Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Pope Francis and Socialism

On Friday, May 9, 2014 in Vatican City, during a meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other UN leaders Pope Francis called for a worldwide effort by government to redistribute wealth to help the poor in a new spirit of “generosity”. This should not be too difficult for governments to do as it is always easy to be generous with the wealth of others and that is all governments have to work with. They generate no wealth on their own and so can only sustain themselves by confiscating the wealth created by others, which is what we call taxation. It is rather perplexing in that regard since very few people feel “generous” on tax day. Generosity, in my obviously out-dated mode of thinking, is the voluntary giving out of a spirit of charity which is rather the exact opposite of governments using the coercion of force to take wealth from one group to give it to another group which is deemed more worthy. This, of course, has led to the word “socialism” being tossed around and it is not the first time Pope Francis has been accused of promoting Marxist/socialistic values in the name, as always, of helping the poor. It immediately called to my mind something else a famous figure once said.

This man spoke of those who “proclaim the absolute equality of all men in rights and duties” and that these are also invariably enemies of the family, of the bond of husband and wife and who are themselves full of greed. He said, “they assail the right of property sanctioned by natural law; and by a scheme of horrible wickedness, while they seem desirous of caring for the needs and satisfying the desires of all men, they strive to seize and hold in common whatever has been acquired either by title of lawful inheritance, or by labor of brain and hands, or by thrift in one’s mode of life”. They spread these ideas vigorously in various ways this man said and he even added, “Wherefore, the revered majesty and power of kings has won such fierce hatred from their seditious people that disloyal traitors, impatient of all restraint, have more than once within a short period raised their arms in impious attempt against the lives of their own sovereigns.” This came from a man Pope Francis will no doubt be aware of. These words were from none other than Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical “Quod Apostolici Muneris” of December 28, 1878.

I would recommend any to read this encyclical, not excluding Pope Francis himself, as it may prove enlightening. It is known as the encyclical against socialism and rightly points out that these advocates of egalitarianism (which Pope Leo at least did not consider a beneficial thing) cloak their maliciousness behind the guise of a charitable impulse to help the poor and he could also see, even in 1878, that these were the enemies of the traditional family unit as well as the obvious truth, then as now, that they were also the enemy of the legitimate monarchs of the world. Pope Leo XIII also listed the past Roman Pontiffs who had condemned these same miscreants, or their ideological forefathers, and their reprehensible ideology which is so ruinous to mankind. Nor would he be the last. Faced with appalling examples of socialism in action in places from Mexico to Spain to Russia, Pope Pius XI similarly condemned it on numerous occasions such as in his 1937 encyclical “Divini Redemptoris” “On Atheistic Communism” in which he denounced the entire collectivist mentality that would make of the individual no more than a cog in the wheel of the great, collectivist machine devoted solely to materialism. He also stated famously in “Quadragesimo Anno” that, “No one can be at the same time a sincere Catholic and a true socialist”.

However, in a sincere desire to assist Pope Francis, I would recommend sticking close to the example of the aforementioned Pope Leo XIII. Today, Pope Leo XIII is most famous as being the ‘Pope of the worker’ for his encyclical “Rerum Novarum” in which he sanctioned the formation of Catholic trade unions. Even then, however, he warned against the collectivism of the socialists and said, “The first and most fundamental principle, therefore, if one would undertake to alleviate the condition of the masses, must be the inviolability of private property.” He went on to lay out guidelines for a way of bringing ownership and labor together in something along the lines of the corporatism of medieval Italy. Pope Leo XIII has gone down in history as a pontiff who was a champion of the working man, the poor and the marginalized. And yet, his personal style could not be more dissimilar to Pope Francis. Pope Leo XIII was an Italian aristocrat and was quite famous for his strict adherence to traditional court protocol and papal ceremony. He showed that it was not necessary to sacrifice the smallest detail of the majesty of the papal position in order to be a defender of the poor and an advocate for the marginalized. Pope Leo XIII championed the cause of the downtrodden in imperial Roman splendor. I might also add that he openly identified himself as a monarchist. Alas, many today would not consider that a good thing but, on the other hand, he certainly never gave anyone cause to speculate that he might be a Marxist. No one would have ever made that mistake.

Part of the trouble with the enforced redistribution of wealth to help the poor, is that it destroys positive feelings on the part of both parties involved. This is totally different from charity which gives the party making the donation a sense of happiness for being benevolent and makes the receiver grateful that someone would freely choose to help them. It is a gift and is appreciated as such. Wealth redistribution by the state, on the other hand, generates no feeling of happiness because it is done by force. Being forced to do something, even to do good, is not charitable and one can take no satisfaction in it. In fact, it builds resentment among the providers that what they earned was forced from them to be given to someone who did not earn it. Likewise, the one receiving is also poisoned by it. Rather than feeling gratitude at receiving a gift, they expect it as something they are entitled to and when it is ever lessened or stopped altogether they feel themselves “robbed” of something which they never earned in the first place because they were taught to feel themselves entitled to the fruits of another’s labor. The only ones who benefit are the state bureaucrats who handle the transaction, always keeping a tidy sum for themselves in the process, a sort of ‘handling fee’ for the government.

This is something past pontiffs seemed to understand, that socialism was not wrong simply because socialists tend to be anti-clerical and thus ‘bad for business’ but because they are wrong in principle, their motivations are false and their methods do more harm than good. Of course, in the past, pontiffs also openly attested that monarchy was ‘the best of all governments’ (Pius VI) and considered that they themselves held a rather monarchial position all of which was according to the divine commands. As a result, they viewed the socialist championing of egalitarianism as something dangerous and immoral. Today, unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case. I would also recommend paying particular attention to Pope Leo XIII, so many years ago, pointing out the link between the socialists and attacks on the family. Today we see the same thing. It is the socialists of the left who are at the forefront of destroying the traditional family and they use the arguments of ‘helping the poor’ and promoting equality to do it, whether it is by encouraging single-parent homes, divorce or redefining marriage altogether. If Pope Leo XIII could see the world, and the Church, now, I wonder what he would say?

*Additional note: Some authors, devout Catholics among them, have warned that this new attitude by Pope Francis could open the Catholic Church up to accusations of hypocrisy since they do not pay taxes, at least in the United States where there is probably the most to be gained if the Church did start having to pay taxes. I would have to say, asking the Pope to practice what he preaches would not be an unreasonable position and would add, just for some context, that when Pope Leo XIII made his remarks, he was the first Pontiff in a very long time who did not have subjects to tax in order to sustain himself. He was living entirely off of charity and still never found the need to give up any of the pomp and ceremony of the papal office (of course, he wasn’t constantly traveling all over the world either, somehow the Church survived quite a few decades without the Pope ever leaving Vatican City). I would not be surprised to hear someone suggest that, because of his support for wealth redistribution by the state, Pope Francis might want to stop accepting the subsidy he receives from Italian taxpayers (which is rather ridiculous considering that the Church in Italy is now taxed, ever since the financial crisis) and let that portion designated for the Church to go to the Italian Republic instead to redistribute to the poor. Of course, I would try to be more helpful and suggest that the Church go back to the much smaller bureaucracy it had before the massive expansion of Vatican II or perhaps stop using the ridiculously named “Pope-mobile” and return to the sedan chair that used no fossil fuels and produced no harmful emissions (since we’re all so environmentally conscience these days). That should help save some money for the poor.

Oh, and another piece of advice: go back to the Apostolic Palace. Not many seem to understand that by taking over the Domus Sanctae Marthae “guesthouse” nothing is actually being saved. The Pope has more space than he had on one floor of the Apostolic Palace and he still uses the Palace, it still has to be heated and cleaned and maintained and all the rest so, despite being portrayed as some sort of humble act of frugality, it just means the Pope is taking up two buildings instead of one. Going back to the old way would save something, even if just a little. But then again, this is rather illustrative in and of itself when it comes to government wealth redistribution programs. The appearance is often quite different from the facts of the matter. It looks like governments are being terribly generous and “charitable” when it fact the poor are worse off as a result and, in the same way, the Pope may have been a much more grand and majestic looking figure in the days of Leo XIII but he actually received less money and spent far less money than the so much more outwardly humble Pope Francis does. It is worth thinking about. -MM


  1. The reverent and filial message to His Holiness Pope Francis from Prince Bertrand of Orleans-Braganza deserves a post at MadMonarchist. The Prince address a very important issue about clear links being built between Vatican and Radical Communist movements at Brazil and South America. Kind Regards, Lauer.


    1. It was given an enthusiastic recommendation in the regular news post after it happened and on the Facebook page.

  2. I really hate to say this, because I've been a Catholic my whole life and could never see myself identifying with any other religion, but the fact of the matter is that there are a couple of pretty transparent things going on here.

    The fact is that socialism and Marxism have always had a pretty devoted fan base in Latin America and Africa, two areas where the Church has been loosing lots of membership through Protestant and LDS evangelizing as well as creeping secularism. Wrapping himself in socialist code words and ideology is an effort to speak the language of the common people in those areas and hopefully stop the bleeding. Yes, it will alienate the Church from people in other parts of the world, especially North America, bu HH is probably gambling that he will be able to hold on to more people than he loses with this kind of rhetoric.

    The other thing going on is that Pope Francis is from Latin America himself, so he was raised around this kind of politics and was indoctrinated from an early age, and, of course, he is a Jesuit. We all know that, unfortunately, Jesuits have found themselves on the wrong side of more than one socialist revolution over the years and there has always been a leftist undercurrent running through the order that has occasionally brought it into conflict with the more traditional establishment of the Church. Now, with a Jesuit Pope, the order has become the establishment. I'm painting with a broad brush here and mean no disrespect, but the fact is that the current Pope is quite obviously left of center in his political and economic leanings, and given his background, no one really has any right to be surprised by that.

    What it comes down to is that the Papacy as an institution is grander and more important than any one man, so I guess we as Catholics just need to learn to kind of look the other way on some of these things and just accept that that's who he is.


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