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.

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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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Andrew Strada
11 months 3 weeks ago

When someone decides to leave the Jesuits he is not shot in the back.

Andrew Strada
11 months 3 weeks ago

When a six-year old shouts out a dirty word in public, he expects a certain reaction. I hope, Fr. Malone, that we are not disappointing you.

Scott Burdette
11 months 3 weeks ago

Rerum novarum of Leo XIII.

Alfredo S.
11 months 3 weeks ago

Well done, Fr. Malone. The best thinkers know how to detect good and separate it from evil.

Adeolu Ademoyo
11 months 3 weeks ago

I thank America Magazine for their insightful news coverage and their editorials. I thank Fr. Matt Malone, S.J. for this clarification. Now I want to engage the issues.
The argument that communism and socialism are against natural law and thus against God is flawed and therefore logically and theologically unsustainable. Anyone who subscribes to this flawed position that communism and socialism are against natural law and thus against God - is wrongly conflating certain things and is subtly insinuating that capitalism is in favor of natural law and thus capitalists and capitalism are defenders of God! This is false. That some capitalist politicians use Christianity and some Christian denominations to get votes during elections does not make these politicians to be Christians.

Interestingly, in similar argument, historically, some racists have in the past evoked religion, Christianity and God to justify their racism or evoked their racism to explain God! So, we are historically on familiar grounds. Hence , my initial response is that evoking capitalism to defend God or evoking God to defend capitalism is analogous to evoking racism to defend God or evoking God to defend racism.

The main contemporary ideologies-feudalism, capitalism, socialism and communism have nothing to do with God. There are defenders of feudalism, capitalism, socialism and communism who are theists just as there are defenders of feudalism, capitalism, socialism and communism who are atheists. There are defenders of feudalism and capitalism who are atheists. And there are some who claim to be Christians. But in their so-called Christianity they ridicule our faith, they ridicule Christianity, they ridicule God to our faces, even when they use Christianity and Christians of a particular denomination to get electoral votes! We have many of them in the country today.

If racism, anti-semitism, bigotry, xenophobia are evils as I think they, and given the role of plantation slavery and racism which were enabled by capitalism, and given the evil of holocaust orchestrated and perpetuated by Hitler Germany which is not a socialist or communist country (even when Hitler dubiously called his party a socialist party) but capitalist one, how will any rational mind ever suggest or insinuate that capitalism is in favor of natural law and therefore pro-God? Whoever maintains this position must be ready to accept the staggering consequences. And here are some. If plantation slavery and capitalism, and Hitler’s Germany which ran a capitalist economy are pro-natural law and therefore pro-God as subtly insinuated, then that same God will be pro-slavery, pro-racism, and pro-holocaust. I vehemently and strongly disagree with this illegitimate and flawed conclusion because our God, the Christian God is not pro-slavery, is not pro-racism and is not pro-holocaust. Our God, the Christian God and Christian faith is against slavery, racism, holocaust, anti-semitism and any form of bigotry. So those who claim that communism and socialism are against natural law and thus against God - and who then subtly insinuate that capitalism is in favor of natural law and thus capitalists and capitalism are defenders of God must face the staggering consequence of their logic; they need to refine their claim.

Finally, I have maintained in previous conversations that America Magazine is a respectable, plural, non-nativist, cosmopolitan, inclusive, Catholic journal. While people can make all kinds of fabulous, mythical, irrational, illogical, nativist and parochial comments in rightwing propaganda sheets and outlets like Fox News, OAN, Breitbart etc , and go un-challenged rationally, you cannot come to America Magazine and make similar claims and go un-challenged. You will be challenged just as any claim that is not backed by living faith in God, fact, history, reason, and logic will be challenged. Again, I thank God for His mercies; I thank America Magazine for providing us with a vibrant space to have this conversation. And I thank Fr. Matt Malone for his clarification. God Bless.

Andrew Strada
11 months 3 weeks ago

I don't know whether communism is against natural law or not. I'm pretty sure that killing 100 million people is. Dorothy Day at least had an excuse because she was writing at a time when the evils of communism had not fully come to light. The people who make elaborate rationalizations for communism today have no such excuse.

Adeolu Ademoyo
11 months 3 weeks ago

To claim socialism and communism are against natural law and against God is to insinuate that capitalism is not against natural law and is therefore pro-God. This is historically false. History does not support this. Let me be very clear so as to avoid any ambiguity. It is correct to point to the millions that communism erased from the earth. It is evil that communism caused millions of deaths. But it is wrong to look the other way and pretend not to see the millions of people capitalism erased from the earth, an act which is equally evil. It is wrong to fail to see the economies that were ruined and buried during the capitalist transatlantic slave trade. To pretend that this did not happen is evil, just as it is evil to pretend not to see the deaths communism caused.

So I have two questions. The evil transatlantic slave trade was based on a capitalist economy. How many Africans were erased from the surface of the earth because of this evil of transatlantic slave trade? How many African economies were ruined and buried? How many African Americans were decimated and extirpated because of this transatlantic, plantation slave trade and racism which was run on capitalist economy? Second, Hitler's Germany ran a capitalist economy. How many Jewish people were erased and extirpated from the surface of the earth during the holocaust? Answers to these questions will be helpful. It is evil to pretend that this did not happen under capitalism.

Interrogate history and inform on the number of Africans and African Americans capitalist transatlantic slave trade erased from the earth. Dialogue with history and learn how many Jewish people the evil of holocaust perpetrated by Hitler's Germany under a capitalist economy erased from the earth.

Now here is my point. None of these "isms" has anything to do with God, the Christian God even when in the past many have injected God into these "isms." Communists and capitalists have argued against the existence of God. Just as Karl Marx dubiously and ignorantly called religion the opium of the people, capitalists have ridiculed God and Christianity. We have capitalist politicians in the country today who ridicule Christianity and God but who manage through transactional politics to deceive a section of Christians in order to get votes.

Both communism and capitalism have erased people from the earth given us by God, our creator. Do you disagree?

Andrew Strada
11 months 3 weeks ago

My point is that America magazine did not publish articles talking about the positive aspects of the slave trade or the positive aspects of National Socialism. It did, however, publish an article about the positive aspects of communism. All three topics resulted in great evil but only one received elaborate and unconvincing rationalizations from the editors.

Adeolu Ademoyo
11 months 3 weeks ago

Since America Magazine according to you "did not publish articles talking about the positive aspects of the slave trade or the positive aspects of National Socialism" and since we all know that Adolf Hitler's National Socialism produced Jewish holocaust and since the transatlantic slave trade wiped away civilizations, can you kindly help inform readers of the "positive" side of the Jewish holocaust orchestrated under capitalist Hitler's Germany, by the evil man Adolf Hitler and the "positive" side of the wiping away, decimation and burying of African civilizations orchestrated by capitalist transatlantic slave trade? Thank you and God Bless you.

JR Cosgrove
11 months 3 weeks ago

Fascism is a form of socialism. It most certainly was not free market capitalism. Free market capitalism didn’t emerge till the 1700’s long after the trans Atlantic slave trade was operating. You are equating making money which is as old as mankind to an economic system that didn't really emerge till just over 200 years ago. So one is relatively new and responsible for the modern world which began in the late 1700’s while the other has been around for recorded history,

Adeolu Ademoyo
11 months 3 weeks ago

I know it is common in the country today to throw phrases around and simply label anything "socialist." But history is fundamentally against your post. Adolf Hitler's Germany was not a socialist economy given the economic theory of socialism. Some deeper reading will show this. Adolf Hitler's Germany was not a socialist government, and was not a socialist economy. Adolf Hitler's government was not a "workers' government." It was a bourgeois government using the register of socialist literature. So Adolf Hitler's Germany, which was a capitalist economy and a bourgeois government was responsible for the evil of the pogrom of the Jewish people, the evil of the Holocaust of the good Jewish people. Conclusion: Adolf Hitler's fascist Germany is a product of the political and economic system ran by the evil man Adolf Hitler.

The evil of transatlantic slave trade and its link to capitalism. History fundamentally and irreversibly rejects your observation and your attempt to delink this evil of transatlantic slave trade and racism from capitalism and the trading of human beings to obtain profit and for money making. Therefore the substance of your post is incurably flawed. And history is the witness, premise and evidence against the substance of your post. This is your statement: "Free market capitalism did not emerge till the 1700's." These are your words. Now Mr. J. Cosgrove, please do your research and come back to inform readers when the evil of transatlantic slave trade started. The period the transatlantic trade started contradicts your attempt (from the point of history and historical fact) to delink "free market capitalism" from the evil of transatlantic slave trade. Please check history and historical dates before you respond. God Bless you.

JR Cosgrove
11 months 3 weeks ago

You are misinformed. Free market capitalism by definition is not run by anyone. You just negated your whole argument when you said the economic system was run by Hitler. That is just the opposite of free market capitalism which originated in England in the 1700's and then spread to other parts of Europe and the North American colonies run by the British. So it has nothing to do with slavery which by definition is not free. Latin America never practiced free market capitalism until a few countries recently are doing it partially.

JR Cosgrove
11 months 3 weeks ago

Mussolini is famous for his statement

Everything Within the State, Nothing Against the State, Nothing Outside the State

Fascism is a form of socialism or state control of everything including the economy. It was the same in Germany. Mussolini died while trying to rewrite the Communist Manifesto.

JR Cosgrove
11 months 3 weeks ago

If you want some references, I can provide several about how free market capitalism arose. But it is a recent phenomena. The world was mostly extremely poor till just over 200 years ago when the industrial revolution started to take off. A good start is here
http://lukemuehlhauser.com/industrial-revolution/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbkSRLYSojo

rose-ellen caminer
11 months 3 weeks ago

Maybe you should read up on the opium wars as well. Imperial capitalism may have provided wealth to some of the extremely poor but not without cost. Up until the Industrial Revolution, China had one of the strongest economies in the world and benefited from more exports than imports with Europe. British capitalists, who were not pleased with the fact that Europeans wanted Chinese goods [tea, silk and porcelain], saw this as a threat to their profits. In the late 18th Century, they sought to balance the trade by growing opium in India to be exported to China. The result was that the Chinese began having problems with their people becoming addicted. The Chinese wrote letters to the queen of England asking them to PLEASE stop this immoral practice, but the greedy capitalists only cared about their profits and would not stop. After two wars were fought over this, the capitalist British forced the Chinese government to sign "unfair treaties" [leading to the Boxer Rebellion] and forcing them to continue to receive and pay for opium! That's one country. Such policies were imposed on most of the non capitalist world throughout the 19th century and beyond. Communism, albeit not perfect, was one attempt to put an a end to such exploitation by the greedy few corporation and governments.

Capitalism is not designed to raise the status of the masses but to line the pockets of entrepreneurs and their stock holders. Theodore Roosevelt noted that it tends toward monopolies that are not good for the society as a whole. Therefore, he began the practice of breaking up trusts. Without outside interference capitalism does not automatically raise societies from poverty. Its goal is to pay labor the lowest rate possible, even slavery when the law allowed. It is against safety precautions or even protection of our futures. Today's profit is more important to the capitalist than whatever resources that we may leave for our children. Without some outside ethical or moral structure to restrict or direct it, capitalism does not improve the lot of the masses.

JR Cosgrove
11 months 3 weeks ago

China/English trade or the associated trade wars in the 1800's are not relevant to the discussion. There has been trade and wealthy merchants for over a couple thousand years but not free market capitalism. This is what transformed the world starting in the mid to late 1600's in England and then in its colonies especially Pennsylvania. In the 1800's it started to spread to Western Europe. What was happening was people of extraordinary ability from all classes of life including poor peasants could prosper and rise. Before that it was limited to less than 1-2% of the people, nobles, clergy and merchants. This transformation created exponential growth in world wealth for the first time in history. See links I provided. Also read Deirdre McCloskey.

Adeolu Ademoyo
11 months 3 weeks ago

Thanks. Let us start from the US and then go back to Hitler's Germany and the transatlantic slave trade.
1. Semantics. After this observation you need to consider dropping one thing or you will open yourself to the charge of double standard. And we are familiar with that. The government of the period we are talking about -whose economy was capitalist was "run" by Hitler. It is common sense that capitalism by itself is not "run" by one individual but by individuals who constitute a class. So technically the capitalist economy is in the hands of a class, and not individuals. However, the government under which any economic system operates has either a president, a prime minister, a chancellor. In Adolf Hitler's case, he was the Chancellor of the German Reich. Here is the double standard of rightwing people who want to eat their cake and have it. Here in the US, the talk is that the economy is "doing well" . And who does the right wing people and right wing press-Fox News, OAN, Breitbart and the "base"! attribute that to? Mr. Trump! So they will claim Mr. Trump "runs" the economy! See what I mean. I am laughing as I write this. You cannot have it both ways. So who is misinformed?

2. Having disposed of your flawed distraction in 1 above, I do not want us to stray away from the main issue. And this is the main issue. Now the German economy (under Hitler at the head of Nazi Germany, the head of the government) was capitalist. German fascism arose from this. And the fascist Nazi government with a capitalist economy was responsible for the pogrom of the good Jewish people and the evil of the holocaust. This is one of my main submissions. This is what you want to distract readers from. And I will not let you do that.
3. The same free market capitalism produced the evil called the transatlantic slave trade and racism that terminated and buried historic African civilizations and millions of Africans and African Americans. Same capitalism produced governments and institutions that caused the pogrom of Native Americans in the vast continent of North America. Check your history. These institutions also terminated the Native American civilization.

Conclusion
It is a fact that to control people's minds, the first thing you do is to erase history and attack the truth. We will not allow that to happen in America Magazine. That can happen in rag tag right wing outlets like Fox News, OAN and Breitbart, but not in respectable American journal like America Magazine. I rest my case. God Bless you Mr. J. Cosgrove.

Adeolu Ademoyo
11 months 3 weeks ago

Mr. J. Cosgrove, thanks for your post. Let me be un-ambiguously clear. Any economic and political system-feudalism, capitalism, socialism, communism that produces governments and institutions that kill and murder should be called to question. So? The deaths caused by communism and capitalism are evil. The economy under Stalin’s brutal rule was a socialist /communist economy, and Vladimir Putin, (Mr. Donald Trump’s electoral and political buddy) inherited that brutal system. So? Stalin’s communist Soviet Union led to massive deaths. It is evil. The economy under Adolf Hitler’s fascist government was capitalist. So? This produced Hitler’s fascist regime which produced the evil of the Jewish Holocaust.

Free market capitalism produced institutions and governments that nearly wiped away Native Americans, their institutions and cultures in North America. Same free market capitalism produced institutions and governments that led to the evil of transatlantic slave trade, racism which historically stunted historic African civilizations, destroyed and extirpated African American lives when they are no longer considered useful for plantation slavery; thereby stunted and blunted African American family lives social, cultural and economic progress.

In this regard, I have the following questions for you. (i) Was the system that nearly wiped away Native Americans, their civilizations and cultures socialist or communist? (ii) Was the economic system that produced Hitler’s fascism which produced the evil of holocaust socialist or communist? (iii) Was the economic system that produced the evil of transatlantic trade socialist or communist?

Finally, I need to clarify this. Contrary to your post, individuals do not “run” the capitalist economy or any economy for that matter. Classes, social and cultural forces do. For example, American capitalism is in the hands of the 1% of the American population of which Mr. Trump is a member and who Mr. Trump is beholding to, and who Mr. Trump gave a huge tax cut as compensation.

The fact that the capitalist economy is in the hands of a class is what explains the league and un-holy alliance between a section of evangelical pastors in the country and Mr. Donald Trump for purely economic, cultural, electoral and political purposes. And that alliance has nothing to do with God, religion or Christian faith. The alliance has nothing to do with religion or Christianity. The alliance is purely transactional-economic, political and cultural. I thought I needed to clarify this for your civic education when you wrongly claimed that individuals run a capitalist economy. No sir! Individuals do not run a capitalist economy, a class does, the bourgeois class does. And that class has members from politics, government, economy, culture, religion (from the religion leg of the class-take as example the private jet owning evangelical “pastors” in the country who claim that they need to be closer to God with their jets, and who sold this dummy to their innocent parishioners and tasked them to contribute to buying the jets! ) I hope this helped.

Alan Johnstone
11 months 2 weeks ago

Ademoyo - what part of National Socialist did you not understand?
It was the self-referenced name of the creed and practice of Adolf Hitler, should he have chosen a better name?

Ingrid Wisniewski
11 months 3 weeks ago

Oh my, I have never tweeted and I don't think I ever will but I know claptrap and bull when I see it. Having experienced communism in various forms first-hand allow me to enlighten you: both the Detloff piece and your pitiful defense of it fully meet the criteria for claptrap and bull. Obviously both of you have no clue whatsoever what it means to live under a communist regime. I pray you will never have to experience it. But please desist from waxing romantically about it. That is plain offensive to those of us who know what it really is like.

Michael Bindner
11 months 3 weeks ago

Soviet Marxism has become Russian Oligarchy. It is hardly an improvement. I did read the Twitter feed. It is a model of knee jerk reaction. I upset their party by posting GIF pictures of Putin and Trump in their disastrous press conference where Putin demanded the right to interrogate Ambassador Faul.

Alan Johnstone
11 months 2 weeks ago

Ingrid - I guess you miss JP2 sorely. He did not countenance the Jesuits practising this creed in Nicaragua but now we seem to have a Liberation Theology Jesuit Pope, the rest have the bit between their teeth.

Michael Bindner
11 months 3 weeks ago

The article definitely became troll bait. Open-mindedness is not generally a reactionary trait, even and maybe especially when something like a middle-class level negative income tax for each child, essentially pro-life socialism could replace electing Republicans in stopping abortion. The latter gave us four justices who will not give repealing Roe the time of day.

Indiana v. Planned Parenthood affirmed striking down the provisions of law prohibiting aborting children with Down's. While Congress could do it (they won't), states cannot. The case was not even heard and only Thomas dissented. Alabama has no chance. For these people, partisanship in politics and religion isore important than reality.

John Placette
11 months 3 weeks ago

What scares me is not the responses to the article, but rather the fostering of the notion that it should be debated at all. Communism should be condemned from all angles. Like the World Wars, communism was not experienced first or second-hand by our younger generations in the U.S.

There is always a desire for something different. It is a travesty, if we older, experienced adults, don’t point out at every turn the dangers of communism.

Stanley Kopacz
11 months 3 weeks ago

Older experienced adults are useless to the younger generation. They grew up in an environment that was much more beneficent. It's a whole new world now, gramps. Just be glad you were born in a better one and you can afford AC for the heatwaves that are coming.

John Placette
11 months 3 weeks ago

The world has not changed that much, but those who do not learn from the past are destined to repeat it.

Stanley Kopacz
11 months 3 weeks ago

If you're worried about history repeating itself, look for demagogues stoking racial fears and hatreds to gain the support of the populace and deflect blame away from the real systematic problems. Look for demagogues that have no respect for truth or accuracy. Pure emotion. No logic. Demagogues that come in the color orange these days. As for the horrors of socialism, all these people want is better regulation, health care, insulin that's not jacked up to ten times its profitability level, being workers not serfs. Maybe something like Sweden. If that causes hysteria in elderly men, maybe some hormone supplements are called for.
The world hasn't changed that much? I didn't graduate from college with a crushing debt five times the tuition I actually paid in 1970. I didn't have to worry about the disruption of the internet and jobs disappearing. Perhaps engineers don't have to worry about AI yet, but they do have to worry about offshoring their jobs.

John Placette
11 months 3 weeks ago

duplicate

John Placette
11 months 3 weeks ago

Too little time and space to debate here. Tell me of one communist country that is a success.

Roland Greystoke
11 months 3 weeks ago

I will always read news articles, opinion pieces and books that, at the start, I may disagree with. That's because I am a Conservative, not a liberal. I gave my father-in-law, an engineer, 3 books on the climate issue which provided scientific evidence that it is a natural cycle and not anthropogenic. He threw them away without reading them. He listens to NPR.

Stanley Kopacz
11 months 3 weeks ago

He might have thrown the books away the way he'd throw away a book titled "Why the Earth is Really Flat: the Suppressed Evidence Revealed" or "Germ Theory: a Hoax by the Pharmaceutical Companies Exposed". Natural cycle my ass.

James Mullin
11 months 3 weeks ago

Cardinal Mindzenty and Pope John Paul II are rolling in their graves - men who LIVED in communism, not simply theorized and wrote about it. Congratulations, America and the Jesuit Order!! You've reached the apex of your evolution from your Spanish Civil War Communist antecedents that now permeate the Jesuit hierarchy. Show me the country on this Earth that has embraced communism that has not been a historical paragon of enforced human misery and suffering. Pol Pot's Cambodia? Mao's China? Lenin and Stalin's Russia? Chavez's Venezuela? Castro's Cuba? Exactly how much death, disease, famine and wholesale misery do Jesuits have to witness before they question their current moral compass? This is nothing short of a wholesale betrayal of every Catholic value I ever knew. And that's leaving totally aside whatever loyalty an American Jesuit might feel to the country that provided his Order more freedom than any society since the Jesuit founding. I am utterly saddened and disgusted.

Jeanne Caparso
11 months 3 weeks ago

Agree with you 100% John Placette—Communism should be condemned from all angles. How can anyone—let alone a Catholic (albeit a Jesuit) opinion promulgate romantic thoughts on Communism?? Fr. Malone perhaps you missed China’s disastrous one (currently two) child policy??? Yet your magazine presenting supposedly the "Catholic opinion" is extolling a socio-economic order that has imposed forced abortions and sterilizations on women. Which 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 doctrine or economic perspective?

JR Cosgrove
11 months 3 weeks ago

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.

Christopher Gunderson
11 months 3 weeks ago

Marx defined the goals of communism as the abolition of all class divisions between people, of the relations of production underlying these differences, of all the other social relations that support these divisions, and the revolutionizing of the ideas that go along with all of the above. The history of communists in power is, of course, considerably more complicated, and includes great crimes as well as great accomplishments. The "great crimes" (and some imaginary ones) are well known to anybody who attended an American High School or who gets their knowledge of the world from the corporate media. The accomplishments are considerably less well known, but have much to do with why millions of good people, including myself, choose to identify as communists.

The Chinese Revolution freed a quarter of the human race from a century of more or less constant hunger, illiteracy, poverty and misery. When the communists came to power the standard of living of the average Chinese peasant was among the very lowest in the world, matched only by a couple countries in sub-Saharan Africa. By exproporiating the landlords and throwing out foreign exploiters, the communists initiated a process that radically improved the standard of living of the Chinese people by virtually every measure. Even the major famine that followed the Great Leap Forward only stalled but never reversed the advances in life expectancy, reducing infant mortality, literacy and general level of education that have continued to the present and have made China a major world economic power.

I could list many other communist accomplishments: the military defeat of Nazism, the organization of industrial labor unions and the rights they won across much of the world, support for the anti-colonial movements that won political independence for the majority of the human race that at the beginning of the 20th century lived under one or another form of imperial domination.

The point here is not that communists are innocent of all charges against them. We aren't. But rather that the Cold War propaganda that constitutes the sum total of most American's knowledge of communism is far from the whole truth and that an openness to the possibility that you've been misled will give you a richer understanding of the world you actually live in.

Anyone who is interested in such a challenge should consider reading William Hinton's great and now classic book: "Fanshen: A Documentary of Revolution in a Chinese Village." It is still one of the best books on the Chinese Revolution, warts and all, ever written.

Andrew Strada
11 months 3 weeks ago

OK, I can understand why you choose to self-identify as a communist. What I can't understand is how and why you choose to self-identify as a good person.

Christopher Gunderson
11 months 3 weeks ago

Ouch. If your comment isn't charitable, at least it has the virtue of brevity.
Honestly, I don't imagine myself to be free from the human failings that Christians characterize as sin. But I have tried to devote my life to lifting up the poor and working classes, speaking out against injustices where I see them, and putting my body on the line when I can. I've gone to jail for protesting atrocities, racist police killings, and homelessness. I contracted malaria while building a clinic to serve impoverished indigenous peasants. I'm not a Christian, but I have enormous respect for Christians who make similar commitments.

I became a communist because of these commitments. Over time I became convinced that any system based on production for profit and the concentrated private ownership of productive wealth was inconsistent with both basic human dignity and the survival of the planet in any condition that I would want to leave it to my grandchildren. Acts of charity and tinkering with the machinery of greed weren't going to get the results we need. I'm not unaware of the uglier histories of socialist countries in the 20th century. I've taken considerable time to study and try to understand them and come to recognize that much of what went wrong in each of them was as much a consequence of their extreme poverty and the determination of the rich and powerful countries of the West to crush any example of an alternative to their domination as of any failure of their vision of a better society. At the end of the day I believe the vision expressed in both the Acts of the Apostles (4:32-35) and Marx's Critique of the Gotha Program, of a society based on the principle of from each according to their ability and to each according to their need, is the best and most humane.

Andrew Strada
11 months 3 weeks ago

You sound like an intelligent, articulate person who has lived his life in a manner consistent with his principles. I would like very much to respect you. But I can't. We have no common ground. There is nothing important on which we agree. That which you admire, I hate with a passion.

Yolanda Belinky
11 months 3 weeks ago

Sorry, this apology did not make me like it any better. Awful. Just awful. Even the Catholics I know who skew liberal left don't like this. Bad idea. No donut.

Yolanda Belinky
11 months 3 weeks ago

(Accidental double post removed. )

James Russell
11 months 3 weeks ago

The fact that you had to write a piece excusing these toxic ideas should have been a clue. Communism is evil. Full stop. “By their fruits you shall know them.” The devil will never be short of ideas with which you may disagree but nonetheless think are worth hearing. Watch the Yuri Bezmenov interview (especially the part about useful idiots) in which he lays out the whole playbook. Male bovine fecal matter, indeed!

Seth Tracy
11 months 3 weeks ago

This is the result of principle trumping prudence.

César Barroso
11 months 3 weeks ago

Saved you a click: Because we're bad catholics and St Ignatius and St Francis Xavier should come back and kick our asses for so colossally ruining their legacy and the work of God.

Lloyd William
11 months 3 weeks ago

Father Malone, I support free speech and the exchange of views. We all need to be exposed to a variety of views

Having said that, I’m not sure why you think this particular article deserves our attention. It seems like it presents a largely Pollyanna view of communism without much, if any, balance. It is an advocacy document, presenting a very one-sided distorted view that is certainly not worthy of serious scholarship.

Peter Lemaire
11 months 3 weeks ago

There is a decree specifically against Communism. It's already been pretty much shut down by the Church. Having a discussion about this makes as much sense as having a discussion about if fornication is a sin or not. The ink is dried and the statement is final. No Communism, says the Church.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decree_against_Communism?fbclid=IwAR2HWTBvT1gZrucSPBSbU9UHpnHTMX5-AKFx7bB0UG5Il4Iyc3HmVDyzfpM

JOHN GRONDELSKI
11 months 3 weeks ago

"Claptrap?"
Sorry, but as the graduate of a Jesuit University, I long ago learned that most of what comes out of a modern Jesuit's mouth that pretends to be Catholic "theology" is usually the claptrap of contemporary political correctness lightly sprinkled with some holy water to make it seem an "alternate Catholic opinion."

Daniel B
11 months 3 weeks ago

"You should not assume that America’s editorial position on communism has changed very much. It has not, Matt Malone, S.J. writes. What has also not changed is our willingness to hear views with which we may disagree but that we nonetheless think are worth hearing." Got it. Looking forward to "The Catholic Case for Fascism" in next month's publication.

arthur mccaffrey
11 months 3 weeks ago

American college students badly need to take courses on "Comparative Political Systems" so they can understand that there are many versions of Socialism and Communism and Capitalism around the world, and not all are as monolithic as this magazine and other media would have you believe. Socialists and communists run for political office in the UK and many European countries, and there are many flavors of socialism and communism that deviate markedly from Russian orthodoxy. I grew up under a socialist Labour govt. in the UK after WWII, and was the lucky recipient of the National Health Service and student grants to attend university. Much of what Labour established in 1945 was never dismantled by succeeding Conservative govts. because everybody recognised its public and national value. The only Amercian political candidate who is speaking anything like a real Socialist is Bernie Sanders, and he is badly misunderstood by free market capitalists (Catholic and non-Catholic alike) who never seem to want to translate "Love thy neighbor" into a practical political agenda for levelling the playing field in this country for access to health and wealth. Mr Malone's belief in Markets is too Darwinian for my tastes and beliefs.

Chuck Kotlarz
11 months 3 weeks ago

Mr. McCaffrey, does “American college students need to take courses...” suggest other college students do take courses on “comparative political systems”? "Political systems" today and throughout history may play the most crucial and least understood role.

Some believe an inclusive political system and supporting institutions lead to a prosperous society. Extreme income and wealth inequality suggest the absence of inclusion.

Kevin Murphy
11 months 3 weeks ago

Rod Dreher's take on America Mag's lunacy. https://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/jesuits-rehabilitate-communism-america-dean-dettloff/

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

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