America Essay Encourages Catholics to Embrace Communism

News: Commentary
by Bruce Walker  •  •  July 24, 2019   

Fr. James Martin is editor at large of America

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In an essay appearing in the most recent issue of the Jesuit magazine America, where homoheretic James Martin, S.J., is listed on the masthead as editor at large, Catholic readers are encouraged to take a more positive look at communism.

Thanks, I'll take a pass on communism, even after reading all 3,000 words of Dean Dettloff's "The Catholic Case for Communism" as well as another 800 words from editor Matt Malone, S.J., that attempts to justify the appearance of the essay in a nominally Catholic publication.

What's more, Malone tries to circumvent anticipated blowback on the article by bringing up Sen. Joseph McCarthy — the man from whom the pejorative "McCarthyite" derived. Yes, America's editorial staff famously turned on McCarthy and his tactics during the Red Scare of the 1950s, but over the years it's been proven that McCarthy was correct more often than he wasn't.

It seems Malone has somewhat of a glass jaw when it comes to simultaneously welcoming dialogue and shutting up debate:

While you who are reading this will know what we are up to, many among the Twitterati can be counted on to be uninformed, unreasonable and uncharitable. I can see the tweets now: "This Dettloff piece! So typical of that left-wing America magazine!" "America shows its radical tendencies again!"

Well, that's just claptrap. I once said that being an America reader requires you to engage with opinions that are different from your own. It occasionally requires something else, especially when browsing social media: the ability to spot what this family-friendly magazine will call male bovine fecal matter.

Ah, the agent provocateur doth protest too much, it seems. For many reasons enumerated below, Church Militant can easily dismantle Dettloff's communist apologetics using longstanding Catholic doctrine as well as historical and economic facts without resorting to Malone's glass-jaw projection of logical fallacies and "male bovine fecal matter" — seriously.

All this is but prelude to what is hoped a definitive takedown of communism in general and Dettloff's assertions specifically. For the benefit of Dettloff and Malone, a perfunctory reading list is highlighted throughout what follows. It'd be a shame to miss a fantastic opportunity to display just how "informed" we Church Militants are.

The intentional deployment of "prelude" above is meant to draw attention to William Wordsworth's poetic recounting of his disillusion with the French Revolution, the notorious 18th-century statist enterprise equally eviscerated by conservative Irish statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke in his Reflections on the Revolution in France.

The tearing down of old structures, faulty as they might have been, and replacement with the egalitarian notion of the social contract promulgated by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, resulted in what has become known as the "Terrors" — and for good reason as detailed in Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities.

The horrors of the French Revolution might've been averted if two 18th-century works by Scottish Enlightenment economist and moralist Adam Smith — The Wealth of Nations and Theory of Moral Sentiments — had been more widely known and practiced.

Willful ignorance of Smith's groundbreaking works and misunderstanding of the tremendous accomplishments of a young republic embracing the concepts of natural law and belief in God culminated in the collaborations between Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

Fast forward to 1875, when Marx belched forth the ludicrous maxim: "From each according to ability, to each according to need."

Dettloff stumbles into the threadbare trap of trying to equate the phrase with Acts of the Apostles 4:15: "And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need"; and 4:29: "Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea."

After all, we have today a myriad of liberal Catholic groups yammering on about seamless garments and whatnot, nuns cavorting throughout the country on buses pursuing what for them is social justice and Catholic shareholder activists that seemingly worship Gaia at the expense of Christ.

Hoo boy; left out of Dettloff's banal analysis is one simple fact: Luke didn't depict Jesus compelling His Apostles by government force to commit acts of charity and redistribution of wealth in a pre-industrial society. Voluntary philanthropy is one thing and charity emanating from religious belief as well, but robbing Peter to pay Paul under threat of government violence in the pursuit of some utopian, egalitarian enterprise is anathema.

In response to the growing popularity of Marx and Engels, Pope Leo XIII released his landmark 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum, which codified Catholic social doctrine for the post-industrial revolution.

Forty years later, Pope Pius XI issued Quadragesimo Anno, which further illuminated Catholic social and economic teaching after the 1917 Russian Revolution successfully established the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the rising Red Tide throughout Europe and Asia that culminated in the Spanish Civil War, which itself was a precursor for World War II.

In the meantime, a troupe of brilliant writers documented the perils of the 20th century's experiments in collectivism: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, George Orwell, Arthur Koestler, Aldous Huxley, Robert Conquest, Anne Applebaum, Whittaker Chambers, Czeslaw Milosz, Zbigniew Herbert, Stanislaw Lem and many, many more — but, for my money, it's always a good bet to begin with Solzhenitsyn — and, of course, Pope John Paul II's 1981 encyclical Laborem Exercens.

For free market and pro-capitalist literature, the list should appear familiar to most: Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, Thomas Sowell and Milton Friedman. My friend, the Argentinian economic historian and philosopher Alejandro Chafuen has written many enlightening pieces on economists from various countries and continents through the ages for Forbes.

Marxist-derived political and economic systems resoundingly fail to deliver on their promises of liberty and equality — not sometimes, but always.

Someday, it's hoped Michael Voris and his Church Militant posse collects their many essays on the inherent threats socialism poses for true Catholic believers. My friends throughout the free market think tank world, including economists and policy analysts at the Foundation for Economic Education and the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, have written enough to refill the Library at Alexandria on the topic.

Not to mention a personal favorite written upon the encroachment of liberation theology in the South American Catholic Church in the 1970s, Robert Novak's Will It Liberate? The question of the title, as it turns out, was rhetorical as Marxist-derived political and economic systems resoundingly fail to deliver on their promises of liberty and equality — not sometimes, but always.

Truth is invariably the first victim of socialism, as in the truth about the real motives for massive redistribution of wealth. Truth as well in terms of religious truth; the aim is to inherently replace the Church with a new secular worship of the state. This inevitably results in freedom itself becoming the second victim.

So much for Malone's preemptive strike that any pushback to Dettloff's essay is inherently misinformed or a "knee-jerk" reaction.

Instead of a veritable Marvel's Avengers of great thinkers to support his thesis, Dettloff gives his readers Dorothy Day, who in his essay is indistinguishable from Joan Collin's portrayal of Edith Keeler in the old Star Trek episode "City on the Edge of Forever." Day, writes Dettloff, was sympathetic to the communists of her era in the 1930s up to the point they revealed a desire to jettison the Catholic faith.

Dettloff seemingly detects a recent window of opportunity for communist infiltration of the Catholic Church that didn't exist in the 1930s. In that regard, he may be more correct than I'm willing to admit.

After all, we have today a myriad of liberal Catholic groups yammering on about seamless garments and whatnot, nuns cavorting throughout the country on buses pursuing what for them is social justice and Catholic shareholder activists that seemingly worship Gaia at the expense of Christ — not to mention the financial and sexual scandals metastasizing throughout the world's chanceries and seminaries.

And, as the picture accompanying Malone's article indicates, a pope taking possession of Christ crucified on the communist symbol of a hammer and sickle presented him by Bolivian President Evo Morales.

Yet, it must be mentioned that Day was unaware of the Holodomor, purges and show trials undertaken in the USSR at the same time she approvingly observed Chicago communists playing at rebellion, nor was she aware of the millions imminently tortured and killed under the mantle of Marx in Cuba and elsewhere.

In a classic case of "wait for it," Dettloff finally gives up the game just short of halfway through is article:

Many of my friends in the Party for Socialism and Liberation, for example, a Marxist-Leninist party, are churchgoing Christians or folks without a grudge against their Christian upbringing, as are lots of people in the radical wing of the Democratic Socialists of America.

For now, Dettloff, for now — or so his friends say.

Vladimir Lenin apocryphally described individuals either ignorant and/or complicit with his communist machinations "useful idiots." Although Dettloff boasts of his acquaintances who are both devout communists and Christian, he fails to recognize the brand of Christianity they profess adherence to is decidedly un-Catholic (op. cit. the encyclicals above).

What follows is a prolonged harangue against capitalism so devoid of economic knowledge (op. cit. the economists listed above) and remarkably ignorant of readily available facts as to make one question how the editors at America deemed Dettloff's essay worthy of publication.

Case in point, the more governments stand back from commanding and controlling their nations' economies, the better off the health and well-being of those countries' citizens.

Eliminating extreme poverty should be given more priority than ensuring wealth equity from a Catholic perspective. When it comes to eliminating extreme poverty, we've done pretty well. In fact, extreme poverty has been reduced by a significant percentage over the past 30 years.

Likewise, the elimination or significant reduction of life-threatening illness also has also provided tremendous benefits for the poor.

I suppose Dettloff can be excused for hanging out with a bad crowd on his home turf in Toronto, but America? Their work on dismantling the mysteries of the Catholic faith for temporal causes as evidenced by housing the likes of James Martin on the magazine's masthead continues apace, weak apologies notwithstanding.

Malone has simply lifted the tent's skirt to allow the camel of communism to enter freely.

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