WASHINGTON, Feb. 20, 2016 – “The Pope? How many divisions has he got?” asked Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. He sneered at the idea that moral suasion could oppose the overwhelming machinery of his socialist state and the goose-stepping armies protecting it. But the moral suasion of Pope John Paul II helped bring down Stalin’s police state. “The Party Is for the People,” proclaimed a banner greeting John Paul during his 1979 visit to communist Poland, “but the People are for the Pope.”
Historian Paul Johnson observed that John Paul’s view of socialism’s counterfeit good works creates a “purely utilitarian relationship between individual and individual. It is at this point that dehumanization occurs, because each individual tends increasingly to see the other not as a person but as an object, to be made use of or exploited. Altruism disappears, the humanity of the other is no longer considered, a quasi-animal relationship develops, and as it does so the humanity of the exploiter diminishes too. We end with two ingenious animals which are, because ingenious, exceptionally destructive.”
Johnson’s description is similar to that made 120 years earlier by escaped slave and ardent abolitionist Frederick Douglass, “We were all ranked together at the valuation. Men and women, old and young, married and single, were ranked with horses, sheep and swine… At this moment, I saw more clearly than ever the brutalizing effects of slavery upon both slave and slaveholder.”
But there were some in John Paul’s church that saw socialism as a sacrament. In the late 1960s a movement sprang from among the Jesuit bishops of Latin America: liberation theology.
Its creator, Father Gustavo Gutierrez Merino of Peru, said this fusing of Marxism and Christianity sees “the poor as non-persons… in a sociological sense; the poor, that is, are not accepted as persons in our society. They are invisible and have not rights, their dignity is not recognized,” wrote Merino in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.
Nameless, faceless, dehumanized “masses” to be exploited by liberation theologians.
When Ion Mihai Pacepa, a general in communist Romania’s secret police, defected to the United States in 1978, he wrote that “liberation theology has been generally understood to be a marriage of Marxism and Christianity. What has not been understood is that it was not the product of Christians who pursued Communism, but of Communists who pursued Christians. Its genesis was part of a highly classified [Communist] Party/State Disinformation Program, formally approved in 1960 by KGB chairman Aleksandr Shelepin and Politburo member Aleksei Kirichenko, then the second in the party hierarchy after [Soviet Premier] Nikita Khrushchev.”
Six months after becoming Pope in 2012, Francis invited Father Gustavo Gutierrez Merino to the Vatican, with church doctrinal watchdog Cardinal Gerhard Müller declaring that Soviet-inspired liberation theology was to “be included among the most important currents in 20th century Catholic Theology.”
In 2013, Pope Francis wrote: “Some people continue to defend trickle-down [economic] theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world,” adding that trickle-down economics “has never been confirmed by the facts.”
“There are none so blind as those that will not see.”
That may explain why his Holiness missed the June edition that same year of the Economist magazine. Under the headline “Towards the End of Poverty,” he would have read that between 1990 and 2010 the number of people living in extreme poverty (subsisting on $1.25 a day) “fell by half as a share of the total population in developing countries, from 43% to 21% – a reduction of almost 1 billion people.”
Recently, Pope Francis thought to intervene in American politics. “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian,” he told reporters in reference to billionaire GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign pledge to shore up America’s southern border.
The pope’s rebuke is an embarrassing admission that capitalism, with all its faults, remains the best mechanism for improving the economic condition of the world’s poor.
That discredited socialism – or liberation theology – would condemn the world to a monk’s vow of poverty, “ranked with horses, sheep and swine.”