Pacem In Terris 121-125: The Evolution of Economically Under-developed Countries

Human unity is grounded in something more than a biological commonality. Christ makes us one, not necessarily by salvation, but by our common redemption:

121. All (people) are united by their common origin and fellowship, their redemption by Christ, and their supernatural destiny. They are called to form one Christian family. In Our encyclical Mater et Magistra, therefore, We appealed to the more wealthy nations to render every kind of assistance to those States which are still in the process of economic development. (AAS 53 (1961) 440-441)

If Mater et Magistra had that credibility, Pope John knows that he can count on an audience for this appeal:

122. It is no small consolation to Us to be able to testify here to the wide acceptance of Our appeal, and We are confident that in the years that lie ahead it will be accepted even more widely. The result We look for is that the poorer States shall in as short a time as possible attain to a degree of economic development that enables their citizens to live in conditions more in keeping with their human dignity.

Freedom is not exclusively a “freedom from,” it must have a tangible, positive direction. And it must include an unencumbered means for people to work for their own betterment:

123. Again and again We must insist on the need for helping these peoples in a way which guarantees to them the preservation of their own freedom. They must be conscious that they are themselves playing the major role in their economic and social development; that they are themselves to shoulder the main burden of it.

An appeal from his predecessor, again:

124. Hence the wisdom of Pope Pius XII’s teaching: “A new order founded on moral principles is the surest bulwark against the violation of the freedom, integrity and security of other nations, no matter what may be their territorial extension or their capacity for defense. For although it is almost inevitable that the larger States, in view of their greater power and vaster resources, will themselves decide on the norms governing their economic associations with small States, nevertheless these smaller States cannot be denied their right, in keeping with the common good, to political freedom, and to the adoption of a position of neutrality in the conflicts between nations. No State can be denied this right, for it is a postulate of the natural law itself, as also of international law. These smaller States have also the right of assuring their own economic development. It is only with the effective guaranteeing of these rights that smaller nations can fittingly promote the common good of all (humankind), as well as the material welfare and the cultural and spiritual progress of their own people”. (Cf. Pius XII’s broadcast message, Christmas 1941, AAS 34 (1942) 16-17)

125. The wealthier States, therefore, while providing various forms of assistance to the poorer, must have the highest possible respect for the latter’s national characteristics and time-honored civil institutions. They must also repudiate any policy of domination. If this can be achieved, then “a precious contribution will have been made to the formation of a world community, in which each individual nation, conscious of its rights and duties, can work on terms of equality with the rest for the attainment of universal prosperity.” (John XXIII’s encyclical letter Mater et Magistra, AAS 53 (1961) 443)

Domination remains a deep, subtle, and sinister temptation. One sees it in the Church, to our great misfortune. And in the intervening half-century since Pacem in Terris was promulgated, we know that many powerful nations and many who aspired to power, have not avoided this risk. Where we have been unable to resist domination, we have avoided the semblance of a world community. And speaking of our own people, the Church has not escaped an ill witness in this regard either.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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