The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power the Apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the Apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need. (Today’s First Reading)
On first read, one might think that the first Christian community fell into communism. However, there is a marked difference between what happened in the early Church and what has happened in the past century through State-enforced ideology, and what is now unfolding globally.
The driving force behind the “redistribution of wealth” among the early Christians was the divine force of charity. Believers understood that their possessions, their wealth, their skills, their creativity, their resources were not only for themselves but to be placed at the disposal of the common good.
For man is the source, the center, and the purpose of all economic and social life. —Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Gaudium et Spes, n. 63: AAS 58, (1966), 1084
Communism, on the other hand—that ideology fomented by the errors of Freemasonry and subsequently condemned numerous times by popes—is a diabolic force that imposes the redistribution of wealth; it eliminates rather than celebrates differences; it takes, rather than guides wealth; it directs, rather than supports creativity—if it allows it at all. In other words, it is control not charity that is the overarching and diabolical difference between the early Christians and the phenomenon of Communism that is beginning to grip the entire world today in new forms (see When Communism Returns at The Now Word.)
The following warning from Pope Pius XI is more prophetic and pertinent today than the day it was written:
Communism, moreover, strips man of his liberty, robs human personality of all its dignity, and removes all the moral restraints that check the eruptions of blind impulse. There is no recognition of any right of the individual in his relations to the collectivity; no natural right is accorded to human personality, which is a mere cog-wheel in the Communist system. In man’s relations with other individuals, besides, Communists hold the principle of absolute equality, rejecting all hierarchy and divinely-constituted authority, including the authority of parents. What men call authority and subordination is derived from the community as its first and only font. Nor is the individual granted any property rights over material goods or the means of production, for inasmuch as these are the source of further wealth, their possession would give one man power over another. Precisely on this score, all forms of private property must be eradicated, for they are at the origin of all economic enslavement…
How is it possible that such a system, long since rejected scientifically and now proved erroneous by experience, how is it, We ask, that such a system could spread so rapidly in all parts of the world? The explanation lies in the fact that too few have been able to grasp the nature of Communism. The majority instead succumb to its deception, skillfully concealed by the most extravagant promises. By pretending to desire only the betterment of the condition of the working classes, by urging the removal of the very real abuses chargeable to the liberalistic economic order, and by demanding a more equitable distribution of this world’s goods (objectives entirely and undoubtedly legitimate), the Communist takes advantage of the present world-wide economic crisis to draw into the sphere of his influence even those sections of the populace which on principle reject all forms of materialism and terrorism. And as every error contains its element of truth, the partial truths to which We have referred are astutely presented according to the needs of time and place, to conceal, when convenient, the repulsive crudity and inhumanity of Communistic principles and tactics. Thus the Communist ideal wins over many of the better minded members of the community. These in turn become the apostles of the movement among the younger intelligentsia who are still too immature to recognize the intrinsic errors of the system. The preachers of Communism are also proficient in exploiting racial antagonisms and political divisions and oppositions. They take advantage of the lack of orientation characteristic of modern agnostic science in order to burrow into the universities, where they bolster up the principles of their doctrine with pseudo-scientific arguments…
There is another explanation for the rapid diffusion of the Communistic ideas now seeping into every nation, great and small, advanced and backward, so that no corner of the earth is free from them. This explanation is to be found in a propaganda so truly diabolical that the world has perhaps never witnessed its like before. It is directed from one common center… [a] conspiracy of silence on the part of a large section of the non-Catholic press of the world. We say conspiracy, because it is impossible otherwise to explain how a press usually so eager to exploit even the little daily incidents of life has been able to remain silent for so long about the horrors perpetrated [by Communism]… This, unfortunately, is what we now behold. For the first time in history we are witnessing a struggle, cold-blooded in purpose and mapped out to the least detail, between man and “all that is called God.” —Divini Redemptoris, Encyclical Letter, March 19th, 1937; vatican.va
Read also the Church’s views on “capitalism” and the necessary balances that the free markets must also have: The New Rising Beast at The Now Word.