English

 

GAUDIUM ET SPES

ON THE CHURCH IN THE MODERN WORLD

 

(The most important document of the Second Vatican Council)

Selection of citations and formatting by Manfred Hanglberger (www.hanglberger-manfred.de)

  

 

The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts. … That is why this community realizes that it is truly linked with mankind and its history by the deepest of bonds. (1)

 

For the human person deserves to be preserved; human society deserves to be renewed. (3)

 

The human race has passed from a rather static concept of reality to a more dynamic, evolutionary one. (5)

 

A more critical ability to distinguish religion from a magical view of the world and from the superstitions which still circulate purifies it and exacts day by day a more personal and explicit adherence to faith. As a result many persons are achieving a more vivid sense of God. (7)

 

Meanwhile the conviction grows not only that humanity can and should increasingly consolidate its control over creation, but even more, that it devolves on humanity to establish a political, social and economic order which will growingly serve man and help indivi­duals as well as groups to affirm and develop the dignity proper to them. (9)

 

Where they have not yet won it, women claim for themselves an equity with men before the law and in fact. (9)

 

The number constantly swells of the people who raise the most basic questions …:

·   What is man?

·   What is this sense of sorrow, of evil, of death …?

·   What purpose have these victories purchased at so high a cost?

·   What can man offer to society, what can he expect from it?

·   What follows this earthly life? (10)

 

… Man is not wrong when he regards himself as superior to bodily concerns, and as more than a speck of nature or a nameless constituent of the city of man.
For by his interior qualities he outstrips the whole sum of mere things.
He plunges into the depths of reality whenever he enters into his own heart; God, … awaits him there; … (14)

 

In the depths of his conscience, man detects a law which he does not impose upon himself, but which holds him to obedience.
Always summoning him to love good and avoid evil, the voice of conscience when necessary speaks to his heart: do this, shun that. …
Conscience is the most secret core and sanctuary of a man. There he is alone with God, Whose voice echoes in his depths. …

In fidelity to conscience, Christians are joined with the rest of men in the search for truth, and for the genuine solution to the numerous problems which arise in the life of individuals from social relationships.
Hence the more right conscience holds sway, the more persons and groups turn aside from blind choice and strive to be guided by the objective norms of morality. Conscience frequently errs from invincible ignorance without losing its dignity. … (16)

 

Only in freedom can man direct himself toward goodness. …

Hence man's dignity demands that he act according to a knowing and free choice that is personally motivated and prompted from within, not under blind internal impulse nor by mere external pressure. … (17)

 

This faith needs to prove its fruitfulness by penetrating the believer's entire life, including its worldly dimensions, and by activating him toward justice and love, especially regarding the needy.(21)

 

While rejecting atheism, root and branch, the Church sincerely professes that all men, believers and unbelievers alike, ought to work for the rightful betterment of this world in which all alike live; such an ideal cannot be realized, however, apart from sincere and prudent dialogue. Hence the Church protests against the distinction which some state authorities make between believers and unbelievers, with prejudice to the fundamental rights of the human person. (21)

28. Respect and love ought to be extended also to those who think or act differently than we do in social, political and even religious matters.

But it is necessary to distinguish between error, which always merits repudiation, and the person in error, who never loses the dignity of being a person even when he is flawed by false or inadequate religious notions. …

God … forbids us to make judgments about the internal guilt of anyone.


"You have heard that it was said: Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thy enemy. But I say to you: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who persecute and calumniate you" (Matt. 5:43-44). (28)

The basic equality of all must receive increasingly greater recognition.

With respect to the fundamental rights of the person,
every type of discrimination, whether social or cultural, whether based on sex, race, color, social condition, language or religion, is to be overcome and eradicated as contrary to God's intent. (29)

 

For in truth it must still be regretted that fundamental personal rights are still not being universally honored. Such is the case of a woman who is denied the right to choose a husband freely, to embrace a state of life or to acquire an education or cultural benefits equal to those recognized for men.

Human institutions, both private and public, must labor to minister to the dignity and purpose of man. (29)

 

At the same time let them put up a stubborn fight against any kind of slavery, whether social or political, and safeguard the basic rights of man under every political system. (29)

 

It grows increasingly true that the obligations of justice and love are fulfilled only if each person, contributing to the common good, according to his own abilities and the needs of others, also promotes and assists the public and private institutions dedicated to bettering the conditions of human life.

Let everyone consider it his sacred obligation to esteem and observe social necessities as belonging to the primary duties of modern man.
For the more unified the world becomes, the more plainly do the offices of men extend beyond particular groups and spread by degrees to the whole world. (30)

 

Throughout the course of the centuries, men have labored to better the circumstances of their lives through a monumental amount of individual and collective effort. … This human activity accords with God's will.

… Thus, far from thinking that works produced by man's own talent and energy are in opposition to God's power, and that the rational creature exists as a kind of rival to the Creator, Christians are convinced that the triumphs of the human race are a sign of God's grace and the flowering of His own mysterious design.
For the greater man's power becomes, the farther his individual and community responsibility extends.
Hence it is clear that men are not deterred by the Christian message from building up the world, or impelled to neglect the welfare of their fellows, but that they are rather more stringently bound to do these very things. (34)

 

A man is more precious for what he is than for what he has.
Similarly, all that men do to obtain greater justice, wider brotherhood, a more humane disposition of social relationships has greater worth than technical advances.
For these advances can supply the material for human progress,
but of themselves alone they can never actually bring it about. (35)

 

36. … If by the autonomy of earthly affairs we mean that created things and societies themselves enjoy their own laws and values which must be gradually deciphered, put to use, and regulated by men, then it is entirely right to demand that autonomy.

Such is not merely required by modern man, but harmonizes also with the will of the Creator.

For by the very circumstance of their having been created, all things are endowed with their own stability, truth, goodness, proper laws and order.
Man must respect these as he isolates them by the appropriate methods of the individual sciences or arts.

Therefore if methodical investigation within every branch of learning is carried out in a genuinely scientific manner and in accord with moral norms, it never truly conflicts with faith, for earthly matters and the concerns of faith derive from the same God.

Indeed whoever labors to penetrate the secrets of reality with a humble and steady mind, even though he is unaware of the fact, is nevertheless being led by the hand of God, who holds all things in existence, and gives them their identity.

Consequently, we cannot but deplore certain habits of mind, which are sometimes found too among Christians, which do not sufficiently attend to the rightful independence of science and which, from the arguments and controversies they spark, lead many minds to conclude that faith and science are mutually opposed.(7)

… For their part, however, all believers of whatever religion always hear His revealing voice in the discourse of creatures. …

 

38. To those, therefore, who believe in divine love, He gives assurance that the way of love lies open to men and that the effort to establish a universal brotherhood is not a hopeless one. …

 Christ is now at work in the hearts of men through the energy of His Holy Spirit, arousing not only a desire for the age to come, but by that very fact animating, purifying and strengthening those noble longings too by which the human family makes its life more human and strives to render the whole earth submissive to this goal. …

39. We do not know the time for the consummation of the earth and of humanity, nor do we know how all things will be transformed. … The shape of this world will pass away;

… Enduring with charity and its fruits, all that creation which God made on man's account will be unchained from the bondage of vanity.

Hence, while earthly progress must be carefully distinguished from the growth of Christ's kingdom, to the extent that the former can contribute to the better ordering of human society, it is of vital concern to the Kingdom of God.

 

40. … The Church … goes forward together with humanity and experiences the same earthly lot which the world does.
She serves as a leaven and as a kind of soul for human society …

… The Church does not only communicate divine life to men but in some way casts the reflected light of that life over the entire earth, most of all by its healing and elevating impact on the dignity of the person, by the way in which it strengthens the seams of human society and imbues the everyday activity of men with a deeper meaning and importance.

 

41. Modern man is on the road to a more thorough development of his own personality, and to a growing discovery and vindication of his own rights.

… Man will always yearn to know, at least in an obscure way, what is the meaning of his life, of his activity, of his death.

… The Gospel announces and proclaims the freedom of the sons of God, and repudiates all the bondage … it has a sacred reverence for the dignity of conscience and its freedom of choice, constantly advises that all human talents be employed in God's service and men's, and, finally, commends all to the charity of all (cf. Matt. 22:39).

The Church … by virtue of the Gospel committed to her, proclaims the rights of man;
she acknowledges and greatly esteems the dynamic movements of today by which these rights are everywhere fostered.

The Church recognizes that worthy elements are found in today's social movements, especially an evolution toward unity, a process of wholesome socialization and of association in civic and economic realms.

With great respect … this council regards all the true, good and just elements inherent in the very wide variety of institutions which the human race has established for itself and constantly continues to establish.

… It happens rather frequently, and legitimately so, that with equal sincerity some of the faithful will disagree with others on a given matter.
Even against the intentions of their proponents, however, solutions proposed on one side or another may be easily confused by many people with the Gospel message.
Hence it is necessary for people to remember that no one is allowed in the aforementioned situations to appropriate the Church's authority for his opinion.
They should always try to enlighten one another through honest discussion, preserving mutual charity and caring above all for the common good.

 

44. Just as it is in the world's interest to acknowledge the Church as an historical reality, and to recognize her good influence, so the Church herself knows how richly she has profited by the history and development of humanity.

… The Church admits that she has greatly profited and still profits from the antagonism of those who oppose or who persecute her.

 

91. … The proposals of this sacred synod look to the assistance of every man of our time, whether he believes in God, or does not explicitly recognize Him.
If adopted, they will promote among men a sharper insight into their full destiny, and thereby lead them to fashion the world more to man's surpassing dignity, to search for a brotherhood which is universal and more deeply rooted, and to meet the urgencies of our ages with a gallant and unified effort born of love.

 

The dialogue with all man

92. … To … unify under one Spirit all men of whatever nation, race or culture, the Church stands forth as a sign of that brotherhood which allows honest dialogue and gives it vigor.

Such a mission requires in the first place that we foster within the Church herself mutual esteem, reverence and harmony, through the full recognition of lawful diversity.
Thus all those who compose the one People of God, both pastors and the general faithful, can engage in dialogue with ever abounding fruitfulness.

For the bonds which unite the faithful are mightier than anything dividing them.

Hence, let there be unity in what is necessary;
freedom in what is unsettled,
and charity in any case.

 

.. For the farther the unity of Christians advances toward truth and love …, the more this unity will be a harbinger of unity and peace for the world at large. …

For our part, the desire for … dialogue, which can lead to truth through love alone, excludes no one, though an appropriate measure of prudence must undoubtedly be exercised.
- We include those who cultivate outstanding qualities of the human spirit, but do not yet acknowledge the Source of these qualities.
- We include those who oppress the Church and harass her in manifold ways.

Since God the Father is the origin and purpose of all men, we are all called to be brothers.
Therefore, if we have been summoned to the same destiny, human and divine, we can and we should work together without violence and deceit in order to build up the world in genuine peace.

 

Text selection and formatting by M.Hanglberger (www.hanglberger-manfred.de)

 

 

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