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|Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira|
Church and communist state
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When this study was published for the first time in August of 1963, the propaganda and diplomacy of Communism were making ever‑increasing efforts to establish a regime of peaceful coexistence between the capitalist and communist worlds. At that time, a new set of relations between the East and the West was only beginning to emerge from the period of the Cold War.
The special targets of the "pacifistic" Soviet effort were the two great pillars of resistance to Communism: in the material sphere, the United States, and in the spiritual sphere, the Catholic Church.
The propaganda directed by Moscow against the United States employed useful innocents ‑ of an innocence at times contestable, but of an indisputable utility ‑ to spread an atmosphere of sentimental and pacifistic optimism, which surreptitiously led Americans to forget the experience of the past and to hope for a definitive reconciliation with the smiling Soviet leaders of the post‑Stalinist era.
This same atmosphere was spread in the bosom of the Church, carried out in the first place by groups of theologians and men of action, some of whom were ingenuous and others declaredly leftist. The illusion that a truly peaceful coexistence was possible between the Church and the Communist regimes continued to gain ground, in spite of the fact that the anti‑religious campaign proceeded with full rigor throughout the Communist world.
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From that time until now, over the course of the years, editions of this work have been published one after another: nine in Portuguese, one in German, eleven in Spanish, three in French, one in Hungarian, four in English, two in Italian, and one in Polish, for a total of 144,000 copies, not counting its complete transcription in more than thirty newspapers and magazines in eleven different countries.
At the same time, events developed on the international scene. And as these events manifest themselves now, they impose the following conclusion: the “pacifistic” efforts of Moscow have accumulated, managing to work immense transformations and attaining to a large extent the goals at which they were aimed.
The "detente" promoted by Nixon and Kissinger between the West and the Communist nations continues obstinately. The Vatican is also "relaxing tensions" in a most impressive way in respect to its relations with the governments of Moscow and the various satellite nations. At the same time, ecumenism has provided the instrumentality for establishing increasingly frequent relations between the Catholic Church and the schismatic church. ("Orthodox") subordinated to Moscow.
As milestones of this diplomatic and religious rapprochement between the Church and the Communist world, it is not superfluous to call to mind some great events: the omission of any censure of Communism by the Second Vatican Council; the agreements of the Vatican with Yugoslavia, Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and East Germany; the Apostolic Letter Octogesima Adveniens; the difficulties between Cardinal Slipyi and the Catholics of the Ukrainian Rite and the Holy See; the dismissal of Cardinal Mindszenty from the archiepiscopal See of Esztergom; and the signing by the Vatican of the Helsinki accords.
Distinct from the twofold "detente" (Moscow-Washington and Moscow‑Vatican) but like it is the ferment that is spreading within the more flexible political spheres of Western and Eastern Europe, in favor of "convergence." As everyone knows, this tendency, which is expressed on different levels and which bears various labels, is aimed at bringing about the adoption of the same socio‑economic regime in all nations. Such a regime would fall somewhere between one based on individual property and one imposing collective property. If such a tendency succeeds in prevailing, the non‑communist world will have taken an immense step toward the left. And the more "ductile" part of the Communist world will perhaps have taken a tiny step toward the regime of private property. Such a solution would permit one to perceive the advent of the day when the nations so "converged" would take another "convergent" step toward the part of the world which is irreducibly Communist. In this way, they would virtually arrive at Communism. The future will show that the various stages of "convergence" are nothing more than so many stages in the march toward the most extreme and radical pole of Communism.
When this panorama is considered as a whole, it gives us an overwhelming vision of the escalation of Communist power in the world. And it imposes on us a question: Are there still other aspects of this escalation to be considered?
It would be impossible not to mention three of them‑ a) there is a malaise between Western Europe and the United States that gravely threatens the Atlantic alliance; b) the economy of the West is apparently being eroded by an economic and financial crisis, which is confused in its causes and in its manifestations; c) finally, in another order of facts the military power of Russia is growing increasingly: while the international influence of the United States is withdrawing everywhere as it permits its military power to be overtaken or surpassed by the Russians.
If anyone had dared to forecast such calamities in the year that this study was first published, he would have found very few people who would have believed him. And the majority of the people today, face to face with these incontestable facts, do not recognize them as being surprising, much less calamitous.
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Under the circumstances, what is the good of this new edition of a work which calls us to struggle against an adversary whose final victory already appears, even before it is consummated, to be irreversible to so many pusillanimous spirits.
I advise certain kinds of people not to read this essay. It was not written for compliant mentalities who worship the "fait accompli," nor for slothful and fearful persons who view effort and risk as an evil which they are never disposed to face. Still less is it for the ambitious who try to guess the trend of events so that they may perceive before whom they must bow down in order to rise more rapidly in wealth and power.
The ones who will most especially waste their time reading this essay are the men without faith, who do not believe in God and who consider the course of history, in epochs of catastrophe and decadence, to be exclusively subject to blind social and economic forces, or to the personalities, both insipid and monstrous, who at those times appear on the crest of events.
The persons in these various categories are not prepared to give due weight to the fact that public opinion was mysteriously put to sleep, but by no means conquered, by Soviet propaganda. Today it continues to be just as absolutely true as it was in 1963 that Communism has never shown itself to be the majority position in free and honest national elections.1
Accordingly, the thirteen years that have elapsed since 1963 have seen a pertinacious and general rejection Communism in the West. Add to this the fact that inconformity with Communism, intact in the West, has done nothing but grow behind the Iron Curtain during these same thirteen years. The manifestations of this fact are so numerous and so notorious that I dispense myself from commenting on them.
In summation, then, Communism has power, gold, and propaganda at its service. And it has not ceased to grow among certain corrupt elites. But with the multitudes, the case is different, for, on the one hand, Communism does not win them over, and, on the other hand, it loses them. In the face of these facts, the power of Communism, which is as formidable as a giant, allows its feet of clay to show through as being quite bare.
Only men of faith, who do not permit themselves to be deceived by the whirlwind of publicity raised up around the supposed Communist omnipotence, see with full clarity that those feet are made of clay. They believe in God, confide in the Virgin, and are firmly disposed to enter into the struggle against the giant, having an unshakable certainty that the final victory belongs to them.
One may hope that such men, who know how to see that the feet of the colossus are of clay, will trample on those feet. This essay was written for such men. By proving the impossibility of coexistence between the Church and the Communist regimes, this work aims to help them to solidify themselves in a position of absolute rejection of the Communist onslaughts. And it constitutes a stimulus for them, in ever growing numbers, to attack this terribly great and ridiculously weak adversary. We repeat: Since they are fighting for the Cause of God, they will have the help of Heaven with them, and will be able, with the help of the Virgin, to renew the face of the Earth.
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Among those persons interested in the problem of the relation between the Church and the State, I believe there are those who will receive with understanding some reflections on a modern aspect of this problem, that is, the freedom of the Church in a Communist State.
Before taking up this matter, it seems necessary to define the natural limits of this essay. It is a study of the question of whether peaceful coexistence between the Church and the Communist regime is licit in states where this regime prevails.
This theme should not be confused with another ‑ that of peaceful coexistence on the international plane of different states living under different political, economic, or social regimes. Nor should it be confused with the problem of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and nations subject to the Communist yoke.
Since each of these two themes has unique characteristics and perspectives, to discuss either of them even briefly would involve making this study too lengthy. Therefore, we will not discuss them in this work, which is devoted exclusively to investigating whether, and under what conditions, the Church can maintain a truly free coexistence with a Communist regime.
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