‘Catholic Marxist’ Warns Christians About Selling Their Souls to Politics
This week in The Washington Post, the Post’s house Catholic Elizabeth Bruenig issued a warning. Leading politicians who represent Christian interests might be selling out the Gospel.
She gets plenty wrong in her analysis. She conflates the fallible political maunderings of the U.S. bishops conference with binding, timeless Catholic teaching.
From the Seamless Garment to the Catholic Spring
I won’t belabor that subject here. Let me point Stream readers to this piece on what real Catholic social teaching is (and isn’t). Or look into the new organization I’ve helped to form, Serviam. Its mission: dispelling the myths about Catholic social teaching. Those myths begin with the “Seamless Garment.” They end with John Podesta’s and George Soros’s dream of a fomenting a revolutionary “Catholic Spring.”
One of the sharpest barbs in Bruenig’s report aims at House Speaker Paul Ryan. She calls him “a onetime fan of the intensely anti-religious, free-market thinker Ayn Rand.” Now I have no use for Rand’s atheist hyper-individualism. I spent thousands of words in The Bad Catholic’s Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins indicting Rand. She’s my icon of the deadly sin of Vainglory.
Paul Ryan is Penitent
Nor am I a big fan of Ryan and his bad immigration ideas. But let’s be fair to the man. He admitted to enjoying Rand’s novels, a long time ago. That doesn’t speak much for his literary taste. But it’s hardly proof of apostasy. In fact, Ryan disappointed the pro-Rand Atlas Society in 2014. He told them:
I adored her novels when I was young, and in many ways they gave me an interest in economics. But as a devout, practicing Catholic, I completely reject the philosophy of objectivism.
That’s pretty definitive.
A Catholic Marxist
Meanwhile, Elizabeth Breunig calls herself a Catholic Marxist. To this day, as far as I know. That’s right. Before she adopted a policy of deleting her posts every day, some alert reader thought to take a screenshot.
If there’s one philosophy that’s equally distant from Christianity as Rand’s objectivism, it’s Marx’s dialectical materialism. As Catholic scholar Samuel Gregg has written:
I’ve always regarded claims that “Juanita is a sincere Communist, but she’s a good person” to be as naïve, ignorant, and dangerous as suggesting that “Hans is a sincere Nazi, but he’s a nice chap.” For to be a Communist is to embrace views of humanity just as reprehensible as those of a convinced Nazi. The phrase “Marxist humanism” (which you still hear today in the faculty-lounges of Western Europe and California or on parts of the political left) is as self-contradictory as “Nazi humanism.”
Sympathetic and hostile biographers of Lenin agree that his embrace of Marxism involved whole-hearted acceptance of Marxism’s combination of philosophical materialism and a deterministic view of history. This mixture of ideas leads to clear and disturbing conclusions.
First, the true philosophical materialist doesn’t think there’s anything special about human beings. Expressions like “dignity,” “rights,” “responsibilities,” etc., are empty constructs in a materialist’s world. Instead people are just “material.” Thus like any other material object, they can be shaped—and disposed of—as others will. And the only way to determine who gets to do the molding and terminating in this world is whoever possesses the power to do so and who is least squeamish about using it. The parallel here between the implications of Communism’s philosophical materialism and Nazism’s nihilistic glorification of the Nietzschean will to power is clear.
In its rejection of morality and its willingness to do evil — lots and lots of evil — to achieve desired goals, Marxism’s criminal and terroristic character is laid bare. Lenin himself would have been familiar with Karl Marx’s own lack of inhibitions in this area. As Marx wrote in Neue Rheinische Zeitung in May 1849, “When our turn comes, we shall not make excuses for the terror.”
How About a Catholic Alt-Right Racialist?
Now Bruenig likely rejects some of that toxic stew. But Marxism is at least as coherent and totalizing a worldview as Rand’s Objectivism. And unlike Rand’s philosophy, Marxism has actually been tried. So Bruenig’s Christian readers have a right to know which parts she cherry-picks and which she eats around:
- The anti-Semitism?
- The vilification of religion as an opiate?
- The demand for a dictatorship of the proletariat?
- The labor theory of value?
- Its view of the human person?
- The mass confiscation of all private property?
I just listed the key elements of Marxism that in fact got put into practice. You know, in the 100 years since the Russian Revolution. During that time, according to scholar R.J. Rummel, regimes run by her fellow Marxists were busy. They murdered by firing-squad, artificial famine, death camp or other methods approximately “110,000,000 [human beings], or near two-thirds of all those killed by all governments, quasi-governments, and guerrillas from 1900 to 1987.”
Without So Much Rat in It
Maybe that’s one of the parts of Marxism Bruenig renounces too. She hasn’t said. But you really have to wonder how much is left of Marxism. You know, once you take out every practical measure taken by any government that has tried to implement it. It’s like one of the tarts in this Monty Python sketch, where the character orders “rat tart,” but asks for one of the pieces “without so much rat in it.” (See 1:30 below.)
What if Bruenig identified as a “Catholic Alt-Right racialist?” I know that her readers would demand some explanations. So would her editors at The Post.
Maybe she is not the person to be lecturing Christians about the dangers of betraying the Gospel by selling out to alien political systems.