The Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes)

  • The church cannot address only its own members when preparing to teach about matters of faith and morals; it also has a responsibility to address the whole of humanity on issues that are of concern to all (n. 1).
  • The church is a servant church, not motivated by earthly ambition but interested only in bearing witness to the truth under the guidance of the Holy Spirit; its mission is to save and not to judge, to serve and not to be served (no. 3). It has but a single intention, that God’s kingdom may come and the salvation of the human race may be accomplished (n. 45, 72).
  • In every age, the church has the responsibilities of reading ‘the signs of the times’ and of interpreting them in the light of the gospel (n. 4, 44).
  • The church must counter what it regards as error, including atheism, by presenting a positive vision of the truth and by lending intrinsic credibility to that teaching by the quality of its own life (n. 21).
  • The church must recognise that the growth of the Kingdom of God is moving towards the consummation of the earth and of humanity itself. Indeed, earthly progress is of vital concern to the coming Kingdom which is a kingdom not only of truth and life, but also of justice, love and peace (n. 39). The church, therefore, must act as a leaven in society, challenging the false dichotomy between religious life and the demands of justice and peace (n. 40, 43).
  • Although Christ did not bequeath to the church a mission in the political, economic or social order (n. 42), the church is concerned with issues in these spheres whenever fundamental human rights or the salvation of souls require it (n. 76). At the same time, the church must recognise that the political community as well as the church are autonomous and independent of each other in their own fields (n. 76, 89).
  • The church must never employ methods of preaching, teaching or missionary activity that are at odds with the gospel or the welfare of humanity (n. 76).
  • The church can never tie itself to any one culture or to any political, economic or social system (n. 42, 76).
  • The laity, whose ministerial role is largely in the world beyond the church, are also called to participate actively in the entire life of the church (n. 43). They should be accorded a legitimate freedom of enquiry, thought and expression consistent with the level of theological and professional competence they have achieved (n. 62).
  • The church is itself a sacrament or sign of the human solidarity that makes possible and strengthens sincere dialogue. But it can fulfil this role only to the degree that there is mutual esteem and harmony in the church itself, an acknowledgement of all legitimate diversity within the church and fruitful dialogue among its own members – leaders and rank-and-file alike (n. 92).

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