Continuity, Renewal, and the Signs of the Times
We have already said that the Church acts as guardian of universal truth, and is not concerned with technical solutions. She operates on certain permanent principles which, although they never change, may require new adaptations depending on the time and place in which they are to be applied. This is not because the truth is somehow “relative,” or changing, but because man and his environment are constantly changing. Each age brings its own peculiarities and its own problems.
As an expert in humanity, the Church’s duty is to constantly observe the flux of social conditions, appraising these adjustments as to whether they are good or bad, and responding to them in language intelligible to each new generation.
The Church is tasked both with protecting the eternal and unchanging teachings of the Church, and with providing appropriate adaptations, interpretations, and, when necessary, re-interpretations, for each historical period. The Church must “become all things to all people,” and while this does not in any way imply “compromise,” it does mean that when a new epoch presents itself, altering the customs, language, and thought of a people, it is up to the Church to make sure that the Tradition, in its fullness, is presented in a way that is intact and yet comprehensible to them.
On this point, the desire expressed by St. John Paul II is the perennial desire of the Church:
“I wish principally…to reaffirm the continuity of the social doctrine as well as its constant renewal. In effect, continuity and renewal are a proof of the perennial value of the teaching of the Church…This twofold dimension is typical of her teaching in the social sphere. On the one hand it is constant, for it remains identical in its fundamental inspiration, in its ‘principles of reflection,’ in its ‘criteria of judgment,’ in its basic ‘directives for action,’ and above all in its vital link with the Gospel of the Lord. On the other hand, it is ever new, because it is subject to the necessary and opportune adaptations suggested by the changes in historical conditions and by the unceasing flow of the events which are the setting of the life of people and society.”
 1 Cor 9:19-23.