“It is when the Communists are good that they are dangerous.”
That is how Dorothy Day begins an article in America, published just before the launch of the Catholic Worker on May Day in 1933. In contrast to the reactions of many Catholics of the time, Day painted a sympathetic, if the critical view of the communists she encountered in Depression-era New York City.
Critical? Maybe we should look more closely at the article and decide for ourselves. She explained, “It is because of the Communist Party's ideals, not because of its essential anti-religious aspect; because of its love of the ordinary man, and not because of its hatred towards God, that so many young people are being attracted towards Communism. And being attracted by what is good in their natures, and fervently embracing it as a cause, they come eventually to accept wholeheartedly all the party teaches.”
Did you catch that love of man- not the love of God? In fact, when taken to the logical conclusion, the love of man replaces the love of God for the Communist. They have essentially elevated man to the position of God here on earth and have taken the free will away from the people to worship God any more under their rule. In the United States, our forefathers established this country on the basis of Freedom of Religion, not a concept created in the Everson v New Jersey Case- Freedom From Religion. We are a country that has and should guarantee everyone’s rights to practice their religion- it is not a country free from religion. It is a country where the Declaration of Independence claimed that all men had unalienable rights bestowed by their creator (God) not the government.
“Most people who join communist parties and movements, are motivated not by some deep hatred toward God or frothing anti-theism, but by an aspiration for a world liberated from a political economy that demands vast exploitation of the many for the comfort of a few.” Day explained.
Here we go again, the patter of the parts of speech that call for people to place here and now as somehow more important than the hereafter. Is this what God would want us to do? Is this what the Church would want us to do?
Despite and beyond theoretical differences, priests like Herbert McCabe, O.P., Ernesto and Fernando Cardenal, S.J., Frei Betto, O.P., Camilo Torres and many other Catholics—members of the clergy, religious and laypeople—have been inspired by communists and in many places contributed to communist and communist-influenced movements as members. Some still do—for example in the Philippines, where the “Christians for National Liberation,” an activist group first organized by nuns, priests and exploited Christians, are politically housed within the National Democratic Front, a coalition of movements that includes a strong communist thread currently fighting the far-right authoritarian leader Rodrigo Duterte.
The question now becomes, should Catholics be inspired by Communism? Where in our Catechism does it say this? Where in the Bible does it say this? Where in the history of Russia under Communism or the history of China under Communism does this appear- that faithful religious people are inspired by the Communist Party, its leaders, or their actions.
Stalin alone was responsible for more than 50 million deaths of Christian people. This included between seven to thirteen million Ukrainians most of which were either Ukrainian Orthodox or Ukrainian Catholic. There were millions of cases of inspiration as people stood up to Communism and went to underground churches. In fact, St. John Paul II started studying to become a priest as he attended seminary when that was outlawed during World War II.
If we are what we eat, are we also not we practice and what we believe. Bishop Fulton Sheen explained it this way, “If you don't behave as you believe, you will end by believing as you behave.”
Closer to home and outside of armed struggles, Christians are also present today in communist movements in the United States and Canada. Whatever hostilities may have existed in the past, some of these movements are quite open to Christian participation now. Many people in The Party for Socialism and Liberation, for example, a Marxist-Leninist party, are churchgoing Christians or folks without a grudge against their Christian upbringing, as are lots of people in the radical wing of the Democratic Socialists of America.
The Party for Socialism and Liberation, for example, believes that the only solution to the deepening crisis of capitalism is the socialist transformation of society. Driven by an insatiable appetite for ever greater profits regardless of social cost, capitalism is on a collision course with the people of the world and the planet itself. Imperialist war; deepening unemployment and poverty; deteriorating health care, housing, and education; racism; discrimination and violence based on gender and sexual orientation; environmental destruction—all are inevitable products of the capitalist system itself.
For the great majority of people in the world, including tens of millions of workers in the United States, conditions of life and work are worsening. There is no prospect that this situation can or will be turned around under the existing system.
The idea that the capitalists’ grip on society and their increasingly repressive state can be abolished through any means other than a revolutionary overturn is an illusion. Equally unrealistic are reformist hopes for a “kinder, gentler” capitalism, or solutions based on economic decentralization or small-group autonomy. Meeting the needs of the more than 6.5 billion people who inhabit the planet today is impossible without large-scale agriculture and industry and economic planning.
The fundamental problems confronting humanity today flow from the reality that most of the world’s productive wealth—the product of socialized labor and nature—is privately owned and controlled by a tiny minority. This minority decides what will be produced and what will not. Its decisions are based on making profits rather than meeting human needs.
There are really only two choices for humanity today—increasingly destructive capitalism, or socialism.
Does this sound like the teaching of the Catholic Church? Does this sound like the writings of the Apostle Paul or the teaching of Jesus Christ? I say not.
These are the writing of men that have put man as the foundation of their creed and the rewards that they seek are power and acclaim here on this earth. This is not what Jesus taught, this is not.
Just look at the examples that the proponents of this policy give to us. “We tend to associate socialism with democracies: Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland—countries that have low economic inequality and high quality of life, achieved through universal social programs and financed through high tax rates. By my analysis, democratic socialists’ economic policy proposals are compatible with Catholic social teaching.”
I ask you today much as President John F. Kennedy asked on Jan. 20, 1961- sixty years ago, “Ask not what your country can do for you but ask what you can do for your country.” This is a true principle of Catholic Social Justice. We need to look for our leaders to give us a hand up not a handout. We need to look for ideals in the words of our Lord and our Church- not in the words of some non-believing people. The purpose of life is to love, obey, and serve our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ- now and forever. Amen