Populorum Progressio

by Giovanni Battista Montini

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 359

Popularum Progressio came out of the Second Vatican Council, and it discussed the place of Christianity and the Catholic Church within a changing modern world. It reflects the post-colonial and industrialized context in which it was created. It is in part a political document, but it is also grounded deeply in theological concerns and is ultimately grounded in a Catholic understanding of the Gospel.

Even as it applies Catholic beliefs and values to modern challenges, it takes as its foundation many traditional cornerstones of Catholic moral and religious thought. In that respect, it is simultaneously highly progressive and deeply traditional in the message it conveys.

At its core, the Catholic Church takes a critical stance concerning modernity. Wealth disparity, both among individuals and between nations, the specter of colonialism, economic exploitation: these are all critical themes of the Popularum Progressio. But, as opposed to a more purely secular analysis (which would usually tend to discuss these issues in strictly material, social, cultural or psychological terms), the Popularum introduces a distinctly cosmic element to its reading.

We see applied to this viewpoint traditional themes of Catholic theology such as the Natural Law, which likewise introduces a distinctly theological criticism of modernity, in the way that modernity has distorted and disrupted the Christian Order. The dysfunction then is not only a dysfunction among humans or classes or countries, it is understood as having spiritual implications as well.

Throughout this document, the Catholic Church advocates intervention on these key moral issues, simultaneously defending traditional Christian notions and values while fusing them with more recent trends of social progress and reform.

Across its discussion, especially as it applies to politics, the Popularum champions a form of Humanism which leans towards the universal in its understanding of humanity—in a way that opposes nationalism. Where it addresses the topic of nation states, it seeks to apply these same moral laws on the (often exploitative) interactions between nations, particularly wherever there is a severe imbalance of power, holding that moral concerns are of far greater importance than self interest, whether it be the self interest of individuals or the self interest of a nation state.

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