Accuracy in Media

In a story about why the U.S. Catholic Bishops have embraced Democratic-style universal health care, the Los Angeles Times noted that the Roman Catholic Church considers healthcare a basic human right, “a position the church has articulated since 1963, when it was included in a papal encyclical by Pope John XXIII.” Indeed, healthcare is declared a right in the “Peace on Earth” encyclical. That is also the basis of Obamacare.

The group Catholic Democrats has hailed passage of H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act of 2009, and notes that the only House Republican voting for it, Representative Joseph Cao of Louisiana, is a Catholic and former Jesuit seminarian. “The Catholic Church has been at the forefront of advocating for health care as a right for decades, including pastoral letters issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in 1981 and 1993,” the group notes.

The evidence indicates that the Bishops-and the Vatican itself-are calling the shots behind the scene. In fact, as many media organizations are now reporting, they engineered the “compromise” that deleted abortion funding so the bill could pass the House. The Los Angeles Times reported that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Catholic, not only “conferred with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to be sure the new restrictions were acceptable” but “consulted by telephone with a cardinal in Rome.”

CNN reported that, as a deal was being made between Pelosi and Catholic lobbyists, “Several Democrats, including Rep. Jason Altmire, D-Pennsylvania, said they are in touch with their Catholic Bishops back home. Altmire said he must have the approval of his bishop in Pittsburgh before he can vote yes.”

Where is the media outrage over “the separation of church and state?” In this case, there is direct evidence of a foreign entity, the Vatican, actually passing judgment on legislation and, in effect, delivering votes for it.

Few in the media, on the left or right, want to raise the issue, apparently fearful of being labeled “anti-Catholic.”

But the outcome of the legislation in the House demonstrates that while the Republicans don’t have the votes to stop it, the Vatican has the votes to pass it. Could the same thing happen in the U.S. Senate?

It is time for the major media to investigate how the officials of a major religious denomination, with its headquarters in Rome, are affecting the outcome of major pieces of legislation in the Congress of the United States.

This is a matter of great importance because government-guaranteed “rights,” in the Vatican’s view, don’t stop with health care. Man, the papal “Peace on Earth” document said, “has the right to bodily integrity and to the means necessary for the proper development of life, particularly food, clothing, shelter, medical care, rest, and, finally, the necessary social services. In consequence, he has the right to be looked after in the event of ill health; disability stemming from his work; widowhood; old age; enforced unemployment; or whenever through no fault of his own he is deprived of the means of livelihood.”

As defined by the Catholic Bishops, this is a blueprint for a socialist state.

The encyclical said that individuals have the right to private ownership of property but that this right “entails a social obligation as well.”

In this context, in a major story largely ignored by the major U.S. media, a London newspaper recently noted that L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, published an October 21 article by Georg Sans that praised the Marxist theory of alienation under capitalism. The article, published in Italian, said that the church “must be grateful” to Marx for explaining the concept of “alienated labor” and “surplus value.” Sans also said that “a large part of humanity” remains alienated. 

The article was reprinted by an Italian communist website, complete with an image of Karl Marx flashing a “V” for victory sign.

So-called “surplus value,” which is said to amount to exploitation of workers under capitalism, is one of the major concepts of Marxism. It justifies the hatred of and violence against private property owners-the capitalists. “The doctrine of surplus value is the cornerstone of Marx’s economic theory,” stated V.I. Lenin.

Surplus value may sound esoteric but the concept is absolutely necessary in understanding the appeal of Marxism and the basis for revolutionary activity. The notion of surplus value is supposed to reflect the amount of output that exceeds the cost of the workers to produce a commodity. By definition under Marxism, this “surplus value,” the source of what is commonly called profit, constitutes exploitation of the workers. It is the basis for government control of the economy and elimination of the property owners once the workers supposedly take charge.

The Vatican newspaper article is not a complete embrace of all aspects of Marxism. Sans, who teaches the History of Contemporary Philosophy at the Università Gregoriana, the first Jesuit university, is also critical of Marx’s materialism and how Marxism has been applied in practice by Communist parties. He calls this “ideological abuse” and says that an understanding of mankind has to take into account man’s spiritual nature. Sans says that, “The history of Marxism has taught us, however, that all attempts to introduce communism by force ended up in an injustice and an even greater misery.”

On the other hand, the article still puts the Vatican newspaper on the side of the Marxist philosophy of state control in the name of liberating the workers. “We must be grateful to the philosopher for the idea that man should be considered in light of the mode of production and form of economic management which predominate in society,” he writes.

However, as Thomas Sowell points out in his book, Marxism, the Marxist analysis ignores the value produced by the capitalists who exercised private property rights in creating the means of production and employing the workers in the first place. Hence, the Marxist concept of surplus value, Sowell argues, is “Plainly arbitrary and unsupported.” It is essential to Marxist theory because the abolition of private property is a major plank in the communist platform.

The Sans article doesn’t just embrace the Marxist theory of alienation from the economy. On the matter of the natural environment, Sans expands this dubious theory to include another “aspect of alienation” which he said involves “man against nature.” Sans condemned the “overexploitation of natural resources and environmental destruction” that are said to characterize industrial societies.

Sounding like Al Gore, he explained, “No need to be materialistic to recognize that we must establish a degree of harmony between man and his natural environment. It is not simply to relate to a living space or obtaining food, but take account of the man who shall be a unity of body and spirit.” He goes on to condemn the “overexploitation of natural resources and environmental destruction” that are said to result from such alienation.

As noted by the London Times, “Professor Sans’s article was first published in La Civiltà Cattolica, a Jesuit paper, which is vetted in advance by the Vatican Secretariat of State. The decision to republish it in the Vatican newspaper gives it added papal endorsement.”

Kevin Clarke wrote a blog posting on the site of America magazine, the national Catholic Jesuit weekly, which declared, somewhat jokingly, “We’re all Marxists now!

Jokes aside, the Vatican newspaper article is embarrassing to many Catholics, for the obvious reason that it exposes Marxist sympathies deep within the Vatican at a time when many Americans, including Catholics, are resisting the Marxist drive for total government control in the U.S. Embarrassment explains why so many conservative Catholic commentators have decided to ignore this Vatican embrace of the key component of revolutionary Marxism. 

To make matters worse, the astute “Reading the Maps” blog pointed out that “The explanation for the appearance of Sans’ article may lie in an extraordinary but little-noticed Encyclical which the Pope issued in 2007 called Spe Salvi, or In Hope We Were Saved. Spe Salvi includes a long and surprisingly sophisticated assessment not only of the thought of Marx, but of the whole history of Western thought since the Enlightenment.”

The headline over the blog asks, “Is the Pope a Marxist?”

This papal Encyclical explained that the “dreadful living conditions” described by Friedrich Engels, the co-author of the communist manifesto, gave rise to the Marxist view that “the time had come for a new, proletarian revolution,” in which “progress could not simply continue in small, linear steps” and that “A revolutionary leap was needed.”

The encyclical explained that “Karl Marx took up the rallying call, and applied his incisive language and intellect to the task of launching this major new and, as he thought, definitive step in history towards salvation-towards what Kant had described as the ‘Kingdom of God.'”

It went on, “With great precision, albeit with a certain one-sided bias, Marx described the situation of his time, and with great analytical skill he spelled out the paths leading to revolution-and not only theoretically: by means of the Communist Party that came into being from the Communist Manifesto of 1848, he set it in motion. His promise, owing to the acuteness of his analysis and his clear indication of the means for radical change, was and still remains an endless source of fascination. Real revolution followed, in the most radical way in Russia.”

However, the Pope also said that Marx’s “fundamental” error was that “he did not say how matters should proceed thereafter” and that “He simply presumed that with the expropriation of the ruling class, with the fall of political power and the socialization of means of production, the new Jerusalem would be realized.” The Pope noted that Marxism did not lead to a “perfect world” but left behind “a trail of appalling destruction,” which is a major understatement. Professor Paul Kengor notes that the seminal Harvard University Press work, The Black Book of Communism, was probably conservative when estimating only 100 million deaths at the hands of communist governments.

On another level, the Pope argued that the “error” of Marx was his materialistic philosophy, which ignores man’s freedom and assumed that “once the economy had been put right, everything would automatically be put right.”

However, on economic matters, as we have seen in the health care debate, the U.S. Catholic Bishops have embraced Democratic-style universal health care, declaring on the basis of a papal encyclical that health care is a right that should be guaranteed by government.

On the global level, Pope Benedict spoke forcefully in his own “Charity in Truth” encyclical, declaring that we need “a worldwide redistribution of energy resources,” more foreign aid from rich to poor nations, and a “world political authority” with “teeth” working through the United Nations to bring this about.

The “teeth” could include the global bank tax that was discussed at the recent meeting of G-20 finance ministers and central bankers.

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