Vatican II and Justice in the World

Dr. Paul Hwang – Director of ALL Forum

Gaudium et Spes and Justice in the World

In this year we celebrate the 50 th anniversary of publication of the Justice in the world , the final document of the 2 nd World Bishops’ Synod in 1971. As we have seen often in this section of the newsletter, the document was not born out of nothing. It has had much to do with and been much influenced by Vatican II especially Gaudium et Spes or Joy and Hope (1965), one of the most important documents of the first world pastoral council. Indeed, before the Vatican II documents, it could find its trace in the Mother an Teacher (1961), or Mater et Magistra, and Peace in the World (1963) or Pacem et Terris , the both encyclicals written by Pope John 23. It was Gaudium et Spes which clearly provided the idea of the just economy order in the world (no. 85) for the first time among the Church’s official documents.

We could find a more integrated perspective on Catholic Social teachings when it comes to relation of justice, peace and equality. Firstly, it shows a close connection between justice and peace issues by stating “In order to build up peace above all the causes of discord among men, especially injustice, which foment wars must be rooted out.”(no. 83, and no. 84-87). Secondly, from the perspective of justice, equality, and human dignity, it suggests ‘genuine human development’ as follows: “To satisfy the demands of justice and equity, strenuous efforts must be made, without disregarding the rights of persons or the natural qualities of each country, to remove as quickly as possible the immense economic inequalities, which now exist and in many cases are growing and which are connected with individual and social discrimination.” (no.66)

Action for Justice as Constitutive Dimension of the Gospel

These paragraphs in Gaudium et Spes mentioned right above and the encyclical Populorum Pregresio or On the Development of Peoples (1967) written by Pope Paul XI, which succeeded the spirit of the former, directly influenced the Church’s perception of justice and peace as if it is just one concept. Similarly, the document Justice in the World raised the issue of justice in earnest by proclaiming that “Action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world fully appear to us as a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel, or in other words, of the Church’s mission for the redemption of the human race and its liberation from every oppressive situation.” (no.6, stress added.) It also insisted that “Christian love of neighbor and justice cannot be separated. For love implies an absolute demand for justice, namely a recognition of the dignity and rights of one’s neighbor.” (no.34).

Church Renewal or Reform in the Document

One of most important paragraphs in relation to Church renewal after Vatican II in Catholic Social Teachings was stated in the Justice in the world by stating “While the Church is bound to give witness to justice, she recognizes that anyone who ventures to speak to people about justice must first be just in their eyes. Hence we must undertake an examination of the modes of acting and of the possessions and life style found within the Church herself.” (no. 40). No Church document mentioned justice within the Church as seen in the document. It goes on to point out “We also urge that women should have their own share of responsibility and participation in the community life of society and likewise of the Church. We propose that this matter be subjected to a serious study employing adequate means: for instance, a mixed commission of men and women, religious and lay people, of differing situations and competence.” (no. 42-43) It also recognized and stressed just wage and important role in the Church for lay people: “Those who serve the Church by their labor, including priests and religious, should receive a sufficient livelihood and enjoy that social security which is customary in their region. Lay people should be given fair wages and a system for promotion. We reiterate the recommendations that lay people should exercise more important functions with regard to Church property and should share in its administration.”(no. 41) In this sense the document surely is one of the champions for Church renewal in many aspects.

Reading Octogesim Advenins through Liberation and Development

Reading Octogesim Advenins through Liberation and Development

Dr. Paul Hwang – Director of ALL Forum

After the General Assembly of the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM) in Medellin, Columbia, (1968), Pope Paul VI published in 1971 an important document on social issues, Octogesim Advenins, or the “Eightieth Anniversary”, as a response to the Medellin conference which seemed to influence the pope in a significant way. It is the papal letter commemorating the 80th anniversary of Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum. The letter refers to his another encyclical Populorum Pregressio (1967) or “On Development of the Peoples” in several places, but with a different perspective. It shows its relationship with Gaudium et Spes (1965), one of most important documents of Vatican II; the subsequent Populorum Pregressio, which focuses on an integral development and the Medellin document which emphasizes on liberation. The paragraphs 5 and 6  of Octogesim Advenins illustrate this well:

“Since the period in which the encyclical Rerum Novarum denounced in a forceful and imperative manner the scandal of the condition of the workers in the nascent industrial society, historical evolution has led to an awareness of other dimensions and other applications of social justice. The encyclicals Quadragesimo Anno and Mater et Magistra already noted this fact. The recent Council for its part took care to point them out, in particular in the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes. We ourself have already continued these lines of thought in our encyclical Populorum Progressio. ‘Today’, we said, ‘the principal fact that we must all recognize is that the social question has become worldwide’.” (no.5)

“It will moreover be for the forthcoming Synod of Bishops itself to study more closely and to examine in greater detail the Church’s mission in the face of grave issues raised today by the question of justice in the world.”(no.6)

Pope Paul VI asserts “development is a new name for peace” in his Populorum Pregressio. The Pope believes that a beneficial development for all is the way to respond to the demand for justice at the global level, and that if justice at the global level is implemented, peace can be achieved in the world. In 1967, Paul VI established the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace to practice development and peace. He consciously addressed some of the political issues involved in choosing and implementing a fair social order, focusing on political issues that lay in the economic crisis. Therefore, it attempted to balance development and liberation. The Saint pope also institutionalized a synod of bishops to specifically support the Vatican II’s decision and to determine follow-up measures. In 1971, the bishops’ synod published “Justice in the World”, one of the most significant document in the area of Catholic Social Teachings or CSTs of the Church especially the theme of social justice. The text emphasizes that “Action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world fully appear to us as a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel.” (no. 6).

Many leaders, including bishops, still believed that the way to overcome poverty was through development. The expression ‘liberation through development’ represents an attempt to take into account various situations and prospects. The emphasis on the importance of political activities or involvement expressed in the paragraph 46 of Octogesima Advenins is also seen as an important contribution to CSTs as follows:

“Though it is often a field of confrontation and domination, it can give rise to dialogue and foster cooperation. Yet it runs the risk of taking up too much strength and freedom. This is why the need is felt to pass from economics to politics…. Political power, which is the natural and necessary link for ensuring the cohesion of the social body, must have as its aim the achievement of the common good.”(no. 46)