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The Editors | Mary McGroryOctober 07, 2012
Current Comment
April 8, 1967

Dated Easter Sunday, March 26, Pope Pauls fifth major encyclical is an urgent appeal to the rich nations of a sick world to increase and organize more efficiently the economic aid they are giving to developing countries. More than two years in preparation, and running to 18,000 words, Populorum Progressio (On the Development of Peoples) thus continues a theme that Pope John XXIII stressed in Mater et Magistra and Vatican II reaffirmed in its Constitution on the Church and the Modern World.

To a considerable extent, of course, Pope Paul is content to make the teaching of his predecessors his own. That is true of his insistence on the duty of the rich to help the poor; on the social aspect of ownership; on the evils of "liberal" capitalism (or as we would say "laissez faire" capitalism) and the need of subjecting market forces to rational controls; on the pressing necessity, if world peace is to be preserved, of expanding foreign-aid programs; on the duty of wealthy citizens of poor countries to put their capital to work at home instead of exporting it to havens in Europe and North America; on the right of governments to expropriate large landed estates that are being poorly cultivated.

In several notable respects, however, Populorum Progressio is not only more specific than Mater et Magistra but advances to new ground. Pope Paul tells the rich to accept higher taxes to support an expansion of foreign aid. Referring to the terms of world trade, he demands higher prices for the exports of developing countries, as well as production guarantees and protection of infant industries. He wants a revision of interest rates and systems of loan repayments, so that the burden of debt wont press too heavily on weak, developing economies. Perhaps with special regard for Latin America, he condemns revolution as a means of establishing a just social order, although he concedes that revolution may at times be necessary to get rid of a tyrannical regime. To avoid the danger of neocolonialism, which Pope John called the temptation of rich nations providing foreign aid, he repeats the appeal he made at Bombay in December, 1964, for the creation of a "great world fund to be made up in part of the money spent on arms." A concerted approach of that kind, he says, would also help prevent wasteful rivalries. (The Pope accepts, nevertheless, the legitimate role of bilateral agreements.)

Naturally, the way the secular press saw it, the most newsworthy part of the encyclical was the paragraph (§37) on the pressure of population on resources. Except for the frank statement that governments have the right to intervene "by favoring the availability of appropriate information and by adopting suitable measures," we cannot detect any change in the Holy Sees stand on contraception.

In view of multiplying signs of weariness and disillusionment with foreign aid, abroad as well as here, the Popes strong appeal for greater generosity could not have appeared at a more appropriate time. It is timely in another way also. Though addressed to "All Men of Good Will," Populorum Progressio will no doubt become the charter of the new Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace. One of the fruits of Vatican II, the commission will begin its work officially on April 25.

Pope Paul Speaks for the Have-Nots
Mary McGrory, Washington Front
April 15, 1967

Pope Pauls new encyclical initially received little public attention in Washington. Congress was in its Easter recess when "On the Development of Peoples" was published. The President held no press conferences during the week. The humanist manifesto of the Holy Father was read, however, with much quiet satisfaction at the White House. Members of the Administration welcomed this new and fervent voice for social reform in the underdeveloped countries.

Those concerned with poverty programs and foreign aid realize they have gained a valuable new witness and expect to cite the ringing phrases about the "intolerable scandal" of the difference between the haves and have-nots of this world. The Holy Father has not yet acquired the enormous personal following that his predecessor, John XXIII, enjoyed in Washington as elsewhere in the world. Pope Johns Pacem in Terris received instant acclaim here, and was the subject of intense discussion and enthusiasm. His magical personality and simply shattering concepts perhaps added to the impact of his most famous message.

Pope Pauls visit to the United Nations--that incisive, tactful and perfectly organized 24 hours--made a deep, but not lasting impression. He is, of course, a hero to the dwindling and demoralized band of doves on Capitol Hill. His failure to be moved by the arguments of the Administration that it is "stopping Communist aggression" has constituted something of a problem to Administration diplomats. His oft-expressed abhorrence of the war has, in the opinion of like-minded legislators, kept the country from being swept up in the "holy war" sentiments expressed by Cardinal Spellman on his Christmas visit.

It has been reported here that Pope Paul told Sen. Robert F. Kennedy during a Vatican visit, that the United States was "losing" the war, whatever its military successes. His views, it is said, were a major consideration to the Senator when he took to the Senate floor to call for an end of the bombing of the north.

But if President Johnson cannot claim His Holiness as an ally on the war in Vietnam, he is glad to have him as an ally in the war on poverty. Administration officials were particularly gratified at his acknowledgement of the role of government in population control. The U. S. Bishops charges that the government was trying to "coerce" the poor to practice birth control, made last November, were much resented. These officials felt that Pope Pauls statement about the right of "public authorities" to "intervene...by adopting suitable measures providing these be not in conflict with the moral law" was more positive than that of the bishops.

Naturally, this paragraph was profoundly studied for clues to the Popes impatiently awaited declaration on birth control itself.

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