Communists Convert Catholic Clergy
TODAY there is a declared war between religion and irreligion, between those professing belief in the existence of God and those denying it. The latter are represented chiefly by the Communists, while among the most vocal of those denouncing the materialistic Marxism of the Communists is the Roman Catholic Hierarchy. In lands with decided Catholic minorities and where there is no Communist threat, such as the United States, the Hierarchy represents herself as a bulwark against communism. With pride she points to the activities of her sons, laity and clerical, such as McCarthy and Sheen, in opposing communism. But how successful is the Hierarchy in lands having Catholic majorities and where there is a real threat? Let us see.
In Italy, more than 99 per cent Catholic, the extreme Leftist and Communist parties polled 35.5 per cent of the vote in the last national elections, and which represented an increase. And in France, which, according to the Catholic Almanac, is 85 per cent Catholic (others give the figure as high as 97.5 per cent), the Communists in the last general election polled five million, or 26.5 per cent of the vote, more than any other single party.
And not only is communism making such inroads in the Catholic population of such lands, but it is even affecting the clergy, particularly in France. There, according to Dr. W. O. Lewis, associate secretary of the Baptist World Alliance, some 2,000 priests have left the church since 1945. The Christian Century, September 20, 1953, told of a French Catholic priest and Dominican monk, Maurice Montuclard, who was ordered exiled by the Hierarchy for having published a book in 1952 that expressed Marxist views and for his heading the “Youth of the Church” movement, which evinced pronounced sympathy for the Communist party in France. He requested and was given permission to give up his clerical status and revert to that of a layman. He preferred Marxist political activity to Catholic religious activity.
That this was not an isolated instance is seen from the pope’s temporary banning of “worker priests.” For some years, as far back as 1944 it seems, certain Catholic priests, with the permission of their superiors, have been trying to win back French Catholics from communism by laying aside their priestly robes, donning overalls, and rubbing elbows with French Catholic laborers in factories, on ships, docks and farms. Some identified themselves as priests, others did not. The movement grew from seven to some 100 by 1953.
These priests not only joined the Communist-led French General Confederation of Labor, but also took the lead as officials in local unions and became active in Communist peace movements. One worker priest was killed in a picket line in Bordeaux. On May 28, 1952, two priests were arrested and beaten by the police with the clubs the police had taken from the demonstrators, for their having taken part in a very violent Communist-inspired demonstration against the presence of the American General Ridgway in France, and which demonstration was held in violation of the law.
“ACTUALLY PRODUCED NEGATIVE RESULTS”
The labor priests, according to the New York Times, March 12, 1953, did not expect to see concrete results for several generations, and certainly not in the lifetime of the priests themselves. But there were results, of a kind not expected or foreseen. One Associated Press dispatch reporting on the matter states that “many influential Frenchmen—politicians and clergymen—were shocked during the big wave of strikes throughout the nation last month to find some of the worker priests among the most ardent strikers.” And Time magazine, June 23, 1952, reported that “sometimes, say critics of the worker-priest scheme, it is the priests, not their fellow workers, who get converted.”
Noting this aspect of the matter, the religious editor of the Los Angeles Mirror, September 19, 1953, stated that the worker-priest movement not only fell short of its goal of endeavoring to “counteract the Red propaganda about the church and bring renewed strength of faith to the faithful wavering on the brink of Marxism,” “but actually produced negative results,” and that the “Holy See was not happy with the way the worker-priest movement has been going.”
Indicative of the unhappiness of the “Holy See” was the pope’s warning to priests not to consider Communist theories as alone “valid or as though they furnished a more fruitful doctrinal contribution or greater vigor of action.” (New York Times, September 13, 1953) Four days later the Vatican ordered all Roman Catholic seminaries in France to forbid their students to do any work at all in factories as a means of getting closer to the French working class. Some priests “have become very close to supporting the Communist party line.” What an admission of defeat!
The New York Times, October 3, 1953, told that the “French Oppose Ban on Labor Priests. Catholic Circles Defend Idea of Industrial Missions Criticized by Vatican.” The Vatican’s ban was meeting with strong resistance, most notable objection being voiced by none other than the cardinal and archbishop of Paris. The papal nuncio had conveyed the desire of the Vatican that all worker priests, by now some one hundred in number, be called back to their respective dioceses and to the robes they had abandoned for overalls. However, the final decision was being delayed because of the strong opposition of certain important members of the French Hierarchy who were concerned about its effect on Catholic workers. However, the cardinal at the same time voiced strong warning to the priests of the dangers of being engulfed by communism and that “a certain spirit of independence” was beginning to manifest itself among some worker priests to the detriment of the spirit of obedience to the Church.
On November 14 three French cardinals announced they had overcome Vatican objections to the mission of the worker-priests. But it could not exist in its present form. Only specially chosen priests could serve, and for a limited time, and they must shun union responsibilities and live with a community of priests. Hardly the same scheme.
WHY NO BULWARK AGAINST COMMUNISM
Just how much of a bulwark against communism is the Roman Catholic Church when it cannot afford to let its own priests be exposed to Red propaganda, priests steeped in Roman Catholic dogma from earliest infancy? Why do these priests show more interest in Marxist social, political and economic reform than in preaching their religion? Can it be that there is something wrong with their spiritual diet?
Yes, there is an inherent weakness in the Roman Catholic approach to the Communist problem. It fails to appreciate that true Christianity has nothing in common with this old world but must keep separate from it. For selfish advantage the Hierarchy makes friends with Caesar, making concordats with Hitler, Mussolini and Franco, and expresses her willingness to deal with Communist Russia if thereby she can gain advantages for herself; yes, even with the Devil himself, according to Pope Pius XI.—Brooklyn Eagle, February 21, 1943.
But Christ Jesus did not work with Caesar nor with the Devil. He struck no bargain with Herod Antipas nor with Pilate, but plainly said, “My kingdom is no part of this world.” (John 18:36, NW) And his immediate followers likewise had nothing to do with the world. They kept separate from it and warned that for Christians to be friends of the world was to become enemies of God: “Adulteresses, do you not know that the friendship with the world is enmity with God?” (Jas. 4:4, NW) They put their hope and trust, not in the schemes and efforts of men, but in God’s kingdom.—Matt. 6:9, 10; 1 Cor. 15:25-28; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1-4.
The same is true today. Dedicated Christians may not, and all fully enlightened Christians will not, have anything to do with communism, nor with any other of this world’s ideologies for that matter. They will not be ensnared by the blandishments of communism, for they clearly see that what communism actually does is to offer material prosperity at the cost of one’s integrity and loyalty to God, the very temptation the Devil presented to Christ Jesus in the wilderness: ‘All the kingdoms of this world and their glory if you will cooperate with me.’—Matt. 4:8-10, NW.