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(Catholics for America) – The use of socialism in American politics and public life is more prevalent today than ever.  Those who practice the error of socialism, agitate the poor and the middle class laborer with rants about the rejection of God, class warfare, contrived rights and involuntary redistribution of wealth as opposed to voluntary or legitimate distribution/redistribution of wealth (Pope Francis recently spoke of a “legitimate redistribution of benefits by the State” on May 9, 2014 which presupposed his rejection of socialism as he is the Head of the Church.  Further in this article, you will notice in Pope Leo XIII’s comments below that he strongly condemns socialism and then says the State and religion have a role to play in protecting the poor and every person.  This is similar to what Pope Francis said on May 9, 2014.  However, Pope Francis did not condition his comments with a rejection of socialism like Pope Leo XIII did.  This rejection is supposed to be a given to all people’s understanding, especially Catholics.)

The Catholic Church’s rejection of socialism can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (written in the context of the the Seventh Commandment;  Thou Shall Not Steal) and in several papal encyclicals.  Below are brief examples from each source giving why it is rejected.

Catechism of the Catholic Church section 2425:

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“The Church has rejected the totalitarian and atheistic ideologies associated in modern times with “communism” or “socialism.”


Pope Saint John Paul II’s encyclical letter, Centesimus Annus, May 1, 1991:

[lightbox link=”/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/St.-John-Paul-II.jpg” thumb=”/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/St.-John-Paul-II-207×300.jpg” width=”207″ align=”left” title=”St. John Paul II” frame=”true” icon=”image”]”13…  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.”


Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical letter, Graves De Communi Re, January 18, 1901:

[lightbox link=”/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Pope-Leo-XIII.jpg” thumb=”/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Pope-Leo-XIII.jpg” width=”165″ align=”left” title=”Pope Leo XIII” frame=”true” icon=”image”]”2…  We deemed it Our duty to warn Catholics, in unmistakable language, how great the error was which was lurking in the utterances of socialism, and how great the danger was that threatened not only their temporal possessions, but also their morality and religion. That was the purpose of Our encyclical letter Quod Apostolici Muneris which We published on the 28th of December in the year 1878; but, as these dangers day by day threatened still greater disaster, both to individuals and the commonwealth, We strove with all the more energy to avert them. This was the object of Our encyclical Rerum Novarum of the 15th of May, 1891, in which we dwelt at length on the rights and duties which both classes of society – those namely, who control capital, and those who contribute labor – are bound in relation to each other; and at the same time, We made it evident that the remedies which are most useful to protect the cause of religion, and to terminate the contest between the different classes of society, were to be found in the precepts of the Gospel.”


“21…  The condition of things at present proclaims, and proclaims vehemently, that there is need for a union of brave minds with all the resources they can command. The harvest of misery is before our eyes, and the dreadful projects of the most disastrous national upheavals are threatening us from the growing power of the socialistic movement. They have insidiously worked their way into the very heart of the community, and in the darkness of their secret gatherings, and in the open light of day, in their writings and their harangues, they are urging the masses onward to sedition; they fling aside religious discipline; they scorn duties; they clamor only for rights; they are working incessantly on the multitudes of the needy which daily grow greater, and which, because of their poverty are easily deluded and led into error. It is equally the concern of the State and of religion, and all good men should deem it a sacred duty to preserve and guard both in the honor which is their due.”


Many more rejections of the error of socialism are written by our Popes.  They can be found at the Vatican website here www.vatican.va by typing in a search for “socialism.”

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