“The Church in the Modern World” (Gaudium et Spes) from Vatican Council II

Background:  The Second Vatican Council (1962-65) was a world-wide assembly of nearly 2500 Roman Catholic bishops, convoked by Pope John XXIII and concluded by Pope Paul VI.  Its purpose was the updating (aggiornamento) of the Church through dialogue with the modern world.  It issued 16 major documents, including those on revelation (Dei Verbum, 1965), the nature of the church (Lumen Gentium, 1964), and religious liberty (Dignitatis Humanae, 1965).  The council marked a significant change in attitude away from a closed mindset which rejected modern ideas (such as democracy, separation of church and state, toleration) toward a collaboration with all groups (including not only other Christians, but also other religions and even atheistic or secular groups) who were willing to work toward the genuine fulfillment of humanity.

How is the first paragraph attempting to situate the Church in history?  Is this a view of the church with which you are familiar (either as a member or an outsider)? 

What does it mean to establish political and economic order to be at the service of humanity? (§9)  Do you believe that this is going on today?  Where?  Or why not?

Are the deeper questionings (§10) reminiscent of any points raised in other selections we have met during our intellectual journey so far?  Identify as many as you can.

What are the main features of this document’s view of humanity? (§§12-13,23-24)  How does this understanding of the human condition relate to others we have considered?

The document claims that in order to develop the individual person it is necessary to improve society as a whole (§25).  Do you agree with such a claim?  Do you think the kinds of policies implemented by the US government or major international corporations would accept this?

What does this document mean by the “common good”? (§26)  Is this a notion that appears as an important consideration in any public or corporate policies in our society of which you are aware?

Consider the sorts of acts that are said to “poison civilization” (§27).  Are any of these routinely practiced in our society?

What is meant by an “individualistic morality”? (§30)  Insofar as St. Bonaventure University claims to stand in the Catholic heritage and hence would accept, on the surface at least, the teachings of this document, would you say your educational experience at St. Bonaventure University has led you to consider getting beyond an individualistic morality?  If so, provide an example or two.

What do you think of this document’s effort to tie its social concern into the basic elements of its religious faith? (§32)  Is this something that you think Francis or Bonaventure would have accepted?  Why?  Or why not?  How do you think this perspective would  deal with matters raised by de Beauvoir or Freud or Marx?