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Ioannes Paulus PP. II
Sollicitudo rei socialis

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27. The examination which the Encyclical invites us to make of the contemporary world leads us to note in the first place that development is not a straightforward process, as it were automatic and in itself limitless, as though, given certain conditions, the human race were able to progress rapidly towards an undefined perfection of some kind.49

Such an idea - linked to a notion of "progress" with philosophical connotations deriving from the Enlightenment, rather than to the notion of "development"50 which is used in a specifically economic and social sense - now seems to be seriously called into doubt, particularly since the tragic experience of the two world wars, the planned and partly achieved destruction of whole peoples, and the looming atomic peril. A naive mechanistic optimism has been replaced by a well founded anxiety for the fate of humanity.

28. At the same time, however, the "economic" concept itself, linked to the word development, has entered into crisis. In fact there is a better understanding today that the mere accumulation of goods and services, even for the benefit of the majority, is not enough for the realization of human happiness. Nor, in consequence, does the availability of the many real benefits provided in recent times by science and technology, including the computer sciences, bring freedom from every form of slavery. On the contrary, the experience of recent years shows that unless all the considerable body of resources and potential at man's disposal is guided by a moral understanding and by an orientation towards the true good of the human race, it easily turns against man to oppress him.

A disconcerting conclusion about the most recent period should serve to enlighten us: side-by-side with the miseries of underdevelopment, themselves unacceptable, we find ourselves up against a form of superdevelopment, equally inadmissible. because like the former it is contrary to what is good and to true happiness. This superdevelopment, which consists in an excessive availability of every kind of material goods for the benefit of certain social groups, easily makes people slaves of "possession" and of immediate gratification, with no other horizon than the multiplication or continual replacement of the things already owned with others still better. This is the so-called civilization of "consumption" or " consumerism ," which involves so much "throwing-away" and "waste." An object already owned but now superseded by something better is discarded, with no thought of its possible lasting value in itself, nor of some other human being who is poorer.

All of us experience firsthand the sad effects of this blind submission to pure consumerism: in the first place a crass materialism, and at the same time a radical dissatisfaction, because one quickly learns - unless one is shielded from the flood of publicity and the ceaseless and tempting offers of products - that the more one possesses the more one wants, while deeper aspirations remain unsatisfied and perhaps even stifled.

The Encyclical of Pope Paul VI pointed out the difference, so often emphasized today, between "having" and "being,"51 which had been expressed earlier in precise words by the Second Vatican Council.52 To "have" objects and goods does not in itself perfect the human subject, unless it contributes to the maturing and enrichment of that subject's "being," that is to say unless it contributes to the realization of the human vocation as such.

Of course, the difference between "being" and "having," the danger inherent in a mere multiplication or replacement of things possessed compared to the value of "being," need not turn into a contradiction. One of the greatest injustices in the contemporary world consists precisely in this: that the ones who possess much are relatively few and those who possess almost nothing are many. It is the injustice of the poor distribution of the goods and services originally intended for all.

This then is the picture: there are some people - the few who possess much - who do not really succeed in "being" because, through a reversal of the hierarchy of values, they are hindered by the cult of "having"; and there are others - the many who have little or nothing - who do not succeed in realizing their basic human vocation because they are deprived of essential goods.

The evil does not consist in "having" as such, but in possessing without regard for the quality and the ordered hierarchy of the goods one has. Quality and hierarchy arise from the subordination of goods and their availability to man's "being" and his true vocation.

This shows that although development has a necessary economic dimension, since it must supply the greatest possible number of the world's inhabitants with an availability of goods essential for them "to be," it is not limited to that dimension. If it is limited to this, then it turns against those whom it is meant to benefit.

The characteristics of full development, one which is "more human" and able to sustain itself at the level of the true vocation of men and women without denying economic requirements, were described by Paul VI.53

29. Development which is not only economic must be measured and oriented according to the reality and vocation of man seen in his totality, namely, according to his interior dimension. There is no doubt that he needs created goods and the products of industry, which is constantly being enriched by scientific and technological progress. And the ever greater availability of material goods not only meets needs but also opens new horizons. The danger of the misuse of material goods and the appearance of artificial needs should in no way hinder the regard we have for the new goods and resources placed at our disposal and the use we make of them. On the contrary, we must see them as a gift from God and as a response to the human vocation, which is fully realized in Christ.

However, in trying to achieve true development we must never lose sight of that dimension which is in the specific nature of man, who has been created by God in his image and likeness (cf.  [link] Gen 1:26). It is a bodily and a spiritual nature, symbolized in the second creation account by the two elements: the earth, from which God forms man's body, and the breath of life which he breathes into man's nostrils (cf.  [link] Gen 2:7).

Thus man comes to have a certain affinity with other creatures: he is called to use them, and to be involved with them. As the Genesis account says (cf.  [link] Gen 2:15), he is placed in the garden with the duty of cultivating and watching over it, being superior to the other creatures placed by God under his dominion (cf.  [link] Gen 1:25-26). But at the same time man must remain subject to the will of God, who imposes limits upon his use and dominion over things (cf.  [link] Gen 2:16-17), just as he promises his mortality (cf.  [link] Gen 2:9;  [link] Wis 2:23). Thus man, being the image of God, has a true affinity with him too. On the basis of this teaching, development cannot consist only in the use, dominion over and indiscriminate possession of created things and the products of human industry, but rather in subordinating the possession, dominion and use to man's divine likeness and to his vocation to immortality. This is the transcendent reality of the human being, a reality which is seen to be shared from the beginning by a couple, a man and a woman (cf.  [link] Gen 1:27), and is therefore fundamentally social.

30. According to Sacred Scripture therefore, the notion of development is not only "lay" or "profane," but it is also seen to be, while having a socio-economic dimension of its own, the modern expression of an essential dimension of man's vocation.

The fact is that man was not created, so to speak, immobile and static. The first portrayal of him, as given in the Bible, certainly presents him as a creature and image, defined in his deepest reality by the origin and affinity that constitute him. But all this plants within the human being - man and woman - the seed and the requirement of a special task to be accomplished by each individually and by them as a couple. The task is "to have dominion" over the other created beings, "to cultivate the garden." This is to be accomplished within the framework of obedience to the divine law and therefore with respect for the image received, the image which is the clear foundation of the power of dominion recognized as belonging to man as the means to his perfection (cf.  [link] Gen 1:26-30;  [link] 2:15-16;  [link] Wis 9:2-3).

When man disobeys God and refuses to submit to his rule, nature rebels against him and no longer recognizes him as its "master," for he has tarnished the divine image in himself. The claim to ownership and use of created things remains still valid, but after sin its exercise becomes difficult and full of suffering (cf.  [link] Gen 3:17-19).

In fact, the following chapter of Genesis shows us that the descendants of Cain build "a city," engage in sheep farming, practice the arts (music) and technical skills (metallurgy); while at the same time people began to "call upon the name of the Lord" (cf.  [link] Gen 4:17-26).

The story of the human race described by Sacred Scripture is, even after the fall into sin, a story of constant achievements, which, although always called into question and threatened by sin, are nonetheless repeated, increased and extended in response to the divine vocation given from the beginning to man and to woman (cf.  [link] Gen 1:26-28) and inscribed in the image which they received.

It is logical to conclude, at least on the part of those who believe in the word of God, that today's "development" is to be seen as a moment in the story which began at creation, a story which is constantly endangered by reason of infidelity to the Creator's will, and especially by the temptation to idolatry. But this "development" fundamentally corresponds to the first premises. Anyone wishing to renounce the difficult yet noble task of improving the lot of man in his totality, and of all people, with the excuse that the struggle is difficult and that constant effort is required, or simply because of the experience of defeat and the need to begin again, that person would be betraying the will of God the Creator. In this regard, in the Encyclical Laborem Exercens I referred to man's vocation to work, in order to emphasize the idea that it is always man who is the protagonist of development.54

Indeed, the Lord Jesus himself, in the parable of the talents, emphasizes the severe treatment given to the man who dared to hide the gift received: "You wicked slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed and gather where I have not winnowed? ...So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents" ( [link] Mt 25:26-28). It falls to us, who receive the gifts of God in order to make them fruitful, to "sow" and "reap." If we do not, even what we have will be taken away from us.

A deeper study of these harsh words will make us commit ourselves more resolutely to the duty, which is urgent for everyone today, to work together for the full development of others: "development of the whole human being and of all people."55

31. Faith in Christ the Redeemer, while it illuminates from within the nature of development, also guides us in the task of collaboration. In the Letter of St. Paul to the Colossians, we read that Christ is "the first-born of all creation," and that "all things were created through him" and for him ( [link] 1:15-16). In fact, "all things hold together in him," since "in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things" ( [link] 20).

A part of this divine plan, which begins from eternity in Christ, the perfect "image" of the Father, and which culminates in him, "the firstborn from the dead" ( [link] Col.1.18 ), is our own history, marked by our personal and collective effort to raise up the human condition and to overcome the obstacles which are continually arising along our way. It thus prepares us to share in the fullness which "dwells in the Lord" and which he communicates "to his body, which is the Church" (  [link] Col.1.18 ; cf.  [link] Eph 1:22-23). At the same time sin, which is always attempting to trap us and which jeopardizes our human achievements, is conquered and redeemed by the "reconciliation" accomplished by Christ (cf.  [link] Col 1:20).

Here the perspectives widen. The dream of "unlimited progress" reappears, radically transformed by the new outlook created by Christian faith, assuring us that progress is possible only because God the Father has decided from the beginning to make man a sharer of his glory in Jesus Christ risen from the dead, in whom "we have redemption through his blood...the forgiveness of our trespasses" (Eph 1:7). In him God wished to conquer sin and make it serve our greater good,56 which infinitely surpasses what progress could achieve.

We can say therefore - as we struggle amidst the obscurities and deficiencies of underdevelopment and superdevelopment - that one day this corruptible body will put on incorruptibility, this mortal body immortality (cf.  [link] 1 Cor 15:54), when the Lord "delivers the Kingdom to God the Father" ( [link] 1 Cor. 15: 24 ) and all the works and actions that are worthy of man will be redeemed.

Furthermore, the concept of faith makes quite clear the reasons which impel the Church to concern herself with the problems of development, to consider them a duty of her pastoral ministry, and to urge all to think about the nature and characteristics of authentic human development. Through her commitment she desires, on the one hand, to place herself at the service of the divine plan which is meant to order all things to the fullness which dwells in Christ (cf.  [link] Col 1:19) and which he communicated to his body; and on the other hand she desires to respond to her fundamental vocation of being a "sacrament," that is to say "a sign and instrument of intimate union with God and of the unity of the whole human race."57

Some Fathers of the Church were inspired by this idea to develop in original ways a concept of the meaning of history and of human work, directed towards a goal which surpasses this meaning and which is always defined by its relationship to the work of Christ. In other words, one can find in the teaching of the Fathers an optimistic vision of history and work, that is to say of the perennial value of authentic human achievements, inasmuch as they are redeemed by Christ and destined for the promised Kingdom.58

Thus, part of the teaching and most ancient practice of the Church is her conviction that she is obliged by her vocation - she herself, her ministers and each of her members - to relieve the misery of the suffering, both far and near, not only out of her "abundance" but also out of her "necessities." Faced by cases of need, one cannot ignore them in favor of superfluous church ornaments and costly furnishings for divine worship; on the contrary it could be obligatory to sell these goods in order to provide food, drink, clothing and shelter for those who lack these things.59 As has been already noted, here we are shown a "hierarchy of values" - in the framework of the right to property - between"having" and "being," especially when the "having" of a few can be to the detriment of the "being" of many others.

In his Encyclical Pope Paul VI stands in the line of this teaching, taking his inspiration from the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes.60 For my own part, I wish to insist once more on the seriousness and urgency of that teaching, and I ask the Lord to give all Christians the strength to put it faithfully into practice.

32. The obligation to commit oneself to the development of peoples is not just an individual duty, and still less an individualistic one, as if it were possible to achieve this development through the isolated efforts of each individual. It is an imperative which obliges each and every man and woman, as well as societies and nations. In particular, it obliges the Catholic Church and the other Churches and Ecclesial Communities, with which we are completely willing to collaborate in this field. In this sense, just as we Catholics invite our Christian brethren to share in our initiatives, so too we declare that we are ready to collaborate in theirs, and we welcome the invitations presented to us. In this pursuit of integral human development we can also do much with the members of other religions, as in fact is being done in various places.

Collaboration in the development of the whole person and of every human being is in fact a duty of all towards all, and must be shared by the four parts of the world: East and West, North and South; or, as we say today, by the different "worlds." If, on the contrary, people try to achieve it in only one part, or in only one world, they do so at the expense of the others; and, precisely because the others are ignored, their own development becomes exaggerated and misdirected.

Peoples or nations too have a right to their own full development, which while including - as already said - the economic and social aspects, should also include individual cultural identity and openness to the transcendent. Not even the need for development can be used as an excuse for imposing on others one's own way of life or own religious belief.

33. Nor would a type of development which did not respect and promote human rights - personal and social, economic and political, including the rights of nations and of peoples - be really worthy of man.

Today, perhaps more than in the past, the intrinsic contradiction of a development limited only to its economic element is seen more clearly. Such development easily subjects the human person and his deepest needs to the demands of economic planning and selfish profit.

The intrinsic connection between authentic development and respect for human rights once again reveals the moral character of development: the true elevation of man, in conformity with the natural and historical vocation of each individual, is not attained only by exploiting the abundance of goods and services, or by having available perfect infrastructures.

When individuals and communities do not see a rigorous respect for the moral, cultural and spiritual requirements, based on the dignity of the person and on the proper identity of each community, beginning with the family and religious societies, then all the rest - availability of goods, abundance of technical resources applied to daily life, a certain level of material well-being - will prove unsatisfying and in the end contemptible. The Lord clearly says this in the Gospel, when he calls the attention of all to the true hierarchy of values: "For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?" ( [link] Mt 16:26)

True development, in keeping with the specific needs of the human being - man or woman, child, adult or old person - implies, especially for those who actively share in this process and are responsible for it, a lively awareness of the value of the rights of all and of each person. It likewise implies a lively awareness of the need to respect the right of every individual to the full use of the benefits offered by science and technology.

On the internal level of every nation, respect for all rights takes on great importance, especially: the right to life at every stage of its existence; the rights of the family, as the basic social community, or "cell of society"; justice in employment relationships; the rights inherent in the life of the political community as such; the rights based on the transcendent vocation of the human being, beginning with the right of freedom to profess and practice one's own religious belief.

On the international level, that is, the level of relations between States or, in present-day usage, between the different "worlds," there must be complete respect for the identity of each people, with its own historical and cultural characteristics. It is likewise essential, as the Encyclical Populorum Progressio already asked, to recognize each people's equal right "to be seated at the table of the common banquet,"61 instead of lying outside the door like Lazarus, while "the dogs come and lick his sores" (cf.  [link] Lk 16:21). Both peoples and individual must enjoy the fundamental equality62 which is the basis, for example, of the Charter of the United Nations Organization: the equality which is the basis of the right of all to share in the process of full development.

In order to be genuine, development must be achieved within the framework of solidarity and freedom, without ever sacrificing either of them under whatever pretext. The moral character of development and its necessary promotion are emphasized when the most rigorous respect is given to all the demands deriving from the order of truth and good proper to the human person. Furthermore the Christian who is taught to see that man is the image of God, called to share in the truth and the good which is God himself, does not understand a commitment to development and its application which excludes regard and respect for the unique dignity of this "image." In other words, true development must be based on the love of God and neighbor, and must help to promote the relationships between individuals and society. This is the "civilization of love" of which Paul VI often spoke.

34. Nor can the moral character of development exclude respect for the beings which constitute the natural world, which the ancient Greeks - alluding precisely to the order which distinguishes it - called the "cosmos." Such realities also demand respect, by virtue of a threefold consideration which it is useful to reflect upon carefully.

The first consideration is the appropriateness of acquiring a growing awareness of the fact that one cannot use with impunity the different categories of beings, whether living or inanimate - animals, plants, the natural elements - simply as one wishes, according to one s own economic needs. On the contrary, one must take into account the nature of each being and of its mutual connection in an ordered system, which is precisely the cosmos."

The second consideration is based on the realization - which is perhaps more urgent - that natural resources are limited; some are not, as it is said, renewable. Using them as if they were inexhaustible, with absolute dominion, seriously endangers their availability not only for the present generation but above all for generations to come.

The third consideration refers directly to the consequences of a certain type of development on the quality of life in the industrialized zones. We all know that the direct or indirect result of industrialization is, ever more frequently, the pollution of the environment, with serious consequences for the health of the population.

Once again it is evident that development, the planning which governs it, and the way in which resources are used must include respect for moral demands. One of the latter undoubtedly imposes limits on the use of the natural world. The dominion granted to man by the Creator is not an absolute power, nor can one speak of a freedom to "use and misuse," or to dispose of things as one pleases. The limitation imposed from the beginning by the Creator himself and expressed symbolically by the prohibition not to "eat of the fruit of the tree" (cf.  [link] Gen 2:16-17) shows clearly enough that, when it comes to the natural world, we are subject not only to biological laws but also to moral ones, which cannot be violated with impunity.

A true concept of development cannot ignore the use of the elements of nature, the renewability of resources and the consequences of haphazard industrialization - three considerations which alert our consciences to the moral dimension of development.63

49. Cf. Apostolic Exhortation Familiarls Consortio (November 22, 1981), n. 6: AAS 74 (1982), p. 88: "...history is not simply a fixed progression toward what is better, but rather an event of freedom, and even a struggle between freedoms...."

50. For this reason the word "development" was used in the Encyclical rather than the word "progress," but with an attempt to give the word "development" its fullest meaning.

51. Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, n. 19: loc. cit., pp. 266f.: "Increased possession is not the ultimate goal of nations or of individuals. All growth is ambivalent.... The exclusive pursuit of possessions thus becomes an obstacle to individual fulfillment and to man's true greatness...both for nations and for individual men, avarice is the most evident form of moral underdevelopment"; cf. also Paul VI, Apostolic Letter Octogesima Adveniens (May 14, 1971), n. 9: AAS 63 (1971), pp. 407f.

52. Cf. Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, n. 35: Paul VI, Address to the Diplomatic Corps (January 7, 1965): AAS 57 (1965), p. 232.

53. Cf. Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, nn. 20-21: loc. cit., pp. 267f.

54. C f. Encyclical Letter Laborem Exercens (September 14, 1981), n. 4: AAS 73 (1981), pp. 584f., Paul VI Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, n. 15: loc. cit., p. 265.

55. Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, n. 42: loc. cit., p. 278.

56. Cf. Praeconium Paschale, Missale Romanum, ed. typ. altera, 1975, p. 272: "O certe necessarium Adae peccatum, quod Christi morte deletum est! O felix culpa, quae talem ac tantum meruit habere Redemptorem!"

57. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, n. 1.

58. Cf. for example, St. Basil the Great, Regulae Fusius Tractatae, Interrogatio XXXVII, nn. 1-2: PG 31, 1009-1012 Theodoret of Cyr, De Providentia, Oratio VII: PG 83, 665-686; St. Augustine, De Civitate Dei, XIX, n. 17: CCL 48 683-685.

59. Cf. for example, St. John Chrysostom, In Evang. S. Matthaei, Hom. 50, 3-4: PG 58, 508-510, St. Ambrose De Officiis Ministrorum, lib. II, XXVIII, 136-140: PL 16 139-141; St. Possidius, Vita S. Augustini Episcopi, XXIV: PL 32, 53f.

60. Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, n. 23: loc. cit., p. 268: "If someone who has the riches of this world sees his brother in need and closes his heart to him, how does the love of God abide in him?"(  [link] 1 Jn 3:17) It is well known how strong were the words used by the Fathers of the Church to describe the proper attitude of persons who possess any thing toward persons in need." In the previous number, the Pope had cited n. 69 of the Pastoral Constitution, Gaudium et Spes, of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council.

61. Cf. Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, n. 47: "...a world where freedom is not an empty word and where the poor man Lazarus can sit down at the same table with the rich man."

62. Cf. ibid., n. 47: "It is a question, rather, of building a world where every man, no matter what his race, religion or nationality, can live a fully human life, freed from servitude imposed on him by other men..."; cf. also Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, n. 29. Such fundamental equality is one of the basic reasons why the Church has always been opposed to every form of racism.

63. Cf. Homily at Val Visdende (July 12, 1987), n. 5: L'Osservatore Romano, July 13-14, 1987; Paul VI, Apostolic Letter Octogesima Adveniens (May 14, 1971), n. 21: AAS 63 (1971), pp. 416f.

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