Date: Tue, 2 Feb 1999 22:24:25 -0600 (CST)
From: “Workers World” <>
Organization: WW Publishers
Subject: The Pope & capitalism
Article: 53834
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
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The Pope & capitalism

Editorial, Workers World, 4 February 1999

The Pope has criticized capitalism. On his recent visit to Mexico, he chided the “law of the market” and professed love for the poor. He also called for the church to pay more attention to the rich.

This is the Pope who shot down the movement of progressive Catholics called liberation theology, saying it was too close to Marxism because it advocated social activism. John Paul is also the first Polish Pope, strongly supported by U.S. imperialism because of his role in organizing counter- revolution in Eastern Europe.

But now the Pope has criticized capitalism. Has he moved to the left?

No. The latest pronouncements from the head of Roman Catholicism fit handily into the church's history of finding phrases to appeal to the masses in times of crisis while opposing social movements that would truly restructure society. Take the words of Pope Pius XI, whose radio address on May 15, 1931, was front-paged by the New York Times the next day. The Pope, said the Times, “appealed to `all men of good will’ to supplant class war with class collaboration and revise the relations between capital and labor in order to bring about a fairer division of their common efforts, ending a system which `permits capitalists to grow rich while labor remains doomed to a life of hard toil.’ “

That speech was given when world capitalism had just hit bottom. Workers had been thrown out of their jobs by the tens of millions. All over the world, they were looking for answers about what to do, while fighting depression and despair. The revolutionary message of communism—that the workers should unite and organize to overthrow the capitalist system—was winning mass adherents.

Where was the church in all this? Preaching class collaboration and anti-communism, as it does today. In Spain, the church threw its lot in with Franco and his fascist movement against the workers and peasants—many of whom were Catholics. Fascism, whether in Italy, Spain or Germany, also demagogued against capitalism—calling it a “Jewish conspiracy”—but at the same time protected the interests of the biggest capitalists against the revolutionary movement of the workers sweeping Europe.

The church has inveighed against capitalism for centuries. After all, Catholicism was the main ideological prop for an even earlier economic system based on oppression and exploitation—feudalism. The church's first struggles with the new bourgeoisie were over the church's rejection of the Enlightenment—the pragmatic, anti-dogmatic world view that was necessary to free human thought, and eventually property, from the stagnation of the medieval system and pave the way for capitalist development.

But that was a long time ago. Capitalism has now long superseded feudalism as the main system oppressing the masses, and the modern church has been converted to coexist with capitalism, no matter what its leaders say in times of crisis. It is socialism that the church hierarchy really fears. With Latin America now in turmoil as markets collapse, the Pope's pronouncements are merely a harbinger of major class battles to come and show how painfully the Catholic masses are being affected by this latest capitalist crisis.