KNOWLES: Socialism Is Wicked


The Vatican News Service commemorated the sixtieth anniversary of Cuba’s communist revolution last week, writing, “The Cuban Revolution celebrated its 60th anniversary this January 1, 2019. On the island, the historic anniversary was celebrated with a ceremony in Santiago de Cuba….” One imagines the historic anniversary went uncelebrated by the estimated 35,000 to 141,000 Cuban citizens executed by the Castro regime. Likewise, the estimated 18,000 Cuban dissidents imprisoned over the past decade and the two million living overseas for fear of the regime’s brutality likely missed the festivities as well.

The Holy See quickly deleted the post, but unfortunately such paeans to socialism have become commonplace within the Catholic Church. In his 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis assailed free markets, claiming,

Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.

A pyromaniac in a field of straw men, nevertheless the Argentine pontiff may be forgiven for misunderstanding the particular wonders of American supply-side economics. By 2017, however, the pope narrowed his attacks to capitalism itself, which he accused of giving “a moral cloak to inequality.”

Since at least the so-called “Jesus Movement” of the 1960s and ‘70s, political leftists have tried to refashion Christ into some sort of hippie opposed to free economies. As this pernicious narrative now reaches all the way to the throne of St. Peter, the time has come to revisit what past pontiffs had to say about socialism.

Leo XIII, the third-longest serving pope in history, called the then-incipient ideology of socialism a “pest” and a “plague” in his 1878 encyclical Quod Apostolici Muneris. He went on to describe socialists as “a wicked confederacy … stealing the very Gospel itself” to advance “their depraved teachings.” Later, in his encyclical Rerum Novarum, Leo called socialists “empathically unjust.” He warned of “how intolerable and hateful a slavery citizens would be subjected” to under socialism, which “must be utterly rejected” because it “is directly contrary to the natural rights of mankind” and “would be in reality the leveling down of all to a like condition of misery and degradation.”

Pope St. John Paul II, who in Poland saw firsthand the wickedness of international socialism, affirmed in his 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus, “On the level of individual nations and of international relations, the free market is the most efficient instrument for utilizing resources and effectively responding to needs.” The Berlin Wall fell for good six months later. The Soviet Union collapsed, not merely for the efforts of great men such as John Paul II, but because, as he observed, “The fundamental error of socialism is anthropological in nature. Socialism considers the individual person simply as an element, a molecule within the social organism, so that the good of the individual is completely subordinated to the functioning of the socio-economic mechanism.” Socialism ruins societies because it misunderstands human nature.

The scourge of socialism once again threatens our own country, bedeviled as it is by economic and historical ignorance. Two socialists have just won seats in Congress. A third infects the Senate. The majority of American millennials now identify as socialist. On the bright side, only 32% of those millennials can define what socialism means. The time is ripe for education. Unfortunately, our presumptive moral instructors would rather celebrate Fidel Castro.

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