The love of neighbour that Jesus Christ taught is the opposite of the egalitarian socialist utopia




Prof Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

with the collaboration of others


Proposition 2

This principle of equality is also taught by the Gospel, which commands us to love our neighbour as ourselves.77

He who loves his neighbour as himself cannot wish more wealth for himself than for his neighbour.

This proportional and harmonious inequality, which leaves no one in poverty but permits the more capable and industrious to occupy a better position, is the logical application of the principle of the Gospel that we ought to love our neighbour as ourselves.



  This principle obliges us to love all men because they are our neighbours. And it prescribes a particular love for those closest to us. Now, for each man, those closest are he himself and his family.

Thus, without refusing justice or charity to others, it is reasonable for everyone to benefit himself and his household with the product of his work to a much greater extent.



1. All men are our neighbours

All men are our neighbours, the Gospel teaches.78 Indeed, we were all created in the image and likeness of God and redeemed by Jesus Christ. Thus, to all we owe fraternal love.

2. But there are degrees in this relationship

But the most elementary experience teaches us that there are degrees to closeness in human relationships. Obviously, the nearest being for each man is he himself. Then comes his family, which is, as it were, the prolongation of his own being, flesh of his flesh and blood of his blood. And successively, as in ever-larger concentric circles, come persons with whom he has particular relations of nearness: friends, students, employees, compatriots, companions in work or study, etc. Finally, as the ultimate periphery come those unknown to us and form the great human society.

3. For this reason, there are degrees in the love of neighbour

To this gradation of proximity in relationships corresponds a gradation of love for one’s neighbour. For, if we love our neighbour because he is our neighbour, that is, a person close to us, it is evident that we must love more those who are closer. If we owe the same love to all, we do not owe it to all in the same measure.79

Loving all men, we must desire that all have the goods of soul and body that correspond to human nature.80 But we must desire those goods in even greater abundance for those closest to us, that is, ourselves, our families, etc.

This is the unanimous teaching of the Popes and Catholic moralists.

4. Therefore, inequalities of property are legitimate

Therefore, the disputed thesis is false.

These considerations make it easy to see that, to a great degree, the opposition between Catholicism and socialism consists in that the former affirms the legitimacy of a gradation in the love of neighbour, whereas the latter denies it.

5. Organic position of man in Christian society

A Christian society is, as it were, an immense network of love of neighbour which has as its immediate object the family and neighbouring circles, from which it radiates the entire social body.

Thus, the life of groups and society flows from the inner recesses of men’s souls, a life so intense that in a certain way, even more than the State, it is the great driving force of a country or civilization.

On the other hand, this hierarchy in the love of neighbour corresponds to a natural tendency of the human soul. One is not satisfied with a mere generic love for humanity but imperiously needs concrete beings with whom one may have direct relations and to whom one may dedicate oneself in a personal way.

Therefore, if one denies that we should love those nearer to us more, relations of nearness lose all importance and significance and practically disappear. That is indeed how socialism and communism conceive love of neighbour in their secular and atheistic language: simple human solidarity, equal for all.

6. Man’s inorganic situation in socialized masses

That gives rise to the formation of huge masses without internal structure. In these multitudes, individuals suffer cold and tragic isolation. Human society becomes soulless and subject to a mechanical organization deprived of vital relationships: The State, alien to the crowd, and managed by technocrats without living contact with reality.

7. People and the Masses

In Christian society, a living organism is formed with different hierarchical organs bound to one another by profound solidarity: the people. In a socialist regime, it is the masses that are formed.

Pius XII, of heartfelt memory, admirably described the difference between people and the masses in a document cited below.81

Socialist egalitarianism and “Agrarian Reform” are nothing but aspects of a great wave of socialization sweeping the West. Raising dikes against that wave should not be seen merely as work to preserve the elites, however meritorious. That task fully makes sense when aimed to ensure that a whole people – understood as a society comprised of families and groups with various organic and differentiated levels – maintain its character as a people. The goal is to prevent the people from being tragically transformed into an inert, inorganic and enslaved mass.

* * *

We mentioned in passing socialist secularism or atheism. The theme merits a word of explanation.

According to Catholic doctrine, all men are brothers, for they were created by God and redeemed by Jesus Christ. One’s country is nothing but a family of families. It is easy to see all the warmth of fraternal affection that emanates from that, primarily in the family but gradually in all human relationships and all humanity as well. It is a massive effusion of love certainly manifested in degrees and a hierarchical fashion, as it were. Still, it reaches all men with a magnificent fullness entirely founded – it is important to note – in the love of God.

In contrast, socialist doctrine denies God or ignores His existence. Socialists seek to build the entire social and economic edifice apart from religious principles exactly as if God did not exist. What foundation remains, then, for love among men? Human relations become a cold and barren coalition of interests.

Therefore, partisans of such doctrine have no right to employ the ‘love of neighbour’ argument.


Pontifical Texts 

The love of neighbour that Jesus Christ taught is the opposite of the egalitarian socialist utopia

Saint Pius X: “True, Jesus has loved us with an immense, infinite love, and He came on earth to suffer and die so that, gathered around Him in justice and love, motivated by the same sentiments of mutual charity, all men might live in peace and happiness. But for the realization of this temporal and eternal happiness, He has laid down with supreme authority the condition that we must belong to His Flock, that we must accept His doctrine, that we must practice virtue, and that we must accept the teaching and guidance of Peter and his successors. Further, whilst Jesus was kind to sinners and to those who went astray, He did not respect their false ideas, however sincere they might have appeared. He loved them all, but He instructed them in order to convert them and save them. Whilst He called to Himself in order to comfort them, those who toiled and suffered, it was not to preach to them the jealousy of a chimerical equality. Whilst He lifted up the lowly, it was not to instil in them the sentiment of a dignity independent from, and rebellious against, the duty of obedience. Whilst His heart overflowed with gentleness for the souls of good-will, He could also arm Himself with holy indignation against the profaners of the House of God, against the wretched men who scandalized the little ones, against the authorities who crush the people with the weight of heavy burdens without putting out a hand to lift them. He was as strong as he was gentle. He reproved, threatened, chastised, knowing, and teaching us that fear is the beginning of wisdom, and that it is sometimes proper for a man to cut off an offending limb to save his body. Finally, He did not announce for future society the reign of an ideal happiness from which suffering would be banished; but, by His lessons and by His example, He traced the path of the happiness which is possible on earth and of the perfect happiness in heaven: the royal way of the Cross. These are teachings that it would be wrong to apply only to one’s personal life in order to win eternal salvation; these are eminently social teachings, and they show in Our Lord Jesus Christ something quite different from an inconsistent and impotent humanitarianism.” 82

Love of neighbour between great and small

“The poor on their side will rejoice in their prosperity and rely confidently on their help – even as the younger son of a family relies on the help and protection of his elder brother” 83

Love of oneself and one’s family is harmonious with love of country and humanity

The Church “is equally removed from all extremes of error and all exaggerations of parties or systems which stem from error. It maintains a constant equilibrium of truth and justice, which it vindicates in theory and applies and promotes in practice, bringing into harmony the rights and duties of all parties. Thus authority is reconciled with liberty, the dignity of the individual with that of the State, the human personality of the subject with the divine delegation of the superior; and in this way, a balance is struck between the due dependence and well-ordered love of a man for himself, his family and country, and his love of other families and other peoples, founded on the love of God, the Father of all, their first principle and last end.” 84

Class diversity is no obstacle to justice and love among men

“There is no intermediary more powerful than religion (whereof the Church is the interpreter and guardian) in drawing the rich and the working class together, by reminding each of its duties to the other, and especially of the obligations of justice.” 85

Christian brotherhood and social hierarchy

“In a people worthy of the name all inequalities based not on whim but on the nature of things, inequalities of culture, possessions, social standing — without, of course, prejudice to justice and mutual charity — do not constitute any obstacle to the existence and the prevalence of a true spirit of union and brotherhood. On the contrary, so far from impairing civil equality in any way, they give it its true meaning; namely, that, before the state everyone has the right to live honourably his own personal life in the place and under the conditions in which the designs and dispositions of Providence have placed him.” 86

Individual and social inequalities, sources of beauty and harmony

John XXIII: “The harmonious unity which must be sought among peoples and nations also needs ever greater improvement among the various classes of individuals. Otherwise mutual antagonism and conflict can result, as we have already seen. And the next step brings rioting mobs, wanton destruction of property, and sometimes even bloodshed. Meanwhile public and private resources diminish and are stretched to the danger point. On this point Pope Leo XIII made apt and appropriate comment: ‘God has commanded that there be differences of classes in the human community and that these classes, by friendly cooperation, work out a fair and mutual adjustment of their interests’ (Letter Permoti Nos). For it is quite clear that ‘as the symmetry of the human frame results from suitable arrangement of the various parts of the body, so in a body politic it is ordained by nature that… the classes should dwell in harmony and agreement, so as to maintain the balance of the body politic. Each needs the other: capital cannot do without labour, nor labour without capital. Their mutual agreement will result in the splendour of right order’ (Encyclical Rerum Novarum). Anyone, therefore, who ventures to deny that there are differences among social classes, contradicts the very laws of nature. Indeed, whoever opposes peaceful and necessary cooperation among the social classes is attempting, beyond doubt, to disrupt and divide human society; he menaces and does serious injury to private interests and the public welfare. As Our predecessor, Pius XII wisely said, ‘In a nation that is worthy of the name, inequalities among the social classes present few or no obstacles to their union in common brotherhood. We refer, of course, to those inequalities which result not from human caprice but from the nature of things—inequalities having to do with intellectual and spiritual growth, with economic facts, with differences in individual circumstances, within, of course, the limits prescribed by justice and mutual charity’ (Christmas Radio Message of 1944).” 87

Christian brotherhood flourishes in organic inequality

Pius XII: “…it is necessary that you truly feel as brothers. This is not a simple allegory: you truly are sons of God and therefore true brothers.

“Now then, brothers are neither born nor remain equal: some are strong, others weak; some intelligent, others incapable; at times one is abnormal or may simply become unworthy. Therefore, a certain material, intellectual, moral inequality in the same family is inevitable. However, just as nothing

— neither events nor the use of free will — can destroy paternity and maternity, so also brotherhood between among the children of the same father and the same mother should remain unassailable and operative within the limits of what is just and possible.

“Apply this to your parish, which We wish to see transformed into a true and great family. Wanting absolute equality for all would be like seeking to give identical functions to different members of the same organism. Hence it is necessary that your brotherliness become operative; for only if you love one another will men recognize you as a parish renewed in a Christian manner.” 88

Inequalities are a condition for an organic society

Leo XIII: “But, as the abilities of all are not equal, as one differs from another in the powers of mind or body, and as there are very many dissimilarities of manner, disposition, and character, it is most repugnant to reason to endeavour to confine all within the same measure, and to extend complete equality to the institutions of civic life. Just as a perfect condition of the body results from the conjunction and composition of its various members, which, though differing in form and purpose, make, by their union and the distribution of each one to its proper place, a combination beautiful to behold, firm in strength, and necessary for use; so, in the commonwealth, there is an almost infinite dissimilarity of men, as parts of the whole. If they are to be all equal, and each is to follow his own will, the State will appear most deformed; but if, with a distinction of degrees of dignity, of pursuits and employments, all aptly conspire for the common good, they will present the image of a State both well constituted and conformable to nature.” 89

Society as a living organism or a machine subject to the State — People and the masses

Pius XII: “The State does not contain in itself and does not mechanically bring together in a given territory a shapeless mass of individuals. It is, and should in practice be, the organic and organizing unity of a real people. The people, and a shapeless multitude (or, as it is called, “the masses”) are two distinct concepts.

“The people lives and moves by its own life energy; the masses are inert of themselves and can only be moved from outside. The people lives by the fullness of life in the men that compose it, each of whom — at his proper place and in his own way — is a person conscious of his own responsibility and of his own views. The masses, on the contrary, wait for the impulse from outside, an easy plaything in the hands of anyone who exploits their instincts and impressions; ready to follow in turn, today this flag, tomorrow another. From the exuberant life of a true people, an abundant rich life is diffused in the state and all its organs, instilling into them with a vigour that is always renewing itself, the consciousness of their own responsibility, the true instinct for the common good. The elementary power of the masses, deftly managed and employed, the state also can utilize: in the ambitious hands of one or of several who have been artificially brought together for selfish aims, the state itself, with the support of the masses, reduced to the minimum status of a mere machine, can impose its whims on the better part of the real people: the common interest remains seriously, and for a long time, injured by this process, and the injury is very often hard to heal.” 90

Love of neighbour, a Christian theme that socialists know how to exploit

Pius XI: “In the beginning Communism showed itself for what it was in all its perversity; but very soon it realized that it was thus alienating the people. It 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! Communism is intrinsically wrong, and no one who would save Christian civilization may collaborate with it in any undertaking whatsoever.” 91

Pius XI wrote these words referring to Communism. Experience shows that socialism, in its own way, however, also proceeds in this fashion.

A Catholic’s zeal for the precept of love of neighbour must not lead him to socialism

Pius XI: “Religious socialism, Christian socialism, are contradictory terms; no one can be at the same time a good Catholic and a true socialist.” 92

A Catholic should react against socialization

Pius XII: “If the signs of the times are not misleading, in the second phase of social controversies, in which we have now entered, other questions and problems have precedence (concerning the labour question, which dominated the first phase). Let us cite here two of them:

“Overcoming class warfare through a mutual and organic ordering between employer and employee. For class warfare never can be an objective of Catholic social ethics. The Church knows that she is always responsible for all classes and strata of society.

“Protecting the individual and the family from being dragged into a total socialization at the end of which the terrifying image of the ‘Leviathan’ would become a horrible reality. The Church will wage this struggle to the end, for it involves supreme values: the dignity of man and the salvation of souls.”93

A Lamentable deviation by some Catholics

“While attributing to the whole people, as their proper though partial function, the planning of the future economy, we are far from agreeing that such a function has been committed to the State as such. Indeed, while studying the development of some Congresses, even of Catholics, dealing with economic and social matters, one can note an ever increasing tendency to invoke the intervention of the State; so much so that one sometimes seems to receive the impression that this is the only conceivable solution available. Certainly, according to the social teaching of the Church, the State has its proper role in the shaping of human society. In order to fulfil that function, it must also be strong and have authority. But those who continually invoke the State, and place all responsibility upon it, only bring it to ruin, and also make it the plaything of powerful interested groups. The result is that any kind of responsibility whatever for public business thus comes to an end, and that when anyone speaks of the State’s duties or failings, he means the duties or defects of anonymous groups, and naturally he does not think of himself as involved in them.” 94

Secularist character of socialism

“Socialism, on the other hand, wholly ignoring and indifferent to this sublime end of both man and society, affirms that human association has been instituted for the sake of material advantage alone.”95

Without God, human sociability decays and becomes degraded

“… because the supreme and eternal authority of God, which commands and forbids, is despised and completely repudiated by men, the result is that the consciousness of Christian duty is weakened, and that faith becomes tepid in souls or entirely lost, and this afterward affects and ruins the very basis of human society.” 96



77 Mark 12:31.

78 Luke 10:29-37.

79 Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, IIa. IIae., q. 26.

80 Cf. Commentary on Proposition 1.

81 Cf. Pontifical texts of this Proposition.

82 Saint Pius X, Apostolic Letter Notre Charge Apostolique, August 25, 1910 at http://www.acla-

83 Benedict XV, Encyclical Ad Beatissimi, November 1, 1949 no. 13 at apostolorum_en.html.

84 Pius XI, Encyclical Divini Redemptoris, March 19, 1937, no. 34 at

85 Leo XIII, Encyclical Rerum Novarum, May 15, 1891 no. 19 at

86 Pius XII, radio broadcast of Christmas 1944, nos. 29-30 at

87 John XXIII, Encyclical Ad Petri Cathedram, June 29, 1959 nos. 36-39 at

88 Pius XII, Address of June 4, 1953 to a group of faithful from the Parish of Marsciano, Perugia, in Discorsi e Radiomessaggi, vol. XV, p. 195 [our translation].

89 Leo XIII, Encyclical Humanum Genus, no. 26 at

90 Pius XII, Christmas Radio broadcast of 1944, nos. 21-26 at

91 Pius XI, Encyclical Divini Redemptoris, March 19, 1937 nos. 57-58 at

92 Pius XI, Encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, May 15, 1931 no. 120 at

93 Pius XII, Radio broadcast to Vienna’s Katholikentag, September 14, 1952 — Discorsi e Radiomessaggi, vol. XIV, p. 314 [our translation].

94 Pius XII; Address of March 7, 1957 to the Seventh Congress of Christian Union Executives and Businessmen of Italy –

– UCID — Discorsi e Radiomessaggi, no. XIX, p. 30 at &source=bl&ots=ZEqARqAS4i&sig=7EYu8i1_H2haSjAnfFisvepJOQI&hl=en&ei=d2CJTPSHMoWglAfT89mSDw&sa


95 Pius XI, Encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, May 15, 1931 no. 118 at

96 Pius XI, Encyclical Ingravescentibus Malis, September 29, 1937 no. 4 at malis_en.html.