Socialism and the Catholic Church

 [From Deacon Bill Booth, Diocese of Boise:]

Lord John E.E.D. Acton (1834-1902) was quoted saying” … power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. “I Another of his sayings is “Socialism means slavery.” Lord Acton was unusual person in Victorian England. For one, he was a Roman Catholic in Anglican country. He spoke up often about issues of his day.  Recently, I learned of a discussion between two people concerning socialism. One claimed to be an avid socialist and the other contended that socialism was opposed to the teachings of the Church. My curiosity was aroused to determine the truth of the matter.  First, what is the definition of Socialism? 

 1 : any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods[;]

 2 a : a system of society or group living in which there is no private property b : a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state 3 : a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done.

 Pope Leo XIII published an Encyclical Letter on May 15, 1891, Rerum Novarum stating:

23. From all these conversations, it is perceived that the fundamental principle of Socialism which would make all possessions public property is to be utterly rejected because it injures the very ones whom it seeks to help, contravenes the natural rights of individual persons, and throws the functions of the State and public peace into confusion. Let it be regarded, therefore, as established that in seeking help for the masses this principle before all is to be considered as basic, namely, that private ownership must be preserved inviolate. With this understood, we shall explain whence the desired remedy is to be sought.

 Therefore the Catholic Church does not support Socialism. This issue is way too involved to cover in a short article. The United States has been a bastion of free enterprise for the rest of the world. Like every country in world history that has fallen, it is from within, not from with out. We are assailed within by those who would, as Lord Acton says, enslave us with socialism. The important to us as caring Catholic Christians, to be wary of outlawing of religion which is often the end result of socialism.

 Pope John Paul II, uses the phrase “to speak out”, against socialism when referring to Pope Leo’s Rerum Novarum. Can we do less?  If you are interested in this issue, the following reading list is a good place to start:

1. Rerum Novarum (On the condition of the working classes), Pope Leo XIII, May 15,1891.  The first statement of a Pope against socialism.

2. Quadragesimo Anno (On social Reconstruction), Pope Pius XI, May 15, 1931. Forty years after Rerum Novrum, a reaffirmation of Pope Leo’s statements and expansion covering Communism.

3. Centesimus Annus (On the Hundredth Anniversary), Pope John Pau II, May 1,1991.  Expansion on Rerum Novarum including the responsibility of the capitalistic system and profits to the good of all.

4. Economic Justice for All, National Conference of Catholic Bishops, November 18, 1986. Pastoral letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the U. S. economy.

 Deacon Bill Booth, Spiritual Director, Southern Idaho Cursillo

  1.  Letter to Anglican Bishop Mandell Creighton.