Socialism: “Deadly Plague”—Pope Leo XIII

Socialism: “Deadly Plague”—Pope Leo XIII

Two weeks ago (May 16, 2013), Francis sermonized, “We’ve Returned to the Golden Calf”

He said:

“While the income of a minority is increasing exponentially, that of the majority is crumbling. This imbalance results from ideologies which uphold the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation, and thus deny the right of control to States, which are themselves charged with providing for the common good.

For more on that “Golden Calf” sermon, please see “A Papal Call for a Rebirth of Liberation Theology? A Whiff of Grapeshot?” listed in the Blog Table of Contents.

Today, June 5, 2013, we hear more of the same “tirade of bombastic nonsense”:/1/

“[T]he system continues as before, because it is dominated by the dynamics of an economy and finance that lack ethics. Man is not in charge today, money is in charge, money rules. God our Father did not give the task of caring for the earth to money, but to us, to men and women: we have this task! Instead, men and women are sacrificed to the idols of profit and consumption: it is the ‘culture of waste.’/2/

Taking the two sermons together what we see is a not-so-thinly disguised call for socialism (public ownership of private property) discredited long ago by St. Thomas Aquinas:

“In regard to an external thing man has two powers: one is the power of managing and controlling it, and as to this it is lawful for a man to possess private property. It is, moreover, necessary for human life for three reasons. First, because everyone is more zealous in looking after a thing that belongs to him than a thing that is the common property of all or of many; because each person, trying to escape labour, leaves to another what is everybody’s business, as happens where there are many servants. Secondly, because there is more order in the management of men’s affairs if each has his own work of looking after definite things; whereas there would be confusion if everyone managed everything indiscriminately. Thirdly, because in this way the relations of men are kept more peaceful, since everyone is satisfied with his own possession, whence we see that quarrels are commoner between those who jointly own a thing as a whole. The other power which man has over external things is the using of them;; and as to this man must not hold external things as his own property, but as everyone’s; so as to make no difficulty, I mean, in sharing when others are in need” (Summa theologica, II-II, Q. Ixvi, a. 2).”

And from the 1912 Catholic Encyclopedia on the same page:

  1. “To sum up, in the words of a capable anonymous writer in ‘The Quarterly Review’, Socialism has for ‘its philosophical basis, pure materialism; its religious basis is pure negation; its ethical basis the theory that society makes the individuals of which it is composed, not the individuals society, and that therefore the structure of society determines individual conduct, which involves moral irresponsibility; its economic basis is the theory that labour is the sole producer, and that capital is the surplus value over bare subsistence produced by labour and stolen by capitalists; its juristic basis is the right of labour to the whole product; its historical basis is the industrial revolution, that is the change from small and handicraft methods of production to large and mechanical ones, and the warfare of classes; its political basis is democracy. . . . It may be noted that some of these [bases] have already been abandoned and are in ruins, others are beginning to shake; and as this process advances the defenders are compelled to retreat and take up fresh positions. Thus the form of the doctrine changes and undergoes modification, though all cling still to the central principle, which is the substitution of public for private ownership.’”/3/

And more recently, consider these excerpt from the 1878 Encyclical condemning Socialism as a “deadly plague” (Quod Apostolici Muneris, Encyclical on Socialism, His Holiness Pope Leo XIII, December 28, 1878) [4]

 [Socialism is a] deadly plague that is creeping into the very fibers of human society and leading it on to the verge of destruction . . . . You understand, venerable brethren, that We speak of that sect of men who, under various and almost barbarous names, are called socialists, communists, or nihilists, and who, spread over all the world, and bound together by the closest ties in a wicked confederacy, no longer seek the shelter of secret meetings, but, openly and boldly marching forth in the light of day, strive to bring to a head what they have long been planning–the overthrow of all civil society whatsoever.

* * * Lured, in fine, by the greed of present goods, which is “the root of all evils which some coveting have erred from the faith,” they 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. * * *

2. But the boldness of these bad men, which day by day more and more threatens civil society with destruction, and strikes the souls of all with anxiety and fear, finds its cause and origin in those poisonous doctrines which, spread abroad in former times among the people, like evil seed bore in due time such fatal fruit. * * * it is no matter for surprise that men of the lowest class, weary of their wretched home or workshop, are eager to attack the homes and fortunes of the rich; it is no matter for surprise that already there exists no sense of security either in public or private life, and that the human race should have advanced to the very verge of final dissolution.

3. But the supreme pastors of the Church, on whom the duty falls of guarding the Lord’s flock from the snares of the enemy, have striven in time to ward off the danger and provide for the safety of the faithful. * * *  But, as no adequate precaution was taken to prevent their evil teachings from leading the people more and more astray, and lest they should be allowed to escape in the public statutes of States, Popes Pius Vll and Leo Xll condemned by anathema the secret sects, and again warned society of the danger which threatened them. Finally, all have witnessed with what solemn words and great firmness and constancy of soul our glorious predecessor, Pius IX, of happy memory, both in his allocutions and in his encyclical letters addressed to the bishops of all the world, fought now against the wicked attempts of the sects, now openly by name against the pest of socialism, which was already making headway.

4. * * * ‘[T]he church of the living God, which is the pillar and ground of truth,’[6] hands down those doctrines and precepts whose special object is the safety and peace of society and the uprooting of the evil growth of socialism. * * *

7. * * * [I]f the will of legislators and princes shall have sanctioned or commanded anything repugnant to the divine or natural law, the dignity and duty of the Christian name, as well as the judgment of the Apostle, urge that “God is to be obeyed rather than man.”

8. Even family life itself, which is the cornerstone of all society and government, necessarily feels and experiences the salutary power of the Church, which redounds to the right ordering and preservation of every State and kingdom. For you know, venerable brethren, that the foundation of this society rests first of all in the indissoluble union of man and wife according to the necessity of natural law, and is completed in the mutual rights and duties of parents and children, masters and servants. You know also that the doctrines of socialism strive almost completely to dissolve this union; since, that stability which is imparted to it by religious wedlock being lost, it follows that the power of the father over his own children, and the duties of the children toward their parents, must be greatly weakened. * * *

9. But Catholic wisdom, sustained by the precepts of natural and divine law, provides with especial care for public and private tranquillity in its doctrines and teachings regarding the duty of government and the distribution of the goods which are necessary for life and use. For, while the socialists would destroy the “right” of property, alleging it to be a human invention altogether opposed to the inborn equality of man, and, claiming a community of goods, argue that poverty should not be peaceably endured, and that the property and privileges of the rich may be rightly invaded, the Church, with much greater wisdom and good sense, recognizes the inequality among men, who are born with different powers of body and mind, inequality in actual possession, also, and holds that the right of property and of ownership, which springs from nature itself, must not be touched and stands inviolate. For she knows that stealing and robbery were forbidden in so special a manner by God, the Author and Defender of right, that He would not allow man even to desire what belonged to another, and that thieves and despoilers, no less than adulterers and idolaters, are shut out from the Kingdom of Heaven. * * *

10. * * * And since they know that the Church of Christ has such power to ward off the plague of socialism as cannot be found in human laws, in the mandates of magistrates, or in the force of armies, let them restore that Church to the condition and liberty in which she may exert her healing force for the benefit of all society.

11. * * * [L]abor hard that the children of the Catholic Church neither join nor favor in any way whatsoever this abominable sect; let them show, on the contrary, by noble deeds and right dealing in all things, how well and happily human society would hold together were each member to shine as an example of right doing and of virtue. * * * /5/


/1/ 1858  J. Doran Hist. Court Fools 27



/4/ Footnotes are omitted.


Published in: on June 5, 2013 at 3:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

The URI to TrackBack this entry is:

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: