Why No Catholic Can Support Socialism

By pintswaquinas May 7, 2024

There’s a lot of talk about capitalism and socialism today. As we discussed in a recent blog, capitalism can be compatible with Catholicism in certain ways, although extreme capitalism leads to violations of human dignity.

What about socialism? Here we repeat the words of Pope Pius XI: “No one can be at the same time a good Catholic and a true socialist.”

Here’s what socialism is and the problem with it.

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What is socialism?
The socialist system is characterized by the state owning the means of production and allocating goods and services to people based on their needs. This differs from capitalism since private entities, instead of the state, hold control in the capitalist system.

Some people say the difference between socialism and communism is that socialism is peaceful and communism relies on violence. But, there have been peaceful communists and authoritarian socialists. Violence or peace could be found in either system.

Why Catholics can’t be socialists.
Socialism contradicts important social teachings of the faith. Pope Leo XIII, Pius XI, and many other pontiffs have condemned the system.

Pope Leo XIII taught that there should be ways for the oppressed to share in the greater wealth in society, but not by having it taken by force. He observed that if wealth were taken by governmental force, the sources of wealth would eventually run dry.

According to the pope, socialism violates the human person’s right to private property and the right of families to support themselves. It also undermines the Church’s support of subsidiarity — the idea that leadership should be kept at a local level as much as possible.

Don’t misunderstand this. The popes have all taught that individuals and families who can’t support themselves should receive help. But putting the state in charge of everything isn’t the answer.

Capitalism says, “Give me what I want and I’ll give you what you want.” Socialism says, “Give the state what you have and it will give you what it thinks you need.”

Depending on how closely the state aligns with Christian values, you can’t always trust that it will give you what you really need.

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