5.3.5 PP I.3 a. Integral development vs ‘unchecked liberalism’ (##22-28)

Back to 5.3.4

Unit 5 Contents

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‘Action to be Taken’: this is the new chapter heading at the start of #22.  This third chapter forms the rest of Part I of the encyclical, extending all the way to #42.  That heading indicates a correspondence with the third stage of ‘see, judge, act’ (cf. 5.3.2). We can read this relatively long chapter as addressing some of the practical and pressing questions about how to make a reality of integral human development.

Here it is divided into four short readings, one on this screen and three on the next.

The first reading begins by reiterating the fundamental responsibility of humans within God’s good creation, namely “to develop it by intelligent effort and by means of [their] labor to perfect it” (#22). Much later Pope John Paul II put the same point powerfully, “The human creature receives a mission to govern creation in order to make all its potential shine”.1

The text then addresses the topic of ownership of property (##22-24).  This was then more politically contentious than it is now (even though it remains controversial), both because of Marxism’s fundamental rejection of private ownership and also because many newly independent countries were facing the difficult issue of ‘land reform’.  This term refers to government policy that redistributes land from major landholders to poorer people, so that these can farm some land of their own.  In such land reform, government ‘expropriates’ land from existing owners, usually paying them compensation for their loss.

The text goes on to affirm the importance of industry but to critique its distortion by economic liberalism (##25-26).  Then addressing human work, it emphasizes the inherent goodness of work and the need to recognize workers’ dignity (##27-28).

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Reading (3pp)

Populorum Progressio, Part I, chap. 3, first extract: ##22-28

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EXERCISE

Summarise, in not more than three sentences for each, the points PP makes on the following three topics:

*  ##22-24: Ownership of property

*  ##25-26: The importance of industry and its distortion by economic liberalism

*  ##27-28: The inherent goodness of work and the need to recognize workers’ dignity

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RESPONSE TO EXERCISE

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In relation to the first of topic addressed in the exercise, and on land reform in particular, John Paul II later reiterated what GS and PP had taught.  Speaking in Mexico in 1979, he said that the social obligation that comes with ownership of private property “must lead to a more just and equitable distribution of goods” and “if the common good demands it, there is no need to hesitate at expropriation itself, done in the right way”.  Continuing, he directly addressed those who control land:

[P]ower-holding classes who sometimes keep your lands unproductive when they conceal the food that so many families are doing without, the human conscience, the conscience of the peoples, the cry of the destitute, and above all the voice of God and the Church join me in reiterating to you that it is not just, it is not human, it is not Christian to continue certain situations that are clearly unjust.2

This brings out strongly one aspect of what the universal destination of goods means in practice in the context of poor countries with highly unequal distributions of land.

On the second and third of those topics, note that VPlater Module A includes a whole unit on each of them.

Module A, Unit 4, is on working life and enables detailed study of the way in which Pope John Paul II developed the understanding we find here in PP. Devoting a whole encyclical to this topic, Laborem Exercens (1981), he emphasized the need for a proper understanding of human work even more strongly than earlier CST had.  He saw this issue as “probably the essential key to the whole social question” (LE, #2).

Module A, Unit 5, enables study of how CST sees business and assesses ‘capitalism’.  In summary, CST has a highly positive view of private enterprise and business in general. At the same time, it is plainly opposed to subjecting everything done in business to profit maximization, that is, to a laissez faire or neoliberal view of business.  When ‘capitalism’ is used to refer to this, CST stands against it, while being powerfully pro-business.

While those two units are the main places in the VPlater modules to study these topics, we shall come back to both of them, especially business and capitalism, later in Unit 5 and in Unit 6.

 

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End of 5.3.5

Go to 5.3.6   I.3 b. Urgent challenges in realizing development (##29-41)

Module B outline

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  1. Pope John Paul II, ‘God made man the steward of creation’, #2 (General Audience, 17 Jan. 2001, accessible 1 Apr. 2014 at  http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/audiences/2001/documents/hf_jp-ii_aud_20010117_en.html.) This is quoted in VPlater, Module A, 3.3.5 and 3.5.1

  2. Pope John Paul II, ‘Address to the Indians of Oaxaca and Chiapas’ (29th Jan. 1979), in John Eagleson and Philip Scharper (eds), Puebla and Beyond (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1980), pp. 67, 82-83 

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