Why we published an essay sympathetic to communism

Bolivian President Evo Morales presents a gift to Pope Francis at the government palace in La Paz, Bolivia, July 8. The gift was a wooden hammer and sickle -- the symbol of communism -- with a figure of a crucified Christ. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

One of the finest hours in the history of the Catholic press occurred in the late spring of 1954, when this magazine, along with several others, published an editorial denouncing Senator Joseph R. McCarthy’s witch hunt against communists, which was then reaching its ugly zenith in the infamous Army-McCarthy hearings. “Catholic Weekly Assails McCarthy,” read The New York Times headline—just one among several national stories about the editorial.

America’s comments about Senator McCarthy generated a great deal of interest for a couple of reasons. First, Senator McCarthy was a prominent Irish Catholic, and he had powerful friends in the Catholic community, including several bishops. Second, America had spent much of the previous 50 years loudly denouncing communism in its pages. As early as 1934, my predecessor John LaFarge, S.J., who later served as the sixth editor in chief, had even introduced a detailed plan for how American Jesuits should attack the growing threat of communism in the United States. So the fact that the anti-communist America magazine was now critical of Mr. McCarthy created an “only Nixon could go to China” moment, lending great credibility to the anti-McCarthy forces.

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You might ask, after 110 years of opposition to communism, why are we publishing an article in this issue that is sympathetic to it?

So, you might ask, after 110 years of opposition to communism, why are we publishing an article in this issue that is sympathetic to it? Well, for one thing, you should not assume that America’s editorial position on communism has changed very much. It has not. What has also not changed is our willingness to hear views with which we may disagree but that we nonetheless think are worth hearing. And we could not have picked a better author for such an article. Dean Dettloff has made many fine contributions to these pages as our Toronto correspondent.

This sort of thing is also not a first for America. One year before Father LaFarge declared his red alert, the saintly Dorothy Day appeared in these pages, defending the values of the communists she knew, if not their political program. “The trouble with many Catholics,” Ms. Day wrote, “is that they think of Communists as characters from E. Phillips Oppenheim’s international mystery novels.” In other words, she thought Catholics were missing something of value amid all the legitimate criticism.

Could the same be happening today? It is possible. Socialism is much in the news. One presidential candidate says he is a socialist, and several others don’t mind sounding like one.

My reading of Catholic social teaching, especially the commentary of recent popes, is that it has many good things to say about capitalism while always reminding us about the bad that comes with it. At the same time, it has many bad things to say about socialism while always reminding us of the good that comes with it. For my part, I don’t like ideological “-isms” of any kind, except for Catholicism, which is nothing like an “-ism” in the sense I mean here.

[Want to discuss politics with other America readers? Join our Facebook discussion group, moderated by America’s writers and editors.]

For what it’s worth, my general view of economics begins with the fact that markets, for all their downsides, are the greatest force for economic empowerment that the world has ever seen. But that is just my opinion and, therefore, not the point. Mr. Dettloff’s piece is in this issue not because I agree with it but because I think it is worth reading, just as I did with Arthur Brooks’s article in defense of free markets that we published in February 2017 and just as we did when we published Dorothy Day in 1934.

America, in other words, is not a journal of Father Matt’s opinions. Not even I would want to read such a magazine. This is a journal of Catholic opinion, and Catholics have differing opinions about many things. Our job is to host a conversation among Catholics and our friends in which people can respectfully and intelligently disagree. Accordingly, we publish something in almost every issue with which I personally disagree. I hope we publish something you disagree with, too. If not, we are not doing our job.

Dean Dettloff’s piece is in this issue not because I agree with it but because I think it is worth reading, just as I did with Arthur Brooks’s article in defense of free markets that we published in February 2017 and just as we did when we published Dorothy Day in 1934.

It will be interesting to monitor reactions to Mr. Dettloff’s article on social media. I have followed folks on Twitter long enough to recognize certain patterns. While you who are reading this will know what we are up to, many among the Twitterati can be counted on to be uninformed, unreasonable and uncharitable. I can see the tweets now: “This Dettloff piece! So typical of that left-wing America magazine!” “America shows its radical tendencies again!”

Well, that’s just claptrap. I once said that being an America reader requires you to engage with opinions that are different from your own. It occasionally requires something else, especially when browsing social media: the ability to spot what this family-friendly magazine will call male bovine fecal matter.

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JR Cosgrove
4 months 2 weeks ago

Communism and all forms of socialism are against the natural law and thus against God. The sad thing is that the writers at America don't understand this. For example, the supply/demand curve is an aspect of the natural law and how God made us. Communism suppresses the supply/demand curve which causes eventual revolt and is one reason why it ends up killing in large numbers. The desire for freedom is also part of the natural law. All forms of socialism especially communism suppress this too.

Robin Smith
4 months 2 weeks ago

This is a Catholic site. Who are you referring to? God the Father? God the spirit? God the Holy Ghost? Please clarify your intolerance & bigotry.

JR Cosgrove
4 months 2 weeks ago

Thank you for your kind comment. I am referring to the creator of the universe.

frank troia
4 months 2 weeks ago

...and of course you speak for the Creator.

JR Cosgrove
4 months 2 weeks ago

No I’m observing his creation. The natural law is one of those creations.

Happy Cathlic
4 months 2 weeks ago

I'm not sure you have a Catholic understanding of God!

Study (and pray over) the Athanasius Creed which details in rigorous fashion the Personhood of God and the Incarnation of Jesus.

You act like God in His Personhood is able to be divided.

Tim O'Leary
4 months 2 weeks ago

Rehabilitating Communism? This is equivalent to Holocaust denial. Imagine the article above written with Nazism replacing Communism. It is so awful it reminds me of a sketch on British TV about a liberal Anglican asking "is Satan really all that bad"?

Michael Bindner
4 months 2 weeks ago

Economics is certainly part of natural law. Real natural law is based on science, not authority. Marx sought to be scientific, rejecting the authority of tradition, opening all questions to critical thinking. Your position brooks no criticism. In other words, your reaction validates Fr. Malone's editorial.

JR Cosgrove
4 months 2 weeks ago

You just agreed with me. Everything I said is true. Science is.based on observation. The supply demand curve is built into humans. Socialism suppress the supply demand curve. That’s why it can never work. I’m just stating the obvious.

Matthew Teeters
4 months 2 weeks ago

"Rats and roaches live by competition under the laws of supply and demand. It is the privilege of human beings to live under the laws of justice and mercy."
- Wendell Berry

JR Cosgrove
4 months 2 weeks ago

Thank you! You just made my point that I have been advocating here for some time. Adding justice and mercy (Catholic morality) to the laws God gave us through the natural law is the answer. Not suppressing the natural law as all forms of socialism do.

Michael Bindner
4 months 2 weeks ago

Monopsony and monopoly do so. That is what Marx wrote about. Socialism is democratic, rather than autocratic, control of the workplace. There is no purely competitive market in capitalism. Capitalism is no more the free market than Stalinism or Nazism is socialist. The word Soviet means council, but the logistics on how to make that work in practice were lacking. Soviet state capitalism failed because businesses could not, especially if the boss was a Party member. Regardless, the editorial is correct about readers not bringing an open mind to the topic.

JR Cosgrove
4 months 2 weeks ago

So anyone who presents evidence and logic that you don’t like does not have an open mind.

Happy Cathlic
4 months 2 weeks ago

Tell it to someone who lived in Latvia.

In Latvia there's a saying regarding the old regime..."one person, one vote.....the trick is to find the one person with the vote"

Alan Johnstone
4 months 2 weeks ago

demonstrate that democracy has any power to produce the kingdom of God on earth rather than all sorts of kingdoms of men making different sorts of grossly imperfect counterfeits.

USSR, Mao China, Pol Pot Cambodia, Cuba, Romania, East Germany, Albania ... need I go on.
Where are the good tries at this abominable set of diabolical creeds?

JR Cosgrove
4 months 2 weeks ago

The other important thing built into the natural law is the desire for freedom so an economics system must recognize this to be successful. Socialism suppresses this too.

Happy Cathlic
4 months 2 weeks ago

Marx denied the immaterial world, focusing on the temporal world alone, missing most of reality.

He distracted others by over-emphasizing the material world.

He was a modernist.

Happy Cathlic
4 months 2 weeks ago

Marx denied the immaterial world, focusing on the temporal world alone, missing most of reality.

He distracted others by over-emphasizing the material world.

He was a modernist.

Alan Johnstone
4 months 2 weeks ago

Michael Binder -
Economics is an academic discipline studying and theorising about the production, transport, exchange and utilisation of the goods of the earth and the involvement of human labour as practised amongst people.

The behaviour of people in relationship to stuff and service is more akin to speech than anything else - we have the wits and the will to use both socially and both have become more complex in time and practise.
Both economic activity and language use can be studied and such studies do not merit the appellation as sciences.
Law is utterly, completely and inseparably linked to authority.

You give me the impression of being out of touch with reality and very eccentric and out of the reach of mature dialogue.

Law on the other hand preceded anything remotely resembling science by millennia and is only metaphorically attributed to issues in science.

Vincent Gaglione
4 months 2 weeks ago

Other than your obvious objections to socialsm and communism, after I read what you say, I think to myself, did you read what Malone wrote? Your commentary may have been more appropriate for the article that was published?

I think it is is a worthwhile intellectual (and religious) exercise to challenge our preconceived opinions or ingrained notions. That's why I agree with Father Malone's explanation of his editorial decisions.

JR Cosgrove
4 months 2 weeks ago

My objections are meant for Fr Malone as well There must be a hundred articles in the last few years sympathetic to socialism and undermines free market capitalism. It is he who allows this or probably directs this. He admits it in the article. This is an attempt to separate communism/socialism from religion which was the church’s main objection. The opening use of McCarthy illustrates this. I think the editor in chief doth protest too much.

Stanley Kopacz
4 months 2 weeks ago

If you consider supply/demand sacrosanct, you shouldn't be concerned with the minor infractions of communism. You should be inveighing against De Beers. Sitting on a mountain of diamonds which is a supply that is much more than the world needs, they miserly meter it out to the public while brainwashing women into thinking they need these bland colorless crystals to get married. In addition, like all "precious" gems, they can be manufactured to a higher perfection than in nature. Artificial rarity meets artificial demand.
Although there are great barriers, I would love to see asteroid mining yield tons of gold per every inhabitant of this planet, when it would become as cheap as aluminum. Perhaps the capitalists who confiscate Asteroid Psyche 16 will meter out the gold the way De Beers meters out diamonds.
By the way, I love diamonds. You take very small ones and embed them in brass and they make wonderful grinding tools that make useful things. I also respect aluminum as much as I respect gold. It used to be more valuable than gold until electrolytic smelting was invented. Amazing materials all with unique properties.

JR Cosgrove
4 months 2 weeks ago

Thank you for making my case. This is not free market capitalism and is definitely a suppression of the supply demand curve.

Again you should read more. There are many forms of economic structure called capitalism but only one is free market capitalism. Never implemented nationally completely anywhere but allowed to prosper to a great extent in a lot of countries. It is what has led to the modern world through one invention or innovation after the other.

Stanley Kopacz
4 months 2 weeks ago

If you are want to be a champion of capitalism, you would make your case better by cleaning up capitalism's act, if that were possible. For my own part, I think proper hybridization of capitalism and socialism works better. Since there is no pure anything, why not try to make the composites work?

JR Cosgrove
4 months 2 weeks ago

As I said you should read more. You obviously don’t understand economics or economic history. 220 years ago 98% of the world lived in abject poverty. Then something caught on because it was creating prosperity for a lot of people. It certainly had nothing to do with any form of socialism,

Stanley Kopacz
4 months 2 weeks ago

If you are want to be a champion of capitalism, you would make your case better by cleaning up capitalism's act, if that were possible. For my own part, I think proper hybridization of capitalism and socialism works better. Since there is no pure anything, why not try to make the composites work?

Darby Heavey
4 months 2 weeks ago

For all it’s faults, and there are many, free trade and free market capitalism have lifted more people out of abject poverty in the last 2o years than all the charity of the previous 200 years. The Jesuits are trying to rehabilitate Communism which is socialism enforced by coercion. Communism has murdered more people than any other ideology in history.

Rachel Ouellette
4 months 2 weeks ago

I have no idea where you get the idea that any economic system is part of natural law. Supply and demand comes into the the language of economics with Adam Smith. If you are going to use Christian thought to discuss economics, you have to feed the needy, house the homeless, welcome the stranger etc. In a democracy, socialism is whatever you decide to pay together rather than each on their own. Public schools are socialism, so are roads, libraries, parks etc. So is Social Security and Medicare. I can assure you that you’re going to take out more out of Medicare than you put in. My dental hygienist told me she pays $500.00 a month for health insurance, I’m sure her taxes wouldn’t go up that much. It’s like an insurance. We all pay in so everyone can have it. Many things work better in the private sector. Not everybody needs a fur coat, but everyone needs to eat. A good society makes sure everyone has food. When our communities were smaller it was easier to help each other. I don’t know anyone who can’t feed their children. I want to be part of a country where everyone can have basic necessities and I’m willing to pay for it. In a democracy, the voters decide what they will pay together and what people pay on their own. The more people who are unable to live an adequate life, the more risk of uprisings and social strife. By the way, how free would you feel if you couldn’t feed or educate your children. Also the capitalism system we are living in now favors the very, very rich. When a Walmart employee works full time and qualifies for food stamps, and one of the owners is worth 42 billion dollars. We are subsidizing the workers. They qualify for Earned Income Tax. Not sure what it’s called, money you get if you don’t make enough to come to a certain income they get money back at the end of the year.

JR Cosgrove
4 months 2 weeks ago

I have no idea where you get the idea that any economic system is part of natural law

It’s called human nature which is part of the natural law. Economics is based on the natural behavior of humans which is based on how God made us. Communism suppresses this natural human behavior. It has no way of deciding how much of anything to make.

Richard Lindmark
4 months 2 weeks ago

What is being missed in this discussion of communism, economics, and Christian values is the basic understanding of markets. Markets aren’t a thing separate from the interaction of individuals. I have something you want and you have something I want so we agree to exchange goods, services or a medium of exchange. That is a market. If I have a talent to produce an AXDRT and it makes life easier, more secure or simpler so everyone wants it, then the market for AXDRT expands. If I get too greedy, then there is reason for someone else to improve on my AXDRT and offer an alternative to the market I developed. As an aside it was Marx that coined the term capitalism. He distorted the whole concept of markets. It’s easy to look at the results of thousands of innovations, hard work and risks that lead to a successful business like Walmart and say isn’t it unfair that these owners have all this wealth and their workers earn so little. We need to redistribute their wealth. One Christian problem with this. Go back to the basic concept of a market - VOLUNTARY EXCHANGE OF PROPERTY. The Christian principle is that of the right to the fruits of your labor. One of many mistakes made by the SJW’s is that labor does not just mean physical labor as Marx also thought. It includes all forms of effort and risk an individual expends in pursuit of a result regardless of whether or not the result being sought is a physical object, a service, a crop or a computer program. Sure we all want to see people helped when they need it but too often we want to use force to take the property of some to do what WE IN POWER think is the best use of that property.

The Beatitudes are instructions to us as individuals to deal with the less fortunate than ourselves but this is a call to charity. A word we don’t hear much about. What we hear is justice, social justice. Why is that? Is it because charity is a voluntary act and social justice conjures up the use of force to accomplish OUR end?

Rachel Ouellette
4 months 2 weeks ago

I have no idea where you get the idea that any economic system is part of natural law. Supply and demand comes into the the language of economics with Adam Smith. If you are going to use Christian thought to discuss economics, you have to feed the needy, house the homeless, welcome the stranger etc. In a democracy, socialism is whatever you decide to pay together rather than each on their own. Public schools are socialism, so are roads, libraries, parks etc. So is Social Security and Medicare. I can assure you that you’re going to take out more out of Medicare than you put in. My dental hygienist told me she pays $500.00 a month for health insurance, I’m sure her taxes wouldn’t go up that much. It’s like an insurance. We all pay in so everyone can have it. Many things work better in the private sector. Not everybody needs a fur coat, but everyone needs to eat. A good society makes sure everyone has food. When our communities were smaller it was easier to help each other. I don’t know anyone who can’t feed their children. I want to be part of a country where everyone can have basic necessities and I’m willing to pay for it. In a democracy, the voters decide what they will pay together and what people pay on their own. The more people who are unable to live an adequate life, the more risk of uprisings and social strife. By the way, how free would you feel if you couldn’t feed or educate your children. Also the capitalism system we are living in now favors the very, very rich. When a Walmart employee works full time and qualifies for food stamps, and one of the owners is worth 42 billion dollars. We are subsidizing the workers. They qualify for Earned Income Tax. Not sure what it’s called, money you get if you don’t make enough to come to a certain income they get money back at the end of the year.

Rachel Ouellette
4 months 2 weeks ago

I have no idea where you get the idea that any economic system is part of natural law. Supply and demand comes into the the language of economics with Adam Smith. If you are going to use Christian thought to discuss economics, you have to feed the needy, house the homeless, welcome the stranger etc. In a democracy, socialism is whatever you decide to pay together rather than each on their own. Public schools are socialism, so are roads, libraries, parks etc. So is Social Security and Medicare. I can assure you that you’re going to take out more out of Medicare than you put in. My dental hygienist told me she pays $500.00 a month for health insurance, I’m sure her taxes wouldn’t go up that much. It’s like an insurance. We all pay in so everyone can have it. Many things work better in the private sector. Not everybody needs a fur coat, but everyone needs to eat. A good society makes sure everyone has food. When our communities were smaller it was easier to help each other. I don’t know anyone who can’t feed their children. I want to be part of a country where everyone can have basic necessities and I’m willing to pay for it. In a democracy, the voters decide what they will pay together and what people pay on their own. The more people who are unable to live an adequate life, the more risk of uprisings and social strife. By the way, how free would you feel if you couldn’t feed or educate your children. Also the capitalism system we are living in now favors the very, very rich. When a Walmart employee works full time and qualifies for food stamps, and one of the owners is worth 42 billion dollars. We are subsidizing the workers. They qualify for Earned Income Tax. Not sure what it’s called, money you get if you don’t make enough to come to a certain income they get money back at the end of the year.

Rachel Ouellette
4 months 2 weeks ago

I have no idea where you get the idea that any economic system is part of natural law. Supply and demand comes into the the language of economics with Adam Smith. If you are going to use Christian thought to discuss economics, you have to feed the needy, house the homeless, welcome the stranger etc. In a democracy, socialism is whatever you decide to pay together rather than each on their own. Public schools are socialism, so are roads, libraries, parks etc. So is Social Security and Medicare. I can assure you that you’re going to take out more out of Medicare than you put in. My dental hygienist told me she pays $500.00 a month for health insurance, I’m sure her taxes wouldn’t go up that much. It’s like an insurance. We all pay in so everyone can have it. Many things work better in the private sector. Not everybody needs a fur coat, but everyone needs to eat. A good society makes sure everyone has food. When our communities were smaller it was easier to help each other. I don’t know anyone who can’t feed their children. I want to be part of a country where everyone can have basic necessities and I’m willing to pay for it. In a democracy, the voters decide what they will pay together and what people pay on their own. The more people who are unable to live an adequate life, the more risk of uprisings and social strife. By the way, how free would you feel if you couldn’t feed or educate your children. Also the capitalism system we are living in now favors the very, very rich. When a Walmart employee works full time and qualifies for food stamps, and one of the owners is worth 42 billion dollars. We are subsidizing the workers. They qualify for Earned Income Tax. Not sure what it’s called, money you get if you don’t make enough to come to a certain income they get money back at the end of the year.

rose-ellen caminer
4 months 2 weeks ago

Supply and demand is not really a law. At best it is a model that describes behavior in a limited system that is neither primitive nor fully modern. To say that it is a natural law suggests that it applies to the natural world including non-humans. Animals can thrive for periods of time but when their food sources diminish in relation to their population, they don't simply pay a higher price, they thin the herd or become extinct. The Anasazi thrived for many years in the southwest Colorado region, but when the drought came, they abandoned their cities and moved on. In a simple agrarian economy where self-sufficient people provide for most of their basic needs, they can choose to not pay for the luxuries that are in low supply and high demand. However, our modern society has moved beyond simple basic needs. The Anasazi needed water. In our modern society we need gasoline regardless of the supply or price. Without gasoline, we cannot drive to work. We cannot earn the money needed to purchase our food, water, or housing. Certain staples have transcended the theory of supply and demand. In a world where phone booths have disappeared and fire alarms are not being maintained, we need cell phones. As human beings, in God's world, we are able to plan and assist our need to achieve optimum access to necessary resources. Our options include various levels of socialist ideas to achieve that end. Natural law does not require devotion to capitalist greed. If I were running for office, I would not want to run on the "thin the herd" platform.
J Cosgrove; in your prior post you stated that we are not all created equal. I will grant you that we do not all have the same mathematical aptitude or verbal ability. Some of us have a great musical ability. Some of us have a strong moral character. How should we measure our equality? Should we study the knots or bumps (phrenology) of our skulls? Should we ask the Nazis, Racists, or Classists? We do not have the same abilities but we have the same basic needs and drives. Thomas Jefferson, a predecessor to Marx, found our equality of creation to be self-evident. Capitalism does not direct its benefits to the most worthy, or even the most ambitious. It often directs its benefits to those with the higher starting point. The hardest working are not the richest. The most successful are often the ones with the most capital to work for them. A wealthy real estate developer in my my neighborhood often stood on the corner watching the girls walk by. One afternoon I overhead him tell a friend, "you know me, I am working all of the time." I am sure that the business wheels were always turning as he pursued his avocation, but his labor was not hard.

Andrew Strada
4 months 2 weeks ago

Responding to this article is a little like making love to an elephant - one hardly knows where to begin. If Fr. Malone and Mr. Dettloff can so conveniently overlook the 100 million people killed by communists in the 20th century (as documented by French intellectuals in The Black Book of Communism) then there is really no common ground for a rational discussion. And if this makes me "uninformed, unreasonable and uncharitable" then I will wear those labels proudly.

Don't give yourself too much credit for being intellectually provocative Fr. Malone. Sometimes when you push a reasonable approach out too far you end up in territory that is silly and evil and has no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

Opting Out
4 months 2 weeks ago

Well said Andrew. Next article will be praising Josef Stalin for killing 60 million people and Mao Zedong killing 53 million people because if a Communist dictator did it, well it must have been good.

As for Matt Malone’s ending comment will call male bovine fecal matter.…he would know considering he feeds off of the stuff and it shows in his rag. Thankfully Im Catholic in spite of her miserable ministers. Congrats Matt. You are now right up there with the US Bishops: scorned!

Christopher Gunderson
4 months 2 weeks ago

Both of those figures are baloney.

Alan Johnstone
4 months 2 weeks ago

maybe, on the underestimate side of error as far as I am concerned.

Kenneth Wolfe
4 months 2 weeks ago

Please. I would believe you if America published an article sympathetic to, for instance, the traditional Latin Mass. Alas, your editorial board has repeatedly rejected such articles. When America magazine shows more sympathy to communism than to the traditional Latin Mass, it is no wonder some have spelled your periodical Amerika.

Robin Smith
4 months 2 weeks ago

Mr. Malone,
Now I understand why you felt the need to explain your editorial choice based on the small sighted comments below.
Oh, the days when everyone wasn't a "snowflake..."

Andrew Strada
4 months 2 weeks ago

If being unalterably opposed to communism makes one a snowflake then let us pray for an avalanche.

Opting Out
4 months 2 weeks ago

Oh, the days when everyone wasn't a "snowflake..."

Says the paid troll. David Brock and George Soros employs left wing trolls to attack Catholic, Christian principles all for political ideologies like Left wing tripe

Michael Bindner
4 months 2 weeks ago

They tend yo prove Fr. Matt's point about open mindedness rather than stubbornness in examining issues. They no more believe the reality that modern socialists repeat Soviet communism as much as they do than they listen to gay men when they report they were born that way. They confuse loyalty and faith.

Alan Johnstone
4 months 2 weeks ago

the biblical basis of lauding open mindedness is missing in your post; some clues?

Rhett Segall
4 months 2 weeks ago

Fr. Malone opines: "My reading of Catholic social teaching, especially the commentary of recent popes, is that it has many good things to say about capitalism while always reminding us about the bad that comes with it. At the same time, it has many bad things to say about socialism while always reminding us of the good that comes with it". Socialism and communism are not the same. One can be a socialist and believe in God. One cannot be a communist and believe in God.

Michael Bindner
4 months 2 weeks ago

Soviet Communism is not the only form. Ask any Benedictine or Jesuit.

Rhett Segall
4 months 2 weeks ago

Michael, speaking of "Benedictine or Jesuit" Communism is to equivocate. It's like speaking of North Korea as the "Democratic People's Republic of Korea". It's an abuse of language!

JR Cosgrove
4 months 2 weeks ago

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.

Rhett Segall
4 months 2 weeks ago

J is right. Benedictine "communism" is freely chosen. Further, the monks do not have families to provide for. Further, their motto, "ora et labora", manifestly refers to a transcendental root to their commune-God as manifested in Christ. Here we have the radical dignity of the individual. Witnesses such as Solzhenitsyn and Pasternak have made clear that Communism has no respect for the individual. It's absolute is the group and truth and freedom are to serve the group.

Richard Lindmark
4 months 2 weeks ago

I learned about socialism the hard way ( in a sense) in high school. I had a history class and on the first day of class the teacher said that a certain % of our grade would be based on our weekly quizzes on the reading assignments that week. He also added that no one would fail these quizzes. Well someone asked how was that possible. He explained that after correcting the quizzes if someone didn’t have a passing grade, he would take a point or two from the top scores and add it to their score to achieve a passing grade. He said as a Catholic high school we were just applying the axiom “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need”. First week no problem only a few points were transferred. Second week a few more and third week the top grades moved from A’s to B+. Now you can imagine how those students felt. By the sixth or seventh week only a few were doing the reading and there weren’t enough points to bring anyone to a passing grade. At that point the teacher said I told you no one would fail the weekly tests. Since you have collectively failed and it is clear you aren’t reading the material, you’ll all stay after school, read the assignment and write a two page paper on it for extra credit which will get you a passing grade. If you want a B you’ll write a paper on the last three assignments by next Friday. Well you can imagine the uproar and the calls to go to the dean and principal. When he got the class under control, he explained that the quizzes were only going to count 1% of our grade, but the real point is that the quizzes were like raising food and he represented the government who could take from one and give to another. If it is a small amount that doesn’t affect us it has not impact on how hard we work. At a certain point we stop putting in the effort and then we need to be forced to work. He explained that what we had just experienced was socialism and it’s false promises of nobody fails. We all fail.

[Explore America’s in-depth coverage of Dorothy Day—including archival material authored by her.]

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