August 11, 2020

Limited Government

Why is Socialism so Dangerous: A Catholic Perspective

By: Fr. Matthew Bean

As I watch the news and see all that has happened in the world over the past six months, one thing is very unsettling for me.  That is, how popular socialism has become among young people, and how it seems to be at the root of many popular movements that affect people on a global scale.  This was in fact so disturbing to me that, on the Fourth of July weekend, I preached a homily on the dangers of socialism, not just to society, but also to the soul of a Christian.  In fact, something that seems popular, or in style for a misinformed person, is something that is destructive and responsible for many atrocities and an unimaginable amount of human suffering.  

At first glance, the socialistic system offers something that may seem appealing.  They tout that they wish to have a society without politics, a society without famine, without injustice.   But when one begins to dig below the surface level, they begin to discover something that is much more insidious, which in the end tramples the rights of the individual and instead wishes to control the aspects of one’s life.  Most of all, the system wishes to take down what must be truly the center of our existence, that being God.  Socialism has little room for God in its midst and, being essentially atheistic, wishes to replace God with an oppressive system which promises false freedom.  This and many other factors have led the Catholic Church to oppose socialism in all forms, even the trendy “moderate socialism” which is commonly referred as “democratic socialism” in America today.  

The Catholic Church’s opposition to socialism is not purely on a political level, but also on a philosophical level.  The social teaching of the Church actually argues that socialism and its extremes, Communism and Nazism, not only is opposed to Christianity, but also tramples the natural rights that are given to us by God.  As in my homily form the Fourth of July weekend, I will try to outline for you here as briefly as possible how according to Catholic Teaching, these rights are trampled.

To begin, the Church teaches that people have a natural right to own property.  This logically comes from Sacred Scripture and is built upon in the Catholic Tradition.  The acquisition of property fulfills God’s command to subdue the earth, and not only provides people with the ability to care and tend to the needs of their family.  Not only does this apply for the actual harvesting of the land, where people grow their food and use the surplus for a source of income, but it also provides shelter and stability for the family.  This teaching stands opposed to socialists and communists, who seek to deprive people of this God-given right and instead insist on the government ownership of land.  History has proven in the past that this practice is not only harmful to the nation, but also to the individual citizens.

The Catholic Church also challenges socialism on the education of children.  Socialists often believe that the parents have no right to educate their children, but rather that is the duty of the state.  The Catholic Church on the other hand teaches that parents have the right to educate their children as they see fit.  This stems from the truth that the parents are the first teachers of their children, and in many cases are the most effective teachers of their children.  Not only does this ensure sound instruction of their children in practical things, it also supplies teaching their children in the most important thing, the faith, God, and virtue and holiness.  

Another major point of contention that the Catholic teaching has with socialism is the role of the government.  As mentioned above, the socialist system, despite preaching no government, spawns a large and oppressive form of government that wishes to control all aspects of society, even when it comes to helping the poor.  Their methods of doing such are largely harmful to society and tell people that they have no right to help their neighbors in need.  Catholic social teaching strongly opposes this view, rightfully pointing out that there is no room for charity in this system.   As Christians we are called to imitate Christ in his great love for us, by loving those around us especially the poor.  The Church responds to socialists’ claims by stating it is not up to the state to care for the helpless in society by the charitable actions of individuals or charitable associations in our society.  It shows all of us that we as Christians must make it our goal to bring Christ to others and truly help the “least of my brethren” in our midst.

This final point of charity is worth pondering.  This great sacrificial love is what powers the Catholic response to socialism.  This is because in socialism, the governments that come from it, true Christian charity is not present, because their response and action is devoid of God and is totally self serving.  On the other hand, the Church holds God and true charity up as the proper response to social problems in society, where we help those in our midst seeking to imitate Jesus Christ, and draw others into His majestic presence.

To get more involved in this issue, join the Facebook group Catholics Against Marxism