Back to 6.3.1
Chapter II of SRS reviews Populorum Progressio directly. Much in this will be familiar from your study of Unit 5. It characterises the “originality” of PP in three points:
1. The very fact that PP addressed ”the development of peoples” made it original – there had not been an encyclical devoted to this (#8). PP took up what had been seen as only an economic and social concept and showed how it needed to be reconceived.
2. PP recognized clearly that the social question had “acquired a world-wide dimension” (#9). John Paul writes:
[T]he originality of [Populorum Progressio] consists not so much in the affirmation… of the universality of the social question, but rather in the moral evaluation of this reality. Therefore political leaders, and citizens of rich countries considered as individuals, especially if they are Christians, have the moral obligation, according to the degree of each one’s responsibility, to take into consideration… this relationship of universality, this interdependence which exists between their conduct and the poverty and underdevelopment of so many millions of people. Pope Paul’s Encyclical translates more succinctly the moral obligation as the “duty of solidarity”. (#9)
3. The third point that John Paul identifies is the inherent connection between integral human development and peace (#10), as expressed in the statement, “development is the new name for peace”. When he was preparing SRS, the Cold War was continuing with its constant threat of global nuclear war, and there was no expectation that it would end soon. Nevertheless, John Paul holds out the possibility of something different:
[I]n a different world, ruled by concern for the common good of all humanity, or by concern for the “spiritual and human development of all” instead of by the quest for individual profit, peace would be possible as the result of a “more perfect justice among people” (#10, quoting PP #76).
It is somewhat surprising that Pope John Paul does not list the concept of ‘integral development’ itself as one of the main original points in PP. But he does focus on this later: chapter IV of SRS is headed ‘Authentic human development’.
Thinking back to your study of PP in Unit 5, do other ways in which it was original come to mind?
Optional reading (5pp)
Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, chapter II: ‘Originality of the Encyclical Populorum Progressio’
The next chapter in SRS is entitled ‘Survey of the Contemporary World’. This survey is, of course, of the world as it was three decades ago, just before the end of the Cold War, so is very dated. This chapter is given below as optional reading even though its analysis is undoubtedly impressive; it is the longest chapter in the document and can be viewed, in the encyclical’s historical context, as its most significant contribution, an extended reading of the ‘signs of the times’. Donal Dorr describes it as “a penetrating socio-political and historical analysis” (p. 323). I will give a few pointers to its content.
A main emphasis is that the world was divided in two ways: not only was there the East/West division of the Cold War, but there was too the North/South difference of “so-called” developed and developing countries (#14). Recognizing this, John Paul II presented quite a negative assessment of the state of the world, especially in relation to human development since the publication of PP.
[O]ne cannot deny that the present situation of the world, from the point of view of development, offers a rather negative impression… [There is] an innumerable multitude of people… real and unique human persons, who are suffering under the intolerable burden of poverty. There are many millions who are deprived of hope due to the fact that, in many parts of the world, their situation has noticeably worsened. Before these tragedies of total indigence and need… it is the Lord Jesus himself who comes to question us (cf. Mt 25: 31-46). (#13).
The optimism of the 1960s contrasts with a realistic assessment in the 1980s (cf. #12). Pope John Paul says there has been some progress (#13), but emphasises the severity of the problems.
Focusing on some of the causes of this state of affairs, the pope critiques Communism (#15), and he in effect critiques the Western world’s control of economic mechanisms, such a trade policy that help to sustain the North/South contrast (#16). He then addresses three major problems in turn: a crisis of insufficient housing in some developed countries (#17), unemployment (#18), and international debt (#19).
He then addresses the Cold War conflict between, as he puts it, a system based on liberal capitalism and one inspired by Marxist collectivism (#20). In line with long-established CST, he critiques these: “both… are imperfect and in need of radical correction” (#21). The conflict between these dominant systems means that,
[t]he developing countries, instead of becoming autonomous nations concerned with their own progress towards a just sharing in the goods and services meant for all, become parts of a machine, cogs on gigantic wheel…
Here John Paul is anticipating his analysis of ‘structures of sin’ later in SRS. He continues:
Seen in this way, the present division of the world is a direct obstacle to the real transformation of the conditions of underdevelopment in the developing and less advanced countries. (#22)
“However,” John Paul then says, “peoples do not always resign themselves to their fate” (#22). These are momentous words, coming just two years before people in several European countries did rise up and bring an end to Communist regimes and so to the Cold War. In the last part of the chapter he does outline a number of positive aspects in the world situation (#26). These include:
– the still growing awareness of human dignity and of the corresponding need to respect human rights
– an increased recognition of the interdependence of peoples across the globe
– greater recognition of ecological responsibility (this was undoubtedly a significant feature of the second half of the 1980s; see Module A, Unit 3, especially 3.2.5).
He concludes, “Thus all is not negative in the contemporary world, nor could it be, for the Heavenly Father’s Providence lovingly watches over even our daily cares (Mt. 6:25-32…)” (#26).
Optional reading (14pp)
Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, chapter III: ‘Survey of the Contemporary World’ (##11-26)
In retrospect, it is extremely striking that things could appear so bleak so soon before dramatic events – beginning in the pope’s native Poland in 1988 – that almost all would interpret as one very great change for the better.
End of 6.3.2
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