What is Integral Development?


Integral development involves the whole human person, not just political and material, but spiritual and social

Integral Development Means the Whole Person


“Authentic human development concerns the whole of the person in every single dimension”. (Pope Benedict XVI, 11)

Already in 1981 Catholic social teaching was recognizing “the quickening process of the development of a one-sidedly materialistic civilization”. (Pope St. John Paul II, 7)

It is important to address the economy and economic development from the perspective of the Church’s insights: true “development must include not just material growth but also spiritual growth”. (Pope Benedict XVI, 76)


The Church insists that development be integral, involving all aspects of our humanity, not just economic and political. That is why she “devotes herself to an evangelization which promotes the whole human being.” (Pope St. John Paul II, 55)

“Indeed, what is the origin of all the evils to which Rerum Novarum wished to respond, if not a kind a freedom which, in the area of economic and social activity, cuts itself off from the truth about man?” (Pope St. John Paul II, 4)

Consequently, “progress of a merely economic and technological kind is insufficient. Development needs above all to be true and integral”. (Pope Benedict XVI, 23) Indeed, perhaps the greatest dangers rests in an economy where “human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded.” (Pope Francis, 53)

“Man needs to be liberated from material oppressions, but more profoundly he must be saved from the evils that afflict the spirit.” (Pope Benedict XVI)

In fact “the question of development is closely bound up with our understanding of the human soul”. (Pope Benedict XVI, 76) “It is not possible to understand man on the basis of economics alone”, (Pope St. John Paul II, 55) development must be understood “in a way that is fully human”. (Pope St. John Paul II, 29)

Why? Because: “Without God man neither knows which way to go nor even understands who he is”. (Pope Benedict XVI, 78)


“The greatest service to development, then, is a Christian humanism that enkindles charity and takes its lead from truth, accepting both as a lasting gift from God. Openness to God makes us open towards our brothers and sisters and towards an understanding of life as a joyful task to be accomplished in a spirit of solidarity.” (Pope Benedict XVI, 78)

“On the other hand, ideological rejection of God and an atheism of indifference, oblivious to the Creator and at risk of becoming equally oblivious to human values, constitute some of the chief obstacles to development today. A humanism which excludes God is an inhuman humanism.

Only a humanism open to the Absolute can guide us in the promotion and building of forms of social and civic life — structures, institutions, culture and ethos — without exposing us to the risk of becoming ensnared by the fashions of the moment.” (Pope Benedict XVI, 78)

“Without God man neither knows which way to go nor even understands who he is”. Pope Benedict XVI


When “cultures can no longer define themselves within a nature that transcends them…man ends up being reduced to a cultural statistic. When this happens, humanity runs new risks of enslavement and manipulation.” (Pope Benedict XVI, 26)

True “[d]evelopment requires attention to spiritual life, a serious consideration of the experiences of trust in God, spiritual fellowship in Christ, reliance upon God’s providence and mercy, love and forgiveness, self-denial, acceptance of others, justice and peace.” (Pope Benedict XVI, 79)

Indeed, without God “development is either denied or entrusted exclusively to man, who falls into the trap of thinking he can bring about his own salvation and ends up promoting a dehumanized form of development.” (Pope Benedict XVI, 11)

Catholic social teaching points out that we may have forgotten George Washington’s observation in his farewell address: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.” (Washington’s Farewell Address)

Three circles containing symbols of the three principles of catholic social teaching: human dignity, subsidiarity, and solidarity.

Three Key Principles

Catholic social teaching is built on three foundational principles - Human DignitySolidarity and Subsidiarity. Human Dignity, embodied in a correct understanding of the human person, is the greatest. The others flow from it. Good governments and good economic systems find ways of fostering the three principles.

Human Dignity

This means a correct understanding of the human person and of each person’s unique value. All Catholic social teaching flows from this: the inherent dignity of every person that comes from being made in God’s image. 


Solidarity is not “a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of others. It is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good”. (Pope St. John Paul II, 38) Love of God and love of neighbor are, in fact, linked and form one, single commandment.


Subsidiarity “is a fundamental principle of social philosophy, fixed and unchangeable, that one should not withdraw from individuals and commit to the community what they can accomplish by their own enterprise and industry. So, too, it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and a disturbance of right order to transfer to the larger and higher collectivity functions which can be performed and provided for by the lesser and subordinate bodies”. (Pope Pius XI)