Pope Paul VI, 1963-1978
Gerald Darring

Pope Paul VI was Bishop of Rome from 1963 to 1978. His tenure was dominated by the Second Vatican Council and the critical post-conciliar years of implementation. He had much to say on social justice issues in such major statements as his address to the United Nations in 1965 and his apostolic letter, Evangelii Nuntiandi in 1975, and his travels to the Holy Land and to faraway places like Colombia and India gave him the opportunity to call attention to social injustices firsthand. But he made two major contributions to the tradition of Catholic social teaching: a 1967 encyclical, Populorum Progressio, and a 1971 apostolic letter, Octogesima Adveniens. When all the above contributions are combined with his leading role in the production of Gaudium et Spes in 1965 and Justice in the World in 1971, Paul VI emerges as a truly major figure in the history of the Church's tradition of social teaching.


Christine E. Gudorf. Catholic Social Teaching on Liberation Themes (1981) 34. "This interpretation of social justice exclusively in terms of commutative justice in property and labor theory did not continue in the work of either John XXIII or Paul VI. While John resembled Pius XI and Pius XII in his identification of social justice with peace and order, he did not follow their lead in the prominence given to commutative justice, any more than he followed their lead in the meaning of the principle of subsidiarity. Paul VI reflected even greater change. In fact, one would be hard pressed to prove that Paul assumed the traditional association of social justice and the order of the status quo."

Donal Dorr Option for the Poor (1983) 143. "Paul VI is far more reluctant than (Pius XI) to imply that there is a specific 'Catholic answer' to social and economic problems."

Lord Peter Bauer. "Ecclesiastical Economics: Envy Legitimized" (1984) 88-89. Paul VI chose to speak on subjects with which he was unfamiliar. "People who pronounce on matters about which they are ignorant are apt simply to absorb ideas propagated or taken up by other Ă„lite or establishment groups.... The spirit of these documents is contrary to the most durable and best elements in Catholic tradition. They are indeed even un-Christian. Their Utopian, chiliastic ideology, combined with an overriding preoccupation with economic differences, is an amalgam of the ideas of millenarian sects, of the extravagant claims of the early American advocates of foreign aid, and of the Messianic component of Marxism-Leninism.... Populorum Progressio and Octogesima Adveniens are documents which are immoral ... because they are incompetent (and because) they give color to the notion that envy can be legitimate; and they spread confusion about the meaning of charity."

William Au. The Cross, the Flag, and the Bomb (1985) 177. Paul VI called for "renewed appreciation of politics and political power. For Paul it was essential to break the control of society by economics, and to destroy the psychological atmosphere of fatalism that stemmed from viewing the world as controlled by impersonal 'forces' (for example, the laws of the market). This fatalism and the economic imperialism which fed upon it had to be countered by a renewed personal and collective sense of the responsibility and competency of the individual conscience, and the belief that people can change the world which people created. This meant a renewed sense of politics as the public realm in which the human will directed the social enterprise."

Peter Hebblethwaite. "Latest Encyclical Seen As Update." National Catholic Reporter (1988) 7. Paul knew that Catholic social doctrine up to and including that of Pope John XXIII had been more often admired than implemented because it had confined itself to principles that could not be translated in practice. "Paul knew that either one stated principles that hovered somewhere up in the stratosphere, where they were perfectly safe, did no harm and made not the slightest difference to any real situation, or they 'came down to earth,' where they were controversial and subject to revision in the light of empirical evidence." In view of this dilemma between irrelevant generality and controversial precision, the only safe course was to say nothing. But Paul had seen how Pius XII's silences were misinterpreted, so he made amends, so to speak, "by speaking out, though diplomatically, on every conceivable topic."

Liam Ryan. Furrow (1991) 98-99. "Whereas John XXIII had looked to a consensus model of change, Paul seems to favor a confrontational model. Where previous Popes favored change from the top down, Paul looks to change from below.... For Paul, liberation demands effective political action as economics had for John XXIII replaced moral reform as the focus of strategy, so now politics replaces economics for Paul VI."

George McCarthy and Royal Rhodes. Eclipse of Justice (1992) 173-74. "Novak's book Freedom with Justice stresses in its title his basic assumption that political and market freedom, the former guaranteed by the latter, will eventually insure justice. Paul VI's encyclicals have made the cautious observation that freedom can sometimes mask an ideology of radical autonomy 'opposing the freedom of others,' and that in the social and political spheres, a more just sharing in decisions and goods is a better basis for the exercise of human freedom and authentic development. Paul VI's version of the title would have been Justice with Freedom."


Bauer, Lord Peter. "Ecclesiastical Economics: Envy Legitimized." Reality and Rhetoric: Studies in the Economics of Development. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1984, pp. 73-89. Extended and Revised from This World 1 (December 1981).

Hebblethwaite, Peter. "Latest Encyclical Seen As Update." National Catholic Reporter 24 (26 February 1988) 7.

Hobgood, Mary E. Catholic Social Teaching and Economic Theory: Paradigms in Conflict. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991, pp. 147-54.

Kammer, Fred, S.J. Doing Faithjustice. New York: Paulist Press, 1991, pp. 100-02 (on Evangelii Nuntiandi).

Land, Philip S. "The Social Theology of Pope Paul VI." America 140 (12 May 1979), pp. 392-94.

McCarthy, George E., and Royal W. Rhodes. Eclipse of Justice. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1992, pp. 171-74.

Mitchell, John J., Jr. "Embracing A Socialist Vision: The Evolution of Catholic Social Thought, Leo XIII to John Paul II." Journal of Church and State, 27 (1985) 471-73.

Novak, Michael. Freedom with Justice. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1984. See chapter 7, "The Development of Nations: John XXIII and Paul VI," 126-148.

Popiden, John R. "Paul VI." Judith A. Dwyer, ed., The New Dictionary of Catholic Social Thought, Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1994, pp. 713-16.

Riga, Peter J. The Church and Revolution. Milwaukee: Bruce, 1967.