papal encyclicals and marx - some extracts: on socialism and liberalism
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papal encyclicals - some extracts: on socialism and liberalism

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papal encyclicals and marx - some extracts: on socialism and liberalism gives extracts from papal encyclicals that are critical of its competing religion, socialism.
This page is one in a series of supporting resources for other briefing documents that analyse dysfunctional social, or group, behaviour in modern society.
précis of the communist manifesto and extracts from Das Capital
papal encyclicals and marx - some extracts: on socialism and liberalism

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Index
Papal encyclicals and associated documents, with chronology of associated Popes
 
Pius IX, 16 June, 1846 – 7 February, 1878
1849: nostis nobiscum
1864: Quanta cura / condemning current errors
1864: the syllabus of errors / syllabus errorum
Leo XIII, 20 February, 1878 - 20 July, 1903
1879: on socialism / quod apostolici muneris —‘the deadly plague’
1891: on capital and labor / rerum novarum
Pius X, 4 August, 1903 – 20 August, 1914
1907: syllabus condemning the errors of the modernists / lamentabili sane
1910: the oath against modernism
Benedict XV, 3 September, 1914 – 22 January, 1922
Pius XI, 6 February, 1922 – 10 February, 1939

1931: on reconstruction of the social order / quadragesimo anno
1931: on catholic action in Italy / non abbiamo bisogno
Pius XII, 2 March, 1939 – 9 October, 1958
John XXII, 28 October, 1958 – 3 June, 1963
Paul VI, 21 June, 1963 – 6 Aug., 1978
John Paul II, 16 Oct., 1978 –2 April, 2005
Benedict XVI, 2005 –


distributism

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Papal encyclicals
and associated documents, with chronology of associated Popes

The Church of Rome has long been an implacable foe of ‘liberalism’, or independent thought. It has tended to identify liberalism with freemasonry. It has also, with good cause, disparaged socialism from early in the development of Marxist socialism. Many other independent thinkers of the time also understood the intellectual bankrupcy of socialism. For another approach, see my page on Frédéric Bastiat [1801-1850].

I shall place my comments on papal encyclicals, published from the mid-1800s onwards, into three groups:

  1. The Roman Catholic Church’s attacks on socialism.
    This later includes the Vatican’s approach to mitigating abuse of the poorer classes.
    (Socialism was responding to real abuses with simplistic nostrums.)
  2. Continual and continuing attacks on a liberal, or free, society.
  3. The Church’s preoccupation with sex. This can be seen, for instance, in the section on marriage in the Ecumenical Councils and the rise and fall of the Church of Rome (Roman Catholic Church) and in the section on Manicheanism in Heresies: ‘heresy’, authority, quarrels and words.
    Gradually, the Church of Rome is adapting, but there are similar sexual preoccupations in modern Islam.
    An early response by the socialist camp to the sexual preoccupations can be seen in the section on bourgeois marriage in the Communist Party Manifesto.return to contents

 


Pope Pius IX, 16 June, 1846 – 7 February, 1878

This was the Pope who, in 1870, declared the Pope (himself!) to be infallible.

8 December 1849: On the Church in the pontifical states /nostis et nobiscum Pope Pius IX
Written the year following the publication of the Communist Manifesto

18. As regards this teaching and these theories, it is now generally known that the special goal of their proponents is to introduce to the people the pernicious fictions of Socialism and Communism by misapplying the terms "liberty" and "equality." The final goal shared by these teachings, whether of Communism or Socialism, even if approached differently, is to excite by continuous disturbances workers and others, especially those of the lower class, whom they have deceived by their lies and deluded by the promise of a happier condition. They are preparing them for plundering, stealing, and usurping first the Church's and then everyone's property. After this they will profane all law, human and divine, to destroy divine worship and to subvert the entire ordering of civil societies.

6. You are aware indeed, that the goal of this most iniquitous plot is to drive people to overthrow the entire order of human affairs and to draw them over to the wicked theories of this Socialism and Communism, by confusing them with perverted teachings. But these enemies realize that they cannot hope for any agreement with the Catholic Church, which allows neither tampering with truths proposed by faith, nor adding any new human fictions to them. This is why they try to draw the Italian people over to Protestantism, which in their deceit they repeatedly declare to be only another form of the same true religion of Christ, thereby just as pleasing to God. Meanwhile they know full well that the chief principle of the Protestant tenets, i.e., that the holy scriptures are to be understood by the personal judgment of the individual, will greatly assist their impious cause. They are confident that they can first misuse the holy scriptures by wrong interpretation to spread their errors and claim God's authority while doing it. Then they can cause men to call into doubt the common principles of justice and honor.

25. But if the faithful scorn both the fatherly warnings of their pastors and the commandments of the Christian Law recalled here, and if they let themselves be deceived by the present-day promoters of plots, deciding to work with them in their perverted theories of Socialism and Communism, let them know and earnestly consider what they are laying up for themselves. The Divine Judge will seek vengeance on the day of wrath. Until then no temporal benefit for the people will result from their conspiracy, but rather new increases of misery and disaster. For man is not empowered to establish new societies and unions which are opposed to the nature of mankind. If these conspiracies spread throughout Italy there can only be one result: if the present political arrangement is shaken violently and totally ruined by reciprocal attacks of citizens against citizens by their wrongful appropriations and slaughter, in the end some few, enriched by the plunder of many, will seize supreme control to the ruin of all. return to contents


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1864: Quanta cura / condemning current errors Pope Pius IX

Encyclical of Pope Pius IX promulgated on December 8, 1864.

4. ...Moreover, not content with removing religion from public society, they wish to banish it also from private families. For, teaching and professing the most fatal error of "Communism and Socialism," they assert that "domestic society or the family derives the whole principle of its existence from the civil law alone; and, consequently, that on civil law alone depend all rights of parents over their children, and especially that of providing for education." By which impious opinions and machinations these most deceitful men chiefly aim at this result, viz., that the salutary teaching and influence of the Catholic Church may be entirely banished from the instruction and education of youth, and that the tender and flexible minds of young men may be infected and depraved by every most pernicious error and vice...

This is vitally important. It amounts to a statement the the family owns the child, not the State. This passage warns that the corruption of society when the State attempts to interfere in that bond. The results can be seen in National Socialist states, for example Nazi Germany, where children were actually brainwashed into praying to Hitler, and similarly in international socialist (Communist) Russia.

Similar concerns, on a slow burn, have long been discussed where states take over the educational process. In other words, the societal damage done by the revolutionary socialist states, such as Germany and Russia, is also generated over the longer term by socialist parties.

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Promulgated at the same date as Quanta cura.

1864: the syllabus of errors / syllabus errorum Pope Pius IX

Remember, these attitudes are condemned as errors!

14. Philosophy is to be treated without taking any account of supernatural revelation.
15. Every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which, guided by the light of reason, he shall consider true.
16. Man may, in the observance of any religion whatever, find the way of eternal salvation, and arrive at eternal salvation.
24. The Church has not the power of using force, nor has she any temporal power, direct or indirect.
27. The sacred ministers of the Church and the Roman pontiff are to be absolutely excluded from every charge and dominion over temporal affairs.
55. The Church ought to be separated from the .State, and the State from the Church.
74. Matrimonial causes and espousals belong by their nature to civil tribunals.
77. In the present day it is no longer expedient that the Catholic religion should be held as the only religion of the State, to the exclusion of all other forms of worship.
80. The Roman Pontiff can, and ought to, reconcile himself, and come to terms with progress, liberalism and modern civilization.

Note: from Quibus quantisque, 1849. (This encyclical/allocution probably applies to freemasons. Unfortunately, no copy in English has yet been located.)

64. The violation of any solemn oath, as well as any wicked and flagitious action repugnant to the eternal law, is not only not blamable but is altogether lawful and worthy of the highest praise when done through love of country.

In the jargon of the Church of the time, ‘rationalism’ was reason without faith; whereas ‘fideism’ was faith without reason and identified with fundamentalism. The Church tended to identify ‘rationalists’ and freemasons as the hated ‘liberals’. ‘Rationalism’, together with ‘fideism’, were determined upon as the errors of ‘modernism’.

return to contents

 

1870: the Pope is declared infallible Pope Pius IX [see also Pius IX]

Pastor aeternus, which was approved by Vatican I on 18 July, 1870, defined the extent and limits of papal infallibility. Chapter 4, section 9 states:

Therefore, faithfully adhering to the tradition received from the beginning of the christian faith, to the glory of God our savior, for the exaltation of the Catholic religion and for the salvation of the christian people, with the approval of the Sacred Council, we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman Pontiff speaks EX CATHEDRA, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals. Therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the Church, irreformable.return to contents


Pope Leo XIII, 20 February, 1878 - 20 July, 1903

1879: on socialism / quod apostolici muneris —‘the deadly plague’ Pope Leo XIII

At the very beginning of Our pontificate, as the nature of Our apostolic office demanded, we hastened to point out in an encyclical letter addressed to you, venerable brethren, the deadly plague that is creeping into the very fibers of human society and leading it on to the verge of destruction; at the same time We pointed out also the most effectual remedies by which society might be restored and might escape from the very serious dangers which threaten it. But the evils which We then deplored have so rapidly increased that We are again compelled to address you, as though we heard the voice of the prophet ringing in Our ears: "Cry, cease not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet." You understand, venerable brethren, that We speak of that sect of men who, under various and almost barbarous names, are called socialists, communists, or nihilists, and who, spread over all the world, and bound together by the closest ties in a wicked confederacy, no longer seek the shelter of secret meetings, but, openly and boldly marching forth in the light of day, strive to bring to a head what they have long been planning -- the overthrow of all civil society whatsoever.

The Roman Catholic Church is, of course, a major long term enemy of freedom, but it has not proven nearly as dangerous as socialism.

Socialism dehumanises, and that is what Rome recognised from very early on. Socialism has also been responsible for ginormous amounts of social disruption (and for deaths by the 10s of millions). This again was recognised, and even predicted, very early on by Rome.

But the Church has also been a major enemy of liberalism, a dire fault it shares with socialism.

On balance, however, socialism has proven to be a much greater enemy of humanity.

The major enemy identified by the Church, in its fight against liberalism, was freemasonry rather than socialism. Socialism is more authoritarian even than the Church.return to contents

 

The Church has also however responded to the real concerns regarding the conditions of workers often expressed by socialism

1891: on capital and labour / rerum novarum, Pope Leo XIII

Rerum Novarum is regarded among catholic apologists, with almost overweening pride, as showing the deep concerns of the Church for the poor and oppressed. A tract that is vaunted as ‘modern’. It is from Rerum Novarum and later, that the idea of the corporative state was developed. The corporative state is supposed to work from the bottom of society upwards, with unions and business organisations regarded as legitimate expressions of the individual. The theory tends to assume that, by working together, individuals, families and such organisations can be part of the state without serious conflict. Of course, this does not prove so, as various individuals and interests jockey for advantage.

The corporative state is often confused with the corporate state of socialism. Individuals in the socialist corporate state are its creatures, and the state is a beehive where individuals and their interests must be strictly subject to the state. In both cases, the reality tends to end at similar points with top-down government, lack of freedom, and predictable poverty.

But the dogma behind these models is seriously different. The Church is far more humanity-oriented and tends to kill far less. Socialism is essentially collectivist where the individual has no intrinsic place, individuality or value. Rerum novarum was developed further in Quadragesimo anno (1931).return to contents

 


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Pope Pius X, 4 August, 1903 – 20 August, 1914

3 July 1907: syllabus condemning the errors of the modernists / lamentabili sane Pius X (not an encyclical)

With truly lamentable results, our age, casting aside all restraint in its search for the ultimate causes of things, frequently pursues novelties so ardently that it rejects the legacy of the human race. Thus it falls into very serious errors, which are even more serious when they concern sacred authority, the interpretation of Sacred Scripture, and the principal mysteries of Faith. The fact that many Catholic writers also go beyond the limits determined by the Fathers and the Church herself is extremely regrettable. In the name of higher knowledge and historical research (they say), they are looking for that progress of dogmas which is, in reality, nothing but the corruption of dogmas.

Again remember carefully, these attitudes are condemned as errors!

4. Even by dogmatic definitions the Church's magisterium cannot determine the genuine sense of the Sacred Scriptures.
7. In proscribing errors, the Church cannot demand any internal assent from the faithful by which the judgments she issues are to be embraced.
8. They are free from all blame who treat lightly the condemnations passed by the Sacred Congregation of the Index or by the Roman Congregations.
12. If he wishes to apply himself usefully to Biblical studies, the exegete must first put aside all preconceived opinions about the supernatural origin of Sacred Scripture and interpret it the same as any other merely human document.
24. The exegete [interpreter/expounder] who constructs premises from which it follows that dogmas are historically false or doubtful is not to be reproved as long as he does not directly deny the dogmas themselves .
53. The organic constitution of the Church is not immutable. Like human society, Christian society is subject to a perpetual evolution.
56. The Roman Church became the head of all the churches, not through the ordinance of Divine Providence, but merely through political conditions.
64. Scientific progress demands that the concepts of Christian doctrine concerning God, creation, revelation, the Person of the Incarnate Word, and Redemption be re-adjusted.return to contents


1 September 1910: the oath against modernism Pius X

This remained in force until recently (I am unsure of the dates, as sources give different dates ranging from 1967 to 1989) when a brief “Profession of Faith” and an “oath of fidelity” was substituted. A modern short and somewhat diluted form, including a short form of the creed, was issued in 1989. A copy can be found here.

To be sworn to by all clergy, pastors, confessors, preachers, religious superiors, and professors in philosophical-theological seminaries.

It begins:

I [...] firmly embrace and accept each and every definition that has been set forth and declared by the unerring teaching authority of the Church, especially those principal truths which are directly opposed to the errors of this day.

After a couple of long paragraphs, it ends thus:

Finally, I declare that I am completely opposed to the error of the modernists who hold that there is nothing divine in sacred tradition; or what is far worse, say that there is, but in a pantheistic sense, with the result that there would remain nothing but this plain simple fact-one to be put on a par with the ordinary facts of history-the fact, namely, that a group of men by their own labor, skill, and talent have continued through subsequent ages a school begun by Christ and his apostles. I firmly hold, then, and shall hold to my dying breath the belief of the Fathers in the charism of truth, which certainly is, was, and always will be in the succession of the episcopacy from the apostles. The purpose of this is, then, not that dogma may be tailored according to what seems better and more suited to the culture of each age; rather, that the absolute and immutable truth preached by the apostles from the beginning may never be believed to be different, may never be understood in any other way.
I promise that I shall keep all these articles faithfully, entirely, and sincerely, and guard them inviolate, in no way deviating from them in teaching or in any way in word or in writing. Thus I promise, this I swear, so help me God.

This oath amounts to swearing to obey orders and never to think independently.

 

Pius XI, 6 February, 1922 – 10 February, 1939

15 May 1931: on reconstruction of the social order/ quadragesimo anno Pius XI
Quadragesimo anno = the fortieth year; that is the fortieth year since Rerum novarum.

For further commentary on this, see Fascism is socialism: Franco was not a Fascist

 

And immediately afterwards, we have Pius XI raging against the socialist statolatry of Mussolini.

29 June 1931: on catholic action in Italy / non abbiamo bisogno Pius XI

“42. Besides, there is involved another right of the Church equally inviolable -- the right to fulfil the imperative Divine Commission entrusted to her by her Divine Founder, to bring to souls, to bring to every soul, and the treasures of truth and of good, doctrinal and practical, which He Himself brought to the world. "Going therefore teach ye all nations . . . teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" (Matthew xxviii, 19, 20).

“43. How great is the importance of childhood and adolescence in this absolute universality and totality of the divine mandate to the Church, has been shown by the Divine Master Himself, the Creator and Redeemer of souls, by His example and particularly by those memorable words which are also so formidable: "Suffer the little children and forbid them not to come to Me . . . who believe in Me, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. . . whose angels always behold the face of the Father who is in Heaven. Woe to that man who shall scandalize one of these little ones!" (Math. xix, 13; xviii, 1, et seq).

“44. And here We find Ourselves confronted by a mass of authentic affirmations and no less authentic facts which reveal beyond the slightest possibility of doubt the resolve (already in great measure actually put into effect) to monopolize completely the young, from their tenderest years up to manhood and womanhood, for the exclusive advantage of a party and of a regime based on an ideology which clearly resolves itself into a true, a real pagan worship of the State -- the "Statolatry" which is no less in contrast with the natural rights of the family than it is in contradiction with the supernatural rights of the Church. To propose and to promote such a monopoly to persecute for this reason Catholic Action, as has been done for some time more or less openly or under cover to reach this end by striking at the Catholic Association of Youth as has lately been done; all this is truly and literally to "forbid the little children to go to Jesus Christ," since it impedes their access to His Church and where His Church is, there is Jesus Christ. This usurpation goes so far as to snatch the young from Christ and His Church even with violence.

“45. The Church of Jesus Christ has never contested the rights and the duties of the State concerning the education of its citizens; indeed, We Ourselves have recalled and proclaimed them in Our recent Encyclical Letter on the "Christian Education of Youth." Such rights and duties are unchallengeable as long as they remain within the limits of the State's proper competency, a competence which in its turn is clearly indicated and determined by the role of the State, a role which, though certainly not only bodily and material, is by its very nature limited to the natural, the terrestrial and the temporal.”

 

Distributism

The attack on socialism in rerum novarum (Leo XIII, 1891) recognised the problems with predatory monopoly capitalism. These ideas were developed under the label of ‘Distributism’, for example, in The Servile State by Hilaire Belloc, published in 1912. The analysis led to the widespread introduction of anti-monopoly laws in Western societies, and can be seen in Margaret Thatcher’s drive for a ‘property-owning democracy’, in David Cameron’s slogan, ‘the big society’ and in the asserted aspiration of the European Union under the label of ‘subsidiarity’.

In recent economic thinking, Hernando De Soto has written clearly and cogently on this matter. See, for example, The Mystery of Capital, for some highly recommended reading.

Currently (November 2013), there is a reasonably coherent article at Wikipedia but it cannot, of course, be relied upon to remain stable or even coherent.

related document
collectivism v. freedom, 1911 - ramsay-macdonald argues with hilaire belloc about the servile state return to contents

 


bibliography

The Servile State by Hilaire Belloc

Servile State by Hilaire Belloc

hbk, T.N. Foulis, 1912

archive.org has downloadable copies in several formats

Modern reprints are widely available.
amazon.co.uk, amazon.fr

Kindle edition

Ignatius Press, 2010
197 KB
ASIN: B003APYOVS
$7.18 [amazon.com]
£4.67 [amazon.co.uk]
5.20 € [amazon.fr]

Review: In this book from just 100 years ago, Hilaire Belloc discusses a problem still propounded by socialists today, that the rich are getting richer while the middle class and poor are not. But Belloc was doing this with 100 years less experience.

Even then, Belloc knew that confiscating business by politicians would lead to an even worse state of wage slavery. However, he did recognise that 'peasants' would prefer a slave state because then they wouldn't have to think. That is, they would happily trade freedom for security.

Belloc also knew that the slave state was socially damaging, so he wanted property more widely distributed. This was termed Distributism at the time. His main concern was the ever increasing centralisation of power brought about by concentrated wealth.

What I found particularly fascinating is that, after the later State confiscation of much wealth by ideologues like Clement Attlee, property is now being spread once more through privatisation. This was an objective the writer thought to be very difficult to achieve in 1912/13. Belloc thought, because of the difficulties, that the concentration of wealth among a small number of families (the state of capitalism at that time) would be more likely tackled by government control than by wider ownership.

The book is rather disorganised and therefore difficult to read, but it is historically important as it draws on rerum novarum before the full horrors of state socialism were apparent.

Hilaire Belloc [1870 - 1953] was a Catholic Anglo-French writer, who took British citizenship in 1902. He wrote over 200 books and was known as the man who wrote a library. Belloc was a Liberal M.P. between 1906 and 1910. He is famous for his children's poems in the manner of Victorian cautionary tales such as those of Struwwelpeter.

The Chief Defect of Henry King
Was chewing little bits of String.
At last he swallowed some which tied
Itself in ugly Knots inside.

Physicians of the Utmost Fame
Were called at once; but when they came
They answered, as they took their Fees,
"There is no Cure for this Disease.

"Henry will very soon be dead."
His Parents stood about his Bed
Lamenting his Untimely Death,
When Henry, with his Latest Breath,

Cried, "Oh, my Friends, be warned by me,
That Breakfast, Dinner, Lunch, and Tea
Are all the Human Frame requires . . ."
With that, the Wretched Child expires.

 

 

The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else
by
S De Soto

The Mystery of Capital by De Soto

 

The Mystery of Capital by De Soto

Basic Books, pbk, reprinted 2003

ISBN-10: 0465016154
ISBN-13: 978-0465016150

$12.80 [amazon.com]

Marker at abelard.org

Black Swan, 2001

ISBN-10: 0552999237
ISBN-13: 978-0552999236

£12.26 [amazon.co.uk]
22.78 € [amazon.fr]

Kindle edition

Transworld Digital, 2010
934 KB
ASIN: B004FV4XTE
$10.14 [amazon.com]
£6.83 [amazon.co.uk]
7.52 € [amazon.fr]

 

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