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Pius XI against the Third Position

The International Third Position movement - ITP - affirms that it is possible to take a middle-of-the-road position between Communism and Capitalism, which it considers to be two equal evils. In the Encyclical Quadragesimo anno, Pope Pius XI analyzes both regimes in depth and clearly affirms Communism is condemnable. Regarding Capitalism, he admits the legitimacy of its basic tenets, and condemns its excesses. His encyclical aims to establish a Capitalism according to the principles of the Gospel.

Dealing with Socialism, which includes Communism as its radical version, the Pontiff also responds to the question of whether a Catholic can accept a moderate Socialism. The description made of this acceptation of Socialism seems to fit like a glove the doctrine of the ITP, whose principles are being spread by Distributists in the United States. To demonstrate the error of Catholics who think that this position is acceptable, we reproduce the Pope's words in Quadragesimo anno.

Pius XI

Yet let no one think that all the socialist groups or factions that are not communist have, without exception, recovered their senses to this extent either in fact or in name. For the most part they do not reject the class struggle or the abolition of ownership, but only in some degree modify them. Now, if these false principles are mitigated and to some extent erased from the program, the question arises, or rather is raised without warrant by some, whether the principles of Christian truth cannot perhaps be also mitigated to some degree and be tempered so as to meet Socialism half-way and, as it were, by a middle course, come to agreement with it? There are some allured by the foolish hope that socialists in this way will be drawn to us. A vain hope! Those who want to be apostles among socialists ought to profess Christian truth whole and entire, openly and sincerely, and not connive with error in any way. ….

But what if Socialism has really been so tempered and moderated regarding the class struggle and private ownership that there is in it no longer anything to be censured on these points? Has it thereby renounced its essentially contradictory nature to the Christian religion? This is the question that holds many minds in suspense. And numerous are the Catholics who, although they clearly understand that Christian principles can never be abandoned or diminished, seem to turn their eyes to the Holy See and earnestly beseech Us to decide whether this form of Socialism has repudiated the false doctrines enough to be accepted without the sacrifice of any Christian principle and, in a certain sense, be baptized.

That We, in keeping with Our fatherly solicitude, may answer their petitions, We make this pronouncement: Whether considered as a doctrine, or an historical fact, or a movement, Socialism, if it remains truly Socialism, even after it has yielded to truth and justice on the points which we have mentioned, cannot be reconciled with the teachings of the Catholic Church because its concept of society itself is completely opposed to Christian truth.

(Encyclical Quadragesimo anno of May 16, 1931, nn. 116-117)

Blason de Charlemagne
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Posted January 13, 2007
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