Just another Christian reconciliation - Macleans.ca

Just another Christian reconciliation

Karl Marx joins Galileo, Wilde and Darwin as historical figures now praised by the Vatican


A recent article in L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, had kind words for the founder of Communism, the same man who called religion “the opium of the people.” Georg Sans, a German-born professor of the history of contemporary philosophy at the pontifical Gregorian University, wrote that Marx’s early critiques of capitalism had highlighted the “social alienation” felt by the “large part of humanity” that remained excluded, even now, from economic and political decision-making. Marx’s work, he argued, is especially relevant today as mankind is seeking “a new harmony” between its needs and the natural environment. Marx’s thought and intellectual legacy was marred by the misappropriation of his work by the communist regimes of the 20th century. “It is no exaggeration to say that nothing has damaged the interests of Marx the philosopher more than Marxism,” Sans wrote. In its own way, the change is less momentous for the Church than its July praise for Oscar Wilde, the gay playwright, as “a man who behind a mask of amorality asked himself what was just and what was mistaken.” The Roman Church may be ferociously anti-Communist, but it has never been much impressed with capitalism either. Pope Benedict XVI’s latest encyclical, Charity in Truth, offers a direct response to the recession, arguing that global capitalism has lost its way and that Church teachings can help to restore economic health by focusing on justice for the weak and closer regulation of the market.

London Times

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Just another Christian reconciliation

  1. L'Osservatore Romano is not the Vatican, nor is it the mouthpiece of the pope. Just because something is in L'Osservatore Romano doesn't mean there has been a shift in church policy or beliefs. Do you guys need at Macleans need a religion editor who knows… well anything?

    Who in the hell does these "need to know" columns anyway?

  2. That is pretty dumb, guys. Georg Sans does not speak for the Vatican.

    Please correct your tagline.

  3. A very interesting article. I strongly agree that although the Vatican is not endorsing Marxism there are signs of cracks conservatism-wise.. Many once opposed ideas are now cherished..
    You are more than welcome to read my post on the same subject in The CEO Game .

  4. Marxism seems pretty darn Christian to me: history as destiny, the imminent but never actually forthcoming apocalypse, the tendency to attract firebreathing zealots, the holy writ, the schisms, the absolutes. Just as capitalism vs. communism was always about who had first dibs on materialism, communism vs. religion was about competing monopolies on revealed truth.

    • Does that make you a Christian too Jack? You seem to have made statements of society and history as human destiny, angrily denounced those who are trying to bring about the apocolypse of undoing "the enlightenment" and said some rather absolutist positions that you deliver with venom and fire.

      But I must correct you on one point. The Marxists never believed that they were following revealed truth. They believed they were at the forefront of mankind's progress from a less enlightened to a more enlightened society. They had no need of superstition, as they felt they were rational men following the science of social development. They considered themselves the full flower of the enlightenment.

      • I'm pretty vehement about things like torture, but not because of revealed truth. It's possible to be angry without having the Lord (Karl or Jehovah) on your side, after all. I don't objectively believe in destiny, which is why I don't take things like civilisation and peace for granted. I do think there are historical trends but I don't see them as tending towards one end, or ultimately in any particular direction; I actually find the idea of "progress," in absolute terms anyway, rather frustrating. I am, after all, a Classicist and I know that a lot was lost (though of course a lot was gained) along the way to where we find ourselves at present.

        By the Marxists' "revealed truth," I mean that they tended to regard Marx himself as Prometheus and his writings as canonical; almost to the point (I believe) of interpreting his actual words allegorically, like medieval scholiasts. I suppose if you require revealed truth to have a divine source, they didn't, strictly speaking, regard Marxism as revealed truth, but it seems to me the mentality was very much the same (and continues to be to this day). I should have added that the Marxists were and are Christian in that they are only willing to tolerate a certain amount of reason, up to the point where they regard too close inquiry into fundamental premises as inhumane; at which point both churches are liable to get irrationally angry.

        • Jack, you can't even avoid a narrative in your rebuttal that you don't believe in a narrative. You did okay in the first paragraph, but the latter paragraph is typical of something a Marxist would say if he was talking about Christianity.

          • But narratives are not the province of Christianity (or Marxism)! We think and live in narratives. What is typical of Christianity is a teleological narrative, i.e. the world slideth towards its end. Now, I'd say there's a perfectly true and rational allegory in the idea of the imminent return of Christ to judge the quick and the dead, but that's never been very mainstream and it was rather the literalist belief in the imminent apocalypse (= worldwide revolution) that the Marxists took up.