If you’re not sure how to interpret the humanist waffle the post-Vatican II “church” typically spews out, I don’t blame you. The only reason I read it is the same reason I read lamestream media: to check out what “they” are saying or doing, because even lies can be revealing.
Anyway, in a homily on 11 April 2021, Francis goes on about private property:
And that is what the disciples did: receiving mercy, they in turn became merciful. We see this in the first reading. The Acts of the Apostles relate that “no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common” (4:32). This is not communism, but pure Christianity.
Strictly speaking, that is true. If one freely chooses to give and to share, as the abovementioned believers apparently did, then it is an act of charity (voluntary) and not communism (enforced). But given the tone, is that what Francis is really saying or is he taking a subtle jab at private property?
Consider his encyclical Fratelli Tutti (On Fraternity and Social Friendship) published on 3 October 2020. From paragraph 120:
For my part, I would observe that “the Christian tradition has never recognized the right to private property as absolute or inviolable, and has stressed the social purpose of all forms of private property”. The principle of the common use of created goods is the “first principle of the whole ethical and social order”; it is a natural and inherent right that takes priority over others.
Francis and his team of ghostwriters/advisors don’t have the skills to match the masters of ambiguity Ratzinger (Benedict XVI) and Wojtyła (John Paul II), but the deliberate ambiguity is nonetheless telling.
Here, Francis first quotes himself, reminding the audience that “Christian tradition has never recognized the right to private property as absolute or inviolable, and has stressed the social purpose of all forms of private property”. In that sort of wording, one could argue the first part can be considered true if by “tradition” one means starting from 34 AD, but private property is generally considered “inviolable”. Either way, he clearly takes a swipe at private property since he conveniently stresses its “social purpose” like it’s a bad thing unless you give it up, without actually using those words. And what does “social purpose” mean?
Not to worry, he then quotes Wojtyła, stating that the “principle of the common use of created goods is the ‘first principle of the whole ethical and social order’”. Is it clearer now? Yeah, I thought so.
A naively well-meaning individual may interpret the above waffle as don’t use your private property to burn down other people’s houses. Of course, the wording is conveniently ambiguous enough to allow for that but it also simply assumes “the common use of created goods”. Throw in words like “ethical and social order” and it must be good. Right.
And by the way, Francis does have a tendency to get chummy with the commies.
Anyway, compare the above to the writings of a true pope. Below are passages from the encyclical Rerum Novarum (On Capital and Labor) by Pope Leo XIII, published on 15 May 1891. Keep in the mind that this is in response to socialist and communist ideals spreading through Europe at the time. (Oh wait, what’s changed?)
From paragraph 8:
Hence, it is clear that the main tenet of socialism, community of goods, must be utterly rejected, since it only injures those whom it would seem meant to benefit, is directly contrary to the natural rights of mankind, and would introduce confusion and disorder into the commonweal. The first and most fundamental principle, therefore, if one would undertake to alleviate the condition of the masses, must be the inviolability of private property. This being established, we proceed to show where the remedy sought for must be found. [Emphasis mine.]
Of course, Pope Leo XIII doesn’t ignore charity. From paragraph 22:
It rests on the principle that it is one thing to have a right to the possession of money and another to have a right to use money as one ills. Private ownership, as we have seen, is the natural right of man, and to exercise that right, especially as members of society, is not only lawful, but absolutely necessary. “It is lawful,” says St. Thomas Aquinas, “for a man to hold private property; and it is also necessary for the carrying on of human existence.” But if the question be asked: How must one’s possessions be used?—the Church replies without hesitation in the words of the same holy Doctor: “Man should not consider his material possessions as his own, but as common to all, so as to share them without hesitation when others are in need. Whence the apostle saith, ‘Command the rich of this world … to offer with no stint, to apportion largely’.” True, no one is commanded to distribute to others that which is required for his own needs and those of his household; nor even to give away what is reasonably required to keep up becomingly his condition in life, “for no one ought to live other than becomingly.” But, when what necessity demands has been supplied, and one’s standing fairly taken thought for, it becomes a duty to give to the indigent out of what remains over. “Of that which remaineth, give alms.” It is duty, not of justice (save in extreme cases), but of Christian charity—a duty not enforced by human law.
Leo XIII in effect stresses the importance of private property first, then insofar as one reasonably can after having taking care of himself and his household, make good use of it for others as he chooses. It is admittedly a long paragraph but Leo XIII’s words are used as qualifications for the sake of clarity. It’s no surprise, despite the above paragraph and the seemingly different topic, that the overall length of his encyclical is way shorter than Francis’s and actually says something useful.
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