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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