Populorum Progressio 22: Issues and Principles

Let’s go back to the beginning, the act of God creating human beings. What are we made for? What is our purpose? Why do we have a planet on which to live? How do we care for that planet?

22. In the very first pages of Scripture we read these words: “Fill the earth and subdue it.”(Genesis 1:28) This teaches us that the whole of creation is for (humankind), that (we have) been charged to give it meaning by (our) intelligent activity, to complete and perfect it by (our) own efforts and to (our) own advantage.

And a caution here, of course: in aiming for the perfection of creation, we are not empowered to destroy it, or mess it up for others so we can enjoy something of it within our gated communities or borders. There is a collective benefit intended.

Now if the earth truly was created to provide (people) with the necessities of life and the tools for (their) own progress, it follows that every (person) has the right to glean what (they need) from the earth.

Pope Francis would certainly commend this principle. For all I know, he’s already quoted PP 22. The basis is in Vatican II:

The recent Council reiterated this truth: “God intended the earth and everything in it for the use of all human beings and peoples. Thus, under the leadership of justice and in the company of charity, created goods should flow fairly to all.” (Gaudium et Spes 69)

The basic principle then, is that the planet exists for the good of all, not the good of some and survival of others. Needless to say, persons most liable to be trampled by the 1% are most in need of having a voice at the table, and a strong say in what transpires for their small corner of the planet.

All other rights, whatever they may be, including the rights of property and free trade, are to be subordinated to this principle. They should in no way hinder it; in fact, they should actively facilitate its implementation. Redirecting these rights back to their original purpose must be regarded as an important and urgent social duty.

This encyclical letter is © Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana, and can be found in its entirety at this link.

The image is of Lady Justice at the Central Criminal Court of London.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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