a christmas message from the vatican: marx was right!

Introduction by Chris Ford

Published below is what may appear a rather unusual article entitled ‘What Remains of Marx’ by Professor Georg Sans published in La Civiltà Cattolica, a Jesuit paper, closely monitored by the Vatican. It was then republished by the Vatican’s own newspaper L’Osservatore Romano giving it added endorsement by the Roman Catholic Church on 21 October. What is so important is that Sans gives a strong endorsement to Marx’s critique of capitalist society. Now for a Christian to positively engage with Marx in itself is not unusual: there have been Christian communists for many years, furthermore there continues to be strong movement of liberation theology especially in Latin America.

What is important in this article is where it has been published – with clear Vatican approval. The Vatican has especially in the post-war period waged a campaign against the radical left-wing of Christianity, for example the Christian communist movement in Italy was hounded by the hierarchy. The current Pope Benedict XVI earned the nickname the ‘Panzer Cardinal’ when under his predecessor Pope John Paul II he lead the campaign against liberation theology in Latin America. One of the leading theorists of that movement, Leonardo Boff wrote that the Pope saw liberation theology as a “Trojan horse” for Communism: “He convinced himself that in Latin America, Communism was the danger, whereas the true danger was savage and colonialist capitalism, with its anti-people and retrograde elites.” Of the current Pope he wrote: “Like his principal counsellor, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger [now Pope Benedict XVI], the Pope put forward an Augustinian vision of history, where what counts is only that which passes through the mediation of the Church, which carries with it the supernatural concept of salvation… This position led him to a total incomprehension of Latin American theology of liberation”. Boff concluded: “To the outside, he presented himself as a champion of dialogue, of liberty, tolerance, peace, and ecumenism, but within the Church he shuttered the right of expression, banned dialogue, and created a theology with powerful fundamentalist overtones”.

It is against this recent history of the campaign against liberation theology and corresponding retrogressionist trends illustrated in Church policy on gender and sexuality that the article below is of importance. It is noteworthy that whilst the article has been widely reported it has not been published in any of the Catholic press in the UK or Ireland. This is perhaps a reflection of the weakness of the left-wing of Christianity in the UK and Ireland, as regards Marxism there has only been a few Marxian theologians such as Alisdair MacIntyre and Rev.John Marsden. This conservatism has been compounded by the crude nature of the left’s own engagement with religious affairs, either accommodating to conservative trends such as in opposition to war, or taking an undifferentiated approach and failing to see the more radical emancipatory currents which also emerge: the article by Sans below is clearly an expression of the latter current. The article is published in full by The Commune, appropriately on Christmas Day, the official celebration of the birth of Jesus, the leader of a movement against oppression and inequality, who was later crucified by the Roman overlords.
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