PopeWatch: Communists



Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded – here and there, now and then – are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty. This is known as “bad luck.”

Robert Heinlein

Well, the Pope has given another interview, this time to the Roman paper Il Messaggero :


“I can only say that the communists have stolen our flag,” said the Pope, who returned to the public eye today with Mass for the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul after lying low with an apparent cold. “The flag of the poor is Christian. Poverty is at the center of the Gospel.”
He said this citing Biblical passages about the need to help the poor, the sick and the needy.
“Communists say that all this is communism. Sure, 20 centuries later. So when they speak, one can say to them: ‘but then you are Christian,’” he said, laughing.

Go here to read the rest.  The early Church in Jerusalem adopted a voluntary communal lifestyle that was soon abandoned outside of monastic institutions.  Communism of course has been remarkable for fostering poverty and tyranny, and helping the poor generally has come about only after the fall of Communist regimes.  Go here to read about Communist poverty in Cuba.  That anyone outside of an insane asylum believes that Communism has been useful in fighting poverty, and that is not what the Pope is saying, is a disturbing reflection of the desire of many intellectuals to believe that Communism can work if it is only done correctly this time.

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  1. I always thought Christ was at the center of the Gospel. Then following Him to the Father. Then doing the will of the Father out of love for the Father, Son and Spirit. Then loving others. Then following the Commandments including the Beatitudes. This now leads us to love of poverty, which is not just material (as Communists and other materialists including Christian materialists would have one believe.) Rather, it is the absolute dependence on God for all things including our spiritual salvation. This being completely met in Christ. Thus the true center of the Gospel (see my first sentence.)

  2. Are you sure this isn’t a translation problem? Maybe he was misquoted? Maybe he said communism helps make the poor, not help the poor?

  3. I take the quote as saying that Communism claims to help the poor, while the Church actually does help the poor. Communism appropriated the Christian concern for the poor to it own anti-Christian purposes.

    This is no surprise to anyone familiar with the history of liberation theology in Latin America. At best liberation theology was an attempt to Christianize Marxism, and at worst is was a Marxist infiltration of the Church. Pope Francis in his formative years as a priest was a direct observer of this conflict, so it is safe to comment that he surely had much firsthand experience with this subject. One can get the feeling, in fact, that he was speaking in a shorthand possibly due to overfamiliarity with it.

  4. This is troubling: Less Latin, more liberation? | Commonweal Magazine | https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/less-latin-more-liberation

    @Phillip, I agree and I additionally comment as follows: gospel = good news [of salvation] and Jesus sends a report to St. John the Baptist that “the Good News is proclaimed to the poor”. Since we have the poor with us always, it therefore is not the Church’s goal to eliminate poverty (communism goal through class struggle) even though in its mission, it never forgets the poor.
    The Pope is mistakenly confused or purposely confusing …

  5. It is the exercise of the virtue of Justice to aid the poor in their necessities to maintain life. It is not in the power of the state, or of communism, to define poverty or a person’s obligation to aleviate his neighvor’s poverty. The individual person must follow his conscience in giving alms to the needy. Communism denies the individual’s conscience and his tithing as an expression of love for God.

  6. People find similar goals shared by communism and Christianity if that is what they are looking for . You can also find plenty of parables and proverbs about industry, stewardship, proper use of talents if you are looking for that boost to a more productive world view. We can glean what we are looking for to a certain extent, or support for what we already believe. We do know for sure that we can discern truth by looking at the fruit. Communism has not produced better standards of living, but some people hold to the hope that somehow it would work This Time.

  7. Anzlyne: “some people hold to the hope that somehow it would work This Time.”
    How can communism work this time, when communism denies the individual common person for the herd mentality, the group, the state, leaving the individual to support the state under penalty of law? The will of the people to be free and make their own decisions by informed consent must direct that the state must operate in conformity to the will of the people.

  8. “So when they speak, one can say to them: ‘but then you are Christian,’” he said, laughing.”
    Communism denies the individual person, the citizen, and imposes the ideals of the group, the state, using the citizen’s constituency in the state as the yoke to burden him. Therefore, communism would deny Jesus Christ, the individual, the citizen of the world, the Son of God. The errors of atheism, imposed by communism, have done much harm to the freedom of religion, to the individual citizen and to the world.
    Comrade Anzlyne, you do not matter to the communist party, unless you are the Commisar. (Sorry Anzlyne) The nuns used to say “We are the biggest communists”. The difference being that the nuns gave up their freedom to vow obedience. The communist party imposes obedience by military action and terror. It is fair to say that the communist party members are not good communists.

  9. Yes. As I said, communism does not produce good fruit. But sometimes people hope it will work this time, despite having seen that it does not produce good fruit. I agree with you 100% Mary. I say that the pope like many other, can misunderstand and misinterpret based on what they are expecting to find in Jesus’ teaching. Now if his expectations come from how he was formed in Argentina,by his parents, by the Jesuits or what I don’t know, they say his grandparents left Italy in response to Mussolini fascism. Maybe all that forms his expectations about “right wing”.
    God asks us, I think, to keep going back to HIM for Clarity and Light, to ask as David did, for God to cleanse us of unknown faults.

  10. ‘The poor’ in both testaments have been examples of spiritual poverty, as well, if not more so. I wish that this spiritual poverty, a condition glaring overwhelmingly in the world, were addressed as much as material poverty. Illustrating the aspect of spiritual poverty with His teaching through the Church would give a greater voice to reveal the imbalance in ways of the world.

    Flipping through the books in the Book shows how prophets, peoples, disciples and apostles were chosen and who they were. Solving material poverty is an end; eliminating spiritual poverty is a beginning for many more kinds of endings, including material.

  11. Making some distinctions:
    What is due in Justice should not be given as Charity.
    Poverty, whose responsibility? All! (State, Church, individuals, society, etc.) And responsibility arises from Justice, Charity, or in accordance to God’s law.
    Charity examples: almsgiving, The Rich man and Lazarus, […] in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine […], coming to the help of orphans and widows, cf. Letter of St. James, If a man who was rich enough in this world’s goods saw that one of his brothers was in need, but closed his heart to him, etc.
    Justice examples: Pay a fair wage (even above the minimum wage), Laborers mowed your fields, and you cheated them (a sin crying to heaven for vengeance), merchants not tampering with the scales, wise and just laws (cf. social doctrine of the Church: Article 7 of CCC, the 7th Commandment), caring for the Vets, etc.
    God’s law: caring for family and parents, support of our pastors, etc.
    CCC 2425 The Church has rejected the totalitarian and atheistic ideologies associated in modem times with “communism” or “socialism.” She has likewise refused to accept, in the practice of “capitalism,” individualism and the absolute primacy of the law of the marketplace over human labor. Regulating the economy solely by centralized planning perverts the basis of social bonds; regulating it solely by the law of the marketplace fails social justice, for “there are many human needs which cannot be satisfied by the market.” Reasonable regulation of the marketplace and economic initiatives, in keeping with a just hierarchy of values and a view to the common good, is to be commended.
    Food for thought: Faith languishing in the prosperous West yet thriving in the Third World …

  12. FMS: “What is due in Justice should not be given as Charity.”
    Justice is giving to another person what he needs to maintain life. Charity would be giving to the person what he might desire or choose for himself…the packed down spilling over.
    In Justice, the state may use tax dollars to maintain life. (Any law may be broken to save a life). The state may not take tax dollars to act in Charity as the virtue of charity belongs to the free will of the citizen. Deut. 14: 22-29 the law regarding tithes.

  13. Definitions
    1836 Justice consists in the firm and constant will to give God and neighbor their due.
    1844 By charity, we love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves for love of God [or better, as he has loved us]. Charity, the form of all the virtues, “binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Col 3:14).
    Human example: Employer paying his employee a just and fair wage and on time; same employer assisting the employee with time and a financial arrangement so that the employee can go and bury his father.
    The LORD’s example cf. Ps 130:3-4
    If you, O LORD, should mark our guilt,
    LORD, who would survive?
    But with you is found forgiveness [He himself paying our debt]:
    for this we revere you.
    Summary: Justice: as we deserve; Charity: better than we deserve [having take care of justice]

  14. The Mosaic law enjoins: “And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest. And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and the stranger: I am the Lord your God” (Lev. xix. 9, 10). “When thou beatest thine olive tree, thou shalt not go over the boughs again: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow. When thou gatherest the grapes of thy vineyard, thou shalt not glean it afterward: it shallbe for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow” (Deut. xxiv. 20, 21). These provisions belong to the agricultural poor-laws of the Bible, the transgression of which was punishable with stripes.
    This was not a mere obligation laid on the Israelites, it was a true property right, a jus quæsitum tertio, reserved to the poor

  15. I have found that one needs to recognize the primary sources of Pope Francis’ views on things. For example, a great deal of his approach to the Church and the Gospel can be traced back to Hans Urs Von Balthasar, the great theologian whom St John Paul named as a cardinal and who also influenced Pope Benedict. In terms of ‘the poor’ it is not marxism or even liberation theology which has influenced Pope Francis. One can find a magnificent ‘treatment’ on ‘the poor’ in a book by Jean Cardinal Danielou which is simply named “Prayer”. While the name sounds like its content is totally about prayer in Catholic life, it actually is about ‘mission’. In that book, Danielous a real indepth approach to the subject of ‘the poor’. The book is readily available so I will leave you to read it.

  16. In the previous post, I meant to add, that in Danielou’s work, ‘the poor’ are really all in need of salvation. With that in mind, without excluding those who experience material poverty, all that the pope is saying makes a great deal of sense.

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