Contemporary Issue: Integral Human Development


Within the light of CST, Integral Human Development is an expression based upon the truth that human development cannot be reduced or divorced into constituent parts. True progress does not and cannot happen, if only one aspect of the human person is being addressed to this end.

It has been a centerpiece of Pope Francis' message, thus complementing and enhancing the breadth of Catholic Social Teaching on this subject put forth by his predecessors over the years:

“The necessary realism proper to politics and economy cannot be reduced to mere technical know-how bereft of ideals and unconcerned with the transcendent dimension of man. When this openness to God is lacking, every human activity is impoverished and persons are reduced to objects that can be exploited. Only when politics and the economy are open to moving within the wide space ensured by the One who loves each man and each woman, will they…become effective instruments of integral human development and peace.” (Pope Francis, World Day of Peace Message, 1 January 2014, 10)

Francis' message echoes and buttresses perhaps the most articulate encapsulation of what CST means by integral human development, written by Pope Benedict XVI in his letter Caritas in Veritate:

"...the decisive issue is the overall moral tenor of society. If there is a lack of respect for the right to life and to a natural death, if human conception, gestation and birth are made artificial, if human embryos are sacrificed to research, the conscience of society ends up losing the concept of human ecology and, along with it, that of environmental ecology. It is contradictory to insist that future generations respect the natural environment when our educational systems and laws do not help them to respect themselves. The book of nature is one and indivisible: it takes in not only the environment but also life, sexuality, marriage, the family, social relations: in a word, integral human development." (CIV, 51)

During his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI often stressed that all social action must be grounded in faith - man is more than Homo economicus or politicus - and this must be recognized if true development is to be possible. He made this point clear when, in referring to “the dramatic crisis of the global economy”, he said:

“In my encyclical Caritas in Veritate, I invited everyone to look to the deeper causes of this situation: In the last analysis, they are to be found in a current self-centered and materialistic way of thinking that fails to acknowledge the limitations inherent in every creature”. (Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the Vatican Diplomatic Corps, 11 January 2010)

In Caritas in Veritate, His Holiness insisted that human development must be unified as one – involving all aspects of our humanity, not just the economic and political:

"[A]uthentic human development concerns the whole of the person in every single dimension." (CIV, 11)
"[P]rogress of a merely economic and technological kind is insufficient. Development needs above all to be true and integral. " (CIV, 23)
"[D]evelopment is closely bound up with our understanding of the human soul... Development must include not just material growth but also spiritual growth," (CIV, 76)
“[M]an needs to be liberated from material oppressions, but more profoundly he must be saved from the evils that afflict the spirit.” (Benedict XVI, Homily, Mass in Bruno, Czech Republic, 27 September 2009)

The Goal of Integral Human Development

In Centesimus Annus, Pope Saint John Paul II reminded us of the fundamental objective of human development. He implored us to address the spiritual, not merely the political and economic structures of society, because after all, the end goal is to seek and know God:

"Finally, development must not be understood solely in economic terms, but in a way that is fully human. It is not only a question of raising all peoples to the level currently enjoyed by the richest countries, but rather of building up a more decent life through united labour, of concretely enhancing every individual's dignity and creativity, as well as his capacity to respond to his personal vocation, and thus to God's call. The apex of development is the exercise of the right and duty to seek God, to know him and to live in accordance with that knowledge." (CA, 29)

Related Thoughts on Integral Human Development

The Catholic Church's view of human dignity springs from human agency and free will, with the further understanding that free will in turn springs from human creation made in the image of God. Taken from "A Deeper Examination of Human Dignity"
Charity is a theological virtue. It applies to all and involves engaging, directly, those around us who are in need. CST, which is a branch of Catholic Moral Theology, contains a set of principles to be used to form our conscience as we impact on the social structures around us. Taken from "Catholic Social Teaching, Social Justice, and Charity"
I invite you to look around at the new things which surround us and in which we find ourselves… (Saint John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, 1991) Taken from "Catholic Social Teaching 101"

Related Speakers / Panelists / Authors on: Integral Human Development

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“The State which would provide everything, absorbing everything into itself, would ultimately become a mere bureaucracy incapable of guaranteeing the very thing which the suffering person—every person—needs: namely, loving personal concern.” (DCE, 28) Read more