Sometimes you hear Christians says, “We can be faithful Catholics and Socialists with regard to economics, because we aren’t atheists like Marx.”
Actually, that’s not true. The Pope’s have spoken explicitly and condemned “Socialism” on theconomic grounds and in terms of social justice.
Socialism was condemned explicitly by Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical Rerum Novarum.
I’ve included 5 quotes to help you understand how socialism is situated and condemned by Catholic theology. All the text in red is my commentary:
4. To remedy these wrongs the socialists, working on the poor man’s envy of the rich [this has often been the strategy – to employ “covet thy neighbors goods” as a lever for social revolution], are striving to do away with private property, and contend that individual possessions should become the common property of all, to be administered by the State or by municipal bodies. They hold that by thus transferring property from private individuals to the community, the present mischievous state of things will be set to rights, inasmuch as each citizen will then get his fair share of whatever there is to enjoy. But their contentions are so clearly powerless to end the controversy that were they carried into effect the working man himself would be among the first to suffer [the Pope says the working man is the first to suffer in Socialism – and history proves His Holiness correct]. They are, moreover, emphatically unjust, for they would rob the lawful possessor, distort the functions of the State, [it is “distorted” to ask the State to ‘transfer private property to the community”] and create utter confusion in the community.
The second quote emphasizes how the wage-earner is abused by Socialism:
5. Socialists, therefore, by endeavoring to transfer the possessions of individuals to the community at large, strike at the interests of every wage-earner [wage-earners are abused], since they would deprive him of the liberty of disposing of his wages [a person has right of liberty to use his wages as he sees fit], and thereby of all hope and possibility of increasing his resources and of bettering his condition in life [the wager earner has the right to seek to better his condition].
The third quote from Rerum Novarum condemns the Socialist principle that children belong to the State and not the father – and Pope Leo XIII quotes Saint Thomas Aquinas to validate his point:
14. “The child belongs to the father,” and is, as it were, the continuation of the father’s personality; and speaking strictly, the child takes its place in civil society, not of its own right, but in its quality as member of the family in which it is born. And for the very reason that “the child belongs to the father” it is, as St. Thomas Aquinas says, “before it attains the use of free will, under the power and the charge of its parents.”(4) The socialists, therefore, in setting aside the parent and setting up a State supervision, act against natural justice [it’s against social justice to replace parental supervision with State supervision], and destroy the structure of the home [hmmm…as socialism takes root, is it not historically evident that the domestic structure crumbles?].
The fourth quote regards the just due to labor:
15. And in addition to injustice, it is only too evident what an upset and disturbance there would be in all classes, and to how intolerable and hateful a slavery citizens would be subjected. The door would be thrown open to envy, to mutual invective, and to discord [This happened in Russia and Cuba. When social change is depended on covetousness of one class against another, hatred and murder follow]; the sources of wealth themselves would run dry, for no one would have any interest in exerting his talents or his industry [Yep, why work hard when you get paid the same for the chump doing nothing? It’s entirely unjust!]; and that ideal equality about which they entertain pleasant dreams would be in reality the levelling down of all to a like condition of misery and degradation [Socialist communities always lead to the poverty of all – not to a stable middle class]. Hence, it is clear that the main tenet of socialism, community of goods, must be utterly rejected [Did you get that? “utterly rejected”], since it only injures those whom it would seem meant to benefit, is directly contrary to the natural rights of mankind [it’s directly against natural law and social justice], and would introduce confusion and disorder into the commonweal. The first and most fundamental principle, therefore, if one would undertake to alleviate the condition of the masses, must be the inviolability of private property [Private property, not shared property, IS THE FIRST AND FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLE to alleviate poverty]. This being established, we proceed to show where the remedy sought for must be found.
The fifth and final quote for today comes from paragraph 17 and shows how Socialists “strive against nature”:
17. It must be first of all recognized that the condition of things inherent in human affairs must be borne with, for it is impossible to reduce civil society to one dead level. Socialists may in that intent do their utmost, but all striving against nature is in vain [Socialists strive against nature!]. There naturally exist among mankind manifold differences of the most important kind; people differ in capacity, skill, health, strength; and unequal fortune is a necessary result of unequal condition [we have different aptitudes, assets, and liabilities]. Such unequality is far from being disadvantageous either to individuals or to the community. Social and public life can only be maintained by means of various kinds of capacity for business and the playing of many parts; and each man, as a rule, chooses the part which suits his own peculiar domestic condition [handicaps do not prevent humans from the dignity of work and production]. As regards bodily labor, even had man never fallen from the state of innocence, he would not have remained wholly idle [work is not evil – it’s part of the pre-sin vocation for humans]; but that which would then have been his free choice and his delight became afterwards compulsory, and the painful expiation for his disobedience. “Cursed be the earth in thy work; in thy labor thou shalt eat of it all the days of thy life.”
So what can we summarize about the condemnation of Socialism from Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum:
- Socialism promotes envy between classes. “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors goods.”
- The transfer of private property to community property is against nature and justice.
- Socialism hurts the working man first and foremost.
- A person has the right to improve his social condition through labor. His social condition should not be taken away from him.
- Socialism perceives children as belonging to the State chiefly, and thus the State has a prior right over the father of the child with regard to guardianship, education, and labor. This the Pope condemns.
- Socialism must be “utterly rejected.”
- Socialism leads to “condition of misery and degradation.”
- The Pope recognizes that not every human has equal aptitude in this life for wage-earning.
- Labor is good and not evil. Socialism wrongly presumes that work is always an exploitation of one class serving another class.
- It is evident in these quotes, but especially elsewhere, that those who have acquired private property should share their goods with those who are in need. This is the call to almsgiving that Proverbs and Christ repeatedly exhort us to practice.
Please share this post with others so that they can see that Socialism per se is condemned by Catholic social teaching.
Dr Taylor Marshall