Gaudium et Spes was issued when the Second Vatican Council ended in 1965. The document summarizes the council and gives an outline of the Church’s social teachings in a changing world.
The world has seen enormous development and progress that has amazed humanity, he says, but it has also caused many to worry about the social implications of a quickly changing society as advances in technology and power threaten people. Never before has there been so much wealth simultaneous with so much hunger and poverty.
Gaudium et Spes noted that economic, scientific and political changes are happening so quickly that it is difficult to keep up with their effects on society. While these developments have brought many people to God, others have left faith behind.
In these transforming times, the Second Vatican Council sought to clarify the role of the church in the world by turning to Scripture in the Church’s social teachings. The encyclical emphasizes the dignity of each human being as created in the image of God which comes from their call to communion with God.
God did not create people to live in isolation, but to develop society and community. We are to treat one another, the Pope reminds us, in the spirit of brotherhood. Basic equality is required because all people posses a rational soul, were created in God’s likeness, and have been redeemed by Christ.
Humanity has labored throughout history to improve living conditions and scientific advances have made great strides. These achievements are signs of God’s greatness and realization of his plan. At the same time, progress has brought about great temptation and we must avoid becoming arrogant when we are successful.
The Church is the family of God’s children in this world waiting for the Lord’s return. The Church’s primary purpose is a religious one, to share God with the world, but also to protect and promote human dignity. She must initiate action on behalf of all humanity, especially the needy.
The encyclical then proceeds to name a number of problems which concern the Church. The well being of individuals and Christian society is intimately linked with the well being of marriage and the family.
In recent years there have been many challenges to the traditional family. The purpose of marriage is to further human life and educate children. Parents should teach their children to follow their vocation and raise them in the Church.
The cultural and social changes in recent years have brought about a new age of human history. In our world all Christians should be united in one family. There is a danger that humanity will put too much trust in the discoveries of today and no longer seek God.
The Church is not bound exclusively and indissolubly to any race or nation and seeks to share the Gospel with all. We should also work to preserve each person’s dignity regardless of race, sex, nation, religion, or social condition.
People should also be mindful of changes taking place in the world economy. Some are allowing their personal and social lives to be consumed by economics. While some have benefited greatly, many remain in poverty. Efforts must be taken to reduce immense economic inequality which is connected with individual and social discrimination.
Finally, the nations of the world should work together to create a peace based on justice and love. In order for this to happen, we must respect others and their dignity. War must be avoided and members of a nation’s military ought to think of themselves as agents of security and freedom for the people.
The condemnations of total war pronounced by previous Popes are repeated – any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities of extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and humanity itself.
In order to achieve peace, the document explains, the causes of discord between peoples must be eliminated. In addition there should be economic cooperation to help underdeveloped nations achieve progress.
Link to: Gaudium et Spes