Pope Francis recently criticized Marxism as demonic, clashing with a German cardinal who lauded Marx for his alleged influence on Catholic social teaching.
German Cardinal Reinhard Marx asserted in an interview that Karl Marx and his philosophy could be “very helpful” in current world conflicts and that without him there would be no Catholic social teaching, according to Crux Now. Francis, however, wrote in the introduction to an upcoming collection Pope emeritus Benedict XVI’s writings that Marxism’s doctrine of dependence on the state was a totalitarian lie that impoverished the human spirit, as the Roman state did.
“With [this] totalitarian lie, [the Roman state] became demonic and tyrannical,” Francis quoted from Benedict.
Francis used Bendict’s quotes to argue that the state is not “the totality” and that Marxism robs the human spirit by denying dependence on God and demanding “the totum of human possibilities and hopes.”
Reinhard, however, lauded Marx and said that he had “unmistakably” contributed to the Catholic Church and exonerated him of the horrors and persecutions that all communist regimes in history inflicted on the church.
“Human rights without material participation remain incomplete,” Reinhard said according to Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung. “Without him [Karl Marx], there would not be any Catholic social doctrine.”
“We’re on the shoulders of Karl Marx,” Reinhard added, quoting Jesuit theologian Oswald von Nell-Breuning. “This doesn’t mean that he’s a father of the Church. But his position has always been a point of discussion.”
Reinhard also denigrated the effects of capitalism upon the world with respect to the rights of workers, without mentioning the sufferings endured by workers under communist rule except to say that Marx was not responsible for them.
“We shouldn’t have allowed unbridled capitalism to steal from us the banner of justice towards the workers and of solidarity towards those who are trampled,” Reinhard said, according to Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.
The disparity between Francis and Reinhard’s comments on Marx was unusual not only because Francis and Reinhard typically support one another’s views, but also because Francis offered a much clearer and critical stance on Marxism than he has in the past. Critics have accused Francis of supporting Marxist-influenced theology, though he stated in 2013 in response to accusations that he overtly supported Marxism “Marxist ideology is wrong. But in my life I have known many Marxists who are good people, so I don’t feel offended.”
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