Gaudium et spes

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Legislation and Legal System of the Catholic Church
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Pope Leo XIII
Quod apostolici muneris
Rerum novarum

Pope Pius XI
Quadragesimo anno

Pope Pius XII
Social teachings

Pope John XXIII
Mater et magistra
Pacem in terris

Vatican II
Dignitatis humanae
Gaudium et spes

Pope Paul VI
Populorum progressio

Pope John Paul II
Laborem exercens
Sollicitudo rei socialis
Centesimus annus
Evangelium vitae

Pope Benedict XVI
Deus caritas est
Caritas in veritate

Pope Francis
Lumen fidei
Laudato si'

Social teachings of the Popes
Tranquillitas Ordinis

Notable figures
Gaspard Mermillod
René de La Tour du Pin
Heinrich Pesch
Dorothy Day
Óscar Romero
Joseph Bernardin
Hilaire Belloc
G. K. Chesterton
Thomas Woods

Gaudium et spes (Ecclesiastical Latin: [ˈɡawdium et ˈspɛs], 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. The document is an overview of the Catholic Church's teachings about humanity's relationship to society, especially in reference to economics, poverty, social justice, culture, science, technology and ecumenism.

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 English translation begins:

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.


The document was not drafted before the council met, but arose from the floor of the council and was one of the last to be promulgated.

The previous Vatican Council in 1869-70 had tried to defend the role of the church in an increasingly secular world. 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. One of the cardinals, 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.[1]

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."[1] 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."[2] The mission of the Church needed to recognize the realities of secularization and pluralism.

Marie-Dominique Chenu, professor of the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum was influential in the composition of Gaudium et spes,[3] 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."[1]

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. "This council exhorts Christians, as citizens of two cities, to strive to discharge their earthly duties conscientiously and in response to the Gospel spirit.".[4] 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.

  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)

Ecumenical impact[edit]

The document 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.[citation needed]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c Rosica CSB, Thomas. "Gaudium et Spes at 50", Zenit, 20 July 2015
  2. ^ Pope Paul VI. Gaudium et Spes, §4, 7 Decemeber 1965
  3. ^ Walter Principe, "Chenu, M.D" in Harper Collins Encyclopedia of Catholicism. Edited by Richard McBrien, 1995
  4. ^ Gaudium et Spes, §43.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]