Catholicism and Socialism: Comrades or Enemies?

“True socialism is wrong,” says Trent Horn, co-author of Can a Catholic Be a Socialist?, “because it denies the natural right to own private property, the natural role of the family to provide for itself, and the natural order of the State…”

Trent Horn is co-author, with Catherine Pakaluk, of "Can a Catholic Be a Socialist", published by Catholic Answers. (Images: catholic.com, trenthorn.com, ihe.catholic.edu)

Socialism has once again made its way onto the political stage in the United States. Members of the Democratic party tout socialist agendas and policies, and often even refer to themselves explicitly as “Democratic Socialists.” This is not a new phenomenon, by any means. But it is certainly true that many Americans do not have a true grasp of what socialism really is, its implications, and how it has played out time and again in other countries and contexts. Catholics are no exception, and there are many Catholics who proudly wear the “socialist” label.

Trent Horn is staff apologist at Catholic Answers, and is a prolific writer, speaker, and podcaster. He is the author of numerous articles, and several books, including Counterfeit Christs, Made This Way (with Leila Miller), and The Case for Catholicism, among others. His latest book, written with Catherine Pakaluk, is Can a Catholic Be a Socialist?, which bears the subtitle The Answers is No – Here’s Why, is a knowledgeable but accessible examination of socialism and the Church’s response to it over the last two centuries.

Horn recently spoke with Catholic World Report about the book, socialism in this country, and the Catholic approach to socialism and related issues.

Catholic World Report: How did the book come to be? How did you and Catherine Pakaluk decide to write the book together?

Trent Horn: About 18 months ago I attended a retreat for supporters of Catholic Answers and one of the attendees suggested that I write a book on this subject. Studying socialism and economics has always been a hobby of mine, but I knew that if I were to write a book on the subject then I would have to collaborate with someone who was an expert on the subject. I then asked some of our Catholic Answers board members who they recommended and many of them came up with the same answer: Catherine Pakaluk.

I knew she was an associate professor of economics and was impressed with her “postcards for Macron” campaign from a few years ago where she launched a social media campaign against then French President Emmanuel Macron after he suggested that educated women don’t have large families (Catherine has a Ph.D. from Harvard and is also the mother of eight children).

After we spoke on the phone I knew we were on the same “wave-length” when it came to many of these issues and so we’d have good compatibility as co-authors. And, when I saw she had already written a peer-reviewed article on the papal encyclicals that criticized socialism I knew she would be a perfect co-author.

CWR: How do you account for the resurgence in socialism in this country in recent years?

Horn: It’s similar to when American communism reached its “heyday” in the 1930s during the Great Depression. During times of economic turmoil many people blame markets and capitalism for economic instability and are more inclined to think that government management of the economy would be better for everyone. Therefore, it’s no coincidence that so many young people have embraced favorable views of socialism after having lived through the “Great Recession” of the 2010s.

Previous generations vividly remember things like the bread lines of the Soviet Union and saw first-hand the misery that accompanies socialist policies. Modern generations, however, don’t associate socialism with these atrocities and younger readers of my book have told me they were shocked by the sections on socialist history in countries like the Soviet Union or Maoist China.

The other part of this resurgence can be attributed to not understanding the true nature of socialism. For example, many young people (and growing numbers of older people) mistakenly think socialism is the same thing as generous social welfare programs. But as we show in the book, economies that rely on such programs like Denmark or Sweden are not socialist ones. They require market-based economies to even exist at all and if they fully committed to socialism they would have suffered economic catastrophe.

CWR: Some people see socialism as the quintessentially Christian political system. What is so wrong about socialism? What is it that puts it at odds with Catholic Social Teaching?

Horn: Pope Pius XI dealt with this attitude in his encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, which was published 40 years after Pope Leo XIII’s landmark encyclical on economic issues Rerum Novarum, which is probably the most famous papal denunciation of socialism.

He said that if socialism is defined broadly enough to just be “concern for the poor” then it’s not really socialism. He commends the “just demands” of these socialists (such as stronger unions and worker protections), but also said that their advocacy is unnecessary because there is “nothing in them now which is inconsistent with Christian truth, and much less are they special to socialism. Those who work solely toward such ends have, therefore, no reason to become socialists” (115).

True socialism is wrong because it denies the natural right to own private property, the natural role of the family to provide for itself, and the natural order of the State existing for man’s flourishing rather than man existing so the State can flourish. That’s why Pope Pius XI categorically stated:

Whether considered as a doctrine, or an historical fact, or a movement, socialism, if it remains truly socialism, even after it has yielded to truth and justice on the points which we have mentioned, cannot be reconciled with the teachings of the Catholic Church because its concept of society itself is utterly foreign to Christian truth (117).

CWR: There is an interesting quote from Upton Sinclair in the book: “The American people will take socialism, but they won’t take the label. …Running on the Socialist ticket I got 60,000 votes, and running on the slogan to ‘End Poverty in California’ I got 879,000.” Do you think this reluctance of Americans to “take the label” speaks to the inherent problems in socialism, and the fact that people do recognize those problems?

Horn: I like to point out that certain intellectuals always condemn capitalism no matter how often it succeeds and they never condemn socialism no matter how often it fails. But for most people (especially older generations), the constant failure of socialism to lead to conditions that respect the dignity of the human person have been seared into their memory and so they are pre-disposed to reject it.

That’s why you’re seeing more people try to re-define socialism and say older forms of socialism were only wrong because they were practiced by authoritarian regimes. They claim we should now support a kinder, more democratic socialism. But Pope Leo XIII said the main tenet of socialism to be rejected is not its authoritarian nature, but rather the “community of goods” that rejects the right to private property. He says socialists

assail the right of property sanctioned by natural law; and by a scheme of horrible wickedness, while they seem desirous of caring for the needs and satisfying the desires of all men, they strive to seize and hold in common whatever has been acquired either by title of lawful inheritance, or by labor of brain and hands, or by thrift in one’s mode of life (Quod Apostolici Muneris 1).

CWR: In 2019, America published an article titled “The Catholic Case for Communism.” Yet Pope Pius XI called communism “intrinsically wrong”. Is there a legitimate Catholic case to be made for communism?

Horn: No. The only way someone could make a case for “Catholic communism” would be if they redefined communism to be something it’s not through an overly-broad definition such as, “Communal living among members who share equally in the community’s goods.” But even among the groups where this might apply, like monasteries or single-family homes, there are “class structures” and authority figures, like the abbot of a monastery or the parents of a family, a communist would reject. There is no way to create a social unit, much less an entire whole, where there are no class divisions whatsoever. That’s why Pope Leo XIII said, “it is impossible to reduce civil society to one dead level. Socialists may in that intent do their utmost, but all striving against nature is in vain” (Rerum Novarum, 17)

CWR: Is the socialism that is preached by Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez the same as the socialism Pope Leo XIII was writing against in Rerum Novarum? Is it different? How so?

Horn: Our book doesn’t weigh in on the policies of current U.S. politicians, but we do have a chapter on “democratic socialism.” Whether someone can support this kind of “socialism” depends on what they mean by a term that is highly malleable.

A Catholic can advocate for policies that cohere with Catholic social teaching, such as a preferential option for the poor or the right of laborers to form a union. But Catholics cannot pursue policies that result in de facto socialism, even if it’s called something else.

The Church’s condemnations against socialism would have remained the same even if Lenin, Mao, Pol Pot, and other socialist leaders had been elected through a democratic process. Moreover, as we’ve seen, the Church has been aware of a peaceful “moderate socialism” and still rejects it as being a promotion of Christian values under the socialist banner with an eye toward enacting true socialism in the future.

CWR: We read in Acts of the Apostles that the apostles and first Christians held everything in common (cf. Acts 4:32). What’s the difference between this and socialism?

Horn: It’s the same as the difference between voluntarily giving your money to charity and having government seize your income to distribute it as they see fit. Just because the early Christians chose to live communally because they were rejected by most other elements of Jewish and Roman society doesn’t mean they were mandated to give up all their private property.

Indeed, that the first Christians did not practice a kind of socialism that required renouncing all private property is evident in the fact that St. Paul had to appeal to their generosity when funds were needed to support the Church (he didn’t just ask for funds from some kind of communal, apostolic fund made up of believer’s formerly held property).

Paul said he hoped his request would be seen “not as an exaction but as a willing gift. . . . Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:5,7).

CWR: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Horn: Both Catherine and I hope that this book will educate people about how faith and economic life intersect and show that socialism is not the means Jesus gave us to carry out his command to help the poor, but has been shown throughout history to be a disaster for the poor that, as Pope Leo XIII says, reaps a “harvest of misery.”


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About Paul Senz 70 Articles
Paul Senz recently graduated from the University of Portland with his Master of Arts in Pastoral Ministry. He lives in Oregon with his family.

38 Comments

  1. Catholic social teaching is itself problematic, even at its most well-intentioned. The Church’s task, given to it by Jesus himself, is to preach the gospel to unbelievers and to instruct believers in the ways of Christian living. The Church has no business giving advice to the world about how to arrange its social and economic affairs. It has no authority in these fields, and no competence either. Rerum Novarum was a mistake.

    • So the Triune God, Who is perfect Society, Communion, and Relationship–and the source of all society, communion, and relationship–really has nothing to tell us about society, communion, and relationship? Huh.

    • I propose that your case is simply overstated (and even falsely). In the 19th-century world of “capitalist” robber-barons on the one hand, and Communism on the other, was Rerum Novarum (1891) really “a mistake?” Sweatshop child labor and family destruction versus later purges and the gulag…and anticipating the 1917 Russian Revolution by a quarter century!

      Surely something could be said—even by the Church (horrors!)—about the inborn natural law (part of your instruction re “the ways of Christian living”) and the violated “transcendent dignity of the human person” (the centerpiece of the maligned Catholic Social Teaching, CST).

      On the other hand—-and apart from affirming moral absolutes in season and out of season-—the Second Vatican Council also recognized the Church’s limits in the more “problematic” (your insight) cases:

      “The Church has no models to present, models that are real and truly effective can only arise within the framework of different historical situations, through the efforts of all those who responsibly confront concrete problems in all their social, economic, political and cultural aspects, as these interact with one another.” (Gaudium et Spes the Church in the Modern World, n. 36).

    • “Rerum Novarum was a mistake.” Good grief. RN cautioned a very confused world that socialism is simply a form of government-authorized theft. True, obviously. RN encouraged the formation of collective bargaining—an eminently practical solution that allows for local adjustments, and avoids govt over-reach. What’s wrong with that? RN recognized the core rights of men to provide for their families, rather than to rely on govt. force to do what fathers should do. Again, true. RN started the essential conversation about “subsidiarity”—a stake in the heart of totalitarian ideology. Overall, RNs conclusions have been borne out for nearly 150 years, and are common sense, and there is nothing “problematic” about them. If only our current Pontiff—who doesn’t seem to believe much about doctrine before V2– would have taken RN to heart, or at least kept his thinking to himself.

    • Mr. G. Poulin, I’m old and one of the many things I strayed while far away from the Catholic Church and into in the “Land of Egypt” was socialism. With the help of God’s Grace that I mostly ignored at the time, it caught my attention that not only socialism and communism but also the many false religions, spiritualities and philosophies, made me feel pushed/forced/coerced/guilt-tripped, just like your comment DOES right here. A Christ-Centered Conscience eliminated all outside coercion and I am not bowing to it again. Ever. I only bow to JESUS!!

      That’s the very COERCIVE core that never changes in the new-and-improved “democratic socialism”, which is de facto like saying “gentle and compassionate rape”, “prayerful murder”, “caring and protective pedophilia”, etc. Socialism, Communism, false religions, etc. all attempt to diminish, restrain, dominate, control and eventually eliminate Human Free Will, the most dignifying and powerful gift that God ever gave us. That’s the most addictive power trip EVER, even to misguided Catholics. God draws us, and offers His Mercy and Wisdom while Satan pushes and guilt-trips the living heck out of us.

      People in ever diminishing contact with Reality, like Bernie Sanders and AOC, and that unforgettable, massive guilt-trip by Greta Thunberg in the United Nations, expose everything there is to know about socialism. Like you, many don’t want the Church in the public arena of politics because that way YOU can be free to impersonate the Church as compassionate impostors so you can totally replace its most legitimate role and kill Human Free Will forever. Socialism wins and freedom dies, together with True Human Personhood. Jesus says, “Over my dead body!!”, and, with Him, so should we!

    • G. Poulin:

      You are correct that Latin bishops should be focusing on preaching and living the Gospel, rather than assuming authority over secular rulers and lecturing them on political matters.

      As to your other point: the bulk of RC social teaching is not divinely revealed precepts (either in Tradition or Natural Law) but moral theology, as the Compendium itself admits. No bishop becomes automatically competent in moral theology simply by being consecrated a bishop, that is true, and whatever authority he possesses in that field will depend on the soundness of his reasoning, not his possession of Holy Orders. Still, such competence in moral theology is not limited to those in Holy Orders alone, but may be gained by lay men, and any sort of political action or reform is dependent upon them, not on bishops. It is true that bishops do not have any sort of political authority over the faithful, and their appeals to their authority, the pope, or “Catholic social teaching” or the Pope to defend their political platform (as put forth on the USCCB website) should be criticized.

      • Sol, in all your argument, I searched again and again and could not find on which authority do you say that: “You are correct that Latin bishops should be focusing on preaching and living the Gospel, rather than assuming authority over secular rulers and lecturing them on political matters”. The Catholic Church is certainly not a dictatorial, fanatical, crushing Iranian-style theocracy (SO celebrated by those who tell us to stay away from politics).

        Still, our Founding Fathers knew that all kinds of humanism (just like socialism discussed in this article) are catastrophic substitutes for true religion and faith: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other”, (John Adams). The “separation of Church and State” is an invented fantasy just like the invented right to abortion, to homosexual “marriage”, etc. This fantasy “separation of Church and State” was not conceived by the Founders and it shows graphically today more and more how it is REALLY the separation of humans from God and all real morality, self-respect, responsibility and dignity, the wide door to PROGRESSIVELY more dehumanizing EVIL.

        That’s the ONLY “progressive” thing about it. Once the dumbed-down Church stepped aside from being the moral compass of society, all Hell broke loose. Not only that, but this Progressively Institutionalized Evil has become a DEMONIC FALSE CHURCH by infiltrating, sabotaging and corrupting the Catholic Church, as a disgusting metaphor of Satan and his followers riding their horses inside the Church in order to defecate their sin inside of it. In other words, the Evil Corrupt World has all the permission and authority to dictate, manipulate and control what the Catholic Church believes, says and practices, but the Church has to always stay away and silent about politics? Judas Iscariot would be proud and, NO!!, Judas was not and will never be a paragon of what a REAL Catholic should be!!

        “… that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that EVERY TONGUE should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:10-11). Bowing to JESUS not to politics!! Jesus Absolute Godly Authority over all humans, all society, all politics and all Creation is our great 2,000 year old Holy Tradition. Everything else is just disguised, “charitable” apostasy and sin-enabling heresy.

        • [The Catholic Church is certainly not a dictatorial, fanatical, crushing Iranian-style theocracy (SO celebrated by those who tell us to stay away from politics). ]

          It is a mistake to assume that all exercises of authority take the form which you cite in your example. For Latin bishops, the basis for their lecturing civil governments, even governments which are non-Catholic, is the fact that they are bishops and that they assume they have the authority to do so.

          http://www.usccb.org/news/2017/17-024.cfm
          http://www.usccb.org/news/2019/19-168.cfm

          etc. etc. etc.

          At the moment I’m not going to get into a discussion about the Constitution (as it applies only to the Federal Government and not to the states). The Roman Catholic Church could hardly claim to be the “moral compass” in a federation of American states that were mostly non-Catholic more than 200 years ago and all of which arguably are still non-Catholic now. Any posturing as a “moral compass,” without converting non-Catholics or at least rendering themselves credible and winning their trust, is just a leftover of Catholic triumphalism.

          • The authority of the Bishops to instruct, guide and correct comes directly from JESUS in their Apostolic Succession, which Protestantism AND Socialism totally lack (therefore inventing a made-up emotional authority), and that Catholic REAL AUTHORITY applies to all humankind, not just to Catholics: “Therefore go and make disciples of ALL NATIONS, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and TEACHING them to OBEY EVERYTHING I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20).

            You can invent your own commandments but you can’t re-invent the very clear words of JESUS and make them fit your ideology. Neither can you change History. The Catholic Church has followed that commandment of JESUS from the very beginning, challenging the all-mighty political Roman Empire and refusing to worship the Emperor (the ultimate goal of ALL godless politics, just as Xi Jingping has declared himself “godly” emperor for life, writing his own Bible and Koran), among other things, and these Christians paid with their blood as many continue to do so today. (Catholic) Truth speaking to (Godless Political) Power. The Church has challenged other tyrants (Henry VIII comes to mind) throughout its 2,000 years History and has been very consistent in being the moral compass for the WHOLE WORLD, whether they care or not (Matthew 18:13-23), and which happens to include the USA, as instructed by JESUS not Marx.

            The Constitution of the United States applies to ALL states, not just Washington, D.C. and their offices. It starts with: “WE THE PEOPLE…”, not “We the government bureaucracy…” That you say the Constitution “…applies only to the Federal Government and not to the states” is beyond preposterous and is a total, willful disconnection from Reality. Apparently, you are under the influence of socialism and/or related delusions, and the willful, intentional, conscious straying from Reality is not a shame for you but a proud Modus Operandi, like with Bernie Sanders, AOC and all socialists, humanists, etc. Your ideology is assassinating your true conscience and true identity.

            Socialists, humanists, etc. all bombard the USA and the world with ever-growing, ever more bizarre, sentimental and emotional derangement to create a false “culture” where insanity rules and where psychotic tyranny like socialism, liberalism, etc. can be emotionally accepted, fanatically believed and flourish. Jesus, Reality and Facts are declared to be the enemy and this is ever more obvious.

            The Catholic Church has never lived in triumphalism as it is too busy fighting enemies inside and outside, and fulfilling Jesus mission, very imperfectly but effectively for 2,000 years. Having recently and progressively institutionalized their evil delusions, it is the psychotic triumphalism of the Anti-Culture of Failure, Lies and Death that has infected many Catholics, Protestants and atheists. The True followers of Christ have not ever lived in that evil triumphalism but in the Triumph of JESUS on the Cross: “Per Crucem Ad Lucem”, “Through The Cross To The Light”. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD”, (John 16:33). The Whole World!!!

          • Phil Alcoceli:

            I will make one more attempt to engage with you, as you assume much and accuse much.

            [The authority of the Bishops to instruct, guide and correct comes directly from JESUS in their Apostolic Succession, which Protestantism AND Socialism totally lack (therefore inventing a made-up emotional authority), and that Catholic REAL AUTHORITY applies to all humankind, not just to Catholics: “Therefore go and make disciples of ALL NATIONS, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and TEACHING them to OBEY EVERYTHING I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20). }]

            This is poor proof-texting — there is nothing that implies that “teaching the nations to obey everything” is to take place before they have been baptized. Indeed, the plain sense of our Lord’s works shows a temporal sequence. Not only that but, what evidence do you have from Apostolic Tradition that “everything” included the Apostles or their successors having some form of civil authority or an authority that would enable to give direct commands to the civil authority? NONE. At best you can come up with Latin claims about the authority of the pope from the second half of the first millenium, continuing through the second.

            Refusing to worship the emperor as God is not the same as dictating to the emperor he has a duty to end infanticide, abortion, slavery, contraception, conquest of other peoples, the possession of weapons by individuals etc. etc. Before Constantine, the churches did none of that, and even after the establishment of Christianity in the Roman Empire, bishops did not presume to dictate civil laws to the emperor.

            If you want to claim that there is a development of doctrine with respect to the authority of bishops or the pope in relation to the civil authorities, you must show it with an argument (proper to moral theology), not with simplistic proof-texting from Scripture. While you may be able to cite the opinions of individual theologians and even of individual bishops and popes, you won’t be able to support your claim with a text from an ecumenical council, even the supposed ecumenical councils of the second millenium which actually did address the authority of the pope and the bishops.

            [The Constitution of the United States applies to ALL states, not just Washington, D.C. and their offices. It starts with: “WE THE PEOPLE…”, not “We the government bureaucracy…” That you say the Constitution “…applies only to the Federal Government and not to the states” is beyond preposterous and is a total, willful disconnection from Reality. Apparently, you are under the influence of socialism and/or related delusions, and the willful, intentional, conscious straying from Reality is not a shame for you but a proud Modus Operandi, like with Bernie Sanders, AOC and all socialists, humanists, etc. Your ideology is assassinating your true conscience and true identity.]

            Here you are just being offensive and you can either apologize for your assumptions and accusations or not. That’s up to your conscience. If you think the Constitution as it was originally written and ratified did not apply only to the Federal Government but to the states, before the insidious insertion of the 14th Amendment and the resulting “incorporation doctrine” used by the Federal Government to consolidate its power over the states, then you need to learn more about the Constitution, a lesson in “originalism” or what have you. The Constitution outlines the creation of a new federal government BY THE STATES – “We the People of the United STATES,” leaving the states sovereign in those matters not delegated to the Federal Government for the benefit of all. This included the STATE ESTABLISHMENT OF CHURCHES, which was left untouched by the Constitution and the First Amendment. Did you know that? Even though those states which had an established church eventually gave it up, they were not obligated to do so by the Constitution as it was originally written and ratified. Only because of the incorporation doctrine did this change. In none of the original 13 states, and none that were subsequently added, right up to the 14th amendment in 1868 and to the 1920s when incorporation doctrine when SCOTUS unjustly applied the bill of rights to the states through the 14th amendment (and 15th) by means of the “incorporation doctrine,” was the Roman Catholic Church ever an established church, not even in Louisiana. Catholics did not even number as a significant minority until the first major wave of immigration from Europe in the 1840s and supplemented by the second wave. To pretend that that Roman Catholic Church was a moral compass for the United States from their independence from Great Britain, up to the late 19th century, when its political and social influence was negligible, is triumphalism and historically wrong.

            The Church may be holy because of Christ but as for its members, we know the drill. So Christ is not “triumphalistic” but members of His body have been and are even now. Take a breather before you even consider typing a response. If you continue in the vein of your last response, I won’t bother with a reply.

          • You say I dictate to you but it is you who is dictating to me and even telling me how to speak (write) and putting conditions on me. Interesting. It’s the modus operandi of socialists, humanists, etc. Authoritarian Coercion, Sentimental Sabotage and Historical Reconstructionism, then repeat. Maybe to you I am speaking in simplistic Scripturalism, but it is in that solid Scriptural base that the Church has grown and evolved for 2,000 years. We are based on His Word not a political party platform. The Church from the beginning has been preaching to all non-believers, pagans, etc.

            How else could JESUS say preach to ALL NATIONS when those very nations were full of every false belief apart from Judaism and Christianity and were all non baptized? Was JESUS saying: “Just preach to the Jews”? No. Phillip preached to and Ethiopian NOT YET baptized: Acts 8:31. You can be as highly legalistic and split as many hairs as you want as you want, but Truth is Truth and the History of the Church speaks for itself. The Church has obeyed JESUS command not limiting itself to narrow interpretations of its mission: “who also made us sufficient as servants of a new covenant; not of the letter, but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life”, (2 Corinthians 3:6).

            If the Church has been so persecuted is because it has preached to and confronted non-believers for 2,000 years, if not it would have been left alone as any other generic spiritualistic cult. There would have been no martyrs ever. But the Catholic Church has been that Moral Compass for the world, and that moral compass must be destroyed. Same with the whole issue of the Constitution. If the States had been just independent republics each doing its own thing with no regard for that Constitution, why even have a common constitution? Why don’t we have independent Republics, separate States now?

            Just because some pesky ammendments were incorporated or because they wanted to stay together, opposition and Civil War notwithstanding, they stayed together. Now State Independence is being preached again because they want to Divide And Conquer. Splitting and dividing the Faith as only a “private exercise”, splitting and dividing the Country as a fractured mess. Tyrants paradise!! I don’t suit your constricted limits of discourse so I don’t expect a reply. The Catholic Church also does not suit a pre-packaged, constrained, reconstructed reality. I choose the Catholic Church and whatever name-calling, ridicule, chastisement, etc. that may grant me. Glory be to JESUS victory on the CROSS!! Tyrants hate it and I LOVE IT!! I let Jesus-Truth defeat me very single day. That’s the Victory I celebrate: Jesus victory, in joy, suffering and death!!

  2. We read: “…you’re seeing more people try to re-define socialism and say older forms of socialism were only wrong because they were practiced by authoritarian regimes.”

    The confusion of terms begins in schools. The historical fact is that brainwashed democracies, especially, can betray themselves–Hitler was democratically elected.

    While authoritarian regimes do not ask society for permission to act, socialist/totalitarian regimes (by any redefinition) still go much farther and eventually intrude into every aspect of life. And, as Whittaker Chambers once remarked, “what is Socialism but Communism with the claws retracted?”

  3. This is what the Popes had to say on Socialism:
    https://www.tfp.org/what-the-popes-have-to-say-about-socialism/

    Social Justice, from a Catholic perspective, is about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, healing the sick, visiting the imprisoned, consoling the bereaved, caring for the dying, and burying the dead. It is not about taking money and property from people who worked hard for it, and giving it to people who can and should work, but refuse to do so. And it is not about creating an almighty state that controls every aspect of our social an economic lives (in fact Catholic Social Teaching goes at great length discussing the limitations on the power of the state in the name of Subsidiarity).

  4. Definition of terms here is essential. Depending who you ask, anything but libertarianism is a form of “socialism”. Many Americans think universal healthcare (something almost all first world democracies have) is a form of socialism, but at the same time have no problem with public libraries, publicly funded schools, publicly funded police/fire departments and billions in yearly farmer subsidies etc. Is that socialism?

    Lastly, Catholic distributism is a pet economic theory of many traditional Catholics and was favoured by Catholic luminaries such as GK Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc; despite being firmly rooted in Catholic teaching, wouldn’t it meet the definition of socialism offered by the author?

  5. A perfect socialist Christian state would make all of us Trappists. Man and wife children, police, baker, banker, physicist, president. The mind recoils perhaps not so much that it’s totally unrealistic likely moreso most of us recoil at living like Trappists. Peter and Paul both urged the early community to respect the Emperor, pray for him since this is what God wants. Christian Socialism tried by the early Church took to it quite seriously [Sapphira and Ananias struck dead for non compliance] then faded out almost embarrassingly. Human nature as is likes the assurance that socialist ideas give Social Security FDR 1935 Medicare Medicaid LBJ 1965. Try taking it away from an ‘antisocialist’ Republican. Human nature as is wants freedom, in the best Christian ideal within reasoned parameters, which experience shows is rarely if ever the case for Fallen Man. The closest I’ve encountered at least theoretically was Ireland’s first Constitution. Aquinas said [conscience compels me to quote him] of all governments Monarchy is best [ST 1a2ae 105 2 Ad 2]. Adding that the tendency for that power to corrupt “easily degenerates into tyranny”. That tendency though strong is not inevitable if that power were given to a “very virtuous man”. Finally noting with a nuance of humor “There are very few perfectly virtuous men”. That realpolitik from the Angelic Doctor convinces that what we’ve got in America with its brilliant Constitution cultural imperfections and all is the best we can do. As long as we keep the Democrats, now devolved into morally unprincipled socialists without rational frontiers out of the White House.

  6. For more insights and a solid Catholic perspective, carefully read Centesimus Annus by Pope St. John Paul II, and also see Rand Paul’s excellent book “The Case Against Socialism” that takes up the historical, moral, and political problems with socialism, including the modern political nonsense presented by Sanders, AOC, and others.

  7. This is attacking a Soviet strawman here. Russia was a totalitarian dictatorship and not communist. In communism there’s equal governance–not a dictator. They were on their way to socialism and had moved to the dictatorship of the proletariat but it failed and became state capitalist economy because other revolutions–especially Germany’s–failed and socialism cannot work in isolation without global change.

    In essence, what Pius XI denounced is not what socialists mean by socialism. From the article, “The only way someone could make a case for “Catholic communism” would be if they redefined communism to be something it’s not through an overly-broad definition such as, “Communal living among members who share equally in the community’s goods.”

    Well, that’s exactly what is meant. Horn is the one with the wrong idea of what it is. All I have to do is say that “Communal living among members who share equally in the community’s goods” is exactly what I mean and then this argument doesn’t exist. This false idea about what socialism is is consistent throughout the entire interview and it is exactly why the discussion Acts 4:32 is dismissed with saying things like, “It’s the same as the difference between voluntarily giving your money to charity and having government seize your income to distribute it as they see fit. Just because the early Christians chose to live communally because they were rejected by most other elements of Jewish and Roman society doesn’t mean they were mandated to give up all their private property.” Yeah, and if there is a STATE seizing property, there is NO socialism to be found. Full stop.

    • “Russia was a totalitarian dictatorship and not communist.”

      That will come as some surprise to the CPSU (not to mention historians), which ruled the Soviet Union from 1917 to 1990.

    • I prefer to take the word of people who actually lived under Communist rule and who knew it firsthand. For example,
      Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn:

      Communism has never concealed the fact that it rejects all absolute concepts of morality. It scoffs at any consideration of “good” and “evil” as indisputable categories. Communism considers morality to be relative, to be a class matter. Depending on circumstances and the political situation, any act, including murder, even the killing of hundreds of thousands, could be good or could be bad. It all depends on class ideology. And who defines this ideology? The whole class cannot get together to pass judgment. A handful of people determine what is good and what is bad. But I must say that in this respect Communism has been most successful. It has infected the whole world with the belief in the relativity of good and evil. Today, many people apart from the Communists are carried away by this idea.”

      • Perhaps Russia was mutant as a “totalitarian dictatorship,” but still in lockstep with Marxist-Leninism as the transitional “vanguard,” self-appointed to accelerate the (distantly inevitable) utopianism of Communism.

        Which is to possibly notice that dictatorship/Russia was actually part of an endless “transition”—-as the real-world, working definition of Socialism…

        The transition at ground level, as “when the Viet Cong took a village, they would often take the mayor and his wife, tie them to the door of their hut, behead their children before their eyes, and then slit open their abdomens. Dying in agony, the parents watched the pigs eating their own intestines [….] And, in wartime Yugoslavia thousands of [the Catholic Slovene Home Guard] were rounded up, shipped over the Karavenaken Mountains, to be mowed down in masses and their corpses used as natural FERTILIZER for the fields. One should never forget: Sadism is the outstanding characteristic of the entire left” (von Kuehneldt-Leddhin, Leftism, 1974, caps added).

        And so, imperceptibly and as of one year ago in bellwether Washington state, we now have legalized composting of human remains to be used as natural FERTILIZER! As if the great Socialist equalizers of abortion and euthanasia weren’t enough. Gotta recycle everything, all of this stuff!

      • That’s Marxist-Leninist thought which gave way to Stalinist and was a totalitarian state capitalist rule. There have been many “communist” or “socialist” states by name and none of them bore any resemblance of communism than unfortunately and inaccurately bearing the name. A better image of communism would be akin to the Catholic Workers Movement communes of Dorothy Day or those living under the rule of St. Benedict. Communism is necessarily voluntarily requiring collective desire and agreement for it to happen. Either than or by the natural withering of the state in welfare states when the state becomes unnecessary. As I said in the OP, if the people are forced in any way then there is in fact no socialism present.

        • AT, language is based on convention and you don’t get to redefine a word just because it’s your preference. Ask the average person on the street with whom they associate the word “communism,” and it won’t be Dorothy Day or St. Benedict. In this interview, Dorothy Day didn’t even try to redefine communism so as to suit her needs and to declare what was identified by many as “communism” as erroneous. Use another word to name the belief system you are trying to describe, or create a new one.

          https://sojo.net/magazine/december-1976/interview-dorothy-day

          • SOL,

            Unfortunately, the West is who redefined it. You are using a made up boogeyman definition created by capitalists to attack socialism and guard their assets. Idc what you call it but this is what leftists mean by socialism. Also, people can absolutely reclaim language to return it to its rightful understanding. Since language is indeed dynamic and this word has already been changed, it can change again.

          • There is no “rightful understanding” with respect to definition. Truth and falsity apply to the act of judgment, not to definition in relation to abstractions.

  8. Socialism like Libertarianism seems to be for some a nebulous philosophy that can change with the wind.

    Thus some “Catholic” Socialists are subversive heretics undermining the faith and other Catholic “Socialists” are harmless crunchy con pseudo hippie types who just want to share and care on the local level and call it “Socialism” while the rest of us call it mere charity. The later are harmless and the former need to be shown the door.

    • Succinct! True! The post resurrection communal living of the disciples was voluntary. God absolutely upholds free will. It is in fact the only thing we have that we can actually offer back to Him (aside from our failings) and even then our will is influenced by grace obtained primarily through the prayers of others.

  9. “Many Americans think universal healthcare (something almost all first world democracies have) is a form of socialism, but at the same time have no problem with public libraries… Is that socialism?”
    .
    Except for the police, I would say absolutely, and it all should be done way with.
    .
    Perhaps instead of the world “socialism,” we should just say “state run” or “government run.”

    • Kathryn: Unless you are independently wealthy, I don’t think you’re prepared for how hard and real things would get without government support and subsidies. Few would survive. For example, the food you buy is at artificially low prices due to government agriculture subsidies. The gas in your car, also low due to government intervention. It goes on and on. An unfettered libertarian free market would eat you alive.

      Like communism, libertarianism is a fantasy. Thankfully, there is a middle way (Catholic social teaching) that favours democracy and capitalism whilst protecting and encouraging the common good.

  10. Catholics should read the late Edmund Opitz’s book, “Religion and Capitalism, Allies not Enemies.” Opitz says that there is no reason why Christians cannot get involved in politics. But he says that socialism is out of the question because it demands blind obedience to the state. We can obey the state when its demands are reasonable and just, but we cannot obey it blindly. Of course, we don’t go looking for conflicts just to be different or to draw attention to ourselves, but if conflicts do arise between what the state demands and what our duty to God demands, we have to choose the latter.

    • Another good Catholic Papal teaching related to the subject:

      What is the first papal reference to “social justice”?

      “Truly wonderful is the work he [Pope Gregory, the Great] was able to effect during his reign of little more than thirteen years. He was the restorer of Christian life in its entirety, stimulating the devotion of the faithful, the observance of the monks, the discipline of the clergy, the pastoral solicitude of the bishops. Most prudent father of the family of Christ that he was (Joann. Diac., Vita Greg. ii. 51), he preserved and increased the patrimony of the Church, and liberally succored the impoverished people, Christian society, and individual churches, according to the necessities of each. Becoming truly God’s Consul (Epitaph), he pushed his fruitful activity far beyond the walls of Rome, and entirely for the advantage of civilized society. He opposed energetically the unjust claims of the Byzantine Emperors; he checked the audacity and curbed the shameless avarice of the exarchs and the imperial administrators, and stood up in public as the defender of social justice“
      –Pope St. Pius X; Iuncunda Sane, #3; March 12th, 1904

      https://wherepeteris.com/what-is-the-first-papal-reference-to-social-justice/

  11. The only socialists that I know of that follow Catholic social teaching are the monks that sell Christmas fruit cakes and even they have to follow the natural laws of economics or go broke.

  12. The Son of Man Will Judge the Nations

    31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the [a]holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideshis sheep from the goats. 33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
    Matthew 25:31-36 New King James Version (NKJV)

  13. The position of ‘far right wing’ is like ‘thoughts and prayers and subsidiarity… Hope you find a good samaritan’. They can never admit of systemic structural sin in capitalism as St John Paul II spoke about, with inherent erroneous anthropologies that harm many of God’s children.
    We are our neighbors keeper. Christian leaders in US government are hypocritical as they refuse to do the work of God thru their power position.
    They pass the moral buck by claiming ‘statism’ and ‘leviathon’.

  14. This is an excellent article…Jeffrey Sachs reorganized Eastern Europe after the fall of the wall:

    Pope Francis’ blunt critique of capitalism praised as needed warning

    “Francis’ rhetoric can be blunt,” said Tobin. But being from Argentina, “he’s seen the game played far too long,” in which inequality becomes a part of the established order.

    Pope Francis’ social teaching offers a dire and needed warning about the twin calamities of economic inequality and climate change

    “The system’s gangrene cannot be whitewashed forever,” said Tobin, quoting the pope’s candid remarks via video to the 2017 World Meeting of Popular Movements held in Modesto, California.

    Sachs agreed that the pope’s sometimes-scathing statements on capitalism are a needed counterweight to American overconfidence that unfettered capitalism can provide a pathway out of the dual crises of climate change and economic inequality.

    Sachs, director of Columbia’s Center for Sustainable Development, described Francis’ encyclical on the environment, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,” as “one of the great messages of our time” that “tells us things we will not hear from any other place.”

    https://www.ncronline.org/news/earthbeat/pope-francis-blunt-critique-capitalism-praised-needed-warning?fbclid=IwAR1NTjPqje2hGjp-W7iiVwNqTFcVnElnN8WTrvzPVdduPE2Ri2QJkmVCq_8

  15. This is pertinent to the discussion…so much said, so much ideological…as Pope Francis says “Idolatry of Ideology”

    What is the first papal reference to “social justice”?

    “Truly wonderful is the work he [Pope Gregory, the Great] was able to effect during his reign of little more than thirteen years. He was the restorer of Christian life in its entirety, stimulating the devotion of the faithful, the observance of the monks, the discipline of the clergy, the pastoral solicitude of the bishops. Most prudent father of the family of Christ that he was (Joann. Diac., Vita Greg. ii. 51), he preserved and increased the patrimony of the Church, and liberally succored the impoverished people, Christian society, and individual churches, according to the necessities of each. Becoming truly God’s Consul (Epitaph), he pushed his fruitful activity far beyond the walls of Rome, and entirely for the advantage of civilized society. He opposed energetically the unjust claims of the Byzantine Emperors; he checked the audacity and curbed the shameless avarice of the exarchs and the imperial administrators, and stood up in public as the defender of social justice“
    –Pope St. Pius X: Iuncunda Sane, #3: March 12th, 1904

    https://wherepeteris.com/what-is-the-first-papal-reference-to-social-justice/

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