Does Francis Really Have a Marxism Problem?

Last November Pope Francis issued his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium  (The Joy of the Gospel) and it immediately met resistance from some conservatives who charged Francis with Marxism. Francis denied the accusations, insisting there was nothing in the exhortation that contradicted the Church’s teaching on social doctrine. The attention brought to Marxism in the Catholic world provides an opportunity to explain what Marxism is before determining if Francis adopted Marxist positions. The term has become pejorative, but I want to be as fair as possible when describing the most powerful intellectual system since Christianity.

Marxism as an Economic System
Marx’s descriptions of capitalism are the deepest and most profound part of his voluminous writings. For Marx, the capitalist system is based on free trade and it is ruled by the bourgeoisie class, or those in Marxist lingo those who control the modes of production. The modes of production include labor (workers), capital (money) and the instruments of production (technology). The bourgeoisie uses these modes of production to coerce the proletariat, the working class. Society is dominated by the struggle between these two antagonistic classes, or the dialectic. In Marx’s times, the bourgeoisie were the factory owners and the proletariat the factory workers, but today, Marx’s ideas are easily applied to the rich and poor, irrespective of their labor.

For Marx, capitalism is a malignant economic system based on exploitation. The dehumanized worker exists merely so he can increase the profits of the bourgeoisie. The worker is alienated from his labor since he has no control over the commodities he produces. Capitalism breeds social alienation, too, since class stratification alienates us from each other. We merely exist as economic units. Contrary to what those living in capitalist societies are taught to believe, there is little freedom in capitalism. This naivety to the true nature of capitalism Marx calls false consciousness.

Capitalism is so powerful, it is the root of all realty. Philosophers call the study of reality metaphysics and Marx’s metaphysics can be defined in two words: Economic determinism. All history, political systems, ideas, morality, religion, elections, laws, war and vast amounts of other human behavior are guided by economics. In twenty-first century American political discourse, this means wars are fought for oil, the wealthy create laws in their interests and corporations give us the news they want us to hear. We are all slaves to the economic interests of the wealthy. Maybe the best way to understand economic determinism is to realize it is merely the idea that God controls most events turned on its head. Economics is providential, argues Marx, guiding all reality.

Economics even provides the foundation for religion. Marx, an atheist, believed religion is foisted on society by the wealthy in an effort to propagate false consciousness. He called religion the opium of the masses because it distracts us from the harsh realities of life. In one of his earliest works, On the Jewish Question, Marx declared that money had become the jealous God of Israel, before whom no other God was allowed. Christianity is no better. The ruling classes propagate Christianity, rationalizing that the hardships of this world as merely preparation for the next one. Christianity condones capitalism and exploitation by promising us something better in the next world.

But there is good news for Marx: Despite its apparent strength, the capitalist system is inherently self-destructive. Latent contradictions will undermine this capitalist superstructure, the social consequences of the capitalist system. Laws, religion, education and all social phenomena result from the doomed capitalist superstructure. Why doomed? Because the bourgeoisie, in an effort to maximize profits, will consistently invest in technology since it’s cheaper than human labor in the long-run. Even today, corporations rely on machines as substitutes for workers because machines don’t require wages, healthcare and can work twenty-four hours a day. This has a human cost, however. Marx predicts rising unemployment and a growing gap between the rich and the poor. As capitalism intensifies, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Eventually the workers will gain class consciousness (as opposed to false consciousness) and recognize their mutual interest. They will unify, revolt and bring down the entire capitalism behemoth. Revolution! The capitalist superstructure will surrender to a socialist one, or a worker dominated economic system. This is not the final stage of economic history (and here Marx gets notoriously vague) but socialism will finally transform into communism, a world without classes, a world where:

The proletariat … will thereby have abolished its own supremacy as a class. In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.

True freedom exists when people collectively organize society without private property.

Marxism as a Political System
Marx prophesized a violent transition from capitalism to socialism since the bourgeoisie would not surrender easily. Apocalypse looms as the class struggle reaches an Armageddon-esque climax:

[The workers] direct their attacks not against the bourgeois conditions of production, but against the instruments of production themselves; they destroy imported wares that compete with their labor, they smash to pieces machinery, they set factories ablaze, they seek to restore by force the vanished status of the workman of the Middle Age.

After Armageddon, a new world order emerges as government is guided by the proletariat. The meek will inherit the Earth. Marx describes a dictatorship of the proletariat when the working classes rule society under socialist auspices. During this era, new ways of thinking and living occur as the superstructure shifts from capitalism to socialism. As described above, socialism is a temporary measure as ultimately the state will wither away leading to glorious communism (Marx is vague how long this takes to happen). Communism is a political system without government and classes, a world void of free-trade, private property, classes and exploitation. It is the end of history, the end of all human progress.

For Marx, capitalist nations are not democracies. They are oligarchies created for the rich, by the rich. America’s founding fathers were hardly economically impoverished, after all. George Washington’s wealth rivaled that of the Kennedy’s. John Hancock was the richest man in Boston. The Adams and Jefferson’s were the Donald Trumps of their day. Naturally, they established political systems which favor them, Marxists insist. Characteristics of this bourgeoisie political system include: voting, a chief executive, equal rights, parliament, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, constitutions and what Marx calls the most unconscionable of all freedoms, free trade. For Marx, these are merely hallmarks of bourgeoisie oligarchy.

True democracy—a political system for the masses—exists in socialism. This explains why East Germany called itself the German Democratic Republic. Marxists contend Americans have been brainwashed by the wealthy. Real democracy exists in a socialist society, a society not controlled by the economic elites.

Marxism and Liberation Theology
These ideas that socialism promotes freedom more than capitalism seems oxymoronic to most Americans, but they guide Liberation Theology, a movement aimed at enriching the poor by “liberating” them from existing social structures. Particularly popular in Latin America, it was founded by Peruvian Dominican Father Gustavo Gutierrez. He contends his theology liberates the poor from unjust economic conditions by making profound changes to the entire social order, even changes in the way people think because they are shaped by material conditions. Class struggle and economic determinism are so central to Gutierrez, he argues economics shapes people’s spiritual life. In other words, our spiritual health is economically determined.

Another leading Liberation Theologian, Brazilian and former Franciscan Leonardo Boff, alleged the Catholic Church is analogous to the capitalist class who controls the modes of production. The whole hierarchy needs reformation, he argued in Church: Charism and Power.  Some of his ideas about Liberation Theology can be found in the January 1989 issue of Crisis. And Marxist language dominates the essay:

The Kingdom [of God] should always be considered dialectically. It builds on contradiction. This contradiction does not exist in its interior (in the heart) or in the exterior (in society) since it realizes both dimensions, but it exists in its frontal antagonism, the anti-Kingdom. The Kingdom, as we see in the practice of Jesus, builds itself against the anti-Kingdom. The goods of the Kingdom are the attitudes and their structures that produce more justice, more life, more possibility for freedom, for human beings and the forms of their interaction.

In a work published in 1987, he insisted that communist regimes in Eastern Europe promoted Gospel-living more so than Western capitalist ones since they have more economic equality. Again, economic conditions determine spiritual beliefs.

In 1984, Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict) called Liberation Theology a “fundamental threat to the faith of the Church.” Ratzinger argued Marxists had infiltrated Catholic teachings by introducing some of the concepts described above, like class struggle and economic determinism. He reminds the faithful that God, not economics, guides history. He condemned the Liberation Theology tendency to subordinate Catholic teachings in favor of class-struggle. Liberation theologians focus so heavily on the poor, Ratzinger argued, they ignored the wealthy, thereby rejecting the universalness of Christ’s teachings. Yes, the poor will inherit the Earth, but that doesn’t mean God’s Kingdom is closed to those with power. As Cardinal, he sanctioned Boff, prompting Boff to later accuse Ratzinger of “religious terrorism.” (Boff left the clergy in the 1990s.)

I believe Liberation Theology is fundamentally an attempt to do what had previously been reserved for God: bringing about a new world order where the poor will be rewarded. Liberation Theology is the result of changing cultural and intellectual conditions over the past five hundred years: The first five thousand years of Western history were theo-centered times, when God (or gods) controlled all events, but our modern era is dominated by an anthro-centered view which sees humans as the main agents of change. Modern Western culture—even among some devout Christians—grants human beings tremendous amounts of agency in the world. Consequently Liberation Theologians want to establish a world where the last are first by employing human means, specifically those prescribed by Marxists. They lack patience.

How does this relate to Pope Francis? Some speculated that Cardinal Bergoglio’s election could pave the way for Liberation Theology to play a more powerful role in the Church. After all, Bergoglio hailed from South America and gained prominence in the Church for his work with the poor. The aforementioned Boff contended, “With this pope, a Jesuit and a pope from the Third World, we can breathe happiness. Pope Francis has both the vigor and tenderness that we need to create a new spiritual world.” And as pope, Francis met privately with Gutierrez in September, two months before the publication of his Evangelii Gaudium. But all of this doesn’t add up to Marxism or even Liberation Theology. The most immediate evidence his accusers have against him come from several passes in Evangelii Gaudium and. Francis declares in EG 202,

The need to resolve the structural causes of poverty cannot be delayed…. As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems. Inequality is the root of social ills.

As an opponent of Liberation Theology, I slightly cringe when hearing terms like (super?) “structural causes” of poverty and the contention that economic factors by themselves are the root of the social ills, but Francis must know that social problems are not merely the result of economic inequality.

He continues in EG 204,

We can no longer trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market. Growth in justice requires more than economic growth, while presupposing such growth: it requires decisions, programs, mechanisms and processes specifically geared to a better distribution of income, the creation of sources of employment and an integral promotion of the poor which goes beyond a simple welfare mentality. I am far from proposing an irresponsible populism, but the economy can no longer turn to remedies that are a new poison, such as attempting to increase profits by reducing the work force and thereby adding to the ranks of the excluded.

What riled some conservatives was Francis’ critique of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” and in EG 54, he questions “trickle-down” economics. Translations also matter and despite the fact that these translations come from the Vatican’s website, some maintain these passages have been mistranslated in English. Regardless and more importantly, none of this makes Francis a Marxist. However, if Francis wants to completely disassociate himself from Liberation Theology, I would advise against suggesting profits lead to some sort of exclusion (alienation?). This language slightly concerns me, but I say this cautiously because again, translation may be an issue. (We historians of thought recognize the thorny task of interpreting the ideas of someone else. Language is just one obstacle.)

Of course Francis is not a Marxist. Those who claim otherwise focus only on specific parts of a broader message and mistakenly associate Marxism with anti-Capitalism. I hope the first half of this essay showed Marxism is more than a criticism of capitalism. Francis does not preach revolution, a communist political system or atheism. In reality, the above-cited passages are just a few paragraphs from an eighty-four page document. And the Catholic Church, long before Marx, long before Liberation Theologians, dedicated itself to serving the poor. In another essay, I showed that Marx was shaped by Christian doctrine, so concordance between Marx and Francis are symptomatic of Christian influence on Marx, not vice versa. Even if I don’t like some of the concepts he employs, Francis’ ends are consistent with the Gospel and his means are not Marxist.

Attempting to alleviate poverty is noble, but I would caution anyone from arguing the capitalist system leads to poverty and that our spiritual health increases as we mitigate capitalism, like Liberation Theologians do. We live in a more materialistic time than Christ, but we can’t forget that His message was fundamentally spiritual. In the Sermon on the Mount He proclaims we do not increase our spiritual wealth by improving our material conditions, rather we improve our material conditions by seeking spiritual wealth:

Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?’”For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

David Byrne


David Byrne earned his doctorate in history from Claremont Graduate University. His research focuses on the history of ideas, especially the relationship between theology and thought. His most recent publication is titled "The Victory of the Proletariat is Inevitable: The Millenarian Nature of Marxism." It appeared in Kritike: An Online Journal of Philosophy.

  • Nestorian

    The first two paragraphs aptly summarize the way a Marxist views both 19th century and contemporary early 21st century social and economic reality. It seems to me that virtually everything in the first two paragraphs of this essay is essentially an accurate description of reality. Marx erred only in his prescriptions for ameliorating these realities, not in their diagnosis.

    • David Kenny

      As a retired engineer who spent 40 years in the Canadian aerospace industry and retired as a senior engineering executive I find that this essay has little connection with modern free enterprise. I doubt the author has ever worked in a modern industry or studied such. The same goes for the current Pope Francis or his advisors. The leaders of these industries in the west ( N. America and Europe and to some extent Japan) do not think in the patterns expressed in the essay or Marx. The well being of employees is uppermost in their minds as they recognise the importance of a skilled and rewarded workforce including the production workers comprising machinists, assemblers, welders, etc., where all of these today are highly complex trades with a lot of education (technical college) and knowledge required. The same goes for the engineers who do the designs including the production processes. Both “classes” of employees must continually study and upgrade themselves to keep up with the continuing development of technology, which is often the key to competitiveness driving up value and down costs. ( Today’s cars are an enormous increase in value for money compared to even 20 years ago; they last longer are more efficient and have many more features and require a lot less maintenance for inflation corrected lower cost). Working conditions and the treatment of employees are paramount. Woe betide the executive who tries to strong arm or manipulate his employees with a vigilant Human Resources department in the process. The drive is to consensus ( most highly developed by the Japanese) and participation of all. This has highly benefitted organisations which pursue it re. productivity, value and cost. Contrarily, technology is not primarily used to eliminate employees but to extend capability and productivity i.e. more new products can be developed more quickly with new technology, while retaining the workforce and often making their tasks easier and more interesting. Generally employment is reduced when industries do not keep up with technology or their cost structure becomes uncompetitive. Industries MUST make a profit to survive; otherwise they are absorbed by competitors when their stock value drops low enough or they have to close. This is the nature of FREE enterprise. No one is guaranteed a job for life. ( The Soviets tried this and it was a disaster) The best way to get this is to work hard and maintain one’s technical level. Skilled employees from a closed or absorbed industry will be hired by other successful industries but must be willing to adapt and geographically move. No one has an inherent right to have the employment desired within a fixed geographic location. Nothing is static in a globally competitive industry. Particularly in the WEST cooperation between labor unions and management leads to great benefits for all employees. There are problems with CEO recompense, etc., but employees themselves are still well paid and it is up to shareholders to hold the CEOs to account. Low skill workers in a modern economy like today do not fare well and we must find ways to insure that everyone can develop themselves to the best of their ability and many western countries offer a range of free skill development courses for those willing to work at them.

      • Isn’t the lack of a guaranteed job for life completely in contradiction with a CEO concerned about the well being of employees and their families?

        The picture you have presented has nothing to do with modern big business as I see it, where human beings, even highly skilled technical ones, are governed by Human Resources with an iron fist, negotiation on salary is either hidden or nonexistent, and the human being, even the highly skilled technical engineer, is no more than just another cost item on the balance sheet, no different than his computer.

        • Who can guarantee anything for a lifetime on this side of heaven?

          The reasons you mention is why the best chance for a promotion or significant raise is changing jobs. I don’t marry my employer for life, it’s a business transaction of my selling my labor to the highest bidder, and mean this not only in the monetary aspect.

        • Adam__Baum

          The problem with what you see is that it is mostly the product of your imagination.

          Where did YOU see this? I don’t want hearsay accounts. I want names.

          You are very good at posting florid indignities “governed by Human Resources with an iron fist”, but the lack of coherent detail is telling.

          Stop posting when you don’t know what your are writing about.

          • John200

            As a straight arrow Roman Catholic, I share the feeling of exasperation with some commenters (to put it simply, I think some are heretics, others apostate, etc., etc.). But you can’t stop someone from posting on what they don’t know. The “draw him out, let’s see his sources” strategy is a good one. He might come across with the stuff; so far, no go.

            On the other hand, he might be trying to learn something, without admitting ignorance. Other readers (number unknown) might profit if you straighten out the buncombe. So teach him, show him, demonstrate his error, and move on.

            Final point: Even if he stopped, he would not be the only one, you know. There is always another to take his place.

            • Adam__Baum

              John, Theodore has said that he has a cognitive problem (autism). I have no reason to believe he was being anything less than candid in that declaration.

              If you know people with autism, you know that obsession with peculiar forms of order, an inability to grasp subtlety and obsession are part of the syndrome. Much of his obsession is run of the mill envy masquerading as rectitude. For the most part, he comes off as merely eccentric, but every once in a while, such as when he made repeated posts talking about the feasibility of “rope and pulley” computers that you realize that he’s got issues with reality.

              There’s other posters that emerge, stay a while and leave, often emerge as a DISQUS identity contemporaneously with the publication of an article. Those I suspect are “jammers” or perhaps shills.

          • Hewlett Packard, after Carly Fiorina took over. Tektronix in the late 1990s. GM. IBM. Intel.

            In fact, just about any business that exceeds 10,000 employees, because there is a limit to human compassion and friendship.

            • Adam__Baum

              Carly Fiorina is a widely acknowledged DISASTER and was REMOVED.

              • But not before taking her bonus checks and stock options. She should never have been in there to begin with, and ruined a perfectly good company. The changes she made to HR, including outsourcing to Asia, are still in place.

                • Adam__Baum

                  Blah, blah, blah…

  • Nestorian

    And with all due respect, I very much doubt that the author of this essay is even in a position of needing to worry about questions like “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” If he were, as probably the majority of the world’s population is, then I suspect his evaluation of the Marxist critique of world capitalism, and perhaps also of the remedies and solutions proposed by Marx, would be much more positive than it is now.

    • ColdStanding

      But you are pretty well fed, too, no?

      • Nestorian

        Yes, I am, but I do not endorse the same position the author breezily does on behalf of those who are not, by effectively dismissing the significance of their plight with a wave of his hand.

    • My turn to quote scripture:
      Matthew 6:26-28

      • Nestorian

        Yes, but ask yourself this: If a sudden calamity befell you (say, a Hurricane Katrina), such that you found yourself abruptly without a job, home, money, or other resources, and out in the freezing cold with only the clothes on your back, how much of a spiritual comfort would these verses be to you then? Are you close enough to God that you would not feel great fear or maybe even panic in that situation?
        If not, then it is wrong of you to breezily consign others to this fate on the grounds that that is what they should be doing.

        • As much as I’ve used my own charity to make friends, I’d suspect. Invest in people, and God will provide even in the most extreme situations. A generous man has nothing to fear.

  • Paul Adams

    I am sorry, but this is deeply confused. To take the first paragraph of the section erroneously titled, “Marxism as an Economic System” (it is nothing of the sort, but a theory of socialist revolution premised on an analysis of capitalism, which IS an economic system) and of other modes of production. Speaking of which capital and technology are not modes, but means of production. And bourgeoise is a noun, not an adjective. More substantively, Marx’s analysis of class relations can only be applied directly to rich and poor by completely distorting the analysis and concepts of class as Marx develops them. He is not an economic determinist in any strict sense, or there would be no room or need in his theory and practice for consciousness, socialist organization and struggle for leadership within the working class and society, and so forth. And there is nothing in Marx to suggest that he would have regarded the German Democratic Republic as socialist or democratic, since it was bureaucratic state regime of domination and exploitation of the working class, better understood as an extreme form of state capitalism.

    Admittedly, Liberation Theology is riddled with the same confusions about Marxism and regimes that claimed to be Marxist. Yes, Marx was wrong about capitalism, a system that has lifted billions out of poverty in the last few decades alone. As JP II argued, capitalism rightly understood (a free economy in the context pf political and cultural freedom) has tapped into the creativity and innovativeness of ordinary people, allowing wealth to well up from below as Adam Smith described, not to trickle down from the feudal lord or the slaveowner of previous systems. But if Marx was wrong, so was Liberation Theology and so, in his own way and emphasis, is Francis.

    • smokes

      With so-called “Free Trade”, communism is using capitalism to destroy itself.
      We’ve sent them the best jobs and the best technology for nothing.
      They now own us, so our pols can create temporary bubbles of prosperity.
      The bubble machine’s ready to break; then, the Marxists will not only use the capitalists but also own them. Our Trotskyites love the whole process, waiting for this worm to morph into their Red Butterfly. God help us all.

    • David Byrne

      Thanks for the comments, Paul. You are right when you say Marx did not apply his concepts merely to rich and poor and doing so distorts his original analysis, but many who called themselves Marxists did precisely this (heck, Mao even applied them to peasants!) Similarly, was the GDR a democracy? Many who called themselves Marxists argued it was. The issue is really this: Would Marx have been a twentieth century Marxist? You clearly answer no and I respect that.

      • Paul Adams

        Thanks for your gracious reply, David. I do think Mao and all the so-called Communist regimes greatly distorted Marx, who was interested the self-emancipation of the working class, not a bureaucratic state tyranny over them. For Marx, peasants were an entirely different class, and class was a matter of relations with other classes and the means of production, not about gradations of income. I still think he was wrong about capitalism, just that he should be criticized for what he actually believed and wrote, not for the distortions others made of his work for their own purposes.

        • Glenn M. Ricketts, NAS

          Good discussion around. Since I’m a bit hurried at the moment, I’ll delegate my contribution to the late Leszak Kolakowski, who says it much better anyway:

          • Paul Adams

            Good essay by LK – weak on social justice and Marx was right, as against Malthus, on demography. LK is vastly more right than wrong as a whole and, importantly, he criticizes Marx for what he actually wrote, not for what Stalinist bureaucrats made of him in the next century. He’s right to credit the anarchist critiques of Marx at the time, but they had their own problems.

            • Glenn M. Ricketts, NAS

              Paul I agree with you regard to the anarchists -as well as the classical liberal English economist Benjamin Tucker – whose contemporary critiques of Marx’ s ideas foresaw the emergence of a system of state tyranny previously unknown. I agree as well with regard to the problems of the anarchists, especially Bakunin.

              I also believe however, as Kolakowski and others have argued, that there’s nothing inconsistent about Stalinism as a child of Marxism, just as Robespierre was the possibly unintended offspring of Rousseau. In particular, There was, for example the long-held belief by Marx and his disciples that his system and its analysis of historical and social change was a “science” that left nothing to chance – remember that Max Eastman’s book “Marxism: Is it a Science?” didn’t appear until 1940. It was also Marx who gave us the idea of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat and the famous assertion that the “sole purpose of Communism
              can be summed up in a single phrase: the complete elimination of private property.” How else could that be accomplished without massive coercion by a centralized state?

              Perhaps most significant, however, was Marx’s idea of “class consciousness” which seems to confer unique and absolute knowledge on those who have. Marx, of course, believed that it would be the Victorian era urban industrial workers who achieved this unique mental state, freed from the illusions of “false consciousness,” especially religious belief. Lenin then modified the idea so that the Bolsheviks were the class conscious ones, acting as surrogates for the workers that Russia did not yet have, and of course Stalin reduced the number of class conscious individuals to exactly one. In each instance, however, it’s the unique insight and “scientific” infallibility that class consciousness confers that matters, and that’s quite consistent with Marx’s view.

              Now, of course, we’ve gone a step further with the ideas of Antonio Gramsci and his intellectual “cultural workers” who will lead us to the revolution since the proletariat have been suckered by the capitalists. Shades of the 19th century Polish anarchist Machajski, who foresaw the appeal of Marxism to the intelligentsia. They’d have power and privilege following the revolution.

              • smokes

                A real problem is the secretive nature of this Marxist “theology”. They wait until most of the union members leave to call for a “majority” vote; beat up democrats; lie endlessly about their associations; and distort their goals. Communism is an honesty-free zone, the diabolical opposite of the blatant love Pope Francis brings to the world stage..

        • smokes

          It’s funny how everyone “distorts” Marx, leading to Death and misery. Worse, there’s always some fiend(s) wiling to try it again on the people. Trotskyites swear to its perfection but never explain Trotsky’s participation in the Death Machine of Lenin and Stalin. Godless Marxism is a poor substitute for religion, doomed to failure.

          • Paul Adams

            Well, at least I agree with your final sentence. But both Stalinists and Western opponents DID distort Marx and in doing so led to death and misery, but there was nothing funny about it. I have known many Trostskyists in person and in print but never one who talked about perfection as you do. And as to explaining Trotsky’s own role, you might start with the four volumes of Tony Cliff’s political biography.

        • redfish

          Fairly, Marx should only be credited with arguments he made himself. But I would also point out that the project of the Young Hegelians, later including Marx, was to create a “philosophy of action”, that rather than being centered on theory qua theory, and essentially backwards looking, would help move people and help shape the society. Just the fact that his arguments were distorted so much by his supporters, and used for despotic ends, does a lot to discredit his whole project in itself.

          • Paul Adams

            He did seek to change the world, not just to interpret it. And there were elements in his work that lent themselves to later distortion. But as Christians don’t we have to be a bit careful about holding the founders of movements accountable for what their followers make of them?

            • Adam__Baum

              But as Christians don’t we have to be a bit careful about holding the
              founders of movements accountable for what their followers make of them?


              • Paul Adams

                Because our opponents make the same move, in using wars of religion, Inquisitions, Crusades, clergy sexual abuse, Westboro Baptist Church, etc. to dismiss Christ and Christianity.

                • Adam__Baum

                  Show me the Marxist hospitals and schools. That is a ridiculous analogy and failing to properly attribute to Marx, all of what is not due will not stop the enemies of the Church from improperly attempting to discredit the Church with things improperly attributed to it.

                  Interestingly, Protestants were the original critics of the Crusades.

                  • Paul Adams

                    Ridiculous or not, it’s the most common “argument” I hear, just as, mutatis mutandis, it’s the most common argument against Marx.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      Yes, but you are an acolyte of Marx.

                    • Paul Adams

                      Hmm, never been called that before. I’m not an acolyte of anyone, just a parishioner and lay follower of Christ. Just a faithful, orthodox Catholic who recognizes an ad hominem fallacy when he sees it.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      You actually don’t seem to understand the ad hominem fallacy.

                    • Paul Adams

                      Thought I replied to this but don’t see it. Hmm, never been called that before. I’m just a simple, faithful Catholic parishioner and lay follower of Christ. But 1) I am usually able to spot an ad hominem fallacy when it stares me in the face and 2) I do believe in knowing one’s enemy. According to the movie, Patton attributed his defeat of Rommel in North Africa to his having read his enemy’s book.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      “You have a remarkable gift for forming opinions about what others regard as a towering intellectual of his time – comparable in that regard with Darwin or Freud – whatever errors they all made and whatever mischief may have been wrought in their name – on the basis of one scurrilous account of his private life.”

                      Translation: Look bud, I really, really think Marx is smart, I don’t care what he did (is infanticide “mischief”?), because somehow intellect is what I consider the really important human quality, and if a guy can pen really long dense tome full of neologisms, I’m impressed.

                      When confronted with evidence that Marx was a man of profound moral rot, I’ll disregard the writings of a great historian as “scurrilous” and singular. I’ll use any specious reasoning to insulate him from criticism.

                      The problem is that it’s not singular or scurrilous.


                      As for Patton, I doubt he would have written “You have a remarkable gift for forming opinions about what others regard
                      as a towering military intellectual of his time – comparable in that regard with Hannibal or Napoleon.”

                      The funny thing about slogging through Das Kapital, so long and tedious it was unfinished when the world was relieved of this diabolical misanthrope, is that you soon realize his adherents don’t read it and the ones that do impose a personal interpretation on it. It’s also full of errors and nonsense. There’s simply no other way to deal with it. I recommend it for insomnia.

                      For most people, the Cliff’s Notes will do fine. I need to study Marx to know it’s evil, like I need a subscription to Pe*n*house magazine.

                    • Paul Adams

                      Now you are just getting silly. Your “translation” is as way off as your reasoning. Goodbye.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      Enjoy Volume IV..

                  • Nestorian

                    If you want Marxist hospitals, I refer you to the Cuban medical establishment. Cuban doctors are justly renown all over Latin America and in much of Africa as well for the free medical care they have provided for decades – at first-world levels of expertise.
                    Also, did you know that Cuba has a lower rate of infant mortality than the US? Their overall life expectancy is not that much lower than that of the US either – despite the disadvantages of a vindictive 50+ year US-imposed embargo, along with the devastating effects Cuba experienced as a result of the collapse of the old Soviet Union a quarter century ago.
                    So there you have your Marxist hospitals. As for schools, the Cubans have those too – and though I don’t know that much about them, it wouldn’t surprise me if their educational system put that in the US to shame.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      ‘Cuban doctors are justly renown all over Latin America and in much of Africa as well for the free medical care they have provided for decades – at first-world levels of expertise.”

                      So, “Nestorian” is Michael Moore or just a garden variety troll. Is the quality of Cuban care why Fidel went to a foreign doctor?


            • redfish

              No, my point is isn’t that he’s personally accountable and should be blamed, its that its a problem in his theory.

              The whole argument by the Young Hegelians was that Hegel’s theory, by describing the society as it was — a product of rational forces — ended up idealizing the current state of affairs, and gave power to the supporters of the Prussian state. There was a middle ground they could have argued, which is what the progressives did. Instead, they insisted that this was going to fail, because it was compromising with the establishment, and the only way to make society better was to offer a theory contrarian to social norms. Marx hated socialists because they were too tepid; saying that by trying to work democratically they were just helping those who had power.

              You can’t blame people for other’s actions, Marx wasn’t a wizard who made people agree with him, and I doubt he would of approved of Soviet dictators who claimed inspiration. The point is this “philosophy of action” ended up naturally failing and bearing rotten fruit. Its a problem with the whole theory.

              As for Christianity, the founder warned that his words would be misused, so its a different issue.

              • Paul Adams

                I agree with you completely, if I understand you right.

                Now Marx, according to Engels, also said (about the Marxism of the French Workers Party), “If that is Marxism, I am not a Marxist.” And that was already in the 19th century when no party calling itself Marxist had yet achieved state power. I think the misuse of the words of founders of all kinds of religious and political movements may be a widespread phenomenon and a too easy way to dismiss what the founder was saying. Especially, but not only, in the case of Christianity.

                • redfish

                  Yea, I know the quote. Of course, its hard to say they weren’t adopting the attitude he argued for. Marx didn’t figure a place in his theory of history for himself and the influence of his ideas. He was, in his formulation, just helping a long a pre-ordained path which centered all around means of production and in which culture was just superficial and an accessory to the process.

                  • Paul Adams

                    Two quick points. Like MacIntyre, I read Marx as a compatibilist rather than an economic determinist and inevitabilist. But it’s a big question, kinda like predetermination in that regard, perhaps. I don’t think Marx really holds such a crude and deterministic base-superstructure view of culture either, though he is often read that way. Second, I think Marx did theorize the place of his theory and the influence of his ideas – in terms of the emerging self-consciousness of an emerging class which had, by virtue of its relation to the new means of production, the capacity and potential to revolutionize society…. But these are questions beyond the scope of this thread, I fear.

    • Adam__Baum

      If you want a really good picture of Marx, Paul Johnson provided one in his book “Intellectuals”. Marx had an illegitimate child (if I recall correctly, the product of an illicit union with a housekeeper) abandoned and was so lazy in later life that he refused to bathe and developed boils. His “concern” for labor of course was interesting, in that he actually had very little acquaintance with work.

      • smokes

        Mooched off of Engels, too.

      • Paul Adams

        OK, but this is a lazy way of dismissing Marx without taking the trouble to engage with his arguments, theory, and analysis, which, even if distorted along the way, were a force in mobilizing millions. A bit like invoking the Crusades, Inquisition, and clergy sexual abuse as a way of dismissing Christianity. It will only persuade those who know next to nothing about the life, death, resurrection, and teaching of Jesus or of the actual history of his Church on earth.

        • Art Deco

          Paul, there is not much reason to ‘engage with his arguments’. Reading him would be an exercise in studying history. As a student of social life he is thoroughly discredited.

          • Paul Adams

            How could you know that without reading him? Or form an opinion as to whether Pope Francis is a Marxist?

            • Art Deco

              It is a long time since I have read Marxist literature, but so what?

              Marx’s is a purely theoretical understanding, so would necessarily be incomplete. That aside, it’s reductive and has not described the course of social life over the last 160 years. Social researchers are never going to be out of work to do and sticking themselves in a Marxian straightjacket assists them not one bit.

              I have seen nothing out of Pope Francis which indicates he subscribes to any sort of social theory.

              • smokes

                Francis does seem guided by the gospels. In fact, it’s the hysteria of the Leftist MSM stirring this theological bee’s hive….but what else is new? It’s anti-Catholic propaganda as Obama and his judgies methodically remove the Church from the public square.

            • smokes

              It’s just a shame that so many ethnic Jews lost the messianic message of Judaism, became avid atheists, and tried to replace God with some stage of their imaginary state with themselves at the levers of power..

              Now, they call themselves “progressives”, or even Neo-Cons and have millions of non-Jews subjected to their tyrannical philosophy that never helps anyone, aside from themselves. , They’ve been joined by the likes of a Van Jones, Frank Marshall Davis, and James Connolly ( a communist who died saying his beads before the Brit firing squad) dedicated to eradicating anyone’s religious beliefs, that aren’t premised on atheism.

              Ask the Little Sisters of the Poor what Trotsky’s done to them lately as UWS “progressives” like Elena Kagan decide their fate. To them, splitting hairs between Marx, Engels, Sverlov and Bronstein is a bizarre Talmudic exercise. Francis doesn’t waste his time.

          • Glenn M. RIcketts

            And yet, Art Deco, he continues to have considerable appeal in some quarters, notwithstanding all of the failed predictions, gulags and failed economic experiments. Marx is still gospel in many American academic English departments, women’s studies programs, campus social activists and secularized clergy in search of eschatology. I went to college in the late 1960’s, during a period of neo-Marxist resurgence, and frequently saw his economic analysis, penned for Victorian England a century earlier, served up as though nothing had changed and “Das Kapital” was an exact fit for American capitalism of that era. It was a long time before I could see that this attitude reflected belief, rather than knowledge, and the believers now have tenure in many American universities.
            Although Raymond Aron’s book, “The Opium of the Intellectuals” appeared in 1954, I think it still provides a cogent explanation of the lure of Marxism, long after the theory had been rationally discredited. Unfortunately, I think it’s still necessary to slog through Marx’s opus if you want to understand many contemporary readers’ serious misunderstanding of him.

        • Adam__Baum

          I don’t bother to “engage” with the “arguments” of Hitler or Jack Chick, either. If that makes me lazy, so be it.

          Life is short, and I don’t have time for the poet laureate of dictators and mass murder, no matter how much certain elements of the chattering classes insist that Marxism has some pearl of great wisdom in it.

          Truly, it would have better better if he had never been born.

          • Paul Adams

            You have a remarkable gift for forming opinions about what others regard as a towering intellectual of his time – comparable in that regard with Darwin or Freud – whatever errors they all made and whatever mischief may have been wrought in their name – on the basis of one scurrilous account of his private life. Yes life is short, so by all means set all three to the side. But then why publicly express an opinion about any of them that is as strong and confident as it is uninformed?

            • Adam__Baum

              Well thank you. I make my own decisions. I know others like to be part of cults, but that’s not for me.

              I dismiss Marx like you dismiss Johnson.

              Then again, I had relatives who lived in one of those “worker’s paradises”, so my opinion might be more informed than yours.

              • Paul Adams

                I seriously doubt it. But if you are so informed, don’t keep it hidden.

                • Adam__Baum

                  I seriously doubt you aren’t just trolling, because I see no evidence of wanting to “engage” “arguments”, just a desire to advance fawning admiration.

                  • Paul Adams

                    Then you obviously haven’t read my comments. My initial comment on the article was precisely an attempt to engage the argument about what Marx actually said. BTW, I think the best contribution to this discussion was the link to Leszek Kolakowski’s First Things article. He does understand Marx and refutes him brilliantly in a few paragraphs. Sorry if that sounds fawning. Without any ad hominem nonsense of the kind to which Paul Johnson resorts Here’s the link someone else posted.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      Karl Marx—a powerful mind, a very learned man, and a good German writer

                      That IS fawning. Even if one stipulates his intellect as extraordinary, that speaks nothing of how it was employed. I’m tired of the excuse that Marxism has never been “properly” implemented or was distorted.

                    • Paul Adams

                      OK, but that’s LK, not me, and it opens a devastating critique of Marx. And LK knew first hand just how oppressive and rotten Polish Communism was.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      I guess LK feels he must give the devil his due. I want Marx occupying the seat next to Hitler in the area of public respect.

          • Paul Adams

            I guess my earlier reply did not make it through cyberspace – just as well, I guess. My real concern is that Catholics who attempt to engage or evangelize the culture need an accurate understanding of the major influences who shaped the world we live in – the “masters of suspicion,” Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud. In the case of Marx, Catholics – both those who are sympathetic to him and those hostile – have in my view gotten him wrong, leaving themselves (and the Church) open to as easy dismissal as that with which their opponents treat them. One major exception is the great Catholic philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, but then he is an ex-Marxist himself.

            • Art Deco

              Sorry, Paul, but time’s a wasting. You have to set priorities. Why ‘engage’ with Marx when you can ‘engage’ with Harold Hotelling or P.T. Bauer or Hans Morgenthau or Milton Friedman? These men were authentic social scientists and they were not mad tree-house builders. Any library is a great cemetery of the world’s mediocre literature.

              If you wish to study intellectual history, that’s fine. Even so, and confining ourselves to social theoreticians, Marx would not be a priority in a North American setting, where you would be reading puritan divines, early modern philosophes (Montesquieu and Locke), a scrum of our 19th century domestic men of letters, and their 20th century counterparts good and bad (think John Dewey, Walter Lippmann, Margaret Mead, and Christopher Lasch).

              • Paul Adams

                I agree about the need to set priorities. But the question posed by the article was about Marxism’s influence on the Catholic Church and Pope Francis in particular. The author sets out to explain what Marxism actually is. I don’t think for a minute that Francis is a Marxist or that many people think he is, other than Rush Limbaugh and his followers (greater in number than those of the NYT though they be). I think R.R. Reno poses it best in the February issue of First Things. In any case, I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that Marx has had more influence inside the Church (not least in Latin America), on her enemies and critics, and in the world than all the names you cite combined, much as I admire some of them.

  • cloonfush

    Seems to me David that you twisted yourself into a pretzel trying to make excuses for the Pope. As the old saying goes, “if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, etc”.

    • David Byrne

      Thanks for the comments. I would agree this Pope is less attune to Marxism than his two predecessors, although that doesn’t him a Marxist. Like I said, he needs to be more careful when choosing his terms.

    • Jay

      Not really. Have you read Evangelii Gaudium?

  • Art Deco

    The question strikes me as non sequitur. Some of the Pope’s remarks suggest his habits of mind incorporate categories which do not map very well to economic and sociological discourse as it is conducted in academic settings. If you use academic categories, what the Pope has to say on such questions will be eclectic.

  • jacobhalo

    As I wrote in a previous post about another issue, the pope should adhere to spiritual healings rather than economic healings.

    • But what about the doctrine of “Papal Infallibility?”

      • Paul Adams

        On what it means and what it does NOT mean, check out Fr. Barron here:

        No pope, bishop, or theologian, as far as I know, has ever claimed the pope is infallible on matters of economic analysis or policy. Bishops, including the Bishop of Rome, have no special expertise or authority in economic matters, except in terms of general principles. Application of those principles and analysis of particular circumstances are the province of the laity with the requisite competence. As JP II puts it in Centesimus Annus, #3: “But pastoral solicitude also prompts me to propose an analysis of some events of recent history. It goes without saying that part of the responsibility of Pastors is to give careful consideration to current events in order to discern the new requirements of evangelization. However, such an analysis is not meant to pass definitive judgments since this does not fall per se within the Magisterium’s specific domain.” Similarly, Francis is exercising his pastoral responsibility to “discern the new requirements of evangelization,” but his analysis is not definitive. It is a lay responsibility to criticize and correct papal error in these matters that do not lie “within the Magisterium’s specific domain.”

        • In the end, by resorting to strawmen, Francis erred by administering a medicine to the wrong illness instead of the actual one: unbridled government.

      • jacobhalo

        Papal infallibility is reserved for when the pope speaks from the Chair of Peter concerning doctrines of the church. The last infallible doctrine was in 1950 or 1951. Before that it was in the last 1880’s.

        • Facile1

          The Pope also speaks infallibly when he declares a saint.

          • jacobhalo

            I think that you are wrong.

            • Facile1

              I learned this from the Catholic News Service story by Cindy Wooden, “Holy confusion? Beatification, canonization are different.” (

              To quote, “The slight differences between a beatification and a canonization are easy to miss, especially when one pope beatifies another pope…. Even less visible, but more important, is the fact that “papal infallibility is involved” when a person is declared a saint, said Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the papal vicar of Rome.”

              It’s a fascinating article. Of course, I do not know for certain if it is factually correct (even though it stands to reason.) I do not even know where to look for verification. So please feel free to check it out. And I will appreciate if you keep me posted on your findings.

              Thank you.

      • smokes

        the Pope’s a citizen and can say what he likes about anything. Just like you, PolishBear. His opinion’s equal to yours, too.

        • ColdStanding

          His opinion is of a significantly better quality than PolishBear on just about any topic of significance. PolishBear is a thorough-going hedonist. You offend reason by suggesting that the Pope’s opinion and another’s are of equal weight even when regarding matters not pertaining directly to the truths of the one true faith.

          • John200

            Attempting to practice the virtue of charity (I need the practice, so let me give it a go), I think maybe smokes does not know PolishBear’s habits at CrisisMag.

            • smokes

              You’re right. I was simply noting the right of everyone to have an opinion. Thanks, John for your good deed!

        • Marcelus

          and indeed he can. he is not, nor will ever be, and even does not have to be a general to speak about war seriously, nor a doctor to talk about health or an economist to speak about economy for all that matters. Millions of catholics worldwide appreciate the Pope speaking “generally” on important issues. And after all the fuss made over EG’s economic lines, he even went on and said he did not intent to speak technically., CAn he speak technically?? Not for me to judge. not up to the challenge topass judgement on the Popes abilities.

      • Guest

        What about it?

      • Adam__Baum

        Too early for you to awake from hibernation.

    • What happens when the economics damages the spiritual?

      If you want an example, take Marxist class demarcations, change them to 21st century American earnings, and look at the state of the sacrament of marriage by class.

      • jacobhalo

        If you followed Jesus’s words, go and sell everything and follow me. Jesus thought that this would increase your spiritual life.

        • Exactly right.

        • LarryCicero

          When you sell everything, who is buying? Should they sell everything they have just bought and to whom? Does this mean don’t have stuff? He said sell everything, not just some stuff – so does this saying apply to everyone or just certain individuals – because if you sell it, you sell it to someone. He did not say burn all your stuff. He said sell. And if it is your stuff and you can sell it, and give the proceeds to the poor – then you have a freedom that is found in capitalism. There you will find Charity.

        • Adam__Baum

          He told a specific individual to go and sell all you have-somebody who has a family cannot do this without harming people who have a priority claim on those asssets-this was no more a general injunction that was the times when the Lord said “if your eye is a problem.

          Of course this sort of exegesis does have certain pedigree- Sola Scriptura…

  • poetcomic1

    “The Reformation undoubtedly was, in its results, a triumph of the rich over the poor & of wealth over the rights of labor. There is no historical thesis easier of demonstration.”

    -Kenelm Digby, MORES CATHOLICI

    The modern world is Protestant (i.e. revolutionary, in revolt) and at the same time bourgeois, vulgar and spectacularly cruel. The Pope is offering fussy, bourgeois solutions (which of course will never be implemented by those in power) when what our hearts crave is nobility and splendor.

    • ColdStanding

      Kenelm Digby! Ya!

    • CadaveraVeroInnumero

      Revolutionary and in revolt against what? When is a culture in splendor? How is an economy noble (and, please, no laudatory agrarianism)?

      • poetcomic1

        Max Picard’s “Flight From God” is the best description of this restlessness and dis-integration, this revolt which permeates and carries all before it (God so loves us that, of course, He follows us in our flight from Him) Who said anything about a noble economy or splendor in a ‘culture’. Splendor is Father Kolbe in Auschwitz saying “take me instead of this man”. Nothing is ‘larger’ than that. Nothing is ‘more important’.

    • Adam__Baum

      “There is no historical thesis easier of demonstration.”

      Since almost all “historical theses” are contended and disputed, sometimes for centuries, that might not being saying much.

      Let’s consider the two principal authors of the Reformation-Luther, likely unstable, became a useful demagogue (who claimed man was inherently and totally corrupt, but somehow found the sin of Simony shocking and himself unsinful when he broke a myriad of vows) and Henry, well, his faith ended where his libido began.

      The reformation was the triumph of politics over faith.

  • Bourgeoisie or Proletariat, both deny the kingship of Jesus Christ and the rights of those of us who are Citizens of Heaven rather than of Earth. It does not matter who is in charge of the centralization, the mere act of centralizing human power steals power away from God.

    • Paul Boillot

      “the mere act of centralizing human power steals power away from God.”

      That’s odd, you seem to be contradicting the words of your man/god:

      “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s” ~ Matthew 22:21

      • ColdStanding

        He isn’t contradicting, he is misunderstanding.

        But you are an apostate Catholic, who, elsewhere, claims to know how to interpret the One True Faith better than the faithful, therefore, I charge you to give us your interpretation of this line from scripture.

        • Paul Boillot

          You wield the word “apostate” as if it were an pejorative, I wear it as a mark of honor and pride. Next you’ll be mocking me for my French heritage 🙂

          I have, it seems, been blessed with a secular education and childhood catechesis which have better prepared me to understand and argue the logical points of your religion.

          You can “charge” all you want, I don’t mind or particularly care what you ask for in prissy language: it seems that you agree with me that Ted misunderstands the RCC (*and Jesus’) stance toward secular governments.

          Your acquiescence is enough.

          • ColdStanding

            Mai, pourquoi? Je suis Canadien.

            I call you an apostate because that is what you are. You claim to be atheist, but that is an unscientific appellation. That you wear it as a badge of honour speaks to your deep confusion. You have received the sacraments and have, in attempting to justify some mortal sin, reject them. You are hell bound. Don’t complain to me about it, it is your own doing.

            As for you vaunted excellence in logic, it is really just truculence. I know this because you protest too much. If you really did not believe, you wouldn’t go to the lengths you do. That’s a logical conclusion.

            I knew you’d chicken out on interpreting, having already proved you are not as good as you think you are at it.

            • Paul Boillot

              “I knew you’d chicken out on interpreting, having already proved you are not as good as you think you are at it.”

              Like Marty McFly has to learn in his own good time, I’ve come to the conclusion that doing something just because someone else says “what, you chicken?” is a terrible way to live your life.

              As I said earlier, the fact that you agree with me is enough.

              “Don’t complain to me about it.”

              I don’t mind being called an apostate, I think you misunderstood me. I just think it’s funny that you use it as-if-it-were insulting.

              From what I remember of RCC teaching, trying to diagnose the spiritual condition of any other human, unless you are a priest in the confessional, is not only dangerous, but a sin per se.

              Luckily, I don’t believe in sin, so in my eyes you’re just a rude cultist! 🙂

              “you protest too much. If you really did not believe you wouldn’t go to the lengths you do.”

              My friend, you know me not at all. I will go to absurd lengths as an avocatus diaboli in the service of logic.

              Additionally, I’ll have you know that I frequently engage with Catholics because that’s what I know! I also do so in English, because that’s my best language.

              Do I argue with French catholics? Or, god help me, Canadian catholics? No. I also haven’t argued much with Swedish catholics or Thai. Why? Because I think the Thai catholic church doesn’t have the fullness of the faith, but the American/English speaking one does? No, it’s because I don’t know enough languages to be conversant at the level I choose to strive for.

              I will, however, let you know that I am searching for new conversation sites, preferably Muslim, although any religion really will do. Unfortunately all the Islam discussion sites I’ve found have strict moderation, and none of my posts get through. It’s tough to find ‘discussion’ sites that are more than mere echo chambers.

              • ColdStanding

                Mortal sin is a general category comprising many particular states. To deliver a diagnosis, you need to identify a particular instance. Here-to-fore, I have had insufficient material to make a particular judgement, for I do not claim to be able to read the particular state of your soul and was merely relying upon your self-disclosure. However, you have now provided ample self-disclosure as to the condition of your self-regard, namely, vulgar vanity. You put it in print. You’ve made it public. It is there for all to see. Anyone that knows the definition of the word can see it in your writing. So, I’m going to have to give you a fail for pinning a charge of hypocrisy on me.

                I’m just going to ignore your tangent on Canadian-Swedish-Thai Catholics. I’m not in a mood for trite and it’s nonsense to boot.

                The advocatus diaboli, indeed. You even know who your master is. Why you’d choose him instead of Him… ah, right, your logic. Not.

                Good luck in your search for a new site to make emoticons on.

                Ah, now I know why I post to you as I have. It is because you’ve had the Truth in your very hands and saw it not, but claim to be so wise and knowing/logical. I scoff at your pretensions. Scoff.

                • Paul Boillot

                  “Mortal sin is a general category comprising many particular states.”

                  No no, it’s a made-up phrase to keep people paying tithes.

                  “To deliver a diagnosis…pinning a charge of hypocrisy on me.”

                  Look, Cold, you’re going to have to work on your reading comprehension.
                  First off, I do think you’re a hypocrite, but I haven’t called you one 🙂
                  Secondly, and related, it is my understanding that no Catholic can render any diagnosis about a soul’s state except a priest in a confessional. You are not, and this isn’t. So what I did accuse you of was not hypocrisy, it was you’re sinning against your own beliefs! Out of petty churlishness, no less 😛

                  I can’t help it if you don’t want to engage the other-languages-tangent. Trite? This line of though is overused and lacking freshness, that one cannot engage in theological discussions in languages you don’t know well?

                  You accused me of protesting too much because you’ve interacted with me on catholic blogs. Where else am I to interact given my personal history and restricted linguistic range?

                  As for your wishing me luck: I appreciate it. Do you have any good Muslim/Mormon/Scientologist etc discussion blogs to advocate?

                  It’s true that once I held your Truth in my hands and heart. But then I realized that it was a lie, that I had believed, fully and deeply, a story told to me as a child.

                  And then that truth, as they say, and I hope without being trite, did set me free.

                  Cheers! Happy New Year!

                  • ColdStanding

                    You are my donkey, Paul, and I’m going to pin the tail on you all day long.

                    If all you have is this life – and you do believe that – then why waste your time talking to Catholics? I’m just saying, Paul, it’s a little weird. Weird, as in, illogically so. It is not that you want to go someplace else, but, je suis desole, can’t. It is that you don’t want to go anyplace else, but can’t admit it.

                    Oh, right, we’ve been down this road before. Hmm..thinking…You are here to “save” us from the wicked spell we are under. How noble! Why that is even evidence of a desire for truth and goodness, which is the beginning of the Way, to the Truth and the Life. Faint hope, but not completely dead. Hmm…

                    The word you are looking for is recommend. As in, “Coldness, can you recommend a site to me?” While it is good sense to rely upon my opinion, why would I advocate visiting a site that promotes heresy, schism and or apostasy? Yes, irritating as you might be to me, you are where you should be, almost. You should be in the Holy Roman Catholic Church comme ta grandmere dit a tu. Throw yourself at the foot of the Cross and beg forgiveness for your ingratitude. It isn’t too late. His mercy is endless as is His justice. You will have one or the other whether you like it or not.

                    • Paul Boillot

                      “comme ta grandmere dit a tu”

                      *Sigh* Canadian grammar is awful. Incidentally, my French grandmother was a protestant, so there’s that 🙂

                      “You are my donkey, Paul, and I’m going to pin the tail on you all day long.”

                      What is it with the ultra-orthodox and their weird analogies?! Ah well, I can only take consolation in the fact that people who read our exchange are going to see how nutty you are.

                      “then why waste your time talking to Catholics [religious people in general]?”

                      That’s a fair question, one you could’ve…I don’t know…asked me? It’s a multi-part answer, I’ll just throw out some of the factors I’m aware of in no particular order:
                      -not all Catholics, or people of faith, are as undisciplined and abrasive as you — some of your co-religionists understand the nuances of philosophy, and really are a pleasure to engage with
                      -I benefited from people engaging me and my faith…they extended the hand of friendship, dialogue, and reason to me – I feel it my duty to do the same
                      -it’s fun to watch yourself-righteously preen your ruffled feathers, you really are an amazingly old-school catholic peacock.

                      As for why I’m talking to you personally right now, there are two ways of dealing with bullies. The first is to ignore them, the second to engage them.

                      I know for a long time my childhood self was impressed by the self-righteousness and aggressive tactics of the ultra-orthodox people I knew. I didn’t have the resources to stand up to them as often as I wish I had, and it took the action of others for me to see that one doesn’t have to live in fear of the people who want to control your life.

                      I can only hope to be continuing the example of those who inspired me with their rationality and calm in the face of shrieking, reactionary ideologues like you 🙂

                      Finally, my dear sir, “The word you are looking for is recommend.”

                      I don’t know why I hoped for better, considering how poor your reading comprehension skills are, but you probably don’t want to fight with me about vocabulary…I mean, by all means do keep on, I don’t mind making your look a fool repeatedly, without remorse 🙂

                      I asked you to ‘advocate’ a site; you protested that the word I was looking for was ‘recommend.’


                      ad·vo·cate (dv-kt) tr.v. ad·vo·cat·ed, ad·vo·cat·ing, ad·vo·cates
                      To speak, plead, or argue in favor of. See Synonyms at support….
                      Verb 1. advocate – push for something; “The travel agent recommended strongly that we not travel on Thanksgiving Day”
                      recommend, urge

                      From MW

                      ad·vo·cate transitive verb ˈad-və-ˌkāt
                      : to support or argue for (a cause, policy, etc.)

                      rec·om·mend transitive verb ˌre-kə-ˈmend
                      : to say that (someone or something) is good and deserves to be chosen
                      : to suggest that someone do (something)
                      : to make (something or someone) seem attractive or good

                      Emphases mine.

                    • ColdStanding

                      Catholic! Bully! Peacock! Old School! Undisciplined! Abrasive! Self-righteous! Bad grammar! Ultra-orthodox! Reactionary! Screeching, no less. Nutty! Wait, no, more! I beg you, I’m laughing too hard.

                      Wipes away tears. Too funny. You’re a good sport.

                      Anyways, off, I’m off to mass. Time for a little one on one time with Jesus (I’ll recommend you to Him, not that He doesn’t know you already) and fish after with the missus and kids. Deo gratias!

                    • Paul Boillot

                      “i just imagine him screaming that at the screen in a “Shrek” voice





                    • ColdStanding


                      Nope. Got that one wrong. My bad.

      • Caesar wasn’t a democrat either. And if you look at government under the (pagan) Roman Emperors, you’ll find that the actual governing was remarkably decentralized, in comparison to so-called “modern” times. Actual centralization of power needed 17th century modes of transportation to get started, and wasn’t actually complete until the internet was invented. Before that, the distance meant a certain level of freedom under even the worst despot- even in your native France, Paris to Monaco is 954km- and a man on a horse can barely ride 50km a day, that makes it a 19 to 20 day trip.

        It isn’t just secularism that is the problem, it is also the fact that information is much faster- and when information is much faster, there is less room for economic and governmental freedom, because the overseers have more information and can control more people.

        What I’m talking about is the twin principles of solidarity and subsidiarity- the fact that local people have a different set of needs, wants, and priorities than far-away rulers.

        It doesn’t matter if the concentration is in the Bourgeoisie or Proletariat, or in American terms, in New York Stock Exchange or in Washington DC. A government that has to govern so many people that it can only treat them as things, can only become an unjust government. And to the little guy scrubbing the floors in a building 3000 miles away from the owner of the building, there is little to no difference between the government and the corporation.

        • Paul Boillot

          I think the greatest system of paved roads in the western world would seem to belie your claim that the Roman Emperors were not interested in centralization.

          Given the fact that even in the puported Jesus’ day government existed and was more centralized than….your ideal village scenario? (I don’t really understand what you think a utopia should look like, my bad), and given the fact that your “God” was flesh and blood on this earth and took that opportunity not to attack government centralization, but to specifically state that we should respect centralized, civil authority…your claim

          “the mere act of centralizing human power steals power away from God.”

          is shown to be false-by-Jesus-quote.

          • Glenn M. Ricketts, NAS

            No sarcasm intended Paul, but how exactly does a system of paved roads indicate a desire for centralization ( although I agree that some of the emperors definitely had such wishes)? Weren’t the roads designed to facilitate the flow of commerce and deployments of the army, first and foremost?

            • Paul Boillot

              “designed to facilitate the flow of commerce and deployments of the army”

              …to and from…Rome.

              The roads were an extension of the Republic/Empire’s desire for efficient control.

              • Glenn M. Ricketts, NAS

                Thanks, but that’s an assertion – how about an argument?

                • Paul Boillot

                  I apologize for the assertion; I assumed the underlying framework of knowledge and logic were widely known.

                  Have you really never heard the phrase “all roads lead to Rome”?

                  Where do you imagine the roads were “designed to facilitate the flow of commerce and deployments of the army” to and from?


                  • Glenn M. Ricketts, NAS

                    Thanks again, but you’ve replaced an assertion with a cliche.

                    Actually, I don’t think we’re in major disagreement at all. My original point, however, was that the roads facilitated other things besides centralized control. Food supplies, for example came principally from the provinces, and could best reach Rome and other non-agricultural areas via the system of roads. Defending the Empire against invaders was most efficiently achieved if legions could be deployed quickly. Here again, the roads were crucial. I don’t doubt that centralization was also a result of the road system, but I don’t believe they were constructed simply for that purpose.

          • Actually, the roads are a darned good indication of DECENTRALIZATION. If they were interested in centralization, they’d simply send their armies out to bring all the wealth to Rome and leave nothing in the conquered lands worth stealing.

            I suggest you read some Chesterton to see my idea of a utopia.

        • Michael Paterson-Seymour

          50 km! With three horses and a riding groom I have covered more than double that in a day’s hunting

          • Which is why I said A man on A horse- singular.

            Yes, if you are rich enough to have three horses and a riding groom, you can travel all night no problem. Or the fast stages that started being available in the 17th century, when people started setting up entire corporations with stables in large towns so that they could change out the horses.

            But even that is relatively modern technology. The majority of the human race spent their entire lives within 10 miles of where they were born.

  • Catholic in Exile

    There was no confusion when Bishop Sheen spoke of Marxist communism. It was evil. He understood what Marx stood for: “My goal in life is to dethrone God and destroy capitalism.” This simple point seems to be lost by the pope. His poor choice of words, again, reflect his ignorance of the encroachment of Marxist evil throughout the world, especially within the Church.

    • smokes

      Who (other than our Trotskyites who say they’ll do better next time!) can mistake Marxist thought when it triggered 100,000 MILLION deaths in the 20th century and reduced man to merely another animal?

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    Mikhail Bakunin put his finger on the fatal flaw in Marxism, when he said, “They [the Marxists] maintain that only a dictatorship—their dictatorship, of course—can create the will of the people, while our answer to this is: No dictatorship can have any other aim but that of self-perpetuation, and it can beget only slavery in the people tolerating it; freedom can be created only by freedom, that is, by a universal rebellion on the part of the people and free organization of the toiling masses from the bottom up.” [Statism and Anarchism]

    Likewise, Georges Sorel rejected the Marxist theory of inevitable and evolutionary change, emphasizing instead the importance of will and preferring direct action. He advocated general strikes, boycotts, and constant disruption of capitalism – the “revolution of folded arms” – to achieve worker control over the means of production.

    • smokes

      As soon as that happened, with private unions around 1960, our “elites” (Yes, Nixon, Kissinger, Inc) figured out a way to exploit Chinese and screw American labor. Free Trade is morally unjust.

    • Adam__Baum

      We need to stop referring to Marxist propositions as “theories”. It provides an undeserved measure of credibility to the greatest instrument of genocide and oppression ever devised.

  • AcceptingReality

    It seems to me that Marxism engages in projecting that which is repugnant in itself onto Capitalism. After all, Marxism, broadens income inequality by eliminating the middle class. All power and resources end up in the hands of a few political elites. They impose upon the masses rules and regulations regarding all things including consumption, speech, attitudes of the mind and religious belief. The socialists are the ones who perpetuate class envy by blaming wealthy people/business, who exist beyond their control, for all social ills. They engage in this perpetual blame game to maintain support for their own failed policies. They strive to obscure one simple fact which they cannot deny. That is that Capitalism has lifted more people out of poverty in 200 years than all other social/economic systems in the history of the world combined. The reason their is a middle class throughout much of the world is a result of Capitalism. Despite all possible claims of “something lost in the translation”, it appears that the pope has missed or ignored this fact. That’s what concerns so many conservatives. He accuses “unfettered” capitalism, which exists nowhere, but makes no such admonishment directed at the socialist mindset of western governments. Pope Leo XIII admonished Capitalism while condemning Socialism. Francis didn’t complete the equation. Makes me wonder! As a devout Catholic, of average means, I work harder than ever for what amounts to less purchasing power. The pope’s apparent admonishment of capitalism is deflating and disappointing. I have long lamented that my local Bishop and the pastor at my parish do not support the economic structure that supports a private small business man such as myself. But I always took solace in the fact that the pope had my back. Now I am not so sure. If the Pope and the many left leaning Bishops, Priests and Nuns really wanted to help elevate the poor they would promote free market capitalism! It’s not perfect but it’s a lot better than any previously tried alternative. They should also look at what Aquinas has to say about equality. Aquinas didn’t regard equality with such central importance nor did he regard it as central to the mind of God.

    • I don’t see the current capitalist economic structure supporting small business at all. I’ve seen one too many small businesses “go public” and sell stock, only to close a few years later as the stockholders remove all the profit and then sell the assets to larger companies.

      Unfettered capitalism exists all over the place. Excessive regulation is primarily caused by unfettered capitalism through the “campaign contributions” larger businesses use to regulate smaller businesses out of existence instead of competing with them.

      • Adam__Baum

        I’ve seen one too many small businesses “go public” and sell stock sell stock, only to close a few years later as the stockholders remove
        all the profit and then sell the assets to larger companies.

        I call your lie, er I mean bluff. Let’s see the names of these businesses. Put up or shut up.

        • GI Joes is a prime example. Was a very successful retail chain owned by a single family for 40 years, a small business. Went public, sold stock, and within 4 years, all the stores were closed.

          IMG, inc- a headhunting consulting company with 30 employees. Went public, went defunct in 6 months.

          Casino Software Corporation of America- lasted 8 months after going public.

          And these are just a few that I’ve either been involved in personally, or had relatives involved in. Going public means losing control of your company; for the small business owner (or even not so small in the case of GI Joes) it is a mistake that is hard if not impossible to come back from.

          • Adam__Baum

            Well now, you just cited business failures, but there’s not a shred to the rest of that “the stockholders remove all the profit”, stuff.

            Here’s an account of GI Joes. Higher price boutique store, violated loan covenants and investors tried to keep it afloat PUTTING MORE MONEY in, rather than taking it out.


            Just stop lying.

            • Until the chain was purchased by investors in 2006, it was debt free. The investors ran it into the ground trying to get a return on their investment.

              • Adam__Baum

                Theodore, you made a statement that said they MADE a profit, now you say they were PURSUING ONE.

                If you can’t make a coherent argument, be quiet.

                • They made a profit when they took out the loans against stock, and then were surprised when the creditors foreclosed.

                  • Adam__Baum

                    Just stop.

                  • Adam__Baum

                    Just stop.

      • smokes

        Our current system IS socialism, not capitalism. There’s more free market capitalism at work in Red China, now, than there is under our Fabian Socialists who control everything and decide who the winners and losers are, by age 18, through endless centralization, redistribution and taxation..Don’t blame Adam Smith.

        • He’s the philosopher they all quote for why things should be the way they are.

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      Dr Johnson, in his description of the Western Isles of Scotland shows the destructive power of Capitalism very well.

      “In the Islands, as in most other places, the inhabitants are of different rank, and one does not encroach here upon another. Where there is no commerce nor manufacture, he that is born poor can scarcely become rich; and if none are able to buy estates, he that is born to land cannot annihilate his family by selling it. This was once the state of these countries. Perhaps there is no example, till within a century and half, of any family whose estate was alienated otherwise than by violence or forfeiture. Since money has been brought amongst them, they have found, like others, the art of spending more than they receive; and I saw with grief the chief of a very ancient clan, whose Island was condemned by law to be sold for the satisfaction of his creditors… The Laird is the original owner of the land, whose natural power must be very great, where no man lives but by agriculture; and where the produce of the land is not conveyed through the labyrinths of traffick, but passes directly from the hand that gathers it to the mouth that eats it. The Laird has all those in his power that live upon his farms. Kings can, for the most part, only exalt or degrade. The Laird at pleasure can feed or starve, can give bread, or withold it. This inherent power was yet strengthened by the kindness of consanguinity, and the reverence of patriarchal authority. The Laird was the father of the Clan, and his tenants commonly bore his name. And to these principles of original command was added, for many ages, an exclusive right of legal jurisdiction.”

      • slainte

        What was it about the “Celtic Tiger” that freed so many in Ireland from the shackles of generational dependence on social welfare than a lifiting of the heavy regulatory schemes and duties traditionally imposed upon its citizens and corporate entities?
        For the short period in the 1990s that Capitalism was permitted to flourish, and the welfare state was held at bay, Ireland thrived economically. Foreign corporations flooded into the country attracted by favorable, corporate tax schemes and access to an educated English speaking work force. The Irish people reliably expended their income and invested locally which resulted in a “trickle down” effect that financially benefitted whole communities.
        Without a doubt, there were those who abused the bounty received and made rash and ill conceived investments, but the failings of the few should not dictate the reimposition of crushing regulatory schemes and taxation which merely suck the life out of the business community and destroy individual initiative.
        Of course crooked and immoral Irish politicians, by guarantying the unquantifiable debt of profligate banks, has bankrupted Ireland and enslaved its posterity for the foreseeable future. This is less the fault of Capitalism than the failings of a political class in bed with the European Union and its overlords, the global elites.
        Is the plight of the western isles of Scotland really so different from Ireland?

  • James Cunningham

    I’ll have to agree with David in that the professor is trying to reach a conclusion concerning the philosophy of Pope Francis that is incongruent to his own statements.

  • Salamanca

    Prof. Byrne has very capably refuted an argument that no one is actually making — that Francis is a doctrinaire Marxist. The charge that many thoughtful critics are actually making, and which Prof. Byrne does not address, is that Francis is an economic illiterate. Evangelii Gaudium provides ample evidence of this illiteracy. Francis has a naïve anthropomorphic view of an “economy” that does (bad) things to people – “excludes,” “marginalizes,” etc. Francis speaks of “a distribution of income” as if someone, somewhere is handing out income. Income isn’t distributed; it occurs. It is the result of human persons freely meeting the needs of other human persons. He seems to think that [government] “programmes” and “mechanisms” are the “sources of employment” rather than myriad entrepreneurs. He argues that “some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world.” Who are these “people” and what are these “theories”? Francis writes: ” Inequality is the root of social ills.” Prof Byrne’s commentary is: “Francis must know that social problems are not merely the result of economic inequality.” Really? If he does, then why did he write the opposite? What other parts of Evangelii Gaudium actually mean the opposite of what Francis writes. Perhaps Prof. Byrne or the Vatican can provide us with a guide. No one expects Francis to be speak with the academic precision of an professional economist. Pace Argentina, which hasn’t produced any Nobel laureates in economics, expectations for Francis are actually rather low. What one does expect, however, it that Francis recognize his own intellectual blind spots, and that he reach out to those in the Church who are economically literate.

    • smokes

      Good points…some.

      So, it’s good that 40 year old Italian men live at home with momma because the jobs have gone to the lower cost workers of Red China?

      55,000,000 abortions in America permit women to maintain a questionable lifestyle because men can’t afford to marry them, and they can’t afford to raise the child?

      We know Fabian socialism, the basis for our current economy, isn’t working at all.

      No, he’s started a worthwhile discussion of modernity and the Evil inherent in it.

    • Adam__Baum

      “Inequality is the root of social ills.”

      The problem with this sentence, assuming it’s faithfully translated, is that it lacks an object. Inequality of what?

      How about inequality of political power and moral fiber, which unfortunately seem to be distributed in inverse measures.

      We have an entire federal government that has a disproportionate and growing share of political power and the left (including, and perhaps especially the Catholic left) wants it enlarged and further concentrated.

      I actually think the acrimony over the Pope’s words is a little ironic, given how readily he was as Cardinal to criticize Benedict over Regensberg. I guess no matter what the job, it looks easy until you have to do it.

      • Salamanca

        Assuming the Spanish version is the original, then the sentence reads: La inequidad es raíz de los males sociales., which is word for word what the English translation says. The French versions is a bit more precise: La disparité sociale est la racine des maux de la société, which is “Social disparity is the root of ills in society.” The German is even more precise and reads: Die Ungleichverteilung der Einkünfte ist die Wurzel der sozialen Übel, which is: “The unequal distribution of income is the root of social evils.” I strongly suspect, therefore, that Francis was addressing income inequality. On the other hand, I completely agree with your point that political inequality is a far greater threat, a truth that John Paul II grasped, but which seems to elude Francis, at least in Evangelii Gaudium.

        • Adam__Baum

          Thanks for the translation. My high school Spanish is really rusty and I have no knowledge of French or German.

  • Dick Prudlo

    I probably should say nothing because this “political” bishop is interested, frankly, in nothing else. He is a Jew with his tongue firmly upon the earth, His exultation’s clearly expose this as his highest regard.

    • Glenn M. Ricketts


      • Dick Prudlo

        You must be from Yorba Linda. He (Bishop of Rome) is a phenomenological Leftist. Is that more clear?

        • Glenn M. Ricketts, NAS

          No, not at all. Can you elaborate?

          • Dick Prudlo

            no…….look it up

            • John200

              I knew you couldn’t do it. You didn’t even have the grace to try. Why, then, did you bother to make the comment?

              Pitiful (you may choose a different adjective).

              • Dick Prudlo

                See my brief response to Glenn above. God’s speed too you.

            • Glenn M. Ricketts, NAS

              Look what up? Is there an article of yours I can reference? By the way, I’m from Philadelphia, not Yorba Linda.

              • Dick Prudlo

                Phenomenology my friend. Look it up and view it from the current Bishop of Rome and you will find serious correlations. The Past is Past and only His present is what matters. For a Church established in the past this doesn’t bode well for Catholics.

                • Glenn M. Ricketts, NAS

                  I have a fairly clear idea of what phenomenology is, but no idea what you’re saying. Once more: can you elaborate the term as you’re using it here? It makes no sense as it stands.

                  • Dick Prudlo

                    I can not express it more clearly than I did, Glenn; sorry

                    • Glenn M. Ricketts, NAS

                      Well, we’ll leave it at that, then. Maybe next time, eh?

      • Steve

        That sounded like the rant if a moron.

  • smokes

    Nice article. In addition to machines replacing workers, capitalists mostly move jobs to lower per hour and less regulated lands. That’s why the former West has lost many millions of our better paying jobs to Marxist states like China and Vietnam. Tariffs are a Christian’s best friend, while the Chamber of Commerce wants so-called “Free Trade”. It should be called a free ride for the rich. it’s killing what little is left of the former, Christian West.

    • How are tariffs beneficial to all Christians? Some, those in the privileged industries, are, but the others end up paying more for the same goods.

      Case in question, when Bush imposed tariffs in imported steel, many foreign car makers shifted production overseas while the domestic makers couldn’t as easily. In the end, it affected negatively the market share of domestic cars, in addition to their sorry market position. So, while steel workers were protected, but not for long, automotive workers were not.

      Aren’t tariffs grand?

      • Adam__Baum

        “while the Chamber of Commerce wants so-called “Free Trade”

        Are you kidding? The present CoC are naked rent-seekers.

  • ForChristAlone

    Since when did any business owner hold a gun to someone’s head to force him or her to work for his/her organization? I always thought that people voluntarily elected to fill out an employment application and go work for someone else. Any job I ever had I freely chose to work for the wages/ benefits I was offered and also quit when I decided I would personally benefit by applying my work efforts elsewhere. I was also free to start my own business by risking my skills, education and financial assets toward making it a success.


      It might help to have a bit of history.

      And did you freely choose to work for the wages/benefits, or have you ever had to take a job because you were merely hungry?

      • ForChristAlone

        I was hungry, wanted to eat and freely chose WHERE I was going to live and work. I also chose WHERE I was going to be be educated. I also chose HOW HARD I would study in order to secure the job I wanted.

        I am still in the work force but not too old to remember when I was young being asked by my mother to go to the next door neighbor to beg for $2 so that that we could have dinner that evening. I knew I had to do certain things if I were going to broaden the choices I had open to me later on. It would never have occurred to our family to go on welfare or something like that.

        • I was born within 70 miles of where I am today. I do not have a choice of where I live and work and was educated.

          If you had that choice, you’re better off than 90% of the entire history of humanity.

          Oh, and the next door neighbor was a good mile away- if we didn’t have enough for dinner that evening, we starved.

  • Of course that Francis is no Marxist. His economic understanding is lacking though, seemingly having been mostly informed by the Argentinian left, given the caricature of capitalism that he offered, much practiced by the Kirchners as bankers and socialists.

  • Pingback: Pope Francis and Economics -

  • Arriero

    To talk about Marx you first should have had to read him; which is not an easy task.

    Would be quite funny to do a little questionary about Marx, especially from a pure economic poinf of view. I wouldn’t expect many people who seem to have a «consistent view» about marxism to pass the test (BTW, «the labor theory of value», one of the big achievement in marxian economics, is a copy of a Smithsonian-Ricardian previous theory).

    Thankfully, marxism has already been wiped out from the Church. Thanks to people who had really read Marx, like Pope Benedict. And thankfully the Catholic Church has never been liberal either – in the worst protestanized understanding of the term -, because, as quite rightly Felix Sardá pointed out: «liberalism is a sin». Liberalism undermines the dogmatic and hierarchical essence of the Catholic Church, one of its most important intrinsic features.

    And Pope Francis says truths as temples. From an economic point of view, his document is profoundly beautiful and exquisite. From a theological point of view is impeccable. And from a the Catholic teaching point of view is a seminal work, in the old Latin tradition, the only where protestantism has never had any influence.

    The rest is cynism. And sheer ignorance, from those who call a Pope a marxist (mainly nihilistic Catholic calvinists of the worst kind), without understanding what is the Catholic Church (obviating Church’s history and tradition), who is this Pope (an exceptional man with a prodigious mind and handwriting – his documents in Spanish are wonderful -, despite the awful traduction to english) and who was Marx.

    • Paul Adams


  • Dan Kennedy

    Troubling when language is so easily interpreted, or misinterpreted, in numerous ways. A refrain I have heard repeatedly that really has no bearing on the issue is “In reality, the above-cited passages are just a few paragraphs from an eighty-four page document. ” Not really relevant as an argument proving one thing or another.

  • Marc

    “Of course Francis is not a Marxist. Those who claim otherwise focus only on specific parts of a broader
    message and mistakenly associate Marxism with anti-Capitalism. I hope
    the first half of this essay showed Marxism is more than a criticism of

    While Marxism may be more than a critique of capitalism, an element of it certainly is anti-capitalist. Referring to capitalism as a malignant system that dehumanizes the worker suggests Marx’s thoughts were anti-Capitalist. I wouldn’t characterize Marx’s insights into capitalism as profound. Intense, maybe, but profound? Maybe we Catholics try too hard to smooth over nonsense when it is written by a Pope. Francis is chemist, not an Economist.

  • wc4mitt

    IN reading this article, I must concur w/many of the comments that this author is very confused re his subject. Perhaps it is his youth having not lived during the periods of Marxism in its full manifestation – engulfing nearly the entire globe; and still has a firm grasp everywhere including here in the US. Further as a person w/many years experience in all segments of finance I can assure you that this Pope clearly is mistaken re his comments on economics – if they actually are his comments. This happens to be a Post-Syndol Apostolic Exhortation. That means, it is the summary of the thinking of a Synodal Meeting among which they were many participants from diverse segments of the Church. The notes from this Synod were then presented to the Pope for his approval and concluding summary. What was produced was the product of such and is not binding. It is an ‘exhortation’. Pope Benedict issued 2 of these during his reign – none of which caused such an uproar – perhaps because they were totally in line w/Catholic teaching. And I’ll bet few rather than many have even read them, if in fact they are aware of their existence: “The Word of the Lord” (Verbum Domini) and, Sacrament of Charity (Sacramentum Caritatis).

    • Adam__Baum

      I miss his precision.

  • CadaveraVeroInnumero

    Whether it’s economics, political liberty, “getting over with it and getting on with it” regarding the liturgy and oldie Catholics; whether it’s its homosexuality, etc – commentators on the pope’s Exhortation using add “really, it was only in a few paragraphs of an 80 odd page document.

    All those puzzling paragraphs add up to some several pages!

    Yes, in a way, the issue is with the language used. Pope Francis, no matter the subjects, dips his pen in the *language* of progressivism, if not the concepts they refer to. There is danger in that, let alone confusion. Why is it necessary to pick up the language of progressivism, at all? Especially when the exhortation does not offer a critique of that language, offering a judgment on its utility, its nature to reveal or deceive, or – pray to God the day comes – if it should be scuttled for another ethical/cultural/exconomic/political language. Maybe the Vatican’s Secret Archive might have one.

  • hombre111

    Marx must be chuckling. The situation we are now in, with the growing gap between the 1% and the rest of us, with more and more falling out of the middle class into the lower class and the edge of poverty, with frightened workers forced to work for less and less without benefits or hope for future progress, was described by Marx more than a hundred years ago.

    • Randall Ward

      Why read marx, why not read the words of the man marx stole his “ideas” from.

      Marx used the teaching of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel of Prussia, to form what Marx (also a Prussian) called “his” communistic philosophy.
      According to Hegel, the state was alive and had a will and was to define the goals and lead, by force if necessary, people in those goals.
      The state, Hegel argued; “ was an organism possessing will, rationality and purpose. Its destiny – like that of any living thing – was to change, grow and progressively develop. The state was ‘the power of reason actualizing itself as will’; it was a transcendent domain in which the alienated, competitive ‘particular interests’ of civil society merged into coherence and identity”. There was a
      theological core to Hegel’s reflections on the state: the state had a quasi-divine purpose; it was ‘God’s march through the world’; in Hegel’s hands it became the quasi-divine apparatus by which the multitude of subjects who constituted civil society was redeemed into universality.
      In other words, the state becomes God.

      • Paul Adams

        …all of which shows how completely different Marx was from Hegel, above all on the state, which he called the executive committee of the ruling class and defined as bodies of armed me and their accessories, prisons, etc. For Marx, the essence of the state was the monopoly of organized, class violence, a far cry from Hegel’s mystical notions. According to Marx, the state arises from and maintains the division of society into hostile classes and “withers away” with the end of that division. Lenin emphasizes these points in the distinctly anti-statist The State and Revolution, written in the midst of revolution itself – in this at least he was faithful to Marx.

        • Randall Ward

          When Marx realized what Hegel was teaching, Marx could not sleep for days, he was on fire with the information he had learned from Hegel. Marx never changed his basic views he learned from Hegel, that the state was alive and thru the state history would be worked out. It was nothing except warmed over Christian teaching; just replace “The Kingdom of God” with the word “State”. Everything else remains the same as the teaching of Jesus. If you are not a Chrisitan you will not understand what I am saying; to understand requires knowledge of Christianity, greater than what TV programs teach.
          The rest of Marx, after his “being born again of Hegel” is junk and has been proven to be wrong, over and over. I can always tell when someone has been studying Marx; their writtings make as much sense as Marx; none at all.

          • Paul Adams

            I am a Christian, but I still can make no sense of this. Where does Marx say the state is alive or that history would be “worked out” through it? Marx saw in the state as I said, an instrument of oppression to do be overthrown and done away with, or as a field of struggle resting on and arising from the class struggle in civil society. In this he agreed with the anarchists. He just thought the state could not be abolished directly but that it would wither away with the disappearance of classes and class antagonisms. Is that how you see the Kingdom of God? You seem to take something from the youthful Marx, who did study Hegel (and turned him on his head), and make it the whole work. That’s like taking the derivative juvenilia of a major poet as the whole oeuvre and throwing out his mature work.

            • Randall Ward

              Paul, you say you are a christian and I believe you. But you should be able to recognize from you own post that Marx is describing the Kingdom of Heaven and not any kind of earth full of sinful people that is possible. Marx was not as smart as you may have been led to believe. Anyone that believes that man can create heaven on earth is not a real Christian, because they don’t believe Jesus when he said; only the few will believe and when the end comes will the Son of Man find faith on the earth. There is no heaven on earth and Jesus taught us that fact. That is why he died on the cross, so we could be forgiven for our sins and have eternal life, when He returns; not now.
              All of the thinkers from Prussia during that time were all non-believers, no matter what they wrote in their papers. It was a time when saying their was no God could get you sent to prison or worse.

              • slainte

                Doesn’t Hegel assume that man, through historical progress (the dialectic) and evolution, shall “perfect” himself here on earth, on his own initiative (sans God), and thus shall become a god. Hegel’s evolving spirit was not and is not Christian.

                Marx understood this process as dialectical materialism.

                Recall the biblical injunction of Genesis 3:5:

                “For God knows that in the day ye eat of it then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”

                • Randall Ward

                  Right, Hegel used and copied the plan of God and applied it to earth, making the state into God. Butut Hegel did not believe it was the individual man; his focus was on the collective. His focus is on the state which brings everything together; he saw the state as a living and breathing being and the will of the people through the state brings about the fulfillment of history. All of this came to realization when Hitler was appointed to power in Germany. The NAZI state was the realization of Hegels ideas and the current USA national government is close to the same, just not as radical (so far).

                  • Slainte

                    Thank you. I never made the connection with the state and in particular the Third Reich.

              • Paul Adams

                I’m afraid you have lost me. Of course Marx was not a Christian, real or otherwise, and never professed to be. I don’t believe man can create heaven on earth (and I agree that such a view is incompatible with Christianity). Nor did Marx, who spent considerable energy combating utopian socialism. Marx was no Liberation Theologian seeking to immanentize the Eschaton, nor did those theologians understand Marx. I can see how one can claim that Marxism is nevertheless some kind of secular salvationist ideology with regard to the stateless communist society he saw as made possible by capitalism and the working class it created (its ‘gravediggers’). His view of history was arguably teleological, at least in an Aristotelian sense. He was much more an Aristotelian than a Hegelian or a faux Christian. But Marx wrote next to nothing about the future communist society he imagined future workers building. That was up to them when they were in a position to decide. His preoccupation was the struggle against capitalism and bourgeois ideology (including Hegel). As for Marx’s smartness, I have read him and formed my own opinions. Have you?

                You cannot in my view take on Marx effectively if you don’t read him carefully, or by attacking those who invoked his name a century later in order to impose the very opposite kind of regime to that he sought, or by attacking positions he explicitly rejected like Hegel’s view of the state or utopian socialism.

                • Randall Ward

                  This is the best I can come up with; a quote from a book I finished a week ago: “Marx
                  would later reject Hegel’s understanding of the state bureaucracy as the ‘general
                  estate’, but it stayed with him none the less. For what else was Marx’s
                  idealization of the proletariat as the ‘pure embodiment of the general
                  interest’ than the materialist inversion of the Hegelian concept?”
                  I really don’t care to read Marx carefully.

                  • Paul Adams

                    Thanks for the clarification, Randall. Sounds about right, and it’s what Marx himself said about inverting Hegel, or standing him on his head.

                • Art Deco

                  It is an invalid sociology. The only reason to read him is an exercise in intellectual history.

    • Glenn M. Ricketts, NAS

      Father, isn’t there distinction between the gap dividing the wealthiest and the so-called 1% and the actual conditions of the poor, relative to their condition elsewhere or in some earlier time period? The rich/poor “gap” doesn’t tell us about what the poor have – many of them own TV sets, cars and dvd players – only what they don’t have relative to the rich. In absolute terms, the poor are better off than they were a generation ago. The question of WHY the poor are where they are is a different one altogether.

      I don’t see the analogy with Marx’s descriptions at all, especially since he saw the Victorian working class reduced to subsistence-level poverty, where you pick garbage cans in order to eat. Charles Dickens, I think, understood those circumstances much better than Marx, having actually lived in them. The Marxes were often strapped for cash, but nevertheless always had domestics working for them, unlike Dickens’s family.

    • Adam__Baum

      Now who is laughing in hell? Or do you think Marx’ infanticide gets a pass?

      And how ironic this gap has worsened under the President who was mentored by a Marxist, self-admittedly hung out with Marxists and believes in “spreading the wealth around”.

      Latest labor participation rate: 68.2%-lowest in thirty-five years.

      Yet, that should help things, just like “Recovery Summer” and “Green Energy”.

      By the way, Marx had no great sympathy for the “lumpenproletariat”.

    • Objectivetruth

      Obama/Pelosi/Sebellius/Planned Parenthood/the Democratic Party’s real efforts to eliminate the poor through abortion must have Sanger chuckling.

  • Thomas C. Coleman, Jr.

    Professor Bryne has provided us with some imorptant information and insights. Obviously, therei is not not enough space here for him to address all of Marx’s errors and insane assumptions about human nature that make Marxism utterly incompatible with Christianity. I would like to point to the fact that Marx’s view of mankind encomapsses a great deal more than the economic relations and that he based his views of our speicies on assumptions that can only be called pathological and can therefore only therefore end in calamtiy. For instance, Marx believed that the root of all evil was the family and that until one man claimed one woman as his his “property” humans lived in a blissful sexual anarchy to which we are destined to return in a kind of Satanic variation on the plan for Salvation. Further, he imagined that when that golden tomorrow arrived men have no private property or govenment because we will have learned to live collectively by being forced long enough and the apppartus of coericion would then merely disappear spontaneouly. Obvioulsy those are the musings of a mad person, if not a demon. Marx should not be treated as someone who contributed anything of valuable to our understanding of human nature. Also, atheism is absoltuley essential to the Marixit world view, so when His Holiness speaks of Marixsts who are good people, I suspect that he does not really mean that a person that wants his fellow men to deny the eixistence o fGod is a good person.

  • Randall Ward

    All one needs to know of Marxism is that it is the state replacing the Kingdom of God. That is why it has always failed and always will. Man cannot replace God with mankind.

  • LRC

    Thanks for the informative article. I have two questions that arise from this:

    First, Mr. Byrne suggests that Liberation Theology “is fundamentally an attempt to do what had previously been reserved for God: bringing about a new world order where the poor will be rewarded.” I have to conclude that Mr. Byrne believes this to be the wrong path; that only God can direct the future of mankind. My question is this: Then what is mankind supposed to do while God is working this all out? Genesis is quite clear in God’s directive that man is to assume a leadership role in God’s creation. Everything in the Old and New Testaments cries out for man to do what he ought to do, rather than what he is inclined to do. It appears to me that He would be quite delighted if mankind finally took a bit of His direction and assumed a little responsibility. God clearly is impatient with sacrifice, as of course, Christ is impatient with ceremony.

    Second, it is quite clear that Acts 2:42-47, Acts 4:52-37, and Acts 5:1-11, refers heavily to some concepts of Liberation Theology; socialism, if not communism, as Mr. Byrne describes in his article. If these passages are divinely inspired, then what we see are early Christians freely and joyously engaging in some form of social politics that are a far cry from capitalism, and God approves. And when a couple attempts to withhold private property, and lies regarding the matter, there is no forgiveness, but death. The message seems to be clear whether the story is a true one or a literary device. I find it fascinating the translations these passages have been given in an attempt to mitigate what is simply taking place amongst these early Christians. A review of early Christianity reveals the struggle that took place in order to define Christianity into an ideology that could sustain itself against powerful forces and ultimately convert those forces. There is always a level of syncretism involved in such matters (in this case the adoption of human power in the early second century and not God’s as a guide into the future), and who is going to review the history and declare it corrupted by such human influences?

    So my question is: How does one reconcile these passages in Acts as a call for capitalism?

    • Paul Adams

      Those passages from Acts are about the way a small group of early Christians lived at that time, not about how Christians should live in society at all times and places, still less about how the economy and state should be organized. As for socialism, all Catholic social teaching (CST) condemns it, starting with Rerum Novarum, in which Leo XIII finds at least nine reasons why socialism is both doomed to failure and an evil worse than what it hopes to replace. Like JP II, he criticizes excesses and tendencies of capitalism as an economic system (e.g., the individualism/liberalism that Pius XI saw as the flip side of statist collectivism – both squeezing out the associations of civil society that Leo championed). CST is critical of capitalism when it is detached from a strong juridical structure and from the necessary moral and political preconditions. But it outright condemns socialism in all its forms.

      • LRC

        And what was wrong with them? They weren’t proper Christians? Something in your first sentence led to the dogma of your subsequent sentences. What biblical basis is there for the assertion in your first sentence, without delineating dogma established in later centuries? After all, any divergent dogma from the way these Christians lived would have to assert a fallacy in their thinking and practice. What were the twelve Apostles doing wrong that the later church fathers got right?

        • Paul Adams

          I do not assert any dogma here. I simply point out that the early Christians lived one way and later modified their practice when they found it didn’t work as their numbers grew. Socialism as the theory and practice of class struggle and socialist revolution that Leo XIII and subsequent popes attacked in the 19th and 20th centuries, simply did not exist at the time of the Apostles, nor were they advancing such a theory of their own. They accepted Jesus’s instruction to “render unto Caesar,” not to expropriate him.

          • LRC

            The early Christians had little leverage in the autocratic empire they lived in, and any suggestion that they abandoned their early social system voluntarily has scant facts to support the suggestion. The facts remain that the only early community that the Holy Spirit pens by Luke’s hand is clearly a community that is practicing a communal system that is closer to socialism than capitalism – fully endorsed by Peter himself – and thus it is a real stretch to believe that the Holy Spirit is showing us this community in Acts just to dissuade us from their practices.

            • Paul Adams

              So why did they abandon their way of living together? And what does it have to do with socialism or capitalism, neither of which existed and both of which are about ways of organizing economies, not small groups? Christianity was never about how to organize a social or economic system. And early Christians were not a utopian community trying to model a particular form of social or economic organization. You might as well take the catacombs as a model of Christian urban planning.

              • Bruce Sullivan

                As a former Protestant minister who embraced the Catholic faith 20 years ago, I am leery of any attempt to pit the alleged practices of the early Church against magisterial teaching in subsequent centuries. The fact, is this: the Catholic faith is one throughout the centuries. Therefore, such apparent contradictions are simply that: apparent, and, therefore, call for deeper study into the historical context, etc.

                In regard to the passages from Acts that allegedly condone socialism, I would like to offer the following.

                Acts 2:44-45 is set in the context of the first converts of the Church on the Day of Pentecost. The context makes it clear that the new converts came from far and wide for the Jewish feast (i.e. there were plenty of folks from out of town who, upon conversion, would have stayed in Jerusalem and be in need of assistance). In other words, is the account of the early Christians–only days old in terms of their community–living out the principles of Christian charity in order to insure that all of the members of the new community were provided for (again, some were, no doubt from out of town and decided to stay in order to grow in their new faith). That passage, therefore, is a far cry from laying out the elements of a working economy.

                Acts 4:32 – 5:11 amounts to a continuation of the same theme: the newly formed Christian community taking action to see that all are provided for. But there are two points that need to be brought out:

                1. It was the free expression of Christian charity on the part of those who sold property and donated it.

                2. St. Peter specifically states in ch. 5, v. 4 that the property of Ananias and Sophira was indeed their actual property and completely at their disposal. The reason they were slain by the Lord was because the lied to the Church.

                So, the bottom line is this: these passages serve as a strong example of the extent that Christians have–and should–go to provide for the needs of others. However, they do not constitute a foundation for socialism as a political / economic system because they acknowledge the right to actual private property.

                The Catechism teaches that the right to private property is necessary in a fallen world in order to insure that each person can make provisions for their needs. It also, however, teaches the universal destination of the world’s goods (i.e. so that no one has the absolute right to material goods that they have in excess if someone else needs it for mere survival). (CCC: 2401-2406).

                All of this is perfectly reasonable. It is just challenging to live by because it requires us to grow in charity towards others and in detachment to this world.

                • LRC

                  Thanks for the practical answer to my second question. It makes good sense that what we are reading about is a temporary, Christian arrangement for the needs of the gathering. Those who had witnessed the apostles and listened to Peter speak surely would want to spend time together in discussion of what had taken place.

                  In Acts 4:32-37, however, we do see a communion of men and women who are practicing what Christ had taught. No, this is not socialism, nor capitalism. It is Christianity, pure and unadorned by man’s pride. To be truly Christian, as Christ taught, as these people demonstrated, does require an economic and social system that is totally counter-cultural to what was going on then, and now.

                  The Pharisees and Sadducees had religious problems with Jesus, but there were other problems with Christ’s teachings too. What of the lay person, whose concerns were much more social and economic, than religious? Christ was calling them to put aside their concerns for the concerns of others; and all based upon a faith in God to provide. Acts 4:32-37 appears to be a passage that is meant to reassure the new Christians that this form of voluntary sharing will take them out of their economic stress, give them social comfort, and lift them up to God.

                  Keep in mind the moral laws of Israel and Judea at the time of Christ regarding the needs of the people. A hungry person could enter into another’s field and eat freely of the crop. Laborers were paid at sundown, not weekly or bi-weekly. Loans were to be made without interest. Slaves were more part of a family than a slave as we know them to be now. Christ’s teachings were a further extension of these moral laws, and morality is a social phenomenon, not a personal one. The Prophets spoke of a nation and not a person.

                  The change in the Christian community came not in Jerusalem, but in the world. The social and economic system of the Roman Empire – the West – was autocratic, and virulent with man’s self concerns. As Christianity confronted the practices of this empire and chose to spread it good news of Jesus Christ, it blended its social and economic principles with what it encountered. Unfortunately, in so doing, it withdrew from Christ’s calling much like the rich, young man did.

                  The main message of Christianity became a personal one; a personal relationship and redemption with God. This is very different than what Jesus, and the Prophets he quotes, had envisaged. Remember, Heaven is a social order, not a personal order, and Jesus saw the kingdom of God as one on this earth, and not just in Heaven.

                  This leads me back to my first question in my opening comment. God calls us to a social order, not a personal order. To have that happen requires a social structure that supports Christ’s teachings. Socialism, communism, capitalism, and the other “isms” of today are insufficient to the purpose. They all provide for the excessives and self-concerns of the individual; as we have seen in countless measure.

                  Christ’s call to the rich, young man is very discomforting to the average Christian and non-Christian. This is because they are not “in the field” as missionaries are. Acts 4:32-37, is a demonstration of “in the field”. The average Christian is taught that ceremony and personal profession of faith is sufficient. They are told that the social order is in Heaven and not really here on earth.

                • Randall Ward

                  Thank you for your post, pastor. You know your stuff. I learned about the early Church by studying John, 1,2,3 John by reading “The Gospel and Letters of John” by Urban C. von Wahlde. By carefully reading his books I began to see how the part of the early Church surrounding John started out with a basic history of Jesus and thru stages understood the deeper meaning of what Jesus had done and added these new understandings to the book of John. .
                  Anyway through this study of mine I began to see that the bible alone is not enough to understand Christianity, because the Church can and does add to the knowledge of understanding the bible, as was done in the beginning.
                  This helped me decide to become Catholic because the Catholic Church is one of the original churchs and has the authority to interpret the bible

              • LRC

                All good questions. Perhaps if you read my response to Bruce Sullivan, you’ll see where I’m going. Thanks.

                • Paul Adams

                  Ok, and I’ll let him respond.

    • Adam__Baum

      “freely and joyously”

      Neither of those words is associated with socialism or communism.

    • Marcelus

      Please do not be offended, but there is more talk in this forum about the Liberation Theology that , I’d dare say, in my native South America.

      It’s been years, I’m not a versed reader, since i heard or read anything about this missguided tendency

      • LRC

        Not offended at all, Marcelus. I’m not proposing Liberation Theology. To question a status quo is to not propose the opposite. I simply question all things as any sensible person would. I like to learn, and if I believe the lesson is insufficient to carry the cause, I question.

        • Marcelus

          Good point thank you.

  • Mgwps63

    Hi, I am not a scholar, I am a wife and mother with no business commenting here, but I wish to express something I have observed reading this article. It is more of a mystical observation rather than a worldly one, so I apologize in advance for going off topic. Marx seems to have been what I call one of the many evil prophets of the world. He certainly knew things beyond natural intelligence. He spoke of things two centuries ago that are definitly coming to fruition now, all over the world, and we are headed for a One World Government, Godless! Marx knew how it was going to work out. His view appeals to the goodness of man who are hungry for Justice on earth. But the poison of Marx is his atheism. That is the red flag of socialism and my soul sceams: “stay away”! Now I finally have the answer to the gnawing questions in the back of my mind and in my heart: Something evil is pushing this …what is this force propelling mankind away from God and towards a Government Religion? It is not a group of Illuminate, as feared, it is worse than that. It is an illuminate in our souls, a false enlightenment. This “light” is a weakness inside of man’s being, allowing itself to be manipulated by the promise of justice on earth. If man were not so full of pride, we would have gone in another direction, entirely. Capitalism set us up for this fall, because it made us so rich we became spiritually weak and pliable …our consciences bother us, and we can’t think clearly without The Holy Spirit. The illuminate is AntiChrist, and sadly it is inside of many souls on earth and right now it is powerful. . Because of our obstinance, we are all going to be made bodily slaves by this force. My faith tells me that all of this is under the watchful eye of the Creator and he WILL make good of it. Through Christ Jesus, Our Lord!

  • Arriero

    Marxism goes against Catholicism, its history, tradition and teaching, at least, in the same way Libertarianism goes against it. Anarquism is misunderstood Liberalism. Neo-liberalism is updated fascism. Fascism is Marxism’s bad copy. Classical Liberalism’s is a protestant attack to Absolutism. Absolutism is radical Authoritarianism.

    We live now in a post-modern coorporativist neo-fascist regime. Post-modernism which comes from the relativist roots of Protestantism (cfr. Pope Benedict). Coorporativist Neo-fascism which has borned from misunderstood Liberalism (cfr. Pope Francis).

    Marxism is no longer the enemy. You’re focusing too much in the wrong issue.

    Apart, from a pure intellectual point of view Marxist economic theory is, at least, as respectable as Liberal economic theory. In fact, Liberalism developed one of the most nihilistic concepts ever, the concept of value, which is now widely defined as something like: «something is worth what people want to pay for it» (AD/AS curve). This is protestantism of the worst kind within one of the foundational aspects of Liberalism.

    Thomas Aquinas once wrote: «Never sell anything for more than it’s worth». Theory of intrinsic value, which in turn comes from Aristotle. Antonio Machado, the Spanish poet, once wrote: «solo un necio confunde valor y precio» (only a fool confuses value and price). A fool, and a protestanized liberal. Marx never confused value and price, because for him: «something is worth the amount of labour it possesses».

    The problem of marxism lies in everything that goes beyond economic theory. The problem of Classical Liberalism lies in everything that goes beyond economic theory, and economic theory too, because it is heavily influenced by Protestantism. Chesterton always knew that; he never was so easily fooled.

    Both – marxism and liberalism – undermine Church’s moral, institutional and historical supremacy.

    The post-modern world is, in fact, a cause of Classical Liberalism-beyond-its-limits, of Liberalism carried to its logical. Pope Francis knows it. It’s understandable why he has been misread, it’s not easy to see through the smog.

  • bonaventure

    Francis is not a Marxist. But he speaks off-the-cuff, and writes without research on an issue, which betrays a lack of prudence. He must work much harder on that.

  • lifeknight

    “And as pope, Francis met privately with Gutierrez in September, two months before the publication of his Evangelii Gaudium.”

    What is up with that?
    I don’t think I read any comments regarding this “meeting.” It seems very suspicious considering the content and tone of the consequent document.

    • Marcelus

      Lifeknight: Ive said it before, He has met Putin, if I recall correctly and do not mean anything by it, JP2 met Castro? I think. And he will meet lots of controversial people for as long as he is in office.

      He received Pdnt Cristina Kirchner , who up until March 12th could not stand the very sight of Crdl Bergoglio and refused the 14 appointmennts he requested her.So he may as well meet anyone,does not make him anything Other than Francis

      This Gutierrez meeting has no relevance at all. Bergoglio has never followed nor supported the LT Correct me if I’m wrong, Isn’t Gutierrez working in America I read somewhere? if so How come?

      Stand by Peter

  • Bruce Sullivan

    I think the essay is very informative and a good primer on the thinking that has shaped much of our modern world. However, I am a bit surprised by the following statement from the author: “However, if Francis wants to completely disassociate himself from Liberation Theology, I would advise against suggesting profits lead to some sort of exclusion (alienation?).”

    I am surprised, and disappointed, because that statement amounts to a distortion (albeit unintentional) of Pope Francis’ words. As cited in the essay, Pope Francis wrote, ” I am far from proposing an irresponsible populism, but the economy can no longer turn to remedies that are a new poison, such as attempting to increase profits by reducing the work force and thereby adding to the ranks of the excluded.”

    In the preceding, Francis clearly identified the “remedy” of “reducing the work force” in order to increase profits as the “poison” that causes exclusion (i.e. not profits per se).

    Otherwise, I think it to be a very helpful essay.

  • slainte

    What is the alternative to a nation state that denies transendence?
    Has such an alternative existed historically?

    • Paul Adams


  • John O’Neill

    Francis is not a Marxist but he might be something even worse; an American leftwing democrat who thinks that supporting universal day care and minimum wage is much more important than fighting abortion or upholding traditional Christian marriage.

    • Arriero

      You cannot legislate against free abortion – or anything else – without a state, without government.

      The issue is: who has the power?

      An American left-wing democrat is wise enough to know that he could only impose his ideas – free abortion, homo marriage, or whatever you’re thinking about – through government. An american right-wing far-libertarian is stupid enough for being unaware about the impossibility of making «good» laws without government.

      That’s the political dilemma within the US conservative political movement. Here, we know that the Church must have a preponderant power in front of government and the state to achieve our common objectives. On the contrary, the others, those able to be in front of government, will undermine Church’s teaching. We know history, and we do know that a state has to be confessional, for the sake of goodness and justice.

    • Arriero

      And let me say one more thing. We, Catholics, have to fight to uphold CATHOLIC marriage and CATHOLIC teaching, not Christian marriage; The adjective «Christian», as a general term, is usually a very badly used word, and incredibly misleading.

      There has never been a worse threat to Catholicism than Protestantism. Far more harmful than marxism. We should make that clear.

      I wouldn’t never fight to uphold mormon, baptist or presbyterian marriage more than I would fight to uphold muslim or jew marriage.

      Let’s always remember what the Romans said when Viriathus was killed: «ROME DOES NOT PAY TRAITORS». We still don’t pay, do we?

    • Marcelus

      Outspoken or not, try to run this article that I picked out of many from back in 2005 in Argentina thru google translator. You will see, even if he doesn’t talk about it all the time now that he is Pope. This is how Francis fought as Cardnl.! Very few bishops, let alone Popes had to face what he went thru, simply because their government did not pass any legislation on abortion on same sex marriage. La Nacion is Argentina s 2nd most famous paper.

      “Aquí también está la envida del Demonio, por la que entró el pecado en el mundo, que arteramente pretende destruir la imagen de Dios: hombre y mujer que reciben el mandato de crecer, multiplicarse y dominar la tierra”.

      “Here too is the envy of the devil. Thru which sin entered the world and that maliciously pretends to destroy the image of God: a man and a woman who receive a mandate to grow, multiply and rule the earth. ”

      “Jorge Bergoglio: strong oposition to abortion and same sex marriage”

      This in the eyes of our good Pope does not mean forgiveness and mercy is not to granted upon repentance to the socially hurt or outcast.

  • DurkaDurka

    Being a useful idiot is worse than being a Marxist. A Marxist makes predictable organized moves. A useful idiot will fall into every pothole his ideology leeds him to.

  • Sid

    Pope Francis doesn’t have a Marxism problem. Rather, Prof. Byrne seems to have a capitalism problem.

    A system grounded in free market determinants is an inherently evil arrangement, has been witnessed against by some luminaries of the Church, and roundly condemned by official magisterial teaching.

    Venerable Catholic scholars such as Pesch, Fanfani, and Cahill took Adam Smith to task well before there was ever a Pope Francis.

    • Paul Adams

      You say, “A system grounded in free market determinants is an inherently evil arrangement,” as if that were magisterial teaching. But it is not. In Centesimus Annus, JP II considered the question of whether, in light of the failure of Communism, capitalism should be the goal of the countries seeking to rebuild their economy and society. His answer is far from calling capitalism inherently evil.

      “The answer is obviously complex. If by “capitalism” is meant an economic system which recognizes the fundamental and positive role of business, the market, private property and the resulting responsibility for the means of production, as well as free human creativity in the economic sector, then the answer is certainly in the affirmative, even though it would perhaps be more appropriate to speak of a “business economy”, “market economy” or simply “free economy”. But if by “capitalism” is meant a system in which freedom in the economic sector is not circumscribed within a strong juridical framework which places it at the service of human freedom in its totality, and which sees it as a particular aspect of that freedom, the core of which is ethical and religious, then the reply is certainly negative” (#42).

      In short, what the Magisterium teaches is that socialism is inherently evil in all its forms. Capitalism is not, but it needs to be “circumscribed within a strong juridical framework,” not any juridical framework (e.g., not one of crony capitalism, corruption, and bureaucracy) but one that “places it at the service of human freedom in its totality, and which sees it as a particular aspect of that freedom, the core of which is ethical and religious.” That is, economic freedom cannot stand alone, but requires political and cultural freedom. Adam Smith made the same points about the free market’s requiring and building the virtues and depending on political and cultural freedom, expressed in the juridical framework as well as the virtues of citizens.

  • Marcelus

    Good article. Words by Francis:” marxism is wrong” “I am not speaking technically in EG”.

    As for the Liberation Theology in Latin America I’ve said it before: used to be functional to left wing terrorist groups back in the 70s. Awful times for Argentina an Latin America.
    There was one Jesuit provincial and a very influential man even then who managed to keep the jesuits at bay, temptations were many! ! And many young priests stayed loyal to the church and it’s leaders thanks to the efforts of Fr Jorge Bergoglio. There were in Latin America back then either socialist communist governments or military dictatorships. Though times. Now a days , liberation theology is non existing down here.

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  • Roscoe Bonsweenie

    “the most powerful intellectual system since Christianity”

    lost me with that one

  • Randall Ward

    It is Marx that has the problem; he has a Woody Allen problem. Marx was just not that smart but he fooled a lot of people because he said things they wanted to hear. Marx had no wisdom of his own. He copied Hegels ideas, changed them a little and spent a lifetime saying he did not copy Hegel. Marxs ideas were nothing more than a copy of the teaching in the bible about the kingdom of God, only leaving God out and replacing God with MAN.
    It is just that simple and the same thing is done every day by millions of “god like men”.

  • Kris

    David Byrne it seems you need to read Bishop Fulton Sheen’s Communism and the Conscience of the West. I think Bishop Sheen’s knowledge and understanding of the history and development of Marxism is what you need. Don’t write on this topic again until you read Bishop Sheen and learn from him…..he is the best!

  • Kris

    David Byrne I looked into your recent article published as noted in your bio….you have been fooled by Marx’s use of Christian/scriptural references and concepts into thinking that they are the underlying inspiration of his theories….this is a trick of the devil of the most basic order. He (satan) cannot create only twist and distort and so he uses what God has done and what is God’s (scripture etc) in order to make his lies and his distortions more palatable to the masses. As Marx was a tool of the devil it only makes sense that he use Christian framework for his demonic philosophy! You miss the o
    bvious….you seriously need to read and learn from Bishop Fulton Sheen….

  • IdPnSD

    You are fundamentally wrong when you say – “but I would caution anyone from arguing the capitalist system leads to poverty”. The foundation of capitalism is profiting. Profiting means cheating. You cannot make money without cheating some body. There is no win-win situation. There is always win-lose situation. Win-win violates the law of conservation as defined in physics. In every win-win situation, if you research carefully, you will always find a third party who will be the loser. Also, in all such cases the environment is always a loser.

    To help the poor, capitalism cannot exists. But Pope is in trouble, because Church requires money too, for its survival. As long as money is there, there will be exploitation, cheating, higher salary, interest rate, recessions. These are all systematic means of taking wealth away from bottom fifth of the society.

    Moneyless economy is the only solution. We can run the exact same economy we have now, in the exact same way, as we are running now, without any money, and yet provide any life style any individual wants. Moneyless economy is the natural economy. If Pope wants to keep money he will be doomed to be a failure in his mission. The long hand of money power will destroy everything again, no matter how you try.

    Money is not an object of nature and therefore cannot obey the laws of nature. Therefore money must be false, free, and abundant. Using such a false thing you cannot run a real society. I think you may want to read the book at: