288. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • The Vice President
  • Monsignor Joseph Gremillon, Executive Director of Papal Commission on Peace and Justice
  • Monsignor Marvin Bordelon, Executive Secretary of National Secretariat on Justice and Peace
  • John E. Rielly, Assistant to the Vice President
[Page 508]

The Vice President opened the conversation by commenting on what a powerful document the Pope’s encyclical on “The Development of Peoples”2 was. He had discussed it with the Pope and he had been thinking about how one could best translate this into action. We should not be content just to have it discussed for a few weeks then dropped.

Monsignor Gremillon explained that this is precisely what the Papal Commission on Justice and Peace in Rome and the National Secretariat on Justice and Peace in Washington were set up to do.3 He said that his own office was in Rome and that Monsignor Bordelon was setting up an office in Washington under the auspices of the United States Catholic Conference.

The Vice President wondered whether the energies of Vietnam could be redirected and rechanneled into positive development avenues after the war was over. He hoped this would be so but was not sure.

Monsignor Gremillon explained that the whole effort to arouse and educate the consciences of people to the problem of development must be strictly ecumenical. He explained that he was in regular contact with his colleagues in the World Council of Churches and only three weeks ago had visited Eugene Carson Blake in Geneva. Blake was coming to Rome next week for further meetings. It turned out that they were also cooperating regularly with the Russian Orthodox Church. The Archbishop of Leningrad invited a group of 30 leaders from the World Council of Churches and from the Catholic Church to come to a meeting in the Soviet Union sometime this year to discuss the whole theory and doctrine of development. The Archbishop said not only would this be very worthwhile world-wide, but would be immensely helpful to them in Russia.

The Vice President stated that that is a most significant development. He believed that leaders of some of the socialist countries should be encouraged by certain parts of the Pope’s recent encyclical because of the sharp critique of certain forms of capitalism contained in it. This does not necessarily apply to the United States, but it does apply to capitalism in some areas.

Monsignor Bordelon suggested in that regard that one of the functions of the Washington National Secretariat here is to serve as a vehicle for communicating with the Vatican on issues of concern to the United States or to any important segment of the United States public. For example, the American business community has not really participated in the writing of the recent encyclicals. As a result there really has been [Page 509] no encyclical which elaborates fully on the difference between the American private enterprise system and this sort of laissez faire capitalism that the Pope condemns.

The Vice President said he was concerned about the debasement of public opinion in the United States today. This not only applies to international affairs but to the poverty program, civil rights, as well as foreign aid. Therefore, we have a great problem in trying to get people to think about war on hunger, social justice and the other themes discussed in the encyclicals Pacem in Terris and The Development of Peoples. We would like to see people get aroused about this as well as about the war. The United States Government is ultimately responsive to public opinion. If public opinion on this issue changes, Government policy will reflect the change. But, meanwhile, millions of people are dying.

Monsignor Gremillon said that he hoped what he was trying to organize would do precisely that. He told the Vice President that at a meeting this week in Detroit, where he talked about the encyclical and the problem of development, he discussed the issue of developed nations contributing one percent of their gross national product to foreign assistance. Walter Reuther, who was the respondent on the platform, said he believed it should be two percent. Monsignor Gremillon said that at the recent meeting of the Papal Commission an idea was put forth by Barbara Ward to develop a “package plan” among developed nations. They agreed to aim at $30 billion by 1970. This would be divided between the United States and Europe. Once all developed nations agreed on a package there would be pressure put on them to live up to the commitment. It would clearly be a multilateral effort, involving not only governments and other groups but church groups, professional groups and a wide variety of lay associations.

The Vice President said that the more the United States becomes involved in military programs the greater the need for the United States to be involved in programs in the field of social justice overseas. He said he was going to discuss this subject at an agribusiness conference in Chicago tonight.

Monsignor Gremillon said he hoped that he and Monsignor Bordelon could work with the Vice President and his staff, given his background and history of interest on this subject. The Vice President said he wanted to work closely and he hoped they would feel free to share with us their problems and any ideas they may have. He said Mr. Rielly of his staff would be available to keep in regular touch. Occasionally when people come through Washington Mr. Bordelon should bring them around to see him.

The Vice President then concluded the conversation with a summary of the highlights of his conversation with the Pope when he was in Europe.

  1. Source: Minnesota Historical Society, Hubert H. Humphrey Papers, Vice Presidential Files, 1965–68, 150.E.14.10(F), Box 933. No classification marking. The meeting was held in the Executive Office Building.
  2. See Document 285.
  3. See Document 283.