Catholics and Communism. The 1970s and 1980s.

1 June 1995

In the 1970s when Malcolm Muggeridge remarked that “Catholics are taking to Communism just as everyone else is giving it up”, it was possible to think he was joking. He wasn’t. Nowadays it shows in the way the extreme poverty we see in the developing world is blamed on the world economic system – the world capitalist economic system. And this despite the fact that in the Far East this system – capitalism plus population control – has brought more people out of poverty more quickly than any other system in history. In the 1970s and 1980s Catholics were more forthright. Here is an example:

Ecumenical association of Third World Theologians
Dar es Salaam 12 August 1976

Published by CIIR (Catholic Institute for International Relations)
22 Coleman Fields, London N1 7AF 1984
Reprinted 1987

Para 9. The People’s Republic of China has entered a path of self-reliant growth based on socialism and the people’s participation in the direction of agriculture and industry. By cutting themselves off from the capitalist system they have been able to reverse the trend of continuing underdevelopment that characterised the colonise and the newly independent “free enterprise” countries. North Korea, North Vietnam and Cuba took similar lines with appreciable results. In recent months South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos in Asia, and Mozambique, Guinea Bissau and Angola in Africa, have opted for self-reliant socialist development. Tanzania is attempting a socialist approach without going the whole way of eliminating free enterprise. Other countries in the Third World have varying degrees of socialist experimentation: egg Burma, Algeria, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia.

Para 10. The Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, considered the Second World, often render assistance to oppressed peoples of other countries in their struggles for liberation – as in Cuba, Vietnam, and Angola. Along with China and the non-aligned powers of the Third World they are a valuable counter-balance against imperialist domination by the North Atlantic powers.

Para 11. However, socialism too has its own problems to resolve – especially in relation to the safe-guarding of human freedom, and the very price of the revolutionary process in terms of human lives ……Further, our information concerning socialist countries is rather limited owing to the barriers of communication.

How could theologians write this in 1976? How could CIIR publish it in 1984 (of all years) and reprint it in 1987?

The Church remains the most important organization providing practical help to the poor, but its views on politics and family planning are a disaster for the very poor, and there is no sign that these views are changing.