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Gaudium Et Spes – Papal Encyclical Summary


Gaudium et Spes (Joy and Hope) is widely regarded as a landmark of Catholic Social Teaching.
It was promulgated during the Second Vatican Council, and is the Church’s vision of its
involvement in the modern world. It focuses on the roles of the Church and its members in
society and their important relations with one another. It directs towards the true meaning of
life that can only be achieved through Christ. Gaudium Et Spes also highlights its critiquing of
the major technological advancements and social changes in the 20th Century, and goes
against the belief that technology can solve all societal problems. It shows how us persons in
relation to each other must be selfless as opposed to selfishness. It mainly highlights how the
world is rooted in politics, conflicts and wealth while acknowledging those that suffer on their
behalf. The document characterizes poverty as a grave threat to freedom, and it decries
abortion, genocide, torture, slavery, and prostitution as assaults upon human dignity. The
encyclical also clearly states that “The best way to fulfill one’s obligations of justice and love is
to contribute to the common good according to the needs of others, even to the point of
helping public and private organizations devoted to bettering the conditions of life.

Gaudium Et Spes promotes man’s relation to one another, as shown in Chapter II, The
Community of Mankind. It states that all men must constitute as one family and treat one
another in the spirit of brotherhood. It also states that all men are called to one and the same
goal, God himself. Chapter II revolves around the relation of one individual to another, and
how everyone must acknowledge and consider his neighbor.

Chapter III’s main topic revolves around the technological advancements and breakthroughs
of science. It shows how man has ceaselessly strived to better his own life through his own
labors. How technology has helped man extend his mastery over nature itself. Human activity,
to be sure, takes its significance from its relationship to man. Just as it proceeds from man, so
it is ordered toward man. For when a man works he not only alters things and society, he
develops himself as well. He learns much, he cultivates his resources, he goes outside of himself
and beyond himself. Rightly understood this kind of growth is of greater value than any external
riches which can be garnered. A man is more precious for what he is than for what he has. It
tells that human progress is a great advantage to man, however it acknowledges the great
temptations it brings with it. It shows how it impacts the relation of each individual to one
another, and how one will cater to his own interests rather than his neighbor’s, and how this
power of humanity threatens to destroy the race itself. That is why Christ's Church, trusting in
the design of the Creator, acknowledges that human progress can serve man's true happiness,
yet she cannot help echoing the Apostle's warning: "Be not conformed to this world" (Rom.

For Part II, Chapter III, the encyclical talks about how man is the center of economic and social
life. It highlights how the economy of today revolves around man’s increasing domination over
nature, and how methods of production has paved way to meeting the needs of the human
family. Excerpt - Reasons for anxiety, however, are not lacking. Many people, especially in
economically advanced areas, seem, as it were, to be ruled by economics, so that almost their
entire personal and social life is permeated with a certain economic way of thinking. Such is
true both of nations that favor a collective economy and of others. At the very time when the
development of economic life could mitigate social inequalities (provided that it be guided and
coordinated in a reasonable and human way), it is often made to embitter them; or, in some
places, it even results in a decline of the social status of the underprivileged and in contempt
for the poor. While an immense number of people still lack the absolute necessities of life,
some, even in less advanced areas, live in luxury or squander wealth. Extravagance and
wretchedness exist side by side. While a few enjoy very great power of choice, the majority are
deprived of almost all possibility of acting on their own initiative and responsibility, and often
subsist in living and working conditions unworthy of the human person. –

It also talks about how technical developments must be promoted. This is in order to give way
to provision for the increasing population along with the desires of the human race. This is not
only referring towards the increase in production, however, it also mainly refers to the increase
in the service of man.

Excerpt - Economic development must remain under man's determination and must not be
left to the judgment of a few men or groups possessing too much economic power or of the
political community alone or of certain more powerful nations. It is necessary, on the contrary,
that at every level the largest possible number of people and, when it is a question of
international relations, all nations have an active share in directing that development. There is
need as well of the coordination and fitting and harmonious combination of the spontaneous
efforts of individuals and of free groups with the undertakings of public authorities.
Citizens, on the other hand, should remember that it is their right and duty, which is also to be
recognized by the civil authority, to contribute to the true progress of their own community
according to their ability. Especially in underdeveloped areas, where all resources must urgently
be employed, those who hold back their unproductive resources or who deprive their
community of the material or spiritual aid that it needs—saving the personal right of
migration—gravely endanger the common good. -

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.

The encyclical was written in order to show the Church’s concern and how it will address
these different socio-economic problems. It highlights the Church’s solution of bringing man
closer together, in order to help procure a better life for himself, his relation to others, and at
the same time help develop a better world. 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.