Fr. John's Letter Archives

Enjoy re-reading Fr. John's weekly bulletin letters for the past year.

You say you want a Revolution...

09-22-2019Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

But if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao You ain’t gonna make it with anyone anyhow “Revolution” by The Beatles

In a recent tweet (now deleted) the NY Times posted: Mao Zedong died on this day in 1976. The Times said he began as “an obscure peasant” and “died one of history’s great revolutionary figures”.

The tweet had a link to the Times 1976 Obituary of Mao, which you could say was overly kind and overlooked his penchant for murder, torture and mass starvation techniques. If you grew up reading the Times you know that over the years the NY Times has painted communism, whether the Soviet or the Chinese version in the best light possible mostly as a way to excoriate capitalism.

Now if you grew up in the Catholic Church in the 20th century you knew that the Church unabashedly opposed communism. Remember all those prayers for the conversion of Russia inspired by Fatima? Or if you were of age during the pontificate of Pope St. John Paul II you watched him use his moral authority to help bring down the Iron Curtain. In fact, since Pope Leo XIII in the late 19th century the Popes have consistently taught that communism and socialism are incompatible with Christianity.

Pope St. John Paul II summed it up best when he wrote in his sweeping Encyclical Letter, Centesimus Annus − On the 100th anniversary of Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum, May 1, 1991:

“… we have to add that the fundamental error of socialism is anthropological in nature. Socialism considers the individual person simply as an element, a molecule within the social organism, so that the good of the individual is completely subordinated to the functioning of the socio-economic mechanism. Socialism likewise maintains that the good of the individual can be realized without reference to his free choice, to the unique and exclusive responsibility which he exercises in the face of good or evil. Man is thus reduced to a series of social relationships, and the concept of the person as the autonomous subject of moral decision disappears, the very subject whose decisions build the social order. From this mistaken conception of the person there arise both a distortion of law, which defines the sphere of the exercise of freedom, and an opposition to private property.”

And Pope St. Paul VI really describes what is happening in our own society at the current moment: “Too often Christians attracted by socialism tend to idealize it in terms which, apart from anything else, are very general: a will for justice, solidarity and equality. They refuse to recognize the limitations of the historical socialist movements, which remain conditioned by the ideologies from which they originated.” (Apostolic Letter Octogesima Adveniens, May 14, 1971)

Pope Benedict XVI left us this warning about socialism:

“The State which would provide everything, absorbing everything into itself, would ultimately become a mere bureaucracy incapable of guaranteeing the very thing which the suffering person − every person − needs: namely, loving personal concern. We do not need a State which regulates and controls everything, but a State which, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need. … In the end, the claim that just social structures would make works of charity superfluous masks a materialist conception of man: the mistaken notion that man can live ‘by bread alone’ (Mt 4:4; cf. Dt 8:3) − a conviction that demeans man and ultimately disregards all that is specifically human.” (Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, December 25, 2005, n. 28)

What is called the Social Teaching of the Church began in earnest with the 1891 Encyclical Letter of Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum (Rights and Duties of Capital and Labor) and every Pope since has issued an Encyclical Letter on an anniversary of Rerum Novarum reaffirming and developing its teachings on the nature of the human person, on human freedom and the current threats to both.

What is disconcerting to me is to see many young people today becoming enthralled with socialism or even what is called ‘democratic’ socialism (sort of like putting lipstick on a pig) since it was the young Chinese who became enthralled with Mao’s ideology and whom Mao used to carry out his Cultural Revolution and terrorized the older generation into submission, purge China of his enemies and remake Chinese society. You may not get the facts and the reality of socialism or communism from the NY Times but you can get it from the Catholic Church.

The NY Times can go around, “carrying pictures of Chairman Mao” but not so Catholics.


Fr. John B.