Vatican thumbs up for Karl Marx?

This has been a rather busy week for Rome – welcoming the Anglicans…and now Communists?

I am not promoting Communism, but the American idea of it is hardly what Marx wrote. Neither was the Soviet idea of the Maoist in China. You can find a summary of sorts here and here, as well as the text of the Manifesto here. Like most documents, movement and people, you have take Marx in context, and all him to interpret himself – not those who claim him. During Marx’s time, Europe had two classes, a small, very rich class, and a very large poor class who were little more than free-will slaves. Further, the French Revolution a generation before had failed horribly. Jews were still killed because they were Jews. Blights and famines happened. Wars raged. The one thing that escaped this turmoil? Banking centers and the military industrial complex. Thus, Marx wrote against this ills, almost blaming religion and especially the Pope of Rome.

I am reminded of Marx’s quote,

“All I know is that I am not a Marxist.”

This move cannot be wholly unexpected with Rome’s push to curtail capitalism’s excesses lately. The story notes the Pope’s newest letter in this matter.

Karl Marx, who famously described religion as “the opium of the people”, has joined Galileo, Charles Darwin and Oscar Wilde on a growing list of historical figures to have undergone an unlikely reappraisal by the Roman Catholic Church.

L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, said yesterday that Marx’s early critiques of capitalism had highlighted the “social alienation” felt by the “large part of humanity” that remained excluded, even now, from economic and political decision-making.

Georg Sans, a German-born professor of the history of contemporary philosophy at the pontifical Gregorian University, wrote in an article that Marx’s work remained especially relevant today as mankind was seeking “a new harmony” between its needs and the natural environment. He also said that Marx’s theories may help to explain the enduring issue of income inequality within capitalist societies.

“We have to ask ourselves, with Marx, whether the forms of alienation of which he spoke have their origin in the capitalist system,” Professor Sans wrote. “If money as such does not multiply on its own, how are we to explain the accumulation of wealth in the hands of the few?”


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.

via Vatican thumbs up for Karl Marx after Galileo, Darwin and Oscar Wilde – Times Online.

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3 Replies to “Vatican thumbs up for Karl Marx?”

  1. (I haven’t read the link yet, just to qualify what I’m saying.)

    Marx was right … religion is an opiate to the masses. Christendom has been used as a cult by political leaders throughout the centuries. By asserting the divine right of kings, the people were enslaved not only by economics but by the threat of damnation if they spoke out of line.

    His revolutionary (meaning: explaining why revolutions happen) view of history was dead-on, and notes that all oppressive societies, regardless of the nature of the oppression, are undone by popular movements.

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