In 1878, Pope Leo XIII released an encyclical titled "Quod Apostolici Muneris" to address what he saw as the scourge of socialism spreading throughout the world. He called it "the deadly plague that is creeping into the very fibres of human society and leading it on to the verge of destruction."
So much does the Church condemn socialism that Pope Leo XIII said it is entirely contrary to the Gospel. "[A]lthough the socialists, stealing the very Gospel itself with a view to deceive more easily the unwary, have been accustomed to distort it so as to suit their own purposes," he writes, "nevertheless so great is the difference between their depraved teachings and the most pure doctrine of Christ that none greater could exist: 'for what participation hath justice with injustice or what fellowship hath light with darkness?'" (2 Cor. 6:14).
Leo makes a point specifically to condemn the socialist notion of equality, a concept rooted in a secularist vision of the world, where class no longer exists, and all are equal in income, rank and function.
This false notion of equality finds no support in Church teaching. Indeed, not only does hierarchy exist in the natural order, it is good and even God-ordained. "The inequality of rights and of power proceeds from the very Author of nature," Pope Leo writes, "from whom all paternity in Heaven and earth is named."
To rebel against lawful authority is to rebel against God Himself. "There is no power but from God," the Supreme Pontiff reminds us, "and those that are, are ordained of God. Therefore he that resisteth the power resisteth the ordinance of God."
The consequences for those who rebel against lawful authority is "damnation."
Pope Leo then looks at the family unit, the basic cell of society, and the hierarchy inherent in this union. Husband, wife and children may be equal in dignity in the eyes of God, but by no means are they equal in function or role.
[A]s Christ is the head of the Church, so is the man the head of the woman; and as the Church is subject to Christ, Who embraces Her with a most chaste and undying love, so also should wives be subject to their husbands, and be loved by them in turn with a faithful and constant affection.
Children also have a duty to obey their parents, just as parents have a duty to raise their children in love. It is only when each person exercises the duties proper to his God-given role that harmony exists and flourishes, not only in the family but in all of society as well.
But it is precisely the family unit that socialists seek to destroy.
"[T]he doctrines of socialism strive almost completely to dissolve this union ... [as] the power of the father over his own children, and the duties of the children toward their parents, must be greatly weakened."
Authentic equality does exist, but in a way entirely different from the socialists' vision:
[In] accordance with the teachings of the Gospel, the equality of men consists in this: that all, having inherited the same nature, are called to the same most high dignity of the sons of God, and that, as one and the same end is set before all, each one is to be judged by the same law and will receive punishment or reward according to his deserts.
To learn more, watch "The Download—The Evils of Socialism."