Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Q&A  December AD 2013
Our Lady of the Rosary
Parish Bulletin

Q&A Archives

Church Teaching on Slavery?

Communism, socialism, fascism ...?

Our Lady of the Rosary
Church Teaching on Slavery?

    Question:  What is the Church’s teaching on Slavery?  Is it discussed in the Bible?

    Answer:   Slavery was common in the ancient world, with prisoners of war being enslaved rather than killed;  with those unable to pay their debts being forced into service;  with the indigent offering their service as slaves;  and with parents receiving a price for the marriage and service of a daughter.  One could not be abducted into slavery, the penalty for attempting to do so was death.[1]

    The Mosaic Law did not institute slavery, but, rather, served to regulate it—making a generally inequitable situation as equitable as possible.  Linguistically, the Old Testament Hebrew does not distinguish between “servants” and “slaves,” but the regulations governing Jews have them treated like servants, while those governing foreigners were more harsh.

    There were some universal protections afforded slaves:

    He that striketh his bondman or bondwoman with a rod, and they die under his hands, shall be guilty of the crime…. If any man strike the eye of his manservant or maidservant, and leave them but one eye, he shall let them go free for the eye which he put out.  Also if he strike out a tooth of his manservant or maidservant, he shall in like manner make them free.[2]

    But on the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: thou shalt do no work on it, thou nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy beast, nor the stranger that is within thy gates.[3]

We read in Ecclesiasticus:

    Fodder, and a wand, and a burden are for an ass: bread, and correction, and work for a slave.  He worketh under correction, and seeketh to rest:  [but] let his hands be idle, and he seeketh liberty.  The yoke and the thong bend a stiff neck, and continual labours bow a slave.  Torture and fetters are for a malicious slave:  send him to work, that he be not idle: For idleness hath taught much evil.  Set him to work: for so it is fit for him. And if he be not obedient, bring him down with fetters, but be not excessive towards any one: and do no grievous thing without judgment.  If thou have a faithful servant, let him be to thee as thy own soul: treat him as a brother: because in the blood of thy soul thou hast gotten him.  If thou hurt him unjustly, he will run away:  And if he rise up and depart, thou knowest not whom to ask, and in what way to seek him.[4]

    Some entered servitude voluntarily::

    If thy brother constrained by poverty, sell himself to thee, thou shalt not oppress him with the service of bondservants:  But he shall be as a hireling, and a sojourner: he shall work with thee until the year of the jubilee, And afterwards he shall go out with his children, and shall return to his kindred and to the possession of his fathers, For they are my servants, and I brought them out of the land of Egypt: let them not be sold as bondmen:[5]

    The Jew who sold himself to a foreigner would be redeemed at the Jubilee or could redeem himself (or could be redeemed by a relative) by paying a sum calculated on his original price discounted by the value of his time until the next Jubilee.[6]

    Under the Mosaic Law, a Jew could be held in bondage for no more than six years, although he could volunteer to be enslaved for life.[7]  If the master provided him an enslaved wife, she and their children remain enslaved.[8]  When the people of Juda failed in this obligation to free Hebrews after seven years they were punished by God with the destruction of their nation.[9]  But foreign captives were treated quite differently:

    All the people that were left of the Amorrhites, and Hethites, and Pherezites, and Hevites, and Jebusites, that are not of the children of Israel:  Their children, that were left in the land, to wit, such as the children of Israel had not been able to destroy, Solomon made tributary unto this day. But of the children of Israel Solomon made not any to be bondmen, but they were men of war, and his servants, and his princes, and captains, and overseers of the chariots and horses.[10]

    Foreign captives were considered inheritable property.[11]

    Fugitive slaves (presumably slaves of foreigners) did not have to be returned to their foreign masters:

    Thou shalt not deliver to his master the servant that is fled to thee. He shall dwell with thee ill the place that shall please him, and shall rest, in one of thy cities: give him no trouble.[12]

    A captive woman could be forced into marriage after first being allowed to mourn her (presumably) deceased mother and father, and being humbled by having her head shaved and her finger nails cut.  She thus acquired the status of a free married Jewish woman, and could not be sold if her captor-husband chose to divorce her.[13]

    The status of a captive woman not actually married to her captor was less than that of a wife, and would not incur the death penalty for adultery:

    If a man carnally lie with a woman that is a bondservant and marriageable, and yet not redeemed with a price, nor made free: they both shall be scourged, and they shall not be put to death, because she was not a free woman. And for his trespass he shall offer a ram to the Lord, at the door of the tabernacle of the testimony:  And the priest shall pray for him and for his sin before the Lord, and he shall have mercy on him, and the sin shall be forgiven.[14]

    Arranged marriages were common in the ancient world.  In many cultures the family of the bride paid a dowry to the family of the groom.  The woman had the right to support from this money, even after the death of her husband.  But in Israel the custom worked in reverse.  Women were seen as providing valuable domestic and agricultural service, and the family of the bride demanded compensation for losing that service.  (See, for example, the fourteen years of service paid to their father by Jacob as the bride price of Rachel and Lea in Genesis 29.)  The description below is that of a daughter given as a second class wife:

    [7] If any man sell his daughter to be a servant, she shall not go out as bondwomen are wont to go out.  [8] If she displease the eyes of her master to whom she was delivered, he shall let her go: but he shall have no power to sell her to a foreign nation, if he despise her.  [9] But if he have betrothed her to his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters. [10] And if he take another wife for him, he shall provide her a marriage, and raiment, neither shall he refuse the price of her chastity. [11] If he do not these three things, she shall go out free without money.[15]

    Verse 7 indicates that she is not released after seven years as would a true slave.  The master who changes his mind and doesn’t want to her (verse 8), may not sell her to foreigners, may let her go, or may marry her to his son (verse 9).  If the master marries another (additional) woman (verse 10) he must “not withhold her food, her clothing, or her conjugal rights” from the first.[16]  Failing to do all of these things, the woman is free to return to her father.

Slavery in the New Testament

    During the time of Christ and the writing of the New Testament, the Church exercised no authority with Jewish or Roman leaders.  Any attempt to change the rules governing slavery would have been futile.

    Our Lord recognized that the society around Him had both masters and servants, but never commented on the morality of the situation—at least, no comment is recorded.  The epistles counsel obedience of servants to masters.[17]  But this obedience differs little from that normally found in a well-run household. 

    In the single chapter Epistle to Philemon, Saint Paul writes to one of his trusted converts on behalf of Onesimus, Philemon’s run-away slave, who had become Christan while in prison with Paul.  Due to Christian charity and esteem for Paul himself, Paul calls upon Philemon to take Onesimus back as a brother and not a slave.  “If therefore thou count me a partner, receive him as myself.”[18]

    Perhaps the most optimistic word about slavery is found in the Apocalypse, where it is prophesied that in the end times there will be no more market for slaves:

    And the merchants of the earth shall weep, and mourn over her: for no man shall buy their merchandise any more. Merchandise of gold and silver …. And cinnamon, and odours, and ointment, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men.[19]

 Our Lady of the Rosary
Communism, socialism, fascism ... ?

Question:  What is the difference between socialism, communism, and Marxism?

Answer:  The three are related in that they all involve government control of the economy.  To be complete, we will add fascism and crony capitalism to the list of systems to be explained.

    See a correction to this article in the January AD 2014 Parish Bulletin AND A FURTHER UPDATE AT

    In socialism the government owns the means of production, and decides what will be produced and in what quantities, and sold at what price.  Fascism is similar, with the means of production generally being in private hands, but the government still determining production and pricing.  Perhaps the most extreme example of fascism was seen in the World War II era Roosevelt and Mussolini governments.  In America citizens were put in concentration camps because of their Japanese ancestry, (but not Italians or Germans).  Tailors were told the minimum price they could charge for pressing a pair of pants.  Manufacturers were told how many units they could produce, and the minimum they could charge for each unit.  The classic case (the Schecter case[20]) had the government telling a kosher butcher what to charge for his chickens, and how they were to be selected from the chicken coop.

    Fortunately, the Schecter case was so absurd that it drove the US Supreme Court to overturn the National Recovery Act, which brought about all this foolishness.  But that was not the end of government meddling in US industry.  Their remain a variety of "alphabet soup" agencies that are able to regulate nearly every aspect of business.:-)   Fascism is alive and well, even decades after the end of the depression and the war which were invoked to empower it.

    The story of the Enron collapse is a good example of government involvement in industry and the problems such “crony capitalism” leads too.[21]  The C.E.O. of Enron, Ken Lay, was convicted of a felony but died before beginning his sentence—his funeral was attended by a former President, First Lady, and Secretary of State.[22]  Those are some good connections!

    Government control of production, be it fascist or socialist, is always a drag on the economy.  In the absence of a functioning market economy, bureaucrats make all the decisions about what and how much to produce, and what to charge for it.  They have none of the feedback that customer demand provides in a market economy.  This means that resources are misallocated, and that consumers must accept scarcities.  Although governments can and do fund research, socialism nearly eliminates private invention and product development.

    Communism differs from socialism in its degree of control.  There is no standard communist state, but communism may involve telling people what to study in school, and what to do for a living and where.  The state may tell you whether or not you may worship God, with whom you may associate, and how many children you may have.  Even more than with socialism, the power of the state will concentrate in the hands of a privileged few.  The communist state not only lacks the allocation feedback of the market economy, but may find angry workers trying to be counterproductive. Contemporary examples of communist states have been able to exercise this degree of control only with the murder or incarceration of millions of people.

    Marxism is the political philosophy of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, which tries to justify communism, calling it “scientific socialism.”  It holds the crackpot theory that attributes the value of goods solely to the amount of labor involved in producing them, often with no thought to the cost of raw materials, production machinery, real estate, or carrying charges.[23]  Not surprisingly, it sees the worker as being discriminated against by the entrepreneurial class that supplies these other necessities and hires the workers.  Marxism calls for a “class struggle,” which usually translates into bloody revolution, so that the workers may receive what is “due” to them.  After a period of “dictatorship of the proletariat (the workers)” the government was expected to “wither away,” with everyone voluntarily doing whatever was necessary for the general well-being. 

    The scope of the ultimate communist government is expected to be global.  (It would have to be, otherwise people would be continuously trying to escape to the more prosperous neighboring countries.)  The song of the Revolution is called the Internationale.  Each verse ends:

C'est la lutte finale
Groupons-nous, et demain
Sera le genre humain

This is the final struggle
Let us group together, and tomorrow
The Internationale
Will be the human race.[24]

    In Marxism, communism is the natural outcome of the “dialectic,” which has opposite conditions in the world each coming together to create new conditions, and ultimately creating the metaphysical “perfection” which is communism.

    As the brutality of actual communist revolutions was so repugnant to decent people, the theory of Cultural Marxism[25] was espoused by theorists like Antonio Gramsci, who called for a “long march through the institutions.”[26]  Rather than a military march, Gramsci advocated the taking over and tearing down of the institutions of Western Civilization such as the Church, the family, the universities, the media, constitutional governments, and any other “switch-points of social power.”  Once these institutions have been dismembered, a communist utopia will form (presumably molded by the “dialectic.”

    Cultural Marxism has had an unfortunate influence on the Church, with many of the clergy given to find doctrinal and moral “truth” through “dialogue” with non-Catholics and fallen away Catholics.  (Truth is given in quotes above because the “dialogue” relies on the denial of objective truth, and its replacement with an ever changing consensus.)  If “dialogue” sounds something like “dialectic” it should, for the idea is the same.

    The more violent Marxism has formed the theory of “liberation theology,” among the clergy trying to implement “social justice” from the barrel of a gun.  “Liberation theology” was condemned by Pope Benedict XIV when he was the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), but the man appointed by Pope Benedict and retained by Pope Francis to head the CDF, Archbishop Gerhard Müller seems to favor it.[27]  The “slum priests of Pope Francis’ Argentina are remarkably similar.[28]  The word “redistribution” is found all too often in the writings of church authorities.[29]  And the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops continuews to disseminate Marxist nonsence.[30] 


[1]   Exodus. xxi:16;  Deuteronomy xxiv :7

[4]   Ecclesiasticus xxxiii: 25-33

[8]    Ibid. 4

[16]   Confraternity of Christian Doctrine translation of verse 10.

[17]   Ephesians vi:5;  Colossians iii:22;  1 Timothy vi:1;  Titus ii:9;  1 Peter ii:18

[18]   Philemon 17




[23]   On the “just price” see








Dei via est íntegra
Our Lady of the Rosary, 144 North Federal Highway (US#1), Deerfield Beach, Florida 33441  954+428-2428
Authentic  Catholic Mass, Doctrine, and Moral Teaching -- Don't do without them -- 
Don't accept one without the others!