What’s Wrong With Catholic Socialism

With the arrival of the Pope in the US this weekend, I’ve turned a little pensive.

I am concerned with America’s Catholics, in particular, the 60+% who don’t think it’s important to attend Mass. Given our (or at least, my) particular beliefs in our dogma, skipping out on Mass is skipping out on communing with the Creator. Effectively, it’s like saying, “Hey, Jesus, thanks for all you’ve done, but hey, I was up last night drinking, so I can’t come to hang out.” Hey, we’ve all missed Church for various reasons, and I can understand that our educated, prideful culture doesn’t like getting “preached to”, but if you’re going to call yourself a Catholic, at least go to Church.

I know many, many Catholics of various stripes. I’ve know priests and nuns from various orders, and my Confirmation sponsor is currently the Bishop of Utah (I can’t wait until he’s Pope). And I have noticed a definitive leaning towards a socialist government that provides basic needs for everyone in society, be it welfare, education, or health care. Many of the priests and nuns are products of the 60s and 70s, so it’s not surprising their influence is usually heavy into more liberal interpretations of Vatican II and the faith in general. However, many of the Catholic clergy are educated and, for the most part, familiar with the tenets of the catechism of Catholicism. But what’s clear is that the laity have no idea what that dogma is. I remember having an argument with my high school religion teacher over New Testament scripture and having to correct her because she mixed up two scripture passages. I also lose patience with Catholics who somehow think it’s OK to disagree with the Church on abortion & stem cell research. At that point you really have to stop calling yourself Catholic, folks.

But the big gripe I have now is a row with well-meaning but short-sighted members of the faith who want to see more government involvement in our lives to better assist those in need. Catholics need to stop voting with Democrats because they feel the Democratic social agenda is better aligned with the teachings of the Church. In fact, nothing can be further from the truth. I’m not saying Republicans are Popes-in-disguise, either. Both need to totally reevaluate their platforms, and Catholics need to disassociate themselves with the notion that Government is somehow responsible for taking care of its citizens.

John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic president, a Democrat, acted more like a Republican than a Democrat, and he had a great grasp on how the citizenry should respond to their government. “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” is a call to service from the citizenry. It’s a call for smaller government and greater participation in Democracy by the individual. Since the 60’s, our government has gotten far larger, our politicians gain popularity with government handouts, and our citizenry demands more and more “freebies” from the government. In the meantime, many expect a large government role as a caretaker of its citizens. Catholics, especially those who want to participate in the faith, should flee from this idea.

St. James (James 2:14-17) talks of faith and works in his letter, and this particular letter should be recognized as a call against socialism:

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Catholics who trust in government to deliver what’s needed to their neighbor are just like the man who does not give charity to those in need. A government is not a body of God, but a body of man, as it has no call to anything greater than itself, it is prone to corruption. However, the individual is responsible, especially the Catholic individual, to God and to Jesus. If the person puts his faith into institutions of man to deliver charity, then it is completely misguided. “Give unto God what is Gods, and give unto Caesar what is Caesar” was not talking about revamping the tax code, but instead a call to separate manly institutions from Godly institutions. The individual needs to be charitable, and alone give of their time, treasure and talent to those in need.

Our government allows for tax deductions to charitable organizations, which I find to be complete folly because it contradicts the nature of charity. Charity is selfless giving of oneself. If you give and then turn and expect reward from the government, it is not “charitable giving” and should not be deducted from any tax because nothing was truly given by the individual. In addition, many “charities” receive money from the government for their mission. Charities such as Planned Parenthood are antithetical to the dogma of Catholic faith, and trusting in a government to correctly deliver those funds to Catholic-approved charities is foolishness on the part of the taxpayer. Socialist constructs do not differentiate between non-profit organizations, except for some of those that have relgious connections! While many people feel good about the government providing assistance to those who are needy, the truth of the matter is the government is far more likely to deliver those monies to organizations that are secular or antithetical to the mission of the Catholic Church!

In addition, when the government takes your money (read: taxes), it is by force. By requesting the government to increase its spending amongst the population, there has to be rise in revenue of the government as well, and that is through taxes. Effectively, to make sure the need for “charity” is met by well-meaning Catholics, they are demanding all people, even those who may oppose such giving, to give to the government to accomplish the goals of their religious beliefs. Charity isn’t a vehicle of force, it’s a vehicle of will to assist others. Let there be no intermediary between the Catholic and those in need, for that is the nature of charity.

Social programs provided by the government at the cost of our tax dollars is not what Catholicism is about. JFK didn’t think so, St. James didn’t think so, and I don’t think Christ even thought so. What’s clear to me is that the Catholic faith is about the rallying of the individual to something greater. Voting for candidate who promise more social programs saps Catholicism of its strength in charity and delivers that muscle to the government, an amoral body run by the amoral.

Let the people dictate to the government. Let us as communities focus our efforts on Charity to those in need in our communities. How can a bureaucrat in D.C. possibly understand the needs of the people in your neighborhood? Stop waiting on the welfare check, and take help from your neighbors. Who better to help you and your family?


18 Responses to “What’s Wrong With Catholic Socialism”

  1. April 15, 2008 at 9:56 am


    Pius XI stated that “One cannot be both a true Catholic AND a true Socialist.”

    In this country, were the Constitution observed as something other than wallpaper, the size and scope of Gummint would be limited enough that actual charity would be do-able–instead of sending money to the Feds/State/Muni/Schools…wherever.

  2. April 15, 2008 at 8:15 pm

    (Troll comment)

    Who would want to dine with a war criminal?

    Pay close attention to what Pope Benedict says in his speech to the UN on Fri.

    (/troll comment)

  3. 3 docattheautopsy
    April 16, 2008 at 11:12 am

    Actually, he’s got dinner with the US Bishops. Work before business, Willy. Nice trolling.

  4. April 16, 2008 at 8:22 pm

    Yah, well.

    Given the number of malefactors in the roomful of Bishops, maybe he’d rather have been with Bush.

  5. 5 Matt R.
    April 16, 2008 at 8:47 pm

    JP II already tried to talk Bush out of Iraq, face to face. Bush denied him. The current Pope advised JP II on the Iraq decision. I can see lots of embarrassed silence at the dinner table anyway. Another helping of “We told you so, George?”

  6. 6 mara
    January 31, 2009 at 10:05 am

    If you look at the social democrat website, abortion is not part of their platform and they welcome all religious traditions. Socialism of old was against religion, but today socialism respects an individual’s religious beliefs as contributing to the moral development of a person. So Pius XI was correct for his time when he stated that you cannot be both Catholic and socialist, but today this is not true. Stockpiling wealth while the poor continue to suffer is not a Christian virtue. Donating minimally to the poor while you have several houses still isn’t quite there either. Everyone deserves a basic standard of living.

  7. 7 docattheautopsy
    January 31, 2009 at 11:25 am

    It’s not the duty of government to redistribute wealth. Charity is the responsibility of the individual, not the responsibility of the state. Forcing others through socialism to spend their money on programs that they would not support is a co-option by the government of charity, and robs the person of the money they could use to support local charities.

    As politics is a function of money and power, it’s illogical to assume that there is selflessness for the good on behalf of the power brokers. Only at a local level can true charity be distributed, and then only by individuals empowering local charity.

    As of now, Obama is using my taxes to support family planning “charities” abroad, something I resist. How can that be considered moral?

  8. 8 jack
    March 24, 2010 at 11:13 am

    @docatteautopsy- How can one be a true Catholic and not abide by the social teaching of the Church? You talk about the dogma of the Church but ignore the foundations of Catholic teachings.

    These 7 precepts are the foundation of Catholic teachings.

    1. Sanctity of human life and dignity of the person
    2. Call to family, community, and participation
    3. Rights and responsibilities
    4. Preferential Option for the poor and vulnerable
    5. Dignity of work and the rights of workers
    6. Solidarity
    7. Care for God’s creation

    The Church has stated that “Every person has a fundamental right to life and to the necessities of life. In addition, every human has the right to what is required to live a full and decent life, things such as employment, health care, and education” [1]

    The Church has also stated “The Church supports private property and teaches that “every man has by nature the right to possess property as his own.” The right to private property is not absolute, however, and is limited by the concept of the social mortgage. It is theoretically moral and just for its members to destroy property used in an evil way by others, or for the state to redistribute wealth from those who have unjustly hoarded it.” [1]

    As Catholics I think we are so focused on one point that we are missing the broader picture.

    Our teachings call us to respect the sanctity of human life and the dignity of the person. Does this not mean we should respect the sanctity of ALL life, not just the unborn? What about the sanctity of life of those we need medical treatment but cannot afford it?

    Should someone that needs a medicine that costs $12,000/month and cannot afford that, but yet because this caused him to become disabled and with disability he makes more than the poverty level, he cannot qualify for medical assistance but yet his insurance won’t cover the medicine.

    Should he be left to die without his medicine?

    I know someone who is in that situation in his early 50’s. And it is hard to look him in the eye as he withers away and will soon die. I see a proud vibrant man, who no through fault of his own came down with a disease and now I watch him wither away and dying every day when I stop to see if I can do anything for him. Where is the sanctity of his life?

    Our teaching also teaches us that we need to have an option for the poor. I see poor people turned away from the free clinics daily because of lack of medicines to give them. What about the sanctity of their life?

    Obviously in a perfect world we would have no abortion at all, and we should continue to oppose it. However should we not rejoice in the gains that the health care will gain the poor, the infirm, the needy and the vulnerable people and continue to work on closing the abortion loopholes instead of opposing it outright?

    As a Catholic it would seem to me that would be what Jesus would want us to do. I have prayed about this diligently, but it comes down to the fact that people will be helped by the reform and saved and those lives are just as precious to me as an unborn child. I hope that we continue to fight to close the loopholes but rejoice in the fact that now we are in a better position to protect the sanctity of ALL life.

    I know others on this board will call me “socalist” or other names. I take stock in the the teaching of the Church and look to the teachingsto guide me.

    [1] Rights and Responsibilities, Major themes from Catholic Social Teaching, Office for Social Justice, Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

  9. 9 docattheautopsy
    April 8, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    Jack, you seem to be missing the entirety of the point of my post. Please note what I said:

    “The individual needs to be charitable, and alone give of their time, treasure and talent to those in need.”

    It is incumbent upon the person, Jack, not the government, to provide for those who are in need. Government is not a religious institution, it is an institution of man. As we know, institutions of man are not run as Catholic organizations, and they are often subject to sin and corruption. I find it troublesome that you would defend the idea of pouring money to the government to support our Catholic ideals, when so much of that money simply goes towards waste.

    And do not fool yourself into believing that the Government Health Care Reform Act is going to give Health Care to those in need. In fact, it requires those without to buy health insurance, increasing the burden on the poor and not mandating any kind of right other than the right to pay for insurance paid by somebody else.

    The individual is ultimately the person responsible to God. God does not sit in judgment of Government at the Pearly Gates. God judges the individual and their actions. Please tell me where it is the least bit Christian to have a government force one person to pay for the needs of another under penalty of imprisonment? Effectively that’s what we have.

    However, if a group of concerned individuals band together to form a charitable organization that buys insurance to cover swaths of the poor, then that IS a Catholic program in the name of Social Justice. Nobody is forced to give to the charity– it is completely voluntary. It seeks to assist those in need through the goodness of individual giving and support. THAT is true social justice, as it does not coopt by force other individuals to be “charitable”.

    I never heard of someone who was robbed at gunpoint saying, “Oh, I just fulfilled my place in the name of Social Justice.” No, social justice is the recognition of the individual that the poor need attention, and they give of themselves in time, talent and treasure to better that person’s life and community.

    Simon, who was drafted by the Romans to assist Christ in carrying the Cross, was not being charitable. Nor can you say his actions were the actions in the name of Social Justice. He was a passerby who was forced by the government to carry the Cross of Christ at the point of a sword. The Apostles were not there at the ready to volunteer, either. It’s a narrative of the Crucifixion, that fear of the Governments of Man (The Romans and the Jews) kept the people from being charitable.

    You said:

    “As a Catholic it would seem to me that would be what Jesus would want us to do. I have prayed about this diligently, but it comes down to the fact that people will be helped by the reform and saved and those lives are just as precious to me as an unborn child. I hope that we continue to fight to close the loopholes but rejoice in the fact that now we are in a better position to protect the sanctity of ALL life.”

    And I agree. But notice how you do state this. “WE must continue to fight.” And we will. But we cannot rely on the godless government of man to carry our standard, because that institution is subject to sin. As Catholics, we must trust in the teachings of He who is Without Sin, and by our individual diligence, we are the watchdogs. The best method for overseeing our necessary charity is on the community level, and there we can protect the sanctity through our own actions, not the actions of 2200+ pages of poorly crafted legislation that was paid for by bribes and political favors.

    The burden of charity is upon us. Not our government.

    • 10 ross kirkbride
      March 2, 2012 at 3:29 pm

      As someone who works as a doctor in the National Health Service in the UK I thought I would add my two cents to the debate. It seems to me as a Catholic that there is a ideology running through your arguments that strikes me as odd. By odd I mean bad. The general anti-government tone is something that is popular in the US I gather, but on what basis? Clearly government institutions are corrupt because man runs them. However, man is corrupt as an individual and collectively, and although the Church is a divine institution, it is also populated by men, who are corrupt.

      As a individual in society you would have no doubt agreed to pay for road maintenance, the police, or the fire service, as a collective. You don’t have your own private road to work, a fire engine, or your own gun (may be you do!). Functioning fire engines and police services are in your own interest. As is government that decides on foreign policy for example, subject to the democratic process. What is it that is so objectionable then, about collectively funding a health service? Providing basic healthcare for those that live in poverty by contributing some of your wealth to a cooperative, seems like organised Christian charity to me. The earliest hospitals where run by religious institutions like monasteries. People recognise the good in these institutions and wanted to imitate them. People will take advantage of you, you may well not agree with some of the services provided (especially with a secular government in charge), but at its heart is charity. We’re in it together.

      Your objections largely seem to rest on what central government does wrong. Maybe you don’t want that new highway. Maybe you don’t want more money spent on defence. Well, do something about it. Don’t vote for them. Write to you congressman. Campaign against them. Be part of the Church’s voice. Pray to God. But there is good in it too, in this collective action, in being part of a society.

      To hear Catholics bemoan a movement to a health care model that is accessible to the poor, rather than just the wealthy and worried-well, is a shame. This movement needs guidance but it moves in the right direction.

      • 11 Matt Ruane
        March 12, 2012 at 5:24 pm

        This is why we revolted. From you statements, you see govt as top down. We see it as as it should be from bottom up, (Ask not what you country can do for you…) True all inst are corrupt, therefore the indiv must guard his/her rights; hence the constitutions (or magna carta). Catholic churches are as not absolute as people make out. There are councils, charter houses, etc. “The price of liberty is constant vigilance.”

    • December 12, 2013 at 7:42 pm

      I know this is an ancient post of yours but, I just want to say that you brilliantly summarized what true Catholics and Americans believe. Catholic Marxism, or Liberation Theology as it is also called, is a product of the Soviet Union, introduced into the Church to silence Her opposition to Communism, in effect, to “convert” her. The documents and proofs of it have now been exposed by communist defectors and the like. Unfortunately, the seeds that were planted have come to fruition in the laity and the clergy alike. Communism never fell, it merely re-branded.

  10. August 14, 2011 at 9:33 am

    One difficulty in discussing “Christian” socialism is the examples used to tilt the argument in favor of socialism; that of a man dying who can’t afford outrageously priced medication. (Such drugs are not his only option). The undefined “Poor” (a relative term impossible to define across cultures) are often used as propaganda for socialism. However, Jesus came to retrieve the world from sin not to save it from poverty (Mk 14:3-8) John’s gospel defines love of God as keeping His Law, the Commandments (Jn 14:15) not as giving money to untrustworthy governments for social programs. The validation of socialism cannot rest on a mere notion that it is a presumed blessing for the “Poor”. The discussion has to enlarge to discern whether socialism’s total dogma violates God’s law, and puts strange gods before Him in violation of the First Commandment. It is a religious debate not an economic one.

    • 15 ross kirkbride
      March 2, 2012 at 3:46 pm

      A collective contribution to a healthcare service may have some features of ‘socialism’ but should not be rejected for that. Forget the ideological bullshit, the red paranoia, is it a good idea? Clearly capitalism stinks to high heaven, as does the ridiculous communism project, but this idea stands well on its merits.

      You confuse the job of God and your job. You have a responsibility for you brother. Jesus saved you from your sin and self-centredness. I would be impressed if you could match this. Be happy to love and serve your God, in part at least by serving your brother.

  11. 16 Concerned
    October 30, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    Catholics have to get back to the separation of church and state! God calls on us as “individuals” to give to God what is his and Ceasar his. What about your God given right of “free will” ? A socialist govenment interfers with your right to choose to contribute your funds and promote your beliefs because they force you to contribute inspite of your beliefs. The government ideals and socialism is not in line with Catholic theology on either of these 2 points. Catholic’s have also forgotten the difference between what is the “Church” vs the human aspect that runs it. Man has and will make mistakes in the Church and in the Government. All sinners. Governments and Nations have fallen but the Church has survived. The Church is the pillar of truth.

    While I’m at it birth control is not allowing for God’s will to be done, but more of a selfish act that has taken God out of the equation for selfish puposes.

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My name is Doc. Welcome to my blog. If you're visiting from another blog, add me to your blogroll (and I'll happily reciprocate). I have a Ph.D. in Chemistry and live in Wisconsin. If you have any questions, feel free to email me. My email is docattheautopsy at gmail. (No linking to deflate the incredible spam monsters).



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