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Dictonary of Moral Theology





     The term communism is used to designate several theories and movements having in common, as their specific aim, the collective ownership of the means of production, and sometimes also the consumption. Self-defined as a scientific and heretical system, communism is an advanced form of Marxism. For based on a materialistic conception of the world, Marxism aims at leading the working class (proletariat) into a class warfare against capitalism in order to establish, by violent seizure of power, the new State and a perfect classless society, based on the principle of equal economic conditions for all in a dictatorship of the proletariat. The terms socialism and communism are frequently interchangeable. It is almost impossible to distinguish exactly the two concepts or theories, for the history of one is often the history of the other. According to Sombart, every social group or party is based either on power or reason or love. Socialism, as a theory of a social order based on reason, is really distinguished from communism, which aims at the establishment of a collective society based on the instinctive use of force. Some authors, however, maintain that the real distinction between the two theories lies in their different attitudes toward private property. Socialism primarily seeks to reconstruct the social order through collective ownership of the means of production, but communism would extend collectivization even to the means of consumption, although this is not necessarily true of every form of communism. Others hold that the two theories are distinguished by the different natures of the struggle each advocates. Socialism aims at total socialization by relying on the natural and necessary evolution of capitalism, but communism seeks to precipitate this evolution through violent seizure of power. In the communist view, the end of society is not the welfare of the individual but society itself; the individual good can be sacrificed to that of society. Consequently, collective ownership is for communism the technical means for the realization of the essence and end of a communistic society as a classless society, devoid of democratic freedoms. This society, based as it is on sheer materialism, is necessarily opposed to God and the human person.




Communisitc System?    The basic principle for all communistic systems is a division of property, presented as absolutely essential for the realization of ideal justice.  Under this aspect communism assumes a typically redemptive and messianic character. However, all communistic systems have endeavored to take on a deeper doctrinal basis, which they have drawn either from religion, philosophy, or history. The medieval systems of the Cathari and Albigenses in northern Italy and southern France, and later the Patarine movement in Lombardy where of a religious nature. The systems outlined by Plato in his Republic and by Karl Marx were of a philosophical nature; while the various Utopias of Thomas More, Campanella, and others, are mainly of historical origin. Of all these systems, only the Marxian has succeeded in taking root among the masses, to the extent of becoming an international movement, supported, after the First World War, by the Soviet Union. The Communist Manifesto of 1848 is the Magna Carta of modern  socialism.  Only after the First World War did the socialist movement make a clear cut distinction between socialists and communists. Both parties are agreed that the proletariat must bring about the conversion of capitalistic economy to a communist regime, although they differ as to the means and methods of reaching this goal. The socialists advocate the process of evolution; the communists, revolution. With the establishment of the communist regime in Russia, communism became synonymous with bolshevism. Communist parties gradually arose everywhere, under instigation and direction of the Russian communist party, all forming together the Communist International (Third International) or Komintern (1915-1943). Officially abolished for propaganda purposes during the Second World War (1939-1945), this was reorganized in a more modern fashion in accord with the aims set forth in the Kominform.





            The Doctrine of Communism.    Communism is based on Marxist doctrine, with the many variations introduced by Lenin, Stalin, and now Khrushchev. Initially, the Russians adopted Marxism in its objective-scientific aspect, according to which socialism should be the inevitable result of the natural evolution of capitalistic economy. But since Russia was a rural country, it was necessary to establish first a capitalistic economy. As Plehanov stated, ?the entire dynamism of our social life stems from capitalism. ?  The Russian Social democrats, later to be known as mensheviks, consequently maintained that the socialists revolution was conditioned by the development of industrial capitalism, thus confirming the scientifico-deterministic Marxian tenet. This is the basis of the entire revolutionary struggle. Plehanov believed in a social revolution: the emancipation of the workers must depend on the workers themselves and not, as Lenin thought,  on a revolutionary group, because the working class must be prepared for revolution and dictatorship. But such an interpretation and application of Marxism in Russia would have entailed a long waiting period. Thus, Lenin proceeded to prepare the revolutionary will through his small revolutionary groups. He was opposed to a literal interpretation of Marxism, maintaining that socialism could be realized in Russia apart from capitalistic evolution and without the establishment of a large working class. In fact, the Bolshevik revolution in Russia was the work of a minority. In general, Russian, orthodox Marxists drew from Marxism entirely new principles, which neither Marx nor Engels would have found acceptable.

            The task of Lenin and the bolshevists was to elaborate a Russian Marxism in keeping with the Russian revolutionary spirit, by tending to a total intergration of their whole life. This Russian form of Marxism was to be and is a philosophy, a religion, a totalitarian concept of life. In view of the natural tendency of the Russian revolutionaries toward totalitarianism, Russian Marxism or Leninism did not adopt the scientifico-deterministic aspect of Marxism, but its messianic, religious, mythical character, under the leadership of a well-organized minority. Thus a basically materialistic movement became a proof of the power of ideas and of the will. ?Lenin organized the revolution in the name of Marx, but not according to Marx? (Berdiaev). Thus, the communist revolution, in Russia, Jugoslavia, Poland, Romania, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia was accomplished in opposition to many Marxian assertions of social evolution and against the will of the overwhelming majority of the people.  The myth of the mujik people of the Populists was transformed into a myth of the proletariat, with a sort of fusion between a Russian people and the proletariat, between a Russian messianism and proletarian messianism. Bolshevism is more traditionalistic than is commonly believed. It remains bound to the original historical development of Russia. In fact, the realization of communism in Russia has produced a Russification and Orientalization of Marxism.





Communist Tactics  The Komintern, permanently organized in Moscow during the Second World Congress, in 1920, had as its purpose, according to its statutes, waging a struggle for the annihilation of the international bourgeoisie by any means whatsoever, including arms, as well as the creation of an international Soviet Republic. The only method of liberating humanity from the  atrocities of capitalism was to be the dictatorship of the proletariat.

            The Komintern was established for the purpose of organizing and unifying the activities of the proletariat in every country. The organs for accomplishing this purpose were the annual world congresses and the executive committee, with headquarters in Moscow. The Komintern represented the Central International Communist Party. The parties in various countries were termed sections, and were subordinated to the central party in Moscow. Affiliation with the Komintern was subject to various conditions. In particular, along with the legal organization, there was to be an illegal one consisting of propaganda among soldiers, peasants, and other groups. The affiliated party was obliged to endorse every Soviet government, especially in time of war. After World War I (1914-1918) the communists believed that the time was ripe for a world revolution. Revolutionary out breaks occurred in Berlin, Munich, Budapest, etc., but it was soon discovered that a mistake had been made. In the Congress of 1921, an attempt was made to mitigate the revolutionary tactics ; socialist workers were dissociated from their leaders and were invited to a more direct collaboration (United Front). The tactics of that era consisted in waging a frontal attack on capitalism, the bourgeoisie, governments, political parties, and everything else that was not communist-inspired . Such tactics of general opposition to non-communist institutions and causes led to the suppression of communist parties in almost all European countries. In the seventh World Congress (Moscow, 1935), a new method was inaugurated , the so called Popular Front. (United Nations). This consisted in collaborating everywhere with all those who, on a democratic basis, desired to follow the leadership of communist. This was the policy of the ?extended hand,? even to Catholics. The word from Moscow was no longer a struggle against the bourgeoisie, but against Fascism. After World War II, a third phase was initiated , less ideological and not so openly imperialistic: the so called progressive democracy.

            In the first phase, the leading European communists saw the liberation of all proletarians in the world through bolshevism, but tailed to grasp that in a Russian revolution even internationalism has an autonomous and national character. Gradually, Stalin eliminated all influential communists, Russian and international who saw in bolshevism the common cause of a world proletariat; Bolshevism is a Russian revolution, and all communist parties are but sections of the Russian party, lending support to Russian imperialism. If one grants that the workers revolution of the last century was per se justified, then one must be willing to admit that, following the bolshevistic evolution, communism became pure Russian imperialism, politically, socially, and culturally; This turned bolshevism into a betrayal of the just cause of the workers. It is not longer the workers, cause they are promoting; the Russian policy toward sovietized countries and the new international communist organization, called the Kominform,  is motivated by Russian imperialistic aspirations. Even the most recent developments in Russia - repudiation of Stalinism and the cult of personality, the introduction of collective leadership and an illusory democratization of communism are simply a change of tactics in the relentless struggle toward internal enslavement and the triumph of communism in the world. Per.




       (tcc) Condemnation of Communism. The attitude of the Church toward communism has always been one of unequivocal condemnation, as appears from the encyclicals of Pius IX (Qui pluribus, 1846; Quanta cura, 1864) and the Syllabus, 1864); of Leo XIII (Rerum Novarum, 1891); Quod apostolici muneris, 1878); and of Pius XI (Quadragesimo anno, 1931); and Divini Redemptoris, 1937). In this last encyclical, every illusion of a possible reconciliation between communism and Christianity, entertained even by some Christians either in bad faith or out of miscalculation, was entirely dissipated. Communism was also unequivocally condemned by Pius XII in his Christmas radio messages of 1941 and 1942, and again in important documents issued in 1949-1950. 



            In his exhortation to the clergy, in Menti nostrae (1950) , the Pope addressing himself directly to the clergy, writes; "THERE ARE SOME NEW, In The Face Of The Evils Of Communism, Which Seeks To Snatch The Faith From Those New To Whom It Promises Material well-Being, show Themselves Fruitful And Uncertain.  BUT This Apostolic SEE Has In Recent Documents Clearly Indicated The Course To FOLLOW. "These Documents, Issued By The Supreme Sacred Congregation Of the HOLY OFFICE, Are:


(1)  A General Decree Of July 1st, 1949;  

(2) A Declaration On Marriage, August 11th, 1949;

(3) Admonition Of Given Education Of Youth, July 28th,1950.


The Decree Of July 1st, 1949 {AAS, 41 [1949] ,334} Declares:

       (a)  It is Forbidden to Join or Support The COMMUNIST PARTY, Because communism Is materialistic and anti-Christian.

(b)     It Is Forbidden To Publish, Disseminate, Or Read Books, Periodicals, Newspapers, Or Leaflets which uphold communistic doctrine and practice, Or To Contribute Articles To Such Organizations, Because This Is Forbidden By The Law Itself  {Canon #1399}. 

(c)     THE Faithful Who Knowingly And Willingly Perform Any Of The afore-mentioned Actions may not be admitted to the Sacraments.

(d)     The faithful who profess and, worse, who defend and spread the materialistic and anti Christian doctrine of communism become automatically {I P.S. 0 ipso facto 0} apostates from the Catholic faith, and incur excommunication reserved speciali modo to the Holy See [can  #2314]. 



Concerning the sacrament of penance, in ordinary cases the followers, supporters, or members of the Communist party, before being absolved:

(a)     must express sorrow for their actions and clearly manifest a firm resolve to quit the party or to cease giving it any more support;

(b)     (b) must consent to make reparation for scandal given to others, according to the circumstances of the case and according to the prudent judgment of the confessor.  If these two conditions are met, the penitent may be absolved without further ado.




Concerning persons excommunicated as formal materialistic communists:

(a)     If the confessor has the required faculty, he may absolve the penitent;

(b)     if the confessor does not have the required faculty, he may in urging cases absolve according to [cannon # 2254,{paragraph 1}, after imposing on the penitent the obligation to make recourse to the Sacred Penitentiary within a month, under penalty of relapse into the same excommunication.  If such recourse is morally impossible; then, according to paragraph #3 of the same Cannon, the confessor may absolve him according to the norms provided for excommunicated persons and after he has imposed a salutary penance.




Concerning dying persons, see Extreme Unction, Death.

In Regard to the Reception of the Holy Eucharist, the following obtains:

(a)     If one is a publicly known communists, he may not be admitted to Holy Communion, either publicly or privately, unless he first retracts his affiliation and support to the party;

(b)      to one whose communist affiliation is not publicly known, Holy Communion may be given, if he publicly approaches the Eucharist Altar; but if the request for Communion is made privately, it is to be denied.




Marriage of Communists.  In view of the particular nature of marriage as a sacrament, the Holy Office has issued a special Declaration {AAS-,41 {1949}, 427} concerning the marriage of communists.  Besides this declaration, one must also note the decision of the Pontifical Commission for the authentic interpretation of the Code of Canon Law.  {July 30th 1934}, which treats the members of an atheistic sect in that same manner as the members of a non Catholic sect:   ?Qui sectae atheisticae adscripsunt vel fuerunt,  habendi sunt quoadomnes juris effectus etiam in ordine ad ?  Matrimonium ad instar eorum qui sectae acatholicae adhaeserunt vel adhaerent.?


             On the strength of the aforementioned documents, the following conclusions regarding marriage of communists prevail:

             (1) Militant atheist, who constitute special nuclei in communist ranks, labor under the impediment of mixed religion, not because there are communists, but because they are atheists.  This is based on the above-mentioned reply of the Pontifical Commission; this impediment, however, does not exist for other communists.

             (2) Those who professed the anti-Christians tenants of communism are required to sign the customary guarantees which are signed by non Catholics { Cannon 1061}.  The marriage is to be celebrated without sacred rights and not in the church {Cannons 1102;1109, paragraph three} The Ordinary may in certain cases modify or mitigate the law, but he may never permit the celebration of Holy Mass.  The sermon generally delivered by the pastor must be in catechetical form.

             (3) Those who do not profess communistic doctrine, but are members or supporters of the party, belong, in respect to marriage, under the decree of July 1st 1949 but on the occasion of their marriage, they are to be treated as public sinners or members of a forbidden society. {cannon's 1065,1066. }.

             (4) In any marriage case involving communists, the pastor may not perform the ceremony without first consulting the Ordinary, who may allow the marriage for grave reason and on condition that sufficient provision is made for the Catholic education of offspring and for removal of all danger of perversion for the non-Communist spouse.

             Admonition of July 28th, 1950.  Unfortunately, there are parents who permit their children to join communist-inspired youth movements and associations.  The Admonition of the Holy Office of July 28th 1950 {AAS, 42[1950], 553}, is directed precisely to such parents, reminding them of their obligation to educate their children in a Christian way.  The admonition is the application of the decree to practical cases.  Pal.  




Second Edition Dizionario di Teologia Morale

Compiled Under the Direction of;


Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signature

Edited under Direction of;


Secretary of Council


published ©1957 Editrice Studium, Rome, Italy

Nihil obstat;  Edward A. Cerny,  S.S. , S.T.D.

            Censor Librorum

Imprimatur: Lawrence J. Shehan,   D.D.

            Archbishop of Baltimore

 The nihil obstat and imprimatur are official declarations that a book

 or pamphlet is free of doctrinal or moral error.  No implication is

 contained therein that those who granted the nihil obstat and imprimatur

  agree with the opinions expressed.

LCCN #:   60-14828   NP newman de

Library of Congress Catalog Number


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