Church and Communism

August 19, 1949

Report Outline
Conflict Between Communism and Religion
Soviet Government and the Russian Church
Soviet Satellites and the Catholic Church

Conflict Between Communism and Religion

Sharpening of Religious-Red Controversy in Europe

Conflict between church and state in Eastern Europe, brought periodically to world attention since Communist governments came to power in that region, was dramatized early this year by the trial and conviction on treason charges of Cardinal Mindszenty in Hungary and of 15 Protestant ministers in Bulgaria. In mid-May the scene shifted to Czechoslovakia, where a sharp controversy rapidly developed between the government and the Roman Catholic Church. Archbishop Beran in Prague escaped the fate of Mindszenty, at least for the time being, but his voice was silenced. Although the open conflict subsided, it still smolders and may break out again at any time. Or the scene may shift once more, perhaps to Poland.

Meanwhile, the Vatican, by striking back on July 13 with a general excommunication decree directed against all Roman Catholic Communists and Communist supporters, brought the church's struggle with Communism onto a wider stage. For the Vatican's action was calculated to have possibly far-reaching political effects, if not in Eastern European countries firmly under Communist sway, in such Western European countries as France and Italy where the people are predominantly Catholic and the Communist Party has enjoyed extensive popular support.

Satellite Repetition of Soviet Church-State Clash

The conflict today between the Roman Catholic Church and the Communist governments of the satellite states parallels, up to a point, the conflict between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Soviet government in the first years of the Bolshevik regime. In Russia after 1917, as in the satellites now, the Communists took drastic steps to wipe out ecclesiastical privileges and power, subordinate the church to the state, and separate the schools from the church. The Russian Orthodox Church, like the Roman Catholic Church, resorted to the weapon of excommunication. Then as now there were arrests and confessions of church dignitaries, and the state fostered schisms within the church. The only substantial difference in the pattern is that the satellites so far have shown somewhat greater restraint on confiscation of church property. And whereas the antagonist of the Communists a generation ago was a national church, today it is an international church whose strength drawn from many countries may make it a more formidable foe.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Communism and Socialism
Aug. 02, 2011  Communism Today
Mar. 04, 1988  Communist Reformers Look West
Dec. 28, 1984  Communist Economies
Sep. 21, 1984  Southern European Socialism
Feb. 09, 1979  Communist Indochina and the Big Powers
Apr. 23, 1976  Western European Communism
May 28, 1969  World Communist Summit
Nov. 20, 1968  Intellectuals in Communist Countries
Aug. 28, 1968  Scandinavia and Socialism
Oct. 18, 1967  Soviet Communism After Fifty Years
Sep. 21, 1966  Soviet Economy: Incentives Under Communism
Sep. 15, 1965  Thailand: New Red Target
Dec. 18, 1963  Communist Schisms
Mar. 13, 1963  Venezuela: Target for Reds
Apr. 25, 1962  Teaching About Communism
Dec. 01, 1960  Farming and Food in Communist Lands
Apr. 27, 1960  Communist Party, U.S.A.
Nov. 07, 1956  Reds and Redefection
Apr. 11, 1956  Communists and Popular Fronts
Dec. 07, 1955  Religion Behind the Iron Curtain
Nov. 12, 1954  Communist Controls
Feb. 11, 1953  Red Teachers and Educational Freedom
Apr. 04, 1950  Loyalty and Security
Aug. 19, 1949  Church and Communism
Jul. 22, 1949  Reds in Trade Unions
Jul. 05, 1949  Academic Freedom
Feb. 11, 1948  Control of Communism in the United States
Feb. 05, 1947  Investigations of Un-Americanism
Nov. 13, 1946  Communism in America
Mar. 28, 1935  Anti-Radical Agitation
Oct. 19, 1932  The Socialist Vote in 1932
Aug. 08, 1931  National Economic Councils Abroad
Religion and Politics
Religious Movements