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Is The Angelus Promoting the Catholic Left?

Readers of the TIA website have complained about the enigmatic style adopted by The Angelus magazine in its June 2007 issue. Instead of an editorial introducing the topics addressed that month, the Editor chose to display only a diagram of unclear interpretation. No commentary was offered. We received an analysis of the diagram by Mrs. Patti Petersen soon after the June issue was out. We waited until the July issue entered into circulation to see if any reasonable explanation would be offered.
In the July issue, however, another enigmatic diagram was printed, again with no commentary. Given this original editorial style, we think that there is no more reason to delay posting the opinion of Mrs. Petersen for the TIA audience. - The Editor
An Editorial Diagram Analogous to Marxism

Patti Petersen

People Commmenting
The picture to the right appeared in the June 2007 issue of The Angelus magazine in the spot usually reserved for the Letter from the Editor. It certainly presents a conundrum to readers, and seems to have been inserted as an exercise for the brain cells of the readership.

Socialist diagram from the Angelus magazine, June 2007
One can only guess at the meaning intended by the Editor of The Angelus, but it seems to me that a plausible interpretation of his diagram is that of a pictorial representation of a key Marxist doctrine concerning work. This doctrine has sometimes been referred to by 'Christian Socialists' as the 'gospel of work' and places WORK at the center of the existence of man, forming his very essence.

In the picture, we see three concentric circles contained within a triangle. The triangle, we may presume, represents the Triune God (that is the usual symbolic meaning of the triangle), or perhaps eternity, containing within it all existence. At the very heart, or center, of this existence we find WORK. Seemingly, this WORK radiates out through humanity - first through MAN, then through WOMAN - permeating it and providing it with its meaning or essence.

By the words at the bottom of the picture: Class dismissed. FR., it appears that the Editor means the diagram he has reproduced to be the lesson of the day for his students, in this case the readers of The Angelus.

What has this to do with Marxism?

The idea of work being at the center of man's existence was a key part of Karl Marx's philosophy. The following are two quotes from Marx:

"If, therefore, industry is conceived as the exoteric revelation of man's essential powers, we also gain an understanding of the human essence of nature or the natural essence of man. (1)

"But since for the socialist man the entire so-called history of the world is nothing but the creation of man through human labor, nothing but the emergence of nature for man, so he has the visible, irrefutable proof of his birth through himself, of his genesis." (2) [Bold emphasis mine]

Karl Marx saw industry, or work, as the essential element that formed man and made him human. To Marx, work was at the very center of man's existence, and by work the nature of man was formed. His writings lean on this basic tenet of his philosophy. He saw the industrial revolution as evil because, among other things, he claimed that it alienated man from his work and dehumanized him in the process.

Marxist thought in the Catholic Left

The philosophy of Karl Marx concerning work has been imbibed and disseminated by many within the Catholic Left, including the late Pope John Paul II. In his encyclical letter Laborem exercens, written to celebrate the 90th anniversary of Rerum novarum, the late Pontiff states:

"As a person, man is therefore the subject of work. As a person he works, he performs various actions belonging to the work process; independently of their objective content, these actions must all serve to realize his humanity, to fulfill the calling to be a person that is his by reason of his very humanity. The principal truths concerning this theme were recently recalled by the Second Vatican Council in the Constitution Gaudium et spes, especially in Chapter One, which is devoted to man's calling." (3) [Bold emphasis mine]

This idea the late Pope reiterated in his encyclical letter Centesimus annus, published to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the encyclical Rerum novarum. Again, in an address to the national congress of the diocesan presidencies of Italian Catholic Action in 2004, the late Pontiff stated:

"Jesus was a man of work and that work enabled him to develop his humanity... According to God's providential plan, man, by working, realizes his own humanity and that of others: In fact, work forms man and, in a certain sense, creates him." (4) [Emphasis mine]

A photograph of American Catholic Leftists

The Catholic Socialist mentality of the '30s is finding a rebirth in part of today's Traditionalist Movement. Above, from the left, Ade Bethune, Dorothy Day, Dorothy Weston, Jacques Maritain and Peter Maurin at the Catholic Worker house in New York, 1934 - Marquette University Archives
The statements of the late Pope, which are (apparently) visually portrayed in the Diagram from the Editor presented in The Angelus, find an echo in the teachings of Karl Marx. Placed in juxtaposition, two aforementioned quotes mirror each other almost perfectly:

Karl Marx: "the entire so-called history of the world is nothing but the creation of man through human labour, nothing but the emergence of nature for man, so he has the visible, irrefutable proof of his birth through himself, of his genesis" (op. cit.).

Pope John Paul II: "man, by working, realizes his own humanity and that of others: In fact, work forms man and, in a certain sense, creates him" (op. cit.).

This is an entirely erroneous conception of the role of work in the divine plan for mankind. It puts work in a place of eminence that belongs to God. It is God that forms man and makes him realize his humanity, not work!

It comes as a real shock to find The Angelus, which historically has opposed the destructive liberal ideas of the Catholic Left, now appearing to align itself with the Marxist social philosophy of liberals such as John Paul II, Henri de Lubac and Hans Von Balthasar! (5)

Getting back to the diagram, what is it doing in The Angelus?!

One may well ask why a diagram that permits a Marxist explanation, and appears to be aligned with the liberal views of dissident theologians, has been published in a traditionalist Catholic periodical. This is a question that can only be answered definitively by the Editor of the magazine. If it be permissible to surmise, however, I would advance the theory that it is published in support of an earlier article in the magazine (June 2006) that praised Peter Maurin, Dorothy Day, and the Catholic Worker Movement. (6)

Work, with a capital 'W', was the central dogma of Maurin, Day, and the movement they founded. Day often promoted her self-proclaimed 'Philosophy of Work' that placed work at the center of useful existence. (7) Having been a pro-Communist supporter before her conversion, Day carried into the Church a Marxist habitus. One is almost overpowered by the fumes of Marxism that exhale from her writings in the Catholic Worker, a periodical that she edited until her death.


Within the Traditionalist Movement over the past few years, there has been a vocal minority attempting to promote Socialism, disguised as 'authentic Catholic social teaching' and 'Distributism.' A traditionalist group in the United Kingdom has gone so far as to embrace the movement and ideas of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, promoting them through the periodical Christus Rex. In the Corpus Christi 2006 issue of Christus Rex, the group stated:

"This issue of Christus Rex is dedicated to the Catholic Worker Movement, which has been referred to in previous issues. For some time the members of the League have been praying hard and pondering to discern what form of Catholic Social Action we should undertake... We now believe that we have found this in the Catholic Worker Movement."

This group has their supporters in the United States as well, as is evidenced by the article appearing in The Angelus that extolled Maurin, Day, and the Catholic Worker Movement. (8) The Editorial Diagram published in the June 2007 issue of The Angelus, which seemingly illustrates the Marxist doctrine of work - much touted by the Catholic Worker Movement, appears to be another show of support for the Editor and supporters of Christus Rex in the United Kingdom.

It is disturbing to find a traditionalist periodical, such as The Angelus, publishing articles and diagrams that clearly lean toward the Left. For the magazine to present the social teachings of the Church is desirable and advantageous, but those articles purposing to do so must portray clearly the authentic social doctrine of the Church. This doctrine is to be found in the writings of the Popes up until Vatican II. It is decidedly not to be found in the legacy of Dorothy Day, Peter Maurin, and the Catholic Left.
1. Karl Marx: Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, Part 4, paragraph 15.
2. Ibid, Part 5, paragraph 5.
3. Laborem exercens, n. 6.
4. Message given in St Peter's Basilica on the eve of the feast of St. Joseph the Worker (May 2004).
5. For a brief description of the Marxist tendencies of John Paul II, Henri de Lubac and Hans Von Balthasar, see the pamphlet by Atila Sinke Guimaraes, Curious Affinities Between the Thinking of John Paul II and Marxism, (Los Angeles, CA: Tradition In Action, Inc., 2005, pp. 5-8).
6. The article, written by Fr. James Doran, is entitled, "Peter Maurin: a man to thaw our frozen charity."
7. For a scholarly and comprehensive exposé of Dorothy Day, see the two-part article by Dr. Carol Byrne, "From Russia with Love (of Revolution), which appeared in Mater Dei Magazine, Winter 2006 issue.

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Posted June 28, 2007

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