Is the Pope a Socialist?

Rick Santorum seems to think so.

Our former Pennsylvania senator must be feeling a little left out as seemingly the only Republican candidate yet to have a turn atop the polls. In a bid to generate some passion for his flagging campaign, Santorum last week took on income inequality.

He’s for it because, well, some people just work harder than others. While Obama was the object of Santorum’s wrath, Pope Benedict has made much stronger remarks on income redistribution.

In fact, many past popes are on record favoring compassion for the poor and equality, while vehemently opposing socialism and communism. It’s a fine line, but many have walked it. Consider:

Pope Pius IX (1846-1878): “The goal of this most iniquitous plot is to drive people to overthrow the entire order of human affairs and to draw them over to the wicked theories of this Socialism and Communism, by confusing them with perverted teachings.”

Pope Benedict XV (1914-1922): “It is not our intention here to repeat the arguments which clearly expose the errors of Socialism and of similar doctrines.”

Pope Pius XI (1922-1939): “Socialism, if it remains truly Socialism, even after it has yielded to truth and justice on the points which we have mentioned, cannot be reconciled with the teachings of the Catholic Church because its concept of society itself is utterly foreign to Christian truth.”

Pope John Paul II (1978-2005): “The fundamental error of socialism is anthropological in nature. Socialism considers the individual person simply as an element, a molecule within the social organism, so that the good of the individual is completely subordinated to the functioning of the socio-economic mechanism.

And so it goes. I think we all get that the Catholic Church was, is and will likely always be opposed to Socialism and Communism. But what does the Bible have to say about redistribution of wealth? As you might expect, it depends on your interpretation.

This author adopts the position that the Bible requires we obey civil authority and, if our government chooses to spread the wealth, we must abide by those laws. He cites Romans 13:1 & 5: “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”

Others point out that the Bible commands nothing regarding government-sponsored redistribution of wealth, only that we act with charity towards the less fortunate. See Corinthians 9: “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

What is your opinion on income inequality? Does the Bible support it? Or is God a free marketer?

About John Hilton

I grew up in Susquehanna County, Pa. and graduated Syracuse University with a dual degree in journalism/political science in 1998. After working for nearly three years for a weekly paper in upstate New York, I came to southcentral Pennsylvania. I spent 13 years as a reporter and editor for The Sentinel in Carlisle and joined the York Daily Record as religion reporter in September 2011.
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One Response to Is the Pope a Socialist?

  1. Katherine Harms says:

    The Bible teaches that every human is accountable to God for good stewardship of God’s gifts. In the context of the teaching to love God above all and to love people as you love yourself, everyone is enjoined to be generous personally to those in need.
    There are two solid reasons not to give our money to the government for redistribution: 1) We are asked to give to the poor, not to the goverment, and 2) the government winds up retaining and diverting a great deal of the money it receives away from the poor. The history of government charity is that it only perpetuates poverty. Therefore, I reject any notion that the government is in the business of charity. It is not even in the business of leveling incomes. If that were so, the salaries of elected officials and civil servants would need to be reduced drastically. If we are all going to be equally poor, let the government be just as poor as the rest of us.

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