Reviving an Old Enemy

Reviving an Old Enemy January 11, 2012

Once upon a time, the American Catholic Church was ferociously anti-communist.  I was reminded of this when I ran across a digital reproduction of an anti-communist tract published by the Catholic Catechetical Guild Educational Society in 1947:

(H/T to Lux Occulta for posting this.)  And in my library I have a copy of Cardinal Cushing’s “Questions and Answers on Communism.”

I was also reminded of this by an editorial that appeared in the most recent issue of the Catholic Transcript, the paper of the archdiocese of Hartford.  In full, it read:

Three photographs in sequence, appearing on Page One of the 5 December Wall Street Journal, show Italy’s Labor Minister, Elsa Fornero, tearfully agonizing over new pension restrictions recently enacted there.  The frightening modifications were, she explained, were necessary to avoid “collective impoverishment.”

“Collective impoverishment” is a new phrase that seems to emerge spontaneously from the Marxist and Socialist lexicons.  It describes what happens when, in Margaret Thatcher’s celebrated phrase, irresponsible governments run out of other people’s earnings to squander. 

Besides, in these days when radically Socialistic and Marxist theories are beginning to attract the naive as well as the confused, misinformed and evil-minded, one can profit immeasurably by recalling the German priest, Alfred Delp, who was executed by the Nazis:  “Bread is important, freedom is more important, but most important of all is unbroken fidelity and faithful adoration.”  Dismiss God as primary in life’s quest, and everything else shatters like think glass.  Pope Benedict XVI dwells on this truth in his Jesus of Nazareth, Vol. 1.  As the poet said, everything betrays him who betrays God.

Reading this I really had to ask myself:  where is this coming from?  As best as I can tell, neither Fornero nor the prime minister she serves, Governo Monti, are socialists.  Both are mainstream technocrats (she is a senior economics professor at the University of Turin, specializing in pensions and social security) and the Monti government is busy implementing the neo-liberal austerity policies demanded by the markets.   The reforms are going to hit a lot of people hard, even if they are necessary to avoid “collective impoverishment” (or, more precisely, the bankruptcy of the Italian government and the ensuing economic collapse which would hurt everyone except the extremely wealthy). 

So why invoke the bogeyman of resurgent Marxism/Socialism?  Is this simply spill-over from the current Republican rhetoric, which sees everything to the left of George Bush Sr. as tinged with pink?  Certainly, the Republican presidential candidates have been in a competition to tar Obama as a Marxist/Socialist/Communist who hates America.   Is this simply a very conservative editor reading this event through a partisan lens?

Perhaps.  But I suspect that this editorial will also resonate with folks who have a nostalgic yearning for a “simpler” time, when the eternal verities of post-Tridentine Catholicism were unchallenged, and the line between Catholicism and Godless Communism was bright and shining, except for those pesky papal encyclicals which called into question free market capitalism.  Alas, the world was never quite that simple, and pining for a past that never was does nothing to address the problems we face today, including “collective impoverishment.”  

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  • Peter Paul Fuchs

    David,

    The BEST idea for a posting. Seriously, if one wanted to cut through all the malarkey and get down to inexorable cultural details about why the RC Church is doing what it is doing in America, this is it. Especially apropos the nostalgia for the simpler bright and shining lines between things. There is a whole generation of Catholics that wants to recover that FEELING. The feeling of being an important part of the culture for striving against a grand enemy. What can compare with that?? It explains everything. Just needs to be unpacked.

  • Michael

    Hi David…

    I also was a bit baffled by the editorial…mostly by its vaporous incoherence.

    What the…?

    Michael

  • David, you have a very good question there: “Reading this I really had to ask myself: where is this coming from?”

    Well, I tried to find that editorial in the Hartford Catholic Transcript. No luck there. Perhaps they have withdrawn the text, or it was just a technical glitch, but I could not find it.

    when you ask “where is this coming from?” I would suggest that maybe the ‘powers that be’ in New England & elsewhere are getting rather nervous about the impact of the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon on the financial sector of the American empire.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      Larry, I also checked on line and could not find it. The text is faithfully reproduced from the copy I got in the mail. A review of previous editorials will show that the paper hews to a very conservative line, but this has taken it even further than in the past.

  • It’s obviously a very conservative editor reading it through a partisan lens, as shown through the Thatcher reference. However, I commend you for pointing the implying the Church’s position on capitalism. The true opposite of communism is not capitalism, but democracy (or freedom), and the United States made this great mistake. The result? The U.S. giving a blind eye on countless of anti-communist dictatorships, and the Bamboo Curtain (sorry for the archaic phrase, but I couldn’t find anything better) is still intact as China, with a capitalist economy and a communist government, is posed to become the second most powerful country in the world.

  • Kurt

    A Catholic publication admiringly quoting the most pro-abortion Prime Minister ever?

    On another matter, it seems Rick Santorum’s beloved working class grandfather was a Red. As are/were his uncles, all a bunch of Italian Communists. (not his Dad, an upper middle class professional). Was grandpa Santorum an illegal immigrant under the McCarren Act?

    Now, with the funny business over, within the Catholic community, we had both appropriate and inappropriate efforts to combat Communism. The work of the Association of Catholic Trade Unionists, Msgr. Charles Owen Rice, Jim Carey, WCL, YCW, etc, are examples of the former.

  • I think it’s quite simple. The monied interests opposed to Obama decided that “socialist” was the best attack line. After all, he “looked” foreign, and “socialist” would play to that (“liberal” is too all-American!).

    And all the useful idiots line up behind…