Early this week, I posted “Catholic Condemnation of Socialism in 5 Papal Quotes (Pope Leo XIII Puts the Smack Down on Socialism)” and as expected, folks came out of the word work saying things like “Aha! But the Church doesn’t condemn Christian Socialism, but only condemns Marxist or atheistic Socialism.”
This isn’t true. Simply read Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum and you’ll discover that he condemns Socialism as an economic error contrary to natural law and social justice. But if that does not convince you, here are some quotes from subsequent Popes further laying the smack down on Socialism and even on so-called “Christian Socialism”:
Pius XI against “Christian Socialism”:
Here is a quote form Pope Pius XI on the 40th anniversary of Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum showing that “Catholic Socialism” or “Christian Socialism” is condemned by the Catholic Faith:
“Religious socialism, Christian socialism, are contradictory terms; no one can be at the same time a good Catholic and a true Socialist.” (Pope Pius XI, Encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, May 15, 1931. n. 120)
You cannot be “a good Catholic and a true Socialist.” It just doesn’t get any clearer than that! In that same encyclical, Pius XI also teaches:
“We make this pronouncement: Whether considered as a doctrine, or an historical fact, or a movement, Socialism, if it remains truly Socialism, even after it has yielded to truth and justice on the points which we have mentioned, cannot be reconciled with the teachings of the Catholic Church because its concept of society itself is utterly foreign to Christian truth.” (Quadragesimo Anno, n. 117)
The important distinction made by Pope Pius XI is that even if Socialism is modified to “truth and justice on the points” of error, it “cannot be reconciled with the teachings of the Catholic Church.” Socialism is inherently broken and motivated by covetousness. Socialism is, they say, the Gospel of Envy.
And one extra quote from Pius IX on Captitalism as not fundamenetally flawed as is Socialism:
“Capitalism itself is not to be condemned. And surely it is not vicious of its very nature, but it has been vitiated.”
Socialism is inherently flawed and condemned. Capitalism is not condemned. Capitalism is instrumentally neutral. It can be used for virtue or it can be used for vice (“vitiated”).
Pope John XXIII against “Moderate Socialism”:
And I’ve heard it said by some Catholics: “Yeah, but Leo XIII and Pius XI didn’t live to see later moderations of Socialism, so what they were condemning was an earlier form of Socialism.” In order to refute this objection, we have have Pope Saint John XXIII’s reiteration and approval of the previous papal condemnations of Socialism [the comments in red are my own]:
“Pope Pius XI further emphasized the fundamental opposition between Communism and Christianity, and made it clear that no Catholic could subscribe even to moderate Socialism [Catholics cannot even try to modify Socialism!]. The reason is that Socialism is founded on a doctrine of human society which is bounded by time and takes no account of any objective other than that of material well-being [Socialism is fundamentally materialistic and closed off to the spiritual]. Since, therefore, it proposes a form of social organization which aims solely at production; it places too severe a restraint on human liberty, at the same time flouting the true notion of social authority.”
(Pope John XXIII, Encyclical Mater et Magistra, May 15, 1961, n. 34)
Pope John XXIII teaches us that:
- Pius XI was right on Socialism as being opposed to Christianity
- Catholics may not subscribe “even to moderate Socialism”
- Socialism is materialistic
- Socialism restrains human liberty
Pope Paul VI on Socialism as Corrupt Ideology:
And Pope Paul VI also condemned Socialism in 1971 on the 80th anniversary of Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum against Socialism:
“Too often Christians attracted by Socialism tend to idealize it in terms which, apart from anything else, are very general: a will for justice, solidarity and equality. They refuse to recognize the limitations of the historical socialist movements, which remain conditioned by the ideologies from which they originated.” (Paul VI, Octogesima Adveniens, May 14, 1971, n. 31)
Pope John Paul II as Reaffirming Leo XIII’s original condemnation of Socialism:
On the 100th anniversary of Pope Leo XIII’s condemnation of Socialism, Pope John Paul II issued the document Centesimus Annus reiterating the Catholic condemnation of Socialism:
“It may seem surprising that Socialism appeared at the beginning of the Pope’s critique of solutions to the ‘question of the working class’ at a time when ‘socialism’ was not yet in the form of a strong and powerful State, with all the resources which that implies, as was later to happen. However, he correctly judged the danger posed to the masses by the attractive presentation of this simple and radical solution to the ‘question of the working class.’” (John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, May 1, 1991, n. 12)
John Paul II lived under Socialism and understood its corruption of the working class. He perceived Leo XIII as a prophetic voice at the turn of the century.
The Popes of the 20th century explicitly teach that whether we modify Socialism in the shape of “Moderate Socialism,” or “Christian Socialism,” or “Theistic Socialism,” it still doesn’t fit into Catholic teaching. Socialism is not Christian and never will be Christian.
Dr Taylor Marshall