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3.00 History ( scroll below)
3.01 Biblical Era ( scroll below)
3.02 Middle Ages ( scroll below)
3.03 U.S. 20th Century ( scroll below)
3.04 IWW ( scroll below)
3.00 History. Historically, the Catholic-communist connection has probably been around for as long as there have been Catholics.
3.01 Biblical Era . The Catholic-communist connection goes back to biblical times. The Acts of the Apostles described the early communists:
The faithful all lived together and owned everything in common; they sold their goods and possessions and shared out the proceeds among themselves according to what each one needed. ( Acts 2:44-45)Another chapter from Actsnoted that the system was effective in preventing economic hardships:
The whole group of believers was united, heart and soul; no one claimed for his own use anything that he had, as everything they owned was held in common. . . None of their members was ever in want, as all those who owned land or houses would sell them, and bring the money from them, to present it to the apostles; it was then distributed to any members who might be in need. ( Acts 4:32, 34-35).The system was run in a dictatorship fashion. When the communists Ananias and his wife Sapphira tryed to cheat, God in person struck them dead. ( Acts 5:1-11).
Reflecting on the church's history Bible scholar Jose Miranda has questioned how anyone who maintains the Bible has authority, can be an anti-communist. In Miranda's view, for a Christian to claim to be anti-communist, "constitutes the greatest scandal of our century." Miranda writes:
The notion of communism is in the New Testament, right down to the letter--and so well put that in the twenty centuries since it was written, no one has come up with a better definition of communism than Luke in Acts 2:44-45 and 4:32-35. In fact, the definition Marx borrowed from Louis Blanc, "From each one according to his capacities, to each one according to his needs," is inspired by, if not directly copied from, Luke's formulation eighteen centuries earlier. There is no clearer demonstration of the brainwashing to which the establishment keeps us subjected than the officially promulgated conception of Christianity as anti-communist. (Jose Porfirio Miranda, Communism in the Bible [trans. Robert Barr, Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1982], pp. 1-2).
In addition to the communistic Acts of the Apostles , the bible preaches communism in a variety of other passages, such as those which condemn profit. Profit, not human need, drives capitalism and is wrong. Jose Miranda has elaborated on the connection between communism and the biblical rejection of profit:
Profit is the essence and mainstay of capitalism. If profit were ever eliminated, capitalism would disappear at the same moment. The reason why in capitalism goods are not produced for the satisfaction of necessities but for exchange is that they are produced for profit. . . Every time the Bible speaks of profit, it is in order to reprove it. There are nineteen such passages and the reader can verify them Exod. 18:21; 1 Sam . 8:3;Isa . 33:15, 15:11; 57:17; Jer . 22:17, 51:13; Ezek . 22:13, 22:27, 33:31; Jer . 6:10, 13; Mic . 4:13; Hab . 2:9; Ps . 10:3, 119:36; Prov . 1:19, 15:27, 28:16. Here, however, I shall translate two of them because standard translations tend to cause confusion and render them unrecognizable. Proverbs 1:19, "This is the path of all who make profit: It will deprive of their life all who have committed it." And Proverbs 15:27: "The one who makes profit brings down his house in ruin." In the other seventeen passages I only remark that the original says, "profit," "gain," and not "booty" or "theft of goods" or "unjust gain," as the establishment translations trickly put it, so that the obvious condemnation does not fall on the head of profit as such. (Miranda, Communism in the Bible, pp. 48-49).
3.02 Middle Ages . Communism did not die out with the early church or prove to be unworkable, but has always been part of our tradition. The Acts of the Apostles record that communism was successful in preventing economic need in the early church. Monasticism is an example of communism at a later stage in church history. Monasticism, as in the Benedictine ethic, ora et labora (work and pray) has been held up for the past 1500 years as an ideal. The religious orders have common ownership of property. Like any modern-day communist society, they provided health care, housing, education and jobs to all their members without cost. St. Thomas More reflected the accepted belief of the middle ages when he wrote in Utopia (1516) that communism was basic to a decent society.
Hundreds of thousands of priests and nuns in Catholic religious communities throughout the world, both in the past and in the present, have lived comfortable, working lives as a result of the communist system. For such monastics, anti-communism is a betrayal of their own way of life. And from the perspective of working people, why should only monks have free health care, housing, education and secure jobs? Jose Miranda discusses the problem of those who are in denial about their communism:
The international politics of nearly all the countries of the world, and their consequent criminal armament ideology, rallies to this contradictory watchword: "Defend Christian civilization from communism!" At such a moment there are no words adequate to this other cry: But what if, in the history of the West, it is Christianity that startedcommunism? What if, from the first century to the nineteenth, groups of Christians were never lacking who, in spite of repression by the established powers and by the church, vigorously advocated communism, Bible in hand! What manner of insanity has swooped down on the Western world that it combats the Christian project par excellence as if it were its greatest enemy? (Miranda, Communism in the Bible, p.2).
3.03 U.S. 20th Century. In the 20th century U.S. Catholics have always been part of the working class movement and of its parties. In the early part of the century, some 200 local Socialist party mayors and officials held office. Many of these were Catholics, including James F. Carey and F. O. MacGartney, both members of the Massachusetts legislature. Thomas McGrady (1862-1907) was a popular campaigner for the party. This was at a time when it was getting a half-million votes for Eugene Debs, its national candidate. McGrady was a priest who served at St. Anthonys, Bellevue, Kentucky, a working class parish across the river from Cincinnati. In behalf of his class he debated in the pulpit and on the stage, walked picket lines such as the 1901 Machinist strike in Cincinnati, went on fact finding health and safety tours of factories such as at the National Cash Register Co. in Dayton, Ohio, and wrote books and articles. [Toby Terrar, "Catholic Socialism: Reverend Thomas McGrady," Dialectical Anthropology , 7 (1983), 209-235].
3.04 IWW. Thomas J. Hagerty, a Texas priest, played a similar role for the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). He also served as editor of the American Labor Union's Voice of Labor. In the preamble to the IWW's constitution, the first draft of which he prepared in 1905 at the 12-day founding convention in Chicago, Hagerty wrote:
The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among the millions of working people, and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the things in life. Between these two classes a struggle must go on until all the toilers come together on the political, as well as on the industrial field, and take and hold that which they produce by their labor through an economic organization of the working class without affiliation with any party. [Industrial Workers of the World. Proceedings of the Founding Convention of the IWW (New York: Merit Publishers, 1905, reprint 1969)).Hagerty like the other Catholic IWW founders, such as Mother (Mary Harris) Jones, had been or were with the Socialist party, which he called the slowcialists. He felt politics were a waste: "The ballot box is simply a capitalist concession. Dropping pieces of paper into a hole in a box never did achieve emancipation for the working class, and to my thinking it never will." (Industrial Workers of the World, Proceedings, p. 152).
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