The Catholic Case for Communism

“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 critical view of the communists she encountered in Depression-era New York City. Her deep personalism allowed her to see the human stories through the ideological struggle; and yet she concluded that Catholicism and communism were not only incompatible, but mutual threats. A whole Cold War has passed since her reflection, and a few clarifying notes are now worthwhile.

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Communists are attracted to communism by their goodness, Day argued, that unerasable quality of the good that can be found within and outside the church alike, woven into our very nature. It might have been an easier thing to say back in 1933, when American communists were well known to the general public for putting their lives on the line to support striking workers, but it was also the kind of thing that could land you in a lot of trouble, not least in the Catholic Church.

By affirming the goodness that drives so many communists then and now, Day aimed to soften the perceptions of Catholics who were more comfortable with villainous caricatures of the communists of their era than with more challenging depictions of them as laborers for peace and economic justice. Most people who join communist parties and movements, Day rightly noted, 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.

[Matt Malone, S.J.: Why we published an essay sympathetic to communism]

But in her attempt to create sympathy for the people attracted to communism and to overcome a knee-jerk prejudice against them, Day needlessly perpetuated two other prejudices against communism. First, she said that under all the goodness that draws people to communism, the movement is, in the final analysis, a program “with the distinct view of tearing down the church.”

Then, talking about a young communist in her neighborhood who was killed after being struck by a brick thrown by a Trotskyite, she concluded that young people who follow the goodness in their hearts that may lead them to communism are not fully aware of what it is they are participating in—even at the risk of their lives. In other words, we should hate the communism but love the communist.

Though Day’s sympathetic criticism of communism is in many ways commendable, nearly a century of history shows there is much more to the story than these two judgments suggest. Communist political movements the world over have been full of unexpected characters, strange developments and more complicated motivations than a desire to undo the church; and even through the challenges of the 20th century, Catholics and communists have found natural reasons to offer one another a sign of peace.

A Complicated History

Christianity and communism have obviously had a complicated relationship. That adjective “complicated” will surely cause some readers to roll their eyes. Communist states and movements have indeed persecuted religious people at different moments in history. At the same time, Christians have been passionately represented in communist and socialist movements around the world. And these Christians, like their atheist comrades, are communists not because they misunderstand the final goals of communism but because they authentically understand the communist ambition of a classless society.

“From each according to ability, to each according to need,” Marx summarizes in “Critique of the Gotha Program,” a near echo of Luke’s description of the early church in Acts 4:35 and 11:29. Perhaps it was Day, not her young communist neighbor, who misunderstood communism.

It is true that Marx, Engels, Lenin and a number of other major communists were committed Enlightenment thinkers, atheists who sometimes assumed religion would fade away in the bright light of scientific reason, and at other times advocated propagandizing against it (though not, as Lenin argued, in a way that would divide the movement against capitalism, the actual opponent). That should not be so scandalous in itself. They are hardly alone as modern atheists, and their atheism is understandable, when Christianity has so often been a force allied to the ruling powers that exploit the poor. Catholics have found plenty of philosophical resources in non-Christian sources in the past; why not moderns?

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.

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 of my friends 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 Communist Party USA has published essays affirming the connections between Christianity and communism and encouraging Marxists not to write off Christians as hopelessly lost to the right (the C.P.U.S.A. paper, People’s World, even reported on Sister Simone Campbell and Network’s Nuns on the Bus campaign to agitate for immigration reform). In Canada, Dave McKee, former leader of the Communist Party of Canada in Ontario, was once an Anglican theology student at a Catholic seminary, radicalized in part by his contact with base communities in Nicaragua. For my part, I have talked more about Karl Rahner, S.J., St. Óscar Romero and liberation theology at May Day celebrations and communist meetings than at my own Catholic parish.

In other words, though some communists would undoubtedly prefer a world without Christianity, communism is not simply a program for destroying the church. Many who committed their very lives to the church felt compelled to work alongside communists as part of their Christian calling. The history of communism, whatever else it might be, will always contain a history of Christianity, and vice versa, whether members of either faction like it or not.

Communism in its socio-political expression has at times caused great human and ecological suffering. Any good communist is quick to admit as much, not least because communism is an unfinished project that depends on the recognition of its real and tragic mistakes.

But communists are not the only ones who have to answer for creating human suffering. Far from being a friendly game of world competition, capitalism, Marx argued, emerged through the privatization of what was once public, like shared land, a process enforced first by physical violence and then continued by law. As time went on, human beings themselves would become the private property of other human beings.

[Questions or comments about this essay? Join the author for a live Q&A on America’s Facebook page on Thursday, July 25 at 2 p.m. EST]

Colonial capitalism, together with the assumptions of white supremacy, ushered in centuries of unbridled terrorism on populations around the world, creating a system in which people could be bought and sold as commodities. Even after the official abolition of slavery in the largest world economies—which required a costly civil war in the United States—the effects of that system live on, and capitalist nations and transnational companies continue to exploit poor and working people at home and abroad. For many people around the globe today, being on the wrong side of capitalism can still mean the difference between life and death.

What Motivates a Communist?

Communism has provided one of the few sustainable oppositions to capitalism, a global political order responsible for the ongoing suffering of millions. It is that suffering, reproduced by economic patterns that Marx and others tried to explain, and not the secret plot of atheism (as Day once argued), that motivates communists.

According to a report by Oxfam released in 2018, global inequality is staggering and still on the rise. Oxfam, which is not run by communists, observed that “82 percent of the wealth created [in 2017] went to the richest one percent of the global population, while the 3.7 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity got nothing.”

While entrepreneurs like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are investing in space travel, their workers are grounded in daily economic struggle here on earth. In Mr. Musk’s Tesla factories, workers suffer serious injuries more than twice the industrial average, and they report being so exhausted that they collapse on the factory floor.

An undercover journalist reports workers urinate into bottles in a U.K. Amazon warehouse for fear of being disciplined for “idle time,” and the company has a long list of previous offenses. In Pennsylvania, Amazon workers needed medical attention both for exposure to the cold in the winter and for heat exhaustion in the summer. These hardly seem like prices worth paying so a few billionaires can vacation in the black expanse of space. As one Detroit Tesla worker put it: “Everything feels like the future but us.”

For communists, global inequality and the abuse of workers at highly profitable corporations are not the result only of unkind employers or unfair labor regulations. They are symptoms of a specific way of organizing wealth, one that did not exist at the creation of the world and one that represents part of a “culture of death,” to borrow a familiar phrase. We already live in a world where wealth is redistributed, but it goes up, not down or across.

Though polls show U.S. citizens have become increasingly skeptical of capitalism—one Gallup survey even reports that Democrats currently view socialism more positively than capitalism—that attitude is not widely popular among electoral representatives. A revival of socialist hysteria typified the response to Bernie Sanders’s inspiring 2016 primary bid and the electoral success of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, members of the Democratic Socialists of America, a party co-founded by a former Catholic Worker, Michael Harrington. Republican and Democratic politicians have made it abundantly clear that whatever their differences, they both agree that in U.S. political culture support for capitalism is non-negotiable, as Nancy Pelosi told a socialist questioner during a CNN town hall.

Communists are not content with the back-and-forth of capitalist parties, who point fingers at one another while maintaining, jointly, a system that exploits multitudes of people, including their own constituents. Communists think we can build better ways of being together in society.

[Questions or comments about this essay? Join the author for a live Q&A on America’s Facebook page on Thursday, July 25 at 2 p.m. EST]

Contrary to the fear that communists simply want everyone’s “stuff,” the abolition of private property, for which Marx and Engels called, means the abolition of privately owned ways of generating wealth, not taking the clothes off your back or your dad’s tie collection. As the popular saying in communist circles goes, communists do not want your toothbrush. Some of the standard proposals in the programs of communist parties include things like providing free health care, abolishing private profit from renting property and the creation of truly democratic institutions in which politicians are not millionaires and are subject to recall.

In fact, although the Catholic Church officially teaches that private property is a natural right, this teaching also comes with the proviso that private property is always subordinate to the common good. So subordinate, says Pope Francis in a truly radical moment in “Laudato Si’,” that “The Christian tradition has never recognized the right to private property as absolute or inviolable, and has stressed the social purpose of all forms of private property.”

Something like this is paralleled in “The Communist Manifesto,” when Marx and Engels underscore that abolishing private property means abolishing not personal property, or the kinds of things an artisan or farmer might own, but the amassed property held by the rich, which divides human beings into antagonistic classes of people—in other words, the kind of private property that most of us do not have.

“You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property,” Marx and Engels say to their bourgeois detractors. “But in your existing society, private property is already done away with for nine-tenths of the population; its existence for the few is solely due to its non-existence in the hands of those nine-tenths.”

[Matt Malone, S.J.: Why we published an essay sympathetic to communism]

Instead, they write that property should be transformed. In a passage not too far from Pope Francis’ bold sentence above, Marx and Engels say: “When, therefore, capital is converted into common property, into the property of all members of society, personal property is not thereby transformed into social property. It is only the social character of the property that is changed. It loses its class character.”

What communists desire is an authentically common life together, and they think that can only happen by relativizing property in light of the good of everyone. Radical indeed, but certainly not all that shocking to people who remember when the Virgin Mary sang that God has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty (Lk 1:53).

Dorothy Day and Christian Communism

Dorothy Day seemed to recognize the deeper motivations for communism later on, changing her judgment of good communists to suggest perhaps there is also good communism. Her article in America was written at the beginning of the Great Depression. Twenty years later, Fidel Castro and comrades founded the 26th of July Movement. That effort in 1959 ousted Fulgencio Batista, whose regime was infamous for torturing or killing thousands of Cubans while enjoying support from the United States.

Reflecting on the Cuban revolution in The Catholic Worker in 1961, Day offered a complex perspective on the persecution of some Catholics following the revolution. Nevertheless, she wrote, “It is hard...to say that the place of The Catholic Worker is with the poor, and that being there, we are often finding ourselves on the side of the persecutors of the Church. This is a tragic fact.”

Day reminded her readers that Castro emphasized he was not against the church or Catholics as such (he knew Catholics in the revolution, after all) but against those factions within Cuba that would prefer to cling to the old regime, built on the oppression of Cuba’s people. Castro had not only permitted priests and nuns to stay in Cuba, Day wrote, but affirmed that the church endured through monarchies, republics and in feudalist states. “Why cannot she exist under a socialist state?” she asked. She noted many Jesuits would stay in Cuba to work in parishes and added that the Jesuits already had experience living through periods of persecution and suppression.

But Dorothy Day was not open only to the begrudging possibility that the Cuban church might not be wiped out by socialism. She went further: “We are on the side of the revolution. We believe there must be new concepts of property, which is proper to [humanity], and that the new concept is not so new. There is a Christian communism and a Christian capitalism.

“God Bless the priests and people of Cuba. God bless Castro and all those who are seeing Christ in the poor,” she said. A year later, Day visited Cuba to see the revolutionary society for herself. In a series of dispatches to The Catholic Worker, she reported glowingly, albeit not without noting the many problems the young society had to solve, problems she hoped could in fact be solved with a little communist ingenuity.

Spanning over a century now, communists—Christians and non-Christians—have fought against a violent capitalist economy, putting their lives and freedoms at risk, enduring character assassination, imprisonment and war. Whether or not one is convinced by the communist hope of abolishing private property, it is undeniable that communists have provided a real, material challenge to a global system that the most powerful world governments have every intention of perpetuating. The loss of a mass communist movement, due in large part to an aggressive legal and political persecution by the United States and other governments, has made organizing opposition to capitalism itself a difficult task; but even in its absence, a majority of millennials reject capitalism.

As Marx and Engels put it in “The Communist Manifesto”: “In place of the bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.” It is with that hope for free development, beyond the competition of capitalists, that many Catholics, myself included, count themselves among the communists.

So Dorothy Day was right when she said it is when the communists are good that they are dangerous. Communists are pursuing the good when they are dangerous; they are opposing an economic system based on avarice, exploitation and human suffering, afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted. And in a world beholden to an economy of death, one that is crippling our “common home,” as Pope Francis tells us, and asserting itself as the end of history, we must also add: It is when the communists are dangerous that they are good.

[Questions or comments about this essay? Join the author for a live Q&A on America’s Facebook page on Thursday, July 25 at 2 p.m. EST]

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James Misiak
1 month 4 weeks ago

I just don't get it. I used to think that America was such a great magazine, when I first started reading it. But now, everytime I read one of their articles I just get angry. It's just sad. Anyone know a good alternative? How is OSV Newsweekly?

Margaret W
1 month 4 weeks ago

Don't despair. Try National Catholic Register at NCRegister.com, The Catholic Thing at thecatholicthing.org, Crisis Magazine at crisismagazine.com, The Catholic World Report at catholicworldreport.com

Michael Bindner
1 month 4 weeks ago

Capitalist world daily. Jesus would weep. God bless Francis and Cardinal O'Malley for renewing the Church, one retirement at a time.

Jeremiah Alphonsus
1 month 4 weeks ago

Truly nauseating.

Tony B. de Castro
1 month 4 weeks ago

But of course Day was correct about the ultimate incompatibility between Christianity and Communism. It is not a prejudice therefore for her to think that "the movement is, in the final analysis, a program 'with the distinct view of tearing down the church.'" The author of this piece seems willfully blind to repression of the Church in communist countries.

The author then says: "in the Philippines...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." Wow! The author obviously is caught in a time warp. Nobody talks of the "CNL" in the Philippines anymore. Its members were prominent during the Marcos regime, but that was 33 years ago and after the popular EDSA Revolution, their influence has dwindled to almost nothing. Where has this guy been? Mars?

Michael Bindner
1 month 4 weeks ago

They had no more luck then Napoleon did. The Curia has been much more effective. God bless Francis, Synodality and the Council of Cardinals. Renewing the Church, one retirement at a time.

Christopher Lochner
1 month 4 weeks ago

(The following comments ONLY pertain to the current version of the RCC.)
Ultimately, someone must be in control. Communism, and the reality of Dorothy Day, were not so much about helping the poor as being in control of other people and in having the final say in every aspect of their lives. Their kingdoms WOULD be of this world. Freedom was not encouraged or allowed as this removed control from The State (or the Dorothy Interpretation thereof.) The utopia of a classless and benificent society where all people are in unison for the common good is a falsehhood. This is NOT human nature. Christ knew/knows this while some Catholics apparently do not.
Examine the physical nature of our own Church. The teachings of Christ are often a distant second to the need for maintenance of order on all levels. And as the corporate church which fancies itself to be for the common good has readily shown, a multutude of grave sins and blatant favoritism are allowed under the auspices of a communistic design for hierarchy. This exhibits itself in use of "calumny" as a defense for grave sins of abuse or, on the local level, as how a Priest advances and is posted to a parish solely on the whim of a bishop; antagonize him and you will be sent to ecclesiastical Siberia. It is often stated that the church is not a democracy. Have you ever wondered why? This would remove some power from leadership and this cannot be allowed.
This article promotes communism in the same manner that obedience to the magisterium is taught; it is more often about power and control and rarely about the people. {Matthew 23:4}
She is often referred to as saintly Dorothy Day because of her power and notoriety. The love of the poor are about power but not for them but for those who control them and the desire to institute another political system.
Amazon.com working conditions may well be poor although tuition assistance is provided (Why is this rarely noted?? And does the RCC do this for their employees?) And Elon Musk, while not a saint, has done more to help people than Dorothy ever did (but Elon doesn't quote Scripture while Dorothy always did so score one for Dorothy but... Elon provides jobs...Dorothy gave them fish for a day while Elon teaches them how to fish.).
And do not for one second believe in a catholic political order, and that is what is being referred to here, which uses Sacred Scripture for goals which are not attributed to Christ for this is solely man's creation and is not of the Divine. Again, the concern is for causes and not for people.
And if the author was trolling me by placing the ungodly picture of a smiling Francis and the blasphemy of THAT cross at the head of this article then, congratulations, as your mission has been accomplished!

E. Commerce
1 month 4 weeks ago

My sister put it well when she said to me "Communism is Christianity, but without Christ". That is why it has been so evil.

Michael Bindner
1 month 4 weeks ago

It still speaks prophetically. That is not evil.

Opting Out
1 month 4 weeks ago

The author makes too many errors to rebut given his approach is infantile and it would be a crime to say it is scholarly. To wit, Fidel Castro expelled the Jesuits from Cuba, unlike what Dean stated. Colegió Belen was run by the Jesuits of the Antillean Province until the Jesuits were expelled, relocated to Miami and reopened their prestigious school in Little Havana, Miami. Colegió Belen in Havana was converted to a military training camp thereafter till this present day.

Dorothy Day can be forgiven considering she was a college dropout . Not so for the author distorting her ignorance to peddle his criminal apologia for a political ideology that killed 60 million people under Joseph Stalin, 55 million people under Mao Zedung, and countless firing squads in Cuba under Fidel Castro. Millennials like the author write and say things that are truly cringeworthy.

She noted many Jesuits would stay in Cuba to work in parishes and added that the Jesuits already had experience living through periods of persecution and suppression.

Christopher Scott
1 month 4 weeks ago

I can remember when Russia would have its annual May Day Parade showing off all their military hardware they used against their own people. The Catholics would have a counter May Day Procession culminating with crowning Mary, with everyone saying the rosary and praying for peace in the world, the conversion of Russia and the aversion of communism...guess who won that battle? Open your eyes, you’re standing on the shoulders of martyrs!

This whole train of though is s disgusting disrespect to the genocide of over 100,000,000 people. Many of our best vocations today are coming from Vietnam and Asia.

The more I stay in the Church and watch and listen to the Jesuits and those educated in their schools the more I’m embarrassed to say they’re still part of the Catholic Church.

Michael Bindner
1 month 4 weeks ago

They have the Pope on their side. Be careful how you respond, or your argument will collapse.

Michael Bindner
1 month 4 weeks ago

What do we do about Trump's 4th of July wannabe military display?

Derrick Kourie
1 month 4 weeks ago

GK Chesterton argued strongly for distributism, in opposition to both raw communism and raw capitalism. Maybe it is time to re-examine the philosophy of Distributism and reshape it in the context of our modern day internet economy. Here is Wikipedia's brief introduction to distributism:

"Distributism is an economic ideology asserting that the world's productive assets should be widely owned rather than concentrated.[1] It was developed in Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries based upon the principles of Catholic social teaching, especially the teachings of Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical Rerum novarum (1891) and Pope Pius XI in Quadragesimo anno (1931).[2][3][4] It views both capitalism and socialism as equally flawed and exploitative, and it favors economic mechanisms such as small-scale cooperatives and family businesses, and large-scale antitrust regulations.

Some Christian Democratic political parties have advocated distributism in their economic policies."

Michael Bindner
1 month 4 weeks ago

I would rather turn Wal-Mart into a cooperatively owned and managed firm. No need to stay small, nor to trade civil government over to Christendom. That ship sailed with Dignitatis Humanae. Still, the Church could be a good cooperative member, but not its ruler, especially in its current Medievalist, misogynist form. Ordain married lesbians and we'll talk.

Stuart Meisenzahl
1 month 4 weeks ago

Michael
If you could turn Walmart into a Co-O.P., I think I know who you think should be The General Manager!!

Ingrid Wisniewski
1 month 4 weeks ago

This must be a very young author who has no clue whatsoever what lived communism is all about. For those of us who have experienced the repercussions first-hand, this article is simply clue-less gibberish, no matter how many sources are quoted. What a sad state of affairs...

Michael Bindner
1 month 4 weeks ago

Soviet Marxism was the elevator speech for revolution. It turned out to be state capitalism. Then Putin took over and made it worse. John Paul and Reagan are spinning in their graves whenever Trump opens his mouth.

Michael Bindner
1 month 4 weeks ago

Current CIA and DoD leaders won't even fully brief Trump because They fear that he will share it with Putin and the GRU (think KGB).

Peter Halpin
1 month 4 weeks ago

I created a login account solely to say that this piece is a true embarassment. But it does do us the service of reminding us that even well-intentioned communists immediately sacrifice truth in order to present the non-existent benign version to the impressionable.

Arline Saiki
1 month 4 weeks ago

If your publication was open-minded it would watch "A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing" https://www.ewtn.com/wings/2016/092916.htm

Michael Bindner
1 month 4 weeks ago

Given the link between EWTN with the GOP and Trump and his relationship with a former KGB colonel, the title is ironic indeed.

maurice alvarado
1 month 4 weeks ago

An old augustinian-inspired thought that could help: «Iure diuino omnia sunt communia omnibus: iure uero constitutionis hoc meum, illud alterius est». (By divine law all things are common to all; by the enacted law, this is mine and that another's) (Decretum Gratiani, D.8 c.1)

John Suarez
1 month 3 weeks ago

Dean Dettloff is entitled to his opinion, but not his own set of facts.

Fulgencio Batista overthrew Cuba's democratic order on March 10, 1952, but he was not a right wing dictator, and wasn’t well regarded by the US.

Fidel Castro's July 26th Movement successfully lobbied Washington to impose an arms embargo on Batista on March 14, 1958, and the dictator seeing the Americans siding with the revolutionaries chose to flee on December 31, 1958.

The Church didn’t back Batista. A Catholic priest saved Fidel Castro's life following the July 26, 1953 Moncada barracks assault. Castro claimed he wasn’t a communist. He knew identifying himself would lead Cubans to abandon him.

When Dorothy Day wrote "About Cuba" in The Catholic Worker she said "Fidel Castro says he is not persecuting Christ, but Churchmen who have betrayed him." The systematic effort to end Catholicism in Cuba was underway, but Castro, once again, lied.

In May 1961 Castro confiscated all Catholic private schools and most seminaries to eliminate religion. In September 1961, the communists at gun point collected 131 priests, brothers and a bishop, placing them on board the Spanish ship Covadonga and deported them.

Castro canceled Christmas in 1969 under the pretext to prevent work shortages for the 1970 ten million ton sugar harvest but continued the ban until 1997. In 1976 Castro’s constitution declared Cuba an atheist state.

Today, the Office of Religious Affairs, an arm of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party, oversees religious affairs, and exists to monitor, hinder and restrict religious activities.

If communism tames the capitalist beast then why is capitalism so savage and inhumane in Communist China? China today is a land of sweatshops, slave labor, workers not allowed to organize, and generates pollution that violates international agreements it has signed.

Anderson Fortaleza
1 month 3 weeks ago

You offer as proof that Communism and the Church can walk hand in hand the fact that there are communism priests, it's like arguing that Atheism and the Church can walk together because there are atheist priests and bishops (and THERE ARE!).

This article is PURE propaganda, you present NO CASE whatsoever, you continue to judge the communists by their declared intentions leaving the unnamed and unseen monstrosity of communism as a footnote. You are so vile that you hide the systematic execution of 100 THOUSAND people in Cuba and accuse the previous government of doing precisely what Fidel Castro did. You are really an evil man but more disgusting than you are the publishers of this propaganda magazine. This is worthless.

Krzysztof Ciuba
1 month 3 weeks ago

The author has never read Solzenicyn or Gustaw Herling-Grudzinski, The other World,1945/48- the life in Gulag! An "intelligentia" that supported: "better be read than dead". Now, you can visit and get an experience in a Muslim prison,ex. in Iran!

Martin Spahn
1 month 3 weeks ago

I congratulate you on writing this and wonder why you did not quote Acts 2: 44 which reads: "All the believers were together and had everything in common." You might also have mentioned Christianity's scriptural and long held tenet of renunciation of the world. History shows that material inequality is dangerous and unsustainable. Please continue to spread this message and keep the faith.

Thomas Piatak
1 month 3 weeks ago

According to America magazine, Catholics can't support building border walls or expelling illegal immigrants, but they can support a system that built walls to keep unwilling people in servitude and that expelled millions to the Gulag. Astonishing.

David Silva
1 month 3 weeks ago

All I know is:
Nine Pontiffs (FOUR Saints) in Fourteen Encyclicals over 140+ years Condemn Communism and Socialism
Nostis et Nobiscum – Pope Pius IX, 1849
Diuturnum – Pope Leo XIII, 1881
Humanum Genus – Pope Leo XIII, 1884
Quod Apostolici Muneris – Pope Leo XIII, 1878
Libertas Praestantissimum – Pope Leo XIII, 1888
Graves de Communi Re – Pope Leo XIII, 1901
Rerum Novarum – Pope Leo XIII, 1891
Notre Charge Apostolique – Pope St. Pius X, 1910
Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum – Pope Benedict XV, 1914
Quadragesimo Anno – Pope Pius XI, 1931
Summi Pontificatus – Pope Pius XII, 1939
Mater et Magistra – Pope St. John XXIII, 1961
Octogesima Adveniens – Pope St. Paul VI, 1971
Centesimus Annus – Pope St. John Paul II, 1991

Pax Christi in Regno Christi

Andrew Strada
1 month 3 weeks ago

This article is as trivial and superficial as the Dorothy Day article of 1933. She read an article about William Z. Foster and somehow came to the conclusion that he was a "good man". She knew a communist boy who was killed by another communist boy and he was a "good man". From this, she concluded that the communists weren't all bad. Mr. Dettloff has 86 more years of history to consider and yet his analysis is even more trivial and superficial than Dorothy Day's was. Fr. Malone has failed badly in his duty to uphold the standards of the flagship publication of what was once an order known for intellectual rigor.

Rick Malloy, S.J.
1 month 3 weeks ago

I often ask students if they have ever lived in a society in which "each gives according to their abilities and takes according to their needs." I then ask if any are members of families. A family is a communist society. So too are religious orders. Each gives according to their ability and takes according to their needs. An economist once told me, "but it depends on how large you want to make the family circle." Our faith says that all are our brothers and sisters. We are all one human family.
Just because some communist countries grossly violated the canons of communism (e.g. gulags, etc.) does not prove communism as a theory is wrong, anymore than Christians failing to follow the teachings of Jesus prove Christianity wrong.
The main problem is that capitalism, or more accurately crony, corporate capitalism, functioning the way to ought to, results in the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of fewer and fewer. Thus we see the gross economic inequality of our times. Wealth has little to do with one's talents or abilities and much more with inheritance, and how the system is rigged to serve the "haves" and keep the "have nots" out of the game.
Communism on the other hand, if functioning as it ought, will result in a world more just and therefore more human and divine.
Would Jesus, who taught the beatitudes and Matt 25, be in favor of a system where everyone was instructed to operate according to their own selfish interests and desires (ideal capitalism) or one that aims for everyone being able to fulfill their needs and the needs of others (ideal communism)?

Jeanne Caparso
1 month 3 weeks ago

Disagree with you Fr. Malloy--the key difference between your examples of a family or religious order being a "communist society" is that in those examples the individuals are still free. Free to stay or leave as they wish. The same cannot be said for a communist society or country. Have you been to North Korea lately??

J Cosgrove
1 month 3 weeks ago

You have just refuted socialism/communism: Thank you.
An economics professor one told us socialism or communism will work but only as far as the eye can see. It will work in small voluntary groups such as religious orders or in tribal groups. But as soon as it is imposed by another out of sight it breaks down immediately. The family is very socialistic in distribution of resources but larger units break down as soon as the common bond no longer exists. So using religious orders actually undermines your argument.

J Cosgrove
1 month 3 weeks ago

Also the concentration of wealth is actually wide spread. The top 20% is 25 million households and the lowest income in this group is over $100.000 a year. The wealth in the 60-80% range of households in terms of wealth is over a quarter million dollars per household for about 20 million households. Hardly a concentration of the few unless you think several million is few.

J Cosgrove
1 month 3 weeks ago

Socialism only worked in one place in the world, Israel. But it was rejected after one generation. Ever wonder why Israel is a pariah for most of the world when it was supported by the Soviet Union at its beginning. Read Heaven on Earth: The Rise, Fall, and Afterlife of Socialism https://amzn.to/2y7Htcq

J Cosgrove
1 month 3 weeks ago

one that aims for everyone being able to fulfill their needs and the needs of others (ideal communism)?

No, just the opposite. Communism can not tolerate freedom to satisfy the needs of oneself or another. What will do this is free market capitalism as long as the "free" part is ensured. That is the objective, freedom without external impediments. That's what we should be discussing, how to ensure this.

Andrew Strada
1 month 3 weeks ago

If every failure of every communist regime is to be dismissed as not "true communism" then we end up with a theory that is not falsifiable, hence meaningless. What exactly are the canons of communism that the Soviet Union violated over a 70-year period?

Fr. Malloy passes quickly over an important point. Is the human race just an extension of the nuclear family? I sleep with my wife, I don't sleep with the other guy's wife. I give my kids unconditional love (or at least try hard to do so), I don't give the other guy's kids unconditional love. It could be argued perhaps that I should love everyone as deeply as I love my wife and children. But I don't, and I don't think that most people do. So Fr. Malloy may be describing an ideal world (at least in his mind) but it is not the world in which most people live.

Andrew Strada
1 month 3 weeks ago

With respect to the last question, one thing we do know about Jesus is that he is very smart. If he looked at three late twentieth century lab experiments ( East Germany/West Germany, South Korea/North Korea and Havana/Miami) I strongly suspect that in each case he would pick the system, imperfect as it may be, which made more people happy and fewer people miserable.

E. Commerce
1 month 3 weeks ago

Communism seems ideal but fails given mankind's sinfulness. Capitalism seems abhorrent, yet gives much to many because of mankind's sinfulness. Without Jesus to correct and counteract mankind's sinfulness, communism is unspeakably evil, as history attests.

E. Commerce
1 month 3 weeks ago

Also, Christianity shows us that God made us free, and honors the freedom of human beings. Communism needs to compel the populace to give the fruit of their labor to the state. With total, mandatory compulsion, freedom must die.

J Cosgrove
1 month 3 weeks ago

Communism as an objective is abhorrent. It essentially says people cannot better themselves for to do so makes one unequal with before and unequal with others. It’s a contradiction in logic.

Krzysztof Ciuba
1 month 3 weeks ago

"Communism on the other hand, if functioning as it ought, will result in a world more just and therefore more human and divine."??? Where do you live? In a cave without any knowledge of the history? The joke is that the capitalist West is more socialist (protecting the poorest) than any so called state: former Soviet Empire and Cuba or China; again, Mr. Fr go to China to its ...prison to reeducate yourself from a naivety or just idiocy (economic,political). 100 millions murdered in the Communist experiment (the most in China) and such views!

Fred Keyes
1 month 3 weeks ago

I've never read so many comments abhorring this article that are best described by the Latin, "reductio ad absurdum."

Andrew Strada
1 month 3 weeks ago

You ain't seen nothing yet, baby.

Andrew Strada
1 month 3 weeks ago

"reduction ad absurdum" means "a method of proving the falsity of a premise by showing that its logical consequence is absurd or contradictory". How exactly does the premise that communism is evil lead to a logical consequence that is absurd or contradictory?

Fred Keyes
1 month 3 weeks ago

Andrew Strada, a misunderstanding of what communism is by simply declaring it evil with no understanding of what it truly is—i.e., every aspect of it—leads inevitably to incredible non-sequiturs; i.e., absurdities.

Stuart Meisenzahl
1 month 3 weeks ago

Father Malloy
To date no nation has ever undertaken a successful implementation of the “theory of communism”. You dismiss those less than successful attempts at implementation “as gross violations of the canons of communism” which don't prove that “communism as a theory is is wrong”. So a hundred years of experimentation with the theory is just dismissed by you . So even assuming your thesis is correct , it is time to fess up that “the theory” is aspirational nonsense incapable of being applied in the real world......perhaps even an elegant but nonetheless useless political theory

Jose Ignacio Jimenez
1 month 3 weeks ago

Fr. Malloy, Jesus calls us to INDIVIDUAL responsibility. The good Samaritan did not complain about lack government healthcare; he took it upon himself to care for the robbed and beaten traveler. By advocating that we abdicate our personal responsibility for each other by letting the government take our property so that the government can become charitable, we become prisoners of a system that makes people dependent and less charitable. How sad. Even in healthy families where Christian love is present, each member should be allowed and encouraged to succeed and to be as charitable as the member wants to be. Jesus called us to be charitable and NEVER advocated that the Roman government should take care of the poor and the sick in society.

Marta Saraiva
1 month 3 weeks ago

There are many works explaining the theoretical failures of communism/socialism. A favourite is Karl Popper's "the open society and its enemies". The romance "wild swans: three daughters from China", by Jung Chang is also quite telling on the beauties of communism, on its Maoist variant. And the legacy of 100000000 dead people, violence, the suppression of individual rights, poverty, corruption, inequality and starvation are enough proof that communism does not work. Or should be.
There still are plenty of survivors of communist regimes in eastern Europe. They are getting old. Why don't you pay them a visit and listen to their stories?

Marta Saraiva
1 month 3 weeks ago

There are many works explaining the theoretical failures of communism/socialism. A favourite is Karl Popper's "the open society and its enemies". The romance "wild swans: three daughters from China", by Jung Chang is also quite telling on the beauties of communism, on its Maoist variant. And the legacy of 100000000 dead people, violence, the suppression of individual rights, poverty, corruption, inequality and starvation are enough proof that communism does not work. Or should be.
There still are plenty of survivors of communist regimes in eastern Europe. They are getting old. Why don't you pay them a visit and listen to their stories?

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