Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh recently accused Pope Francis of teaching “pure Marxism”, but I don’t think he understands what Marxism really is. Karl Marx, namesake of the ideology in question, denounced religious faith as “…the opium of the people”. He argued that religion blinds people to their true sufferings…
“The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.” – A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right (published in 1844)
We should also compare the views on work in the Church and in Marxism. The “May Day” celebration (May 1st) has it’s roots in the United States during the late 19th Century, though it gained the most traction in Europe. The Soviet Union believed that work was an end to itself, that the purpose of work was simply to work. During the Cold War, Pope Pius XII, in 1955, dedicated May 1st as the Feast of Saint Joseph the Worker to declare that work is meant to glorify God.
By simple definition, Pope Francis’ teachings cannot be Marxism.
The universality of the Church
The Church doesn’t endorse any one form of government over another, as I wrote about in a previous post about social justice. In both capitalist and socialist societies, the rights, dignity, and individuality of the people can be threatened; in capitalism if money and power take priority and in socialism if the state and the government are the ultimate end.
Because the Church is the universal Church, our beliefs and teachings transcend party lines and ideologies. It means that there is a universality to our mission and our service. We are not restricted to one particular issue or set of issues and neither is it restricted to one particular nation or society. We have a duty to preach the Gospel to all people (Matthew 25:28).
Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase “charity begins at home”. So does justice. Therefore, Pope Francis’ message is as applicable in the United States as it is in socialist states like India or Portugal.
“The faith becomes ideology and ideology frightens.”
Pope Francis has always been vocal about his concern for the poor and marginalized. To my knowledge, he has never called for the straight-up redistribution of wealth. He has simply denounced “King Money” as “a new tyranny” and the “throwaway culture” in which we live. This is not the same as wealth redistribution. The way I look at it, it’s him telling us that we have other responsibilities. This is personal to me as a Knight of Columbus because the Knights were founded on the principle of charity; caring for the well-being of the widow and orphan.
So it’s not Marxism, as Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck argue. Neither is it, according to Sarah Palin, liberalism (as “liberalism” is known on the American political spectrum) to say that we should show a deep, active concern for the poor and that money should not be used to lord power and influence. It’s Christianity (Mark 10:18-22).
I will conclude with Pope Francis’ earlier warnings about the faith becoming an ideology…