The Catholic Church is one of the oldest religions in the world. The church is run by the Pope who is viewed as the overall leader of the church. The Catholic Church was considered the official religion of a number of European countries. This gave the leaders jurisdiction to offer an opinion on the way the governments manage the country (Roberts, p. 290). Socialism and capitalism are economic systems that have been embraced by different countries over the years. These systems are essential in that they are responsible for the growth and sustainability of a country. Both ideologies have been the source of political realignment such as the cold war. Over the years, the church has been involved in a number of controversies political, social and economic. One of the latest issues is the church’s stance on the preferred system of government. The church was initially in support of the socialist system which over the years has become less attractive to modern governments. The pope’s criticisms of the systems in the CentesimusAnnusoffer a new perspective which is representative of the Catholic Church as a whole. This has been defined by embracing of the free market thus eliminating the socialist policies that were once part and parcel of the church (Dorrien, p. 205).
The focus of this research paper is to provide an analysis of John Paul’s II’s criticisms of socialism and capitalism in his encyclical CentesimusAnnus. The paper will discuss the contents of the document showing the position of the Catholic Church on this matter. The paper will finally provide a concluding paragraph which will summarize the contents of the paper.
The socialist system of governance involves collecting of countries resources which in turn is divided equally amongst the members of the society. This system is intended to promote equity and equality in a community. This system has both advantages and disadvantages that it brings to the economies that adopt them. One of the demerits of this system is that individuals are limited in their rate of production. Members of the community are not allowed to exceed a certain amount of resources in terms of ownership. These disadvantages led to the decline of production in countries such as Russia and the republic of China. The fact that society is not allowed to control specific aspects of their lives makes them vulnerable to the lack of motivation and free will (Roberts, p. 362).
Capitalism is the opposite of socialism in that it recognizes the importance of the individualist approach to the market. Capitalism is defined as the creation of a free market that allows individuals to maximize their production. The United States is one of the countries that have been at the forefront in the advocating of this system. Like socialism, capitalism has been criticized due to the social, economic and political impact it brings to an economy. Capitalism encourages people to accumulate as many resources as they can as long as they acquire assets in a fair way. This system has thus led to the division of classes which comprises of the rich, the middle class and the poor. The capitalist way of life has, on the other hand, led to the growth of a majority of the economies due to the increased rate of production (Boswell, Terry, and Christopher, p. 264).
The CentesimusAnnus is essential in that it provides approval of the performance of a country’s economy. The Catholic Church had initially owed their allegiance to the socialist system due to the fact that it catered for the greater good of the community. Despite this, the world has begun to change its stance on this ideology to its rate of productively. In his letter, the pope criticizes the communist governments. One of the factors of these systems is that it does not allow private ownership of basic amenities. This limits the members of the society in that they are not allowed to exploit their talents and skills. Individuals are denied the chance to have free will due to the control of the government. The pope states that this ideology enslaves the community due to the inability to exploit the variety of opportunities that the world has to offer (Roberts, p. 228).
The system has proved to be economically unviable leading to the destruction of several economies. The pope relates his view to the teachings of prescient Leo XIII who criticized this ideology. The CentesimusAnnus mainly talks about the economy of the country and the role that the systems have played in shaping them. Despite its strong economic appeal, the pope mentions that all the factors of life are determined by the social and cultural aspects of any country. The spiritual and moral composition of a human being is responsible for the way in which individuals socialize. Human beings are naturally capitalist in that they work in accordance with the amount of motivation they receive. It is thus impossible to maintain a socialist way of life which does not allow a person to take control of their own life (Boswell, Terry, and Christopher, p. 272).
The Annus recognizes the need for making a profit and acquiring of interest which in turn reaffirms the support for the free economy. It is impossible for human beings to suppress their personal needs due to the requirements of the entire economy. People are more effective when they have a personal cause which as a result, enables them to contribute to the economy as a whole. Since it is established that the church has associated itself with the adaptation of the free economy, the church has encouraged the economies to take advantage of this system. Despite his endorsement for capitalism, the pope mentions that capitalism also has its merits and demerits. The availability of a free market is essential in that it gives the social freedom to pursue all their personal interests. This has, however; led to the creation of a society where a higher percentage of the population is underprivileged and the minority is wealthy. The imbalance of the economy is thus not encouraged due to the fact that it allows for the exploitation of the ordinary man (Dorrien, p. 165).
The Pope’s endorsement of this system of government came as a shock in that the church had for a long time aligned itself with the socialist laws. This new stance meant that the church was becoming more open to this global phenomenon. Capitalism has been associated with western countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom. These two countries are known for their prosperity which is brought about by the performance of the economy. Countries that had previously endorsed the socialist system of governance, on the other hand, experienced a decrease in the performance of the economy. This was seen in countries such as USSR and China which were in support of a closed market (Boswell, Terry, and Christopher, p. 204).
The increase in globalization made it inevitable for such countries to maintain this system of governance due to the fact that they were lagging behind the rest of the economies. More countries followed in the steps of the USSR by changing to the democratic way of life. This saw the improvement of the country’s economy making it one of the most successful countries to date. The involvement of the Catholic Church in such matters shows the importance of the church in the livelihoods of its followers. Choosing to maintain the socialist system meant that both the economy and the church would become less attractive to potential investors. The Pope’s endorsement of a free market is thus not only reflective of the church but is also reflective of the religious scriptures that Christians have followed from time immemorial (Dorrien, p. 185).
In conclusion, the Catholic Church plays a significant role in the lives of its followers. Most of the followers of the church originate from a place that fought against the adaptation of capitalism in the early times. The failure of the socialist system in a majority of the countries that adopted it changed the dynamics of the way countries run their economies. The increased globalization is one of the reasons for the change from socialism to capitalism. The Catholic Church has not been left behind in this matter. This is seen in the pope’s opinion in the encyclical CentesimusAnnus.
Boswell, Terry, and Christopher K. Chase D.The Spiral of Capitalism and Socialism: Toward Global Democracy. Boulder, Co: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2000. Print.
Dorrien, Gary J. Social Ethics in the Making: Interpreting an American Tradition. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. Print.
Roberts, Richard H. Religion, Theology and the Human Sciences. Cambridge [u.a.: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2002. Print.
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