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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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?

Oz Jewel
1 month 2 weeks ago

Rick Malloy, S.J. - Sounds as if you are filling student minds with propaganda, this audience is not as gullible or vulnerable.
The resemblance between family life and Communism ends after noting that family is a community and the pernicious dialectical materialist poppycock is ordered towards a form of national commune,

Family is bonded by love and consists of very close and precious individuals strongly related and characteristically unequal in age, capability and needs.

Marx attributed sin to capitalism and claimed that his philosophy would produce a transformed human nature - it made salvation claims without the Saviour.

Your support of the proposition gives you the resemblance to a wolf in sheep's clothing; you are taking Catholic bed and board under false pretences maybe?

Jeanne Caparso
1 month 3 weeks ago

I also created a login account solely to respond to this piece. Communism should be condemned from all angles. How can anyone—let alone a Catholic (albeit a Jesuit) opinion promulgate romantic thoughts on Communism?? You say "what communists desire is an authentically common life together". Perhaps Dean you missed China’s disastrous one (currently two) child policy??? Communism is a socio-economic order that in China has imposed forced abortions and sterilizations on women for decades. Is that the "authentic common life" you are referring to??? And as a result of that policy--projections now show impending disastrous economic consequences for China—potentially derailing the world’s second-largest economy, with a far-reaching global impact. How can you possibly see anything remotely good about that--from a Catholic social doctrine or economic perspective?

J Cosgrove
1 month 3 weeks ago

I made this comment to you on the other Communism thread

This is probably endorsed from on high. The head of the order is from Venezuela and a major backer of communism there. He was an early advocate for Chavez.

Notice the author does not mention Venezuela.

Lloyd William
1 month 3 weeks ago

While I disagree with much of the content of this article, I believe in free speech and the right to publish it
In Cuba, North Korea and many other “communist paradises,” there is no room for dissent let alone free speech.
The article is shamefully naive and biased, seemingly deliberately so. I would suggest that America, in the interest of fairness, ask someone to write a response.
In Cuba for example, after 60 years of communist rule Promoting atheism, very few Cubans go to any church. Because of its emphasis on “equal results,” Cuba will not open its agricultural sector to free enterprise, hence it imports 60-70% of its food. I vote these as examples of the balance that should be in any discussion about the reality of communism

César Barroso
1 month 3 weeks ago

Dorothy Day is a Servant of God (and likely to stay one) DESPITE her communist sympathies, not because of them, you imprudent colossal fool!

Yolanda Belinky
1 month 3 weeks ago

Why would you run such an awful article the day before the July 24 feast of the Blessed Carmelite Martyrs of Guadalajara, three Carmelite nuns martyred by Communists in 1936? The youngest one was told to shout "Long Live Communism", instead she shouted "Viva Cristo Rey!" (Long live Christ the King!) and was shot immediately. There are plenty of other Communist martyrs too. Those of us of a certain age spent years praying Rosaries as Our Lady of Fatima requested in hopes of converting Russia from Communism, and rejoiced when Pope St. John Paul II helped vanquish Communism in Russia. Venerable Fulton Sheen, soon to be beatified, preached constantly against the Communist threat. And you run an awful article like this? The author and editor must either be very young, or not quite right in the head. I am appalled.

Jeanne Caparso
1 month 3 weeks ago

Yolanda, thank you for reminding us all of that historical Communist fact about the Carmelite nuns!! I am appalled also.

Seth Tracy
1 month 3 weeks ago

Time makes more converts than reason. No amount of argument can persuade someone like this that communism always breeds suffering. Capitalism does not create inequality, human nature and reality make the world unequal. It’s a persons actions that determine their economic outcome. In capitalism there will always be unequal prosperity but in communism you get equal disparity (unless you have a cozy upper level government job). Show me where communism has worked. Show me where capitalism has failed.

Fred Keyes
1 month 3 weeks ago

I think there is a historical comparison to this debate.

Dean Dettloff's position is to communism as Bartolomé de las Casas (O.P.!) writings were to the natives of the Americas.

Jose Ignacio Jimenez
1 month 3 weeks ago

Dorothy Day, may have had good intentions, but she was passionately misguided and hardly an authority on economic theory. Communism runs contrary to natural law by denying the individual rights and freedoms to achieve government objectives. Communist governments always feel threatened by Catholicism because Catholicism is committed to the search for and defense of the truth and the integrity of the individual, this is why communist governments always get rid of Catholics and any other organization that threatens government indoctrination and submission of the people to the will of the ruler rather than the will of God. This is why Fidel Castro exiled all religious orders, why the French Revolution forbade religious communities and beheaded many religious that disobeyed the ban. This is why the Chinese government is tearing down Catholic churches and jailing faithful Catholics that refuse to submit to government control. This is why communist governments build walls to keep their citizens from escaping, and free markets have to build walls to control who enters.
This article fails to accurately represent communism and Catholicism, and in the process serves the socialist objective of misrepresenting scripture and Catholic teaching to achieve its objective of getting people to question the truth so that they can eventually get them to question natural law.

carlo avignolo
1 month 3 weeks ago

Thank you for the plenty of suggested readings (via links interspersed along the article). However, I would add also the following: “The black book of Communism” by Stéphane Courtois, Nicolas Werth, Andrzej Paczkowski and several other European academics, documenting a history of political repressions by Communist states. The book is still available, translated in different languages (almost 800 pages with hundreds of citations). In many passages of the book it can be realized that the hierarchies of the many communist regimes were not run by catholics.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Black_Book_of_Communism

Fred Keyes
1 month 3 weeks ago

There is much that can be said about the evils inherent in communism, such as the errors inherent in its more accurate description of "dialectical materialism"--in effect the golden calf of that system. But there is likewise much to be abhorred from a Christian point of view about the same materialistic underpinnings of unrestrained capitalism. The golden calf rears it's ugly head there as well.

As Catholics we have been given the Holy Spirit, including gifts of knowledge and understanding to see good wherever it exists and likewise to detect the works of the devil.

As Dettloff says, "There is a Christian communism and a Christian capitalism."

If only both sides here were able to discern, extract, and put those things into practice that are Christian to the core, "..to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace."

And further from Ps 81:
"O that my people would listen to me,
that Israel would walk in my ways,
In a moment I would humble their foes,
and turn back my hand against their oppressors.

J Cosgrove
1 month 3 weeks ago

There is neither a Christian capitalism nor a Christian communism. Christ warned to avoid all connections of His words with government.

Fred Keyes
1 month 3 weeks ago

Mr. Cosgrove: Sources for such an interpretation please.

J Cosgrove
1 month 3 weeks ago

Render unto Caesar. The Church has been a disaster when involved in government. And economics is part of governance.

Fred Keyes
1 month 3 weeks ago

"Render unto Caesar" was more an answer to conniving Pharisees than it was a declaration of the separateness of Church and State.

Look up "The New Jerome Biblical Commentary to get a better understanding of the Church's interpretation of this verse. Or this note from the NAB: "Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar: those who willingly use the coin that is Caesar’s should repay him in kind. The answer avoids taking sides in the question of the lawfulness of the tax. To God what belongs to God: Jesus raises the debate to a new level. Those who have hypocritically asked about tax in respect to its relation to the law of God should be concerned rather with repaying God with the good deeds that are his due; cf. Mt 21:41, 43."

Charles Kramer
1 month 3 weeks ago

Bl. Sr. Josaphata (Michaelina) Hordashevska pray for us,
Bl. Father Leonid Feodorov pray for us,
Bl. Father Mykola Konrad pray for us,
Bl. Volodymyr Pryima pray for us,
Bl. Father Andrii Ischak pray for us,
Bl. Father Severian Baranyk pray for us,
Bl. Father Yakym Senkivskyi pray for us,
Bl. Father Zenovii Kovalyk pray for us,
Bl. Father Emilian Kovch pray for us,
Bl. Sister Tarsykia Matskiv pray for us,
Bl. Father Vitalii Bairak pray for us,
Bl. Father Roman Lysko pray for us,
Bl. Bishop Hryhorii Khomyshyn pray for us,
Bl. Bishop Theodore Romzha pray for us,
Bl. Bishop Josaphat Kotsylovsky pray for us,
Bl. Bishop Mykyta Budka pray for us,
Bl. Bishop Hryhorii Lakota pray for us,
Bl. Archimandrite Klymentii Sheptytsky pray for us,
Bl. Father Mykola Tsehelskyi pray for us,
Bl. Father Ivan Ziatyk pray for us,
Bl. Sister Olympia Olha Bida pray for us,
Bl. Sister Lavrentia Herasymiv pray for us,
Bl. Father Petro Verhun pray for us,
Bl. Father Oleksii Zarytskyi pray for us,
Bl. Bishop Mykola Charnetskyi pray for us,
Bl. Bishop Semeon Lukach pray for us,
Bl. Bishop Ivan Sleziuk pray for us,
Bl. Bishop Vasyl Velychkovsky pray for us,
Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko, pray for us,
St. John Paul II, pray for us.

Matt Wilson
1 month 3 weeks ago

Communism as an ideal may have merit. Communism, when fully implemented as a form of government, can only be effective by reducing everyone to the lowest common denominator and and imposing homogeneity on the citizens under it. No liberty. No room for faith that might oppose the official party line. Consequences for anyone that steps out of line. If you can find me a truly Communist government that's risen above any of that, I'm all ears. If not, I hope that America will have the courage to publish the counterpoint to this misguided piece from within it's own ranks, lest you lose all credibility with your audience.

Fred Keyes
1 month 3 weeks ago

OK, fair enough. But note the article was not about communist governments. It's approach was essentially philosophical. It was experiential only in terms of those things that reflect Christian morality.

Thomas McKernan
1 month 3 weeks ago

Please read the parable of the Talents.

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

cf. Acts4:32-35 and for those who have horrible things to opine about Jesuits, cf. Matt 5:11-12. Also N.B., Communism and Marxism are not identical. And be aware, the Catholic faith does not teach that capitalism is an unmitigated blessing.

"The Catholic doctrine of the common good is incompatible with unlimited free-market, or laissez-faire, capitalism, which insists that the distribution of wealth must occur entirely according to the dictates of market forces. This theory presupposes that the common good will take care of itself…This does sometimes happen; but to say that it invariably must happen, as if by a God-given natural law, is a view which can amount to idolatry or a form of economic superstition." The Common Good and the Catholic Church’s Social Teaching, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, 1996 #76.

"It is true that the pursuit of justice must be a fundamental norm of the State and that the aim of a just social order is to guarantee to each person, according to the principle of subsidiarity, his share of the community’s goods. This has always been emphasized by Christian teaching on the State and by the Church’s social
doctrine." Deus Caritas Est (“God is Love”), Pope Benedict XVI, 2005 #26.

"[T]oday we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape." Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), Pope Francis, 2013 #53.

J Cosgrove
1 month 3 weeks ago

The Catholic faith should not say anything about economic policy whether it be one of the many forms of capitalism or the many forms of socialism. It has a horrendous record when it gets involved with political or social policies. It exist to save souls and get each individual to salvation. For centuries the Church advocated social policies that oppressed 98+% of the people. Advocating equality will do the same thing. God made us unequal with a built in desire to get better. Listen to Him.

J Cosgrove
1 month 3 weeks ago

Your understanding of the free market is erroneous. It’s not laissez faire. Both sides of the transaction must be free and feel unhindered. When one side gets too much power, there should be actions to reduce the power of one side. .

Fred Keyes
1 month 3 weeks ago

Your wishing to silence what religion has to say to politics is truly bankrupt.

Cosgrove, it seems you forget what Jesus said to Pilate. "You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above." That doesn't sound like a God who doesn't watch over politics and everything else for that matter. *Of course* the Church, i.e., the Body of Christ, cares about politics. It cares about everything. Compartmentalization is not what Catholicism is all about.

J Cosgrove
1 month 3 weeks ago

No it is not bankrupt. What is bankrupt is when the Church gets involves in social policy. Cite me one example where the Churches involvement in government has been positive. I can cite where it has been a disaster. For example for several centuries the Church advocated/enforced a system that impoverished the masses. Latin America which has been the most Catholic area of the world has had horrendous poverty and crime rates.

E. Commerce
1 month 3 weeks ago

I would agree that capitalism in and of itself is insufficient. Charity is a necessary addition. But it permits freedom, which in turn allows for faith, which inspires charity. Communism has to make itself the almighty, in order to work.

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

cf. Acts4:32-35 and for those who have horrible things to opine about Jesuits, cf. Matt 5:11-12. Also N.B., Communism and Marxism are not identical. And be aware, the Catholic faith does not teach that capitalism is an unmitigated blessing.

"The Catholic doctrine of the common good is incompatible with unlimited free-market, or laissez-faire, capitalism, which insists that the distribution of wealth must occur entirely according to the dictates of market forces. This theory presupposes that the common good will take care of itself…This does sometimes happen; but to say that it invariably must happen, as if by a God-given natural law, is a view which can amount to idolatry or a form of economic superstition." The Common Good and the Catholic Church’s Social Teaching, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, 1996 #76.

"It is true that the pursuit of justice must be a fundamental norm of the State and that the aim of a just social order is to guarantee to each person, according to the principle of subsidiarity, his share of the community’s goods. This has always been emphasized by Christian teaching on the State and by the Church’s social
doctrine." Deus Caritas Est (“God is Love”), Pope Benedict XVI, 2005 #26.

"[T]oday we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape." Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), Pope Francis, 2013 #53.

Andrew Strada
1 month 3 weeks ago

If you take Matthew 5: 11-12 literally then you should be grateful to those of us who are increasing your reward in heaven. Though at this point, you only seem to be drawing insults, not actual persecution. And if you get brownie points from the Jesuit hierarchy then your bonus may be even more modest.

Stuart Meisenzahl
1 month 3 weeks ago

Father Malloy
Please explain why after well over one hundred years of communist political theory there has not been one example of a successful communist government?
Why has no one been able to implement this theory of good communism?
There are now multiple examples of terrible communist government but these are then idly dismissed by you as failures to implement “real” or “true” communist ideals..

Could it be that this theory of “good communism” is simply just that ......only a theory which the components of human nature reject or are incapable of implementing?
It may just be that your “good communism” is an aspirational theory incapable of implementation...and thus basically useless.

Christopher Scott
1 month 3 weeks ago

It’s not just that communism has always failed to deliver economically for people trying to escape poverty, but communism has always suppressed and crushed people’s opportunity to pursue spiritual fulfillment. If the world was ruled by communism today it’s doubtful the Catholic Church would even exist! Which economic system has allowed the Catholic Church to not only exist but to flourish? The question isn’t just which economic system has the most problems but more importantly which economic system allows for the best opportunity for escaping both economic and spiritual poverty. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be some weeds growing with the wheat (we also see that in the church) The proof is in the pudding.

Matt Federoff
1 month 3 weeks ago

Communism has one great ability - it manufactures corpses.
It's tremendously efficient at it, piling up hundreds of millions of them over the course of the 20th century...and still today in some of the unhappier corners of the world.

Mary M
1 month 3 weeks ago

All Marxism is the plantation slavery state, communism and socialism are about oppressing the majority into chattel slavery to serve a small self appointed elite. Dr King wrote, that under communism and socialism, which denies the right to self determination a man is a slave, and he was correct. No, people do not become communist or socialist because they are “good”, communism and socialism appeal to the selfish adolescent mind. Just as the comparable ideology of Ayn Rand, appeals to the selfish adolescent mind. It is about spoiled, self obsessed wannabe elites having power over and control. EVERY instance of communism and socialism has lead to millions of innocent civilians being killed. There is no truth to the lies in this piece that communism and socialism have never been implemented, they have. They make that claim because they refuse to honestly engage in debate about the facts. Any member of the clergy promoting communism, is one of the wolves in sheep’s clothing Christ warned would infiltrate the church to deceive and corrupt.

arthur mccaffrey
1 month 3 weeks ago

a bit naieve, but otherwise a good introduction to non-monolithic communism and socialism--the kind that has appeared in many different flavors in many european countries. Most of the comments here are by people ignorant of a world outside of free-market America--you ought to travel more! As for the history of the Catholic church in general and the Jesuits in particular, both have often courted the wealthy elites in order to feather their own nests. And look at JPII's negative attitude to Liberation Theology in Latin America because it was too socialist and too concerned with changing both the moral and economic landscape in that poverty-stricken part of the world. Sometimes you can find as much rigid orthodoxy inside RCC as you can inside some communist regimes. The only difference being that communism does not claim (like Ratzinger) to have religious property rights over Jesus.

justinreany@gmail.com
1 month 3 weeks ago

Firstly, America Magazine is garbage. I am only commenting because this article is such a disgrace! Jesuits need to be suppressed. They are too much a detriment to the Church now rather than an asset.

Second, I am pretty convinced the Michael Binder here works for Communist, excuse me, America Magazine. They must have deployed him to push back on all the well justified negative critiques of the magazine and this article.

Third, this article has convinced me of the rank absurdity of Dorthy Day. I was unconvinced of her character and work before. Because of this article I am convinced she is 100% overrated and artificially glamorized in the Church today. What a joke!

Dr.Cajetan Coelho
1 month 3 weeks ago

Human beings should not allow themselves to become the private property of other human beings.

Terry Kane
1 month 3 weeks ago

Please watch - Prager U video, only 5 1/2 minutes
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9EXnVitkmo

Andrew Strada
1 month 3 weeks ago

So a few years after Dorothy Day's article, this is what the good communists did in Spain,
"During the Spanish Civil War of 1936–1939, and especially in the early months of the conflict, individual clergymen were executed while entire religious communities were persecuted, leading to a death toll of 13 bishops, 4,172 diocesan priests and seminarians, 2,364 monks and friars and 283 nuns, for a total of 6,832 clerical victims, as part of what is referred to as Spain's Red Terror.[2]" The editors of America might feel that if they were supporters of the monarchy or Franco they had it coming. After all, you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. And Lord knows, our religion is all about making omelets.

Fred Keyes
1 month 3 weeks ago

No it's not about breaking omelets.

I'm sure the results of what capitalism has done in the world could be equally, if not much greatly illustrated.

Point is: that wasn't the point of the article. I'm continuously perplexed by the inability of so many right-wingers to digest what they read with full understanding of the message. Or at the very least to react charitably. Sumus Christiani, aut non?

Patrick Chisholm
1 month 3 weeks ago

In one of her apparitions, the Blessed Virgin Mary said communism will return. And she did not mean that in a good way.

Fred Keyes
1 month 3 weeks ago

I always thought communism--i.e., dialectical materialism--began it's return in the 60's. Long-held moral standards began to be contradicted and sold as the new truth. Abortion, birth control, capital punishment, the death of God, the idolization of wealth...etc. The West, while concentrating on the false gods of individualism and wealth took the mantle from Communist systems of those values that belied basic communist (with a small "c") tenets, as described in this article.

Richard Anderson
1 month 3 weeks ago

The photo of the Pope receiving the image of the crucified Christ on the hammer and sickle is one reason I use the unadorned cross, signifying Christ is risen. If the symbol for Christ is removed from this picture, then the naked hammer and sickle is revealed for what it is, and the reason why so many now distrust this Pope and the Jesuits.

Fred Keyes
1 month 3 weeks ago

Augustine says, "Nothing evil exists in itself, but only as an evil aspect of some actual entity." The only reason there is evil in communism is that there is some good it it that is corrupted. This article points to the good in a philosophy that the article itself admits has serious shortcomings.

Isaiah had a warning, did he not, about those who mischaracterize what is good: "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil, who change darkness to light, and light into darkness, who change bitter to sweet, and sweet into bitter!"

Andrew Strada
1 month 3 weeks ago

The reason there is evil in communism is because communists kill people. Lots of them. And the reason some people find it hard to be charitable in this particular discussion is because they know the impact communism had on their families, on those they love. And when, in 2019, pampered Americans (and Canadians) play silly word games to try to talk the problem out of existence, it produces deep frustration which results in admittedly uncharitable reactions.

Fred Keyes
1 month 3 weeks ago

Sorry for your loss, Andrew.

J. Calpezzo
1 month 3 weeks ago

I have a novel idea. Instead of America wasting column space with inane article like this, as well as the inane comments, why not a weekly "This is what the Vatican has done to stop sexual abuse during the last week." Granted, there would be a lot of empty space, but at least it would address the single issue that has driven away more Catholics since the Protestant schism. Or articles like "Why is Roger Mahony still a cardinal?" The U.S. biships should offer their resignations en masse as most are complicit in the scandal of the century.

Victor Reagan
1 month 3 weeks ago

Mr. Dettloff is a cheap liar and demagogue. Each statement of his is a lie.
It's hard to decide where to start commenting this nonsense. DD has no idea or refuses to accept the fact that communism is a form of dictatorship with no individual freedoms and it always can be built only on deaths of great number of innocent people. Every communist country proves it. NO EXCEPTION. Comparing Christianity and Communism is a good example of pure sophism. The fact that Communists deceptively call for happiness for everyone doesn't change it's evil nature. Communist principle “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” is an utopia and has nothing to do with Christianity not mentioning Catholicism.
"Christianity and communism have obviously had a complicated relationship"??? DD calls mass murder of priests and believers and sending them to concentration death camps "complicated"? There has NEVER been any Communist regime that spared believers. "Christians have been passionately represented in communist and socialist movements around the world"??? Really?
The bottom line: Mr. Dettloff is either a pseudo-scientist lacking the knowledge of History or a professional propagandist.

alex sanchez
1 month 3 weeks ago

America Magazine continuous to disgrace itself with articles like this. The only remedying value is that article after article America Magazine reveals the Jesuit "resistance" to Catholic teaching. It does not take much research to dispute the validity of the Communist Manifesto propaganda when compared with the over two thousand years of Christianity. Communists promise heaven on earth. Apparently, the majority of Jesuits have bought into that idea.

Joe McKenney
1 month 3 weeks ago

I have never read a less persuasive article.

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