Saturday, June 05, 2010

History and the Human Factor in the Church

"Man is conditioned by the historico-cultural era in which the affair his earthly life unfolds, and the environment of which he is a part. Because he lives his Christianity in this fabric of variegated needs, stimuli, great things, and worries, the values the Church presents will, from era to era, bear the features of the limitations and the characteristics of the particular vision of life of the moment.
Thus, the structure of the Church as a human instrument always notably bears the mental and cultural mark of the age in which it operates. However, as opposed to other structures, the accentuation of a factor – right or wrong, justifiable or incomprehensible as it may prove to be – will never be able to elude the presence of the truth in its entirety" (Why the Church? 141-142).

Giussani gives several examples of this dynamic between Christian faith and cultural conditions. Then, he recounts a question which arose in hiss high school class regarding a phrase from the Syllabus of Errors, which condemned the proposition that 'Any man may choose the religion which he believes in all conscience to be true.' After affirming the traditional Catholic respect for individual conscience, he notes that
"Concerning the phrase just quoted, the Syllabus had no intention of responding to some kind of ethico-subjective concern. On the contrary, the Syllabus' concern was historical and objective, anxious to show Catholics that this phrase, in that particular context of man's history, was designed to negate Christianity's historical factor, the truth of Revelation, for if it is true that God became man in order to point man in the right direction, and there is no doubt that this is the pathway he indicated, then no man has the right to adhere to whatever religion his own conscience may have dreamed up" (145). 
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