What the Popes say about Socialism

“Hideous”, “destructive”, “wicked”, and “perverted” are only some of the adjectives used by the Popes to describe socialism. From Pius IX to Benedict XVI, the popes have thoroughly and consistently condemned socialism. Given the advance of socialism in America, TFP Student Action is glad to offer its readers a brief selection of thought-provoking quotes from the Popes on the topic.


We will soon be inundated by posters claiming the Popes have also condemned capitalism. Although it is true they have criticized unregulated capitalism they have not, as they have with socialism, categorically condemned it.

What the Pope says on matters such as these are not infallible. That said, and if you were to believe the apparition at Fatima, socialism isn’t taken lightly. . .:smiley:

Me (mega-Capitalist :wink: )

Thank you,
Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk

It is also noteworthy that the Popes have condemned various aspects of socialism as we have seen the throughout the years.

Take socialism and remove sin and you have what is pretty close to what Jesus taught. Of course, that is the ideal that will not ever be reached.

Socialism is and of itself “sinful” because it requires the rejection of God (Marx referred to religion as the “opium for the people”). It’s wrong to say that socialism doesn’t work in practice because of some sort of fundamental flaw with humans. The flaw doesn’t lie with humans, it lies with the system itself.

Thank you,
Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk

Perhaps an acceptable definition of socialism might not be amiss here?

Socialism is the economic system where the modes of production are controlled “publicly” (basically, state-owned).

Thank you,
Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk

Well, we could say that humans set up the system, couldn’t we? I beg to differ that the flaw doesn’t lie (at all) with fallen human nature, if that’s what you’re saying.

I agree.

That is one definition, certainly, and is what the world has experienced.

Humans don’t “set up” a system. It is not planned. People don’t just gather around and say, “hey, let’s start socialism today”. This is a misconception. An economic system arrives organically. Karl Marx believed that socialism would arrive organically because of a philosophy called “historical materialism”. What Marx believed was that every economic system had an inherent contradiction that would lead to its own downfall. In the case of Capitalism, this supposed contradiction was the growing disparity between the two classes: Bourgeiosie and Proletariat. A revolution by the Proletariat (working-class) would bring down Capitalism, and usher in Socialism.

Of course, all of economic theory and history proves this to be quite incorrect. For starters, historical materialism only explains European history. It doesn’t explain the fact that some countries made a leap to Capitalism by jumping a few stages (indeed, even Marx acknowledged this, but took the easy way out and considered them as mere exceptions).

As for humans having fallen which is why socialism does not work, I dispute this. However, I do believe that when Mankind fell, God introduced the law of scarcity (that there will be a finite number of resources) upon Mankind as punishment. This can be seen when God curses Adam, exclaiming that “cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life” (Genesis 3:17). What this demonstrates is before the Fall, Mankind had a sufficient number of items to satisfy himself. There was no excuse whatsoever to eat the apple. After the Fall, it radically changed Nature as we knew it, and the LORD cursed Man by instituting a finite number of items that could be used. This meant that Humans would always have to work to reap the relatively few items that existed to fulfill his own wants and needs. This belief is verified by the fact that the Garden of Eden, like all versions of a utopia, has historically been portrayed as a place abundantly rich in resources. Post-scarcity economists (those who wish to do away with the law of scarcity) in my opinion are fighting a losing battle.

I study economics and I’m taking an economic approach to interpretation of the Bible. I don’t think anyone has done this so far :).

Thank you,
Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk

Could one conceivably ascertain the best qualities of socialism and democracy together as one system or would they cancel each other out?

Guess I always liked how Archbishop Fulton Sheen describes people of Socialism (Communism) in its extreme when comparing Democracy in the Western World verses Communism.

In the Western World we have people who embrace the Cross-less Christ
In the World of Socialism (Communism) we have people who embrace the Christ-less Cross

Sure, I don’t think they would be opposed…but therein lies the problem to define which are the best qualities of either system…while further defining what socialism is and/or should be.

Methinks if you take Socialism, remove all sin and add a dash of incentive and representation of Capitalism, and what a wonderful would it would be. :smiley:

Excellent point! But given today’s world, it would take a massive undertaking in how the world processes thinking on many levels. Mostly I think from a moral and philosophical standpoint inspired by Christian Moral Theology.


If both followed Catholic teaching, probably couldn’t tell the difference between the 2.

The problem is that neither capitalism nor socialism is an entity; they are systems. Designing a socialism or a capitalism that adheres to the Church’s teachings on social justice or morality does not mean that the people charged with overseeing the system will not be corrupt.

For this reason, it is necessary that any government or economic system adheres to the Church’s principle of subsidiarity:

1883 Socialization also presents dangers. Excessive intervention by the state can threaten personal freedom and initiative. The teaching of the Church has elaborated the principle of subsidiarity, according to which** “a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co- ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good.”** (emphasis added)

Note also the opening statements of this excerpt, in which it is pointed out that “excessive intervention by the state can threaten personal freedom and initiative”. This is key to my point. As I remarked above, a justly designed system is still run by fallen human beings, so there is no way to eliminate corruption. That said, it behooves us to create systems of governance and economy that reduce the opportunities for governmental corruption.

Sure, there will always be corporate greed and corruption. The solution to this cannot be to give a government more control. If an individual or corporation does wrong, it can be dealt with much more easily than if the government does. The Church principle of subsidiarity reduces the chances that a government will exert too much authority by placing most authority in the smallest or most local competent entities.

The current (and, truly, ongoing) debates concerning federal vs. state authority in the US is a shining example of this.


Is any distinction in this definition allowed for the difference between what they used to call revolutionary socialism (i.e. communism) and so-called democratic socialism (which could from what little I can tell easily be the political orientation of someone like Pope Benedict, i.e. an older German gentleman)?

The reason I ask these questions is that while I heartily agree with the proposal that revolutionary socialism has been an evil force in human history for many reasons I am more dubious about whether the socialism you encounter in say Europe is evil (or even here in the U.S. in the form of Social Security or Medicare). It may be misguided, or inefficient or unnecessary but I’m not sure it’s to be condemned for a moral transgression. That’s why it would be helpful for those who start these threads to be very precise about what they mean by socialism.

There is a distinction from the standpoint of degree of evil, but that does not make socialism ok. If the state owns or controls the means of production, that is condemned. For instance, nationalized oil company in Mexico, or when the state in England owned the car manufacturers and steel producers and phone company.

Social Security is not socialism, nor is medicare. Most welfare programs are not socialisem. Conservatives, such as myself, use the term way too loosely and it causes confusion from a Catholic teaching standpoint.

I would say the current US government ownership of GM, AIG, Freddie Mac, and Fannie Mae do qualify as socialism.

One could make the case that some government entities such as the post office are socialism by the strict definition, but they are services long supplied by governments, so I don’t think the popes in questoin meant that.

I have a hard time believing that Catholics are required to believe that state-owned oil companies (or phone companies) are morally wrong. Can you cite a source?

Also, if Social Security and Medicare are not socialistic, why are they not? Weren’t they denounced by conservatives at the time of their creation as creeping socialism?

I’d say the post office provides a basic service without which we couldn’t function as a country, so it’s something along the lines of the military (and therefore not socialism).

Yeah. That is the problem. Are you saying that the fact that the government has a monopoly for example over certain kinds of passenger rail transport or over the operation of the Metro would be morally wrong? Because at least in the LA area, they’re all owned by one government or another (commuter rail is owned by the State, the Metro is run by the local government and inter-city networks are run by the federal government.)

I just read a beautiful post by Abyssinia in which the various popes were quoted on the evils of secular socialism. Unfortunately, on reentering the forum I can’t seem to find it again so will reply here. Thank you so much for posting this. I think many people are confused about this subject. And where did that thread go???

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