It seems that, in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, a disconnect occurred between the Church's social teaching and her artistic identity and legacy. The nexus has somehow been lost or deemphasized between the Church's artistic heritage and her preferential option for the poor. It seems we are not mustering the effort to do both art and corporal works of mercy. Perhaps we are still waiting for a synthesis of justice and the arts that is applicable to our time.
For all the best efforts of the "social justice" crowd, the gulf between the rich and poor continues to widen. The utopian social justice enterprise that emerged in the 1960s and 1970s and proclaimed as the Church's rediscovered raison d'être is not as healthy nor effective as some might imagine. Instead of easing poverty by embracing poverty (solidarity), the promotion of the pseudo-gospel of liberation theology (and its illegitimate offspring), for example, has merely impoverished the Church and robbed her citizens and the world of an encounter with the redeeming beauty of Christ. Where there is authentic solidarity there is typically authentic religious practice and faithfulness to the Magisterium. The two go hand in hand. I.e., obedience to the Gospel means faithful witness in word and deed, in prayer (liturgy) and practice (social service outreach). Only a heart illumined by grace can see Jesus in the poorest of the poor.
It is no coincidence that a massive loss of faithfulness to the truth has occurred along with a loss of appreciation of authentic beauty and goodness. The rejection of legitimate authority in the wake of the Second Vatican Council mirrored the rejection of authority and common sense in secular society. Without Faith, a moral compass and the good sense to understand the consequences of an abandonment of reason, people turned to various forms of self medication—pornography, drugs, technology and half-baked meditation practices—in an attempt to fill an existential void.
It is no coincidence that with a loss of focus on saving souls, the social justice enterprise came to resemble all too closely in many nations of the Americas the utopian praxis of communism and its happy-go-lucky twin—socialism. It is no coincidence that, where liberation theology made its biggest impact, evangelical protestant sects have poured into the void left by a flaccid Catholicism and have poached millions of Catholics who, quite frankly, found and are finding more substance about the person of Jesus in those sects that they have or do in many Catholic parishes which frequently tout a vapid socialism sold as Catholicism. Those same parishes are typically bereft of the glory of the Liturgy that once illumined entire continents. The darkness of man's rejection (of the beauty, truth and goodness of God) has replaced the hope and glory of God formerly manifest in and through the Mass.
Part of the problem or part of the solution?
Look on the Bright Side
Blessed (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta lived among the poorest of the poor with her many Missionary Sisters and Brothers of Charity.
All God's gifts are good, but they are not all the same. As I often say to people who tell me that they would like to serve the poor as I do, "What I can do, you cannot. What you can do, I cannot. But together we can do something beautiful for God."—Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.Mother Teresa raised to an art form service to the poorest of the poor. The reason she could uncover such beauty in some of the worst hellholes on earth is because she could, by a grace of God, see in each person the image of God. She found and made beauty even among the destitute and dying because Christ was there among those she and her sisters served. She found and served Christ in the distressing disguise of the poor. It is difficult to imagine Blessed Teresa pitting service and beauty against each other.
God's offer of salvation extends to all.
Man's internal unrest is projected on the world.
The natural world, too, is suffering because mankind is spiritually bankrupt. All the problems we face as a global community are due to man's spiritual malady: sin, alienation from God. Hunger, pollution, violence, loneliness—these are symptoms of a spiritual sickness, a sign that man is at war with himself and God. The world needs the beauty, truth and goodness of the Church. The world is starving, both materially and spiritually, because many in the Church have abandoned the call to choose the better part.
Art and Hope
Authentic art does more to remind man of his inalienable rights than any constitution or charter. Without art, in particular religious art, no constitution or charter of rights can capture the ineffable character of man's design. The contemporary iconoclasm is a destruction of the image of God in man. By denying beauty at the heart of the Church, the new iconoclasm is in as many ways equally destructive as its ancient predecessor. The new iconoclasm denies the image of God in man and thus denies man's fundamental dignity. The new iconoclasm is, in a word, diabolical.
In Christ alone is there is salvation. The recovery of one's dignity in Christ offers man authentic freedom to do what he ought. He ought to love God and his neighbour.