Pope Francis and Karl Marx: best friends forever?

The Pope is not a Marxist.

I can’t believe I even need to write that sentence.

Of course the Pope is not a Marxist.

It is a sad indictment of our society that he even had to clarify that point this weekend.

Into what sort of twisted and bizarre alternate dimension have we stumbled? The Pope — the most prominent, religious, anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage figure on the planet — must defend himself against the ignorant attacks of… conservatives? The Pope, the leader of the Catholic Church, the leader of Progressive Secularism’s most hated institution. The Pope, the man who recently released an Apostolic Exhortation in which he proclaimed abortion to be an atrocity that “cries out in vengeance to God.”

The Pope, the guy who, in the same document, also said this:

“..This defence of unborn life is closely linked to the defence of each and every other human right. It involves the conviction that a human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development… Once this conviction disappears, so do solid and lasting foundations for the defence of human rights, which would always be subject to the passing whims of the powers that be.”

In other words, he not only condemned abortion, but he condemned it in stronger and more eloquent terms than any American conservative media figure or politician could possibly muster. Yet, this same Pope finds himself in the rhetorical cross hairs of certain elements in the American right wing.

And for what?

Because he criticized capitalism.

And, yes, he did criticize capitalism.

And, no, that doesn’t make him a Marxist.

Of course that doesn’t make him a Marxist.

I am a capitalist. I love the idea of the Free Market, although I’ve never actually encountered such a thing. But capitalism is not my religion. I know that it is an economic system created by men; I know that it is not perfect. It can be criticized, and Catholicism has a long  history — and a recent history — of doing just that.

He doesn’t say anything that Chesterton and Belloc didn’t already say a century ago. He doesn’t break any papal ground that hasn’t already been thoroughly tread by his predecessors — notably, John Paul II and Leo XIII. Most important: he doesn’t say anything that isn’t entirely in line with Christ’s teachings.

If you aren’t familiar, this whole “controversy” stems from an exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, which was released by Pope Francis a few weeks ago. The entire thing is only about 200 pages, and it’s worth reading. In fact, if you are going to publicly use it as proof of the Pope’s “Marxism” — a dramatic and startling claim, to be sure — then you have a responsibility to read the full context of his remarks.

A woman messaged me on Facebook last week to inform me that the Pope’s “horrible comments” prove that he is not only a liberal, but quite possibly the anti-Christ. She assured me that the end is nigh, and I will likely burn in Hell if I do not denounce him. I asked her if she’d actually read the entire context of any of these comments.

“No,” she responded, “I don’t have time.”

Ah, I see. You read a few sentences cherry picked by American media outlets, immediately formed your “this guy is the anti-Christ” hypothesis, and didn’t even take the time to verify it? If I thought someone was the harbinger of annihilation, I’d at least carve out a few hours to investigate the matter.

But this is America, and this is how we operate. Too lazy to inform ourselves, too arrogant to keep our mouths shut when we are completely ignorant of the subject at hand.

For my part, I did read it. I read the whole thing. I found not a single instance of Marxism. Interestingly, I also found not a single instance of the Pope actually using the word “capitalism.” But he did mention consumerism:

“Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape…”

“One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies. The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption.”

“Money must serve, not rule! The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor. I exhort you to generous solidarity and to the return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favours human beings.”

Marxism? This is Marxism?

No, this is Christianity.

Here is the similarity between what Pope Francis said and what Karl Marx said: they both criticized certain elements of capitalism.

The end. That’s it.

To say that the Pope is automatically a Marxist because he condemned obscene wealth is like saying I am automatically a vegan because I didn’t have a Big Mac for lunch last Tuesday. It’s absurd.

The following is NOT the definition of Marxism: “Anything that isn’t capitalism.”

Karl Marx was a godless materialist; Pope Francis is an obedient and humble servant of Jesus. I doubt very much that Mr. Marx would have said this:

“For just as some people want a purely spiritual Christ, without flesh and without the cross, they also want their interpersonal relationships provided by sophisticated equipment, by screens and systems which can be turned on and off on command. Meanwhile, the Gospel tells us constantly to run the risk of a face-to-face encounter with others, with their physical presence which challenges us, with their pain and their pleas, with their joy which infects us in our close and continuous interaction. True faith in the incarnate Son of God is inseparable from self-giving, from membership in the community, from service, from reconciliation with others. The Son of God, by becoming flesh, summoned us to the revolution of tenderness.”

I could be wrong, but I don’t think Karl Marx wanted to create a philosophy that calls us to “true faith in the Incarnate Son of God.”

Not only is that excerpt — also from the Pope’s “Marxist” manifesto — very true, it’s likewise incredibly profound. If we were a deep and thoughtful people, we would stop screaming “Marxist” at everything that moves, and instead ponder and discuss the words I quoted above.

Conservatives fulfill every conceivable negative stereotype when they castigate a man for simply urging us to give to the poor. This is like something out of a political cartoon in the New York Times. It’s befuddling and embarrassing.

The Pope is not a Marxist. He probably wouldn’t refer to himself as a capitalist, either. I don’t think he’s too concerned about the labels we place on him, but I’m guessing, if anything, he’d probably identify closest with Distributism.

Distributism is a third-way economic philosophy, developed by guys like Chesterton and Belloc, which places the emphasis on property ownership. A Distributist would say that property ownership is fundamental to human dignity, and the means of production ought to be spread widely among many people. Distributism rests on the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity — principles I also hold. Personally, I do not think a Distributist “system” can be established on a national scale, but it does hold promise on the hyper local level; among families and small communities.

In any event, Distributism is not Marxism. Distributism is rooted in Catholic social teaching; Marxism is rooted in materialism and godlessness.

We can debate the Pope’s words on the economy, but I refuse to debate anyone who hasn’t taken the time to read them first. In the end, you might find that you still disagree with some of his opinions. As a Christian, I can’t fathom how you’d fundamentally oppose the overall crux of his message — that we should serve the poor and stop idolizing money — but you might differ on the nuances of his argument. We can have this discussion, but only if it’s an honest discussion.

In the end, regardless of economic theory, Pope Francis is an extraordinary man, and he is accomplishing extraordinary things. He is a lesson to all of us, particularly yours truly. Despite what American media outlets might claim, he has not compromised on the tough “social issues.” He hasn’t given up even one inch in that regard. He is an eloquent and unapologetic defender of life and truth, yet he is embraced by many who would normally despise the people who hold such beliefs.

Why?

Well, some of them might have been taken in by the propaganda campaign of left wing journalists; a campaign that has clearly succeeded in fooling more than a few conservatives as well. But I think there’s even more to it. I think people see this Pope, a man of such power, and they notice his genuine humility and compassion. They can’t help but be moved by it. They see the images of him wading into crowds to hug and kiss the sick and the deformed. They see him doing little things, like driving a used car, or paying his own hotel bill, and they realize that even nameless, insignificant congressmen in this country aren’t nearly so unassuming and down-to-earth. They hear the stories about him, and they know that his love for the downtrodden and the impoverished is real. It’s not an act. Pope Francis is a powerful man and a good man, and this is a combination we so rarely see anymore.

Because of this, the Pope is loved. He isn’t loved because he compromises on the Truth, or kowtows to modern trends; he’s loved because he loves. And for that, this Pope ought to be hoisted up as a model for all of us.

Either the Pope is not a Marxist, or Marxism has been vastly misunderstood by everyone, including Karl Marx.

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112 Responses to Pope Francis and Karl Marx: best friends forever?

  1. Matt!!! Thank you for not being a right-wing extremist!!! As a dual Canadian-American citizen, I’m so tired of people thinking its “black or white” because the political and economic spectrums are vast and complicated. I voted Progressive Conservative in Canada (the most Conservative party in a multi-party system), but that makes me a “Commie Marxist Socialist” in the eyes of many Republicans, ESP. because I believe in universal health care (a hybrid system, not single-payer). We can believe in the fundamentals of capitalism, i.e. the innovation and personal motivation that comes from competition with private ownership and markets, but still realize that it’s not perfect. That unchecked private interests can be dangerous too, and there will always be those who’d practically eat their own young to make a buck! I think that’s what the Pope is preaching against. Bottom line, anyone who thinks any economic system (from communism to capitalism) is without evils or flaws places way too much trust in human nature!!!

  2. simone says:

    Just when I lost hope for humanity, from the ashes rose this great Phoenix who spoke truths and had intellect like no other and recognized that a spade is a spade regardless of its handler, and the handler is a human regardless of thier beliefs and beliefs differ on an imaginable scale… and they called this creature Matt Walsh

  3. TheBiggerBen says:

    One thing I think you missed here Matt. Most of the most vehement anti-Francis conservatives have an agenda here. To them, and many Protestants, the Pope is the literal Anti-Christ. So they don’t see this as a betrayal of a fellow conservative. They see this as attacking the largest threat to Christianity today.

    Of course, they ignore that the Catholic Church is responsible for compiling the Bible that they Sola Scriptura all day.

  4. syboxazolam says:

    Dear author,

    It’s very clear that you do not understand what Marxism is. You are just regurgitating inane, unfounded generalizations passed along to you by conservative news outlets and/or friends.

  5. Jan Rodelander says:

    Thank you….it’s refreshing to follow a blog wherein the writer has intellect, knows how to research and is willing to express himself without compromise.

  6. Dee says:

    He may not be a Marxist, but I don’t think we can conclusively say he’s a “servant of Christ” either! He believes Muslims and Christians serve the same God! That’s the kind of comments I’d be writing about. 🙂 (love your blog, btw)

    • audreynicole says:

      If you’re referring to the article circulating the web recently from the website “Diversity Chronicle”, it is a satirical piece. (I think I’m being generous by calling it that.) It does not contain any of his actual comments–it’s fake. There was no Third Vatican Council, and Pope Francis is entirely orthodox in his theology. Just wanted to pipe up in his defense there. 🙂 God bless.

      Audrey

      http://www.snopes.com/politics/satire/francis.asp

  7. mochange says:

    Once upon a time people worshipped idols and in fact in some parts of the world they still do, whether the statues are gods themselves or merely representative of gods is something else. Today for most of the western world regardless of religion what we really worship is money. I mean of course society as a whole, we look up to celebrities who as a whole represent very little wholesomeness and don’t deserve nearly the amount of respect they are given. And we sacrifice our lives to work and make money in the chase of materialism. Of course there are many examples that go against the grain but this is the empty version of life that is promoted by what passes for entertainment these days. That was my take on the popes point, that we have become a narcissistic, materialistic society that worships money. And before anyone calls me a hypocrite, I’m certainly guilty of this behavior.

  8. Gary says:

    “Too lazy to inform ourselves, too arrogant to keep our mouths shut when we are completely ignorant of the subject at hand.”

    I will be stealing this line =)

  9. Gary Romeo says:

    U Liberal Sheep make me Cringe.Useful Idiots.Matt definitely included.Kiss his butt,like the bumbling incoherent malcontents,that u are.ReDist of Wealth .this Pope mentions again.A shame- the crap that is coming out of this Venezualan patron of Chavez.Is he just nievely Ignorant,of what he is professing?…He is urging Gov.to solve the Income Inequality.This is a KEY PHRASE.Does he understand it is Secular Marxist Doctrine…Utopian Liberalism,and Radical Egalitarianism? U actually think u can defend these series of statements by this Pope,as addressing only Crony,and/or Corruption? Socialized HC,Anyone? In it, Francis went further than previous comments criticizing the global economic system, attacking the “idolatry of money” and beseeching politicians to guarantee all citizens “dignified work, education and healthcare”.Not to share wealth with poor is to steal’..Defend that ,as What God intended Charity to be defined!!Out of the Goodness of your Heart and Soul is the freedom to choose where your material gains are to be Distr.Take that Choice away,and u take away our Property,Liberty,Individualism,and our Freedom.Tyranny is Government-Left and Liberalism.Free Enterprise can not be Tyranny-BY DEFINITION!!!!!-Pope slams capitalism as ‘new tyranny’.I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor,” Francis wrote.Inequality between the rich and the poor has reached a new threshold, and in his apostolic exhortation to mark the end of the “Year of Faith”, Pope Francis asks for better politicians to heal the scars capitalism made on society.”Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills,” Francis wrote in the document issued Tuesday.”How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?” Pope Francis asked an audience at the Vatican.Not to share wealth with poor is to steal’:
    The existing financial system that fuels the unequal distribution of wealth and violence must be changed, the Pope warned.-How about Occupy Wall street,from Marxist Anti-Semetic Roots.
    Socialism run by central bureaucracy, not “the people” Michael Telzrow. “Socialism’s broken promises.” New American. December 25th, 2008: “In truth, the working classes had much to lose under socialism, and for later generations the shackles of communism would weigh heavy; for in practice, a central person or group had to control the redistribution of the wealth, and under communism power was concentrated for the benefit of the few at the controls — at the expense of the masses, no matter the harm and the suffering visited upon the masses.”
    Socialism over-trusts government bureaucrats Milton Friedman: “Concentrated power is not rendered harmless by the good intentions of those who create it. […] The power to do good is also the power to do harm.”[1]
    In capitalism, society is rightly ruled by individuals. Only a given individual can assess what is to his benefit or detriment. Capitalism places responsibility for an individual’s prosperity in his own hands. Socialism attempts to determine an aggregate good defined as “the good of the collective” and apply that one “shoe” to all “feet”.
    Capitalism is about individuals collaborating to supply needs. On the most basic level, capitalism allows individuals to organize and work together to supply services and goods that have value in communities, meet needs, and for which other citizens are willing to spend their money on to benefit from. There is no exploitation involved at this most fundamental level.
    No transaction happens in capitalism unless both parties benefit Milton Friedman: “The most important single central fact about a free market is that no exchange takes place unless both parties benefit.”[2]
    Focusing on large corporation distracts from fundamentals of capitalism. Capitalism is not about enriching large and powerful corporations. It was originally and remains largely about small groups of individuals in communities working together to supply collective needs. Critics who talk about big corporations in capitalism typically ignore the fact that the vast majority of businesses are small, community-based ones, and ones in which eye-popping profits are not made. Most businesses are just community stores and organizations that pay reasonable wages and that communities would sorely miss.
    Capitalism allows for greater personal fulfillment. Socialism presents a “mob rule” where the collective (or whomever controls the government) outweighs any decisions made by individuals concerning their own lives. Individual “needs” are dictated by the state and so niche markets are prevented from forming. This causes a lack of innovation and social progress because major trends and even fundamental changes in society and technology start in niche markets with very specific needs that would not be considered “efficient” for the state to provide.
    Have I made myself Clear?Uneducated Sheeple.Pick up a Book! Matt u r a schoolboy..and I am your Professor.Take a seat Punk.

  10. Gary Romeo says:

    Are u serious?For my part, I did read it. I read the whole thing. I found not a single instance of Marxism.Duh?Pope Francis asks for better politicians to heal the scars capitalism made on society.Pope slams capitalism as ‘new tyranny’.I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor,” Francis wrote.Inequality between the rich and the poor has reached a new threshold,Francis went further than previous comments criticizing the global economic system, attacking the “idolatry of money” and beseeching politicians to guarantee all citizens “dignified work, education and healthcare”.Definition of Marxism: The economic, social, political, pseudo-scientific philosophy, theory, belief, or system based on the works of Karl Marx of Germany. The theory seeks the elimination of the notion of private property in order to gain control of the economic “means of production” by taking it from the bourgeois (the wealthy or propertied class) for the benefit of the proletariat (working class.) His philosophy of history was called “historical materialism” in which his goal was to bring about the end of history, by means of an eventual perfect, classless, utopian society he called Communism.
    Marxist notions of collectivization and redistribution of the property of the bourgeois puts it on a collision course with the economic philosophy of Capitalism and free markets, and also with the social-governmental philosophies related to Democracy, in the oldest, pre-Marxism sense of that word.
    Marxism seeks to promote class warfare or, today, at least, class strife, and succeeds best where clear, major delineations exist between classes. Since the USA has an enormous natural “middle class” and little or no obvious delineation between classes, Marxism has only made inroads there among the SLIMC1 , which represents a very small but vocal minority that has a very high visibility, and a lot of influence. At the moment, the majority still rules in the USA. (Except when representative law is overruled and when new unrepresentative law is established by the unrepresentative courts.)
    In the intermediary phase between Marxism – the conquest of Capitalist-exploiter Bourgeoisie and “The State” – and Communism, which is called, alternatively, Socialism or the “dictatorship of the proletariat”, the “Party” rules. Marx referred to this Socialism, or Dictatorship of the Proletariat, as an unpleasant but necessary phase until the population and the workers were “perfected” and ready for the next phase, the worker’s paradise of Communism.
    As a point of historical fact no nation that ever entered the “temporary phase” of Socialism ever got out of it on their own. There is no next phase. Socialism is, in reality, almost definitively, dictatorship, pure and simple. It is the death of representative government. No Marxist will ever admit it, but permanent dictatorship is the true but hidden ultimate goal of the Marxist movement. A devout Marxist is necessarily a MEJTML14 , who must and who will promote the great Communist Lie to others.
    The fatal flaws of Marxism are not merely obvious, clear and present in Das Kapital, and in the historical record of the movement, but even in the most brief, cursory, nutshell definition of Marxism, as in this one.
    Perfection is not of this world, but the next, and so a perfect or “pure” Socialism is quite unlikely to exist. However, in the interest of showing the ideal that a pure Socialism strives for, the Pure Socialism link will describe that ideal. Under the definition of Marxism, Socialism, remember, is a mere stepping stone leading to Communist Utopia. For the counterpoint to Pure Socialism, look at the Pure Democracy link.
    Communism – in which history stops and everyone is perpetually happy in a worldly worker’s paradise – is, of course, nothing but a silly pipe dream.
    And so is the false notion that Marx presented to the world a system of “Natural Social Evolution” in which Capitalism is a mere stepping-stone or link “species” along the evolutionary way into Socialism and eventually Communism. America became the recognized America she is not by gradual evolution, but by violent revolution. It started July 4 1776, and it was a very big deal at the time. It was even in all the newspapers. Most Marxists missed it completely, or pretend it didn’t happen.
    The false Utopian claim that Communism will eventually “feed all the people” and eliminate hunger from the world is the seemingly moral bait that draws in the young, the idealistic, the naive and the inexperienced. Communism does not exist, and Socialism is among the most closed, menacing, inhospitable, uncharitable and impoverishing government systems in existence.
    Marxism, like Islam, is so antagonistic to the American Constitution as to render them mutually exclusive ideas and ideals. One may serve Marxism or the American Constitution, but not both. Constitutional America and Marxism cannot be merged and cannot coexist. Only one may survive; the other must die. It is not possible for any Marxist to swear any oath to uphold the American Constitution without giving a false oath. Not an oath of office; not an oath of American military service; not an oath of naturalized citizenship; not any oath to support, protect or defend the US Constitution. A Marxist may not honestly profess the pledge of allegiance to our flag. But then, Marxists are not honest.
    Go to the actual Marxism page to see a more in depth treatment of Marxism, and a realistic comparison of Marxist Socialism to the combination of individual liberty and Capitalism.
    For classic examples of the elaborate “open lies” of Marxism in the quoted words of History’s most preeminent Marxist practitioners, such as Lenin, Khrushchev and even decisions of Congresses of the Communist International, see the Marxist Fundamentals page by Prof. Libor Brom. There you will see that Lenin was quite open about his intention to destroy America and about exactly how he planned to do it.
    Lenin is touted by Marxists to be the “good guy” Marxist, at least when compared to Stalin. Note well that Lenin, among modern rulers, was the second (after Robespierre) to employ a state terror campaign as a political tool, and his terror campaign was the worst in history up to that point. The only reason he didn’t kill and impoverish more citizens than Stalin or Mao was that he had a stroke and died before he really got rolling.
    Go to the 2008 Obama Election page (and the rest of the “Obamunism” series) to see where Western Civilization socio-political trends are taking us. See especially the Marxism of Obama article.
    Finally, for an American path out of the Marxist mess we are in, see the Up From Obamunism page.
    The Marxist lie has even invaded and infected intellectual thought in the Catholic Church under the guise of Social Justice.

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