One of the saddest hallmarks of our times is profound historical ignorance. What makes this ignorance particularly grievous is that it is not self-aware. Rather, it arrogantly considers itself wise and possessed of deep, often hidden truths. Whether this ignorance manifests itself in the study of the saints, Christopher Columbus, the Church Fathers, the Great Persecution, Late Antiquity, Catholic morality, or a million other topics, it is found everywhere. It is truly pandemic. We are surrounded by sophomores in the literal sense of that word—and the sophomores in question are not only wise fools but nasty bullies as well.
It is an old saw that those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it. We have now raised several generations who not only don’t know history, but who have been presented with a false history based on “alternative facts.” What they think of as historical facts are quite often politically-charged fictions. But as U.S. Vice President Mike Pence recently quipped, “You are entitled to your own opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.”
Most Catholics have been nurtured on alternative facts for decades now. Thus, is it any surprise that the anti-Church political movement is being led by apostate politicians who have the audacity to declare themselves devout in order to garner Catholic votes? Is it at all unexpected that these politicians ally themselves with those who consider the Knights of Columbus to be an extremist group?
This scam has run for decades now with hardly a half-hearted whimper from our bishops. It is now reaching its apogee as an abortion-loving puppet of the socialist left with Rosary beads wrapped around his wrist is one election away from the presidency. The followers of Gramsci and Alinsky may have finally attained that tipping-point where a majority of the uncatechized-by-design have been drawn into the moist embrace of socialism without ever knowing that the Church has a longstanding history of condemning socialism.
There are a few priests and bishops who will dare to preach on this subject these days, though they tend to be voices crying out in the wilderness. But the cool thing is that you don’t need to have access to solid preaching to discover the truth in the Information Age. A sixty second web search will bring you to the papal encyclical known as Quadragesimo Anno (Forty Years) as written in 1931. In this encyclical, we see Pope Pius XI’s forceful, clear and unequivocal condemnation of socialism, including the quote featured above. Here is the context of that particular quote, along with a few other pertinent excerpts from this timeless encyclical letter:
“Because of the fact that goods are produced more efficiently by a suitable division of labor than by the scattered efforts of individuals, socialists infer that economic activity, only the material ends of which enter into their thinking, ought of necessity to be carried on socially. Because of this necessity, they hold that men are obliged, with respect to the producing of goods, to surrender and subject themselves entirely to society. Indeed, possession of the greatest possible supply of things that serve the advantages of this life is considered of such great importance that the higher goods of man, liberty not excepted, must take a secondary place and even be sacrificed to the demands of the most efficient production of goods. This damage to human dignity, undergone in the “socialized” process of production, will be easily offset, they say, by the abundance of socially produced goods which will pour out in profusion to individuals to be used freely at their pleasure for comforts and cultural development. Society, therefore, as Socialism conceives it, can on the one hand neither exist nor be thought of without an obviously excessive use of force; on the other hand, it fosters a liberty no less false, since there is no place in it for true social authority, which rests not on temporal and material advantages but descends from God alone, the Creator and last end of all things.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.“
Pius XI goes on to diagnose why so many Catholics succumb to the allure of socialism:
The root and font of this defection in economic and social life from the Christian law, and of the consequent apostasy of great numbers of workers from the Catholic faith, are the disordered passions of the soul, the sad result of original sin which has so destroyed the wonderful harmony of man’s faculties that, easily led astray by his evil desires, he is strongly incited to prefer the passing goods of this world to the lasting goods of Heaven. Hence arises that unquenchable thirst for riches and temporal goods, which has at all times impelled men to break God’s laws and trample upon the rights of their neighbors, but which, on account of the present system of economic life, is laying far more numerous snares for human frailty.
If this was true in 1931 near the height of the Great Depression, how much more true it is in our own day when the “disordered passions of the soul” have become the norm rather than the exception?
This next passage is also quite applicable to where we find ourselves now. For any who hope that by softening some of Christ’s hard teachings or by adopting some of socialism’s tenets, we may convert those drawn to socialism, Pius XI throws cold water on that notion:
There are some allured by the foolish hope that socialists in this way will be drawn to us. A vain hope! Those who want to be apostles among socialists ought to profess Christian truth whole and entire, openly and sincerely, and not connive at error in any way. If they truly wish to be heralds of the Gospel, let them above all strive to show to socialists that socialist claims, so far as they are just, are far more strongly supported by the principles of Christian faith and much more effectively promoted through the power of Christian charity.
Sadly, those Catholics who have attempted to bring socialism within the Church have indeed “connived at error” to the point where error has replaced sound teaching in many places where it should not be tolerated at all—that is, our schools and institutions of higher learning. Pius XI predicted that just such a thing would happen:
All these admonitions which have been renewed and confirmed by Our solemn authority must likewise be applied to a certain new kind of socialist activity, hitherto little known but now carried on among many socialist groups. It devotes itself above all to the training of the mind and character. Under the guise of affection it tries in particular to attract children of tender age and win them to itself, although it also embraces the whole population in its scope in order finally to produce true socialists who would shape human society to the tenets of Socialism.
With the insinuation of socialism into our Catholic schools over the past several decades, what has been the result? What fruit has the toleration, acceptance and celebration of socialist-materialist ideals borne among our Catholic youth? Are the poor better off? Are our cities where socialists rule bastions of peace, justice and kindness? Are our churches thronged with zealous Christians yearning to imitate Christ in service to the poor?
Or are we witnessing instead the disintegration of society and the auto-demolition of the Catholic Church in America?
Pope Pius XI, pray for us.