As everyone knows, the famous saying “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” insinuates an adaptation to the customs and culture of the places we visit, in order to feel more at ease and be more easily accepted by the inhabitants. This norm is applied, obviously, to those practices that don’t offend good morals, for it’s also true that as good Catholics we should never frequent places where this could occur. Even more, in places where our faith might be put at risk.
Now, in the previous entry of this study, we had taken a look at the protagonists of the two events of the World Meeting of Popular Movements celebrated in Rome and in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, under the auspices of Pope Francis and promoted by the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace in collaboration with the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences. In light of these considerations, any Catholic should have the chills to participate in such events, which are no more than turbulent political rallies. Nonetheless, even graver than the error of participating, would be letting oneself be influenced by the subversive ideas that were proclaimed during the varied speeches that took place.
Now, what would we think of someone who presents himself at such an encounter, and perhaps, inebriated by the incendiary revolutionary speeches, unites himself to them with his words? It would be bringing to the extreme a poor adaptation of the old saying: “When in Rome…”
And us, what do we chose? The revolutionary speeches of social leaders, or the words of the Magisterium?
“It is strange but, if I talk about this, some say that the Pope is communist.”
You are not satisfied with empty promises, with alibis or excuses. Nor do you wait with arms crossed for NGOs to help, for welfare schemes or paternalistic solutions that never arrive; or if they do, then it is with a tendency to anaesthetize or to domesticate … and this is rather perilous. One senses that the poor are no longer waiting. You want to be protagonists. You get organized, study, work, issue demands and, above all, practice that very special solidarity that exists among those who suffer, among the poor, and that our civilization seems to have forgotten or would strongly prefer to forget.
Solidarity is a word that is not always well received. In certain circumstances it has become a dirty word, something one dares not say. However, it is a word that means much more than an occasional gesture of generosity. It means thinking and acting in terms of community. It means that the lives of all take priority over the appropriation of goods by a few. It also means fighting against the structural causes of poverty and inequality; of the lack of work, land and housing; and of the denial of social and labour rights. It means confronting the destructive effects of the empire of money: forced dislocation, painful emigration, human trafficking, drugs, war, violence and all those realities that many of you suffer and that we are all called upon to transform. Solidarity, understood in its deepest sense, is a way of making history, and this is what the popular movements are doing.
This meeting of ours is not shaped by an ideology. You do not work with abstract ideas; you work with realities such as those I just mentioned and many others that you have told me about. You have your feet in the mud, you are up to your elbows in flesh-and-blood reality. Your carry the smell of your neighbourhood, your people, your struggle! We want your voices to be heard – voices that are rarely heard. No doubt this is because your voices cause embarrassment, no doubt it is because your cries are bothersome, no doubt because people are afraid of the change that you seek. However, without your presence, without truly going to the fringes, the good proposals and projects we often hear about at international conferences remain stuck in the realm of ideas and wishful thinking.
The scandal of poverty cannot be addressed by promoting strategies of containment that only tranquilize the poor and render them tame and inoffensive. How sad it is when we find, behind allegedly altruistic works, the other being reduced to passivity or being negated; or worse still, we find hidden personal agendas or commercial interests. “Hypocrites” is what Jesus would say to those responsible. How marvellous it is, by contrast, when we see peoples moving forward, especially their young and their poorest members. Then one feels a promising breeze that revives hope for a better world. May this breeze become a cyclone of hope. This is my wish.
This meeting of ours responds to a very concrete desire, something that any father and mother would want for their children – a desire for what should be within everyone’s reach, namely land, housing and work. However, nowadays, it is sad to see that land, housing and work are ever more distant for the majority. It is strange but, if I talk about this, some say that the Pope is communist. They do not understand that love for the poor is at the centre of the Gospel. Land, housing and work, what you struggle for, are sacred rights. To make this claim is nothing unusual; it is the social teaching of the Church. […] Some of you said that this system cannot endure. We must change it. We must put human dignity back at the centre and on that pillar build the alternative social structures we need. This must be done with courage but also with intelligence, with tenacity but without fanaticism, with passion yet without violence. And all of us together, addressing the conflicts without getting trapped in them, always seeking to resolve the tensions in order to reach a higher plane of unity, of peace and of justice. […] Grassroots movements express the urgent need to revitalize our democracies, so often hijacked by innumerable factors. It is impossible to imagine a future for society without the active participation of great majorities as protagonists, and such proactive participation overflows the logical procedures of formal democracy. Moving towards a world of lasting peace and justice calls us to go beyond paternalistic forms of assistance; it calls us to create new forms of participation that include popular movements and invigorate local, national and international governing structures with that torrent of moral energy that springs from including the excluded in the building of a common destiny. And all this with a constructive spirit, without resentment, with love. (Address to the participants in the World Meeting of Popular Movements, October 28, 2014)
If such is the case, I would insist, let us not be afraid to say it: we want change, real change, structural change. This system is by now intolerable: farmworkers find it intolerable, laborers find it intolerable, communities find it intolerable, peoples find it intolerable … The earth itself – our sister, Mother Earth, as Saint Francis would say – also finds it intolerable. […] Once capital becomes an idol and guides people’s decisions, once greed for money presides over the entire socioeconomic system, it ruins society, it condemns and enslaves men and women, it destroys human fraternity, it sets people against one another and, as we clearly see, it even puts at risk our common home, sister and mother earth. […] You, the lowly, the exploited, the poor and underprivileged, can do, and are doing, a lot. I would even say that the future of humanity is in great measure in your own hands, through your ability to organize and carry out creative alternatives, through your daily efforts to ensure the three “L’s” – do you agree? – (labor, lodging, land) and through your proactive participation in the great processes of change on the national, regional and global levels. Don’t lose heart! Secondly, you are sowers of change. Here in Bolivia I have heard a phrase which I like: “process of change”. Change seen not as something which will one day result from any one political decision or change in social structure. We know from painful experience that changes of structure which are not accompanied by a sincere conversion of mind and heart sooner or later end up in bureaucratization, corruption and failure. There must be a change of heart. That is why I like the image of a ‘process’, processes where the drive to sow, to water seeds which others will see sprout, replaces the ambition to occupy every available position of power and to see immediate results. The option is to bring about processes and not to occupy positions. Each of us is just one part of a complex and differentiated whole, interacting in time: peoples who struggle to find meaning, a destiny, and to live with dignity, to ‘live well’, and in that sense, worthily. (Address to the participants at the Second World Meeting of Popular Movements, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, July 9, 2015)
Enter in the various parts of our study
II – Economic failure and oppression: typical fruits of communism and socialism
III – Illusions, utopias and fantasies of a ‘better world’ are always propagated by Marxists, Socialists and Communists
I – Agitation, hatred toward higher classes, rebellion, thirst for justice: instruments for struggle to change the system
For, the fear of God and reverence for divine laws being taken away, the authority of rulers despised, sedition permitted and approved, and the popular passions urged on to lawlessness, with no restraint save that of punishment, a change and overthrow of all things will necessarily follow. Yea, this change and overthrow is deliberately planned and put forward by many associations of communists and socialists. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Humanum genus, no. 27, April 20, 1884)
Finally, Catholic writers, when defending the cause of the proletariat and the poor, should avoid adopting language that might inspire aversion toward the upper classes of society. Refrain from speaking of vindication and justice, when in reality it is simply charity that is concerned, as has already been explained. Remember that Jesus Christ wished to unite all men within the bond of mutual love, which is the perfection of justice, and which includes the obligation of working for each other’s reciprocal welfare. (Pius X. Motu Proprio Fin dalla prima (Sillabo sociale), no. 19, December 18, 1903)
All who glory in the name of Christian, either individually or collectively, if they wish to remain true to their vocation, may not foster enmities and dissensions between the classes of civil society. On the contrary, they must promote mutual concord and charity. The social question and its associated controversies, such as the nature and duration of labor, the wages to be paid, and workingmen’s strikes, are not simply economic in character. Therefore they cannot be numbered among those which can be settled apart from ecclesiastical authority. (Pius X. Encyclical Singulari quadam, no. 3, September 24, 1912)
Drawn up against those who possess property, whether by inheritance or by industry, stand the proletariate and the workers, inflamed with hatred and envy, because, although they are by nature the same, they do not occupy the same position as the others. Once they have been imbued with the fallacies of the agitators, to whose behests they are most docile, who will ever make them see that it does not follow that because men are equal by their nature, they must all occupy an equal place in the community? And further, who will ever make them see that the position of each one is that which each by use of his natural gifts – unless prevented by force of circumstances – is able to make for himself? And so the poor who strive against the rich as though they had taken part of the goods of others, not merely act contrary to justice and charity, but also act irrationally, particularly as they themselves by honest industry can improve their fortunes if they choose. It is not necessary to enumerate the many consequences, not less disastrous for the individual than for the community, which follow from this class hatred. We all see and deplore the frequency of strikes, which suddenly interrupt the course of city and of national life in their most necessary functions, we see hostile gatherings and tumultuous crowds, and it not infrequently happens that weapons are used and human blood is spilled. (Benedict XV. Encyclical Ad Beatissimi apostolorum, no. 12, November 1, 1914)
Wherefore, while we exhort the rich to practice liberality and to be inspired more by fairness than by the rule; likewise we warn the proletarians, to zeal for their own Faith, which is put in danger if they exceed in their demands. For, here exactly is the insidiousness of the enemies, who stir on to make immoderate demands, even of Church; and when what is sought is not obtained, they to incite the multitude rebellion. It is consequently necessary to abstain from intemperance: intemperance that is evident always if force is used, or if hatred amongst classes is fostered, or if the many social differences that are willed by nature itself and by human fraternity are ignored, and when finally the end to all human life is placed in the conquest of ephemeral goods. (Benedict XV. Letter Intelleximus ex iis, June 14, 1920)
The poor and necessitated comprehend what a special love We harbor for them, as closer resemblances of the image of Jesus Christ. We fear, nonetheless, that at times when they revindicate their own rights, they let themselves be taken to the point of forgetting their own duties and overriding the rights of others, which religion demands be considered as sacred and inviolable, just as their own. It is true that the enemies teach the violation of the other people’s rights; in this they find openly concord with those that they put all of man’s happiness in this mortal life; but with respect to these the violated rights will eternally clamor. (Benedict XV. Letter Intelleximus ex iis, June 20, 1920)
It is not our intention here to repeat the arguments which clearly expose the errors of Socialism and of similar doctrines. Our predecessor, Leo XIII, most wisely did so in truly memorable Encyclicals; and you, Venerable Brethren, will take the greatest care that those grave precepts are never forgotten, but that whenever circumstances call for it, they should be clearly expounded and inculcated in Catholic associations and congresses, in sermons and in the Catholic press. But more especially – and We do not hesitate to repeat it – by the help of every argument, supplied by the Gospels or by the nature of man himself, or by the consideration of the interests of the individual and of the community, let us strive to exhort all men, that in virtue of the divine law of charity they should love one another with brotherly love. Brotherly love is not calculated to get rid of the differences of conditions and therefore of classes – a result which is just as impossible as that in the living body all the members should have the same functions and dignity – but it will bring it to pass that those who occupy higher positions will in some way bring themselves down to those in a lower position, and treat them not only justly, for it is only right that they should, but kindly and in a friendly and patient spirit, and the poor on their side will rejoice in their prosperity and rely confidently on their help – even as the younger son of a family relies on the help and protection of his elder brother. (Benedict XV. Encyclical Ad Beatissimi apostolorum, no. 12, November 1, 1914)
Observe, therefore, how much damage is done to the interest of the workers, by those who, presenting themselves as attempting to better their conditions, show themselves to be attentive exclusively to the acquisition of those passing things and not only neglect to moderate the aspirations with the summons to Christian duties, but rather make every effort to urge them on against the rich with that acrimony of language that often is used by our enemies to incite the multitudes to social revolution. To remedy so great a danger, will be Your care, venerable brother; point out, as you already do, to those who dedicate themselves to promote the cause of the workers, that these, taking care to avoid the harshness of language used by the ‘socialists’, should carry out an action that is and a propaganda that is totally imbued with the Christian spirit; without which they can cause great harm, and certainly will be of no good. (Benedict XV. Letter Soliti nos, March 11, 1920)
Those who are have less and who are of a lower social position must therefore understand well this truth: that the distinction of social classes proceeds from nature, and therefore from the very will of God, since ‘He himself made both small and great’ (Wis 6:7); and this works marvellously for the good of each individual and of the community. They should be convinced, then, that while they may better their conditions through effort and favored by the generous, there will always exist for them – as for all human beings – no small portions of suffering. Wherefore, if they wish to act wisely, they will not aspire to utopias beyond their reach, and will support with peace and moral strength the inevitable evils of this life, in the hope of the immortal goods. (Benedict XV. Letter Soliti nos, March 11, 1920)
The wicked were never lacking, nor even those who denied God; but they were relatively few, alone and isolated; and did not dare, or did not believe it opportune to openly reveal their evil thoughts, as the inspired Psalmist seems to insinuate, when he exclaimed: ‘The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’’ (Ps 14: 1). The impious, the atheist, as one within a multitude, denied God, the Creator, but in the intimacy of the heart. Today, on the contrary, atheism has already invaded great multitudes of the people: with its organizations it penetrates even within the public schools, it is manifested in the theatres and in order to spread employs even the motion pictures, the phonograph, the radio; with its own typography it prints brochures in all languages; promotes special expositions and public manifestations; it has constituted its own political parties, and commercial and military institutions.
This organized and militant atheism works tirelessly through its agitators, with conferences and illustrations, with all of the means of hidden and manifest propaganda, within all classes, in all of the streets, in every salon, affording to this its detrimental activity the moral authority of its own universities, and binding the incautious with the powerful chains of its organizing strength. Truly, in observing so much effort put at the service of such an iniquitous cause, the sad lament of Christ comes spontaneously to mind and lips: ‘The sons of this world are wiser in their own generation than the sons of light’ (Lk 16: 8). (Pius XI. Encyclical Caritate Christi Compulsi, May 3, 1932)
The chiefs and authors of all of this campaign of atheism, taking advantage of the current economic crisis, with an infernal dialectic, seek to convince the famished masses that God and religion are the cause of this universal misery. The Holy Cross of Our Lord, symbol of humility and poverty, is put together with the symbols of modern imperialism, as though Religion was allied with those dark forces, which produce so many evils for mankind. In this way they attempt, and not without results, to link the war against God with the battle for daily bread, with the desire to possess one’s own land, to have adequate salaries, respectable habitations, in short, a state of life that is appropriate for man. The most legitimate and necessary desires, as well as the most brutal instincts, all serve for their anti-religious program; as though the divine order was in contradiction with the well-being of humanity and was not, on the contrary, its only and certain guardian; as though human forces with the means of modern technology, could combat the divine forces to introduce a new and better order of things. (Pius XI. Encyclical Caritate Christi compulsi, May 3, 1932)
As we have affirmed, an economic crisis persists throughout the whole world, which the poor suffer with greater severity. […] The workers and artisans suffer spiritually and materially because they lack not only what they could earn worthily, such as a just salary, but also the occupation and the work itself; hence, they find themselves doomed to unemployment. […] But certainly there are those who wish to take advantage – of course, a very sad advantage and gain – of this constraint and necessity: the enemies of the public, civil and religious order. They plot to make war against human society, against holy religion and even against God. Without doubt, all know of the destructive delirium of their opinions, which they widely divulge; and the crimes committed a little while ago and even at a recent date demonstrate more than sufficiently that they work decidedly to advance their evil projects and designs; what has already occurred for some time and incessantly within the immense and desolate lands of Russia, what has occurred in Spain, what has occurred in Mexico, and ultimately, what has occurred in within the small and large nations of central Europe, all give clear evidence of what may be hoped for with the arrival – and where has it not already arrived, venerable brothers? – of the propaganda of such evil doctrines and its even more wicked influence. (Pius XI. Allocution Iterum vos, March 13, 1933, Acta Apostilicae Sedis 25 (1933), pp. 12-13)
The doctrine of modern Communism, which is often concealed under the most seductive trappings, is in substance based on the principles of dialectical and historical materialism previously advocated by Marx, of which the theoricians of bolshevism claim to possess the only genuine interpretation. […] In such a doctrine, as is evident, there is no room for the idea of God; there is no difference between matter and spirit, between soul and body; there is neither survival of the soul after death nor any hope in a future life. Insisting on the dialectical aspect of their materialism, the Communists claim that the conflict which carries the world towards its final synthesis can be accelerated by man. Hence they endeavor to sharpen the antagonisms which arise between the various classes of society. Thus the class struggle with its consequent violent hate and destruction takes on the aspects of a crusade for the progress of humanity. On the other hand, all other forces whatever, as long as they resist such systematic violence, must be annihilated as hostile to the human race. (Pius XI. Encyclical Divini Redemptoris, no. 9, March 19, 1937)
To priests in a special way We recommend anew the oft-repeated counsel of Our Predecessor, Leo XIII, to go to the workingman. We make this advice Our own, and faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ and His Church, We thus complete it: ‘Go to the workingman, especially where he is poor; and in general, go to the poor.’ The poor are obviously more exposed than others to the wiles of agitators who, taking advantage of their extreme need, kindle their hearts to envy of the rich and urge them to seize by force what fortune seems to have denied them unjustly. If the priest will not go to the workingman and to the poor, to warn them or to disabuse them of prejudice and false theory, they will become an easy prey for the apostles of Communism. (Pius XI. Encyclical Divini Redemptoris, no. 61, March 19, 1937)
In a people worthy of this name, the citizen feels within himself the awareness of his personality, of his duties and his rights, of his own liberty united to the respect for the liberty and the dignity of others. In a people worthy of this name, all of the inequalities, which have their origin not in the arbitrary, but rather from the very nature of things, inequalities of culture, wealth, social position – without injury, obviously, to justice and mutual charity – do not constitute, in reality, any obstacle for the existence and prevalence of an authentic spirit of community and fraternity. Moreover, these natural inequalities, far from undermining in any way civil equality, confer to it its legitimate meaning, that is, as regards the State, each citizen has the right to live his own personal life with dignity in the position and conditions in which the designs and the dispositions of Providence have placed him. (Pius XII. Radio message Benignitas et humanitatis for Christmas, December 24, 1944)
In the second place it is necessary that you truly feel as brothers. This is not a mere guise: you are truly children of God and therefore you are truly brothers. Now, brothers are not born nor do they remain all equal: some are strong, others weak, some intelligent, others incapable; perhaps one is abnormal, and it could also happen that one become unworthy. It is therefore inevitable that there exist a certain material, intellectual and moral inequality, even within the same family. But, as nothing – not even contingencies, nor the use of free will – can destroy paternity and maternity, in the same way there should be intangibly and effectively maintained, within the limits of the just and possible, fraternity among the sons of the same father and mother. Apply this to your parish, which We desire to see transformed into a truly great family. To expect the absolute equality of all would be the same as seeking to give identical functions to the diverse members of a single organism. That said, it is necessary to make this fraternity work amongst yourselves, for it is only when you love one another, that men will recognize that you are a Christianly renovated parish. (Pius XII. Speech to a group of parishioners from Marsciano, Perusa, June 4, 1953)
We have just referred to the preoccupations of those who participate in industrial production. Erroneous and fateful in its consequences is the prejudice, unfortunately very widespread, that sees in it an irreducible opposition of divergent interests. The opposition is only apparent. In the economic dominion there exists a community of activities and of interests between the managers and the workers. To ignore this reciprocal link, to work to rupture it, cannot be anything other than the result of the pretension of blind and irrational despotism. Company managers and workers are not irreconcilable enemies. They are cooperators in a common task. They eat, we could say, at the same table, for in the end they live from the net and global utilities of the national economy. Each one of them receives his part, and under this aspect, the reciprocal relations do not put in any manner, one at the service of the other. (Pius XII. Speech to the International Union of Catholic Associations, no. 2, May 7, 1949)
The harmonious unity which must be sought among peoples and nations also needs ever greater improvement among the various classes of individuals. Otherwise mutual antagonism and conflict can result, as we have already seen. And the next step brings rioting mobs, wanton destruction of property, and sometimes even bloodshed. Meanwhile public and private resources diminish and are stretched to the danger point.
On this point Pope Leo XIII made apt and appropriate comment: ‘God has commanded that there be differences of classes in the human community and that these classes, by friendly cooperation, work out a fair and mutual adjustment of their interests’ (Letter Permoti Nos, 1895). For it is quite clear that ‘as the symmetry of the human frame results from suitable arrangement of the various parts of the body, so in a body politic it is ordained by nature that… the classes should dwell in harmony and agreement, so as to maintain the balance of the body politic. Each needs the other: capital cannot do without labor, nor labor without capital. Their mutual agreement will result in the splendor of right order’ (Encyclical Rerum novarum, 1891). Anyone, therefore, who ventures to deny that there are differences among social classes contradicts the very laws of nature. Indeed, whoever opposes peaceful and necessary cooperation among the social classes is attempting, beyond doubt, to disrupt and divide human society; he menaces and does serious injury to private interests and the public welfare. As Our predecessor, Pius XII wisely said, ‘In a nation that is worthy of the name, inequalities among the social classes present few or no obstacles to their union in common brotherhood. We refer, of course, to those inequalities which result not from human caprice but from the nature of things—inequalities having to do with intellectual and spiritual growth, with economic facts, with differences in individual circumstances, within, of course, the limits prescribed by justice and mutual charity’ (Christmas Message, 1944). (John XXIII. Encyclical Ad Petri cathedram, no.36-39, June 29, 1959)
While, through the concrete existing form of Marxism, one can distinguish these various aspects and the questions they pose for the reflection and activity of Christians, it would be illusory and dangerous to reach a point of forgetting the intimate link which radically binds them together, to accept the elements of Marxist analysis without recognizing their relationships with ideology, and to enter into the practice of class struggle and its Marxist interpretations, while failing to note the kind of totalitarian and violent society to which this process leads. (Paul VI. Apostolic letter Octogesima Adveniens, no. 34, May 14, 1971)
And then we have the sixth axiom, which is the most disputed and complex. The Church does not adhere and cannot adhere to the social, ideological and political movements, which, taking their origin and strength from Marxism, have conserved its principles and negative methods, for an incomplete notion – proper to radical Marxism, and therefore false – of man, of history, of the world. Atheism, which it professes and promotes, is not in favor of the scientific conception of the universe and civilization, but rather consists in a blindness, from which man and society end up undergoing the gravest consequences in the long run. Materialism, which results from it, exposes man to experiences and temptations that are extremely harmful; extinguishes his authentic spirituality and his transcendent hope. (Paul VI. Homily to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Rerum Novarum, May 22, 1966)
Class struggle, erected within a system, violates and impedes social peace; and fatally leads to violence and to oppression, therefore in the abolition of liberty, conducing then to the instauration of a highly authoritarian and bluntly totalitarian system. With this, the Church does not neglect any of the opportunities for justice and toward the progress of the working class; and let it be again affirmed that n the Church, rectifying these errors and these deviations, does not exclude from its love any man or any worker. A known fact, therefore – inclusively through an existing historic experience that does not permit illusions but rather painful experience – is that through the ideological pressure and practices that they [Marxists] exert in the world of work, where they pretend to interpret the aspirations and promote grievances, generating in this way great difficulties and divisions. We do not wish to dispute now, but rather remember that the same word, which today, you Christian Workers, give testimony of honor and gratitude, is that which adverts us to not put our confidence in false and dangerous ideologies. (Paul VI. Homily to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Rerum Novarum, May 22, 1966)
There have not been lacking cases in which this option [for the poor] has brought on a politicization of the consecrated life, not exempting violent and partisan options, with the manipulation of people and institutions for purposes absolutely foreign to the mission of the Church. It is therefore necessary to recall what was said in the Instruction Libertatis conscientia: ‘The special option for the poor, far from being a sign of particularism or sectarianism, manifests the universality of the Church’s being and mission. This option excludes no one. This is the reason why the Church cannot express this option by means of reductive sociological and ideological categories which would make this preference an option of a partisan and of a conflictual character’ (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation, no. 68) (John Paul II. Apostolic letter to the Religious of Latin America on the V Centenary evangelization of the New World, June 29, 1990)
Christian charitable activity must be independent of parties and ideologies. It is not a means of changing the world ideologically, and it is not at the service of worldly stratagems, but it is a way of making present here and now the love which man always needs. The modern age, particularly from the nineteenth century on, has been dominated by various versions of a philosophy of progress whose most radical form is Marxism. Part of Marxist strategy is the theory of impoverishment: in a situation of unjust power, it is claimed, anyone who engages in charitable initiatives is actually serving that unjust system, making it appear at least to some extent tolerable. This in turn slows down a potential revolution and thus blocks the struggle for a better world. Seen in this way, charity is rejected and attacked as a means of preserving the status quo. (Benedict XVI. Encyclical Deus Caritas est, December 25, 2005)
Impatience and a desire for results has led certain Christians, despairing of every other method, to turn to what they call ‘marxist analysis.’ Their reasoning is this: an intolerable and explosive situation requires ‘effective action’ which cannot be put off. Effective action presupposes a ‘scientific analysis’ of the structural causes of poverty. Marxism now provides us with the means to make such an analysis, they say. Then one simply has to apply the analysis to the third-world situation, especially in Latin America. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on certain aspects of the ‘Theology of Liberation’, Ch. VII, no. 1-2, August 6, 1984)
It is not the ‘fact’ of social stratification with all its inequity and injustice, but the ‘theory’ of class struggle as the fundamental law of history which has been accepted by these ‘theologies of liberation’ as a principle. The conclusion is drawn that the class struggle thus understood divides the Church herself, and that in light of this struggle even ecclesial realities must be judged. The claim is even made that it would be maintaining an illusion with bad faith to propose that love in its universality can conquer what is the primary structural law of capitalism. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on certain aspects of the “Theology of Liberation”, Ch. VII, no. 2, August 6, 1984)
According to this conception, [Marxist] the class struggle is the driving force of history. History thus becomes a central notion. It will be affirmed that God Himself makes history. It will be added that there is only one history, one in which the distinction between the history of salvation and profane history is no longer necessary. To maintain the distinction would be to fall into ‘dualism’. Affirmations such as this reflect historicist immanentism. Thus there is a tendency to identify the kingdom of God and its growth with the human liberation movement, and to make history itself the subject of its own development, as a process of the self-redemption of man by means of the class struggle. This identification is in opposition to the faith of the Church, as it has been reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council. (Lumen Gentium, n.9-17) (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on certain aspects of the ‘Theology of Liberation’, Ch. IX, no. 3, August 6, 1984)
Along these lines, some go so far as to identify God Himself with history and to define faith as ‘fidelity to history’, which means adhering to a political policy which is suited to the growth of humanity, conceived as a purely temporal messianism. As a consequence, faith, hope, and charity are given a new content: they become ‘fidelity to history’, ‘confidence in the future’, and ‘option for the poor.’ This is tantamount to saying they have been emptied of their theological reality. A radical politicization of faith’s affirmations and of theological judgments follows inevitably from this new conception. The question no longer has to do with simply drawing attention to the consequences and political implications of the truths of faith, which are respected beforehand for their transcendent value. In this new system, every affirmation of faith or of theology is subordinated to a political criterion, which in turn depends on the class struggle, the driving force of history. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on certain aspects of the ‘Theology of Liberation’, Ch. IX, nos. 4-6, August 6, 1984)
As a result, participation in the class struggle is presented as a requirement of charity itself. The desire to love everyone here and now, despite his class, and to go out to meet him with the non-violent means of dialogue and persuasion, is denounced as counterproductive and opposed to love. If one holds that a person should not be the object of hate, it is claimed nevertheless that, if he belongs to the objective class of the rich, he is primarily a class enemy to be fought. Thus the universality of love of neighbor and brotherhood become an eschatological principle, which will only have meaning for the ‘new man’, who arises out of the victorious revolution. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on certain aspects of the ‘Theology of Liberation’, Ch. IX, no. 7, August 6, 1984)
But the ‘theologies of liberation’, which reserve credit for restoring to a place of honor the great texts of the prophets and of the Gospel in defense of the poor, go on to a disastrous confusion between the ‘poor’ of the Scripture and the ‘proletariat’ of Marx. In this way they pervert the Christian meaning of the poor, and they transform the fight for the rights of the poor into a class fight within the ideological perspective of the class struggle. For them the ‘Church of the poor’ signifies the Church of the class which has become aware of the requirements of the revolutionary struggle as a step toward liberation and which celebrates this liberation in its liturgy. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on certain aspects of the “Theology of Liberation”, Ch. IX, no. 10, August 6, 1984)
But the ‘theologies of liberation’ of which we are speaking, mean by ‘Church of the People’ a Church of the class, a Church of the oppressed people whom it is necessary to ‘conscientize’ in the light of the organized struggle for freedom. For some, the people, thus understood, even become the object of faith. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on certain aspects of the ‘Theology of Liberation’, Ch. IX, no. 12, August 6, 1984)
II – Economic failure and oppression: typical fruits of communism and socialism
At the very beginning of Our pontificate We clearly pointed out what the peril was which confronted society on this head, and We deemed it Our duty to warn Catholics, in unmistakable language, how great the error was which was lurking in the utterances of socialism, and how great the danger was that threatened not only their temporal possessions, but also their morality and religion. That was the purpose of Our encyclical letter Quod Apostolici Muneris which We published on the 28th of December in the year 1878. (Leon XIII. Encyclical Graves de communi, January 18, 1901)
Your paternal solicitude should care with singular attention, for the industrial workers as well as the farmers; they are the predilect of Our heart because they are in a social situation that Our Lord chose for himself during his earthly life, and because the conditions of their material life subject them to greater sufferings, since they are often deprived of the sufficient means for a worthy life of a Christian and of that tranquility of spirit which is born of a secure future. In their great majority, they unfortunately lack the spiritual and moral comforts that could sustain them in their anguish.
Moreover, their situation exposes them to be more easily accessible to those whose doctrines claim, of course, to be inspired for the good of the worker and of the humble in general, but which are full of fateful errors, since they combat the Christian Faith – which assures the bases of rights and of social justice – and reject the spirit of fraternity and charity inculcated by the Gospel, which is the only element that can guarantee a sincere collaboration among the classes. On the other hand, such communist doctrines, founded upon pure materialism and the uncontrolled desire for earthly goods – as though they were capable of fully satisfying man – and because they absolutely forego the eternal goal, in practice they have shown to be full of illusions and incapable of giving the worker a true and lasting material and spiritual wellbeing. (Pius XI. Apostolic letter, January 18, 1939, Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 1942)
The social revolution boasts of elevating the working class to power: a vain affirmation and mere appearance of an impossible reality! In fact you observe that the working people remain tied, subjugated and constrained by the might of capitalism of the State; which compresses and subdues everything, the family no less than the conscience, transforming workers into a giant machine of work. No differently from other systems and social orders, that it claims to combat, it concentrates, organizes and constrains all into a terrible instrument of war, that demands not only blood and health, but also the goods and prosperity of the people. And if the chiefs go haughtily after this or that advantage or betterment obtained in the ambit of work – agitating it and spreading it with noisy bragging – such a material advantage can never be a worthy recompense for the renunciation imposed on each one, that injure the rights of the person, liberty in the direction of the family, in the exercise of the profession, in the condition of citizen, and especially in the practice of religion and ultimately in the life of conscience. No, your salvation is not in the revolution, dear sons and daughters; and it is against an authentic and sincere Christian profession, the propensity – of thinking only of your own benefit and material advantage, that seems, nonetheless, each time more uncertain – toward a revolution that proceeds from injustice and civil insubordination, and to be sadly guilty of the blood of co-citizens and the destruction of common goods. (Paul XII. Address to the representation of the workers of Italy, June 13, 1943)
Be it through the ability with which it masks its tactic and hides its strategy, be it due to the fear that it has known how to instill, as well as for the hope that it has awakened. Atheistic Marxism has penetrated among you and is still very firm in its position. Our heart is upset and tears come to Our eyes each time that we ask how is it possible that there still exists such consent and so much obstinacy within a considerable part of the best groups of workers. Is it possible that in this point nothing is able to open their eyes, nothing serves to move their hearts? They wish to remain with the enemies of God, they wish to strengthen the ranks, cooperating, in this way, to worsen the chaos of the modern world. Why? Individuals and people have wished to lead them along the evil path, for they have promised a better distribution of goods, proclaiming at the same time a desire to save liberty, protect the family, assuring that the people will have power, the workers the factories and the peasants the earth. And if, on the contrary, after having sown hatred, provoked subversion and fomented discord, they arrive at power, they impoverish the poor and make terror reign. This is what is happening these days among the distressed Hungarian people, as documented by the evidence of blood, which shows with the evidence of blood how far those who hate God can go. (Pius XII. Discourse to a pilgrimage of workers from Terni, no. 2, November 18, 1956)
In the Christmas radio message last year we presented the Church’s thought regarding this theme and now we intend to confirm it still once more. We reject communism as a social system in virtue of Christian doctrine, and we should particularly affirm the foundations of natural law. For the same reason, we equally reject the opinion that the Christian should see communism today as a phenomenon or a phase in the course of history, as an almost necessary evolutive ‘moment’ of the same and, consequently, accept it as decreed by Divine Providence. (Pius XII. Christmas radio message, Col cuore aperto, December 24, 1955)
COMMUNISM: a failed utopia.
CAPITALISM: at the level of its basic principles is conformed to natural law, and so according to social doctrine of the Church, though its abuses are condemnable.
THE THIRD WAY between Communism and Capitalism: another utopia
Q: You once told the Polish to ‘seek a path hitherto unexplored’. Is this a call for a third way between capitalism and socialism?
A: I fear that this third way is another utopia. On one hand, we have communism which is a utopia that, put into practice, has proved to be a tragic failure. On the other hand, there is capitalism which in its practical dimension, at the level of its basic principles is acceptable according to social doctrine of the Church, as it conforms in various aspects to natural law. This is the opinion expressed by Pope Leo XIII. Unfortunately, abuses take place — diverse forms of injustice, exploitation, violence and arrogance — that some make of this practice, which is in itself acceptable, and then we arrive at a form of brutal capitalism. The abuses of capitalism are to be condemned. (John Paul II. Interview with the journalist Jas Gawronski, published in “La Stampa”, November 2, 1993)
We have a long and painful history behind us, and feel the overwhelming need to look ahead to the future. Historical memory, however, must accompany us, because we can treasure the experience of these endless decades, in which inclusively your country [Lithuania] has felt the weight of an iron dictatorship that in the name of justice and equality, violated the freedom and dignity of individuals and of civil society. How could this happen? The analysis would be complex. However, it seems that among no lesser of the important reasons is the militant atheism in which Marxism was inspired: an atheism offensive inclusively to man, by taking away the most sold foundation and guarantee of his dignity. To this error others are added such as the materialistic concept of history, a harshly conflicting vision of society, the ‘messianic’ role attributed to the single political party, lord of the State. Everything converges so that this system, born of the presumption of freeing man, ends up making him a slave. (John Paul II. Speech to the academic and intellectual world, University of Vilnius, Lithuania, September 5, 1993)
What for years was impossible, today has become reality. What elements contributed and contribute to explain the point to which we have arrived? ‘Warsaw, Moscow, Budapest, Berlin, Prague, Sofia, Bucharest, to name only the Capitals, have become almost like the steps of a pilgrimage to freedom’ (Speech to the Diplomatic Corps, January 13, 1990). Apparently, it all started with the economic collapse. This was the land chosen to build a new world, a new man, guided by the prospect of wellbeing; but with an existential project severely limited to the earthly horizon. This hope was a tragic utopia, because some essential aspects of the human person were neglected and denied: his uniqueness, the fact of being unrepeatable, his irrepressible yearning for freedom and truth, and his inability to feel happiness when excluding a transcendent relationship with God. This dimension of the person may be denied for a certain time, but not perennially rejected. The pretension of building a world without God has proven illusory. And it could not be otherwise! Only the timing and modality [of this proof] remained unknown. The suffering of the persecuted for justice (cf. Mt 5:10), the solidarity of all those who have united in the commitment to the dignity of man, the desire for the supernatural inherent in the human soul, and the prayer of the righteous contributed to help return to the path of freedom in the truth. (John Paul II. Speech at the Welcoming Ceremony at Prague International Airport, April 21, 1990)
The course of world history itself is showing the fallacy of the solutions proposed by Marxism. This theoretical and pragmatic system methodically exacerbates divisions among people, and pretends to resolve the human questions within a horizon that is closed to the transcendent. In the opposite regard, the contemporary experience of the more developed countries reveals other serious defects: a vision of life based only on material well being and a selfish freedom that thinks it is unlimited. By their contrast these considerations offer dear directions for your future. There is no true progress without the integral truth about the human being, which Christians know is found only in Christ. Certainly we should want prosperity combined with the necessary overcoming of economic and cultural diversity and the total integration of all the regions of our vast geography in a broad program of progress and development. However, all this will be fragile and precarious if it is not combined with a deeper Christianization of our earth. (John Paul II. Speech to the President of the Republic of Chile, April 22, 1991)
Marxism had seen world revolution and its preliminaries as the panacea for the social problem: revolution and the subsequent collectivization of the means of production, so it was claimed, would immediately change things for the better. This illusion has vanished. In today’s complex situation, not least because of the growth of a globalized economy, the Church’s social doctrine has become a set of fundamental guidelines offering approaches that are valid even beyond the confines of the Church: in the face of ongoing development these guidelines need to be addressed in the context of dialogue with all those seriously concerned for humanity and for the world in which we live. (Benedict XVI. Encyclical Deus caritas est, no. 27, December 25, 2005)
A major fact of our time ought to evoke the reflection of all those who would sincerely work for the true liberation of their brothers: millions of our own contemporaries legitimately yearn to recover those basic freedoms of which they were deprived by totalitarian and atheistic regimes which came to power by violent and revolutionary means, precisely in the name of the liberation of the people. This shame of our time cannot be ignored: while claiming to bring them freedom, these regimes keep whole nations in conditions of servitude which are unworthy of mankind. Those who, perhaps inadvertently, make themselves accomplices of similar enslavements betray the very poor they mean to help. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Instruction on certain aspects of the ‘Theology of Liberation’, Ch. XI, no. 10, August 6, 1984)
III – Illusions, utopias and fantasies of a ‘better world’ are always propagated by Marxists, Socialists and Communists
This lamentable moral consternation was the seed of restlessness within the popular classes, discontent and rebelliousness in spirits; consequently the agitations and frequent disorders, that were the prelude of graver storms. The miserable conditions of such a great part of the population, certainly worthy of redemption and of remedy, consequently served admirably for the intents of the expert agitators, and especially of the socialist factions, who, by means of foolish promises to the people advanced toward the fulfillment of the most criminal proposals. (Leo XIII. Apostolic Letter, Annum ingressi, Acte Sancta Sedis, 34, 1901-1902, p.520)
To remedy these wrongs the socialists, working on the poor man’s envy of the rich, 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. They are, moreover, emphatically unjust, for they would rob the lawful possessor, distort the functions of the State, and create utter confusion in the community. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Rerum novarum, no. 4, May 15, 1891)
Hence we have reached the limit of horrors, to wit, communism, socialism, nihilism, hideous deformities of the civil society of men and almost its ruin. And yet too many attempt to enlarge the scope of these evils, and under the pretext of helping the multitude, already have fanned no small flames of misery. The things we thus mention are neither unknown nor very remote from us. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Diuturnum illud, no. 17, June 29, 1881)
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. Whilst He called to Himself in order to comfort them, those who toiled and suffered, it was not to preach to them the jealousy of a chimerical equality. Whilst He lifted up the lowly, it was not to instill in them the sentiment of a dignity independent from, and rebellious against, the duty of obedience. Whilst His heart overflowed with gentleness for the souls of good-will, He could also arm Himself with holy indignation against the profaners of the House of God, against the wretched men who scandalized the little ones, against the authorities who crush the people with the weight of heavy burdens without putting out a hand to lift them. He was as strong as he was gentle. He reproved, threatened, chastised, knowing, and teaching us that fear is the beginning of wisdom, and that it is sometimes proper for a man to cut off an offending limb to save his body. Finally, He did not announce for future society the reign of an ideal happiness from which suffering would be banished; but, by His lessons and by His example, He traced the path of the happiness which is possible on earth and of the perfect happiness in heaven: the royal way of the Cross. These are teachings that it would be wrong to apply only to one’s personal life in order to win eternal salvation; these are eminently social teachings, and they show in Our Lord Jesus Christ something quite different from an inconsistent and impotent humanitarianism. (Pius X. Apostolic letter Notre Charge Apostolique, August 15, 1910)
Let not these priests be misled, in the maze of current opinions, by the miracles of a false Democracy. Let them not borrow from the Rhetoric of the worst enemies of the Church and of the people, the high-flown phrases, full of promises; which are as high-sounding as unattainable. Let them be convinced that the social question and social science did not arise only yesterday; that the Church and the State, at all times and in happy concert, have raised up fruitful organizations to this end; that the Church, which has never betrayed the happiness of the people by consenting to dubious alliances, does not have to free herself from the past; that all that is needed is to take up again, with the help of the true workers for a social restoration, the organisms which the Revolution shattered, and to adapt them, in the same Christian spirit that inspired them, to the new environment arising from the material development of today’s society. Indeed, the true friends of the people are neither revolutionaries, nor innovators: they are traditionalists. (Pius X. Apostolic letter Notre Charge Apostolique, August 15, 1910)
As such, we insistently beseech the citizens of Bergamo in the name of their special affection and adhesion toward this Apostolic See, that they do not allow themselves to the fooled by the charms of those who with fallacious promises intend to tear away from their hearts the avidity of the faith in order to stir them on to brutal violence and devastation. Neither with violence nor with disorder is the cause of justice and truth defended, because these are arms which end up wound above all those who employ them. (Benedict XV. Letter Soliti Nos, March 11, 1920)
So, may the workers continue faithful to the teachings of the Church, even though it seems to give less than the adversaries, for it doesn’t offer excessive and deceitful things, but only just and lasting things. Workers should remember that though the Church is the mother of all, towards them, as we have said, she has a predilection; and that, if at times she defends the rich, she doesn’t defend them inasmuch as they are rich, but rather because they have been unjustly assailed. In a similar manner, the rich must obey the Church, confiding in her maternal affection and her impartiality. (Benedict XV. Letter Intelleximus ex iis, June 14, 1920)
How is it possible that such a system, long since rejected scientifically and now proved erroneous by experience, how is it, We ask, that such a system could spread so rapidly in all parts of the world? The explanation lies in the fact that too few have been able to grasp the nature of Communism. The majority instead succumb to its deception, skillfully concealed by the most extravagant promises. By pretending to desire only the betterment of the condition of the working classes, by urging the removal of the very real abuses chargeable to the liberalistic economic order, and by demanding a more equitable distribution of this world’s goods (objectives entirely and undoubtedly legitimate), the Communist takes advantage of the present world-wide economic crisis to draw into the sphere of his influence even those sections of the populace which on principle reject all forms of materialism and terrorism. And as every error contains its element of truth, the partial truths to which We have referred are astutely presented according to the needs of time and place, to conceal, when convenient, the repulsive crudity and inhumanity of Communistic principles and tactics. Thus the Communist ideal wins over many of the better minded members of the community. These in turn become the apostles of the movement among the younger intelligentsia who are still too immature to recognize the intrinsic errors of the system. The preachers of Communism are also proficient in exploiting racial antagonisms and political divisions and oppositions. They take advantage of the lack of orientation characteristic of modern agnostic science in order to burrow into the universities, where they bolster up the principles of their doctrine with pseudo-scientific arguments. (Pius XI. Encyclical Divini Redemptoris, no. 15, March 19, 1937)
On this point We have already insisted in Our Allocution of May 12th of last year, but We believe it to be a duty of special urgency, Venerable Brethren, to call your attention to it once again. In the beginning Communism showed itself for what it was in all its perversity; but very soon it realized that it was thus alienating the people. It has therefore changed its tactics, and strives to entice the multitudes by trickery of various forms, hiding its real designs behind ideas that in themselves are good and attractive. Thus, aware of the universal desire for peace, the leaders of Communism pretend to be the most zealous promoters and propagandists in the movement for world amity. Yet at the same time they stir up a class-warfare which causes rivers of blood to flow, and, realizing that their system offers no internal guarantee of peace, they have recourse to unlimited armaments. Under various names which do not suggest Communism, they establish organizations and periodicals with the sole purpose of carrying their ideas into quarters otherwise inaccessible. They try perfidiously to worm their way even into professedly Catholic and religious organizations. 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. (Pius XI. Encyclical Divini Redemptoris, no. 57, March 19, 1937)
But the poor too, in their turn, while engaged, according to the laws of charity and justice, in acquiring the necessities of life and also in bettering their condition, should always remain ‘poor in spirit’ (Mt 5: 3), and hold spiritual goods in higher esteem than earthly property and pleasures. Let them remember that the world will never be able to rid itself of misery, sorrow and tribulation, which are the portion even of those who seem most prosperous. (Pius XI. Encyclical Divini Redemptoris, no. 45, March 19, 1937)
The Church, custodian and teacher of truth, while asserting and courageously proposing the rights of the working people, on repeated occasions, combating error, has had to take care to not be fooled by the illusions of the specious and vain theories of future well-being and the deceitful solicitations and enticements of the false masters of social prosperity, who call the good bad, and the bad good and, boasting of being the friendship of the people, do not permit between capital and work and between the employers and the worker, those mutual agreements that maintain and promote social harmony and the progress for the common good. You have already heard these friends of the people, in the squares, in the strongholds, in the congresses; you know of the promises contained in their pamphlets; you have listened to their songs and hymns; but by such words, when have the facts ever answered or have the hopes smiled with reality? Falsities and disillusions have tasted from them and still taste both individuals and the people, who lent them their faith and followed them by paths which, far from improving, worsened and deteriorated life conditions and material and moral progress. These false pastors insinuate that salvation should emerge from a revolution, which changes the social consistency or is clothed in nationalist character. (Paul XII. Address to the representation of the workers of Italy, June 13, 1943)
The State does not contain in itself and does not mechanically unite within a determined territory, an amorphous agglomeration of individuals. It is, and in reality should be, the organic and organizing unity of a true people. People and amorphous multitude, or, as is often said, masses, are two different concepts. The people live and act with a life of their own; the mass is of itself inert and cannot act if not from exterior influence. The people live of the plenitude of the life of the individuals, each one of which —in his own place and own way— is a person aware of his own responsibility and of his own convictions. The masses, on the contrary, await the exterior impulse, and are an easy plaything in the hands of anyone who knows how to take advantage of their instincts and impressions; ready to follow, time and again, today this, tomorrow that other flag. From the exuberance of the life of a true people, life is diffused, abundant and rich, for the State and in all of its organs, instilling in them, with an incessantly renovated vigor, the awareness of its own responsibility, of the true sense of the common good. From the elementary strength of the masses, easily managed and taken advantage of, the State can also be served: in the ambitious hands of only one or of many, whom egoistic tendencies have artificially brought together, the State itself can —with the support of the masses, reduced to nothing other than a simple machine— impose its caprice on the better part of the true people; common interest is consequently gravely injured during a long time period, and the wound is frequently very difficult to heal. From this, another conclusion clearly follows: the masses, as We have now defined them, are the capital enemy of true democracy and of its ideal of liberty and equality. (Pius XII. Radio Message Benignitas et humanitas no. 2, Christmas, 1944)
Participating, as a priest, bishop and Cardinal, within the life of numerous university youth, within youth groups, during excursions through the mountains, in circles of reflection and prayer, I learned that a youth begins to age dangerously when he lets himself be tricked by the easy and comfortable principle that ‘the end justifies the means’; when he starts believing that the only hope to improve society is to promote conflict and hatred between social groups, in the utopia of a society without classes, that soon reveals itself as the creator of new classes. I became convinced that only love brings together that which is different and brings about unity in diversity. The words of Christ ‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you’ (Jn 13: 34), then seemed to me, beyond their incomparable theological profundity, to be the seed and principle of the only radical transformation to be appreciated by a young person. The seed and principle of the only revolution that does not betray man. Only true love erects. (John Paul II. Mass for Brazilian youth in Belo Horizonte, July 1, 1980)
There have been cases in which an erroneous interpretation of the problem of the poor in a Marxist key ‘has led to a misconception and an anomalous praxis of the option for the poor and the vow of poverty’, which becomes devoid of significance by the lack of reference to the poverty of Christ and disconnected from the measure which is theological life. Consecrated life must be, therefore, firmly entrenched in the theological virtues, so that faith does not give in to the mirage of ideology, hope is not confused with utopias, universal charity, which reaches the limit of love of enemies, does not succumb to the temptation of violence. (John Paul II. Apostolic letter to the men and women Religious of Latin America on the V Centenary of the evangelization of the New World, no. 20, June 29, 1990)
The backflow of atheistic Marxism-Leninism, as a totalitarian political system in Europe is far from resolving the tragedies caused in these three quarters of a century. All who have been affected by this totalitarian system in one way or another, its leaders and supporters as well as its most staunch adversaries, have become its victims. Those who have sacrificed their family, their energies and their dignity to the communist utopia are beginning to realize they have been dragged into a lie that has deeply wounded human nature. Others have found a freedom for which they were unprepared and the use of such remains hypothetical, since they live in precarious political, social and economic conditions and are experiencing a confused cultural situation, with a sanguinary reawakening of nationalist rivalries. In its conclusion the pre-Synod Symposium asked: to where and to whom will those whose utopian hopes have recently evaporated turn to? The spiritual void that threatens society is above all a cultural void. It is the moral conscience, renewed by the Gospel of Christ, which can truly fulfill it. (John Paul II. Speech to the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Culture, January 10, 1992)
Vatican Council II, recalling the text of the First Letter of Saint John that we mentioned here, shows us the dynamism of evangelization in the words of Saint Augustine, in which he stresses that love should guide the whole process of evangelization, so that the whole world, by the proclamation of salvation, may by listening, believe, and by believing hope, and by hoping, love. Faith that is based on Revelation and the Magisterium of the Church preserves evangelization from the temptation of human utopias: Christian hope does not confuse salvation with ideologies of any kind; charity, that must encourage the work of evangelization, preserves the evangelical proclamation from the temptation of pure strategy of a social transformation or sudden violence that leads to class struggle. (John Paul II. Letter on the occasion of the XV General Ordinary Assembly of the Conference for the Religious of Brazil, July 11, 1989)
This message of Divine Mercy, the message of the Merciful Christ, came from this land, also passing through your city, and went spreading worldwide. This message has prepared entire generations so that they can confront the very great injustice organized on behalf of a destructive utopia that would have achieved on earth ‘the paradise of absolute justice.’ (John Paul II. Homily during the Beatification of Mother Boleslawa Lament, June 5, 1991)
A common sentiment that seems to dominate the great human family today. All wonder what future must be built on peace and solidarity, in this transition from one cultural era to another. The great ideologies have shown their failure in the face of the harsh trail of events. Systems, that auto-proclaimed themselves to be a scientific social renovation, or even the redemption of man by himself, myths of man’s fulfillment by means of revolution, have been revealed to the eyes of the world for what they were: tragic utopias which entailed a regression without precedent in the tormented history of humanity. In the midst of their brethren, the heroic resistance of Christian communities against inhuman totalitarianism has aroused admiration. Today’s world rediscovers that, far from being the opium of the people, faith in Christ is the best guarantee and the stimulus of their liberty. (John Paul II. Speech to the participants of the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Counsel for Culture, no. 2, January 12, 1990)
With great precision, albeit with a certain onesided bias, Marx described the situation of his time, and with great analytical skill he spelled out the paths leading to revolution—and not only theoretically: by means of the Communist Party that came into being from the Communist Manifesto of 1848, he set it in motion. His promise, owing to the acuteness of his analysis and his clear indication of the means for radical change, was and still remains an endless source of fascination. Real revolution followed, in the most radical way in Russia. Together with the victory of the revolution, though, Marx’s fundamental error also became evident. He showed precisely how to overthrow the existing order, but he did not say how matters should proceed thereafter. He simply presumed that with the expropriation of the ruling class, with the fall of political power and the socialization of means of production, the new Jerusalem would be realized. Then, indeed, all contradictions would be resolved, man and the world would finally sort themselves out. Then everything would be able to proceed by itself along the right path, because everything would belong to everyone and all would desire the best for one another. Thus, having accomplished the revolution, Lenin must have realized that the writings of the master gave no indication as to how to proceed. True, Marx had spoken of the interim phase of the dictatorship of the proletariat as a necessity which in time would automatically become redundant. This ‘intermediate phase’ we know all too well, and we also know how it then developed, not ushering in a perfect world, but leaving behind a trail of appalling destruction. Marx not only omitted to work out how this new world would be organized—which should, of course, have been unnecessary. His silence on this matter follows logically from his chosen approach. His error lay deeper. He forgot that man always remains man. He forgot man and he forgot man’s freedom. He forgot that freedom always remains also freedom for evil. He thought that once the economy had been put right, everything would automatically be put right. His real error is materialism: man, in fact, is not merely the product of economic conditions, and it is not possible to redeem him purely from the outside by creating a favourable economic environment. (Benedict XVI. Encyclical Spes salve, no. 20-21, November 30, 2007)