Thank you so much for posting this question. I too am struggling with it a great deal.
Lifesite news did an interview with a peruvian priest on youtube that discussed the extent to which cultural marxism has invaded the Catholic Church through the promotion of the social justice issues. See the link here youtube.com/watch?v=L7Reb9wvTzg
Marxism is a very slippery slope in that it is very difficult to stop it’s march forward once it gets a foothold. What bothers me most is that Pope Francis is not clearly arguing against Marxism, but with these small comments seems to be giving tacit approval to those that are promoting it. In our day and age, this is a dangerous thing because Marxism with all its ugly consequences is doing so much damage in our world today. True Marxism is really just theft. It says that the wealth of the rich may be stolen and given to the poor, while the Church teaches that charity must be left entirely to free will.
I would also encourage those discouraged to pray to Our Lady of Good Success. She gave messages to a visionary in Quito Ecuador specifically about our times. It is a fully approved apparition, and our Lady is quoted as saying, "In this supreme moment of need of the Church, those who should speak will fall silent.”
I think the rise of fundamentalist Islam is a much graver threat. I just don’t see any cohesive social movement, at least in our country, that can be really called “Marxist”. There are only a handful of countries around the world – North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, Zimbabwe – where Marxism is part of the state ideology.
Of course it all depends what is meant by “Marxism”. If you mean a socio-economic system by which wealth is forcibly re-distributed to an idle class of freeloaders, sure, that’s a bad thing. The political notion of a “dictatorship of the proletariat” is even worse.
But if you accept the Fox News/Glenn Beck definition, by which any attempt to control corporate excess is somehow “Marxist”, perhaps we need rather more of it rather than less. We live in an age where the lines between state and corporation are being blurred, where massive corporations controlling unimaginable wealth operate without regard to national or humanitarian interest. They not only manifest injustice, environmental destruction and corruption, they also extinguish competition and the free market. If criticizing this, as the Pope does, is somehow “Marxist”, call me a Communist.
Please don’t be upset that they are calling Pope Francis a Marxist, because I’ve had many debates with some of my communist friends, and they even went as far as claiming that Christ was a communist. LOL…
Passages from other social encyclicals have already been posted, but here is a relevant passage from an earlier one (the whole encyclical is especially a good read on the difference between Catholic social doctrine on the one hand, and socialism and capitalism on the other.
[quote=Pius XI, Quadrigesimo Anno]57. But not every distribution among human beings of property and wealth is of a character to attain either completely or to a satisfactory degree of perfection the end which God intends. Therefore, the riches that economic-social developments constantly increase ought to be so distributed among individual persons and classes that the common advantage of all, which Leo XIII had praised, will be safeguarded; in other words, that the common good of all society will be kept inviolate. By this law of social justice, one class is forbidden to exclude the other from sharing in the benefits. Hence the class of the wealthy violates this law no less, when, as if free from care on account of its wealth, it thinks it the right order of things for it to get everything and the worker nothing, than does the non-owning working class when, angered deeply at outraged justice and too ready to assert wrongly the one right it is conscious of, it demands for itself everything as if produced by its own hands, and attacks and seeks to abolish, therefore, all property and returns or incomes, of whatever kind they are or whatever the function they perform in human society, that have not been obtained by labor, and for no other reason save that they are of such a nature. And in this connection We must not pass over the unwarranted and unmerited appeal made by some to the Apostle when he said: “If any man will not work neither let him eat.” For the Apostle is passing judgment on those who are unwilling to work, although they can and ought to, and he admonishes us that we ought diligently to use our time and energies of body, and mind and not be a burden to others when we can provide for ourselves. But the Apostle in no wise teaches that labor is the sole title to a living or an income.
To each, therefore, must be given his own share of goods, and the distribution of created goods, which, as every discerning person knows, is laboring today under the gravest evils due to the huge disparity between the few exceedingly rich and the unnumbered propertyless, must be effectively called back to and brought into conformity with the norms of the common good, that is, social justice.
We also shouldn’t create false dichotomies. Under Catholic social teaching, free enterprise is also good thing, since it increases the ownership of the means of production among more and more people and also increases the opportunities for meaningful, productive jobs as well. The State, however, must enact policies that ensure that wealth and resources serve the economic prosperity of all, rather than the few at the expense of the rest.
Modern Capitalism, particularly in the United States, is actually state supported in that it is Corporate Capitalism. Generally, when we think of Capitalism we are speaking of a free market economy, in which the economy’s performance is relatively unhindered and relatively unregulated or supported by the government.
In our system, however, we have a state supported system in that the state creates corporations, treats them as persons before the law, and shields the shareholders from personal liability from the business which they own a part of. That’s distinctly different from partnerships, which is what corporate entities would be but for the state sanction of them.
Inevitably, large corporations have very little connection with individual shareholders and ultimately come to focus just on generating a return for the remote shareholders, with that being their only real concern. This operates to favor economic return and size over any other factor.
It isn’t taxation that creates the problem, the problem of distribution down to individuals is that we have a state supported system in which corporates are individuals, in the eyes of the law. That stakes the deck against individual participation in the economy.
Pope Francis is a product of South American culture, where he was immersed in an environment of Latin American Liberation Theology. It is not surprising to hear him criticizing “trickle down” capitalism because that is what is preached as social doctrine in much of Latin America. The part that is difficult to swallow is when he calls on the state to redistribute wealth, as if the state is more moral or righteous than the hearts of individuals. America engages in severe deficit spending in order to make sure there are no truly poor people, not like the true poor in places like Haiti. Now, in Haiti, the government cannot redistribute wealth because there isn’t much, and the government has no real latitude to raise taxes enough on the few that do have wealth to make a difference for the poor. The only thing that will help the poor of Haiti is, (1) more economic activity in the country, and (2) outside aid. American’s have poured out their prayers and money to aid Haiti, as have others in the world. Capitalist activity in Haiti will certainly help the people there more than the state trying to redistribute what little wealth there is.
The pope is not an economist, and he is not trained particularly in political philosophy. He has a very loud voice in the world so people pay close attention to what he says. I think he would do better to focus on the hearts of men and women. He should extol Christian capitalists to do everything they do for the glory of God. They should be pillars of ethics, morality, and righteousness as well as generosity. But putting his faith in the state to do the right thing demonstrates a certain naivete and perhaps a little ignorance as well.
Marxism (Communism) is clearly darned near dead in the world, with the Stalinist theme park of North Korea being the only real Marxist state left. When people use the term Marxist in discourse, they really fail to acknowledge what’s happened to it.
Socialism, which is distinct from Communism in that Communist were Socialist, but post World War One Socialist were not all Communist by any means (a lot of Russian Socialist met their end at the hands of Russian Communist), is still around, but in a very diluted form. Almost nobody actually supports wholesale state ownership of the economy anymore, even Socialist. By the same token, almost everyone actually supports a state role in the economy. Even die hard libertarians do, even if they won’t admit it. For example, hardly anyone wants the government out of road construction, out of sewer maintenance, out of controlling the airports, etc., even though that’s all Socialist in nature. Indeed, Americans are so used to state support of some sectors of the economy that they have fits if there’s any disruption of that at all.
So when we’re considering distribution, all the old Cold War terms are pretty meaningless now. We’re really discussing the function of free market economies. If we look only at that, it’s pretty clear that some real pondering is necessary.
The provision in the law for corporations is what allowed for the kind of capital formation that fueled America’s explosive success economically, which benefited everyone in the entire world. Capitalists are more willing to invest in steel mills, auto companies, technology companies, and energy companies if they have limited liability. Exposing them to unlimited personal liability would kill such activities because some of these are dangerous activities that will occasionally hurt someone. As a matter of public policy, we have decided that the rewards outweigh the risks.
It is better to study and understand economic systems than to sling unfounded criticisms, such as “corporations exist to protect fat-cat capitalists so they can just get richer”, which is the kind of narrative we hear so often from the uninformed. Everyone benefits from the existence of corporations, particularly those who seek employment outside of agriculture and local mom-and-pop businesses.
[quote=Cosmic Zamboni]But putting his faith in the state to do the right thing demonstrates a certain naivete and perhaps a little ignorance as well.
Public authority exists solely for the common good and therefore has a role to play in advancing the economic well-being of all who are subordinate to it. Relying on individuals to do the right thing is no different than relying on the state–we’re dealing with fallen human beings in both cases. But that doesn’t mean the Church shouldn’t teach about the moral duties of either entity in this sphere.
People make that claim, but is there any real support for it? I don’t know that there is.
Pope Francis is an Argentinian of Italian extraction. Argentina had its horrific 20th Century problems (and is still having them), but I don’t know that it ever was a country that was in the forefront of “Liberation Theology”. Indeed, I associate that more with Central America than far southern South America. I could well be in error, but I’d really like the claims, which we see frequently, that an Argentinian Bishop would have been heavily exposed to Liberation Theology backed up.
Indeed, in looking at Pope Francis’ statements here, I think they’re nearly indistinguishable form early 20th Century Papal statements.
From here in the United States, from Pope St. John on, it’s been easy for us to forget that the modern Popes have been consistent in criticizing Communism and Capitalism. We don’t have any examples of Popes endorsing Capitalism wholeheartedly. Starting with World War Two we had a series of global crises that otherwise focused us on those problems and that’s what we tended to pay attention to, and then Pope Benedict was faced with the crises of the decline of Faith in Europe. Pope Francis has really only reminded us of what very long standing Catholic thinking has been.
This is patently false. Are you not aware that great power corrupts greatly? Look at the political mess in America, where the politicians jockey for their own political power, the people be damned.
America (an excellent example of how capitalistic policies have benefited the entire world) was founded on the concept of limited government. Its founders subscribed to the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas, as embodied in the political philosophy of John Locke and others. They argued that governments derive their power from the consent of the governed, and that men form governments to do things they cannot do. It would be chaos if I extracted personal retribution every time I am wronged, so we form governments to provide courts of law. We need to defend ourselves so we need a military force. But neither Jesus nor His apostles called on government to do what God calls individuals to do. Governments are not formed by men to redistribute wealth amongst the governed. It simply is not a legitimate function of government and certainly has no place in a nation that believes in limited government. The immense power of government if far more likely to be more corrupt than the hearts of individuals.
Most Christian people prove themselves to be quite charitable, in fact, as God works on their hearts. A pope would do better to focus on those hearts because that is where real change in the world occurs, not in calling on the state to exercise more power over individual.
I didn’t take the fat cat position, and I don’t disagree that corporations have been critical everywhere to economic expansion.
However, I also feel that merely because they have had that role, does not mean that their existence doesn’t create inherent abuses. It does. This was recognized in the American system as early as Theodore Roosevelt’s failed 1912 campaign, in which he argued that large corporations should be governed as a species of public utility, with partial government ownership of the shares.
I’m not arguing for that, but what I am arguing is that our present system has evolved to the point where its corporate driving. Most shareholders are not "fat cats’, indeed most are middle class, and a huge percentage of American retirement wealth is tied up in corporate share ownership. But the fact of the matter is that large corporations of every type have driven middle class business out of existence. You do not have, for example, local appliance stores, local record stores, local groceries, etc, nearly to the extent that once existed, as large entities have taken over it all. And those large entities, because they are so large, can demand the reduction of wholesale cost by their corporate suppliers, which in turn drive those industries to do everything they can in order to meet that requirement.
Corporate participation in a modern economy is a give, and a necessity, but it’s not a global economic necessity. That is, General Motors, Ford, etc., are going tho have to be corporations. But is it necessary that a giant like Walmart supply daily needs for people, probably not. Some thought to distributing within the economy by applying hte principal of subsidarity, and going small where possible, should be considered.
We once had a lot of local businesses that could support families on a family basis. Local hardware stores, local appliance stores, etc. We won’t have a return to that in a big box era, and middle class wages aren’t going to be restored as a result, to large sections of the economy.
Well, it was reported that Pope Francis met with Fr. Arturo Paoli in January. He was a long-serving priest in Argentina, and Paoli is recognized as an exponent of liberation theology. Some viewed the meeting as a reconciliation between Vatican and the liberation movement. Before that, on September 11, 2013, the pope hosted Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez in his residence, leading some to comment that this was a sign of warming relations between the Vatican and liberation theologians. Gutierrez gave the movement its name with his book, “A Theology of Liberation”. John Allen wrote an article for the National Catholic Reporter entitled, “Hard questions about Francis in Argentina and a lesson from Chile” (April, 2013). He wrote, “Father Jorge Bergoglio (later Pope Francis) had “a reputation as an opponent of liberation theology during the 1970s” but he “accepted the premise of liberation theology, especially the option for the poor, but in a ‘nonideological’ fashion.” Bergoglio was not opposed to liberation theology itself but to “giving a Catholic blessing to armed insurgency”, specifically the Montoneros, who claimed liberation theology as part of their political ideology.”
At some point, when enough evidence is in place, it is reasonable to draw the kind of conclusion I did - that Pope Francis has been influenced in his views by Latin American Liberation Theology (which arose in Brazil, not Central America, by the way).