Here, Paul VI turns his attention to various groups of people beginning in paragraph 23 with “rulers of nations”:
Appeal to Public Authorities
23. And now We wish to speak to rulers of nations. To you most of all is committed the responsibility of safeguarding the common good. You can contribute so much to the preservation of morals. We beg of you, never allow the morals of your peoples to be undermined. The family is the primary unit in the state; do not tolerate any legislation which would introduce into the family those practices which are opposed to the natural law of God. For there are other ways by which a government can and should solve the population problem—that is to say by enacting laws which will assist families and by educating the people wisely so that the moral law and the freedom of the citizens are both safeguarded.
Seeking True Solutions
We are fully aware of the difficulties confronting the public authorities in this matter, especially in the developing countries. In fact, We had in mind the justifiable anxieties which weigh upon them when We published Our encyclical letter Populorum Progressio. But now We join Our voice to that of Our predecessor John XXIII of venerable memory, and We make Our own his words: “No statement of the problem and no solution to it is acceptable which does violence to man’s essential dignity; those who propose such solutions base them on an utterly materialistic conception of man himself and his life. The only possible solution to this question is one which envisages the social and economic progress both of individuals and of the whole of human society, and which respects and promotes true human values” (See Mater et Magistra). No one can, without being grossly unfair, make divine Providence responsible for what clearly seems to be the result of misguided governmental policies, of an insufficient sense of social justice, of a selfish accumulation of material goods, and finally of a culpable failure to undertake those initiatives and responsibilities which would raise the standard of living of peoples and their children (Populorum progressio, nos. 48-55). If only all governments which were able would do what some are already doing so nobly, and bestir themselves to renew their efforts and their undertakings! There must be no relaxation in the programs of mutual aid between all the branches of the great human family. Here We believe an almost limitless field lies open for the activities of the great international institutions.
In addressing these various groups, Paul VI always brings us back to the universal call to holiness, that each person has the obligation to fulfill God’s will and Law by protecting the dignity of each human person. Once again, the Church recognizes that there are challenges, but nevertheless, the well-being of each person and of society at large depends on the adherence to God’s Law.
With respect to government, it has “the responsibility of safeguarding the common good”. The policies and laws of government need to be set up in such a way that families (the primary unit in the state) can freely follow God’s plan for marriage and family. In this way, families can thrive, and when families thrive, society thrives.