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Professor discusses Vatican II

Molly Madden | Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Last night, the third part of the Second Vatican Council lecture series sponsored by the Orestes Brownson Council on Catholicism and American Politics took place. The Orestes Brownson Council chose to have this lecture focus on the document Gaudium Et Spes, or The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World.

“Gaudium Et Spes is the document of Vatican II that gathered up information from past encyclicals and gathered it all up into one cohesive text,”said Professor Walter Nicgorski of the Program of Liberal Studies.

The Gaudium Et Spes document was made public by Pope Paul VI on December 7, 1965, the day of the council’s conclusion. The document is considered to be one of the chief accomplishments of the council as it addresses issues about the Church’s role in the modern world.

Nicgorski said that the document had four basic principles of dignity, sociality, solidarity and subsidiary, which contributed in the shaping of the document’s main goal.

“I believe, that in reading this document, one sees an emerging goal. Along with this goal, they can see four principles that have shaped the goal and therefore they can also see the spirit and the means used to achieve this goal,”he said.

This overall goal is to answer the question of what role Church plays in the modern world. Given the time period in which the document was written, there are many social and political implications that need to be taken into account when addressing this goal.

“Gaudium Et Spes is reflective of that period of the early 1960s,” Nicgorski said. “Here in America, we had the Civil Rights Movement, the beginnings of Vietnam, and the threat of nuclear war. In other parts of the world intense decolonization struggles were taking place.”

In light of all these struggles the Council used the document to try and help develop the full caliber of human dignity, he said.

“The whole essence of human dignity is to participate in life,” Nicgorski said. “The solidarity aspect of the document is that it makes distinct efforts to help make the modern world a better place in where ideas can be spread, no matter where those ideas came from.”

Another aspect of Gaudium Et Spes is an extension of acceptance of others, he said.

“Gaudium Et Spes condones openness with others,” he said. “This openness with embracing others extends to all people who respect genuine values; it even extends to non-believers such as Atheists.”

However, Nicgorski said that the Council acknowledged in the document its own limitations.

“The document states that the Church does not always have a ready answer to every question. What this does is help to solidify the vision that the Church stands for in the modern world,” he said.

Overall, Nicgorski says that the document says that we all have a responsibility to embrace the good in the world.

“The vision and goal of the Church with Gaudium Et Spes is to endorse the fullness of human life; the life in which religious dynamism is open and free to be fulfilled in light of the Gospel,” he said.