Sorry for getting this out a little late today.
Today we begin the last of the four major constitutions from the Second Vatican Council: Gaudium et Spes – The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World.
This document is rather unique in Church History. Never before has an Ecumenical Council given us a pastoral constitution. In many ways, this document encapsulates all that the Council hoped to achieve. Whereas Sacrosanctum Concilium was the first document promulgated, Gaudium et Spes is the last. It was promulgated on December 7, 1965 (along with three other documents), which was the final day of the Council.
Today we tackle the preface which lays out that the Church and the Christian faithful are deeply linked with the wider human race. Thus the Council wishes to address this document to the problems that face us all.
Here are the footnotes. The first footnote is a very helpful overview of the structure of the document as a whole and how it is to be taken:
1. The Pastoral Constitution “De Ecclesia in Mundo Huius Temporis” is made up of two parts; yet it constitutes an organic unity. By way of explanation: the constitution is called “pastoral” because, while resting on doctrinal principles, it seeks to express the relation of the Church to the world and modern mankind. The result is that, on the one hand, a pastoral slant is present in the first part, and, on the other hand, a doctrinal slant is present in the second part. In the first part, the Church develops her teaching on man, on the world which is the enveloping context of man’s existence, and on man’s relations to his fellow men. In part two, the Church gives closer consideration to various aspects of modern life and human society; special consideration is given to those questions and problems which, in this general area, seem to have a greater urgency in our day. As a result in part two the subject matter which is viewed in the light of doctrinal principles is made up of diverse elements. Some elements have a permanent value; others, only a transitory one. Consequently, the constitution must be interpreted according to the general norms of theological interpretation. Interpreters must bear in mind—especially in part two—the changeable circumstances which the subject matter, by its very nature, involves.