Pope a Marxist?

It is rather patronizing to say that the Pope does not fully understand free enterprise

Not at all. It is a reality. St John Paul II set the pace.

Reference has been made to Pope Francis and Poverty by Samuel Gregg November 26, 2013 8:08 PM, at
There is praise of Pope Francis here, but very important problems arise which cannot just be glossed over. I quote on the serious problems identified in this Apostolic Exhortation:

  1. ‘To be very frank (which Francis himself is always encouraging us to be), a number of claims made by this document and some of the assumptions underlying those statements are rather questionable.

‘…the pope’s remark that “authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence” (253). As one of the most authoritative Catholic commentators on Islam, Pope Francis’s fellow Jesuit Samir Khalil Samir (who is no knee-jerk anti-Muslim), writes in his 111 Questions on Islam (2002), Westerners who assert that groups like the Taliban are acting in a manner contrary to the spirit of Islam “usually know little about Islam.”

  1. ‘My purpose, however, is to focus upon some of the many economic reflections that loom large throughout Evangelii Gaudium and which are, I’m afraid, very hard to defend. In some cases, they reflect the straw-man arguments about the economy that one encounters far too often in some Catholic circles, especially in Western Europe but also in Latin America.

‘Prominent among these is the pope’s condemnation of the “absolute autonomy of markets” (202). If, however, we follow Evangelii Gaudium’s injunction (231–233) to look at the realities of the world today, we will soon discover that there is literally no country in which markets operate with “absolute autonomy.”

  1. ‘Another claim made by *Evangelii Gaudium *that warrants scrutiny is that certain ideologies “reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control” over the economy (56). But outside the minuscule world of anarcho-capitalists (who exert zero influence upon public policy), this simply isn’t the position of those who favor free markets today (let alone past advocates like Adam Smith).

‘…we find Francis critiquing those who “continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world.”

‘There are several problems with this line of reasoning. First, opening up markets throughout the world has helped to reduce poverty in many developing nations. East Asia is a living testimony to that reality — a testimony routinely ignored by many Catholics in Western Europe (who tend to complain rather self-centeredly about the competition it creates for protected Western European businesses and other recipients of corporate welfare) and a reality about which I have found many Latin American Catholics simply have nothing to say’.

The precision and depth of both St John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI need to be emulated.

Just because some Tea Party economist finds the Pope’s statement not precise enough and disagrees with them, does not mean that Pope Francis does not fully understand free enterprise.

Actually just the fact that the Pope can see though the fog created constantly by the mythology of ‘job creators’, ‘hard workers’, ‘lazy poor’ and actually appreciate the human condition shows a very deep understand of economic reality. But then that is just my opinion, just as the above is the opinion of Mr. gregg.

Proposing a distribution of resources would not make the Pope a Marxist nor a Socialist. Rather, if you were inclined to interpret this matter, you’d have to ask to what extent, if any, that might make him inclined to be a Distributist.

Distributism is now nearly forgotten, but it was a significant and developing economic theory between the World War One, and it had very strong Catholic roots, grounded in Catholic social teaching. Chesterton was a Distributist. Belloc was a Distributist. If we cast a wider net, we can find Distributist thought elsewhere amongst agrarian movements as well, even in the United States as late as the 1930s.

Distributism argues for the principal of subsidarity, which argues that things should be devolved to the smallest practical unit. In economic terms, that argues for vesting economic means at the family level, rather in the fiction of corporations.

In the modern Western economy, we no longer really have a Capitalist economy, even though we steadfastly refuse to acknowledge that. We have a Corporatist economy in which the means of production tend to vest in the largest corporate entity in the field. We’ve designed it that way over time, and as it tends to surrender everything in an economy to corporate entities, which in turn make their decisions on the economic bottom line, we see wealth slowly concentrating at the top and the mass of people stagnated with less say in everything. That isn’t what the Pope is discussion here, but it is a problem that some (like Thomas Pikenny) are arguing we should address.

When the Pope makes statements on Catholic social teachings he’s not giving a political speech against the Tea Party…the Republican Party…or the Democrat Party…in fact he’s not giving a speech centered on America or American politics…he’s speaking to all the governments of the world…unfortunately some people here in the US cannot seem to separate Catholic social teaching from their own politically biased views.

:slight_smile: :smiley: :thumbsup: :wink:

You have hit the nail on the head! :thumbsup:

Was the early church and the apostles?

How did they miss the following passage from Acts (where the current readings are coming from BTW)?

***[44] And all who believed were together and had all things in common; [45] and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need. [46] And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts, [47] praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. ***

The truth is that Marxism/Socialism steals the idea from the early church Christians and as we’ve all seen corrupted it to their own ruin.

Where there is no room for my poor, neither is there room for me.

Continuing *Pope Francis and Poverty *by Samuel Gregg November 26, 2013 8:08 PM, at

‘Second, it has never been the argument of most of those who favor markets that economic freedom and free exchange are somehow sufficient to reduce poverty.

  1. ‘It hardly need be said that rule of law (mentioned not once in Evangelii Gaudium) is, to put it mildly, a “challenge” in most developing nations. The lack of rule of law not only ranks among the biggest obstacles to their ability to generate wealth on a sustainable basis, but also hampers their capacity to address economic issues in a just manner. Instead, what one finds is crony capitalism, rampant protectionism, and the corruption that has become a way of life in much of Africa and Latin America.

  2. ‘Francis adds that some people today find any mention of the distribution of income to be “irksome” (203).
    I don’t find discussions of wealth distribution to be bothersome at all. Catholics, other Christians, and other people of good will should, in my view, enter enthusiastically into such debates. Because it is precisely through these conversations that it can be pointed out that — as Evangelii Gaudium seems, alas, unaware — many poverty-alleviation methods that involve redistribution (such as foreign aid) are increasingly discredited. As the economist and historian of the Federal Reserve Allan Meltzer put it, one of the 20th century’s economic lessons is that “transfers, grants and redistribution did little to raise living standards in Asia, Latin America and Africa.” In other words, the standard wealth-redistribution policies that are often regarded as indispensable to poverty alleviation have failed to achieve their goals. Hence it behooves all Catholics to ask ourselves why such approaches have failed if we’re going to have a serious conversation about wealth and poverty in the modern world.’

  3. ‘And attention to particular realities about economic life is precisely what’s missing from parts of Evangelii Gaudium’s analysis of wealth and poverty. If we want “the dignity of each human person and the pursuit of the common good” to be more than what the pope calls a “mere addendum” to the pursuit of “true and integral development” (203), then engaging more seriously the economic part of the truth that sets us free would be a good start.’

The precision and depth of both St John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI need to be emulated.

As Dr Thomas E Woods in How The Catholic Church Built Western Civilization, Regnery, 2005, on *The Church And Economics *states:
“Alejandro Chafuen, in his important book Faith and Liberty:The Economic Thought of the Late Scholastics (2003), shows that on one issue after another these sixteenth – and seventeenth – century thinkers not only understood and developed crucial economic principles, but also defended the principles of economic liberty and a free market economy. From prices and wages to money and value theory, the Late Scholastics anticipated the very best economic thought of later centuries.

“That is why it is so silly to claim, as some controversialists have, that the idea of the free market was developed by anti-Catholic zealots.” [p 166-167].

Church Militant #27
How did they miss the following passage from Acts?.. The truth is that Marxism/Socialism steals the idea from the early church Christians

In Acts 2:44-47, the faithful lived together and owned everything in common – often foolishly called “primitive communism”. These so-called “Apostolics” were condemned by St Thomas and the Late Scholastics, who quote St Augustine. Why?
In his Summa, II-II, Q. 66, art. 2, resp., St Thomas quotes St Augustine: “Augustine says: ‘The people styled apostolic are those who arrogantly claimed this title for themselves because they refused to admit married folk or property owners to their fellowship, arguing from the model of the many monks and clerics in the Catholic Church (*De Haeresibus *40).’ But such people are heretics because they cut themselves off from the Church by alleging that those who, unlike themselves, marry and own property have no hope of salvation.”

The reality of Acts 4:34-35 highlights the befuddlement over such “primitive communism”.
A Catholic Commentary On Holy Scripture, Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1953, explains:
(This) shows “that property was sold, from time to time, by the owners of it, according as the Church’s need dictated. The sharing of goods was always voluntary. The story of Ananias and Saphira, cf. 5:4, makes it clear that they were not bound to sell, and that after they had, the price was still theirs. When Barnabas gave all his property, such exceptional generosity was chronicled. There are examples of houses held privately in Jerusalem, 12:12; 21:16. St James, in his Epistle, reveals the existence of rich and poor there. The community of goods does not seem to have been very successful, 6:1, and other churches had continually to send alms, voluntarily, ‘each man according to his ability’, to Jerusalem, 11:29.”

This question assumes that you can only be a capitalist, socialist, or Marxist. Perhaps the Pope is asking for us to be a little more creative and come up with something new that does not promote free riding but does not screw those without access to the same opportunities. This applies globally as well as domestic economies.

I am not swayed by the Gregg stuff, he is over-interpreting for his own purposes. He probably needs to chill out and open his mind a little bit, I would say. And it’s a little disingenuous to say redistribution has never worked since our very own CIA has done everything it could to make sure it didn’t work.

Free enterprise has been developed by the Catholic Late Scholastics. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s affirmation: “Society does not have to protect itself from the market, as if the development of the latter were ipso facto to entail the death of authentically human relations…Therefore it is not the instrument that must be called to account, but individuals, their moral conscience and their personal and social responsibility.” (Caritas et Veritate, Pope Benedict XVI, 2009, #36).

As the revered Fr James V Shall, S.J., emphasises, to reduce poverty, a free, governmentally “limited society guided by principles of justice and generosity” having “a productive, expansive, and efficient economy…[can]…actually make the poor rich, if given a chance…. but they must include a juridical system, profit, enterprise, knowledge, exchange, a market, voluntary organisations, a relatively independent economy, private property, and respect for work and excellence.” (Fr James V Schall, S.J., in *Does Catholicism Still Exist?, *Alba House 1994, p 178, 185).

With regard to the material world, the Parable of the Talents is about capital, investment, entrepreneurship, and the proper use of economic resources. It is a direct rebuttal to those who insist that business success and Christian living are contradictory. The Parable of the Talents illustrates the value of the work talent and enterprise as well as the evils some people exhibit.

There is an enormous difference between Marxism and progressive taxation, per se (the latter of which was endorsed by Adam Smith, for goodness sake). It’s safe to say that all Popes since at least Blessed John XIII have supported the sort of wealth redistribution which is the net result of progressive taxation. But that isn’t Marxism. I’d suggest reading a chapter on Marxism in an introductory economics text – readily available for free online.

Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach CA

Let’s remember that Jesus was a redistributionist. You might say he has a preferential option for the doers; those who are unafraid. Look up Mt 25:28-29 for a refresher: *“Then the master said, 'Take the talent from him and give it to the man who has the ten talents, for whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” *

Hmmm… not quite what this Vicar was saying. When was the last time you heard a sermon about that? Sounds more like the Tea Party. Or lessons from Aesop’s Fables. Or wisdom from Vince Lombardy and Abraham Lincoln.

Like it or not, as for me and my middle class house, we will serve the Lord. And I won’t envy, covet, and insult the ones to whom the Lord has entrusted the most resources. For if I ever wish to shape the future for greater good, I’m VERY unlikely to do it without resources. And I cannot become that which I despise.

Evangelii Gaudium #55 (Pope Francis):“We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption."

I guess this hits the nail, he is neither Marxist nor capitalist.

The Pope, IMHO, is not saying that the State should distribute it by force. Rather, aspire and create a system that will help the citizens distribute the wealth (with charity).

I totally believe in capitalism, and I am completely against Marxism, but what is happening in capitalism today is not fair at all. Through taxation, the wealthy have so many options to hide their wealth and not pay any taxes on it at all, and on the other hand, the middle-class is paying all the bill to run the government.

In other words, capitalism today is forcibly taking money from the middle-class and indirectly giving it to the wealthy, instead of the other way around.

“Fair” is in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it?

Capitalism by definition is not “fair” to everyone, though supposedly the rules are “fair” to those who actively participate in capitalist economic activity. It is not, however, socially “fair”, since by design it creates winners and losers. This is “pure” capitalism, which is today basically a myth. Our economic system recognizes, and you can argue whether or not it does it enough, market failures, and the state intervenes to prevent them. You might call it “managed capitalism”. It’s not really “socialism”, and definitively not “Marxism”. Still, there are an awful lot of people who are excluded from playing.

Amplify this on the world stage. The global economic system was basically set up by the world’s economic powers to serve…the world’s economic powers! Sure, you can argue that poorer countries have benefited from Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), but the track record and social impacts of FDI don’t really support your case. The kind of development it promotes is what’s best for the investor, which is why you have infrastructures that don’t connect cities but instead all lead to ports (hub and spoke), you have horrendous working conditions, and you have increases in population density in urban centers.

On top of that, there’s a whole class of “have nots” in the global system - those countries that lack the resources to be relevant in the capitalist conversation, and those that are politically unstable. These countries get left out completely - very little FDI, very little interest other than a concert here and there by self-serving Hollywood types. Central African countries fit this profile nicely - your Chads, Central African Republics, etc. They’re not even participating, so that can hardly be defined as “fair”. A whole alternative theory (world systems) has been spawned by this.

So the Pope talks about redistribution and the state’s role in it. I think he’s talking about ensuring that the “managed” part of managed capitalism - the part that addresses real market failures - is adequate and functioning properly. This means that countries and people who do not have an opportunity to participate meaningfully in the system BECAUSE of the system are taken care of. It does not mean, in my opinion, taking care of those who don’t WANT to participate (because it’s easier to leech off of other people, etc.) or somehow feel they don’t have to. That’s nothing close to Marxism.

He is not talking about forcibly seizing money from the rich and giving it to the poor, though I’m sure he’d like to see the rich be more generous. He’s talking about correcting the systemic failures in the capitalist system. We need to lose terms like “capitalism” and “Marxism” anyway. Neither exist in their original forms any longer, and they just confuse the discussion. We need to admit what we have, and recognize and respond to the problems with it. That’s all Pope Francis is really saying, I think. Again, this hardly qualifies him as a Marxist.

Re: the Gregg/Tea Party analysis, it’s wilfully ignoring the truth about modern capitalism.

For Europeans this American ‘communist stuff’ sounds ridiculous. Communism is gone, over and out. Still the right wing in the US blames everything on communism: recognizing climate change is also considered a communist conspiracy. Really stupid. Where are the gulags for the climate change deniers? A certain measure of socialism has always been part of christianity: monks and nuns take vows of poverty. Early christianity preferred common possession: read the Acts of the Apostles. Jesus had no stone to rest his head on. Jesus urged the young man to sell all he had. Blessed are the poor. Big focus on private ownership is not really in line with the Bible. American Protestants are though worse than Catholics. Right wing evangelicals believe that God is there to make you materially rich. They use bizarre arguments, like Jesus had a donkey, that was the Porsche of those days. Leo XIII warned for Americanism and he was totally right: all the emphasis on private property is an American obsession, not a christian one. And taking guns into Church, the new trend in the US, is another appalling example of Americanism.

“Marxism” in the American context is an empty epithet applied to any critic of corporate power. The influence of actual “Marxism” – an intellectual worldview in which the interaction of socio-economic classes is the primary determinate of social and political outcomes – has been declining for decades. In our country, it is found only among a few fringe activist groups and in little pockets of academia, especially the sociology and history departments of liberal arts colleges. It is a very narrow and formulaic worldview that ignores the breadth of human experience, reducing the individual to a cog in a great economic machine. It utterly failed as the ideological basis of a political order.

The myriad definitions of the word “socialism” have rendered that word even less meaningful than “Marxism”. In the US, it is usually just a convenient political insult.

Unfortunately, there are very potent forces in our society that would like us to forget the distinction between the free market, which is a virtue, and corporate rule, which can manifest grave injustice and mass deception. They can hire writers like me to spin subtle, often misleading narratives to influence opinion in the interests of small but powerful minorities. I did this for many years working in PR firms and newspapers.

Compassion for the poor and the struggle for social justice are core Christian beliefs. They pre-date any notion of “left” and “right”, and pre-date the concept of capitalism, communism, socialism or any other modern political construct. The Christian vision is not one of a giant state delivering handouts produced by a small, heavily taxed productive class. It is one of honesty, fairness and love for humanity.

The Pope is keenly aware of all this.

The way I heard it is “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.”

At any rate, at the end of the day, we are all humans that are existing temporarily on the face of the earth. The role of the governments is to find a system that serves humanity in general and not only certain individuals. I think that’s what the Pope is talking about in general, and he is not trying to criticize the way the terms “capitalism” and “Marxism” sound.

When any system stops serving humanity in general, then that system has failed in the eyes of the Church, regardless of what we call that system.

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