Gaudium Et Spes
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Gaudium Et Spes

Gaudium et spes (Ecclesiastical Latin: ['?au? et 'spes], "Joy and Hope"), the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, was one of the four constitutions resulting from the Second Vatican Council in 1964. It was the last and longest published document from the council and is the first constitution published by an ecumenical council to address the entire world.[1] Gaudium et spes clarified and reoriented the role of the church's mission to people outside of the Catholic faith.[2] It was the first time that the church took explicit responsibility for its role in the larger world.[2] The constitution's creation was necessitated by fear of the church's irrelevance in the modern era due to its ignorance on problems that plague the modern world (see Modernity).[2] The document represents an inner examination of the church by the council and features a response to problems affecting the modern world.[1]

With the failure of the Church to respond promptly to major global events such as World War II and the Holocaust, Pope John XXIII began Vatican II with an emphasis on examining the role of the church in the world.[3] This culminated with the creation of Gaudium et spes to address the role of the church in serving the world outside of Christianity.[3] During the creation of the document itself, Gaudium et spes went through multiple versions of Schemas to reflect the idea Pope John XXIII wanted to achieve during the council.[3] After long debate during the council over Gaudium et spes, the document came to cover a wide range of topics examining the inner workings of the church and its interactions with the world as a whole.[3] Such topics include marriage and family, the development of culture, economics, politics and peace and war.[4]

Within Gaudium et spes are the themes of gift of self and the promotion of peace.[5] While initial reception of the document was focused on the shift in theological considerations, reception of Gaudium et spes today marks the document as a turning point in the Church's focus on the world.[5]

Together, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium (LG), and the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (GS) stand as the two pillars of the Second Vatican Council.[why?][] The Dogmatic Constitution treats the nature of the church in itself; the Pastoral Constitution treats its mission in the world.[6]

Approved by a vote of 2,307 to 75 of the bishops assembled at the council, it was promulgated by Pope Paul VI on 7 December 1965, the day the council ended. As is customary with Catholic documents, the title is taken from its opening words in Latin "the joys and hopes". The English translation begins:[7]

"The joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well."


Context within Vatican II

At the beginning of the Second Vatican Council on October 11, 1962, Pope John XXIII celebrated the opening Mass of the council.[3] During which, Pope John indirectly brought to light the economic and political issues for which the council was summoned.[3] Such issues included the devastation of World War II, Nazi horrors, the current threat of a nuclear war between the United States and Russia, and the end of colonialism and racism.[3] The church had failed to act substantially on these issues, contributing to a feeling of irrelevance within larger considerations of the state of the world.[3] From an ecclesiastical standpoint, there were open issues concerning completing the work of the interrupted First Vatican Council and the need for reform within the church.[3] As a result of these problems, in his opening speech, Gaudet Mater Ecclesia, Pope John XIII distanced the council from focusing solely on the gloom of the problems of the world as the Church had done in previous councils.[3] He wanted the council to focus on "the marvelous progress of the discoveries of human genius," while orienting the role of the church to one that should deal with right and wrong in the world.[3] The council, as a whole, was to be an update to the essential inner workings and teachings of the church to better fit the modern world.[3] Gaudium et spes was to be the culmination of this as Pope John XXIII envisioned the constitution to share in the "joys and the hopes" of the entire world.[3]

The creation of the text of Gaudium et spes

Gaudium et spes was not drafted before the council met, but arose from the floor of the council and was one of the last to be promulgated.[3] In preparation for the council, Pope John XXIII asked for suggestions concerning the substance of Vatican II.[3] In a large width of responses sorted through by a commission appointed by the Pope, there resulted in 67 thematic documents that would be placed for discussion during the council.[3] Four of those documents, dealing with the church in the modern world, ultimately formed the logical backbone of what would become Gaudium et spes.[3] In what is described as a turning point of the council, the harsh disagreement over the four documents drove the attendees to invalidate all 67 thematic documents as inadequate.[3] This led to Pope John asking Cardinal Leo Jozef Suenens to create a new agenda for the council in November, 1962.[3] The agenda was to include an examination on the Church and its role within the modern world, as necessitated by the debate over the four documents in question.[3] By December 1962, Suenens revealed his work.[3] The role of the church would be split between different viewpoints: "Ad intra," internally, and "ad extra," externally.[3] These ultimately resulted in Lumen Gentium and Gaudium et spes, respectively.[3] Schema 17 and, toward the end of the council, Schema 12 inspired the later creation of Gaudium et spes.[4] Schema 12, while focusing on the church's role in world social issues, underwent many changes before ultimately being rejected by the attendees over a lack of cohesion within the document.[4]

Cardinal Suenens was again tasked with producing a new schema; however, Pope John XXIII died before its completion on June 3, 1963.[3] Upon the election of Pope Paul VI on June 21, 1963, Pope Paul continued the creation of the document.[3] When the revised Schema 12 was published in September 1963, it was met with intense scrutiny by the bishops.[3] Ultimately, the schema, through multiple revisions that lasted until 1964, was transformed into Schema 13, which would become Gaudium et spes.[3] Schema 13 not only related the role of the church to the world but also dealt with questions dealing with modern problems.[3] On November 16, 1964, Schema 13 was approved to be edited after all of the Bishops' suggestions were aggregated.[3] Father Pierre Haubtmann led a commission tasked with editing the schema.[3] Over the period of the next year, Father Haubtmann led discussions and continued to develop the schema in line with discussion offered during the council.[3] Approved by a vote of 2,307 to 75 of the bishops assembled at the council, Schema 13 was promulgated as Gaudium et spes by Pope Paul VI on 7 December 1965, the day the council ended.[7]


The Dogmatic Constitution, Gaudium et spes, was addressed "not only to the sons of the Church and to all who invoke the name of Christ, but to the whole of humanity" as part of the Second Council's effort to appeal to the larger considerations of the Catholic Church.[7]

Whereas the previous Vatican Council in 1869-70 had tried to defend the role of the church in an increasingly secular world, the Second Vatican Council focused on updating the role of the Church in the modern world.[1] Those who interpret the purpose of the Second Council as one of embracing this world use Gaudium et spes as the primary hermeneutic for all its documents.[]

Gaudium et spes was adopted after Lumen Gentium, the Constitution on the Church, and it reflects the ecclesiological approach of that text. It also recognized and encouraged the role of the laity in the life of the Church in the world.[] The decree was debated at length and approved by much the largest and most international council in the history of the Church.[8]

The ecumenical constitution created by the Second Vatican Council focused on the role of the church within the modern world.[1] It was the last document promulgated during the Second Vatican Council and the first church document to place the church within the significance of the world.[1] Gaudium et spes illustrated the church is aware of problems within the world and its responsibilities toward them.[1] While world problems are a focus of the text, it also brings to light the human person and their orientation toward God as well as the mission of the church itself.[1] The mission of the Church needed to recognize the realities of secularization and pluralism.[] Bishop Christopher Butler points out that a key principle behind the "audacious change" in this and in several earlier outward-looking documents of the council was that the Church was Christ himself using us as his instruments to bring salvation to all, and in charity we must presume that those who differ from us are nevertheless people of good will.[9] As a whole, Gaudium et spes represented an inner looking of the Church on itself so that it may take responsibility and comment on issues affecting the world.[4]

Such issues of responsibilities in the world are highlighted by the cardinals of the council such as Leo Joseph Suenens of Belgium, urged the council to take on social responsibility for Third World suffering, International peace and war, and the poor, sentiments echoed by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini of Milan and Cardinal Lercaro of Bologna.[10] Additionally, Thomas Rosica points out that the Council Fathers "... were men who had experienced two world wars, the horror of the Holocaust, the onset of the nuclear weaponry, the hostility of communism, the awesome and only partially understood impact of science and technology."[10] In the Introduction it states, "... the Church has always had the duty of scrutinizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel."[11]

Marie-Dominique Chenu, professor of the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum was influential in the composition of Gaudium et spes,[12] as was Louis-Joseph Lebret. "The problem of poverty and of overcoming it through a healthy economy, respectful of the primary value of the person, allows for a vast discussion on political ethics in Gaudium et spes."[10] In the end, the "council exhorts Christians, as citizens of two cities, to strive to discharge their earthly duties conscientiously and in response to the Gospel spirit.".[13] This was further expanded in Apostolicam Actuositatem, Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, of 18 November 1965.[].



The numbers given correspond to section numbers within the text.[14]

  1. Preface (1-3)
  2. Introduction: The Situation of Men in the Modern World (4-10)
  3. Part 1: The Church and Man's Calling (11-45)
    1. The Dignity of the Human Person (12-22)
    2. The Community of Mankind (23-32)
    3. Man's Activity Throughout the World (33-39)
    4. The Role of the Church in the Modern World (40-45)
  4. Part 2: Some Problems of Special Urgency (46-93)
    1. Fostering the Nobility of Marriage and the Family (47-52)
    2. The Proper Development of Culture (53-62)
      1. The Circumstances of Culture in the World Today (54-56)
      2. Some Principles for the Proper Development of Culture (57-59)
        1. Definition of Culture. Culture in its general sense indicates everything whereby man develops and perfects his many bodily and spiritual qualities; he strives by his knowledge and his labor, to bring the world itself under his control. He renders social life more human both in the family and the civic community, through improvement of customs and institutions. Throughout the course of time he expresses, communicates and converses in his works, great spiritual experiences and desires that they might be of advantage to the progress of many, even the whole family (Gaudium et spes, Part II, Chapter II, Paragraph II).
      3. Some More Urgent Duties of Christians in Regard to Culture (60-62)
    3. Economic and Social Life (63-72)
      1. Economic Development (64 - 66)
      2. Certain Principles Governing Socio-Economic Life as a Whole (67-72)
    4. The Life of the Political Community (73-76)
    5. The Fostering of Peace and the Promotion of a Community of Nations (77-93)
      1. The Avoidance of War (79-82)
      2. Setting Up an International Community (83-93)

Summary of sections

  1. Preface
    1. The Preface seeks to illustrate the relationship the Church has with the world and what it should represent moving into the future.[4] It shows the Church is willing to embrace people all around the world.[4] The English translation begins:[7]

      "The joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well."

  2. Introduction
    1. The introductory paragraphs calls for the church to take account of the problems that the world faces in the modern era.[4] It suggests areas of concern for the church to tackle, some of which are addressed in Part 2 of the document.[4]
  3. Part 1: The Church and Man's Calling
    1. Part 1 opens with the creation of man in the light of God and the dignity to which man possesses.[4] It then discusses the mission of the church in the world by acknowledging other churches outside of the Roman Catholic church and their mutual relationship with the Church.[4] Due to this, the church acknowledges it can learn much about the world from other churches and must be present in the world.[4] Being present in the world is accomplished through taking accountability for problems affecting the world.[4]
  4. Part 2: Some Problems of Special Urgency
    1. Part 2 directly addresses problems in the world that the council thought were especially important to address.[4] These problems include: marriage and family, the development of culture, economics, politics and peace and war.[4] The problems were selected as those that currently affect the world and will continue to do so in the future.[4]
  5. Conclusion
    1. The conclusion reiterates the commitment of the church to communicate with the people of the world rather than just the Catholic Church.[4]

Central themes

Gift of self

The "gift of self" from GS §24[15] was a phrase used often by Pope John Paul II and particularly in his Theology of the Body. This phrase has also been described as "the Law of the Gift" [5]

Promotion of peace

The final chapter of the document is "The Fostering of Peace and the Promotion of a Community of Nations". This chapter echoed themes declared near the start of Vatican II by Pope John XXIII in 1963 in his well-regarded encyclical, Pacem in Terris.[].


Immediately following Vatican II

Initial opposition came in the form of debate over the theological basis of Vatican II and Gaudium et spes.[16] According to Henri de Lubac, the theological balance of nature and grace pre-Vatican II was overturned in favor of nature and the world which goes against the importance placed upon transcendence.[16]

Reception today

Gaudium et spes has been evaluated as the shift of the church to its new globalized view of the world.[16] It serves as the basis for multiculturalism in the modern church and has become the basis of the church's message to the world today.[16]


Ecumenical Impact

The document contributed to the ecumenical movement of its time and has had a huge influence on the social teachings of the wider Christian churches and communities, especially the churches that belong to the World Council of Churches.[].


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Xavier, Joseph (2010). "Theological Anthropology of "Gaudium et Spes" and Fundamental theology". Gregorianum. 91 (1): 124-136. ISSN 0017-4114. JSTOR 44322673.
  2. ^ a b c Gaillardetz, Richard R., 1958- (2012). Keys to the Council : unlocking the teaching of Vatican II. Clifford, Catherine E., 1958-. Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press. ISBN 978-0-8146-3424-0. OCLC 793345332.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae The church in the modern world : fifty years after Gaudium et spes. Brigham, Erin. Lanham, MD. ISBN 0-7391-8731-7. OCLC 902830768.CS1 maint: others (link)
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Sheridan, Sean O. (2011). "Gaudium Et Spes: The Development and Implementation of the Church's Role in Evangelization in the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World". The Jurist: Studies in Church Law and Ministry. 71 (1): 91-119. doi:10.1353/jur.2011.0013. ISSN 2326-6236. S2CID 192678881.
  5. ^ a b c Weigel, George. "John Paul II and the Crisis of Humanism". First Things (December 1999). Retrieved 2018.
  6. ^ Hahnenberg, Edward P. . A Concise Guide to the Documents of Vatican II (Kindle Locations 1228-1231). St. Anthony Messenger Press.
  7. ^ a b c d "Gaudium et spes". Retrieved .
  8. ^ Tanner, Norman. The Church and the Modern World, Paulist Press, 2005
  9. ^ "Bishop Christopher Butler writes".
  10. ^ a b c Rosica CSB, Thomas. "Gaudium et Spes at 50", Zenit, 20 July 2015
  11. ^ Gaudium et Spes, §4.
  12. ^ Walter Principe, "Chenu, M.D" in Harper Collins Encyclopedia of Catholicism. Edited by Richard McBrien, 1995
  13. ^ Gaudium et Spes, §43.
  14. ^ "Gaudium et spes". Retrieved .
  15. ^ Gaudium et Spes, §24. ", who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.".
  16. ^ a b c d "Project MUSE - The Church in the Modern World". Retrieved .

Works cited

Further reading

External links

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