Vatican II, officially known as the Second Vatican Council, was a meeting of many leaders of the Catholic Church to discuss both theological and social issues pertaining to the Church in the modern era. Convened by Pope John XXIII in the 1960s and continued by his successor Paul VI, the main goal of the Second Vatican Council was to establish the Church's role and meaning in the modern world, which it recognized as fundamentally changed from the role of the Church in previous eras. Many different topics of concern were examined during the many phases of Vatican II, and the Council produced a number of documents on these varying subjects that help to define Church doctrine and perspectives on the modern world. When it comes to the social thought and action of the Catholic Church following Vatican II, one of the most important documents produced by the Council is the Gaudium et Spes, which had many ramifications for the Church.
One of the most salient features of the Gaudium et Spes is its praise of modern advancements and progress in technological and scientific fields, which led to the potential for a better quality of life for all of humanity (Mich 386). The modern world has features and policies that make a long, healthy, and fulfilling life possible for vast numbers of individuals who in bygone centuries would have endured much harder and more uncertain lives in the face of hunger, disease, and a lack of social and economic opportunities for betterment. The Catholic Church in the Gaudium et Spes recognized that modern advances had dramatically changed the interrelationships and interactions of the world.
The document did not stop simply with this observation,...
The increased abilities for equality and easement that technology and other modern advances allowed for also created a duty for every individual to care for each other to a greater extent; a greater ability to provide assistance, that is, can only mean that more and better assistance should be provided. This concept of universal charity -- of treating every single human being as though they are just as deserving of the same social and economic benefits as everyone else, regardless of national origin, religious beliefs, gender, etc. -- is explicitly stated in the Gaudium et Spes, and is one of the fundamental features of Catholic doctrine regarding social thought and responsibility following the close of the Second Vatican Council. Though it does not call for an outright elimination of private property and a socialist equality, this document and others produced by Vatican II outline a clear imperative for Church members to ensure that all of their brothers and sisters are cared for.
The Second Vatican Council was not (as the name implied) the first attempt to bring the Church into the modern world. As the world continues to change, there will without a doubt be a need for such a Council to convene again. In this way, the Catholic Church will remain socially responsive and responsible, assisting in the world's…
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