Volume > Issue > The Vatican Looks at Non-Marxist Socialism

The Vatican Looks at Non-Marxist Socialism


By Thomas Molnar | July-August 1985
Thomas Molnar emigrated from Hungary in 1946. A leading conservative political thinker, he is Professor of Humanities and Philosophy at the City University of New York, and in addition regularly teaches a philosophy of religion class at Yale University. He is the author of numerous books and a frequent traveler overseas.

In this age, dubbed by many “the Second En­lightenment,” people are no more willing than they ever were to hear unpleasant facts. When some time ago I wrote an article in another magazine on “Socialism Sí, Küng No” (the silly title was affixed by the editors), indignant letters and phone calls put me down as a bad Catholic, in effect, for not closing my eyes to the evidence. My point in that article was that, faced with the internal upheaval of quasi-heresy (the elucubrations of Küng, Rahner, Schillebeeckx, Jossua, et al.) and the sociopolitical influence of socialism, the Church would combat the first, and seek accommodations with the sec­ond.

I added that this is what always happened over the last 2,000 years: when a new political or social configuration emerged — the feudal system, Renaissance humanism, bourgeois power, royal ab­solutism, industrialization, science, republicanism, democracy, and now labor power or socialism — Rome waited until the new system or ideology eliminated its own sharp edges, then sought accom­modation with the domesticated form. It entailed not doctrinal change on the Church’s part, but political acceptance, and also the acceptance of a cer­tain new style. By the time coexistence became possible, accommodation did not imply conces­sions; for the Church the relationship became rath­er a matter of emphasis.

Today we are in a situation similar to past ages, something that the narrow mind cannot tol­erate. Notwithstanding Reagan, Thatcher, or the (questionable) superiority of Giscardian policies over those of Mitterrand, socialism is gaining ground, not just in the domain of economics, but also and more importantly in that of intellectual discourse and style, social choices, and vision of the world. Masses of people in the capitalist world find in capitalism material satisfactions, but also find the human price paid for them too high. Mass­es of people in the communist world find Marxism detestable and counterproductive, but if they were free to choose, would opt for a non-Marxist social­ism, with more freedom of choice, with a more “human face.”

These are facts. I did not invent them. Granted that in highly developed countries, capitalism “delivers the goods,” yet spokesmen for capitalism show their narrowmindedness when they assume that, say, India, Tanzania, Bolivia, or New Guinea may similarly and to their advantage be converted to the “correct creed” — i.e., capitalist orthodoxy. Largely missing in these and other places are all the preconditions of capitalism: Greek rationality, modern science, technical inclination, organizing spirit, fair play vis-à-vis opponents, the sense of the law which moderates greed, and so on.

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