Charity demands going beyond mere rights and justice, but giving people their rights is the least we can do and is an act of love. The thing to do is to also be ready to give generously and freely, to be merciful and forgiving, and to share fellowship/communion with each other. Similarly, love demands some regard for the common good. You’re supposed to participate in civic life as a citizen and Christian. Christians are not to be driven out of the public square.
He also makes fairly pointed comments about “the great Pope Paul VI”, which is no doubt making a lot of people choke on their cereal and spray coffee all over their keyboards. (But really, the man was a true prophet when it counted — look at Humanae Vitae, which lost him so many friends but proved true on every count. If he wasn’t so great in other areas — well, prophets rarely are. His tragedy was that the people around him didn’t take care of filling in the bits he wasn’t good at; they had too many agendas of their own.) Often the details are wrong, but the basic ideas he taught were right. Much of what Pope Paul VI started in terms of outreach and evangelism was taken over by Pope John Paul II. So yeah, Populorum Progressio may not have been right about everything, but our current pope hasn’t forgotten to draw out the good parts.
And the good part is this: that if we believe in Christ, we have to help each other learn and grow. Christianity has always gone forth to teach the ignorant, to urge the earth to give fruit, to care for the earth the way God cares for us — that is, bringing out the full potential and beauty of all Creation. So just as the monks helped Europe become agriculturally and technologically advanced as well as doing their best to save souls, without wreaking havoc, so can modern Christians help those around them and in the under-developed parts of the world.
But without teaching and living the truth — which is our God — all this work is just empty, and we will treat both humans and the rest of the created world as tools, not as what they really are. Only truth gives meaning, and only love gives a reason to go on. Truth is freedom’s guarantee.
And all that is just the preface. This encyclical is chewy and sticks to your ribs.
Also, it’s pretty clear that Professor Ratzinger expects you to read Populorum Progressio as a key to his encyclical. So here’s a link to that. The year is 1967.