63 – We must listen to the debates of our time and perceive the ‘fragrance’ of the men of this age; listen to the people until breathing in the will to which God calls us.

It’s no novelty that the texts of Vatican Council II have often been manipulated with diverse intentions; consequently, it’s necessary to read them within their context and in light of the Magisterium, which has been guiding humanity for almost 2000 years.

One of the documents that has perhaps undergone the most significant misinterpretations is the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes. It is not unusual to find some of its statements taken out of context in order to justify the most varied positions. For example, this phrase: ‘The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ’ (GS 1). With these inspired words, the conciliar document presents the role of the Church as a compassionate Mother who educates her children in authentic love of God and neighbor. She employs every means within her reach to ease the sufferings of human beings with solicitude and wisdom.

Among the ‘the griefs and the anxieties’ which afflict the human heart, is the thirst for the truth, the desire to break away from from the sea of uncertainties, to find rest for the spirit in firm convictions. In healing this need, the Church – besides being Mother – acts as a Teacher of the peoples since she has received ‘the news of salvation which is meant for every man (ib.).’ This is what makes the Church feel ‘truly linked with mankind and its history by the deepest of bonds’ the conciliar fathers conclude. However, from this affirmation, read out of context, other conclusions may be drawn. The objective of this post is to consider this citation in light of the Magisterium.


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Teachings of the Magisterium

Enter the various parts of our study

I – The Church’s mission is to indicate God’s will to all
II – Weakened by Original Sin, man often falls into error with respect to divine truths
III – Those who are of the world listen to the world’s language
IV – The good recognize the voice of the Lord

I – The Church’s mission is to indicate God’s will to all

Sacred Scripture

Proclaim the word whether convenient or inconvenient
The people’s representative before God enlighten them, showing them how they are to live

Benedict XVI

Christ’s voice rings out in the preaching of the Apostles and their successors

Vatican Council II (Ecumenical XXI)

Bishops are endowed with the authority of Christ to preach and ward off errors

Code of Canon Law

The Church has the duty and innate right to preach the Gospel to all peoples and announce moral principles


Christ appointed an unfailing teaching authority to preserve men in truth: His Church

Catechism of the Catholic Church

It is the Magisterium’s task to preserve God’s people from deviations

John Paul II

Every baptized person has the right to receive instruction from the Church

John Paul I

Bishops have the prime responsibility to evangelize the baptized

John Paul II

The successors of the Apostles should never be afraid of proclaiming the full truth about Jesus Christ
Bishops have the serious responsibility to make things clear in an epoch of confusion
A bishop needs courage to announce and defend sound doctrine
The ‘answer’ to questions about morality was entrusted by Jesus Christ in a particular way to Pastors - it is one of the chief areas for their pastoral vigilance
The Pope must keep watch so that the true voice of Christ be heard in all particular Churches
Shepherds must be Christ’s voice encouraging people in fidelity to the Lord’s law
A Bishop is the voice of Christ, the teacher of truth - no other task can exempt from the sacred mission of evangelizing
The voice of Christ is heard in a lifelong Christian training

Benedict XVI

St. Paul did not preach an à la carte Christianity, nor shrink from the commitment to proclaiming the whole of God’s will – that’s our mission
God himself speaks through His Word, Jesus, who continues his ministry passing through the Apostles

Pius XII

The true follower of Christ is a spiritual bastion of those who are tempted to give in to evil
There is no greater or more urgent duty than to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ to the men of our time misled by error

John Paul II

Bishops should watch over the holiness of ministers and faithful

II – Weakened by Original Sin, man often falls into error with respect to divine truths

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

Not all ideas which circulate among the People of God are compatible with the faith

Pius XII

Divine revelation is morally necessary so that moral truths may be known with freedom from all error

Pius X

Disordered by the stain of the first sin man needs a guide to lead him back to the paths of justice: the knowledge of divine things

Pius XI

Christianity is a model and guide for a world which is sick to death and clamors for direction
Amidst the aberrations of human thought, the Church indicates the way of truth - Woe if ever this beacon be hindered from shedding far and wide its beneficent light!


Christ commanded the Church to set in order whatever is deranged in human society
By evangelizing the nations, the Church restored humans to their original dignity

Paul VI

Evangelizing means bringing the Good News to all, and thus transforming humanity from within

III – Those who are of the world listen to the world’s language

Sacred Scripture

Anyone who does not belong to God refuses to hear us
The world and its enticement are passing away; whoever does the will of God remains forever
Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed
The words of Christ will judge all on the last day

Saint Thomas Aquinas

He who preaches the truth is always inopportune for the evil

Benedict XVI

The wisdom of God often appears to be foolishness in the eyes of the world

Saint Irenaeus of Lyons

The apostles did not address others in accordance with their opinion but according to Revealed Truth

Vatican Council II (Ecumenical XXI)

Priests must live among men, yet are forbidden to be conformed to this world


Preachers who use merely human words fall far short of the power which the speech of God possesses

Catechism of Trent

Strengthening the faithful with doctrine is more necessary than ever today, when false prophets and corrupters abound


He who silences before clamors against truth is either devoid of character or doubts the truth – he insults God and profits the enemies of the faith

IV – The good recognize the voice of the Lord

Sacred Scripture

Christ’s sheep recognize His voice
Everyone who belongs to truth listens to Christ’s voice

Vatican Council II (Ecumenical XXI)

God chose to reveal Himself; out of the abundance of His love he speaks to men as friends

Saint Augustine of Hippo

‘I am the good Shepherd’: Christ would not add ‘good,’ were there not bad shepherds

Related studies

  • 152 – “The Catholic Church has acted again and again as a mediator in finding solutions to problems affecting peace, social harmony, the land, the defense of life, human and civil rights”

  • 150 – “Unity of teaching and practice is certainly necessary in the Church, but this does not preclude various ways of interpreting some aspects of that teaching or drawing certain consequences from it”

  • 140 – “Do we love the Church as we love our mothers, also taking into account her defects? All mothers have defects. The Church also has her defects”

  • 138 – “The Church is woman. Women, in the Church, are more important than bishops and priests”

  • 115 – The Council Fathers strongly perceived a need to talk about God to men and women of their time in a more accessible way. The time had come to proclaim the Gospel in a new way

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