Monthly Archives: December 2014

Pius XI’s Condemnation of Communism – Relevant Still!

Part 6

The return to Gospel life must involve (a) detachment from worldly goods and (b) charity.

Detachment from worldly goods does not mean detestation of the world. It means rightly ordering all things. And above all, the goods of heaven rank supreme. The goods of this world are so much rubbish compared to what eye has not seen, nor ear heard. By detachment from worldly goods, the rich can get a true sense of the purpose of their wealth. The ultimate purpose of their wealth is to do good to their neighbor by providing for them. And of course this provision can be undertaken in many and various ways. However, the destination of wealth is for the common good, not for the private benefit of the individual. In turn, the poor gain inestimably by patiently enduring their difficulties as they seek diligently to better the situation. Patience, then, should rule both poor and rich; that long-suffering patience that allows true progress to be made most efficiently, not under the yoke of a whip or knife or rifle, but under the sweet Cross of Christ.

More important than detachment is charity, claims the good pope. Charity enables that patience to be endured with human dignity and even divine dignity. This charity ought also to pull the rich into a more serious examination of conscience. Are they spending their wealth on “useless things and frivolous amusements” (art. 47)? Or are they truly dedicating it to its divinely appointed destination?

The terrifying judgment of Christ – Mt 25 – looms as a crucial final word by which the rich must guide their lives and steward their wealth. The words are indeed nothing short of terrifying. And yet, they are for those who have charity, words of challenge, not merely rebuke; words that invite towards the higher vision of life which alone can allow the many poor, and even the troubled rich, to escape the tempting siren of Marxist Communism.

Pius XI’s Condemnation of Communism – Relevant Still!

Part 5

What are the practical strategies to defend society from the seditions and revolutions of communism? “Sincere renewal of private and public life according to the principles of the Gospel by all those who belong to the Fold of Christ” (art. 41).

In short, the solution is that Catholics be Catholics. This in turn means that if Catholics are not Catholics, then the world shall totter on ruin. That truth seems to me an identical truth running through history.

It starts with the first beloved of God, the Jews. When they are faithful, God blesses the world. When they are unfaithful, they are punished and ruin sets in. The same is true of the Church. Although holy in her essence, she is either holy or sinful in her members. When they are unfaithful, when they ditch the Gospel for false humanitarianism, when they refuse to evangelize, when they do not see love of neighbor consisting above all in desiring his spiritual welfare, when they do not attend the Sacrifice of the Mass, when they neglect the Blessed Sacrament, when they show ingratitude to Our Lady for all her mediation and co-redemptive activity, when they neglect the poor in their concern to put on a good face for the fellow rich – then the Church lies in ruins and must be rebuilt in her members.



Pius XI’s Condemnation of Communism – Relevant Still!

Part 4

Two key principles with which to address the errors of communism are the Existence of God and the Dignity of the Person.

God exists; therefore, people believe in him. This is the true order, not the reverse. Whereas the communists claim that God is the invention of the powers in the status quo. They invent God in order to appease the masses, claim the revolutionaries. But, only the ill-willed man disbelieves in God, claims Pius XI, echoing the biblical dictum: “The fool said in his heart, there is no God.”

Believe in God, and our spirits are enlightened by the true depth of our lives. Our end is God, and God alone. Each of us is called to him, to union with him. We are not just bodies. We are also spiritual. And in the end, we shall arise bodily. Thus, our hopes are not all and only in this world. Hence, we need not put our endless desire into only this-worldly hopes. Were we to do so, we should be plunged into a desperate search either (a) for more property alone, as the economic liberals selfishly do, or (b) for a classless society of equals, as those who rightly reject (a), most foolishly do. Rather, we can place things in proper perspective. We can work for equitable distribution of resources while not fomenting revolution and anti-religion to do so. And our very work unto this end is sanctifying.

We can sanctify our work in the humdrum ways. It is our cross and our joy.

This sanctification of work, and this effort to order society aright, is the Joy of the Gospel.

We have already discovered our human dignity in the above. For the individual human person is the only entity on earth with intellect and free will. The pope very simply, quite frankly, states an obvious fact that is ignored by many who promote “social justice”. The state, the corporation, has no free will. It is the persons in the state, the persons in the corporation who have free will. And free will is the primary locus of responsibility. When we act, each of us, in his own office, yes, we “amount” to something more than the sum of the individual efforts. Yes, there can be structures that cause, systematically, adverse circumstances for persons. Nevertheless, the moral culpability rests not on social structures. It rests on individuals, who are the ultimate source of such structures.

Trust God, and give him your true debt, and he in his wisdom will rightly order the resultant activity.



Pius XI’s Condemnation of Communism – Relevant Still!

Part 3

Now, in all this condemnation of communism, Pius XI is by no means endorsing classical liberalism. He is by no means endorsing Adam Smith. On the contrary, he writes,

“By pretending to desire only the betterment of the condition of the working classes, by urging the removal of the very real abuses chargeable to the liberalistic economic order, and by demanding a more equitable distribution of this world’s goods (objectives entirely and undoubtedly legitimate), the Communist takes advantage of the present world-wide economic crisis to draw into the sphere of his influence even those sections of the populace which on principle reject all forms of materialism and terrorism.”

On the other hand, the proponents of communism engage in uniquely brutal activities. And with perfect consistency, claims the great pope. For the system is materialistic. It contends that man is merely the matter from which he has sprung. For communism, man is only a product of blind evolution. He has no soul. He shall not live after he dies. The laws of morality are strictly derivable from economic considerations alone – and those, as read by the Marxists (a title he explicitly mentions, art. 8!). Hence, the Soviet, Mexican, and Spanish communists use techniques from which even barbarians would shrink in horror.



Pius XI against Communism: Relevant Still!

Part 2

Since the 1960s the Magisterium has refrained from naming specific states in its condemnations of abusive governments. Even the word “communism” appears seldom if at all. We should not take this as a sign that the Magisterium has no competence to name defective governments, that it is only the role of the laity to judge these matters. For Pius XI mentions the Soviet Union explicitly and gives the name Atheistic Communism to the subtitle of his great encyclical. He mentions bolshevism. He indicates that the sundry revolutionary movements in the world are being directed from Moscow (art. 5). He mentions Mexico and Spain (art. 18ff).  He also lists his various previous condemnations of communism in the same article. He mentions Pius IX’s and Leo XIII’s defenses of private property against the communistic revolts, in art. 4.

The genus of communism is, Pius XI states, false messianism. Its specific difference is dialectical materialism. In short, Communism preys off the ravages of arrogant monopolistic enterprises of classical liberals. Note: Classical liberal = modern “economic conservative”. (Positions regarding individual morality are a different matter.) These were non-religious profiteers. The communists rebelled against this evil, but not for the good; rather, the communists sought only to drum up the masses to an only this-worldly hope to be achieved by sedition, revolution and war. The aim of communism: total egalitarianism in a classless society and, therefore, as means unto this end, the destruction of all private property.

The first society to be “hit” by this anti-hierarchical movement is the family, which is essentially hierarchical. For, children must obey the parents, and the wife is to obey the husband. This, the perennial teaching of the Church and the divinely revealed faith of our fathers.

In addition, the very notion of the family is that it is a primordial society. Thus, the family is anterior to every other union of persons, especially that which is the state. But since communism recognizes only the state as a “person” (the term is legal) with rights, it necessarily aims at the destruction of the family. It severs the married woman from her family and thrusts her into the public world of work, the pope points out. It arrogates to itself alone the duty and right of educating children, and, if it permits parents a role here, it only uses parents to accomplish its ends.

This world-bound hope of communism presents itself as the “New Gospel” of salvation for all.

Pius XI against Communism: Relevant Still!

Part 1

It is time that Catholics return to a study of the Church’s definitive condemnation of communism. For many people begin with the banal a priori statement that the Church prescribes no particular form of government and proscribes no particular political party. But banal, a priori approaches to real and serious concrete issues amount to non-existence in the political realm. We cannot afford to be non-existent. In fact, that non-existence in the political realm is contrary to Catholic teaching and to the Social Kingship of Christ.

Thus, in the coming days, we will study Pius XI’s encyclical against Atheistic Communism.

The Ravages of Foregrounding Culpability

Part 5

Christ came into the world to offer it real hope. Not to produce theologians who would spend their days meditating what are the possibilities without Christ.


O Foolish Theologians – Who has bewitched you? Spend not your time in Pelagian Theologies of Possibilities without Christ. Or did you love your café latte with that pagan so much that you forgot to bring up the Good News to him? Yes, he cultivates his garden. He tends his children. He loves his wife. But he is a pagan. Are you to stamp approval on his life simply because you enjoy the latte with him, and he is good outwardly?

Then you have judged his heart – presumptuously. For you do not know what darkness may lie therein. But you do have a mandate from Christ. Perhaps you are not comfortable being uncomfortable with your pagan friends?


And are we not all – or may of us? – like this? I know I am like it. Well it is time that we all be willing to be fools for Christ. For the lattes of this world are passing. They will all be rolled up and thrown away. But Christ is the same yesterday and forever.

The Ravages of Foregrounding Culpability

Part 4

In foregrounding culpability, we have dis-incarnated our Lord and his Gospel. Instead of living the Gospel, of living towards the Lord and bringing all things into obedience to him, we have sidelined the Gospel and ourselves, as though we existed outside of time.

We then enter these fanciful discussions concerning the “possibilities of whether so-and-so is saved, or could be saved, should he not hear that good news which if we were not so busy we could lay before him.” It is as though the football team decided to go to the sidelines to discuss strategy, not just for the very short one minute timeout (of which the team has precious few in a real game) but for ten, twenty minutes. But the real judges judge by reality, not by the fanciful dreaming of the team on the sideline. Thus, they march the ball back 5 yards, every 30 seconds. Meanwhile, the team keeps musing on the sidelines.


Jesus is not an idea. He is a Living Word, with two edges. He has brought Good News to a world plunged in meaninglessness. The world does not know why it exists. And if you tell it, “You’re OK. No matter what you do; all will be OK and every manner of thing, despite your own manners of being, will be OK” – If you tell it that, it will not pick up meaning.

In fact, upon reflection, it might think, “What a demonic trick! Why should God place us in this torture chamber, this bath of sorrow, this wearisome life, this precarious cell, if in the end he simply will have everyone ‘Up There’ with him. No. That makes no sense. That is nonsense. What purpose is this time now? Of what purpose?” A very good response to false platitudes concerning the real situation. Indeed, a God who consigned us to this wasteland, without a purpose, and only in the end equally to have us all ‘Up There’ with him would be a very strange God indeed.

But a God who consigned all to this wasteland on account of sin, and for the purpose of disciplining his children so as to woe the straying sheep back to the fold, and into the family of God – well in such a God I can believe! Yes, in a God who would condemn me for my stupidity and malice, for my ingratitude at “waking up” and living life in the grace he offered – in such a God I could believe. For such a God takes me seriously. Takes this life seriously. And yes, he dismisses my sins when I, though torn by sorrow yet uplifted by his merciful arm, cry tears in his bosom and beg for forgiveness. Thus, he takes me seriously in a way that I can bear.

But this lightness of being that floats every soul ‘Up There’ – who can bear it?

The Ravages of Foregrounding Culpability

Part 3

Second, in our moral teaching, almost the first words out of our mouths have been, “Well, we cannot judge your heart.” We wax eloquent on this for a while. Then we issue the commandment: But the objective call is not to fornicate, not to contracept, etc.

But all sinners are as adolescent boys and girls. Waiting with Pavlovian lust the bell that ends your lecture so as to carry out the very deed proscribed. So, when we speak thus it is as though we were addressing 15 year old males and telling them that should they fornicate we cannot judge them, but that there is some remote objective norm that they would be violating. “You are such pathetic infantile and lusty souls that you will probably disobey. But we cannot judge. Still, it is the ideal that you do not fornicate.”

Success us unlikely with these approaches. Evangelical success and moral success.

Why? We have “foregrounded” culpability. We have put it in bold, underlined it, waxed on it, etc. In fact, we should pretty much bury culpability. Bury it for the confessionals. Attention to culpability is the job of the priest when the penitent is wailing, not when he is plotting his next subjectively innocent violation of God’s pattern of life.

For every action, there is some reaction. When we foreground culpability, we incentivize sinners to continue in the sin, betting on their innocence. We fail to bring the good news to non-Catholics, the good news that Jesus established the Catholic Church as the one only Church, the only community of salvation, the ark without which we drown in the deluge, the harbor of rest from our labors, the mother with abundant breasts for us starving drifting souls, the one who dispenses our final farewell that we might not be taken down by the demons to hell but up with the angels to heaven. Why is this not front and center for us? Because we enjoy our café latte with the pagan or anti-Catholic or non-Catholic who is kind and a good pal, as we fail to show him the precariousness of his lot outside the Church?

The Ravages of Foregrounding Culpability

Part 2

How have we done this?

First, instead of joyfully proclaiming the Gospel, its absolute necessity for and real deliverance of salvation, we have stopped in our tracks to meditate on “Whether those who have not yet heard this message can be saved?”

This thought – albeit worth spending some time on – in fact obsesses us, distracting our attention, occupying our resources, and really taking us away from the urgent demand to evangelize. Christ gave us gifts not so that we could meditate on what is the fate of those who don’t receive these gifts in plenitude. Rather, he gave them so that we would share the gifts so that poor starving souls, weary with life, can be made rich in his grace.