And now We wish to speak to rulers of nations. To you most of all is committed the responsibility of safeguarding the common good. You can contribute so much to the preservation of morals. We beg of you, never allow the morals of your peoples to be undermined.
The family is the primary unit in the state; do not tolerate any legislation which would introduce into the family those practices which are opposed to the natural law of God. For there are other ways by which a government can and should solve the population problem—that is to say by enacting laws which will assist families and by educating the people wisely so that the moral law and the freedom of the citizens are both safeguarded.
We are fully aware of the difficulties confronting the public authorities in this matter, especially in the developing countries. In fact, We had in mind the justifiable anxieties which weigh upon them when We published Our encyclical letter Populorum Progressio.
But now We join Our voice to that of Our predecessor John XXIII of venerable memory, and We make Our own his words: "No statement of the problem and no solution to it is acceptable which does violence to man's essential dignity; those who propose such solutions base them on an utterly materialistic conception of man himself and his life. The only possible solution to this question is one which envisages the social and economic progress both of individuals and of the whole of human society, and which respects and promotes true human values."
No one can, without being grossly unfair, make divine Providence responsible for what clearly seems to be the result of misguided governmental policies, of an insufficient sense of social justice, of a selfish accumulation of material goods, and finally of a culpable failure to undertake those initiatives and responsibilities which would raise the standard of living of peoples and their children.
If only all governments which were able would do what some are already doing so nobly, and bestir themselves to renew their efforts and their undertakings! There must be no relaxation in the programs of mutual aid between all the branches of the great human family. Here We believe an almost limitless field lies open for the activities of the great international institutions.
Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae 23
Reflection – Well, I must confess that I have relatively little to say about this paragraph of the encyclical. I’m afraid that, child as I am of my times, I have so little hope for governments and those in them to actually be serving the common good of humanity as opposed to their own narrow and short-term partisan and financial good, that it is hard to know what I would say to the politicians of our day apart from ‘Repent and believe the good news,’ and perhaps to remind them (as I remind myself) that we will all one day stand before a Judge who cannot be bought, conned, spun, or outwitted, and that perhaps if they cannot give any serious thought to serving the common good of humanity, they might give some serious thought to the care of their own immortal souls.
Of course the real problem in the political world today is not the politicians but the electorate who repeatedly vote into office whoever tells them the most plausible lies and promises them the moon and oceans of endless money flowing from the magical treasury. Politicians who attempt to start a serious conversation about the utter mess our economies are in and the impending financial crash that will indeed occur if drastic steps are not taken do not win (Wynne?) elections. Not that I have any particular election in mind.
But I am boring my non-Ontario readers (nothing is more tiresome than local politics to those not of that locality). Meanwhile HV is not precisely about that, but about what the common good actually is, whether governments choose to serve it or not. And that common good is to build up a culture of the family, to encourage and facilitate a society in which men and women will together live their lives responsibly and generously, and raise their children in a secure, stable family unit so as to become adults capable of the same generosity and responsibility.
I don’t know how much governments can do in this regard, or are willing to do for that matter. Men of Pope Paul VI’s era were more optimistic about that question than most men of mine. But I do know that this is the key to human happiness, human development, human economic progress. Not to throw a bunch of contraceptives at people (the standard practice of much UN and other international ‘development’ initiatives), but to build up the family, the bond of love of man and woman out of which children are born, the unbreakable bond of men and women for the children they create together in love, and the forging of an unbreakable community of man, woman, children that is the family and that is the foundation of society, the Church, the world, has been ‘from the beginning’ and always will be.
If the family is weak, society and the Church will totter. If the family is strong, society and the Church will flourish. At this point, realistically I don’t think we can expect too much real support from our governments in building a culture of the family, but build it we must, and this building is something we all can have a share in, according to our proper vocation and work.