The Personalist Project

After the last installment, I said to myself, "You're going to have to pick up the pace a bit here, Katie, if you ever want to actually finish the document." So, I set out with the intention of reading faster and commenting less, only to find paragraph 19 highlighting the master/slave dynamic. I can't very well rush past that, can I?

The Pope has just extolled at length the "deepest reality" of marriage and family life as an image of the Holy Trinity. But, alas, the deepest reality isn't the only reality. 

The idyllic picture presented in Psalm 128 is not at odds with a bitter truth found throughout sacred Scripture, that is, the presence of pain, evil and violence that break up families and their communion of life and love. For good reason Christ’s teaching on marriage (cf. Mt 19:3-9) is inserted within a dispute about divorce. The word of God constantly testifies to that sombre dimension already present at the beginning, when, through sin, the relationship of love and purity between man and woman turns into domination: “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Gen 3:16).

Did you catch it? The Pope (following JP II) identifies sin and the ruination of love with domination, the root of all violence. [I am open to challenges on the point, but to me this seems a much more profound and comprehensive articulation of "the mystery of iniquity" than the classical notion of the sin of pride, because it zeroes in on the inter-personal dimension of evil.]

The next two paragraphs recount the terrible effects this new dynamic has had on families and society throughout human history.

Numbers 23-26 highlight the relation of work to human dignity and a serene family life. It belongs to our vocation as persons to "cultivate the earth." We support our families and serve our communities plus develop our talents through our work. (This is why the Pope so often brings up the problem of unemployment or sub-living wages—not because he's a socialist, but because he is concerned with the dignity of human life.)

Then, in number 27, the master/slave theme appears again, this time regarding our relation to nature:

Nor can we overlook the social degeneration brought about by sin, as, for example, when human beings tyrannize nature, selfishly and even brutally ravaging it. 

Though I've felt his essential personalism from the beginning of his papacy, I have to say this exhortation is so far surprising me (and gladdening my heart) by the depth and completeness of its personalist thrust. I wonder if we can attribute it—at least in part—to the influence of Cardinal Schönborn, who reportedly helped write the text?

This seems like a good stopping point. Tomorrow, if I can find time, I will continue. 

Sign in to add a comment, or register first.

Forgot your password?