Gaudium et Spes, Christian humanism
To reform the Church in order to open it up to the World, to help in the construction of a new world, based on freedom of conscience, the equality of religions and the brotherhood of religions, such was Vatican II’s plan, this “ Catechism of the new times ” (Paul VI). The broad outline of this programme was set down in the “ Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World ”, almost unanimously voted for by the Fathers (except seventy-five votes), on the eve of the closing of the Council, on December 7, 1965.
On that day, in the conciliar aula, Pope Paul VI proclaimed his integral humanism for all the world to hear, a humanism that he inherited from his master, Maritain, and his cult of Man :
“ Secular, profane, humanism has finally revealed itself in its terrible shape and has, in a certain sense, challenged the Council. The religion of God made man has come up against a religion – for there is such a one – of man who makes himself God. And what happened ? An impact, a battle, an anathema ? That might have taken place, but it did not. It was the old story of the Samaritan that formed the model for the Council’s spirituality. It was filled only with an endless sympathy. Its attention was taken up with the discovery of human needs – which become greater as the son of the earth makes himself greater. Do you at least recognise this its merit, you modern humanists who have no place for the transcendence of the things supreme, and come to know our new humanism :
we also, we more than anyone else, have the cult of man. ”
A new humanism, indeed ! A profession of faith in Man who makes himself God that had never been heard coming from the Vicar of Jesus Christ, the successor of Saint Peter !
When the Church subjected the world to God
In order to understand well the Copernican revolution that took place on that day in the Council, it was sufficient to recall the true principles of Christian humanism.
“ To tell the truth, ” wrote Fr. de Nantes, “ the Church never lost interest in the life of man, in his ‘ praxis ’, in his history. She has always known and appreciated ‘ temporal values ’, but she made God their point of reference and not the cult of man. She made earthly things subject to a divine, Christian, and therefore supernatural morality that comes from God and is directed towards God. ”
The French revolution destroyed this Christian order. Civil society, emancipated from God’s law, wants to construct itself by itself and for itself. The Church, at first, was strongly opposed to this demand for autonomy ; then she dithered, pulled herself together, and finally accepted it at Vatican II, becoming the obliging servant of the emancipated World.
“ Joy and hope ”
It cannot be said that this new humanism is post-conciliar drift, for it is the very substance of the “ Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World ” better known as Gaudium et Spes, its first three words.
“ A detail that speaks volumes, ” our Father wrote, “ about the gratuitous and fallacious nature of this discourse to men. Its first words in its first draft were : Joy and Sadness. That would have made a depressing title ! The order of the first four words was therefore inverted : Joy and sadness, hope and anxieties, in such a way that the final title was enticing : ‘ Joy and hope ’… Sadness and anxieties were driven into the background, forgotten !
“ The Church wanted to please and flatter… ”
She wanted to promise joy and hope in this world rather than in the next. In doing so, she prevented people from fearing “ the wailing and gnashing of teeth ” of eternal damnation. She lost interest in Heaven, which goes hand in hand with the fear of Hell, and turned away – the unfortunate ! – from the unique love of her Spouse and of her children, in order to turn towards the idol erected by the World.
Man, the new way for the Church
Right from the preamble of “ Gaudium et Spes ”, the Council says that “ nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in the hearts of the followers of Christ… The Church realises that it is truly linked with mankind and its history by the deepest of bonds. ” (no 1) This is why she became its servant: “ For the human person deserves to be preserved ;human society deserves to be renewed.
“ Hence the focal point of our total presentation will be man himself, whole and entire, body and soul, heart and conscience, mind and will. ” (no 3)
It has been said that the Council would take an interest in man, in nothing but man, in every man and in all men ; there is no end to it, ad nauseam.
“ What does the Church think of man ? ” (no 11) The incredible response is at number 12 : “ According to the almost unanimous opinion of believers and unbelievers alike, all things on earth should be related to man as their centre and crown. ”
“ Gaudium et Spes ” mentions sin but as though it is a chance mishap, that the Lord came to remove, “ to free and strengthen man, renewing him ”. There follows a glorification of man in his body, his mind, his conscience, his freedom, etc. And when his idol feels as though it has feet of clay, thinking of the misery of life and of ineluctable death, the Council is there to cheer him up : “ Man has been created by God for a blissful purpose beyond the reach of earthly misery. ” (no 18) The reward has already been acquired. Why fear then ? Joy ! Hope !
The dialogue with atheists
If modern man has the “ temptation ” of doing without God, the fault, prepare yourself for a shock, belongs to Christians !
Here the reformers’ pride reaches a summit : “ Believers can have more than a little to do with the birth of atheism. To the extent that they neglect their own training in the faith, or teach erroneous doctrine, or are deficient in their religious, moral or social life, they must be said to conceal rather than reveal the authentic face of God and religion. ” (no 19)
“ It is nauseating ”, Fr. de Nantes fulminates. “ Do you hear me, Your Eminences : this foul text reveals the evil spirit that inspired this baneful Council.
Among the “ misleading presentations ” of Christian doctrine, we learn that there is one which consists in condemning atheism : “ Above all the Church knows that her message is in harmony with the most secret desires of the human heart when she champions the dignity of the human vocation, restoring hope to those who have already despaired of anything higher than their present lot. ” (no 21)
In order to justify such overtures to modern atheists theologically, it would take all the boldness of a young Polish bishop, much engaged in this dialogue.
The major heresy
The proof that every man has within himself an inalienable dignity and almost infinite capacities, is Christ, the perfect man, “ Who fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear… Since human nature as He assumed it was not annulled, by that very fact it has been raised up to a divine dignity in our respect too. For by His Incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man… ” (no 22, 2)
“ Here is the principle whereby the passage is made from Christianity to universal Humanism, the joining of the cult of God and of God made man to the cult of man and of man who makes himself God…There is the greatest inversion of the faith ever professed ! It turns everything upside down. Christ, by His Incarnation and Redemption, is made to be the revealer of man’s own grandeur to man, the revealer of man’s own worth and merit and so convince him of his excellence ! Never had Jesus Christ and his mysteries of grace thus been made the pedestal and ornament for human pride. ”
“ Gaudium et Spes, ” however, does not stop there. A little further on, it is the participation in the paschal mystery that is “ in some fashion ” extended to the entire human race: “ For, since Christ died for all men, and since the ultimate vocation of man is in fact one, and divine, we ought to believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery. ” (no 22, 5) The Cross of Christ, the Church, faith, baptism, Christendom, as a result, become unnecessary, since every man, raised to an unequalled dignity, is already entered into the way of his salvation.
Vatican III : Christian humanism restored
“ The next Council should condemn error but retain this concern and this just ambition of giving to the world a harmonious vision of the two periods of our destiny : the earthly stage and eternal life. How can this be done ? By situating the fissure, the great crevasse that all men must cross, the great ‘ Passage ’, in Hebrew ‘ Pasch ’, not at bodily death which is nothing but a secondary and expected accident, but at the death and resurrection experienced in Christ Who has made the Jew and the pagan into Christians, the sinner into a saint, the man doomed to eternal death into a living being endowed with a perfection which is eternal in itself. ”