Without the perspective of eternal life, human progress in this world is denied breathing-space. Enclosed within history, it runs the risk of being reduced to the mere accumulation of wealth; humanity thus loses the courage to be at the service of higher goods, at the service of the great and disinterested initiatives called forth by universal charity. Man does not develop through his own powers, nor can development simply be handed to him.
In reality, institutions by themselves are not enough, because integral human development is primarily a vocation, and therefore it involves a free assumption of responsibility in solidarity on the part of everyone. Moreover, such development requires a transcendent vision of the person, it needs God: without him, 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. Only through an encounter with God are we able to see in the other something more than just another creature, to recognize the divine image in the other, thus truly coming to discover him or her and to mature in a love that “becomes concern and care for the other.”
Despite PP's connection with Vatican II, it did not constitute a break from the teachings that came before PP. The Pope reminds us that the Church's magisterium is "a single teaching, consistent and at the same time ever new."
PP also warned of two opposing utopian ideologies: too much reliance on technology for development, and a complete denial of technology for development:
Idealizing technical progress, or contemplating the utopia of a return to humanity's original natural state, are two contrasting ways of detaching progress from its moral evaluation and hence from our responsibility.
Pope Benedict XVI also noted the strong link between PP and Humanae Vitae, another of Pope Paul VI's encyclicals:
Humanae Vitae indicates the strong links between life ethics and social ethics...The Church forcefully maintains this link between life ethics and social ethics, fully aware that “a society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized.”
Later, Pope Bendict XVI teaches us that progess, is first a foremost a vocation:
To regard development as a vocation is to recognize, on the one hand, that it derives from a transcendent call, and on the other hand that it is incapable, on its own, of supplying its ultimate meaning.
Because it is a vocation it requires "a free and responsible answer. Integral human development presupposes the responsible freedom of the individual and of peoples: no structure can guarantee this development over and above human responsibility."
This responsiblity over our own development reminds us that we are "the principal agents of [our] own success or failure."
As development is a vocation, or a responsibility on our part, it requires not only freedom, but truth:
Only when it is free can development be integrally human; only in a climate of responsible freedom can it grow in a satisfactory manner. Besides requiring freedom, integral human development as a vocation also demands respect for its truth. The vocation to progress drives us to “do more, know more and have more in order to be more."
True development also involves every man and the whole man, both natural and supernatural, with the Gospel as fundamental to that development.
And lastly, Pope Benedict XVI recalled the central place of charity within development, especially in aiding the areas of underdevelopment:
Finally, the vision of development as a vocation brings with it the central place of charity within that development. Paul VI, in his Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, pointed out that the causes of underdevelopment are not primarily of the material order. He invited us to search for them in other dimensions of the human person: first of all, in the will, which often neglects the duties of solidarity; secondly in thinking, which does not always give proper direction to the will.
Underdevelopment has an even more important cause than lack of deep thought: it is “the lack of brotherhood among individuals and peoples.”
Chapter one thus ends with a reminder of the urgent need for reform "and in the face of great problems of injustice in the development of peoples, it calls for courageous action to be taken without delay."