Catholicism and Socialism? Incompatible.

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In a confusing and desperately frustrating primary season, one of the oddest outcomes has been the rise of Bernie Sanders. The self-proclaimed democratic socialist, who won last night’s New Hampshire democratic primary, has vowed to make virtually everything free. He’s stated time and time again that college education should cost nothing to the college student, that healthcare should never been paid for out-of-pocket, and that welfare programs should be vastly expanded. His disdain for the ‘1%’ is referred to in every stump speech given, and he has promised a massive redistribution of wealth. In his candidacy, Bernie has carefully incorporated all the elements of an unachievable socialist utopia.

That a far-left Senator from Vermont subscribes to socialism is not surprising. Government officials and academics are constantly attempting to throw capitalism overboard so that socialism can reign free. They conveniently ignore that socialism has never worked in human history, ending either in economic disaster or mass genocide. They fail to openly acknowledge that socialism, and its even distribution of wealth and property, runs contrary to human nature.  And they demonize capitalism and the businessmen despite being afforded their positions, jobs, and wealth through a capitalistic society. This is not new, and I expect it will continue for as long as American principles exist.

What does concern me, however, is the large, and growing, support Bernie has from the electorate, especially Catholics. CatholicVote recently published statistics on the election showing that 52% of Catholic adults believed Sanders would be an average or better president. 52%? Seriously?

I struggled to understand the wide appeal of Bernie Sanders mainly because I know socialism, or even a government that looks a lot like socialism, will never work in this country. It is economically unsound and morally unjust. But upon a closer look, I see why Catholic support of Sanders is so high. There seems to be a confusion over what Catholicism teaches about charity and equality and what government can do to facilitate that charity and equality. While Catholic Social Teaching tells us that we as Christians have an obligation to help those less fortunate, it states that it should be done through good will by faith, not government mandated programs funded by excessive taxes.

The fundamental flaw in the perceived relationship between Bernie’s social-justice mantra and Catholicism came forth while reading a piece by Josh Gelertner in National Review on cultural appropriation. Though the topic is unrelated, he states that, “young leftists who want to appear good without the hassle of doing good” are problematic and rampant in today’s society. The desire of many to appear good without actually doing anything good is a line of thinking that lends itself to Sanders campaign. Pumping money into government welfare programs and education seemingly does what many people are unwilling to do themselves—assist the poor, hungry, sick, and marginalized. In an effort to reconcile Catholic Social Teaching with modern American society, numerous Catholics have eliminated individual good will and charity in favor of government-subsidized programs and insane tax plans.

In reality, Bernie’s highfalutin criticism of capitalism and praise of socialism is contradictory to much of Catholic Doctrine. The theology does not preach the merits of government redistribution of wealth or extreme welfare programs whose benefits outweigh those gained through actual work. Hard work and charity from the heart are pillars of the Catholic faith; two things that are enabled by capitalism and hindered by socialism.  Pope John Paul II wrote in his encyclical ‘Sollicitudo Rei Socialis’ that “Experience shows us that the denial of this right [the right of economic initiative], or its limitation in the name of an alleged “equality” of everyone in society diminishes, or in practice, absolutely destroys the spirit of initiative..”. Government cannot grant equality by taxing the rich, redistributing their often hard-earned wealth, and creating massive welfare programs, because equality is not theirs to give.

Equality comes from God, not Bernie Sanders.

Socialism, and its disciple Sanders, are not friends of Catholicism. Sanders plan fundamentally undermines the spirit of Christian charity, assuming the marginalized will only be cared for if the federal government forces you to care. Further, the notion of economic redistribution, as a means of achieving equality is counter to the belief that God grants our worth and hard work is a mainstay of Catholic teaching, not to mention a deeply flawed economic practice. Socialism is not known for its embrace of religion, so why is this proposal any different?

In an election cycle as important as this, Catholics have a spiritual and civic responsibility to assess candidates beyond their stump speeches. Though free education, free healthcare, and the promise of hearty welfare benefits sounds good, the promise is impossible. Taxing away nearly all the money of those who work hard to pay for others’ elite education and over-the-top welfare benefits disincentivizes work. In turn, those federally funded social programs use the money of others to negate the need for Christian charity.

The socialism of Bernie Sanders is not Catholic Social Teaching on steroids, but a practice that if implemented, would render Catholicism, and it’s members, archaic.  

 

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of CatholicVote.org

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About Author

Kate, a native of Philadelphia, is a university student in South Carolina and summer intern at CV. She enjoys travel, photography, and wine.

109 Comments

  1. “Let us return to the situation in Europe. In the nineteenth century, the two models that I described above were joined by a third, socialism, which quickly split into two different branches, one totalitarian and the other democratic. Democratic socialism managed to fit within the two existing models as a welcome counterweight to the radical liberal positions, which it developed and corrected. It also managed to appeal to various religious denominations. In England it became the political party of the Catholics, who had never felt at home among either the protestant conservatives or the liberals. In Wilhelmine Germany, too, Catholic groups felt closer to democratic socialism than to the rigidly Prussian and protestant conservative forces. In many respects, democratic socialism was and is close to Catholic social doctrine,
    and has in any case made a remarkable contribution to the formation of a social consciousness.” – Benedict XVI

  2. Is that the stand of the Church or Just Your Personal Opinion.

    I see your site is a for profit???
    CONTRIBUTIONS TO CATHOLICVOTE.ORG ARE NOT TAX-DEDUCTIBLE

  3. Maryanne Bohatyritz on

    Jesus told us to take care of the poor, He did not say that the government should pay for it. We should be helping the poor personally.
    It also certainly doesn’t address the socialistic view on LIFE.
    The Democratics are not Pro-Life, and as a Catholic could never vote for someone who wasn’t. Period!

    • He also said something about “render unto Caesar”. If Caesar wants to help the poor then why are you against it?

      • Malcolm J Merlyn on

        But should it be the government caring for the poor or should it be Christians? Sure we should render unto Caesar that which belongs to Caesar, but we should also remember that with the king’s shillings come the kings shackles.

        In order for the government to run all these programs it has to amass a lot of money and power to itself and it can use these programs to make the poor dependent on itself. In a socialistic system the government would carry out poverty relief programs and probably use those programs to influence the beneficiaries in a way that benefits the government.

        But when the Church carries out charitable works there is also evangelization going on, both of the recipient and of the giver. Volunteering one’s time and treasure towards helping the poor is an occasion for spiritual growth for the giver and a chance to witness to Christ. That is something the government can’t give, it may give material benefits to the poor, but not spiritual benefits.

  4. Great article. Maybe those 52% are fallen Catholics. Anyone who subscribes to socialism has lost their belief in God. That is why socialists hate religion. When you believe God will show you the way, you cannot believe in an overreaching government as your source of contentment. The founding principles of our nation are based in Christian principles. Too bad this is not better articulated on the campaign trail. Even atheists should be content and not hostile to the fact that we are endowed by our creator. After all, we have seen time and again in history what our fellow man can do when he wants to reign supreme: Stalin, Hitler, etc.

  5. Great Article. Every Pope in modern history through Benedict has spoken about the ills of socialism. Pope John XXIII (1958-1963) said: “No Catholic could subscribe even to moderate socialism.” Additionally, when we look at places that have “seemingly well-implemented” forms of socialism, like Scandanavia….we find countries where it God is a “non-issue.” Where it is “less embarrassing to run down the street naked than mention God.” In our intellectualism, we forget that God has a plan. That there is a divine role in suffering and sacrifice. And that we are called to help one another in God’s name…not our own.

    http://www.tfp.org/tfp-home/catholic-perspective/what-the-popes-have-to-say-about-socialism.html

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/28/us/28beliefs.html?_r=0

  6. Bravo, Kate. Too many people within the church, not just the pews, are confused about this also. Even this site – CatholicVote.org – had to put a disclaimer at the end of your article stating that your traditional Catholic views “do not necessarily represent the views of CatholicVote.org”. If not this, then I’m curious what views do represent CatholicVote.org…

  7. Thank you for this article! I earned a Master’s Degree in Sociology, and my main professor was a socialist. I remember going into his extravagant home, and when I was shocked, he simply said, “Life is full of contradictions.” For years I thought that degree was a waste of time, but now that knowledge helps me see what is really going on now. And it’s not good. This article, I hope, will help people see the problems with socialism: while it sounds good, it is not.

  8. This reads like boilerplate conservative talk. Did you do any actual research on Sanders? Even a cursory reading of his health care plans would quickly show that his plan is not free, since everyone would be paying for it like they pay for Medicare.

    Sanders’ plan is vague and certainly not perfect, but it comes much closer to answering the Church’s call for universal health care than any of the other candidates. To portray it as godless and communistic is simply absurd, unless you believe that Medicare for senior citizens is communism and godless.

      • Exactly. The Church has exactly zero responsibility for governance and the administration of healthcare initiatives. So, what exactly is your point?

      • Maybe it doesn’t, but the author’s claim is that state run health care contradicts much of Catholic social teaching, which is an absurd claim.

        • Your post said that Sanders’ plan comes closest to answering the Church’s call for universal health care.

          Sanders’ solution here is for state run healthcare.

      • Also Vatican City is a single-payer state, so it seems kind of silly to claim that the Church automatically rules out state-run health care.

          • You can repeat that as much as you want. That doesn’t change the fact that the Church doesn’t preclude state run health care. The Church calls for universal health care. Sanders’ plan is to provide health care for 100% of Americans. No other candidate plans to do so.

          • My point is that Sanders isn’t promulgating a church teaching.

            Jesus never told anyone to take your neighbor’s money and give it to Rome to spend as they see fit.

        • Sanders is not for the poor: he’s against the rich! Envy is just as bad a greed. They’re BOTH deadly sins. Giving in to envy and class-warfare are sinful. Sanders is not a Socialist; he’s a COMMUNIST! His ties to radicals in his up-bring automatically disqualify him from being a legitimate candidate for office in this country. Also, Catholics help the poor “in the name of Jesus” – not in the name of the government or Stalin or Castro or Obama. Saint Paul says: “He who does not work should not eat.” Mother Theresa said: “Don’t give to the poor because you are teaching them to beg.” ‘Nough said!!!!

    • Kate, this was a fantastic article!! Justin, it seems like you could benefit from your own advice. You may wish to do some research on Catholic Social Teaching. May I suggest the Catechism, particularly CCC 1878-1948? You may also benefit from reading the Papal Enclyclicals: Rerum Novarum, Laborem Exercens, and Centisimus Annus. Check it out. Where did you ever get the idea that government run Universal Healthcare is a human right? As Ram has pointed out in his comment to you, “The Church does not call for state-run healthcare.” To put it simply, the Catholic Church promotes the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity which stand opposed to the philosophy of Socialism. It is the difference between freedom and control. The former imitates the qualities of God, the latter imitates the qualities of the Evil One. When we look at the philosophy of Socialistic thought carefully, we see that it does not eliminate material greed. Instead it causes the lust for material goods to increase. You will discover more about this when you read the references cited in the article and in my comments. Lastly, Kate is correct in saying that many use the entitlements provided by the Federal Government as an excuse to avoid fulfilling their Christian obligations in providing for the poor. I have encountered this myself with many Catholics. Others, out of frustration and lack of faith in solving the multitude of human needs that confront them, mistakenly place their faith in human institutions instead of God. Once again, terrific job Kate!!

    • You wrote “his plan is not free, since everyone would be paying for it ” and I agree that is his plan. So ask yourself, “How much of your income are you willing to be forced, by government dictate, to spend for the benefit of others? Remember in the mindset of the government others come first.

    • You have no concept of what someone like this is about. Promising you all this free stuff and a world where sweat doesn’t gather on your brow! If you so desire go quietly to your doom Justin along with all of your new world order generation groupies, which is most certainly a socialist regime, but do it in a communist country where others have fought for it, for no United States Military Veteran has ever fought for socialism or communism to preserve our way of life and FREEDOM! This is America child.

    • CCC 2211 The political community has a duty to honor the family, to assist it, and to ensure especially: …#7 in keeping with the country’s institutions, the right to medical care, assistance for the aged, and family benefits;
      This does not mean we therefore must have a state run program that everyone is forced to pay into in some way. Government run health care should be limited and only assist where families, and churches fail and should include support given to church run assistance programs. We are called to “give alms” or “be charitable” and evidence proves over and over again that the more government takes from the people (supposedly for the people) the less charitable people are. So, instead of helping us on our path to Heaven, programs like these only succeed in making us either incapable of helping (we’re taxed so much we can’t afford it) or satisfied with our own inaction because “its the goverment’s job” and we did our part being taxed and voting for it.
      Any state run program is in it’s very nature godless and an injustice to those in need. A government program is not set up to get to know and see Christ in those they help. The program is godless as much as the people they help are faceless to the program. It becomes a job to those who help, whether they apply because they care doesn’t matter, they earn money to “care” about the people they help. This is neither giving alms nor being charitable.
      Here is a good read on the subject…
      http://www.crisismagazine.com/2014/must-catholics-favor-socialized-medicine

    • Good call Justin. My favorite line:

      “While Catholic Social Teaching tells us that we as Christians have an obligation to help those less fortunate, it states that it should be done through good will by faith, not government mandated programs funded by excessive taxes.”

      It does? Where? Plus, ins’t government OF the people and thus people can act through government to assist the most needy, in addition to non-governmental effort?

  9. Well, Catholic Vote jumped the gun declaring Ben Carson wasnt prolife which sent them running from him. According to Dr. Alveda King, he is very much prolife. First mistake was to influence Catholics with an untruth. I would like to see CatholicVote correct that mistake. He has all the values we do AND better solutions inline with Catholic teaching. He was polling neck and neck with Trump until media and CatholicVote declared him not prolife. This error has cost us a lot. So now we have Bernie. Thanks,

  10. Seems to me like you’re preaching to the choir. With few exceptions, many politicians promise more than they can deliver. Senator Sanders is mired in that reality. Labels like conservative, conservative evangelist, ultra liberal may make for good conversation, but eventually yield little. Calling Sanders a socialist may be a bit over the top. Because of the Cold War we tend to equate socialism with evil. I would rather ask what has he accomplished as a politician of many terms beginning with Mayor of Burlington? Bernie seems to be positioned toward center-left. After these past 8 years of government gridlock many Americans favor that posture. The senator says he is a “Democratic Socialist”. What ever that means. In his victory speech in New Hampshire Bernie threatened war by saying his stunning win was a mandate for a “political revolution.”. Strong words from a 74 year old Senator.

      • There is a big distinction between a ‘democratic socialist’ (a term Sanders used) and a ‘socialist’ (which he has not). That distinction is clearly lost on the author of the propaganda piece… err, article who also seems to conflate socialism and communism. She makes sweeping claims like: “…socialism has never worked in human history, ending either in economic disaster or mass genocide” with no examples or empirical evidence and conveniently ignores that there are highly successful democratic socialist countries operating currently.

        • Not that big a distinction-only in how you arrive at the socialist state.

          If people in the US want higher wages, etc., you don’t get it with Sanders.

          Taxing the job creators punitively will simply result in the jobs going overseas.

    • wineinthewater on

      “Democratic Socialist” is a well-defined term. It is a form of socialism where every aspect of governance is done democratically by the people. One of the reasons that socialism has always failed is that it has always been totalitarian socialism. Democratic Socialism largely embraces the Catholic value of subsidiarity.

      We don’t say that roads should be provided by charity, or fire fighting services, or police forces, or militaries.. In Catholic teaching, the state has the duty to ensure the common good and that is why there is no objection (at least in principle) to providing these things through taxation. Democratic socialism says that things like health care and even higher education are a part of the common good and should not just be things purchased by the wealthy for themselves and for the poor out of charity. Where things get dicey with Catholicism is that Democratic Socialism would also provide a robust social welfare system. The line between ensuring the common good and providing charity to the poor gets very murky there.

    • Bernie is center-left???!!! That label makes him seem like a person of “moderate” views. There is nothing “center” about Bernie. If he is center-left, please name a member of congress who is further to the left than him. If no one is further left, then Bern is not center-left but hard-left.

      Let’s not forget the churches teachings on abortion, marriage, euthanasia, etc. it is sad to see the continual parade of Catholic voters who ignore these issues and vote for pols with opposite views

  11. Perhaps you should research a bit more before writing an article. Medicare for all/single payer system is not free. He said PUBLIC COLLEGE should be free as in public schools as in public high schools. Public Colleges were free at one time. That is why we are rated 33rd in the world. We already have socialism …..it’s called Social Security… It’s called Taxes, its called public schools, on and on. I find it sad that this publication has a problem with heath care for everyone…… That begs the question….What would Jesus say?

  12. A community of saints can thrive under any political structure. The problem arises when you integrate sinners and saints. The author is absolutely right that [forced] socialism has never worked. The closest it has gotten is Scandanavia but those countries are relatively free economically compared to Cuba or North Korea or Venezuela (Denmark is roughly as free as the US). Socialism sounds great in stump speeches and pulls on the heartstrings of compassionate Catholics, but as Pope Leo XIII said, is a hideous deformity of the society of men and almost its ruin.

  13. You are letting your college student summer intern make categorical statements which touch upon the moral decisions of voting Catholics throughout the country. This is not a serious website.

  14. Sanders has been in government since before the internet. As a Senator he has passed NO meaningful legislation. He’s been a huge failure in terms of accomplishments as a public servant.

  15. This is a very twisted article and is absolutely loaded with false information; could it be that the writer chooses to demonize Bernie because he is Jewish and the writer prefers a Catholic president? Bernie’s support is large and growing (even among Catholics) because he is the only clear choice for our next president. BERNIE 2016!!

  16. I always thought God worked through people. So, if God wants to provide equality, He has to do it through someone. So, maybe God picked Bernie Sanders for that job.

  17. I’m happy that college students are engaging in the civic project of expressing their views on important political matters, but this piece is complete nonsense. The claim that socialism has always ended “either in economic disaster or mass genocide” is verifiably false. Is Sweden heading for genocide or economic disaster? Denmark? Germany? Austria? Switzerland? France? England? Shall I go on? What the author probably has in mind is the sort of socialism that is not about providing safety nets and correcting for market failures (like the health care industry), but rather about controlling every aspect of economic activity through central planning. Almost no one advocates that anymore–at least not in the West–precisely because it does end in economic disaster, and this is precisely why Bernie Sanders is not advocating that now.

  18. While Penn Jilette is an atheist, he captures this perfectly:

    “It’s amazing to me how many people think that voting to have the government give poor people money is compassion. Helping poor and suffering people is compassion. Voting for our government to use guns to give money to help poor and suffering people is immoral self-righteous bullying laziness.

    People need to be fed, medicated, educated, clothed, and sheltered, and if we’re compassionate we’ll help them, but you get no moral credit for forcing other people to do what you think is right. There is great joy in helping people, but no joy in doing it at gunpoint.”

  19. After 13 years in the Navy defending the Constitution and the Republic I am aghast to witness the legions flocking to socialist and ultimately communist propaganda. Redistribution is theft no matter how you slice it. Caring for widows, orphans and the disabled should be the limit of government welfare. Hard work and doing what needs doing are out of “fashion “. Entitlement should be limited to the Veterans, Police, firefighters , EMTs , doctors and nurses who serve the greater good of society not the drug addicts, pushers, lazy and unmotivated. Trading votes for free housing , food and a pathetic standard of living is just new serfdom to new oligarchs . It should shame any American to ever turn their back on the Republic and ever advocate communism or socialiism.

  20. The only issue that Catholics should measure a candidate on is their position on life. Anyone who is against life as the first and main right of citizens is going to find it easy to limit all other rights. I believe Pope Francis has made that quite clear. ALL rights extend from the right to life.

  21. Absolutely brilliant piece. I can see leftists not understanding it, after all, look at how many vote for benefits now, and we’ve seen people flocking to the rear mammary of the public teat so wallow in their mire of mediocrity. Nothing will change if a Hillary or Bernie is elected, we’ll be one giant step closer to bread lines, and sadly, only those that know history will see it coming. NOTHING in life is free.

  22. From the essay “Europe and It’s Discontents” by Pope Benedict XVI:

    “Democratic socialism managed to fit within the two existing models as a welcome counterweight to the radical liberal positions, which it developed and corrected. It also managed to appeal to various denominations. In England it became the political party of the Catholics, who had never felt at home among either the Protestant conservatives or the liberals. In Wilhelmine Germany, too, Catholic groups felt closer to democratic socialism than to the rigidly Prussian and Protestant conservative forces. In many respects, democratic socialism was and is close to Catholic social doctrine and has in any case made a remarkable contribution to the formation of a social consciousness.”

    Just to provide a little bit of a fun counterbalance to the above. No, I’m not a Sanders supporter, nor am I a (democratic) socialist. However, the claims of this article, that no faithful Catholic could support this economic system, is simply false. Notice I am leaving aside questions of social issues, as Sander’s positions are quite obviously opposed to Catholic teaching.

  23. I Stand for Justice on

    My Jesuit education told me something very different about the Catholic Church than what you are saying here. A redistribution of wealth does not mean people will stop giving or caring for others! I stand with Bernie and it’s not because I am looking for a ‘hassle free way to do good’! I stand with him because this imbalance is wrong! You say that God gives us our worth and hard work. Does this mean you think that poor people don’t work hard? Sure the Bible tells us that God rewards people who work hard, but no where does it state that reward is monetary. Rewards can mean different things for different people. Whenever people think of poor they automatically assume homeless, dirty clothes, and begging for money. Sure that is poor, but there is also the poor that is struggling to make ends meet. They work two plus just to put food on the table and a roof over their head, and we sit here and say they just need to ‘work harder’ and they will be more successful. That couldn’t be more untrue! They are already working harder then you or I ever will! So why is it fair and or ethically right that they make so little and stuggle to survive? That is why the redistribution is needed. People shouldn’t have to work multiple jobs just to provide for their family! ‘Working hard’ has nothing to do with it. College should be free because it is the new High School diploma. You can’t get a decent job without one and it is nearly impossible to afford college if you don’t already have money. One should never be told they cannot learn because they simply cannot afford it. That person may hold the cure to cancer but you would never know! It is a basic human right to deserve education! Social justice stands for supporting basic human rights. The new Pope even spoke to congress about our massive wealth imbalance and how we need to work on fixing it. You may not like Bernie or socialism, but I think you are really stretching to to connect them to play against Catholic Church. While I agree there will never be true equality it doesn’t mean that something a little closer is wrong. People deserve better than the life they have now. It is not government ‘hand outs’ that will give it to them it is the ability to get an education and have a job that pays a living wage. All things that are considers basic human rights that social justice tells us we should fight for. But I don’t know maybe those Jesuits brainwashed me and I really don’t know anything about the Catholic Church or social justice.

    • I was Jesuit educated, and got all the “social justice” tropes you run out here.

      My school’s fundraiser is the single biggest fundraising event in the state every single year.

      The Jesuits, living on alms, gleefully bite the hands that feed them in their classrooms while holding their hands out to them for donations.

      They also charge handsomely for the education they provide-the one they and you seem to think should be “free”.

      • I Stand for Justice on

        Clearly your Jesuit education was much different than mine. Or maybe you just were not as open minded to their teachings. PUBLIC universities should be free. Jesuit universities are private and those will never be free. Just like how you can pay to go to a private high school or grade school. It’s about doing what is right by everyone. Everyone derserves the right to be educated. We say this is a land of opportunity and yet we tell people they can’t further their education cause they do not have enough money. opportunities allow them to escape a world that could have led them down a bad path. As Catholics we help the poor and see where people are being mistreated and try to help them or fix it. Having free public college will better the lives of many people. And God would want people to have a full happy life with less suffering.

        Just because your school has the biggest fund raiser in the state doesn’t say anything about anything and is completely irrelevant. I am sorry that you feel so poorly towards Jesuits. To me they are the true Catholics who are really teaching God’s word and inspiring others to be better people. There is nothing wrong with being poor and realizing you need help and asking for it. And the hope is if the roles are ever reversed and it is you who needs help people will be there for you too. God wants us to ‘Love thy neighbor as you love yourself’. So to me that indeed tells me how to treat others; with love, respect, dignity, and empathy. I am truly sorry that you wasted so much money on a Jesuit education you received nothing from.

  24. There’s various things wrong with this article, and the author doesn’t even provide any factual evidence to back up their ridiculous claims, except a lone quote from Pope John Paul II. Straw-men and the false equivocation abound. Throw in some red-baiting and the above is what you get.

    Healthcare and other forms of welfare as a government social institution is antithetical to Catholicism? Let me drop a nuke on that, and point to the holy and right-believing Emperor Saint Justinian, who is one of the most prolific Christian Emperor’s in history. Among his various accomplishments, he ordered the compilation of the Corpus Juris Civilis, which is the bedrock of the Western Legal Tradition, he reformed and restructured various institutions in the empire, and one of his lesser known accomplishments was his semi-universal healthcare, in which the empire would pay doctors to work for free for half the year.

    But Byzantine social programs were not just limited to Justinian. In later centuries, the University of Constantinople, was subsidized substantially to fully (depending on the reigns) by the government. Students had to test in. I’m only pointing out those institutions relevant to the article, but there have been entire works done on the topic of welfare in the Byzantine Empire (many times argued for by the clerics). Another example would be the welfare paid out to Mother’s who could not afford to feed their children, or the various civil works projects.

    But it is not just limited to the Byzantines, when Christianity was introduced to the Slavs, Rus implemented and expanded on the social programs of the Byzantines.

    Lastly, I’d like to point out that the equivocation made of socialism as a broad field to ONLY the pseudo-communism of Lenin and Stalin as well as the less egregious, but still strongly statist forms of socialism, is absurd. Social Democracy (often conflated with Democratic Socialism) while within the realm of socialist thought does not advocate for the overthrow of capitalism, but rather to act as a counter-balance to insure the public benefit, and the natural self corrupting tendencies Capitalism. Bernie advocates Social Democracy not statist forms of socialism, and his mass of bills and legislation he’s tried to get passed in Congress clearly show this. The more astute recognize that his usage of the term Socialist is shorthand for this, and is also meant to be an easy identifier/campaign tactic to set himself apart from corporatist politicians on capital hill. As to Bernie’s proposed social programs, most other first world European countries have implemented them successfully with clear benefit. I urge you to look past the propaganda on both sides, and just look at the actual policies. Every single one of his programs, has an equivalent proposed source of income. He is not putting a single one “on the card”. And when his policies are taken as a whole, the net positive revenue is enough to begin shrinking the massive debt that Bush and Obama has left us with.

  25. Stephen Tardif on

    “The socialism of Bernie Sanders is not Catholic Social Teaching on steroids, but a practice that if implemented, would render Catholicism, and it’s members, archaic.”

    If you believe that, I’m not sure that you understand that Catholic Church and what it truly teaches. Catholics are not primarily social workers. They are followers of Christ. If you are not charitable because you see that someone else is also charitable, that is a fault in you. Not the other person (or government entity). If the government helping people diminishes your faith, your faith is only in yourself and making yourself look good. With the reasoning in this article we should never try to influence governmental decisions concerning abortion, because that would undermine the good Catholic who is having a one-on-one with someone thinking of having an abortion.

    Also, socialism is not communism, and Sander’s brand of socialism is even farther from it. His stops at, “Let’s make sure if you are sick then you are looked after, if you are hungry then you are fed and if you are in an economic pit with no way out…..through HARD WORK you have the opportunity to go to school now.”

    If you don’t like Sanders economic plans for economic reasons, so be it. But don’t try to dupe Catholics into thinking that Sanders and Catholicism are fundamentally opposed. That’s something the pharisees would have said.

  26. One word…. Sweden
    Your premise that modern socialism equates to turn of the last century’s communism is incorrect.
    State funded social justice and care is not incompatible with Catholicism – again some time spent in the Republic of Ireland would be revealing

  27. *In reality, Bernie’s highfalutin criticism of capitalism and praise of socialism is contradictory to much of Catholic Doctrine. The theology does not preach the merits of government redistribution of wealth or extreme welfare programs whose benefits outweigh those gained through actual work. Hard work and charity from the heart are pillars of the Catholic faith; two things that are enabled by capitalism and hindered by socialism. *

    Maybe the Catholic Doctrine should stop focusing on its manmade laws and heed the advice of its sponsor.

    He said to them, “Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

    Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.

    Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

  28. An interesting read, though it actually contains precious little about Catholic teaching. Even his quote from John Paul”s encyclical is highly selective. JP also wrote “The Church’s social doctrine adopts a critical attitude towards both liberal capitalism and Marxist collectivism”.

    It also seems that the author not only thinks there is only one form of socialism, but that she either equates (or perhaps confuses) it with Marxist communism – something I should have picked up straight away when I saw the hammer & sickle on an article supposedly dealing with socialism.

    I’d like to make it clear that official Catholic teaching does not prefer either capitalism or socialism. However, here are a few quotations from the Catechism, which IS official Church teaching; I’m sure that for some folk, they’ll reek of socialism, in one form or another.

    2405 “Goods of production – material or immaterial – such as land, factories, practical or artistic skills, oblige those who possess them, to use them in ways that will benefit the greatest number of people. Those who hold goods for consumption, should use them with moderation, reserving the better part for the sick and the poor.”

    2406 “Political authority has both the right and the duty to regulate the legitimate exercise of the right to ownership for the sake of the common good.”

    2424 “Any theory that makes profit the exclusive norm and ultimate end of economic activity is morally unacceptable. The disordered desire for money cannot fail to produce perverse effects. It is one of the causes of the many conflicts which disturb the social order”

    and, how about this shocker?

    2408 “The seventh commandment forbids theft, that is usurping another’s property against the reasonable will of the owner”. (So far, so good, but then it continues) “There is no theft if consent can be presumed or if refusal is contrary to reason and the universal destination of goods. This is the case in obvious and urgent necessity when the only way to provide for immediate essential needs – such as food, shelter, clothing – is to put at one’s disposal and use, the property of others”

    As for the likes of health care and education, paragraph 2288 of the Catechism states “Concern for the health of its citizens requires that society help in the attainment of living conditions that allow them to grow and reach maturity: food and clothing, housing, health care, basic education, employment and social assistance”

    Finally 2425 “The Church has rejected the totalitarian and atheistic ideologies associated in modern times with ‘communism’ or ‘socialism’. She likewise refuses to accept the practice of ‘capitalism’, individualism and the absolute primacy of the law of the marketplace over human labour. Regulating the economy solely by centralised planning perverts the basis of social bonds; likewise, regulating solely by the law of the marketplace fails social justice, for there are many human needs which cannot be satisfied by the market. Reasonable regulation of the marketplace and economic initiatives, in keeping with a just hierarchy of values, and a view to the common good, is to be commended.”

    Apologies for the length of this post, but seeing as the article comes from a source named “Catholic Vote” I wanted to show that official Catholic teaching is actually not biased towards capitalism as some folk might think.

  29. Here’s the bottom line…if you are a conservative of any type, your vote needs to support whoever the GOP candidate is ultimately, including Trump. We can blame Christians and Libertarians for 8 years of Obama. For once, take a page out of the liberal playbook and support the GOP candidate. Otherwise, enjoy socialism.

  30. asuffusionofyellow on

    Another thing that “disincentivizes” work is not being able to get any. And the current socialized medicine is nothing but a shakedown, while the poor(ish) still aren’t getting any medical care to speak of. The Republicans sound like they hate the poor, Hilary is terrifying, and Bernie Sanders seems like a kind old Grandpa. That’s the math.

  31. Realize too, government creates problems, not solves problems. It is up to the people to address health care, education and care for the elderly. The church ultimately is best at addressing these. To be a doctor, nurse, professor or health care provider should be a calling, not a mere job. For the government to step in too much on any of these areas is an overreach and history has shown they do marginal, at best, to address these issues. Government needs to stick to what they were created for, a social contract for protection. Then, if necessary, to regulate commerce. The church needs to do what it does best and the people need to put their faith in things that are worthy of putting faith in. Not politicians.

    • Sure could have fooled me with a name like “catholicVote.ORG”. Also, the last I checked identity with the Republicans may be OK, but the use of the tax exempt suffix ( .ORG ) is not!

      I am sure that many bloggers are not able to make that connection, especially since the vast majority of articles are Catholic in nature.

      “This has been your reminder” sounds threatening! Are you some kind of CV wig?

  32. Sister Kathleen on

    Have you ever heard the Catholic Church teach that capitalism is holy? Neither socialism, capitalism, nor any other economic philosophy equals salvation. A system that is fairer to more people, that does not deny basic human rights to so many is not against Catholic Social Teaching. A system that values the common good over selfish interests for a very few sounds more like the Gospel to me. No one says we have to stop assisting the poor and sick and others in need just because government takes a more active role in doing its part to bring us a bit closer to liberty and justice for ALL, rather than for a limited wealthy elite. You may not like hearing this, but it rings a lot truer to what the Bible says in the prophets and the Acts of the Apostles about how to live the life God wants for ALL His people with each other in small settings, as well as on a larger scale!

  33. Interesting that comments posted after comment quoting Christ Himself were approved, but mine was not.

    It’s shameful how some people conform their ideals onto doctrine.

  34. Thanks for the reminder. Sorry, the reference to church as not merely catholic. Be reminded to that people drive politics. Politics should not drive people. We are people first before we are ‘republican’, etc.

  35. Bernie Sanders calls himself a democratic socialist and Benedict XVl in a First Things article, Europe and It’s Discontent, said the closest thing to Catholic thought is democratic socialism. He went on to write in his economic encyclical, Caritas et Veritas, about redistribution of wealth, global governance and the UN having sharper teeth. He finished it just in time to give Obama when he was newly elected President. My thoughts after reading it, even though the first 10 or so pages sound wonderful, was he wants to redistribute wealth to the poor and use the Catholic church and all her local subsidiaries to do so.

    Funny, it seems that is what Obama has done. He has gotten universal healthcare..which the USCCB lobbied for with ‘abortion neutral’ language. Obama has been a big proponent of amnesty and open borders which the USCCB has lobbied for in all it’s various forms and Cardinals even flocked to the southern border to have a mass and welcome the strangers.

    I’ve seen how many of their charities,like Catholic Charities, get a majority of their billions from our tax dollars and then asks us to chip in some more to feed the poor. They have gov’t grants that specifically tell them they can not evangelize.

    They get 100’s of millions of our tax dollars for illegals and also for refugees. My governor didn’t want to take in any Syrian Muslims at this time since the head of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson said there isn’t anyway to vet these refugees. BUT my bishop did so, even though our governor met with him. Why? MONEY!

    The church is not only one of the biggest redistribution of wealth agencies in the world, they are also helping to redistribute our sovereignty. I think the pope was welcoming the Muslim refugees into Europe also.

  36. William F. Cavender, M.D. (retired) on

    “The Vatican is a single payer state.”
    I read that Denmark has excellent single payer health care as is said of several European and other countries.
    If so, it seems to me an excellent argument for each state in the United States to determine it own health care system since the Vatican state and the rest so styled are on a par with the size and population of one of our states.
    The desired result is a system that works.
    How is it working under Obamacare?
    On what data is the Church’s call for “universal health care” based?
    Does universal health care mean single, central government control and administration is the only way?
    Our federal government already considers all doctors and other providers to be working for it.
    In my experience the computer on which are a myriad of Obamacare questions competes with the patient for the doctor’s attention and diminishes the human comforting if not alleviating and healing which is the basis of medical care and treatment. Humans as such have nothing greater to offer one another first than one’s presence.

  37. You actually need not go any further than Quadragesimo Anno (40 years later) by Pius XI. “If Socialism, like all errors, contains some truth (which, moreover, the Supreme Pontiffs have never denied), it is based nevertheless on a theory of human society peculiar to itself and irreconcilable with true Christianity. Religious socialism, Christian socialism, are contradictory terms; no one can be at the same time a good Catholic and a true socialist. ” –Pope Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno, Loc. cit. 120

    However, it should also be noted that Pope St. John Paul II also stated in Sollicitudo Rei Socialis “This is one of the reasons why the Church’s social doctrine adopts a critical attitude towards both liberal capitalism and Marxist collectivism. For from the point of view of development the question naturally arises: in what way and to what extent are these two systems capable of changes and updatings such as to favor or promote a true and integral development of individuals and peoples in modern society? In fact, these changes and updatings are urgent and essential for the cause of a development common to all.” — Pope St. John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis III 21.

    So in reality the Church rejects the false dichotomy of Capitalism vs. Socialism, and if you read Rerum Novarum, and Centesimus Annus, you’ll find that the shade of grey that the Church does endorse is Capitalism tightly restrained by a few principles that are endorsed by Socialism (that all workers deserve a living wage, that concentration of more wealth in fewer hands leads to tyranny, that it is the responsibility of the Government to protect the rights of the workers

  38. A report by some official group states that we, the United States, are an oligarchy of the wealthy and powerful, and not the Democratic republic we like to think we are. Bernie is just trying to move power to the people, not, you know, the millionaires and billionaires. When we see a prison population that is so huge, and highly disproportionate in terms of race and class we have to ask, who is in power? We need to be more EQUITABLE, not turn a blind eye to injustice I the name of freedom. We can vote to change and BE charitable. It is of course ideal to be charitable out of the goodness of our heart, but we are talking about defending politics as usual, where the system is BEHOLDEN to the donors, you know, big money. Dismissing Bernie as a socialist and denouncing it’s incompatibility with Christ’s teachings is as disingenuous as turning a blind eye to the root problem of our current lack of freedoms, Big $.

  39. “Though free education, free healthcare, and the promise of hearty welfare benefits sounds good, the promise is impossible. ….. In turn, those federally funded social programs use the money of others to negate the need for Christian charity.

    Wow, as a Catholic who has followed the teaching of Jesus for years this article confuses me. In no way does it negate the need for Christian charity. Charity comes in many forms. I think you need to experience life outside of your bubble. Your line should read: Hard work and charity from the heart are pillars of the Catholic faith; two things that are enabled by socialism.

    Bernie Sanders is more inline with his Holiness Francis than any of the other candidates who are crying their religious spiels and dogma this election cycle.

  40. Jesus spoke to all of mankind Jew and gentile. He showed us how to love our neighbor as ourselves and to take care of the widows, poor and starving, and those in need of his mercy and love. He didnt teach the government or expect the government to do this work but did expect us to do this work.

  41. wineinthewater on

    This article shows a pretty slim understanding of socialism and Catholic teaching. There is not just one socialism, but a handful. Bernie Sanders is a Democratic Socialist. That is quite different from the totalitarian socialism that we have seen tried with such spectacular failure. In Democratic Socialism, all levels of governance are handled democratically by the people. In this way, it is more in line with Catholic teaching about subsidiarity than our existing, highly bureaucratic system.

    And while the Church has been quite condemnatory of historical Socialism, and rightly so, you can see that there has also been further development on that topic. More recently, Pope Benedict offered clarity about the nature of socialism that the Church has condemned and how those condemnations do not always apply to other systems of Socialism such as Democratic Socialism.

    I think another failing here is the classic trap of charity vs welfare. Jesus tells us that the poor will always be with us. No matter how good a social safety net is, there will always be those who slip through the cracks. There will always be more need than a state system can reasonable bear. There will always be need for charity. And in fact, as the social safety net improves, it requires *more* authentic charity from us, not less. The state helps the easy ones, leaving the hard ones for us. The love that is supposed to be the heart of charity (remember, the latin root for charity is caritas, love) is more greatly challenged by the less sympathetic poor that are left behind by a state social safety net. Plus, we are not just called to corporal acts of mercy, but spiritual acts of mercy as well. The state can provide food to the hungry stomach, but cannot provide food to the hungry heart.

    Sanders may be unfit for the Catholic vote. But if so, it is because he is pro-choice, not because he is a Democratic Socialist. And while Democratic Socialism, depending on how it is enacted, may be compatible with Catholicism, that does not make it the best solution. But I think we do ourselves a great disservice when we use our faith to rule things out wrongly.

  42. Bernie Sanders appeals to many who don’t really understand that nothing is really free. Something must be sacrificed in order to receive something of value, whether monetary value or of intrinsic value. Real love, when it is genuine, costs something, often suffering. For monetary things, its called a job, or a career.
    I tried to explain to one young man that thought Bernie’s ideas sounded great, that the only way for the government to provide all of these services for ‘free’, is that they would necessarily have to raise the taxation rate to levels never seen before in this country. And in doing so, those who work and pay taxes, would then be limited in their freedom to do what they will, with their earnings. In other words, my own freedom to be charitable would be taken away or at least greatly hindered. Hindered to the point where I may well join those who are deprived in any attempt to help them. So socialism sounds nice and fuzzy, but it is slavery in disguise. It is up to each of us to work hard and sacrifice in order to gain things we need. Some are better at earning money than others. Thank God for those who are good at earning and also give generously to those less fortunate. But the truest measure of charity is not how much you give but how much you have left after you’ve given.
    Peace.

  43. This article is misleading and exaggerates on many points; I trust that the author is simply mistaken or confused. The Church has, in fact, consistently condemned many forms of socialism and all forms of atheistic communism. However,”Socialism” (e.g. Bolshevik Russia) or even “National Socialism” (Nazi Germany) should not be confused with democratic socialism (e.g. modern Germany).

    The Church has also criticized capitalism; a distinction the author fails to make.

    Though the Church does not advocate for particular political models, what might be helpful here is an observation from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger from his essay “Europe: Today and Tomorrow”:

    “Back to Europe. A third model was added to the two models of the 19th century: socialism. Socialism took two main paths — the democratic and the totalitarian one. Democratic socialism became a healthy counterbalance to radically liberal positions in both existing models. It enriched and corrected them. It proved itself even when religious confessions took over. In England, it was the Catholic party, which felt at home neither in the Protestant-Conservative nor in the Liberal camp. Also in Wilhelmine Germany, the Catholic center could continue to feel closer to democratic socialism than to the conservative powers. In many ways, democratic socialism stands and stood close to the Catholic social teachings. It in any case contributed a substantial amount to the education of social conscience.”

  44. Francis Bellamy on

    Actually, consider the Catholic thinkers who campaigned for distributivism, that is, a wider distribution of property. Remember the influence of Bishop Ketteler on Pope Leo and the promulgation of Rerum Novarum. The Bishop entered into a dialogue with the Prussian socialist Ferdinand LaSalle. You don’t need to agree with Rerum Novarum and the Bishops’ Pastoral Letters on the Economy. Just don’t claim that laissez-faire capitalism is an expression of Catholic Social Teaching. You may “save” Catholicism for conservatives, but working class Catholics may feel that they have been forgotten.

  45. The claims made in this blog post are not at all accurate representations of Catholic Social Teaching (CST). Let’s just compare some of the author’s claims with what Pope Benedict XVI said in his encyclical Caritas in Veritate:

    “Catholic Social Teaching… states that it should be done through good will by faith, not government mandated programs funded by excessive taxes.”

    No. CST says that both individual efforts and government programs/regulations are necessary. We must respect the principle of subsidiarity, and handle things at the most local level possible, but the Church says that it is absolutely appropriate for government to step in when problems can’t be solved at the intermediate or local levels. >> “To desire the common good and strive towards it is a requirement of justice and charity. To take a stand for the common good is on the one hand to be solicitous for, and on the other hand to avail oneself of, that complex of institutions that give structure to the life of society, juridically, civilly, politically and culturally, making it the pólis, or “city”… This is the institutional path — we might also call it the political path — of charity, no less excellent and effective than the kind of charity which encounters the neighbor directly, outside the institutional mediation of the pólis.” (Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate, n. 7)
    ______________________________

    “The theology does not preach the merits of government redistribution of wealth”

    Incorrect. CST specifically calls for redistribution. The Church does not advocate a total redistribution aiming at universal economic equality, but it does believe that wealth needs to be redistributed so that the basic needs of all are met. And CST teaches that this redistribution should occur both through the structure of the economy and through governmental initiatives. >> “Economic activity cannot solve all social problems through the simple application of commercial logic. This needs to be directed towards the pursuit of the common good, for which the political community in particular must also take responsibility. Therefore, it must be borne in mind that grave imbalances are produced when economic action, conceived merely as an engine for wealth creation, is detached from political action, conceived as a means for pursuing justice through redistribution.” (Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate, n. 36)
    ________________________________

    “Further, the notion of economic redistribution, as a means of achieving equality is counter to the belief that God grants our worth and hard work”

    Pope Benedict wishes to disagree with you: “Economic life undoubtedly requires contracts, in order to regulate relations of exchange between goods of equivalent value. But it also needs just laws and forms of redistribution governed by politics, and what is more, it needs works redolent of the spirit of gift. The economy in the global era seems to privilege the former logic, that of contractual exchange, but directly or indirectly it also demonstrates its need for the other two: political logic, and the logic of the unconditional gift.” (Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate, n. 37)

    • Michael J Miller on

      Thanks for this. It would have taken me all night to compile these citations. The author should be ashamed to misrepresent CST on such a widely read site, and Catholic Vote has lost credibility by publishing this blog.

    • This is the part where they start posting the “prudential judgement” meme and mumble something about the Pope not being an economist.

  46. Anyway, I like this quote: “Equality comes from God, not Bernie Sanders.” Ok, neither do laws prohibiting murder…

  47. I think you’re confusing Marxist Socialism with Democratic Socialism- they are extremely different. Democratic Socialism still relies heavily on many principles of capitalism. Catholicism is strongly rooted in helping the less fortunate, and as a Catholic, I will be voting for Bernie.

    • wineinthewater on

      If Trump wins the Republican primary, I will have to seriously consider it. He would be the first candidate that I feel I can look at and say, “Now there’s a reason that just may be proportionate to abortion.”

      Otherwise, I’ll be sticking with third party where I don’t have to become a party to evil just to cast a vote.

  48. This is amazingly incoherent. For example: “Equality comes from God.”

    Really? I thought equality was being treated equally before the law.

    And this nonsense about “appearing good without actually doing good.” Where is the evidence that they are also not doing good?

  49. Great article and very timely. Bernie Sanders is obviously serious and committed to this.
    This shows the ongoing confusion between charity from the heart (given freely for the welfare
    of others ) and government welfare programs. The purpose and intent are different.
    This Socialist movement could be the destruction of our country. Dr. Ben Carson has spoken out clearly on the danger of the dependent, entitlement culture. His mother worked hard to get her
    sons out of it! It ruins the spirit and dignity of an individual and we all become under control of a
    powerful government. Our bishops and priests must speak out about this!

  50. I am not a Sanders supporter, but let’s at least argue with some facts. Sanders claims to be a “Democratic Socialist” which is NOT pure, idealized socialism. His democratic socialism is akin to the European socialism of France and Sweden, etc. This is a far cry from that which precipitates “economic disaster or genocide.”

    Also, the author continues this fiction that those who work hard become successful. The hardest working in her world must be the 1% because they are the richest. Nevermind inherited wealth, birth privilege, and social connections, the 1% got that way, on their own, through hard work. Also forget the immigrant picking lettuce to support his family–he is obviously lazy or he’d be rich. It’s an Ayn Randian nightmare and contradicts key sections of the Gospels.

    • I’m all for facts.

      http://www.bbc.com/news/business-35343611

      “Hollande says France in state of economic emergency”, Jan 18, 2016.

      Sweden has a population of 9.7 million, just higher than New York City.

      Sweden has a progressive income tax, the rates for 2014 are as follows:

      0% from 0 kr to 18,800 kr (~0 – 2,690 USD)
      Circa 31% (ca. 7% county and 24% municipality tax): from 18,800 kr to 433,900 kr (~2,690 – 62,140 USD)
      31% + 20%: from 433,900 kr to 615,700 kr (~62,140 – 88,180 USD)
      31% + 25%: above 615,700 kr (88,180 USD and up)

      So, if I make 88,200 USD there, I get whacked. Hard.

      Of course the great mjority in Sweden pay the 31% as the average income is approx 45,000.

      Bernie couldn’t afford to live there.

  51. The article was well written.
    The problem with liberals, Socialist,
    And Burnie lovers, it all made common sense.
    Anotherwords, “make it simple stupid”
    Doesn’t apply.

  52. Can someone explain how the Vice President of the Socialist International — Tony Blair — was received into the Catholic Church and given communion from the very hand of St. John Paul the Great?

  53. Socialism and capitalism are both not compatible. Capitalism is state-sponsored usury. Socialism is state-sponsored theft.

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