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The Modern Popes and Socialism




Among progressives and false fundamentalists (SSPX, sedevacatists…), we sometimes hear that the Popes have stopped condemning socialism, or even that they would have adhered to it. The quotations show that, on the contrary, the Popes have renewed their condemnations with regard to this doctrine which aims to “upset the foundations of civil society” (Leo XIII, Enc. Quod Apostolici Muneris ).




“One cannot in any way admit that Catholics give their adhesion to moderate socialism."


In the encyclical Mater et Magistra , the holy Pope constantly recalls the social teachings of Leo XIII, Pius XI and Pius XII.

Here, he re-explains the definition of “socialism,” and recalls its condemnation by Pope Pius XI:



“Between communism and Christianity, the Pope recalls that the opposition is radical. He adds that one cannot in any way admit that Catholics give their support to moderate socialism, either because it is a conception of life closed to the temporal, in which well-being is considered as the supreme objective of society; either because it pursues a social organization of common life at the sole level of production, to the great detriment of human freedom; or because it lacks any principle of true social authority."

There he recalls the teachings of Pius XII in his 1941 Pentecost pager:



“In his radio message, the great Pontiff claims “the indisputable competence of the Church…, to judge whether the bases of a given social organization are in conformity with the immutable order of things that God, Creator and Redeemer, has manifested by natural law and Revelation” (18). It reaffirms the immortal vitality of the teachings of the encyclical Rerum novarum and their inexhaustible fruitfulness; he seizes this opportunity "to recall the directive principles of morality on three fundamental values ​​of social and economic life..., these three fundamental elements which intersect, unite and support each other are: the use of material goods , work, family” (19)."


“The 80th anniversary of the publication of the encyclical Rerum Novarum, whose message continues to inspire action for social justice, challenges us to take up and extend the teaching of our predecessors."

In his Apostolic Letter Octogesima Adveniens, Paul VI renews the teachings of previous Pontiffs, “in response to the new needs of a changing world”.



“(26) Also the Christian who wants to live his faith in a political action conceived as a service, cannot, without contradicting himself, adhere to ideological systems which are opposed radically, or on substantial points, to his faith and to its conception of man: nor to Marxist ideology, to its atheistic materialism, to its dialectic of violence and to the way in which it reabsorbs individual freedom in the community, while at the same time denying any transcendence to man and its history, personal and collective; nor to the liberal ideology, which believes in exalting individual freedom by removing it from all limitation, by stimulating it by the exclusive search for interest and power, and by considering social solidarities as more or less automatic consequences of individual initiatives and not as a goal and a major criterion of the value of social organization."

Later in the letter, he laments that:



“Too often Christians attracted to socialism tend to idealize it in very general terms: the desire for justice, solidarity and equality. They refuse to recognize the constraints of historical socialist movements, which remain conditioned by their original ideologies."


“From this erroneous conception of the person stem the distortion of the law which defines the sphere of exercise of freedom, as well as the refusal of private property."

On the occasion of the centenary of the Encyclical Rerum Novarum laying the foundations of the Social Doctrine of the Church , John Paul II, at the end of the Cold War, repeatedly condemned socialism and communism, often recalling the teaching of Leo XIII:



"One might be surprised that the Pope starts from 'socialism' to criticize the solutions given to the 'labour question', when socialism did not yet present itself, as it happened later, under the form of a strong and powerful state, with all the resources at its disposal. However, he was well aware of the danger represented for the masses by the seductive presentation of a solution as simple as it was radical to the “labor question” of the time."

Further, he teaches:



“(13) Going deeper now and also with reference to everything that has been said in the encyclicals Laborem exetens and Sollicitudo rei socialis , it must be added that the fundamental error of “socialism” is of an anthropological nature. Indeed, he considers the individual as a simple element, a molecule of the social organism, so that the good of each is entirely subordinated to the functioning of the economic and social mechanism, while, on the other hand, he considers that this even the good of the individual can be achieved outside of any autonomous choice on his part, outside of his sole and exclusive decision responsible for good or evil."

…from which he draws the following conclusion:



“Man is thus reduced to a set of social relations, and it is then that the concept of the person as an autonomous subject of moral decision which constructs the social order by this decision disappears. From this erroneous conception of the person stem the distortion of the law which defines the sphere of exercise of freedom, as well as the refusal of private property. Indeed, man dispossessed of what he could call “his” and of the possibility of earning a living through his initiatives, comes to depend on the social machine and on those who control it; this makes it much more difficult for him to recognize his own dignity as a person and hinders progress towards the constitution of an authentic human community."


“We don't need a state that rules and dominates everything."

In his very famous Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, Benedict XVI teaches the Social Doctrine of the Church in the tradition of his predecessors:



“The State which wants to provide for everything, which absorbs everything in itself, ultimately becomes a bureaucratic authority which cannot provide the essential that the suffering man – every man – needs: personal devotion full of love. We do not need a state that rules and dominates everything, but on the contrary a state that generously recognizes and supports, in line with the principle of subsidiarity, the initiatives that arise from the different social forces and that combine spontaneity and proximity to men in need."

He condemns materialism, which is one of the foundations of socialism:



“The affirmation according to which just structures would make works of charity superfluous hides in reality a materialistic conception of man: the prejudice according to which man would live “by bread alone” ( Mt 4,4 ; cf. Dt 8 , 3) is a conviction that humiliates man and misunderstands precisely what is most specifically human."


“I was able to see the portraits of the forty priests murdered during the communist dictatorship and for whom the cause for beatification was opened."

Some ill-informed media hastened to release in large letters “ Pope Francis is a socialist ” for a simple opinion regarding the economy that he issued. No, Pope Francis is not a socialist, since according to the teaching of the Church, socialism is above all materialist.

It is true that Pope Francis hardly spoke of socialism and its extreme version: communism. However, he sometimes mentions it, for example during his Hearing of September 24, 2014:



“While walking along the main street of Tirana which leads from the airport to the large central square, I was able to see the portraits of the forty priests murdered during the communist dictatorship and for whom the cause of beatification was opened. They join the hundreds of Christian and Muslim religious murdered, tortured, imprisoned, deported solely because they believed in God. These were dark years, during which religious freedomwas razed to the ground and where it was forbidden to believe in God, thousands of churches and mosques were destroyed, turned into depots and cinemas that promoted Marxist ideology, religious books were burned and parents were forbidden to give their children the religious names of their ancestors. The memory of these dramatic events is essential for the future of a people."

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