Just when you thought that you heard everything, a new shock came to light in July. America magazine, the publication of the Jesuit order in the United States, actually published an article advocating communism — yes, communism. The title of the article is: “The Catholic Case for Communism.”
The author is a certain Dean Dettloff. His basic theme, as I read him, is that the Catholic Church ought to warm up to communism, since for centuries it has been too closely associated with the privileged classes.
He makes the absurd claim that communism reflects the Church’s teaching on the limitation of private property. The Catholic Church staunchly defends private property, as a form of strict justice, but does say that it would be limited by extreme need. I will illustrate by an example. It would be stealing to take an apple from a fruit stand without paying for it. However, if a man were starving, he would have the right to take the apple, since private property is not guaranteed by God in such a way that it would deprive another of the right to live. Ultimately the earth and its riches belong to the entire human race, and private property is not so absolute that humans should be permitted to starve to death in order to protect the principle of private property.
Such cases, however, are extreme. Furthermore, the Church has never neglected the plight of the poor, and has never defended liberal capitalism. Catholic philosophers have always taught the necessity of some government control of the economy, in such a way that, precisely, super-rich entrepreneurs could not take advantage of poorer classes, in most cases laborers. This problem became acute in the nineteenth century, when, with the sudden advent of the industrial revolution, laborers quit their farms and went to the cities, where they worked for very low wages and under intolerable conditions in the workplace. The governments said little or nothing about these problems, causing a tremendous gap between the monied classes and the working classes. Whenever such a gap exists, it is the occasion of major trouble, and often of revolution.
The “remedy,” proposed by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, was the abolition of private property altogether, giving the State proprietorship of all industry and land, all means of production, and all natural resources. In short, the factory worker and the farmer would become employees of the State, and the former private owners would be stripped of their private property.
This is communism. It is an intrinsically evil system because it is based on the negation of private property, which is a part of the virtue of justice. Therefore there is nothing that can redeem communism. It is intrinsically flawed, and fatally so.
Because it is contrary to the most fundamental demands of justice, it is contrary to nature. As a result, communism has been an economic disaster historically.
Let us name them: the Soviet Union, China (before it was propped up by investment from the West), Cuba, Venezuela, Hungary, East Germany, Poland, Rumania, Yugoslavia, and other Soviet satellites. Conversely, regimes which respect private property have prospered immensely: The United States, Canada, the nations of Western Europe, Japan, Australia, to name the principal ones. Even these, however, have been burdened to a greater or lesser extent by socialism, the “little sister” of communism, which has limited a great deal the political and economic freedoms of peoples living in nations infected with it.
The Catholic Church endorses neither unbridled, laissez-faire economy, nor communism, nor socialism. All of these systems rest on serious errors, and consequently produce very serious economic and social problems.
The author of the article would have us believe that communism just has not had a chance to prove itself, that it has learned from its mistakes, and is now ready to make another go of it. He states: “Communism in its socio-political expression has at times caused great human and ecological suffering. Any good communist is quick to admit as much, not least because communism is an unfinished project that depends on the recognition of its real and tragic mistakes.”
Among these “tragic mistakes” is the murder of approximately one hundred million people in the twentieth century. But this is just a little hiccup on the way to the perfection of the system. It has also reduced billions of people to abject poverty, as well as slavery to the immense, all-powerful, and far-reaching government. For example, in Communist China, it is now forbidden that those under eighteen attend church services. Priests must shoo them away in the event that they try. This is because religion, except for the State-controlled “Catholic Church” (recently approved by Bergoglio), is an indoctrination which runs counter to the party line. They also have incarcerated in concentration camps, with guard towers and barbed wire, between 500,000 and 1,000,000 people, in order to “reeducate” them. But these, again, are just hiccups in a system which can bring to mankind a classless society and paradise for all on earth.
If you want to learn about what life was like in the 1980’s in the Soviet Union, I invite you to go to YouTube and visit The Ushanka Show, presented by a man born and raised in Kiev under Soviet domination. (Caution: occasional immodesty) You will learn how it was necessary to wait seven years to buy a car, which was so expensive that hardly anyone could afford it. You will learn that in order to move away to another city, you needed to get permission from the government to do so, which would not be given necessarily. You will learn that it was necessary to share an apartment with complete strangers because of the housing shortage.
These are only a few of the horrors of this system. Pope Pius IX in Quanta Cura referred to communism as a “deadly error.” The author of the America article, however, would have us believe that communism and Christianity are in fact compatible, and gives many examples of how he knows a lot of church-going communists.
But it is impossible that communism be compatible with the Catholic Faith. The reason is that, as I said, it is an intrinsically evil system inasmuch as it denies a fundamental right of justice, which is the right to private property.
Leo XIII said in Quod Apostolici Muneris of 1878: “Catholic wisdom most skillfully provides for public and domestic tranquility, supported by the precepts of divine law, through what it holds and teaches concerning the right of ownership and the distribution of goods which have been obtained for the necessities and uses of life. For when Socialists proclaim the right of property to be a human invention repugnant to the natural equality of man, and, seeking to establish a community of goods, think that poverty is to be by no means endured with equanimity; and that the possession and rights of the rich can be violated with impunity, the Church, much more properly and practically, recognizes inequality among men, who are naturally different in strength of body and mind; also in the possession of goods, and it orders that the right of property and of ownership, which proceeds from nature itself, be for everyone intact and inviolate; for it knows that theft and robbery have been forbidden by God, the author and vindicator of every right, in such a way that one cannot even covet the property of another, and that ‘thieves and robbers, no less than adulterers and idolaters are excluded from the kingdom of heaven.’” [cf. I Cor. VI: 9-10] In his encyclical Diuturnum Illud of 1881, Leo XIII refers to communism and socialism as “plagues,” “most loathsome monsters” and “nearly fatal to society.” (no. 23)
The faithful would do well to read these two encyclicals which I have cited here, as well as Rerum Novarum of Leo XIII, and Quadragesimo Anno and Divini Redemptoris of Pius XI. In this last encyclical, Pius XI explodes the very main theme of the author of this article, namely that Catholicism and communism are compatible. The Pope states: “Again, without receding an inch from their subversive principles, they invite Catholics to collaborate with them in the realm of so-called humanitarianism and charity; and at times even make proposals that are in perfect harmony with the Christian spirit and the doctrine of the Church. Elsewhere they carry their hypocrisy so far as to encourage the belief that communism, in countries where faith and culture are more strongly entrenched, will assume another and much milder form. It will not interfere with the practice of religion. It will respect liberty of conscience. There are some even who refer to certain changes recently introduced into Soviet legislation as a proof that communism is about to abandon its program of war against God. See to it, Venerable Brethren, that the faithful do not allow themselves to be deceived! Communism is intrinsically wrong, and no one who would save Christian civilization may collaborate with it in any undertaking whatsoever.”
Communism was also unequivocally condemned by Pius XII in his Christmas radio message of 1941 and 1942, and again in important documents issued in 1949 and 1950. He barred from the sacraments “anyone who publishes, disseminates, or reads books, periodicals, newspapers, or leaflets which uphold communistic doctrine and practice, or contributes articles to such organs.”
Shame on the Jesuits for publishing this article. What would their holy founder say?
In the United States in the 1950’s and even 1960’s, members of the communist party were surveilled by the FBI, and had to carry cards identifying themselves as communist party members. They were considered subversives. I can hardly believe that in a matter of about sixty years, there would be serious contenders for the presidency who espouse these very ideas.
The reason for the rise in sympathy for communism and socialism is the overall decline in religion in this country. These two evil systems, socialism and communism, are replacements for religion, inasmuch as they promise for the entire human race an earthly paradise, a utopia of commonness and shared wealth.
Socialism and communism have as their basis a totally materialistic view of man, seeing him only as a highly developed animal with no immortal soul. Consequently what is paramount is the distribution of wealth and the equal enjoyment of it. Hence everyone has a right to an equal share of wealth, an entitlement, simply because he or she is a human being. It ignores the natural differences of intelligence and talent as well as the learned virtues of diligence, entrepreneurial fortitude, good workmanship, reliability, and other qualities which make both employers and employees excel. Everything is leveled.
Needless to say, this equalization of all, regardless of their merits, qualities, or hard work, completely destroys the motivation to do good work, and ultimately makes a proverbial “basket-case” of the national economy. Fallen human nature being what it is, it will forever tend to take the easy way out, and become lazy. Destroy the profit motive, and you destroy the economy.
Catholics should be on guard against these modern evil tendencies of socialism and communism. In the 1990’s, after the fall of the Soviet Union, everyone said: “communism is dead.” Not so. It is alive and well in the United States of America.