposed to this human dignity. It says: “Whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or willful self destruction; whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions where people are treated as mere tools for profit rather than as free and responsible persons; all of this and the like are infamies indeed. They poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are a supreme dishonor to the Creator” (no. 27)....
Vatican II spoke intriguingly (cf. Part I, chapter 3) about the Church’s religious and moral principles that derive from the heritage of God’s word, but which do not always have at hand the solution to particular problems. Gaudium et Spes admits clearly that it does not offer ready-made solutions to the many problems of the world, but rather sees the Gospel as the guide and source of principles that will respond to the issues of the modern world (cf. no. 33). In this way the Church scrutinizes the signs of the times, interpreting them in the light of the Gospel (cf. no. 4). Surely Catholic universities are called to do the same, striving to respond to perennial questions, without at the same time having simplistic solutions to every problem. Gospel principles in the life of the Church are crystal clear, but their application involves prayer and openness to the Spirit of Truth.
In treating the mission of the Church in the modern world (cf. Part I, chapter 4), Gaudium et Spes expresses the conviction that the Church believes that she can contribute greatly toward making the human family and its history more human. The Church holds in high esteem and values the contribution of other Christian churches and ecclesial communities and of all human society. A special part of the Church’s mission is to proclaim all human rights. The forces of all people of good will are needed in this vital cause. Certainly the leadership role of Catholic higher education must not fail. There is still so much to be done throughout the world.
Yes, there is so much to be done.