Monday, February 13, 2006

Liberalism is a Sin

Liberalism is a Sin
by Don Felix Sarda y Salvany


In 1886 there appeared in Spain a little work under the title El Liberalismo es Pecado: "Liberalism Is A Sin," by Don Felix Sarda y Salvany, a priest of Barcelona and editor of a journal called La Revista Popular. The book excited considerable commotion. It was vigorously assailed by the Liberals. A Spanish Bishop, of a Liberal turn, instigated an answer to Dr. Sarda's work by another Spanish priest. Both books were sent to Rome praying the Sacred Congregation of the Index to put Dr. Sarda's work under the ban. The following letter, under date January 10, 1887, from the Sacred Congregation itself, explains the result of its consideration of the two volumes:

Most Excellent Sir:

"The Sacred Congregation of the Index has received the denunciation of the little work bearing the title "El Liberalismo es Pecado" by Don Felix Sarda y Salvany, a priest of your diocese; the denunciation (pg. iii) was accompanied at the same time by another little work entitled "El Proceso del Integrismo," that is "a refutation of the errors contained in the little work El Liberalismo es Pecado." The author of the second work is D. de Pazos, a canon of the diocese of Vich.

Wherefore the Sacred Congregation has carefully examined both works, and decided as follows: In the first not only is nothing found contrary to sound doctrine, but its author, D. Felix Sarda merits great praise for his exposition and defense of the sound doctrine therein set forth with solidity, order and lucidity, and without personal offense to anyone.

The same judgement, however, cannot be passed on the other work by D. de Pazos, for in matter it needs corrections. Moreover his injurious manner of speaking cannot be approved, for he inveighs rather against the person of D. Sarda, than against the latter's supposed errors.

Therefore the Sacred Congregation has commanded D. de Pazos, admonished by his own Bishop, to withdraw his book, as far as he can, from circulation, and in future, if any discussion of the subject should arise, to abstain from all expressions personally injurious, according to the precept of true Christian charity; and this all the more (iv) since Our Holy Father Leo XIII., while he urgently recommends castigation of error, neither desires nor approves expressions personally injurious, especially when directed against those who are eminent for their doctrine and their piety.

In communicating to you this order of the Sacred Congregation of the Index, that you may be able to make it known to the illustrious priest of your diocese, D. Sarda, for his peace of mind, I pray God to grant you all happiness and prosperity and subscribe myself with great respect, Your most obedient servant,Fr. Jerome Scheri, O.P.Secretary of the Sacred Congregation of the Index."

To the Most Rev. Jacobo Catala et Alboso, Bishop of Barcelona.

The following short chapters on Liberalism are mainly and substantially Dr. Sarda's book, put into English, and adapted to our American conditions. Their need and their use will be best understood and appreciated by their perusal. (v)


The press has grown so omnipresent nowadays that there is no escape from it. It is therefore important to know exactly how to steer our course amidst the many perils that beset Catholics on this score. How then are we to distinguish between journals that merit or do not merit our confidence? Or rather, what kind of journals ought to inspire us with very little and what with no confidence? In the first place it is clear that such journals as boast of their liberalism have no claim to our confidence in matters that Liberalism touches on. These are precisely the enemies against whom we have constantly to be on guard, against whom we have to wage perpetual war. This point then is outside of our present consideration. All those who, in our times claim the title of Liberalism, in the specific sense in which we always use the term, become our declared enemies and the enemies of the Church of God.

But there is another class of journals less prompt to unmask and proclaim themselves, who love to live amidst ambiguities (151) in an undefined and indefinite region of compromise. They declare themselves Catholic and saver their detestation and abhorrence of Liberalism, at least if we credit their words. These journals are generally known as Liberal Catholic. This is the class which we should especially mistrust and not permit ourselves to be duped by its pretended piety. When we find journals Catholic in name and in profession strongly leaning to the side of compromise and seeking to placate the enemy by concessions, we may rest assured that they are being drawn down the Liberal current, which is always too strong for such weak swimmers. He who places himself in the vortex of a maelstrom is sure in the end to be engulfed in it. The logic of the situation brings the inevitable conclusion.

The Liberal current is easier to follow. It is largely made up of proselytes, and readily attracts the selflove of the weak. The Catholic current is apparently more difficult, it has fewer partisans and friends, and requires us to constantly row against the stream, to stem the tide of perverse ideas and corrupt passions. With the uncertain, the vacillating and the unwary the Liberal current easily prevails and sweeps them away in its fatal embrace. There is no room, therefore, for confidence in the (152) Liberal Catholic press, especially in cases where it is difficult to form a judgement. Moreover in such cases its policy of compromise and conciliation hamper it from forming any decisive or absolute judgement, for the simple reason that its judgement has nothing decisive or radical in it; on the contrary it is always overweighed with a preponderating inclination towards the expedient. Opportunism is the guiding star.

The truly Catholic press is altogether Catholic, that is to say, it defends Catholic doctrine in all its principles and applications, it opposes all false teaching known as such always and entirely, opposita per diametrum, as St. Ignatius says in that golden book of his exercises. It places itself on the frontier arrayed with unceasing vigilance against error, always face to face with the enemy. It never bivouacs with the hostile forces, as the compromising press loves to do. Its opposition is definite and determined, it is not simply opposed to certain undeniable maneuvers of the foe, letting others escape its vigilance, but watches, guards, and resists at every point. It presents an unbroken front to evil everywhere, for evil is evil in everything, even in the good, which, by chance, may accompany it.

Let us here make an observation to explain (153) this last phrase, which may appear startling to some, and at the same time explain a difficulty, entertained by not a few.

Note: Numbers in parenthesis throughout the text are the page numbers of the original reprint in 1963.


I. What Begets Liberalism 9

II. What Liberalism Is 16

III. Liberalism A Sin 22

IV. The Gravity Of The Sin Of Liberalism 27

V. The Degrees Of Liberalism 31

VI. Catholic Liberalism Or Liberal Catholicism 36

VII. Intrinsic Causes Of Liberal Catholicism 40

VIII. Shadow And Penumbra 46

IX. Two Kinds Of Liberalism 50

X. Liberalism Of All Shades Condemned By The Church 53

XI. The Solemn Condemnation Of Liberalism By The Syllabus 60

XII. Like Liberalism But Not Liberalism, Liberalism but not Like It 64

XIII. The Name Liberalism 69

XIV. Liberalism And FreeThought 76

XV. Can A Liberal Be In Good Faith 80 (vii)

XVI. The Symptoms Of Liberalism 86

XVII. Christian Prudence And Liberalism 92

XVIII. Liberalism And Literature 97

XIX. Charity And Liberalism 103

XX. Polemical Charity And Liberalism 107

XXI. Personal Polemics And Liberalism 115

XXII. A Liberal Objection To Ultramontane Methods 119

XXIII. The "Civilta Cattolica's" Charity To Liberals 123

XXIV. A Liberal Sophism And The Church's Diplomacy 128

XXV. How Catholics Fall Into Liberalism 133

XVI. Permanent Causes of Liberalism 137

XXVII. How To Avoid Liberalism 141

XXVIII. How To Distinguish Catholic From Liberal Works 146

XXVIV. Liberalism And Journalism 151

XXX. Can Catholics And Liberals Ever Unite 155

XXXI. An Illusion Of Liberal Catholics 160

XXXII. Liberalism And Authority In Particular Cases 164

XXXIII. Liberalism As It Is In This Country 170 (viii)

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