Pope Francis comes out with an 85-page exhortation to the faithful to remember their duty to the poor and – inevitably – the socialists eagerly assert that not only the pope but Jesus was a socialist just like them.
First, the facts. The pope, in “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”), has a thing or two to say about unbridled capitalism. He describes it, when it is carried to excess, as taking on the characteristics of an ideology that worships “the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and of financial speculation.”
He talks of excessive capitalism as potentially becoming “a new tyranny.” He says the earnings of the rich are “growing exponentially,” thus “separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by the happy few.”
Thom Hartmann, a hard-left talk-show host, is pleased with the pope’s remarks. He recently drivelled on Russia Today to the effect that they show Jesus supported taxpayer-funded welfare. For good measure, he added that one cannot be a Catholic and a Republican. One had to be a socialist to bring about “a more equal and just society.”
Well, Pope Francis is not as dumb as that. He knows perfectly well what the multi-millionaire Martini Marxist Hartmann has long forgotten: that unequal shares of something are better than equal shares of nothing. One only has to look around the world to see that socialism does not work. In fact, the more extreme the socialism, the less it works. Think Cuba.
Pope Francis also knows that the million men of the KGB’s desinformatsiya program regarded the Catholic Church as socialism’s greatest and most implacable enemy. They spent decades setting up sock-puppet publications throughout the West, using them to attack the Church by repeating, over and over again, that Pope Pius XII was a Nazi-loving Jew-hater. He was the reverse, of course. After the Second World War the chief rabbi of Rome became a Catholic.
And it was the Communists of the KGB who also invented liberation theology and planted it in Pope Francis’ continent as another way to undermine the Church. Its slogans about the “fundamental option for the poor” were more pietistic than pious. The intention – much like that of Hartmann, one suspects – was to undermine the authority of the Church, not to help the poor.
Hartmann tried to maintain that when the Pharisees asked Jesus whether they should pay their taxes He said they should.
Actually, He was telling a joke. At the time of the story, Roman Emperor Tiberius was nearing the end of his debauched reign, and even the idealized portraits on his coins could not entirely conceal how fat and ugly he had become.
Our blessed Lord, on being shown a coin of Tiberius, looked at the notorious image on it and said: “Whose head is that?” On being told it was the head of Tiberius, He said: “Well, give it straight back to him, then.”
As an afterthought, He added, “And, while you’re about it, give God His due, too.”
Of course, the joke does not come across quite like that in the King James Bible. Imagine Mark 12:17 being read out in the laughably precious tone of your typical Anglican vicar:
“Ryendaaah untoo Caesaaah the thyings theeyat aaah Ceasaaah’s, eeyand untoo Gooad the thyings theeyat aaah Gooad’s.”
Now, the Church has to keep a balance between the various evils of the world. It has attacked socialism in all its ugly forms, over and over again. In the 19th century, pope after pope condemned what was then called “Modernism.”
In 1937, Pope Pius XII, while still secretary of state to his predecessor, drafted the encyclical “Mit brennender Sorge,” which condemned the National Socialism of Hitler in Hitler’s own language.
The Second Vatican Council, in the late 1960s, condemned the communist version of socialism, delicately calling it “atheistic humanism.”
The message of Jesus was not addressed to the government, or to any form of collective. It was addressed to the individual.
No system of government, whether capitalist or socialist, whether conservative or liberal, whether individualist or collectivist, whether Confucian or Legalist, whether totalitarian or libertarian, whether right or left, can function unless the individual does his duty toward those who are deserving of his help.
That is what the pope is saying.
Also, in the last major sermon he preached before he became pope, he explicitly and roundly condemned the nations of the West for accumulating dangerous levels of national debt – a warning that has also been sounded regularly in this column.
And where does nearly all of that dangerous debt come from? It comes from the socialist State paying out too much of the taxpayers’ money as welfare.
One does not understand either the pope or the Church unless one understands that both celebrate not only the individualistic but also the communitarian in the human soul. If each man is an island, he is also part of the great archipelago that is the human race.
Rightly, the pope and the Church keep the balance between the two sides of the human character. To pick and choose between one side and the other is to commit heresy. When Hartmann grows up, perhaps he will come to understand that.