Friday, October 12, 2012

The Documents of Vatican II – Gaudium et Spes – Part 8

In the second part of Gaudium et Spes, the Vatican II Fathers discuss some of the “more urgent problems” facing the world today and illuminate them with the light of Christ. Each of the five chapters in the second part focuses on a particular issue relevant to the modern world: marriage and family, culture, economic and social life, the political community, and peace and international communion. 

Here are some of the topics and ideas you'll find in Part II, Chapter III, of Gaudium et Spes.

Chapter III – Economic and Social Life 

Some Characteristics of Economic Life Today 

* The human person must always stand at the center of economic and social life as its focus and end. 

* Modern social and economic trends include a “growing dominion over nature”; closer relationships between groups and individuals; and “the frequency of state interaction”. While improvements in the modern economy could make it “an instrument capable of meeting the growing needs of the human family,” the economic realities of the modern world often lead to greed and “social inequalities” among people and nations. 

* Economic and social life requires reform guided by the “Gospel principles of justice and equality.” 

Economic Development in the Service of Man 

* The Church encourages economic and technical progress but always with the goal of serving the human person in all his or her material, moral, spiritual, intellectual, and religious needs. Such progress must be guided by the moral order. 

Economic Development under Man's Direction 

* Economic development should remain under the control of human beings with as broad a participation as possible in economic life. 

* All people have “the right and the duty to contribute according to their ability to the genuine progress of their own community.” Civil authorities must recognize this right. 

An End to Excessive Economic and Social Differences 

* All people should work to “put and end” to the “immense economic inequalities” in the world. 

* Individual rights need to be balanced with the common good. 

* Farmers have a right to professional and economic development and “a fair return for their products.” 

* Migrants must be treated with justice as persons with human dignity. All discrimination in working conditions and wages is to be strictly avoided. 

* Jobs should be safeguarded in this world of “new forms of industrialization” so that “sufficient and suitable employment” may be available. 

Work, Working Conditions, Leisure 

* Human work holds a dignity that “surpasses all other elements of economic life,” for it “proceeds from the human person.” 

* Human work includes spiritual elements because it provides the occasion to exercise charity, participates in “the work of bringing creation to perfection,” and may be “associated with the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.” 

* All people have a right and duty to work and the right to fair pay that allows them to provide a “dignified livelihood” for themselves and their families. 

* Workers must never be exploited but should have the opportunity for personal development and “sufficient rest and leisure.” Work is for the person, not the person for work. 

Co-Responsibility in Enterprise and in the Economic System as a Whole; Labor Disputes 

* Businesses are made up of people made in the image of God, and all of those people from the top to the bottom should actively participate in the decision-making process “in person or through their representatives.” 

* Workers have a right to unionize. While disputes should be settled peacefully through “sincere discussion” if at all possible, workers do have a right to strike as a last resort to defend their rights. 

Earthly Goods Destined for All Men 

* “God destined the earth and all it contains for all men and all peoples so that all created things would be shared fairly by all mankind under the guidance of justice tempered by charity.” 

* While people have a right to private property, they must also remember that material goods have a “universal destination” and should be used to benefit others. People with material goods have the duty to share them with the poor. 

Investment and Money 

* Investment should be human-centered in order to provide employment and ensure “sufficient income for the people of today and of the future.” 

* Investors and economic planners must make sure that individuals and the community have “the necessities for living a decent life” right now even as they plan for the future. 

Ownership, Private Property, Large Estates 

* Private property allows human beings to express their personalities, provide for themselves and their families, attain economic autonomy and security, and exercise responsibility. 

* Private ownership must be balanced with the common good, for “private property has a social dimension which is based on the law of common destination of earthly goods.” 

* Large, unproductive estates may sometimes be broken up that they may be worked by laborers without exploitation. 

Economic and Social Activity and the Kingdom of Christ 

* Through their economic and social activity, Christians must always “contribute to the prosperity of mankind and to world peace.” They must stand as a “shining example” to the whole world of the values of Christ, “the spirit of the Beatitudes,” and “the spirit of poverty.” 

* Christians seek the Kingdom of God before all else that they may act with charity and justice.

The full text of Gaudium et Spes is available online at the Vatican website.

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