Rorate Caeli

The Encyclicals of March 1937: Divini Redemptoris - II
"....Communism is intrinsically perverse..."

Given at Rome, at St. Peter's, on the feast of St. Joseph, patron of the universal Church, on the 19th of March, 1937...
Thus is dated the most relevant encyclical signed and issued by Pope Pius XI in 1937. As it was previously seen here, Divini Redemptoris was not an exercise in rhetorical craftsmanship, but a real response to a real problem: the severe persecution of Catholics by Communists.

Yet, it was so much more than a protest. Pope Pius had already made clear several years earlier that "no one can be at the same time a good Catholic and a true socialist" (Quadragesimo Anno). He was now ready to explain to the Universal Church and to the whole of mankind why Communism must be fought, how Communists infiltrate Holy Mother Church, and how much all should be prepared to detain and reverse its advance.

Pius warns the Church and the world of the danger of Communist deceitfulness and infiltration:
[Communism] has therefore changed its tactics, and strives to entice the multitudes by trickery of various forms, hiding its real designs behind ideas that in themselves are good and attractive. Thus, aware of the universal desire for peace, the leaders of Communism pretend to be the most zealous promoters and propagandists in the movement for world amity. Yet at the same time they stir up a class-warfare which causes rivers of blood to flow, and, realizing that their system offers no internal guarantee of peace, they have recourse to unlimited armaments. Under various names which do not suggest Communism, they establish organizations and periodicals with the sole purpose of carrying their ideas into quarters otherwise inaccessible. They try perfidiously to worm their way even into professedly Catholic and religious organizations. Again, without receding an inch from their subversive principles, they invite Catholics to collaborate with them in the realm of so-called humanitarianism and charity; and at times even make proposals that are in perfect harmony with the Christian spirit and the doctrine of the Church. Elsewhere they carry their hypocrisy so far as to encourage the belief that Communism, in countries where faith and culture are more strongly entrenched, will assume another and much milder form. It will not interfere with the practice of religion. It will respect liberty of conscience. There are some even who refer to certain changes recently introduced into soviet legislation as a proof that Communism is about to abandon its program of war against God. See to it, Venerable Brethren, that the Faithful do not allow themselves to be deceived!
Pope Pius explains that Catholics cannot accept Communist deception, because Communism has only one nature: it is intrinsically wrong, perverse, evil (pravus):
Since Communism is intrinsically perverse, no one whose aim is to save Christian civilization and culture from destruction may collaborate with it in any undertaking whatsoever.* Those who permit themselves to be deceived into lending their aid towards the triumph of Communism in their own country, will be the first to fall victims of their error. And the greater the antiquity and grandeur of the Christian civilization in the regions where Communism successfully penetrates, so much more devastating will be the hatred displayed by the godless.
The Holy Father exposes Communism for what it is: an inherently distorting ideology whose nature is crushing to the human soul:
Communism... 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.
Communism is not a danger of the past. It is impossible not to see in our own age the heavy influence of Communist ideology, that "new gospel which ... Communism offers the world as the glad tidings of deliverance and salvation", in the perversion of modern Civilization, in the destruction of family life, and of the dignity of women:
Refusing to human life any sacred or spiritual character, such a doctrine logically makes of marriage and the family a purely artificial and civil institution, the outcome of a specific economic system. There exists no matrimonial bond of a juridico-moral nature that is not subject to the whim of the individual or of the collectivity. Naturally, therefore, the notion of an indissoluble marriage-tie is scouted. Communism is particularly characterized by the rejection of any link that binds woman to the family and the home, and her emancipation is proclaimed as a basic principle. She is withdrawn from the family and the care of her children, to be thrust instead into public life and collective production under the same conditions as man. The care of home and children then devolves upon the collectivity. Finally, the right of education is denied to parents, for it is conceived as the exclusive prerogative of the community, in whose name and by whose mandate alone parents may exercise this right. ... Communists claim to inaugurate a new era and a new civilization which is the result of blind evolutionary forces culminating in a humanity without God.
May Saint Joseph, under whose patronage Pius XI placed "the vast campaign of the Church against world Communism", protect us from the dangers of Communism, as great today in its most insidious forms as ever. "While the promises of the false prophets of this earth melt away in blood and tears, the great apocalyptic prophecy of the Redeemer shines forth in heavenly splendor: 'Ecce nova facio omnia'."

*(Communismus cum intrinsecus sit pravus, eidem nulla in re est adiutrix opera ab eo commodanda, cui sit propositum ab excidio christianum civilemque cultum. Thanks to Iosephus for his help on the exact wording and meaning of this most important passage of 20th-Century Papal writing.)


  1. Excellent post. The tragedy is the general silence on the greatness and power of St. Joseph. Living in Canada, I could not help but notice the silence on our Patron saint. And this is a great tragedy for we need him even more than ever.

  2. "Since Communism is intrinsically perverse, no one whose aim is to save Christian civilization and culture from destruction may collaborate with it in any undertaking whatsoever"

    "any" & "whatsoever"

    Spot on.

  3. Anonymous4:24 PM

    John XXIII and Paul VI did not believe this.

  4. Anonymous7:24 PM

    So, Communism is like Homosexualism; both are "intrinsically wrong, perverse, evil".

  5. Anonymous7:56 PM

    It Takes a Village

  6. "John XXIII and Paul VI did not believe this."

    They are not alone.

    However, OLoF does. I'll go with her.

  7. "to save Christian civilization and culture from destruction may collaborate with it in any undertaking whatsoever"

    Certainly this does not mean it was immoral for England and America to "collaborate" with Stalin in opposing Hitler, does it?Would it be immoral for a person to pay taxes to a communist government?

    I think we need to interpret this passage in continuity with the Church's traditional teaching on international relations and political participation.

    PS. A marian apparition does not have ANY authority over the Church, much less the supreme authority of the Roman Pontiff. If there ever was a disagreement between an apparition of Mary and the Vicar of Christ, one should never go with the apparition.


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