Dialogue in the secular age

Added to my ‘to do’ list after listening to Rev Dr James McEvoy speak in Raymond Terrace recently was “Read Gaudium et Spes”. This is one of the documents of the Second Vatican Council, properly titled Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (1965).

It was part of Fr James’ thesis that Gaudium et Spes highlights the integral role of dialogue and reading the signs of the times in the Church’s mission – and that dialogue is vital in proclaiming the gospel in an increasingly secular age.

Fr James paid homage to Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor, author of A Secular Age. His presentation skated through the eras of the Church – the ‘medieval matrix’, the age of mobilisation, the expressivist age, giving way to the secular age.

Given the long history of the Church, the notion that the Church is ‘in and of the world’, rather than a separate entity and a model of an ‘ideal’ society, is relatively fresh.     

Fr James sees Pope Francis as a wonderful exponent of dialogue; he says that “Dialogue is Francis’ biggest theme.”

He insists that dialogue is far more than talking to another; it’s being ready to be moved by what moves the other. In the words of Charles Taylor, there is “no understanding the other without a change in understanding of self”.

Speaking on the 50th anniversary of the institution of the Synod of Bishops in October 2015, Pope Francis said, “The world in which we live, and which we are called to love and serve, even with its contradictions, demands that the Church strengthen co-operation in all areas of her mission. It is precisely this path of synodality which God expects of the Church of the third millennium.

“What the Lord is asking of us is already in some sense present in the very word ‘synod’. Journeying together – laity, pastors, the Bishop of Rome – is an easy concept to put into words, but not so easy to put into practice.

“….A synodal Church is a Church which listens, which realises that listening “is more than simply hearing”. It is a mutual listening in which everyone has something to learn. The faithful people, the college of bishops, the Bishop of Rome: all listening to each other, and all listening to the Holy Spirit, the “Spirit of truth” (Jn 14:17), in order to know what he “says to the Churches” (Rev 2:7).”

Read in full here.

James McEvoy is a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Theology and Philosophy, lectures in systematic theology and is a priest of the Archdiocese of Adelaide. For more opportunities to hear Fr James,  please visit the diocesan website

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Tracey Edstein Image
Tracey Edstein

Tracey Edstein is a member of the Raymond Terrace Parish and a freelance writer with a particular interest in church matters.

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