Although Communism has always been an unusually wicked system, it attracted many people because it constantly broadcast the lie of being the ideal of a paradise on earth, where everyone is well off, partaking of collective ownership. The Communist propaganda machine was the most effective in the world. Against lack of Faith, Communism easily caught on.
Evil, too, has innate attractiveness; before men satan appears in radiant robes. Since his fall he has used good people and good things as instruments for drawing the children of God into hell. Let us consider drunkenness as a common example. Does the vice improve one's health, reputation, or economic condition? Yet men continue to be drunkards, faithful to the vice as if innumerable benefits were resulting.
Many persons have an honest sympathy for the suffering. Charity is innate in human nature. By working on this sympathy through devious means, Communism has always managed to draw into its net many who are not actually economically or politically oppressed.
Under a banner of justice and reform, Communism succeeded in establishing a rule neither just nor improved. It held power by means of a worldwide secret police, by its highly developed propaganda system. As separated from the rest of the world as possible, its people were indoctrinated in a tunnel-vision fashion by press and radio, by all kinds of propaganda, all according to the preferences of the few at the top.
It is true that in the present socio-economic system there exist frightful abuses. The poor and needy suffer from a feeling of injustice, and still turn to Communism as a solution. In many parts of the world injustice, exploitation, race prejudice, and social snobbery are the rule. The laborers are crowded in dirty slums, while a few are masters rolling in wealth.
We have been speaking of Communism as a thing of the past, but, while it has been greatly weakened in Russia, it still is very strong in the most populous nation of the world - China. Who knows what this silent, stealthy giant is planning. We know the Church has made little inroad here and is greatly persecuted. We don't know what the future holds but we do know we must continue to pray. The Holy Father has often reminded us of the imbalance in the world where the well-to-do nations squander and horde, while third-world countries scramble in the squalor for a piece of bread. There can be no peace of mind without a piece of bread. The selfishness of the rich, the injustices committed by the capitalists towards their laborers, -all these cause Communism to spread.
Even as nations, Christian states have not played their part as good neighbors towards the poorer countries, especially in Asia and Africa; there Communism continues to spread under different guises in Asia and Africa; there Communism is spreading fast. Harassed by want, with children who cannot fast. Harassed by want, with children who cannot even finish elementary studies, these victims of injustice would easily listen to the wiles of Communism. No one can be surprised when impoverished masses go over to a system of so-called "collective ownership." If they stand to lose nothing, why not try something?
This could be one reason "liberation theology" took such a hold in Central and South America over the past few decades. Questions abound for people have become materialistic. God is out of fashion. Laws have force, not because of God, but by the strength of governments. With religion banned from public schools, children grow up with no clear knowledge of God's commandments; religion becomes a personal whim, not a way of life. Under such conditions, an earthly paradise of a godless society appears enticing indeed.
From the beginning the Holy See has perceived the evil of Communism, and has issued warnings against it.
During the time of Marx, Pope Pius IX in 1846 pronounced a condemnation of the theory.
He described it as "absolutely contrary to the natural law itself," an infamous doctrine which, if adopted, would "utterly destroy the rights, property, and possessions of all men, and even society itself."
When the Industrial Age was just beginning, men acted as if there was no need for Faith, for any moral direction, in the pursuit of material profits. They seemed to believe in an unrestrained Capitalism, with competition regulating all things. Pope Leo XIII warned against the rise of Communism as bound to be the result of unfettered Capitalism.
In 1878 he defined Communism as "the fatal plague which insinuates itself into the very marrow of human society, only to bring about its ruin."
In various encyclicals Pope Pius XI denounced Communism and the resulting atheism. He declared Communism to be "intrinsically wrong, and no one who would save Christian civilization may collaborate with it in any undertaking whatsoever."
In the encyclical Divini Redemptoris (1937), he wrote," The most persistent enemies of the Church who from Moscow are directing the struggle against Christian civilization themselves bar witness, by their unceasing attacks in word and act, that even to this hour the Papacy has continued faithfully to protect the sanctuary of the Christian religion, and that it has called public attention to the perils of Communism more frequently and more effectively than any other public authority on earth."
Pope Pius XII, in different contexts frequently appealed to all men against the evil of Communism, so that in the world there would be peace with justice.
In his Christmas message of 1946 he said, "No Christian has the right to show himself tired of the fight against the anti-religious surge of today. It matters little under what forms, with what methods, weapons, words enticing or menacing, and in what disguise the enemy hides himself. No one can be excused for remaining in his presence with folded arms, bowed head, and trembling knees."
In our times John Paul the Great has spoken out strongly against the communist curse, he has condemned the act, but not the people. To them he has extended love, caring, hope. He realizes better than anyone that
Communism can be prevented only by a return to God, by a strengthening of the elements that Communism aims to destroy.
Next installment: part four of the communist curse.