Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 313
Gaudium et Spes is one of the constitutions of the Second Vatican Council. It is also known as the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. The document outlines the Catholic Church's mission in the world. In particular, the text analyzes the state of the modern world and the Catholic faithful's placement in it.
Seeing the rapid globalization happening at the time, the 1960s, the Second Vatican Council felt they needed to address the paradigm shifts in global culture and politics. Although the document is not a political text in that it blatantly discusses the politics of the time, it is evident that Gaudium et Spes was born out of a reaction to world events.
In particular, the rise of communism was major issue during the mid-20th century, when the Second Vatican Council was initiated, and wars and revolutions stemmed from the power struggle between the western powers and communist regimes. This is possibly unity and peace were emphasized in the document. In fact, one of the last chapters in Gaudium et Spes is titled, "The Fostering of Peace and the Promotion of a Community of Nations."
The Catholic Church—which has been at the center of "clashes of civilizations" in the past centuries—believed that the modern Church had to be a pillar of morality and peace in an increasingly tumultuous world. The Church was aware of their influence and power—having one of the largest population of adherents in the world—so the Second Vatican Council believed it was necessary to outline the principles of the modern Catholic Church.
They made a strong statement with the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church in establishing the Church's identity. Together with Gaudium, Dogmatic Constitution provided the Catholic members worldwide with both a foundation for their principles, but also a mission statement on what Catholics should focus on during these modern times.