Benedict XVI on Marx

Benedict XVI on Marx February 15, 2008

One of the benefits of belonging in a Church that takes both fides and ratio in tandem is the possibility of critically engaging the culture(s) in which that Church subsists. There is no question that the Catholic Church (at least its Latin side) is Euro-heavy, and rightly so. Consequently, the Catholic Church has been in rational discourse and debate with European ideas for over a millennium and up to this very day. It is not surprise, therefore, that Pope Benedict XVI critically engages disparate ideas from Bacon, Kant, Marx, Adorno and Horkheimer in his latest (and soon to be second most recent) encyclical, Spe Salvi.

As someone whose graduate degree is in historical theology, I truly appreciate the manner in which the Pope thinks with some of the Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment luminaries, for he recognizes that philosophical trends tend to pre-date cultural and mass movements–sort of an ideational trickle-down effect. Indeed, in our contemporary mass culture, we still feel the exactitude in the sciences of Rene Descartes, the annihilation of the self from David Hume and Adam Smith, and the egalitarianism and consumerism of art from John Locke and J.S. Mill. We may not know that the contemporary cultural malaise owes much to these figures and others, but we most certainly detect their effects, however remote their influence.

In Spe Salvi, Pope Benedict XVI touches on the role of Karl Marx in the gradual unfolding of modern culture. He introduces Marx in the following manner:

The nineteenth century held fast to its faith in progress as the new form of human hope, and it continued to consider reason and freedom as the guiding stars to be followed along the path of hope…revolutionary leap was needed. Karl Marx took up the rallying call, and applied his incisive language and intellect to the task of launching this major new and, as he thought, definitive step in history towards salvation—towards what Kant had described as the “Kingdom of God”.

Often depicted as a fringe character in the drama of modernity, Pope Benedict XVI rightly notes that Marx’s “revolution” was steeped in and contextualized by the same political currents that flowed through Locke, Hume, Smith and Hegel. What’s interesting is that the Pope, who has obviously read Marx (unlike most of Marx’s detractors), describes him as possessing an “incise intellect.” Of this, there can be no doubt. The Pope even describes Marx’s expression as coming with “great precision” and from “great analytical skill.” But what was Marx doing? According to the Pope, Marx was pressing beyond the critique of faith and religion and into a critique of the real, the concrete:

The critique of Heaven is transformed into the critique of earth, the critique of theology into the critique of politics. Progress towards the better, towards the definitively good world, no longer comes simply from science but from politics—from a scientifically conceived politics that recognizes the structure of history and society and thus points out the road towards revolution, towards all-encompassing change.

Marx was carrying out to a rational conclusion the missteps of Kant and Hegel (ontology) on the one hand, and Locke and Smith (politico-economics) on the other. To this day, scholars of all shades marvel at the originality, genius and, of course, short-sidedness of Marx:

With great precision, albeit with a certain onesided bias, Marx described the situation of his time, and with great analytical skill he spelled out the paths leading to revolution—and not only theoretically: by means of the Communist Party that came into being from the Communist Manifesto of 1848, he set it in motion. His promise, owing to the acuteness of his analysis and his clear indication of the means for radical change, was and still remains an endless source of fascination.

What was the fundamental and crippling flaw in Marx’s thought? Why did it not work? Why did it go wrong? Well, there can be no question that the problem rests not only in those who attempted to implement that multifarious monster known as “Marxism,” but in Marx’s writings themselves. The Pope elaborates:

Together with the victory of the revolution, though, Marx’s fundamental error also became evident. He showed precisely how to overthrow the existing order, but he did not say how matters should proceed thereafter. He simply presumed that with the expropriation of the ruling class, with the fall of political power and the socialization of means of production, the new Jerusalem would be realized. Then, indeed, all contradictions would be resolved, man and the world would finally sort themselves out.

Marx’s reductionism casts the human person as subservient to an historical and economic process. This was precisely the shortcoming, for it assumed that the culmination of this process would reach a state of perfection for humanity. Freedom was not necessary in an environment of economic and political liberation, he thought. But how was this process to terminate and how would humanity be once it was complete? Marx leaves no answer. Pope Benedict XVI explains:

Marx not only omitted to work out how this new world would be organized—which should, of course, have been unnecessary. His silence on this matter follows logically from his chosen approach. His error lay deeper. He forgot that man always remains man. He forgot man and he forgot man’s freedom. He forgot that freedom always remains also freedom for evil. He thought that once the economy had been put right, everything would automatically be put right. His real error is materialism: man, in fact, is not merely the product of economic conditions, and it is not possible to redeem him purely from the outside by creating a favourable economic environment.

The horrors of totalitarian regimes which sought to implement Marx’s revolution and carry out the Communist expansion resulted from Marx’s silence on the true nature of humanity, on its freedom to choose evil, and on the organization of the new humanity. In other words, the regimes which rallied around “Marxism” had to invent the vestibule of the Marxist kingdom. Pope Benedict XVI adduces Russia as an example:

Thus, having accomplished the revolution, Lenin must have realized that the writings of the master gave no indication as to how to proceed. True, Marx had spoken of the interim phase of the dictatorship of the proletariat as a necessity which in time would automatically become redundant. This “intermediate phase” we know all too well, and we also know how it then developed, not ushering in a perfect world, but leaving behind a trail of appalling destruction.

What is subtle in the Pope’s text here is a strong distinction between Marx and those concrete “Marxisms” by which the world has come to know the man. Often Marx and “Marxism” are wrongly conflated, along with socialism and “Marxism.” What is clear is that there is a strong link between Marx and “Marxism” in terms of the former originating a half-completed blueprint. But to assume that the bloodshed of the former Soviet Union, China, North Korea and many of the Latin American regimes of the 1970’s and 1980’s is the working of Marx is not supported by history or the writings of Marx himself.

Another distinction that must be kept in mind is the difference between “socialism” and “Marxism.” The two are not equivalent. “Socialism” actually predates Marx, who derided the British attempts at founding socialist communities as “utopianism.” Marxism is certainly a form of socialism–the form with which we Westerns tend to be most familiar–but not all socialism is Marxist (the great Henri de Lubac reminds us in his study of Proudhon).

Pope Benedict XVI is a man of great intellect and sentiment, and I find his brief analysis of Marx to be balanced and fair. It is encouraging to see that true Catholic thinking still attempts to do justice to even the most flawed and detrimental ideas in history. I hope all of us will follow the Pope’s lead in informing ourselves and appreciating the thought of those we intend to critique. Such is the real union between fides et ratio.

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  • Markel, SJ

    I was wondering if you could elaborate on how Marx’s thought was the rational conclusion of the missteps of Adam Smith.

  • Methinks I know who one of your professors was at FUS…

  • jonathanjones02

    Much to digest here. I would like your explanation of this statement: “the annihilation of the self from David Hume and Adam Smith”

  • Policraticus

    I would like your explanation of this statement: “the annihilation of the self from David Hume and Adam Smith”

    I intend to continue to post on this topic, so I’ll keep my comments here brief.

    Both Hume and Smith (following what was inchoate in Locke) deny the existence of a unified self, as well as personal identity. Hume’s two Enquiries and Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments take morality to be a matter of sentiment (rather than of reason) and custom, devoid of objective or a priori principle. This stems from their: 1.) empirical starting points; 2.) denial of the self. Marx inherits (philosophically) this deficient anthropology that denies the presence of a subsisting self (a la Descartes) and an objective moral law, but places man within the historical unfolding of perfected society. Marx attenuates the freedom accorded to man just as Smith and Hume attenuated personal identity.

  • Great post Michael!

    It is particularly important to emphasis the differences between socialism and Marxism. The socialist project, as you rightly pointed out, is a Anglo-American phenomenon that predates the Marxist critique.

    One has the example here in the United States of Socialist Party of America in the tradition of Eugene Debs that resisted communism during the First World War and attempted to keep Communists out of the Socialist Party because they were supporters of democratic gradualism, not Marxist revolution.

  • Regardless of a distinction beween “democratic” socialism and marxism, socialism is still radically opposed to Catholicism because it worships the state and not the one True God. So-called Christian Socialism is just a misguided view of the Church’s teaching on charity. It is not for the state to enforce generosity by taking from the haves and giving to the have nots. it is for the Holy Spirit to inspire those to do so.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • “It is not for the state to enforce generosity by taking from the haves and giving to the have nots. ”

    Where do you get this from?

  • Mason

    What’s your take on William Morris and his relationship with Chesterton and Belloc? It’s one of those things which really interests me. Morris is clearly a socialist. Chesterton and Belloc clearly think Morris is one of their own. And yet Chesterton and Belloc are anti-socialist (as they are anti-capitalist).

  • Markel, SJ

    I hope you don’t mind me quoting you over at underachindolea.blogspot, our new blog. I liked your reflection and it inspired me. Is that John White I hear in the background?

  • Henry,

    Centissimus Annus
    By intervening directly and depriving society of its responsibility, the Social Assistance State leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies, which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than concern for their clients…In fact, it would appear that needs are best understood and satisfied by people who are closest to them and who act as neighbors to those in need.”

    Quod Apostolci Muneris

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • That doesn’t answer my quesiton. Text without context is pretext. Try again. I mean, I’ve read the encyclical. Several times, in fact. And your text out of context here would be used to contradict the spirit of the encyclical if you think it responds to my question.

    The text is clearly saying not _everything_ is to be done by the state. And it is a criticism of the bureaucratic way. But it doesn’t say the state has NO role in working for the benefit of society by “enforcing genoricity.”

  • Markel

    You should look to my initial statement on the encyclical, and also my quote of this same section in my Gnosticism series sometime.

    I agree, however, the encyclical is often mentioned but many sections of it rarely discussed by a certain crowd of people… I think we both know why.

  • Henry,

    I also have found Morris, Chesterton and Belloc and their relationship to socialism interesting. First, I think Morris is a wonderful illustration of the tense relationship between Marxism and socialism. His attempts at cooperation with Frederick Engels made no headway, specifically with those of the anarchist variety. And Morris came to see this himself in his latter life.

    Chesterton and Belloc are peculiar cases. They both wish to disassociate themselves from capitalism and socialism, but it seems to me in my reading of distributivist texts that they are certainly leaning more toward socialism.

    In the larger picture, I think Anglo socialism, and maybe the proto-socialism found in distributivism, is rooted in Thomas More’s Utopia. More expressed clearly a sense of local community that was directed toward communal decision-making and care and surely one of the few texts that Morris, Chesterton and Belloc claimed in common.

  • Mason

    I agree, to a large extent with what you said. If one really wants to understand my position they would understand Tolkien, who was influenced by all of them, as well. As such, I have a great amount of respect of (and have learned much from) Ruskin, Morris, and later, Newman, Belloc and Chesterton. Certainly this doesn’t mean I think they are the end all of discussions, but I think they express many of the same concerns as I do with where we are today.

    It’s why I asked what I did; I thought you would have known of Morris from what you mentioned before (I know many Belloc-Chesterton fans who don’t go further back than them and I think it causes a misunderstanding of their writings, at times — for example, this helps explain their relationship with Shaw much more).

    Sometime I would like to discuss this more, although I wonder, one last question, what do you know of Tolkien’s political and economic views and what do you think of them (and how they relate here)

  • Henry,

    I confess that I have no knowledge of Tolkien’s political or economic views, but I would love to hear more, especially with regard to Morris’ influence.

  • Henry,

    But it doesn’t say the state has NO role in working for the benefit of society by “enforcing genoricity.”

    The role of the state is well identified, it does entail protecting the security of the people, which likely would include legitimately a last ditch effort at preventing startvation when all else fails, but not the welfare state you are advocating. “enforcing generosity” is an oxymoron, it’s a nullity, it doesn’t exist, it’s called stealing.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Mason

    One of these days (soon, I hope), I need to get my essay polished up and find a place to submit it (which is on the Morris-Tolkien connection). In general, Tolkien sympathized with Morris, and indeed, early on wanted to create, with his friends, a “pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood,” and later, saw his writings “in the line of Morris.” But I think the big difference is Tolkien was anti-utopian, while Morris was utopian, so Tolkien would agree with a “good society” but thinks there is the need for grace in the equation, and a realization that, in human history, there will be no perfect society, but constant reformation based upon grace.

    Yet — the general complaints, Tolkien shared with Morris.

  • Policraticus

    Regardless of a distinction beween “democratic” socialism and marxism, socialism is still radically opposed to Catholicism because it worships the state and not the one True God.

    This most certainly is false as any study of the history of solicialisms shows. This assertion is akin to saying the capitalism is “opposed” to Catholicism because it “worships” wealth. Neither case holds up under scrutiny.

    On this question, I defer to Pope Benedict XVI in his marvelous little book entitled Europe where he claims that democratic socialism has come very close to Catholic social teaching. If Matt thinks the Pope is wrong, perhaps he can supply us with some documentation from a variety of socialist (not only Marxist) sources.

  • Policraticus

    Methinks I know who one of your professors was at FUS…

    Is that John White I hear in the background?

    Actually, no, it’s not John White in the background. Good guess, nonetheless. I took only one course with Dr. White on Kant. At the time, I was rather suspicious of White’s socio-political views based on entirely third-hand knowledge. Now, I consider it the biggest missed opportunity of my undergrad years. I wish I had enrolled in more of his courses, as well as spent time in conversation with him.

  • politicratus,

    there’s a key difference between the behaviour of a Catholic acting Charitably of his free will, and the state enforcing unjust mandates on the people, as socialism does by definition. Capitalism as a system is not unjust, however, in it’s excess it is immoral, and that is the difference.

    Please quote the Holy Father in context or withdraw.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • digbydolben

    You know, Mr. Matt, the “Holy Father” is a European, not an American. Without any consideration of theology, it would help if some of the American Catholics writing here would understand that we Europeans do not think the same way as Americans do regarding “capitalism” or “socialism.”

  • Policraticus

    there’s a key difference between the behaviour of a Catholic acting Charitably of his free will, and the state enforcing unjust mandates on the people, as socialism does by definition.

    The error you make is that you equate socialism with state charity. No socialist ever thought this, nor does anyone who has studied socialism’s history and theoretical trajectories. It seems that you have this strange, private idea that you call “socialism” which is different than what socialism actually is. Perhaps according to your own private conservation with yourself, you’re spot on. But when you take your own peculiar constructs to the public, the vast gulf between your thought and the actual reality of things is manifest. I can only invite you to read up on the topic.

    Please quote the Holy Father in context or withdraw.

    Given that you are our quest here, I don’t see any need for me to “withdraw.” All you had to do is ask for a quote which comes from a book that you definitely haven’t read (so much for recovering our Catholic patrimony):

    “Let us return to the situation in Europe. In the nineteenth century, the two models that I described above were joined by a third, socialism, which quickly split into two different branches, one totalitarian and the other democratic. Democratic socialism managed to fit within the two existing models as a welcome counterweight to the radical liberal positions, which it developed and corrected. It also managed to appeal to various religious denominations. In England it became the political party of the Catholics, who had never felt at home among either the Protestant conservatives or the liberals. In Wilhelmine Germany, too, Catholic groups felt closer to democratic socialism than to the rigidly Prussian and Protestant conservative forces. In many respects, democratic socialism was and is close to Catholic social doctrine, and has in any case made a remarkable contribution to the formation of a social consciousness.”

    Pope Benedict XVI, “The Spiritual Roots of Europe” found in both Without Roots and Europe

    God Bless!

  • Matt McDonald,

    As usual, Benedict does a great job of delineating the complexities of the socialist project by acknowledging that one branch is totalitarian (and therefore antithetical to Christianity) and one is democratic (and therefore should be engaged by the Church). I think it is fair to say that capitalism has the same two branches.

    Let us put the positive spin on both systems by focusing on their democratic branches. If we do this, we certainly can see that democratic socialism is closer to Catholic social teaching than democratic capitalism.

    The following quote from Eugene Debs, American Socialist and labor leader. Surely you can hear it too?

    “I am opposed to the system of society in which we live today, not because I lack the natural equipment to do for myself but because I am not satisfied to make myself comfortable knowing that there are thousands of my fellow men who suffer for the barest necessities of life. We were taught under the old ethic that man’s business on this earth was to look out for himself. That was the ethic of the jungle; the ethic of the wild beast. Take care of yourself, no matter what may become of your fellow man.”

  • I took White’s Kant class as well, during a summer session if I remember correctly.

  • Policraticus

    Hmmm…I took it in summer, too. Which year?

  • digbydolben,
    You know, Mr. Matt, the “Holy Father” is a European, not an American. Without any consideration of theology, it would help if some of the American Catholics writing here would understand that we Europeans do not think the same way as Americans do regarding “capitalism” or “socialism

    sorry, I have to consider theology and the teachings of the Church.

    Policraticus,
    there’s a key difference between the behaviour of a Catholic acting Charitably of his free will, and the state enforcing unjust mandates on the people, as socialism does by definition.

    The error you make is that you equate socialism with state charity. No socialist ever thought this, nor does anyone who has studied socialism’s history and theoretical trajectories. It seems that you have this strange, private idea that you call “socialism” which is different than what socialism actually is. Perhaps according to your own private conservation with yourself, you’re spot on. But when you take your own peculiar constructs to the public, the vast gulf between your thought and the actual reality of things is manifest. I can only invite you to read up on the topic.

    Yah, I’m pritty much juste a contry rube, ya know, never red a book lik u.

    Just because I haven’t fallen for the socialist philosophy, doesn’t mean I am unfamiliar with it. This is my understanding of socialism (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14062a.htm). It’s key premise is state ownership of the means of production. Implementing it denies the right of property to the people, and is thus fundamentally unjust. Even if it is democratically elected it subordinates the man to the state and thus a violation of human dignity. Furthermore, it’s a flawed concept on even secular terms because it does not work, it has such a huge level of disincentive to productivity that socialists states always collaps economicaly except in unussual circumstances (such as a large amount of natural resources, or external subsidy). A further flaw is the concentration of power inevitibly leads to authoritarian excesses (Hugo Chavez being a case in point).


    Please quote the Holy Father in context or withdraw.

    Given that you are our quest here, I don’t see any need for me to “withdraw.”

    Well, it seems with most of the blog hosts here make all sorts of grandiose claims with a socialist and/or liberal Catholic bent and fail to back them up. Citing a whole book is really a disengenuous tactic, ussually made to try and avoid an actual discussion. Thanks for making an exception today. By the way I wasn’t suggesting you withdraw from the blog, just abandon the debate.

    All you had to do is ask for a quote which comes from a book that you definitely haven’t read (so much for recovering our Catholic patrimony):

    Our Catholic patrimony involves the important writings of ALL of our popes and fathers, not just selective recent ones, as is apparently the general practice around here. Furthermore, “Europe” is quote low on the scale of authoritativeness given that it was written as a private individual who was not at the time the reigning pontiff (not that this second distinction makes any difference).

    “Let us return to the situation in Europe. In the nineteenth century, the two models that I described above were joined by a third, socialism, which quickly split into two different branches, one totalitarian and the other democratic. Democratic socialism managed to fit within the two existing models as a welcome counterweight to the radical liberal positions, which it developed and corrected. It also managed to appeal to various religious denominations. In England it became the political party of the Catholics, who had never felt at home among either the Protestant conservatives or the liberals. In Wilhelmine Germany, too, Catholic groups felt closer to democratic socialism than to the rigidly Prussian and Protestant conservative forces. In many respects, democratic socialism was and is close to Catholic social doctrine, and has in any case made a remarkable contribution to the formation of a social consciousness.”

    I would of course tend to agree with the Holy Father, this does not dispute my own claim that socialism may mirror Catholic teaching but with the critical distinction that it accomplished by coercive taxation what the Church demands of each one of us.

    Mason,
    As usual, Benedict does a great job of delineating the complexities of the socialist project by acknowledging that one branch is totalitarian (and therefore antithetical to Christianity) and one is democratic (and therefore should be engaged by the Church). I think it is fair to say that capitalism has the same two branches.

    Let us put the positive spin on both systems by focusing on their democratic branches. If we do this, we certainly can see that democratic socialism is closer to Catholic social teaching than democratic capitalism.

    Except that socialism usurps the right of private property and usurps the role of the people in their moral life. Capitalism is far more complex in it’s relation to Catholic teaching. While it embodies the right to private property it is prone to excess. Catholic teaching is not opposed to capitalism, but only to it’s excess. Fundamentally a free market should prevent excess by it’s competitive nature, however, man’s fallen nature, and government interference tend to permit capitalism to become anti-competitive and grossly unjust, calling for further regulation in an unending cycle.


    The following quote from Eugene Debs, American Socialist and labor leader. Surely you can hear it too?

    “I am opposed to the system of society in which we live today, not because I lack the natural equipment to do for myself but because I am not satisfied to make myself comfortable knowing that there are thousands of my fellow men who suffer for the barest necessities of life. We were taught under the old ethic that man’s business on this earth was to look out for himself. That was the ethic of the jungle; the ethic of the wild beast. Take care of yourself, no matter what may become of your fellow man.”

    What’s to stop Mr. Debs from being successful and using his resourcefulness to build a largess that he can share with the poor, as Christ taught us? You know, big liberal/socialists like Al Gore give vastly less to charity than the “evil” capitalists even in relation to their incomes? Al Gore in his first year as vice president gave $400 to charity… what a generous man.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • I want to say the summer of 2002.

  • Policraticus

    To Matt:

    This is my understanding of socialism (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14062a.htm).

    That would be someone else’s understanding of socialism. And it excludes a discussion of democratic socialism, which really emerged forcefully post-WWI (your Catholic Encyclopedia article is from 1912). As I suggested above, do read up on real authorities on socialism and the primary texts themselves before you begin to speak publicly on the topic. I realize that you may not know what democratic socialism is and that you are confusing it with a shallow understanding of Marxism.

    It’s key premise is state ownership of the means of production. Implementing it denies the right of property to the people, and is thus fundamentally unjust. Even if it is democratically elected it subordinates the man to the state and thus a violation of human dignity.

    Not necessarily. State ownership is one possibility in socialism. Another possibility is worker-ownership, which locates ownership of the means of production with the people. Private property need not be sacrificed in a socialist context (again, I invite you to read the sources before over-extending your familiarity), and, indeed, democratic socialism does not rely upon its banishment.

    A further flaw is the concentration of power inevitibly leads to authoritarian excesses (Hugo Chavez being a case in point).

    Again, familiarity with the many forms of socialism is key. If you read carefully the passage I supplied, you’ll notice the Pope drawing a distinction between totalitarian socialism and democratic socialism. Your understanding of state ownership and concentration of power belongs to the former. I realize that this stems from your reliance on an outdated article from the Catholic Encyclopedia.

    Furthermore, “Europe” is quote low on the scale of authoritativeness given that it was written as a private individual who was not at the time the reigning pontiff (not that this second distinction makes any difference).

    Authoritativeness in terms of what? Doctrine? Who said it was? In terms of political history and analysis? I’d say its well researched and balanced. You appear to rely on the 1912 online version of the Catholic Encyclopedia. Is that “high on the scale of authoritativeness” in your opinion? What’s more “authoritative,” a brief article by non-specialists or a book written by the incomparable Joseph Ratzinger? I’m stacking my chips on the latter.

    While Europe was written by an individual, it most certainly wouldn’t be considered “private,” would it? After all, it’s a published book meant for public reading speaking in terms of Catholic doctrine and social perspective, bearing the very name of the Vatican’s chief doctrinal guy. I wouldn’t be so flippant as to dismiss its weight because I don’t like its content.

    Well, it seems with most of the blog hosts here make all sorts of grandiose claims with a socialist and/or liberal Catholic bent and fail to back them up.

    Actually, I think you’ll find that Vox Nova is generally very good at providing documentation, citations and support for conclusions. Perhaps you’re thinking of Custos Fidei. Would you mind backing up your grandiose claim?

    Our Catholic patrimony involves the important writings of ALL of our popes and fathers, not just selective recent ones, as is apparently the general practice around here.

    You’ll find frequent citation from Church sources that span the full 2000 years of Catholic tradition at Vox Nova. At RCP, I see that Catholicism is reduced to its West European face of 1200-1962. But this is beside the point here.

    Remember Matt, your original assertion was that all socialism is opposed to Catholicism. Pope Benedict XVI, who appears to know more about socialism and Catholicism than the the two of us combined, has minimally shown that your assertion is false. One must be careful not to conflate one’s personal sentiment with the mind of the Church.

  • digbydolben

    Matt:

    The European economic model is called “social democracy,” not “socialism.” It is a “mixed” economic system that attempts to do right by all classes and individuals in society. You are welcome to keep your radically capitalist economic model in America, if you choose to do so, but you must TRY to understand that there are cultural, as well as religious (mostly Catholic, as some of these commentators here are trying to tell you) reasons why it doesn’t work for all societies.

    It really is quite offensive when you and other Americans start telling Catholics in other parts of the world that there is only one economic or political system that is compatible with the teachings of the Church: Benedict XVI Ratzinger doesn’t agree with you, almost NO Europeans do, and I’d be willing to bet that, what with the depredations of what passes for a medical services system in your country, plenty of Americans don’t either.

  • Policraticus

    I want to say the summer of 2002.

    Well, if you took it in 2002, then we were in the same seminar. I was the deer-caught-in-the-headlights undergraduate who felt very out of place.

  • Policraticus,
    That would be someone else’s understanding of socialism. And it excludes a discussion of democratic socialism, which really emerged forcefully post-WWI (your Catholic Encyclopedia article is from 1912). As I suggested above, do read up on real authorities on socialism and the primary texts themselves before you begin to speak publicly on the topic. I realize that you may not know what democratic socialism is and that you are confusing it with a shallow understanding of Marxism.

    I chose that as good Catholic source of information consistent with my other readings on socialism. I agree with it wholly, making it democratic doesn’t change it’s basis just whether or not it’s imposed by the majority or an authoritarian ruler. Remember the NAZI’s were elected too, it doesn’t make them benevolent.


    It’s key premise is state ownership of the means of production. Implementing it denies the right of property to the people, and is thus fundamentally unjust. Even if it is democratically elected it subordinates the man to the state and thus a violation of human dignity.

    Not necessarily. State ownership is one possibility in socialism. Another possibility is worker-ownership, which locates ownership of the means of production with the people. Private property need not be sacrificed in a socialist context (again, I invite you to read the sources before over-extending your familiarity), and, indeed, democratic socialism does not rely upon its banishment.

    No, just sufficient taxation to pay for those who do not work, so instead of confiscating the property you confiscate the profits, which is the only reason to hold the property.


    A further flaw is the concentration of power inevitibly leads to authoritarian excesses (Hugo Chavez being a case in point).

    Again, familiarity with the many forms of socialism is key. If you read carefully the passage I supplied, you’ll notice the Pope drawing a distinction between totalitarian socialism and democratic socialism. Your understanding of state ownership and concentration of power belongs to the former. I realize that this stems from your reliance on an outdated article from the Catholic Encyclopedia.

    I read it, I see the distinction, but as I said, and in your inability to actually read, you missed the point that concentrating power as socialism does tends to lead to authoritarian excess, which don’t necessarily preclude democracy, a mob can trample a man’s rights as can an individual autocrat.


    Furthermore, “Europe” is quote low on the scale of authoritativeness given that it was written as a private individual who was not at the time the reigning pontiff (not that this second distinction makes any difference).

    Authoritativeness in terms of what? Doctrine? Who said it was? In terms of political history and analysis? I’d say its well researched and balanced. You appear to rely on the 1912 online version of the Catholic Encyclopedia. Is that “high on the scale of authoritativeness” in your opinion? What’s more “authoritative,” a brief article by non-specialists or a book written by the incomparable Joseph Ratzinger? I’m stacking my chips on the latter.

    While Europe was written by an individual, it most certainly wouldn’t be considered “private,” would it? After all, it’s a published book meant for public reading speaking in terms of Catholic doctrine and social perspective, bearing the very name of the Vatican’s chief doctrinal guy. I wouldn’t be so flippant as to dismiss its weight because I don’t like its content.

    It’s a private commentary, it is not an act of the Church it holds no authority, while it may be informative.


    Well, it seems with most of the blog hosts here make all sorts of grandiose claims with a socialist and/or liberal Catholic bent and fail to back them up.

    Actually, I think you’ll find that Vox Nova is generally very good at providing documentation, citations and support for conclusions. Perhaps you’re thinking of Custos Fidei. Would you mind backing up your grandiose claim?

    Yes, your first post on this thread lacking a citation from Europe, but merely invoking it. Various threads advocating immoral support for a presidential candidate who universally supports abortion, etc. etc. etc.


    Our Catholic patrimony involves the important writings of ALL of our popes and fathers, not just selective recent ones, as is apparently the general practice around here.

    You’ll find frequent citation from Church sources that span the full 2000 years of Catholic tradition at Vox Nova. At RCP, I see that Catholicism is reduced to its West European face of 1200-1962. But this is beside the point here.

    What, like Henri De Lubac? Immanuel Kant? Karl Rahner? Please.


    Remember Matt, your original assertion was that all socialism is opposed to Catholicism. Pope Benedict XVI, who appears to know more about socialism and Catholicism than the the two of us combined, has minimally shown that your assertion is false. One must be careful not to conflate one’s personal sentiment with the mind of the Church.

    No, he said it resembles in certain respects, so does the Mithras cult, it still is opposed to Catholicism, even if it is voluntary.

    digbydolben,
    The European economic model is called “social democracy,” not “socialism.”

    Well we’re talking about socialism here, but the semantics change nothing call it what you want.

    It is a “mixed” economic system that attempts to do right by all classes and individuals in society. You are welcome to keep your radically capitalist economic model in America, if you choose to do so, but you must TRY to understand that there are cultural, as well as religious (mostly Catholic, as some of these commentators here are trying to tell you) reasons why it doesn’t work for all societies.

    It doesn’t work in Europe either as evidenced by the massive social and economic ills pervasive in that sick secular culture. England almost climbed out thanks to Thatcher, but the liberal/socialists have undone that nation as well. The roots of socialism are in the anti-Catholic so-called enlightenment, not Catholicism.

    It really is quite offensive when you and other Americans start telling Catholics in other parts of the world that there is only one economic or political system that is compatible with the teachings of the Church: Benedict XVI Ratzinger doesn’t agree with you, almost NO Europeans do, and I’d be willing to bet that, what with the depredations of what passes for a medical services system in your country, plenty of Americans don’t either.

    First of all, I’m Canadian and have first hand experience with socialism and socialized medicine, so don’t try to pull the wool over my eyes. I would not want to get sick in YOUR country, or Canada, or Cuba, your models for health have deplorable waits, and deplorable conditons. The US medical system (with all it’s flaws) is decades ahead of any socialist system because of competition, and nobody is turned away for treatment. Frankly it worked better before government started getting so involved, weakening the charitable system that the Catholic Church had built for those who could not afford it. I am not suggesting that the US system is ideal, far from it, it’s a mix of capitalism and socialism in some what excessive degrees. I’m only saying the principles of socialism are opposed to Catholic teaching, it is an attack on the dignity of man to be able to work hard and support his family without undue influence by the state, it violates the principle of subsidiarity.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • digbydolben

    And nobody is turned away for treatment

    THAT depends upon what you call “treatment.” Relatives of mine holding American citizenship have gotten much better treatment in France recently than they have in America, while I myself, while holding an American private insurance plan, was fobbed off by my OWN DOCTOR unto an “emergency health centre” in New Mexico, because he wouldn’t see me for two weeks. I dehydrated, got pneumonia and had to be hydrated in a hospital there–all because of what started as a stomach virus. When I finally was able to see him (after threatening to remove medical records), he had the temerity to ask me why I hadn’t come in earlier. When I described the run-around I’d gotten from his nurse-receptionist, he told me to tell her the next time that “I KNOW him”! (This, in the racist, Native-averse “four corners” area of New Mexico.

    Don’t tell me that the American medical system is decent or equitable. I’ve experienced it first-hand and it’s not. Our European systems are far more humane and caring.

  • digbydolben,

    so because a doctor goes on vacation the US medical system is bad???? Why didn’t you go to see ANOTHER doctor, something that a FREE MARKET medical system offers you unless you’re too complacent to get out a phone book. If you’re too lazy to get off your butt, I don’t think any medical system will help you.

    God Bless,

    Matt
    ps. check out cancer survival rates in the US versus any other medical system?

  • digbydolben

    France has a better cancer survival rate than America does–for most types, that is.

    Also, my HMO restricted my access to “other doctors” (of whom there aren’t many in Farmington, New Mexico, anyway).

    The bigoted, anti-Native fellow was the one whom I could have seen the soonest, and his receptionist wanted me to wait two weeks.

    And your attitude is typical of that of most American doctors I’ve encountered in this “free market paradise.” Maybe you should leave Canada and live here.

  • digby,

    I do live here.

    Where do you get your statistics from?

    Here’s mine:
    The age-adjusted 5-year survival rates for all cancers [in Europe] combined was 47.3% for men and 55.8% for women, which is significantly lower than the estimates of 66.3% for men and 62.9% for women from the US Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program (P < .001).

    The rates in UK, which as I understand it is the most socialist of the European (I’m unsure of this) medical system is the lowest in Europe.

    France is the best in Europe, but still lags behind the US:
    The best results were for women in France — almost 60 percent. U.S. survival rates are 62 percent for men and 63.5 percent for women

  • ps. If your HMO is bad, fire them. If you live in a single payer system move to a new country, or just die.

  • Oops, my first post dissappeared, here are the links that show your statement about cancer survival to be false, what other of your unsubstantiated claims are false?

    France has the best survival rates, but lag behind the US. UK, which if I’m not mistaken is the most socialized system is the worst for survival rates:

    The best results were for women in France — almost 60 percent. U.S. survival rates are 62 percent for men and 63.5 percent for women.

  • digbydolben

    Germany’s is the most “socialized,” not Britain’s.

    One’s EMPLOYER “fires” one’s HMO; almost no American employees can do so.

    When one considers medical health systems, one must also factor in PREVENTIVE programs–which also have relevance to cancer cases–and, although radically capitalistic medical systems like America’s may do a fantastic job warding off the deaths of fatally ill cancer patients, they are woefully inadequate in staving off early cancers, because so many people in the United States never go to the doctor until they’re almost beyond recovery.

  • digbydolben

    or just die

    You are just like most of the right-wing Catholic commentators here–utterly heartless.

    Speaks well of the “Christianity” of the religion, eh?

  • digbydolben,

    Germany’s is the most “socialized,” not Britain’s.

    So we can confirm that the best of Europe is not the most socialized, but the second most socialised is the worst?

    One’s EMPLOYER “fires” one’s HMO; almost no American employees can do so.

    Most employers offer a number of options including one or more HMO plans, PPO, etc. with in and out of network benefits. There’s also the option of firing your employer and finding a new job with better benefits, even moving closer to a good in-network doctor.

    When one considers medical health systems, one must also factor in PREVENTIVE programs–which also have relevance to cancer cases–and, although radically capitalistic medical systems like America’s may do a fantastic job warding off the deaths of fatally ill cancer patients, they are woefully inadequate in staving off early cancers, because so many people in the United States never go to the doctor until they’re almost beyond recovery.

    citation?


    or just die

    You are just like most of the right-wing Catholic commentators here–utterly heartless.

    Speaks well of the “Christianity” of the religion, eh?

    Eh? It’s you who are proposing a system which takes away the freedom to find better care than the government dole provides for. I’m only presenting in a cogent and poignant way what option it gives people.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Policraticus

    Matt,

    You’re retreating. Notwithstanding your obvious and intentional ignorance of democratic socialism (which you think contains the same principles of totalitarian socialism), your disdain for this blog (you spend most of your work day here) and your utter unwillingness to study the questions to which you claim to provide answers, let’s get back to the original point from which you retreating. I’ll remind you:

    Regardless of a distinction beween “democratic” socialism and marxism, socialism is still radically opposed to Catholicism because it worships the state and not the one True God.

    Yeah, you wrote that. Then I quoted Pope Benedict XVI in response:

    “Let us return to the situation in Europe. In the nineteenth century, the two models that I described above were joined by a third, socialism, which quickly split into two different branches, one totalitarian and the other democratic. Democratic socialism managed to fit within the two existing models as a welcome counterweight to the radical liberal positions, which it developed and corrected. It also managed to appeal to various religious denominations. In England it became the political party of the Catholics, who had never felt at home among either the Protestant conservatives or the liberals. In Wilhelmine Germany, too, Catholic groups felt closer to democratic socialism than to the rigidly Prussian and Protestant conservative forces. In many respects, democratic socialism was and is close to Catholic social doctrine, and has in any case made a remarkable contribution to the formation of a social consciousness.

    So, on the one hand we have Matt McDonald, who insists he knows what all socialism is about, making the claim that socialism in all its forms is opposed to Catholicism. On the other hand, we have the Pope, who has studied the question deeply and has lived in socialist contexts, declaring that one form of socialism is close to what Catholic social doctrine envisions for the State. Hmmmm…Matt McDonald or the Pope? Since I’ve studied this question myself, I think the Pope is correct and that Matt is wrong.

    So let’s keep it simple, Matt. You asked for the Pope’s take. There it is. Are you claiming that Pope Benedict XVI is incorrect in his assessment of the proximity and compatibility of democratic socialism and Catholicism? Follow up question: Why don’t you just humbly admit that you really don’t know that much about what we are discussing here?

  • digbydolben

    There’s also the option of firing your employer and finding a new job with better benefits…

    I’ve just done that, as a matter of fact–and I’m moving to “socialistic” Europe.

  • politicratus,

    you like to cite the pope, and then change the words to match your position. The pope says “in many RESPECTS democratic socialism was and is close to Catholic social doctrine”….. you say he has assesed “compatibility”. He did not use that word… YOU did. A dog resembles a cat in many respects, but they are in many ways incompatible.

    Now, I see this in an authoritative document of the Church:

    we have to add that the fundamental error of socialism is anthropological in nature. Socialism considers the individual person simply as an element, a molecule within the social organism, so that the good of the individual is completely subordinated to the functioning of the socio-economic mechanism. Socialism likewise maintains that the good of the individual can be realized without reference to his free choice, to the unique and exclusive responsibility which he exercises in the face of good or evil. Man is thus reduced to a series of social relationships, and the concept of the person as the autonomous subject of moral decision disappears, the very subject whose decisions build the social order. From this mistaken conception of the person there arise both a distortion of law, which defines the sphere of the exercise of freedom, and an opposition to private property. A person who is deprived of something he can call “his own”, and of the possibility of earning a living through his own initiative, comes to depend on the social machine and on those who control it. This makes it much more difficult for him to recognize his dignity as a person, and hinders progress towards the building up of an authentic human community.

    Making socialism democratic doesn’t change it’s fundamental nature of subordinating man to the state.

    God Bless,

    Matt
    ps. I had some free time during my week off and holiday today, so I was happy to spend some of it correcting the errors so common on this blog, especially the almost unchallenged advocacy of a radically pro-BABY MURDER political candidate. Tomorrow unfortunately I’ll be back dedicated to earning a just living so that I can see to my future family’s needs and my duty of supporting the Church and charity towards the disadvantaged in a far more productive manner than the state.

  • digby,

    how wonderful to have the freedom to do so!

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Policraticus

    Matt,

    I had some free time during my week off and holiday today, so I was happy to spend some of it correcting the errors so common on this blog, especially the almost unchallenged advocacy of a radically pro-BABY MURDER political candidate.

    Ha, ha. “Correcting” the errors…like the sophists, you dazzle yourself with your own dizzying argumentation without having realized that you’ve made no point at all. Bravo.

  • Policraticus

    Matt,

    You are so silly. See, this whole time I thought you really were attempting to understand the Pope when, in fact, you were only fooling me. I fell for it. Shame on me.

    But lest I allow a silly challenge to go unmet, I’ll remind you that context is everything. EVERYTHING. The Pope said nothing of “resemblance.” He spoke of “closeness.” What could he mean? Well, the entire essay in which the passage I quote is found is describing the spiritual roots of Europe and their manifestations in political systems. In this context, the “closeness” of democratic socialism comes in terms of its spirit and form. Thus, when the Pope speaks of “closeness,” it has nothing to do with “looks like,” as you assume, but in terms of form. And given Catholic social teaching’s emphatic description of the role of the State, the Pope is actually saying that democratic socialism is close to it in form. The logical and rational consequence is not merely compatibility, but probable harmony. But how could you know this if you haven’t read the Pope’s public essay?

    So, my friend, you can keep dancing in circles with false confidence or you can admit that you really were wrong from the start and that you simply have not read enough to engage this issue further. My bet is that the former will be the case.

  • Politicratus,

    a good intention (such as seeking to answer the needs of the poor, or fight the intrinsic evil of abortion) can lead one to error and excess. Forgiving sins of course is close to the Church in many respects, however, shuffling homosexual predator priests around after “forgiving” them each of their transgressions is a corruption of a good inclination. The pope does not suggest that democratic socialism is a good system of government, only that it is close (one could argue whether close means resemblence or something else, sadly I do not speak German to best understand the original language) but taken in context of the numerous other authoritative sources which suggest that socialism’s error is anthropological, I’ll stick to the authoritative clarity and leave you to argue in circles what the private speculation of the current Holy Father said which you suggests contradicts the authoritative sources.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Policraticus

    Thanks for avoiding the obvious negative evidence to your position. I see you are uncomfortable with both the Western philosophical tradition and the manner in which the Pope draws from its vocabulary in his analysis of democratic socialism.

    Let’s pick this up again once you’ve read the essay. Perhaps then our conversation will be more fruitful. Quite frankly, I am surprised you even tried to engage the issue with inadequate preparation. Alas!

    I won’t presume to order God to bless you. Rather, I’ll simply say, “May God bless you.”

  • politicratus,

    you cherry pick a single quote from a non-authoritative private essay by someone who is not yet the pope, and ignore numerous contradictory statements from the Roman Pontiff speaking with eccelesiastical authority… and you accuse me of being unprepared?

    Now you play a silly semantic game and suggest that I’m “ordering” God to bless you? What a small man you are.
    Psalms 5
    1 Unto the end, for her that obtaineth the inheritance. A psalm of David. 2 Give ear, O Lord, to my words, understand my cry. 3 Hearken to the voice of my prayer, O my King and my God. 4 For to thee will I pray: O Lord, in the morning thou shalt hear my voice. 5 In the morning I will stand before thee, and will see: because thou art not a God that willest iniquity.

    6 Neither shall the wicked dwell near thee: nor shall the unjust abide before thy eyes. 7 Thou hatest all the workers of iniquity: Thou wilt destroy all that speak a lie. The bloody and the deceitful man the Lord will abhor. 8 But as for me in the multitude of thy mercy, I will come into thy house; I will worship towards thy holy temple, in thy fear. 9 Conduct me, O Lord, in thy justice: because of my enemies, direct my way in thy sight. 10 For there is no truth in their mouth; their heart is vain.

    11 Their throat is an open sepulchre: they dealt deceitfully with their tongues: judge them, O God. Let them fall from their devices: according to the multitude of their wickedness cast them out: for they have provoked thee, O Lord. 12 But let all them be glad that hope in thee: they shall rejoice for ever, and thou shalt dwell in them. And all they that love thy name shall glory in thee: 13 For thou wilt bless the just. O Lord, thou hast crowned us, as with a shield of thy good will.

    Not a please or a may in the whole prayer, I think you should criticize the author soundly for writing such a bossy prayer.

    God Bless,

    Matt

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