The Catholic University of America

 Andrew Small

Final Examination of Rev. Andrew Small, OMI

For the degree of Doctor of Sacred Theology

Friday, February 5, 2010 1:00 p.m., Caldwell Room 125


Rev. Brian Johnstone, C.Ss.R., S.T.D.


“The Theological Justification of the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace (Iustitia et pax).”

A central tenet of the aggiornamento undertaken by the Second Vatican Council was the Church’s role in and relationship to the modern world. Pope John’s call for a “pastoral” Council reached a new level of intensity in the Council’s debates on the Pastoral Constitution, Gaudium et spes. As if to acknowledge the inchoate nature of the Church’s new vision for its role in the world, the Pastoral Constitution mandated creation of a new organism of the universal Church that would extend reflection and action on the Church’s social engagement beyond the Council. This mandate, contained in article 90 of Gaudium et spes would become the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace.

This dissertation examines the history and theological foundations of the process leading to this decision, focusing on the development of the theology of the Church’s relationship with the world during the Council itself and the immediate aftermath. Having established a new entity of the Roman Curia, Paul VI provided a basic text for the work of the new Commission two months after its establishment in his Encyclical Letter, Populorum progressio.

In seeking to respond to the challenges of the modern world, the study demonstrates how the Church was obliged to reflect upon its nature and mission in two ways. First, it sought from within its own teaching, reasons both for the Church’s engagement with the world and the proper mode for such engagement by all the People of God, each according to his or her state. Second, the Council drew upon the history of social teaching and formulated positive recommendations designed to respond to a series of prevailing social problems summarized under the category of “justice and peace.” In this way, the new understanding of the Church’s engagement with the world was closely identified with the Church’s response to the problems of poverty and social conflict.