Catholic Socialism?

"Let us recall the fact that atheism and the denial of the human person, his liberty and rights, are at the core of the Marxist theory."

 "Instruction on certain aspects of the Theology of Liberation", Sec. VII, Par. 9

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, The Holy See

    

    Sociopolitical debate and all its associated hand-wringing is ever present in the American consciousness. 

     While the Order is itself strictly apolitical, staying out of the civil politics of nations, individually as faithful citizens of our country we are called upon to actively participate in those elections of our democratic-republic where we are qualified. Paragraph 2442 of The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this responsibility in this way, "It is not the role of the Pastors of the Church to intervene directly in the political structuring and organization of social life. This task is part of the vocation of the lay faithful acting on their own initiative with their fellow citizens."

     In this capacity as private citizens and Catholics we are expected to contribute our personal votes in ways that adhere to the Gospel of Jesus and the moral teachings of our Church, and that promote the common good, security, and well-being of our fellow man. As each candidate for public office and each proposed statute is debated, what guidelines should faithful Catholics use when vetting the issues at hand?

     While not every situation can be clearly compartmentalized, there are some definite theories of governance that have been deemed by history and Church wisdom to be in conflict with the promotion of the common good and Catholic doctrine. For instance, the political and economic theories embraced in the late 19th and early 20th centuries espoused by Karl Marx (1818-1883) and collectively known as "Marxism" have been determined through their historic understanding and implementations to be evil and are to be rejected. Paragraphs 2424 and 2425 describes the rejection this way, "A system that subordinates the basic rights of individuals and of groups to the collective organization of production is contrary to human dignity," and, "The Church has rejected the totalitarian and atheistic ideologies associated in modern times with "communism" or "socialism."

Paragraph 2431 states the appropriate role of any government. In short, it's role is not to control persons or to own and administer the means of production, nor is it to remove or impede personal freedoms, nor to eliminate or discourage private ownership of property, nor to disregard the rights of individuals to enjoy the fruits of their labors.

     Similarly, other types of political and economic theory that result in a government-controlled welfare state where an individual's wealth or goods are forcefully taken from them and given to others who are capable of work, but who choose not to do so, is similarly to be rejected because, (as stated in Paragraph 2427) "...Hence work is a duty. "If anyone will not work, let him not eat." Work honors the Creator's gifts and the talents received from Him." Additionally, our attempts to find and do work should be conducted legally; a worker should, "...seek to observe regulations issued by legitimate authority for the sake of the common good." (Paragraph 2429) Of course, an individual's acts to legitimately transfer portions of their legitimately earned personal wealth or goods, made in accordance with the corporal works of mercy to ease the suffering of those who are truly in need, are to be more encouraged.

      Along with the Catechism we have the very deliberate teachings and admonishments against the tenants of Marxism (most notably Socialism and Communism in all their forms) beginning with Pope Pius IX, first to enumerate the problems, in his Encyclical "Nostis et Nobiscum" in 1849, through Pope Benedict XVI in 2005 in his Encyclical "Deus Caritas Est". For members of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, it is significant to point to what one of our patrons, Pope Saint Pius X has to tell us. In his Apostolic Letter, "Notre Charge Apostolique" of 1910 condemning the errors of the French political movement known as The Sillon, Pope Pius X outlines for us that the end result of social actions and political movements that desire some embrace of Socialism, no matter how well intended, conceived, or implemented in order to fit within the Catholic Church, always results in something that is not truly Catholic. In their attempt to force social justice at the cost of truth, Saint Pius X warns them, and by proxy us all, of the following,

      "We wish to draw your attention, Venerable Brethren, to this distortion of the Gospel and to the sacred character of Our Lord Jesus Christ, God and man, prevailing within the Sillon and elsewhere. As soon as the social question is being approached, it is the fashion in some quarters to first put aside the divinity of Jesus Christ, and then to mention only His unlimited clemency, His compassion for all human miseries, and His pressing exhortations to the love of our neighbor and to the brotherhood of men. True, Jesus has loved us with an immense, infinite love, and He came on earth to suffer and die so that, gathered around Him in justice and love, motivated by the same sentiments of mutual charity, all men might live in peace and happiness. But for the realization of this temporal and eternal happiness, He has laid down with supreme authority the condition that we must belong to His Flock, that we must accept His doctrine, that we must practice virtue, and that we must accept the teaching and guidance of Peter and his successors. Further, whilst Jesus was kind to sinners and to those who went astray, He did not respect their false ideas, however sincere they might have appeared. He loved them all, but He instructed them in order to convert them and save them."

     As we deliberate privately among ourselves, both clergy and laity, the merits of various political viewpoints, candidate's aspirations, and the rhetoric of demagogues, remember well this admonition of Pope Pius IX to the Italian countrymen of his day who looked to the revolutionary ideas of Marxist Social Justice:

     "As regards this teaching and these theories, it is now generally known that the special goal of their proponents is to introduce to the people the pernicious fictions of Socialism and Communism by misapplying the terms "liberty" and "equality." The final goal shared by these teachings, whether of Communism or Socialism, even if approached differently, is to excite by continuous disturbances workers and others, especially those of the lower class, whom they have deceived by their lies and deluded by the promise of a happier condition. They are preparing them for plundering, stealing, and usurping first the Church's and then everyone's property. After this they will profane all law, human and divine, to destroy divine worship and to subvert the entire ordering of civil societies. In this critical period for Italy, it is your duty, venerable brothers, to help the faithful realize that if they let themselves be deceived by such perverted doctrines and theories, these theories will cause their temporal and their eternal destruction."

     So what then are we to do when the proponents of Marxism, or the shades of Marxism, approach us today seeking our acceptance? Whether they come from within the Church, or outside the Church... Whether they come in the guise of promoting the common good, or enticing the faithful with their brand of "Catholic Social Justice", look to Scripture and the Tradition of our Church! Hold fast to Truth and test everything!

     "Beloved, do not trust every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can know the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh belongs to God, and every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus does not belong to God. This is the spirit of the antichrist that, as you heard, is to come, but in fact is already in the world" (1 John 4:1-3)  

     For as St. Paul told the Thessalonians, "Therefore, God is sending them a deceiving power so that they may believe the lie, that all who have not believed the truth but have approved wrongdoing may be condemned. But we ought to give thanks to God for you always, brothers loved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in truth. To this end he has [also] called you through our gospel to possess the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours. May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through his grace, encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word." (2 Thessalonians 2:11-17)

For additional reading see the Holy See's, "Instruction on Certain Aspects of the Theology of Liberation".