5.3.3 PP I.2 Integral development (##12-21 and #42)

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Unit 5 Contents




Development cannot be limited to mere economic growth. In order to be authentic, it must be complete: integral, that is, it has to promote the good of every man and of the whole man. (#14)

We come now to the chapter of PP that is directly about integral development.

However the chapter begins by speaking about the record of Catholic missionaries in poor countries, who “have built, not only churches, but also hostels and hospitals, schools and universities” (#12).  Paul VI acknowledges straightforwardly that mission has sometimes gone wrong: it has been “far from perfect”.  An excellent book by Robert Calderisi, Earthly Mission: The Catholic Church and World Development (2013), gives a dispassionate analysis of the Church’s record over the long term.  Calderisi has long experience of working for the World Bank, especially in Africa.  He notes the large number of such initiatives by Catholics and other Christians in Asia and Latin America as well as Africa.  Since the early nineteenth century these have been especially in education and in “provision of basic services for the poor, including primary education, health facilities, clean water, and credit schemes”.1. In a summary of his assessment, Calderisi says:

These services have been all the more valuable where governments have been slow to establish [them].  As [the author has indicated earlier], progress on basic education and health is one of the few common factors explaining success in reducing poverty around the world.  In this respect, as in others, evangelists were trailblazers. Before most European states had committed themselves to public education, Christian missionaries were teaching young people free of charge, pioneering co-education, and offering free medical care as well…  In some African countries, the Catholic Church is still providing 30-50% of such services…  These services do not always reach the very poor, and they are not always cheaper than alternatives; but they are among the best… That the Church still plays a large role suggests how much more important it was at an earlier stage in saving or molding the lives of millions of people otherwise beyond the reach of modern health and knowledge.2

One main point we must keep in mind when studying this topic is what both PP #12 and this quotation put across.  There have been, and continue to be, many Catholic Christians across the world working ‘on the ground’ in ways that contribute to development. Increasingly these are people from poorer countries, not Western expatriates.

This helps to set the context for the encyclical’s conception of development, to which we now turn.  In the quotation at the start of this screen, three adjectives are used: ‘authentic’, ‘complete’ and ‘integral’. In order for development to be authentic – that is, to be real as opposed to illusory or even damaging – it needs to be complete, which means in turn ‘integral’.  The original French in which the encyclical was written has only authentique and intégral – but the latter French word is about completeness, which explains why ‘complete’ is used as well in the English translation. The meaning of intégral is to do with parts making up a whole.

As used here, it has a twofold significance.  Development must integrate all people: it must bring them together, generating a common good that excludes no-one.  And development must be integral for each person: it must be for them as whole people, in all the dimensions of their humanness, not for individuals reduced to economic agents.

PP was proposing a profoundly different understanding from the then dominant economic model of development.  This was exemplified the ‘stages of growth’ theory presented in a 1960 book by W.W. Rostow, a prominent economist.  Rostow argued that, for all societies, development involved passing through five stages, from ‘traditional society’ characterized by subsistence agriculture, to industrialized ‘mass consumption’ society.  Bearing in mind the necessary caveats about Wikipedia, look briefly at an outline of Rostow’s theory.


Reading (3pp)


Wikipedia entry, ‘Rostow’s stages of growth’, introduction and sections 1 and 2


Rostow was characteristic of most contributors to discussion about development in the 1950s and 1960: they spoke about it almost exclusively in economic terms.  This was true not only of those who held a broadly liberal capitalist position, including Rostow, but also of their Marxist critics.

Entirely in line with earlier CST, Paul VI was proposing a vision of development that differed profoundly from those of both economic liberalism and Marxist socialism.  At the same time, by articulating this vision in terms of ‘integral’ humanness, he was developing CST itself.

To help us understand this section of PP, we shall briefly give attention to three important figures whose work lay behind it.  One inspiration for PP here was certainly Jacques Maritain (see 4.3.1), especially his writing on ‘integral humanism’.  In a major book with this title, Maritain had argued that humans are inherently both temporal and spiritual beings and therefore that, even though our temporal and spiritual ends are distinct, human fulfilment requires that we live lives in which these are integrated with each other. Maritain’s influence in PP is evident from the fact that he is referenced twice (see notes 17 and 44; both come in the next reading).

It is extremely unusual for contemporary writers to be referenced in papal encyclicals; you will have noticed from readings throughout earlier units that almost all references are either to other Vatican documents or to Christian writers from the Patristic period (on which see 2.3.2).  But two other contemporary authors are also referenced in what PP says about integral development.  Like Maritain, both were French: Louis-Joseph Lebret OP and Henri de Lubac SJ.  Even more unusually, both are directly quoted (see #14 and #42). (Indeed, these are the only quotations of contemporary authors in any of the papal encyclicals generally recognised as within modern CST, prior to Pope Francis’s Laudato Si’ of 2015.)3

It will be helpful to learn a little about both Lebret and de Lubac, but we leave this until after reading the part of PP that is directly about integral development.


Reading (4pp)

Populorum Progressio, Part I, chap. 2: ##12-21; and #42


#42 is the final paragraph in Part I of the encyclical.  It is in this reading because here Pope Paul sums up its teaching about integral development.


This is a rich reading.  One very striking point is the plain emphasis in #15 that each person has prime responsibility for his or her own growth and development.

In the design of God, every man is called upon to develop himself, for every life is a vocation… [E]ach one remains… the principal agent of his own success or failure. By the sole effort of his intelligence and his will, each man can increase in humanity, can grow in worth, can be more. (italics added)

Earlier in this unit, we noted that CST’s advocacy of social justice does not at all mean that it downplays each person’s responsibility to provide for themselves and their family (5.2.3).  We saw that, when Quadragesimo Anno spoke about social justice, it emphasized this by quoting St Paul: “Anyone unwilling to work should not eat” (II Thess. 3:10, NRSV, quoted in QA #58 and again in PP #18).   I said that we would see a very strong expression of this emphasis in Populorum Progressio – indeed, this text is quoted here too (#18)  – and I was referring mainly to the section quoted above which certainly goes beyond QA in the way it recognizes each person’s responsibility for their own life.



There is no hiding; there are no excuses: how your life goes is largely up to you!

To what extent is that a fair summary of what #15 says?

In what ways is the emphasis in #15 on each person’s responsibility for their own development qualified elsewhere in the reading?


Later in PP, this point about each individual is complemented by an emphasis that peoples or nations collectively “have the prime responsibility to work for their own development” (#77; cf. ##35, 65, 70).  Even though Part II of the encyclical focuses on duties of richer countries to poorer ones, overall “a central theme… [is] that every person and all peoples are entitled to be the shapers of their own destiny”, as Donal Dorr puts it.  He continues:

This is one of the most important contributions of Populorum Progressio to the understanding of development: it is not possible to develop people; development is something people have to do for themselves.4

To pick up one other point from the last reading, the final paragraph (#21) is presented not as well-crafted prose but as something close to a list of bullet points (without the bullets).  The list is of a spectrum of conditions of human living that run from “less human”, through “more human”, to “finally and above all… more human”. The presentation is not exactly elegant, yet the progressive element in it means that we could see it very loosely as an alternative to Rostow’s five stages of growth.  One recent writer has indeed presented #21 as a list of numbered points and the following draws on but modifies the way he does that:5

Less human conditions

1.  the lack of the minimum material necessities for life

2.  moral deficiencies of those mutilated by selfishness

3.  oppressive social structures due to abuses of ownership or of power


More human conditions

1.  the passage from misery towards the possession of necessities

2.  victory over social scourges

3.  broadening the horizons of knowledge

4.  acquiring refinement and culture


Conditions that are more fully human

1.  a growing awareness of other people’s dignity

2.  a taste for the spirit of poverty

3.  an active interest in the common good

4.  a desire for peace


Conditions that are still more human

1.  the acknowledgment of supreme values

2.  acknowledgement of God their source and their end


Conditions of final human fulfilment

1.  faith, a gift of God accepted by the good will of persons

2.  our loving unity in Christ, who calls all to share God’s life as sons and daughters of the living God, the Father of all.6

The points at the first level here certainly qualify the earlier emphasis on each person’s responsibility: among the “oppressive social structures” which produce “less human conditions” the text refers to “exploitation of workers”. To escape exploitation in the workplace is by no means always within each individual’s power, which is why CST strongly supports workers acting together through trade unions.

Several specific items in this list raise interesting questions, such as why “a taste for the spirit of poverty” is a sign of greater humanness than actually lacking material necessities.  Moreover we might wish to ask exactly what distinguishes the five levels as this is not self-evident.  While we do not have the space to examine these here, the list can be a cue for introducing one of the figures mentioned before the reading, Henri de Lubac.  This is because, seen as a whole, it presents a single, integrated view of human wellbeing.  The fifth level, to do with the fulfilment found in communion with God, is on the same spectrum as whether we lack basic material necessities.  That these are on the same spectrum, and not separated off from each other, reflects an immensely important insight in the work of de Lubac.



End of 5.3.3

Go to 5.3.4 Henri de Lubac and Louis-Joseph Lebret

Module B outline

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  1. Robert Calderisi, Earthly Mission: The Catholic Church and World Development (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013), p. 90 

  2. Calderisi, Earthly Mission, p. 90 

  3. Other contemporary authors are referenced in PP, but not quoted, at ##23, 26-28 and 42. 

  4. Dorr, Option for the Poor, p. 198 

  5. Matthew A. Shadle, ‘Sanctity as the Goal of Human Development in Recent Catholic Social Teaching’, a paper presented to the Catholic Theological Society of America annual convention 2011, accessible (22 February 2016) at https://www.academia.edu/8115625/Sanctity_as_the_Goal_of_Human_Development_in_Recent_Catholic_Social_Teaching 

  6. Paul VI, Populorum Progressio 21. The numbering is added for clarity.