‘You will be like gods’ (Gen 3:5). When Eve fell into the temptation proposed by the serpent in the Garden of Eden, there were immediate and disastrous consequences for our first parents: expulsion from Paradise, loss of supernatural and preternatural gifts, and a life of suffering. The pretension of being ‘equal to God’ was the cause of all the evils that exist in the world. This same temptation is repeated in man’s interior even today. The illusion of not having superiors incites man to believe that tranquility comes from a total equality of wealth, position and responsibilities.
The Church, as a Mother, has never been indifferent to the needs of the poorest. Institutes of charity, born of her inexhaustible bounty, were dedicated not only to feeding those in need, but even more, to making them feel loved and appreciated. The Church has always instructed the prosperous to practice generosity, using their wealth to assist their neighbor. This concern of the superior for the inferior created mutual esteem and harmony between the different social classes, classes that were not closed in on themselves, but rather in continuous relations. Those benefited were thankful for the help received from the wealthier, and desired their prosperity, while the latter, in turn, were moved to grant more favors due to the affection and gratitude expressed. In conclusion: where fraternal love reigns, justice exists, for everyone receives what he deserves. And where justice exists, solid peace is established. However, a fraternal love whereby some sacrifice themselves for others can only come from the love of God. On the contrary, when everyone wants to be equal, egoism reigns and we are led to ask: what is the true cause of injustice? What does the Church teach regarding social equality? Is radical equality really the solution to obtain peace?
[Francis:] This question can be answered in two ways: we are all equal — everyone! — but this truth is not acknowledged, this equality is not acknowledged, and therefore some are — let’s say the word, but between quotation marks — happier than others. But this is not a right! We all have the same rights! When this is not acknowledged, that society is unjust. It isn’t based on justice. And where there is no justice, there can be no peace. Do you understand? Let’s say it together, let’s see if you are good, I would like to repeat it more than once…. Pay attention, it’s like this: “Where there is no justice, there is no peace!”… Everyone! [They repeat several times: “Where there is no justice, there is no peace!”] (Address to children of Italian schools participating in the encounter promoted by ‘La Fabbrica della Pace’, May 11, 2015)
Teachings of the Magisterium
Enter the various parts of our study
I – Inequality is willed by God Himself
II – Christian charity flourishes within inequality
III – The effects of unnatural and compulsory equality
I – Inequality is willed by God Himself
Some people God has designated in the church to be, first, apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers; then, mighty deeds; then, gifts of healing, assistance, administration, and varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work mighty deeds? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? (1Cor 12:28-30)
You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me. (Jn 12:8)
The whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, with the proper functioning of each part, brings about the body’s growth and builds itself up in love. (Eph 4:16)
Saint Thomas Aquinas
The highest degree of perfection should not be lacking in a work made by the supremely good workman. But the good of order among diverse things is better than any of the members of an order, taken by itself. For the good of order is formal in respect to each member of it, as the perfection of the whole in relation to the parts. It was not fitting, therefore, that God’s work should lack the good of order. And yet, without the diversity and inequality of created things, this good could not exist. To sum up: The diversity and inequality in created things are not the result of chance, nor of a diversity of matter, nor of the intervention of certain causes or merits, but of the intention of God Himself, who wills to give the creature such perfection as it is possible for it to have. Accordingly, in the Book of Genesis (Gen 1:31) it is said: ‘God saw all the things that He had made, and they were very good,’ each one of them having been previously said to be good. For each thing in its nature is good, but all things together are very good, by reason of the order of the universe, which is the ultimate and noblest perfection in things. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa contra Gentiles, Book II, Ch. 45)
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 persuade themselves then that while they may better their conditions through effort and favored by fortune, 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)
In view of this organized common effort towards peaceful living, Catholic doctrine vindicates to the State the dignity and authority of a vigilant and provident defender of those divine and human rights on which the Sacred Scriptures and the Fathers of the Church insist so often. It is not true that all have equal rights in civil society. It is not true that there exists no lawful social hierarchy. Let it suffice to refer to the Encyclicals of Leo XIII already cited, especially to that on State powers, (Encycl. Diuturnum Illud, June 20, 1881. Acta Leonis XIII, Vol. I, 210-22) and to the other on the Christian Constitution of States (Encycl. Immortale Dei, Nov. 1, 1885. Acta Leonis XIII, Vol. II, pp. 146-168). (Pius XI. Encyclical Divini Redemptoris, no. 32, March 19, 1937)
Because order, as Saint Thomas well explains, is unity arising from the harmonious arrangement of many objects, a true, genuine social order demands that the various members of a society be united together by some strong bond. This unifying force is present not only in the producing of goods or the rendering of services – in which the employers and employees of an identical Industry or Profession collaborate jointly – but also in that common good, to achieve which all Industries and Professions together ought, each to the best of its ability, to cooperate amicably. And this unity will be the stronger and more effective, the more faithfully individuals and the Industries and Professions themselves strive to do their work and excel in it. (Pius XI. Encyclical Quadragesimo anno, no. 84, May 15, 1931)
But in this respect the principles of Catholic doctrine have been defined, and the history of Christian civilization bears witness to their beneficent fruitfulness. Our Predecessor of happy memory re-affirmed them in masterly documents, and all Catholics dealing with social questions have the duty to study them and to keep them in mind. He taught, among other things, that ‘Christian Democracy must preserve the diversity of classes which is assuredly the attribute of a soundly constituted State, and it must seek to give human society the form and character which God, its Author, has imparted to it.’ Our Predecessor denounced ‘A certain Democracy which goes so far in wickedness as to place sovereignty in the people and aims at the suppression of classes and their leveling down.’ At the same time, Leo XIII laid down for Catholics a program of action, the only program capable of putting society back onto its centuries old Christian basis. […] Further, they reject the doctrine recalled by Leo XIII on the essential principles of society; they place authority in the people, or gradually suppress it and strive, as their ideal, to effect the leveling down of the classes. In opposition to Catholic doctrine, therefore, they are proceeding towards a condemned ideal. (Pius X. Encyclical Notre charge apostolique, no. 9, August 15, 1910)
From the records of the Gospels the equality of men consists in this, that all have received the same nature, and are called to the same highest dignity of the sons of God; and at the same time that, since the same end is established for all, each is to be judged individually according to the same law, to obtain punishments or rewards according to merit. An inequality of right and power, however, emanates from the very author of nature, ‘from whom all paternity in heaven and earth is named’ (Eph 3:15). But the souls of princes and subjects, according to Catholic doctrine and precepts, are so bound by mutual duties and rights that both the passion for ruling is tempered and the way of obedience is made easy, steadfast, and most noble. (Denzinger-Hünermann 3130-3131. Leo XIII, Encyclical Quod Apostolici muneris, December 28, 1878)
But also, Catholic wisdom most skillfully provides for public and domestic tranquility, supported by the precepts of divine law, through what it holds and teaches concerning the right of ownership and the distribution of goods which have been obtained for the necessities and uses of life. For when Socialists proclaim the right of property to be a human invention repugnant to the natural equality of man, and, seeking to establish community of goods, think that poverty is by no means to be endured with equanimity; and that the possessions and rights of the rich can be violated with impunity, the Church, much more properly and practically, recognizes inequality among men, who are naturally different in strength of body and of mind; also in the possession of goods, and it orders that right of property and of ownership, which proceeds from nature itself, be for everyone intact and inviolate; for it knows that theft and raping have been forbidden by God, the author and vindicator of every right, in such a way that one may not even look attentively upon (al.: covet) the property of another, and ‘that thieves and robbers, no less than adulterers and idolators are excluded from the kingdom of heaven’ (cf. 1Cor 6:9 f). (Denzinger-Hünermann 3130-3131. Leo XIII, Encyclical Quod Apostolici muneris, December 28, 1878)
In like manner, no one doubts that all men are equal one to another, so far as regards their common origin and nature, or the last end which each one has to attain, or the rights and duties which are thence derived. But, as the abilities of all are not equal, as one differs from another in the powers of mind or body, and as there are very many dissimilarities of manner, disposition, and character, it is most repugnant to reason to endeavor to confine all within the same measure, and to extend complete equality to the institutions of civic life. Just as a perfect condition of the body results from the conjunction and composition of its various members, which, though differing in form and purpose, make, by their union and the distribution of each one to its proper place, a combination beautiful to behold, firm in strength, and necessary for use; so, in the commonwealth, there is an almost infinite dissimilarity of men, as parts of the whole. If they are to be all equal, and each is to follow his own will, the State will appear most deformed; but if, with a distinction of degrees of dignity, of pursuits and employments, all aptly conspire for the common good, they will present the image of a State both well constituted and conformable to nature. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Humanum genus, no. 26, April 29, 1884)
But although all citizens, without exception, can and ought to contribute to that common good in which individuals share so advantageously to themselves, yet it should not be supposed that all can contribute in the like way and to the same extent. No matter what changes may occur in forms of government, there will ever be differences and inequalities of condition in the State. Society cannot exist or be conceived of without them. Some there must be who devote themselves to the work of the commonwealth, who make the laws or administer justice, or whose advice and authority govern the nation in times of peace, and defend it in war. Such men clearly occupy the foremost place in the State, and should be held in highest estimation, for their work concerns most nearly and effectively the general interests of the community. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Rerum novarum, no. 25, May 15, 1891)
Catechism of the Catholic Church
On coming into the world, man is not equipped with everything he needs for developing his bodily and spiritual life. He needs others. Differences appear tied to age, physical abilities, intellectual or moral aptitudes, the benefits derived from social commerce, and the distribution of wealth (cf. GS 29 # 2). The ‘talents’ are not distributed equally (cf. Mt 25:14-30; Lk 19:27). These differences belong to God’s plan, who wills that each receive what he needs from others, and that those endowed with particular ‘talents’ share the benefits with those who need them. These differences encourage and often oblige persons to practice generosity, kindness, and sharing of goods; they foster the mutual enrichment of cultures. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1936-1937)
Saint Therese of Lisieux
I often asked myself why God had preferences, why all souls did not receive an equal measure of grace. […] Our Lord has deigned to explain this mystery to me. He showed me the book of nature, and I understood that every flower created by Him is beautiful, that the brilliance of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not lessen the perfume of the violet or the sweet simplicity of the daisy. I understood that if all the lowly flowers wished to be roses, nature would lose its springtide beauty, and the fields would no longer be enamelled with lovely hues. And so it is in the world of souls, Our Lord’s living garden. He has been pleased to create great Saints who may be compared to the lily and the rose, but He has also created lesser ones, who must be content to be daisies or simple violets flowering at His Feet, and whose mission it is to gladden His Divine Eyes when He deigns to look down on them. And the more gladly they do His Will the greater is their perfection (Saint Therese of Lisieux. The Story of a Soul, Manuscript A, Ch. 1)
II – Christian charity flourishes within inequality
Since the nineteenth century, an objection has been raised to the Church’s charitable activity, subsequently developed with particular insistence by Marxism: the poor, it is claimed, do not need charity but justice. Works of charity—almsgiving—are in effect a way for the rich to shirk their obligation to work for justice and a means of soothing their consciences, while preserving their own status and robbing the poor of their rights. Instead of contributing through individual works of charity to maintaining the status quo, we need to build a just social order in which all receive their share of the world’s goods and no longer have to depend on charity. There is admittedly some truth to this argument, but also much that is mistaken. It is true that the pursuit of justice must be a fundamental norm of the State and that the aim of a just social order is to guarantee to each person, according to the principle of subsidiarity, his share of the community’s goods. This has always been emphasized by Christian teaching on the State and by the Church’s social doctrine. (Benedict XVI. Encyclical Deus caritas est, no. 26, December 25, 2005)
John Paul II
I learnt that a Christian youth ceases to be young, and has long ceased to be Christian when he allows himself be seduced by doctrines and ideologies that preach hatred and violence. For a just society may not be constructed upon injustice. A society – one that deserves the title of human – cannot be built with lack of respect and, even worse, the destruction human liberty, denying individuals the most fundamental liberties. […] 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 transformation radical 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)
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). 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 letter Rerum novarum). 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. (John XXIII. Encyclical Ad Petri cathedram, June 29, 1959)
Finally, both workers and employers should regulate their mutual relations in accordance with the principle of human solidarity and Christian brotherhood. Unrestricted competition in the liberal sense, and the Marxist creed of class warfare; are clearly contrary to Christian teaching and the nature of man. (John XXIII. Encyclical Mater et magistra, no. 23, May 15, 1961)
When the twofold principle of cohesion of the whole body of society has been weakened, that is to say, the union of the members with one another by mutual charity and their union with their head by their dutiful recognition of authority, is it to be wondered at, Venerable Brethren, that human society should be seen to be divided as it were into two hostile armies bitterly and ceaselessly at strife? […] 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. […] 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. 10-11, November 1, 1914)
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 caprice, but rather from the very nature of things, inequalities of culture, wealth, social position – without injury, naturally, to justice and mutual charity – do not constitute, in reality, any obstacle for the existence and prevalence 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. (Radio message Benignitas et humanitas for Christmas, December 24, 1944)
If social life implicates of itself an interior unity, it does not however exclude the differences caused by reality and nature. But, when fidelity to God, the supreme regulator of everything that refers to man is maintained, the similarities, as well as the differences of men find their adequate place in the absolute order of the being, of values and, consequently, also of morality. If, on the contrary, this foundation is shaken, among the different fields of culture a dangerous discontinuity is opened, uncertainty and transience will appear in the outlines, limits and values such that only merely external factors, and often blind instincts, come to determine later on, according to the dominant tendency of the moment, to whom will pertain the dominance of one or other trends. (Pius XII. Radio message for Christmas, December 24, 1942)
Thus, to the Sillon, every inequality of condition is an injustice, or at least, a diminution of justice? Here we have a principle that conflicts sharply with the nature of things, a principle conducive to jealously, injustice, and subversive to any social order. […] Therefore, when he said that justice could be found in any of the three aforesaid forms of government, he was teaching that in this respect Democracy does not enjoy a special privilege. The Sillonists who maintain the opposite view, either turn a deaf ear to the teaching of the Church or form for themselves an idea of justice and equality which is not Catholic. (Pius X. Encyclical Notre charge apostolique, August 15, 1910)
Saint Catherine of Siena
Although I have given them in such a different way, that is to say not all to one, but to one, one virtue, and to another, another, […] to one I will give principally love, to another justice, to another humility, to one a lively faith, […] I use the word temporal for the things necessary to the physical life of man; all these I have given indifferently, and I have not placed them all in one soul, in order that man should, perforce, have material for love of his fellow. […] but I wish that one should have need of the other, and that they should be My ministers to administer the graces and the gifts that they have received from Me. (Saint Catherine of Siena. Dialogue, Ch. 7)
III – The effects of unnatural and compulsory equality
He [Marx] 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. […] 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. […] 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 Spe salvi, no. 21, November 30, 2007)
John Paul II
Marxism criticized capitalist bourgeois societies, blaming them for the commercialization and alienation of human existence. This rebuke is of course based on a mistaken and inadequate idea of alienation, derived solely from the sphere of relationships of production and ownership, that is, giving them a materialistic foundation and moreover denying the legitimacy and positive value of market relationships even in their own sphere. Marxism thus ends up by affirming that only in a collective society can alienation be eliminated. However, the historical experience of socialist countries has sadly demonstrated that collectivism does not do away with alienation but rather increases it, adding to it a lack of basic necessities and economic inefficiency. (John Paul II. Encyclical Centesimus annus, no. 41, May 1, 1991)
Dear sons and daughters. It is here, in this splendor that emanates from the celestial model, that we must see what should be the attitude and disposition to execute and dedicate oneself to work, obligation and honor of the life of each man. Erroneous ideologies, exalting on one hand an uncontrolled liberty, and on the other the suppression of the personality, seek to strip the worker of his grandeur, reducing him to an instrument of conflict or abandoning him to his own devices; they seek to sow discord and conflict, in the confrontation between the different social classes; an attempt is finally made to separate the working masses from God – who is the only protector and defender of the humble, and from whom we receive life, movement and existence – as though the condition of the workers exonerates them from the duty of knowing, honoring and serving him. […] Dear sons and daughters, look confidently ahead, toward the path that opens up before you. The Church counts on you to spread, from the workplace, the doctrine and the peace of Christ. May work always be for you a noble mission of which only God can be the inspirer and recompense. Within the reciprocal relations of social life, may true charity, mutual respect, and the desire for cooperation reign: a familial and fraternal ambience according to the luminous teachings of the Epistle of Saint Paul read at mass today: ‘And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Whatever you do, do from the heart, as for the Lord and not for others, knowing that you will receive from the Lord the due payment of the inheritance; be slaves of the Lord Christ.’ (John XXIII. Radio message to workers on the feast of Saint Joseph the Worker, May 1, 1960)
8 thoughts on “69 – We are all equal, everyone! When this is not acknowledged, society is unjust
Remember too that Pope Francis sent a tweet from his verified Twitter account declaring, “Inequality is the root of social evil.”
There are a lot of opportunists in the Church. Why else would anyone not say a word about this rubbish of looking after earthworms when christians are being slaughtered in the middle-least? Wonder where our american bishops stand…
Oh I can tell you where our Australian bishops are. Their silence says a lot.
Dear Fathers, I think this is perhaps one of your best posts.
Perhaps you should consider making a collection of your more significant posts and putting them together in a more visible place on your front page – that way people like me who have found your website recently can have easy acess to your best pieces without having to read through all (which many may not have the time to do.
Yes, you guys are doing a great job. Its incredible how many people know about your posts – at least here in the […] in Rome. And you have a lot of people who agree with you. Many won’t admit it right out, but when the conversation gets going they kind of open up. Bravo for your courage!
Thank you. Good suggestion.
That’s it – he is a Communist. That cross with the bolivian guy was no mistake.
Thank you for your courage in putting his doctrine clearly before all.