Gaudium et spes

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Gaudium et spes (GS) (Joy and Hope) is the name of the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World , which was formulated by the Second Vatican Council and approved by Pope Paul VI on December 7, 1965 , after its opening words . was promulgated .


At the beginning of the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965) there were over 70 different working drafts ( schemes ) for discussion. These were partially shortened, partially merged or even deleted in the course of the four session periods. The text of Gaudium et Spes , on the other hand, was a new draft of the Council Fathers themselves, which, under the impression of the opening address of John XXIII. and on the initiative of many bishops was only created during the council.

In contrast to the encyclical Humani generis by Pius XII. Who are critical of the Modern of the post-war period concerned, the Council Fathers wanted a positive position description.

Many of its main features are based on the encyclicals Mater et magistra and Pacem in terris (1961/1963) by Pope John XXIII. ajar.

Structure and title

The constitution is divided into two parts. Articles 11 to 45 deal with general questions about “The Church and the Vocation of Man”; Articles 46 to 90 deal with important individual questions.

The title of a constitution was provided for in the first version of the text. In the following (intermediate) versions, however, this title was omitted. It was not until April 1965, during the drafting phase by the mixed commission, that the title “Consitutio pastoralis” was proposed. The title and entitlement of the text were discussed in the General Congregation. Linked to this is the binding nature of the text as such. Archbishop Gabriel-Marie Garrone therefore pointed out that the text definitely had the intention of making doctrinal statements that concern the relationship between church and world. But this also has a pastoral character. In a vote, 541 fathers submitted proposals for renaming, most of them tended to allow the text to have the character of a declaration (“declaratio”). Overall, however, the majority was in favor of retaining the title of pastoral constitution. The text thus belongs to the "central quadriga ", the four constitutions of the council. A footnote has been added to the first article for explanation. The term “ pastoral ” means that “based on the principles of doctrine, the relationship of the church to the world and to the people of today is presented” (GS 1). In the first part of the constitution “the church develops its doctrine of man, of the world into which man is inserted and of its relationship to both.” (GS 1) The second part applies this doctrine and considers specific situations and questions of People and today's society. In addition to “unchangeable” elements, the second part also contains “historically determined elements” (GS 1), which has an impact on the interpretation. The interpretation , as stated in the comment, is to be carried out “according to the general theological rules of interpretation”. (GS 1). Despite different emphases, pastoral and dogmatic aspects can be found in both parts of the constitution .



The third chapter of the first part, 'Human Creation in the World', first names two important findings that shape further considerations. First of all, the emergence of homo faber and the emergence of a “community that encompasses the whole world” (GS 33). These developments pose a multitude of questions to mankind, which are named in GS 33 but not yet answered. The aim of the document is to find answers in a fruitful dialogue between the “light of revelation” and the “expertise of all people”. The value of human labor is clearly emphasized as it serves both one's own livelihood and that of the community and further develops the work of the Creator (GS 34). Moral questions are still discussed here, as the intrinsic intrinsic value of the work should first be emphasized.

marriage and family

GS 47–52 writes about the importance of marriage and family. Marriage is defined as a personal event between man and woman that presupposes mutual love. In this context, marriage provides for the willingness to have children (see GS 50).

The question of contraception was raised in the Council at the request of Pope Paul VI. not dealt with conclusively, but recommended the founding of a commission that should deal with the new possibilities of birth control in a comprehensible way (cf. GS 51; note 14). This note also points to a “dynamic understanding of church teaching”, which is only developing due to the new possibilities. At the same time, it should be noted that "there is no consistent transfer of marriage theology [which was developed in the previous sections of GS] to the question of birth control."

Further statements

  • Man is the originator, center and goal of economic life and culture, because the dignity of the human person is based on being in the image of God .
  • The human person is also the carrier and goal of all social institutions . The church knows that it is connected with all people in it; from this the mandate in the service of others to shape a humane society develops .
  • The church needs an open dialogue with the world in order to recognize the signs of the times - teaching as well as learning - and to strive for a common good , in a worldwide context, according to God's order.
  • This presupposes the knowledge of the situation of the human being in today's world, whereby the current strong changes have to be considered. Nonetheless, the church is not tied to any particular form of culture or any particular social, economic or political system , but rather an entity sui generis .
  • It is stated that democracy is the form of government in the state which, according to its structure, offers citizens the most favorable conditions for the development of initiatives and public spirit (a monarchical head of state does not stand in the way if this does not legitimize an authoritarian form of government ). The church no longer supports authoritarian state models , especially not if they spread totalitarian ideologies. Therefore, Christians can also come to different political solutions in specific situations, but one must maintain a basic consensus with one another (in the sense of Catholic social teaching ) in an open dialogue to clarify the questions .
  • On the subject of work it is stated that it takes precedence over all other factors of economic life. As a result, the state has to take precautions against misuse of private property if it goes against the common good.
  • Gaudium et spes approves the right to a morally permissible defense, but at the same time vehemently advocates the demand for an international peace-making authority : war should be completely prohibited (in particular GS 82).
  • The Church assigns the laity the responsibility for secular tasks and activities; it is their task to impress the commandment of God into civil life. What is necessary here is adherence to principles in connection with situation-related appropriateness.


The situation analysis of the council went to the point that the church teaching office in the 1950s was widely perceived as a “voice without scope” ( d'Hospital ). All in all , Gaudium et spes formulated a demanding world mission for the Church.

Many theologians and church workers deduce from the pastoral constitution that political participation and discursive ethics are necessary in the church itself . The intended strengthening of the pastoral ministry by relying on the expertise of the laity as a world mandate is still to be expected in many places, at least in Europe.


The statements of the constitution were continued on the magisterial side in the letters Populorum progressio and Octogesima adveniens from Pope Paul VI. and in several doctrinal statements by Pope John Paul II , who already declared integral humanism to be the model of his pontificate in his inaugural encyclical Redemptor hominis from 1979 .


  • Franz Gmainer-Pranzl, Magdalena Holztrattner (ed.): Partner of the people - witness of hope. The Church in the Light of the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes . Tyrolia, Innsbruck 2010. ISBN 978-3-7022-3107-1 .
  • Ansgar Kreutzer : The pastoral constitution Gaudium et Spes interpreted in terms of modernization theory and developed systematically and theologically. Tyrolia, Innsbruck 2006, ISBN 978-3-7022-2800-2 .
  • Jürgen Brinkmann, Hartmut Bühl (ed.): Christians for peace . ES Mittler, Herford 1990, ISBN 3-8132-0337-9 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Alfons Auer : Commentary on the third chapter of the first part . In: Josef Höfer , Karl Rahner (Ed.): Lexicon for Theology and Church . 2nd Edition. tape 16 . Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau. (= The Second Vatican Council, documents and commentaries) ND 2014, 377–397, 379.
  2. cf. Alfons Auer: Commentary on the third chapter of the first part . In: Josef Höfer , Karl Rahner (Ed.): Lexicon for Theology and Church . 2nd Edition. tape 16 . Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau. (= The Second Vatican Council, documents and commentaries) ND 2014, 377–397, 383.
  3. Bernhard Häring CSSR: Second main part, first chapter of the second part - introduction and commentary . In: Josef Höfer , Karl Rahner (Ed.): Lexicon for Theology and Church . 2nd Edition. tape 14 . Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 1968. (= The Second Vatican Council, documents and commentaries) ND 2014, 423–447, 444.
  4. Herbert Schlögel : The Synods of Bishops on Marriage and Family (2014/15), A New Phase of the Council Reception, in: IKaZ 43 (2014) 300-312, 302.
  1. p. 280
  2. cf. P. 282
  3. p. 282.
  4. p. 282