Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Friday, September 18, 2009

MOJ Friend Gerry Whyte on Christianity and Socialism

Gerry Whyte (Trinity College Law [Dublin]) writes:

[T]he relationship between socialism and Christianity ... may be closer than many US conservatives realise.
For a start, socalists arguably inherited from Christianity a particular way of seeing history, namely, as a linear progression to a future utopia. According to John Gray ("Black Mass - Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia"), this characteristic of Christianity also influenced Jacobinism, Fascism and, more recently, neo-liberalism - remember Fukuyama's 'End of history'? - with often catastrophic consequences for humanity.
More positively, Christianity has had a strong influence on the social democratic tradition, especially in the UK. The last three leaders of the UK Labour Party, John Smith, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, all come from the Christian Socialist tradition. This is what Tony Blair has written on the topic in the foreword to Graham Dale's "God's Politicians: The Christian Contribution to 100 Years of Labour":
'The Labour Party and the nation are indebted to people whose Christian faith motivated their political service: individuals who were outraged by the social injustice they say all around and believed that it was their duty to stand up for the downtrodden; individuals who wanted to show compassion towards their neighbours and saw the Labour Party as a means by which this could be done; individuals who saw a connection between the values of Christ and the values of Socialism, and who chose to work out these connections in the rough and tumble of party politics.
It was the Christian values of these people that informed their political thinking. They believed in community, in equality and in individual responsibility. Their beliefs forced them to take political action when faced with the great need around them - the need for jobs, the need for homes or the need for health care (emphasis added!). They believed that legislation, not just charity, was needed to transform the inadequate present into a better future."
Finally, MOJ-ers may also be interested in the following comments:
'Demonstrations, protests, strikes and passive resistance - all these are means of class struggle that need to be considered appropriate. The struggle for rights, after exhausting all peaceful means ... is a necessary act of justice that leads only to the achievement of the common good, which is the goal of social existence...
It is clear that from the view of the ethical assumptions of the Bible, such a struggle is a necessary evil, just like any other human struggle... It is also evident from the Bible that struggle itself is not the opposite of love. The opposite of love is hate.
A struggle in a specific case does not have to be caused by hate. If it is caused by social and material injustice, and if its goal is to reinstate the just distribution of goods, then such a struggle is not [hatred] ... Social justice is the necessary condition for realisation of love in life...
Many times Jesus Christ has proven that God's kingdom cannot be achieved in man without a struggle .. Achievement of social justice is one element of achieving God's Kingdom on earth..."
"Marxism ... does not see any other way to solve the burning social issues ... Catholicism sees the possibility of solving ... social issues by evolutionary means. The struggle of the oppressed classes against their oppressors becomes the stimulus for the evolution to proceed faster ...
The class struggle... grows stronger when it meets resistance from the economically privileged classes. Pressure from the class struggle should bring appropriate changes in the socioeconomic system."
"The Church realizes that the bourgeois mentality, and capitalism with its material spirit, are contradictions of the Bible. According to the tradition of ... monastic/religious life, the Church also can appreciate the idea of communism... Communism, as a higher ethical rule of ownership, demands from people higher ethical qualifications."
"At the present state of human nature, the universal realization of this [communist] ideal ... meets with insurmountable difficulties. Private property is suited to human nature. The goal that should be pursued is to achieve, in the system based on private property, such reforms as will lead to the realization of social justice. The class struggle leads to this ...
Revolution is not the doom of society but at most a punishment for specific offenses in socioeconomic life."
All of the above comments are from a work called "Catholic Social Ethics", written by the then Fr. Karol Wojtyla in the early 1950s and distributed by the Catholic underground in communist Poland - see Kwitny, "Man of the Century - The life and times of Pope John Paul II" (1998) pp.138-140.


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