Yes, Virginia, there is a difference between a Socialist and a Communist.

Pope Francis - Socialist - not Communist
“Communism: a way of organizing a society in which the government owns the things that are used to make and transport products (such as land, oil, factories, ships, etc.) and there is no privately owned property.” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Did you hear and/or read the joke about the anti-Marxist Catholic Pope who was accused of being a Communist? Well, if you haven’t yet, then you eventually will.

Some pundits have been promoting a false dichotomy in regards to Pope Francis. They insist that Pope Francis must be a Communist because he has expressed his belief that the market forces, when left to themselves, are detrimental to people trapped in physical poverty. Francis’ new encyclical about global warming also includes criticism of market forces, which has fueled the claim that Francis is a Communist.

Yet, such a claim about Pope Francis is being challenged by people who aren’t Communists. Here is an excerpt from a BBC news magazine article titled “Is the Pope a communist?

the economic writings of both John Paul and Francis also reflect the same intellectual tradition – one known as Catholic Social Teaching. It was originally articulated in an 1891 papal document called Rerum Novarum, in which Pope Leo XIII addressed what he called the “spirit of revolutionary change” then sweeping Europe.

Some of it is very clearly designed to be a rebuttal of the communist ideas that were part of that change, but it is also a critique of aspects of capitalism. So it is an unfamiliar mix that does not fit neatly into the left-right divide that dominated the politics of the following century.

Prof Maurice Glasman, a British economist who used to be a close confidant of Ed Miliband, studied Catholic social teaching for his PhD. He was attracted by the way it rejects the conventional ideologies of both left and right.

“It really opposes this idea that there is just the state or the market,” he says. “It believes in activating society – what it calls solidarity – so that it can resist the domination by the rich of the poor, but through trade unions and vocational associations and what’s called subsidiarity, which is the decentralisation of power.” Glasman says it is opposed to communism because it “upholds private property” and is “anti-collectivist”.

In an analysis for the website, John L. Allen Jr. writes the following.

In truth, Francis is neither a political conservative nor a liberal, which are Western categories that arose during the French Revolution. If you asked, he’d probably tell you he comes out of the moderate wing of Argentina’s Peronist movement. (I have yet to meet anyone, however, including any of the Argentines I know, who can clearly define what exactly that means.)

Basically, Francis appears to sees himself as a Latin American pastor who takes Church teaching and tradition for granted, and who tries to bring it to bear on situations of suffering he’s seen with his own eyes.

Attempting to read his agenda, including Laudato Sii, as a boost for any political alignment thus is destined to get him wrong.

That Pope Francis is a Peronist, not a Communist, is evident in his rejection of Marxism.

Pope Francis - Marxism is wrong

Indeed, when one reads the definition of Communism (as given at the beginning of this post), it becomes clear that Pope Francis has not endorsed the goal of Communists to eliminate capitalism and private property.

It would be fair to claim that Francis shares some values of those who are at the Socialist position on the political continuum.

Political Continuum

However, one would be mistaken to claim that Francis is at the extreme left end of that continuum.

Sure, Rush Limbaugh and wannabe mini-Limbaughs keep claiming that Francis is promoting Communism regardless of any evidence to the contrary. Well, the doctrine of Limbaugh infallibility is a false doctrine.

Then again, show me a pundit who thinks that he is never ever wrong, and I will show you a pundit who is delusional.

By the way, I am not a member of the Roman Catholic Church, and I do not agree with what Pope Francis says about the free market and about global warming.

"What may be getting lost in sheer controversy is the most important, beautiful, even inspiring dimension of his text, his heartfelt vision of nature as divine Creation"
Another Minimum Wage Lesson in Economics. This Time at The Gap