Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Pius XI opens with an analytical critique of atheistic communism and proceeds to exhort the members of the Church to take action to confront the seductions and violence of communism. He stresses the ways in which communism is antithetical to Christianity: its basis in materialism, its false ideals and promises, its rejection of the spiritual life and proper religion, and its undermining of Christian-influenced society. It is a critique that at once attacks communism and exalts the Church’s Gospel message. In developing the Church’s positive message to those attracted to communism, Pius emphasizes Christian social justice rooted in humanity’s divine paternity and love. If properly understood, taught, and acted on, Christian social justice is superior in every way to that of the communists. Love provides the template and means, rather than violent revolution, repression, or state terrorism. However, the Church and society have failed to provide for the working people and the poor, opening the door to communism. In his program, Pius outlines the roles and responsibilities of each segment of Catholic society: All must be harnessed to the aim of truth and the opposition to deceit and degradation. The pope makes it clear that the rich cannot disdain the poor and need to take on a mantle of humility and justice in dealing with workers and the poor. Neither class nor race nor wealth can divide God’s people. Mere opposition to communism is not enough: The Nazis, condemned in the pope’s encyclical Mit brennender Sorge (March, 1937), do as much. Opposition must be founded in Christian charity and built on the love of truth that is rooted in the Gospel.