1. Fundamental Moral Theology.
The Second Vatican Council called for moral theology to be renewed by “a more vivid contact with the mystery of Christ” (Optatum totius, n. 16). The last of the Council documents, Gaudium et Spes, so important for moral theology, has a structure in part 1 which is Christocentric.
Looking at the human person, human society, man in relation to the world the Council examines the moral questions about each which people see as central and offers to people of good will throughout the world an answer which in every case is centred on Jesus Christ.
Thus, “it is only in the light of the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear” (GS. 22), the communitarian dimension of man “is perfected and fulfilled in the work of Jesus Christ” (GS. 32), the transformation of the world will enter its perfection “when the Lord comes” (GS. 32), since the Church proclaims that “the key, the centre and the purpose of the whole of human history is to be found in its Lord and Master” (GS. 10). We will never adequately understand any of the critical issues of our time except “in the light of revelation” (GS. 33), “in the light of the Gospel” (GS. 43) of Christ.
Question 1. Read Gaudium et Spes, nn. 11-22 or 22-32 or 33-39. How is the Council open to all people of good will and yet truly Christocentric?
Question 2. Read Gaudium et Spes nn. 13, 27, 37, 39. List the ways in which sin affects us as persons, in society and in our work, both internally and externally.
Question 3. Read Gaudium et Spes, nn. 14, 35 with a view to understanding of ‘nature’ and ‘natural law’. What comprises ‘human nature’ according to these passages of Gaudium et Spes? How does this compare to Sollicitudo rei socialis, nn.15, 30, and Humanae Vitae, n. 14? How can revelation give us a deeper and clearer understanding of the moral demand: How is our social dimension as human beings deepened by considering us as “the only creatures God wanted for His own sake” (GS. 24)? Does this affect the view of man as being “by his innermost nature a social being” (GS. 28)? How does it affect our view of the role of work (GS. 34)? How are our efforts on this earth related to the realisation of the Kingdom of God in its fullness (GS. 38-39)?
Question 4. What specific moral absolutes are given in Gaudium et Spes n. 27?
Question 5. Read Gaudium et Spes, nn. 16-17, 51 (if you want, you can cross reference Dignitatis humanae, nn. 2-3). When does acting wrongly through ignorance or error excuse and when does it not? On what basis is this? When someone acts contrary to God’s will through invincible ignorance, does he commit sin? Does his conscience lose its dignity? Does he have a right to follow an invincibly erroneous conscience? If so, are there any limits to that right?
(Introduction and questions courtesy of Mark Lambert @sitsio)
Gaudium et spes in English can be found here The Latin text may be found here.