By Fr. George Rutler

The Seductions of Socialism: The Church’s consistent response through the ages

March 9, 2020
Column: From the Pastor

Materialism, fantasy and false worship were the temptations Satan thrust at Christ, and he is tempting our nation the same way. These seductions are a formula for Socialism, which Winston Churchill in 1948 defined as “The philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy.”

   A poorly educated generation succumbs to adolescent idealism, bereft of history, unaware that a cult of the state has been a consistent failure, costing countless millions of lives in modern times.

   State worship was resisted by the earliest Christians, who refused to offer incense to Caesar. Socialism is simply Communism not yet in power, and its smiling face in the guise of “Democratic Socialism” quickly scowls once it has control.

   As the economist Ludwig von Mises showed in various ways, the essence of Socialism is coercion and manipulation. Pope John XXIII, quoting Pope Pius XI, taught in 1961: “No Catholic could subscribe even to moderate Socialism.”

   Socialism in the guise of benevolence exploits the naïve. As a corollary, Yeats said: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

   Lack of conviction moved appeasers to sign the Munich Agreement, and in present times it has ceded the Church’s integrity to the Chinese government.

   Naïve people were scandalized by the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, but Stalin and Hitler were simply Socialists in different uniforms. Just as the National Socialist manifesto of 1920 tried to replace the Church with a pastiche of “Positive Christianity,” which was Christianity without Christ, so has the Chinese government ordered that images of Christ be replaced with images of Party leader Xi Jinping.

   In 1931, Pope Pius XI denounced the exaltation of the state as “Idolatry.” He insisted that “Religious socialism, Christian socialism, are contradictory terms; no one can be at the same time a good Catholic and a true socialist.”

   From a conviction born of suffering under National Socialism and Soviet Socialism, Pope John Paul II maintained that “the fundamental error of Socialism is anthropological . . . [because it] considers the individual person simply as an element, a molecule within the social organism… .”

   As the Catholic Church is the largest charitable organization in the world, Catholics should note what a present candidate for his party’s presidential nomination, who calls himself a Democratic Socialist, said years ago: “I don’t believe in charities . . .government, rather than charity organizations, should take over responsibility for social programs.”

   But Pope Benedict VI has said: “We do not need a State which regulates and controls everything, but a State which, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces . . .”

   The prophet Samuel warned the Israelites who wanted a king in charge of everything: “He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves” (1 Samuel 8:17). That voice is louder now. 

View Articles Father Rutler was ordained to the diaconate in Rome by His Eminence William Cardinal Baum in 1980 and received priestly ordination in St. Patrick's... MORE »

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