287. Memorandum From John Rielly of the Vice President’s Staff to Vice President Humphrey 1

SUBJECT

  • Pope’s Encyclical “The Development of Peoples”

Although I know you are familiar with the Pope’s encyclical2 and discussed it with him two weeks ago, I doubt if you had a chance to [Page 506] read much of the text or to go over it thoroughly. I am attaching a copy of the text together with an article from the Times on it.3

The encyclical provoked a stronger reaction both here and in Europe than most encyclicals do. The reason is clear: language is blunt and direct both in its indictment of the status quo and in its prescription for the future. It states clearly that no purely economic standard, whether Marxist or capitalist, can be the ultimate guide to governing a society. Because it condemned the evils of unrestrained capitalism and insisted that private property and profit must be subordinated to a higher common good, it was criticized by the Wall Street Journal as “warmed over marxism.” Similar judgments were rendered by certain conservative journals in Europe, particularly in Italy. They were further annoyed by the fact that it does not discuss communism per se (just as the encyclical Pacem in Terris4 did not) but concentrates instead on the problems arising from the disparities involved between developed and underdeveloped nations.

In contrast to earlier encyclicals, the discussion focuses on the propertyless nation rather than the propertyless class. The status of the underdeveloped countries today is regarded as similar to the proletariat in European nations a century ago. The situation will get worse instead of better until action is taken. The Pope makes it unequivocally clear that not only individuals have a moral obligation but nations as well. Humanitarian aid is not enough, but rather “it is a question, rather, of building a world for [where?] every man, no matter what his race, religion or nationality, can live a fully given life, freed from servitude imposed on him by other men or by natural forces over which he has not sufficient control; a world where freedom is not an empty word and where the poor man Lazarus can sit down at the same table with the rich man.”

The implications of all this are very concrete for wealthy nations like the United States and Western European powers. These countries must face the explosive political questions of paying taxes to help developing nations. Will we pay higher prices for imported goods from these nations? Will we be willing to work out some alteration of our trading policies to guarantee a fair and stable price for agriculture products and raw material? These are of course some of the questions being discussed at the Latin American Summit Conference in Punta del Este this week5 and they are the questions which come up in the United Nations every year. The President indicated a greater willingness to consider these measures than we have previously done.

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Through the newly established Papal Commission on Justice and Peace,6 through a similar secretariat at the World Council of Churches and the National Council of Churches here, a concerted effort will be made to change popular thinking precisely on these issues discussed in the encyclical. It will be a long, slow process, resisted by many vested interests here. But, if the prescriptions suggested in this encyclical are ever to be followed, it will take a long-term massive shift in public opinion before any legislative body will approve a program implementing what the encyclical proposes. It is not so much the cost—some one figured out that the Marshall Plan in total cost roughly what the Vietnamese war takes for seven months. Rather one must convince the public that it is just as worthy to spend money to build nations as it is to spend it in a war.

I think you should probably plan to make one address on this subject during the commencement season. The last time you gave a full speech on this was at Fordham University two years ago (incidentally, the message of the Fordham speech and the encyclical are almost identical—note attached).7 You have one commencement speech scheduled at the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul which might be an appropriate forum for such a speech.8

  1. Source: Minnesota Historical Society, Papers of Hubert H. Humphrey, Vice Presidential Files, 1965–68, 150.E.14.10(F), Box 933. No classification marking. A handwritten note by Humphrey at the top of the page reads, “John R. See me.”
  2. See Document 285.
  3. Neither found.
  4. See Document 271.
  5. A meeting of the Latin American Heads of State was held April 11–14 at Punta del Este, Uruguay.
  6. See Document 283.
  7. Not found.
  8. The Vice President wrote “Yes,” underlined twice, in the margin next to his sentence.