Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Papal Infallibility and its limitations

Papal Infallibility
And its limitations

(This article was published in the September 30th 2012 issue of The Remnant)

By Robert J. Siscoe

Papal Infallibility was defined as a dogma of the Faith, in the year 1870, during the First Vatican Council. While most people have heard of this dogma, few understand its true meaning and limitations. It is not uncommon to find non-Catholics who believe the dogma extends to the moral actions of a pope, in such a way that he is said to be incapable of sin (impeccability). Most Catholics realize that the scope of infallibility is limited to papal teachings on matters of faith and morals, but they often err by extending it beyond its boundaries; understanding infallibility as if it were a habitual active charism that prevents a pope from erring when he speaks on the subject of faith or morals. This misunderstanding on the part of Catholics in recent decades has resulted in two opposite errors. On the one hand, we have those who erroneously believe that whatever a pope says, regardless of how novel it is and how far it deviates from Tradition, must be accepted as an infallible truth, since “the pope is infallible”. On the other hand, there are some who see apparent errors in the documents of Vatican II and believe that Papal Infallibility would prevent a true pope from ratifying such documents. In both cases, the error is a result of extending Papal Infallibility beyond the limits determined by the Church.

Before proceeding, it should be noted that the purpose of this article is not to assert that Catholics are only bound to accept what has been infallibly defined by a pope or ecumenical council. The late Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton referred to this error, which was condemned by Pius IX (1), as minimism. Catholics must give assent to all that the Church teaches, either by virtue of a solemn pronouncement, or by the teaching of the ordinary and universal Magisterium. Yet at the same time, Catholics are not bound to give assent to novelties and apparent errors, even if such novelties or apparent errors come from a pope who is not exercising his infallibility. In the chaos that has followed the Second Vatican Council, it is necessary that the faithful have a correct understanding Papal Infallibility, as well as its limitations, lest the understandably confused or scandalized Catholic be led into error in one direction or the other.

The Charism:

Infallibility is a negative charism (gratia gratis data) that prevents the possibility of error. It is not to be confused with inspiration, which is a positive divine influence that moves and controls a human agent in what he says or writes; nor is it to be confused with Revelation, which is the communication of some truth by God through means which are beyond the ordinary course of nature. Infallibility pertains to the safeguarding and explanation of truths already revealed by God. Since infallibility is only a negative charism, it does not inspire a pope to teach what is true or even defend revealed truths, nor does it “make the pope’s will the ultimate standard of truth and goodness” (2), but simply prevents him from teaching error under certain limited conditions. During an address given at the First Vatican Council, Bishop Grasser, who was referred to as “the most prominent theologian at the Council”, said the following:

“In no sense is pontifical infallibility absolute, because absolute infallibility belongs to God alone, Who is the first and essential truth and Who is never able to deceive or be deceived. All other infallibility, as communicated for a specific purpose, has its limits and its conditions under which it is considered to be present. The same is valid in reference to the infallibility of the Roman Pontiff. For this infallibility is bound by certain limits and conditions...”.

The conditions for Papal Infallibility were subsequently defined by the First Vatican Council as follows:

“We teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman pontiff speaks ex cathedra, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals”.
Here we see that the divine assistance is present only when a pope, (a) using his supreme apostolic authority (b) defines a doctrine, (c) concerning faith and morals, (d) to be held by the universal Church. If any of these conditions are lacking, infallibility is not engaged and error is possible.

The Scope and Object

The scope of papal infallibility is the same as any other organ of infallibility of the Church (such as an ecumenical council): it is limited to doctrinal definitions or final definitive statements concerning faith or morals. Theologians distinguish between primary and secondary objects of infallibility. The primary object consists of the truths that have been formally revealed by God, being contained within the two sources of revelation, namely, Scripture and Tradition, and extends to both positive and negative decisions of a definitive nature. Positive decisions include such things as dogmatic decrees of a council, ex cathedra statements from a pope, and official creeds of the Church. Negative decisions consist of “the determination and rejection of such errors as are opposed to the teaching of Revelation”. (3)

The secondary object of infallibility includes those matters which, although not formally revealed, are connected with and intimately related to the revealed deposit, such as theological conclusions (inferences deduced from two premises, one of which is revealed and the other verified by reason) and dogmatic facts (contingent historical facts). These are so closely related to revealed truths that they are said to be virtually contained within the revealed deposit. With varying degrees of certitude, theologians also list universal disciplines and the canonizations of saints within this category. Secondary objects “come within the purview of infallibility, not by their very nature, but rather by reason of the revealed truth to which they are annexed. As a result, infallibility embraces them only secondarily. It follows that when the Church passes judgment on matters of this sort, it is infallible only insofar as they are connected with revelation”. (4)

It is de fide that the Church speaks infallibly when issuing a definitive and binding declaration on revealed truths (the primary object); but before the First Vatican Council could rule with certainty on whether or not the Church can make an infallible pronouncement on secondary objects, the Council was halted, by the Franco-Prussian War and the subsequent invasion of Rome, and never reconvened. Thus, the teaching that the Church can rule infallibly on secondary objects is not de fide (of the faith), but only considered Sententia certa (theologically certain). (5)

To conclude this point, infallibility applies to doctrines concerning faith and morals that have been revealed by God (de fide), and matters that are intimately related to the revealed deposit (sententia certa).

Universally Binding Definitions:

The next condition for Papal Infallibility is the clear intent to define a doctrine to be held by the whole Church. If a pope merely teaches a doctrine, yet does not intend to issue a definitive decision, this condition is not satisfied, and therefore error is possible. One example of a pope teaching error is John XXII (d. 1334), who taught that the souls of the faithful departed would only possess the Beatific Vision after the Last Judgment. He taught this error in a book published prior to his election, and also taught it publicly after being elected pope. The following account is taken from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

“In the last years of John's pontificate there arose a dogmatic conflict about the Beatific Vision, which was brought on by himself…. Before his elevation to the Holy See, he had written a work on this question, in which he stated that the souls of the blessed departed do not see God until after the Last Judgment. After becoming pope, he advanced the same teaching in his sermons. In this he met with strong opposition, many theologians, who adhered to the usual opinion that the blessed departed did see God before the Resurrection of the Body and the Last Judgment, even calling his view heretical. A great commotion was aroused in the University of Paris when the General of the Minorites and a Dominican tried to disseminate there the pope's view. … Before his death he withdrew his former opinion, and declared his belief that souls separated from their bodies enjoyed in heaven the Beatific Vision”.

After the death of John XXII, his successor, Pope Benedict XII, defined infallibly that the souls of the faithful departed, after being purified in purgatory when necessary, do indeed possess the Beatific Vision prior to the Last Judgment. (6) This example proves without question that a pope can err when he teaches a doctrine without the intent of giving a definitive decision.

There is no specific formula necessary for an ex cathedra statement, nor is any type of solemnity required. What is necessary is the clear intention of giving a definitive and universally binding decision. This condition of infallibility applies to the pope whether acting alone, or within the context of an ecumenical council. What this means is that it is within the realm of possibility for a papal encyclical, or a document issued by a general council of the Church that has been ratified by a pope, to contain error, as long as the error in question is not within a doctrinal definition. Infallibility does not necessarily cover an entire document, but only the specific definitions, or definitive decisions, contained within it. The following is taken from the pre-Vatican II manual of dogmatic theology, by Msgr. Van Noort:

“The Church's rulers are infallible not in any and every exercise of their teaching power; but only when, using all the fullness of their authority, they clearly intend to bind everyone to absolute assent or, as common parlance puts it, when they ‘define’ something in matters pertaining to the Christian religion. That is why all theologians distinguish in the dogmatic decrees of the councils or of the popes between those things set forth therein by way of definition and those used simply by way of illustration or argumentation. For the intention of binding all affects only the definition… And if in some particular instances the intention of giving a definitive decision were not made sufficiently clear, then no one would be held by virtue of such definitions, to give the assent of faith: a doubtful law is no law at all”. (7)

Notice that even within dogmatic decrees issued by a council or pope, only the definitions contained within them are protected by infallibility. Furthermore, it is necessary that the intention of giving a definitive decision be made sufficiently clear. Applying this to Vatican II, which was “merely a pastoral council” that “defined no dogma at all”, as Cardinal Ratzinger admitted (8), it is clear that if any of the documents contain error, it would not be contrary to the infallibility of the Church as a whole, nor to Papal Infallibility specifically, since infallibility as such only applies to definitions and definitive decisions.

Since Vatican II specifically avoided defining any doctrines, the only teachings of Vatican II that would be protected by infallibility are those that were defined prior to the Council, as Bishop Butler of England admitted two years after the close of Vatican II. He wrote “not all teachings emanating from a pope or Ecumenical Council are infallible. There is no single proposition of Vatican II - except where it is citing previous infallible definitions - which is in itself infallible". (9)
In the current crisis shaking the Church, we must consider, not merely what is normal, or what is to be expected, but what is possible. What could God in His justice permit, as a punishment for sin, without contradicting a dogma or violating any of His promises? That is what Catholics must consider while attempting to navigate through the post-Conciliar wasteland.

Supreme Apostolic Authority:

The final condition necessary for Papal Infallibility is that the pope teach using his supreme apostolic authority. Two things are to be considered regarding this condition: (a) The pope must be acting in his official capacity as pope; and (b) he must be using his supreme authority at its maximum power. Regarding the first point, Msgr. Van Noort explains:

“[I]f the pope speaks merely as a private individual, or as a private theologian, or as a temporal sovereign, or precisely as ordinary of the diocese of Rome, or precisely as metropolitan of the province of Rome, he should not be looked on as acting infallibly. … What is required for an infallible declaration, therefore, is that the pope be acting precisely as pope; that is, as the supreme shepherd and teacher of all Christians so that his decision looks to the universal Church and is given for the sake of the universal Church”. (10)

With respect to the second point, namely, using his authority to its maximum power, the same pre-Vatican II dogmatic manual teaches the following:

“A man who acts in an official capacity does not always make use of his full power, of the whole weight of the authority which he possesses by his very position. … Thus the pope, even acting as pope, can teach the universal Church without making use of his supreme authority at its maximum power. Now the Vatican Council defined merely this point: the pope is infallible if he uses his doctrinal authority at its maximum power, by handing down a binding and definitive decision: such a decision, for example, by which he quite clearly intends to bind all Catholics to an absolutely firm and irrevocable assent”. (11)

So even if a pope, acting as pope, teaches or praises a particular doctrine, or recommends that it alone be taught in Catholic schools, this, in and of itself, would not be considered an infallible decree, unless there was a clear intent to hand down a definitive decision.


In order for a teaching to be protected by infallibility, each and every condition must be satisfied. If a single one is lacking, infallibility is not engaged. In our day, when there is so much doctrinal confusion coming from those in authority, it is essential to realize that the charism of infallibility, as such, is limited to doctrinal definitions or definitive decisions. Just as it is possible for a pope to err when he is not defining a doctrine, for the same reason it is possible for a general council to err when it does not intend to issue a dogmatic definition – and this applies especially to Vatican II, the only council in the history of the Church that, as Cardinal Ratzinger admitted, “defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as a merely pastoral council". (12) If it is determined that the documents of Vatican II contain errors, it will not be a violation of the infallibility of the Church, since “the merely pastoral council” specifically “avoided issuing solemn dogmatic definitions backed by the Church's infallible teaching authority” (13), as Paul VI himself admitted.

We will close with the following words taken the dogmatic manual of Msgr. Van Noort:

“The Church surely makes no mistakes when it determines the force and extent of its infallibility, for the greatest harm would result if the Church, by stretching infallibility beyond its limits, could force everyone to give unqualified assent to a matter about which it is liable to be mistaken”. (14)


1) Syllabus, #22
2) Van Noort, Dogmatic Theology (DT), pg 290, published in 1959
3) Fundamental of Catholic Dogma, pg 299.
4) Van Noort, D. T. pg 110
5) According to Van Noort canonization of saints is only considered a “common opinion” (Ibid. pg 117)
6) Benedictus Deus
7) Van Noort, D. T. Pg 104
8) “The truth is that this particular Council defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as a merely pastoral council." (Cardinal Ratzinger, Address to Chilean Bishops, July 13, 1988)
9) The Tablet, 11/26/1967
10) Van Noort, D. T. Pg. 292
11) Ibid, pg 293
12) Cardinal Ratzinger, Address to the Chilean Bishops.
13) Paul VI, General Audience, 1/12/1966
14) Van Noort, D. T. pg 112

Monday, November 05, 2012

Modernism: The Synthesis of All Heresies

(This article was published in the October 2012 issue of Catholic Family News.

By Robert J. Siscoe

In the encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis, Pope St. Pius X condemned the errors of the Modernists, whom he prophetically referred to as “the most pernicious of all the adversaries of the Church”. In condemning this vast system, which he rightly termed “the synthesis of all heresies”, he explained that the Modernist assumes the various personalities of “a philosopher, a believer, a theologian, an historian, a critic, an apologist, a reformer”, and then proceeded to expound the errors of each personality in systematic fashion. In this article, we will consider the errors of the Modernist as a philosopher, who “lays the ax not to the branches and shoots, but to the very root, that is, to the faith and its deepest fibers” (1). Since the errors of Modernism are subtle and often difficult to discern, we will begin by reviewing what the Church teaches regarding faith, by distinguishing between the object of faith, the virtue of faith, and the act of faith. By having these clear distinctions fresh in our mind, we will more easily perceive the errors of this most crafty enemy.

The Object: The Deposit of Faith consists of the complete Revelation of Jesus Christ, and is contained within the two sources of revelation, namely, Scripture and Tradition. “Christ Our Lord entrusted the truth which He had brought from heaven to the Apostles, and through them to their successors”. (2) This Revelation, which contains the doctrines that make up the Catholic Faith, “has been committed as a Divine deposit to the spouse of Christ, to be faithfully guarded and infallibly interpreted by her". (3) Over the course of centuries doctrines contained within the Deposit are clarified and defined by the ecclesia docens (the magisterum), but nothing new can be added that is not contained, at least implicitly, in the Deposit of Faith, for public revelation ceased with the death of the last apostle. (4)

The Virtue: The virtue of faith is a supernatural virtue that dwells within the intellect, the purpose of which is to help us believe the truths God has revealed. Quoting the First Vatican Council, Pope Leo XIII wrote: “Faith, as the Church teaches, is ‘that supernatural virtue by which, through the help of God and through the assistance of His grace, we believe what he has revealed to be true, not on account of the intrinsic truth perceived by the natural light of reason, but because of the authority of God Himself, the Revealer, who can neither deceive nor be deceived’ (First Vatican Council, Sess. iii., cap. 3).” (5) The virtue of faith has been called the pupil of the intellect (6) (which is the eye of the soul), since it provides a supernatural light to the mind which enables the one who possesses it to see the truth in the teachings Christ has revealed.

The Act: When the Church proposes a doctrine for belief, as being divinely revealed, the individual Catholic must give assent to this truth. “All those things are to be believed by divine and Catholic faith which are contained in the written or unwritten word of God, and which are proposed by the Church as divinely revealed, either by a solemn definition or in the exercise of its ordinary and universal Magisterium". (First Vatican Council) The formal object of Faith is God revealing; the material object of faith is each individual doctrine, as well as the entire Deposit as a whole. The act of faith takes place when man, moved by the virtue of faith and grace, accepts and embraces a truth that is contained within the Deposit and proposed for belief by the Church. “This faith is an act of the intellect made under the sway of the will. By it we hold firmly what God has revealed and what the Church proposes to us to believe”. (7)

To summarize, the teachings of the Catholicism have been revealed by God and passed down to us an objective body of doctrines, which is called The Deposit of Faith. The virtue of faith dwells within the intellect and helps us to believe the truths God has revealed to man. The act of faith takes place when an individual adheres, with his intellect and will, to the individual doctrines contained within the Deposit and proposed for belief by the Church. With all this in mind, we will now consider the errors of Modernism regarding faith, revelation, and dogma.

Modernism: Modernism, which is founded on the philosophical error of agnosticism, rejects the idea that God has revealed Himself to man through public revelation. Hence, “all external revelation [is] absolutely denied.” (8) Consequently, they reject the Deposit of Faith, and the immutable truth of the doctrines contained within it. Having rejecting external public revelation, which is the foundation of the true religion, Modernists claim that religion originates from within man – from a divine principle which they call vital immanence. This “divine within”, as understood by the Modernists, is not to be confused with actual grace, by which God enlightens the mind to a truth, and moves the will to the good; nor is it to be confused with sanctifying grace, a completely gratuitous gift, distinct from the nature of man, that God infuses into the soul at baptism, and which remains as a permanent superadded quality of the soul, unless it is forfeited by man through sin. On the contrary, for a Modernist, vital immanence is a part of man’s nature, a divine seminal principle that belongs to man as a conscious being. They claim that this “divine within” is the well-spring, the font, “the germ of all religion”. (9)

This divine principle within man first manifests itself, and is perceived, as a “need for the divine”. This need for the divine produces a sentimental movement of the heart – a “religious sense”, and “it is this sense to which Modernists give the name faith” (10). Faith, for a Modernist, is nothing but “a sentiment which originates from a need of the divine”. (11)

In the Modernist system, vital immanence takes the place of God, and is at once “the revealer and the revealed”, manifest as a “religious sense” which is a sentiment of the heart. This religious sense, which springs from the “divine with”, takes the place of the virtue of faith. As we saw earlier, the virtue of faith dwells within the intellect and helps us to believe the truths that God has revealed to man through public external revelation. The religious sense on the other hand, dwells in the heart, and helps man to discover the truth “revealed” by the divine principle within man; for as Pius X explains, not only is this sense of the heart considered “faith”, but it contains within it “revelation”. He wrote: “But we have not yet reached the end of their philosophizing, or, to speak more accurately, of their folly. Modernists find in this sense not only faith, but in and with faith, as they understand it, they affirm that there is also to be found revelation”. (12)

We can see that for the Modernists, revelation does not constitute objective truth revealed by God to man, but is something that man discovers within himself. This pretended “revelation” springs forth from a divine principle within man, and is discerned in the “consciousness”, which, for a Modernist, is itself identical with revelation. “Hence it is” wrote St. Pius X, “that they make consciousness and revelation synonymous”. (13) For the Modernist, “Revelation is not a doctrine received from God, but on the contrary the subjective fruit of the concept of God which springs forth … from the depth of our conscience or consciousness”. (14) This revelation springing from the “divine within”, which is discerned in the individual consciousness, is manifested externally by the “general consciousness” of the multitude. Which brings us to the next error of Modernism: The origin of dogma.
Origin of Dogma: Up to this point everything we have discussed has taken place within the heart, the origin and well-spring of Modernist’ “revelation”; but we have now reached the point where the intellect is engaged. The purpose of the intellect, according to Modernism, is to give formal expression to the “revelation” that originates in the heart, is perceived by the individual consciousness, and finally manifested by the “general consciousness”. This formulation of “dogma” takes place in two phases: first there is an initial simple formula, which attempts to give expression to the general consciousness, but which is not always precise. This is then followed by a secondary formula, a proposition that is more perfect and precise than the first, and which, if sanctioned by the magisterium, becomes dogma; for according to the Modernists, the purpose of the magisterium is merely to sanction what has been “revealed” internally to man, manifested externally by the “general consciousness”, and sufficiently formulated by the theologians. Pius X explained it this way:

“So far, Venerable Brethren, there has been no mention of the intellect. Still it also, according to the teaching of the Modernists, has its part in the act of faith. And it is of importance to see how. In that sentiment of which We have frequently spoken, since sentiment is not knowledge, God indeed presents Himself to man, but in a manner so confused and indistinct that He can hardly be perceived by the believer. It is therefore necessary that a ray of light should be cast upon this sentiment, so that God may be clearly distinguished and set apart from it. This is the task of the intellect, whose office it is to reflect and to analyse, and by means of which man first transforms into mental pictures the vital phenomena which arise within him, and then expresses them in words. Hence the common saying of Modernists: that the religious man must ponder his faith. - The intellect, then, encountering this sentiment directs itself upon it, and produces in it a work resembling that of a painter who restores and gives new life to a picture that has perished with age. The simile is that of one of the leaders of Modernism. The operation of the intellect in this work is a double one: first by a natural and spontaneous act it expresses its concept in a simple, ordinary statement; then, on reflection and deeper consideration, or, as they say, ‘by elaborating its thought’, it expresses the idea in secondary propositions, which are derived from the first, but are more perfect and distinct. These secondary propositions, if they finally receive the approval of the supreme magisterium of the Church, constitute dogma”. (15)

While it is true that dogmatic definitions are formulated into propositions by the Church, these propositions do not give expression to the “general consciousness” of the multitude; but rather articulate, in a precise manner, a particular truth contained within the Deposit of Faith. For a Modernist, dogma is not a truth revealed by God and defined by the Church; it is a truth revealed within man, and sanctioned by the Church. They completely invert the order by making man, not God, the principle of revealed truth, and the source of all religion.

All Religions are True: According to Modernism, religion is nothing more than man attempting to give external expression to the religious sense that he “experiences” within. Hence, for a Modernist, all religions are true, since they all spring from the same divine principle within man. “Indeed Modernists do not deny but actually admit”, wrote St. Pius X, “that all religions are true. That they cannot feel otherwise is clear. For on what ground, according to their theories, could falsity be predicated of any religion whatsoever? … In the conflict between different religions, the most that Modernists can maintain is that the Catholic has more truth because it is more living and that it deserves with more reason the name of Christian because it corresponds more fully with the origins of Christianity”. (16) A Modernist may believe that one religion is more true than another, insofar as it more “fully” expresses the divine within, but all are true to a degree. Hence a Modernists is, by necessity, ecumenical, and will logically show “profound respect” for “the great religions of the world” (17) - not simply for individuals who might belong to these religions, but respect for the false religions themselves - since they too, according to the Modernist, spring from the same divine principle.

Evolution: According to the Modernists, everything is in a continual process of evolution. Man began as a lower form of life, and eventually reached the level of a conscious being. This evolutionary process will continue until man finally becomes conscious that he himself is God. Jesus, according to a Modernist, is not God who became man through the Incarnation, in order to satisfy the justice of God and thereby redeem man from sin, but simply a man who became “aware” that he was God. According to them “the divinity of Jesus was his own awareness of it”. (18) Jesus was simple a more highly evolved man, who “came to reveal man to himself” - that is, to reveal to man that he is also God!

Now, since the Modernists believe that “revelation and consciousness are synonymous”, and since they believe man’s consciousness is in a constant state of evolution, it follows that revelation itself will advance through the course of time, in correspondence with the ever-evolving consciousness of man. This explains how a Modernist can reject, without a scruple, what has been taught by the Church since the beginning. After all, if man is continuously evolving to a higher “consciousness”, and if revelation is nothing more than the “general consciousness” of man at a particular phase of the evolutionary process; and if he believes that modern man is more evolved than those who preceded him, why would he not accept a new “truth” - a new revelation - that corresponds to the more advanced reason he imagines himself to possess? An “enlightened” Modernist will naturally consider himself superior to those who preceded him, and to those less evolved men of his own time who still hold to the religious teachings of antiquity. This explains why the Modernists in the hierarchy will show great tolerance for a man such Hans Kung, who may simply be ahead of his time, while at the same time these same Modernist prelates will react with disgust toward someone like Archbishop Lefebvre, who refused to abandon the perennial teaching of the Church and the dogmatic decrees of the councils. This also explains why a Modernist would shy away from the idea of objective immutable truth, and from holding firmly to any dogma, lest in so doing he risk the danger of not progressing to the next evolutionary phase of “higher consciousness”.

Life = Truth: Since Modernists reject the idea of a public external revelation as the foundation of the true religion, and instead hold that religion emanates from a divine principle within man, how will he know if a religion is “authentic”? For the Modernists, if something is alive they consider it evidence that it is true. “For the Modernists” wrote Pius X, “to live is a proof of truth, since for them life and truth are one and the same thing”. (19) Now, since Modernists believe that all living things are evolving, and since evolution involves change, for something to be alive it must continually change; that which is not changing is not alive, and therefore not true. Hence, according to Modernism, for religion to remain true, it must be subject to continuous change – to an ongoing “aggiornamento” – and this change will not be limited to the external Rites, but to truth itself! Which brings us to the next error: Evolution of Dogma.

Evolution of Dogma: According to the Modernists, a dogmatic definition does not express absolute immutable truth, but is merely a useful tool - a symbol – used to express the “truth” of a particular time – a “truth” that is manifest by the “general consciousness" of the people. As man evolves to a higher consciousness, truth itself, and the dogmas that express it, will need to be updated and changed. “Hence”, wrote St. Pius X, according to the Modernists “it is quite impossible to maintain that [dogmas] express absolute truth: for, in so far as they are symbols, they are the images of truth, and so must be adapted to the religious sentiment in its relation to man… Consequently, the formulae too, which we call dogmas, must be subject to these vicissitudes, and are, therefore, liable to change. Thus the way is open to the intrinsic evolution of dogma. An immense collection of sophisms that ruin and destroy all religion. Dogma is not only able, but ought to evolve and to be changed. This is strongly affirmed by the Modernists, and clearly flows from their principles”. (20)

Evolution of dogma may be one of the greatest traps for Catholics today. By claiming that dogmas evolve and change from one meaning to another, Catholics are led by the Modernists to reject what the Church has always taught in favor of new teachings. The truth is that not only are dogmas infallibly articulated expressions of immutable truth, but the understanding of them is immutable as well. In other words, not only is the dogmatic formula infallible, but the way in which the formula is understood is itself fixed. It is never permitted to depart from what the Church has taught under the pretext of a “deeper understanding”, as the First Vatican Council teaches:
“The doctrine of the faith which God revealed has not been handed down as a philosophic invention to the human mind to be perfected, but has been entrusted as a divine Deposit to the Spouse of Christ, to be faithfully guarded and infallibly interpreted. Hence, also, that understanding of its sacred dogmas must be perpetually retained, which Holy Mother Church has once declared; and there must never be recession from that meaning under the specious name of a deeper understanding”. (21)
And again…

“If anyone shall have said that it is possible that to the dogmas declared by the Church a meaning must sometimes be attributed according to the progress of science, different from that which the Church has understood and understands: let him be anathema”. (22)

One of the tactics employed by the Modernists to promote the evolution of dogma, is to refer to it as “development of doctrine”. True development of doctrine, which differs substantially from the heresy of evolution of dogma, can be understood in two ways: it can refer to a greater clarity in the manner of expressing a truth that has always been believed, or it can be understood as defining explicitly a doctrine that has always been believed implicitly. Regarding the latter, Bishop Tissier de Mallerais explained that through the centuries, there is an increase in the number of propositions, but no new Revelation. He wrote:

“In the New Testament there is an increase in the propositions by the organs of Tradition, especially the Magisterium, and hence a passage from the implicit to the explicit…. There is then a development, not in the articles of the Faith but in the explanation of the truths of the revealed deposit. … It is a development like a bud which blossoms... like a bud which opens up very beautifully, but remains the same bud. There is an unfolding, but without alteration; a displaying of all that which had been contained within from the outset. One calls this homogeneous because there is no mutation. It is the same living species, the same plant, it is a development without mutation, it is the same reality unfolding itself and making explicit all its details, but it is the same reality.” (23)

True doctrinal development never departs from the original understanding, but only adds greater clarity to what was always believed, at least implicitly. Evolution of dogma, on the other hand, results in a substantial change in the meaning of the doctrine. Sometimes evolution of dogma will manifest itself in an explicit denial of the dogmatic formula itself. For example, when extra ecclesiam nulla salus is brought up, it is not uncommon to hear a Modernist say “we don’t believe that anymore”. Some of the more “conservative” Modernists will begrudgingly accept the proposition, but then water it down to such an extent that it becomes, as Pius XII wrote, “a meaningless formula” (24). No Salvation Outside of theChurch is a dogma completely incompatible with Modernism, and therefore must be eliminated to make way for what John Paul II called the “invincible guarantee of universal salvation”. (25) Some of the more crafty Modernists will retain the traditional terminology, yet infuse into it a completely different meaning. For example, they will use the word “transubstantiation”, yet their understanding and explanation of the word will be identical to the Lutheran heresy of consubstantiation (26); or they might retain the phrase ‘resurrection of the body’, but then argue that it means “not to the resurrection of physical bodies, but of persons”. (27)

Whichever tactic is employed, whether it be an outright rejection of a dogma, or treating the proposition as “a meaningless formula”, or infusing an altogether new meaning into the traditional terminology, the end result is one and the same, namely, a corruption of the Deposit of Faith through the corruption of the articles of faith contained within it - and this applies to each and every article of the faith, “for there is no part of Catholic truth that they leave untouched, none that they do not strive to corrupt” (28)

To counteract this destructive error, Pope St. Pius X included the following phrase in his Oath Against Modernism, which he required all priests, seminarians, and seminary professors to take annually, and which remained in force until the New Springtime arrived in July, 1967. The section reads:

“Fourthly, I sincerely hold that the doctrine of faith was handed down to us from the apostles through the orthodox Fathers in exactly the same meaning and always in the same purport. Therefore, I entirely reject the heretical misrepresentation that dogmas evolve and change from one meaning to another different from the one which the Church held previously. I also condemn every error according to which, in place of the divine deposit which has been given to the spouse of Christ to be carefully guarded by her, there is put a philosophical figment or product of a human conscience that has gradually been developed by human effort and will continue to develop indefinitely”.
Cause of Modernism: St. Pius X lists three causes of Modernism, namely, pride, curiosity and ignorance. He wrote: “It is pride which puffs them up with that vainglory which allows them to regard themselves as the sole possessors of knowledge, and makes them say, elated and inflated with presumption, ‘We are not as the rest of men’.” He said that curiosity, if not regulated by prudence “suffices to account for all errors”, and leads to the “spirit of novelty”, which has always been the mark of heresy. But the proximate cause of Modernism, according to the Pope, “consists in a perversion of the mind” and ignorance.

“[T]he intellectual cause of Modernism … and the chief one, is ignorance. Yes, these very Modernists who seek to be esteemed as Doctors of the Church, who speak so loftily of modern philosophy and show such contempt for scholasticism, have embraced the one with all its false glamour, precisely because their ignorance of the other has left them without the means of being able to recognize confusion of thought and to refute sophistry. Their whole system, containing as it does errors so many and so great, has been born of the union between faith and false philosophy”. (29)

Conclusion: Modernism is more than a heresy. Heresy denies one or more dogmas of the Catholic Faith. Modernism undermines all dogma by denying the immutable nature of truth itself. Modernism is truly a new religion – the religion of man. In this religion, vital immanence – “the divine within” - puts man in the place of God; the “religious sense”, which is produced by the “divine within”, replaces the virtue of faith; while the ever-evolving “general consciousness” constitutes the equivalent of the deposit of faith. In this religion of man, everything is turned upside down: God did not become man through the Incarnation; instead, man is becoming God through the process of evolution. In this inverted religion, the true God is rejected, and all things are “ordained to man as to their center and summit”. May the good God preserve us from these monstrous errors, “which ought not to seduce clear thinking minds”, and may our Lady of Fatima pray for us. Amen.

1) Pascendi, 3
2) Pius XII Allocution Si Diligis, 1954
3) First Vatican Council
4) Lamentabali # 21
5) Satis Cognitum
6) See Dialogue of Catherin of Siena, pg 126
7) Catholic Encyclopedia
8) Pascendi, 7
9) Ibid, 10
10) Ibid, 7
11) Ibid, 7
12) Ibid, 8
13) Ibid, 8
14) 100 years of Modernism pg. 85
15) Pascendi, 11
16) Ibid, 14
17) John Paul II, Angelus Address, Oct. 12, 1986:
18) 100 years of Modernism pg. 85
19) Pascendi, 15
20) Ibid, 13
21) First Vatican Council
22) Ibid
23) The true notion of Tradition, January 1997 issue of Si Si No No
24) “Some reduce to a meaningless formula the necessity of belonging to the true Church in order to gain eternal salvation”. (Humani Generis)
26) Message to the Abbes of the Order of the Most Holy Redeemer, September 21, 2002
27) “It now becomes clear that the real heart of faith in the resurrection does not consist at all in the idea of the restoration of bodies, to which we have reduced it in our thinking ( …) One thing at any rate may be fairly clear: Both John (6:63), and Paul (1 Cor. 15:50) state with all possible emphasis that the ‘resurrection of the flesh’, the ‘resurrection of the body’, is not a resurrection of the physical bodies… To recapitulate, Paul teaches, not the resurrection of eternal physical bodies, but the resurrection of persons, and this not in the return of the ‘flesh body’, that is, the biological structure…” (Introduction to Christianity by Fr. Joseph Ratzinger, pgs 349, 357-58)
28) Pascendi, 3
29) Ibid, 41

Monday, March 05, 2012


A Defence of the Catholic Priesthood
by Michael Davies
1979 AND 1993

Appendix I
The Substance of a Sacrament

The Catechism of the Council of Trent, following St. Augustine and St. Thomas, emphasizes the nature of the seven Sacraments sacred signs, but signs which possess by Divine institution the power to effect what they signify. 1 They are, as the Penny Catechism explains, outward signs of inward grace. The outward sign of the Sacrament can be discerned by the senses, it is a sensible sign. This sensible aspect of the Sacrament constitutes but one sign, although this sign has two constituent parts-----the matter, which is called the element, and the form, which is commonly called the word. 2 In order to bring the Sacrament to completion a third element is necessary, the minister of the Sacrament, who effects it with the intention of doing what the Church does. All three things are essential, "and, if anyone of these three is lacking, the Sacrament is not effected" (D. 695).

The Council of Trent declares that the Church has always possessed the power-----in the dispensation or administration of the Sacraments-----to determine or to change those things which she judges to be more expedient for those receiving them or for the reverence due to the Sacraments themselves, according to the circumstances of time and place. An exception is made with regard to the substance of a Sacrament which the Church has no power to alter-----salva illorum substantia: provided their substance is retained (D. 93 1).

The question immediately arises as to what belongs to the substance of a particular Sacrament, and the answer will depend upon whether Our Lord instituted it generically (in genere) or specifically (in specie). In the former case, He left it to the supreme authority of His Church to decide the particular signs which should signify and effect the sacramental grace. Where Christ instituted a Sacrament in specie, as regards either matter or form, the Church has no power to change them. Our Lord chose water for the matter of Baptism and bread and wine for the matter of the Holy Eucharist; nothing else can ever be admitted. 3 But even here the Church enjoys a certain latitude in fixing the precise nature of the matter. Where bread for the Holy Eucharist is concerned, priests of the Latin rite are bound to use unleavened bread-----just as Our Lord did at the Last Supper. But there are other rites, Uniate and Orthodox, in which leavened bread is used-----and the Church recognizes this as equally valid. The Pope possesses the legal power to impose the use of unleavened bread upon the Eastern rites or of leavened bread upon the Latin Church-----but until the reforms of Vatican II it had always been the Catholic custom to hold fast to the traditions which have been handed down, liturgical traditions in particular, and never to change them even in minor matters without a compelling reason for doing so.

With regard to the form of a Sacrament, some Catholics have mistakenly identified the form itself with a particular formula employed by the Church to express it, and have concluded that this formula cannot be changed without invalidating the Sacrament. Hence they have fallen into the error of believing that the Church has no power to make changes in the matter and form of any Sacrament, having mistakenly identified the matter and form in current usage with the substance of the Sacraments themselves, which Trent taught could not be changed.

The view that the Church can make no change in the matter and form of any Sacrament is historically indefensible. "The custom of the Church in different ages and countries shows that the form is not fixed in its particular words." 4 The Armenian Decree of the Council of Florence (1439) is sometimes cited in defence of the view that the Church cannot change the form of a Sacrament (D. 695-702). Apart from anything else, this decree is not an infallible pronouncement. The Council was not teaching the whole Church but only the Armenians, and it was simply setting forth for their benefit an authoritative interpretation of the sacramental rites which they were to accept and implement. The decree sets out sacramental forms which they are to use; it does not preclude the possibility of c the Church modifying those forms without changing their essential meaning. Indeed, the Council of Florence clearly held that the Church has the power, within certain limits, to alter the matter and form of some of the Sacraments. For example, after stating that the form for Baptism is: "I Baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost", it adds: "But we do not deny that true Baptism is given by the words: 'This servant of Christ, N., is Baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost' ." The Council gave no explicit teaching on the extent of the Church's power to alter the matter and form of the Sacraments, but in justifying the variant forms of Baptism it clearly assumes that all permissible forms will be substantially identical in meaning. 5

The Sacrament of Order provides a clear example of the Church revising her teaching on what constitutes the matter and form of a particular Sacrament. The Decree to the Armenians states:

Its matter is that by the giving of which the Order is conferred; thus the priesthood is conferred by the giving of a chalice with wine and a paten with bread . . .The form of the priesthood is as follows: "Receive power to offer sacrifice in the Church for the living and the dead, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost" (D. 701). 6

The matter, in this case, is the act of handing over, or "tradition" (traditio), of the instruments. The imposition of hands by the ordaining bishop had been the matter of the Sacrament in Apostolic times, and this practice has been retained as the sole matter down to the present-day by all the Eastern rites, with the exception of the Armenians. The Latin rite itself did not possess the ceremony of the "tradition" until the tenth century, and until that time the imposition of hands constituted the matter in the Western as well as the Eastern Church.

But from that time the ordination rites in the Latin Church were expanded and developed by the addition of other significant ceremonies, which both enhanced the solemnity of the occasion and also brought out the sacramental symbolism more clearly.

So, throughout the history of the development of the sacramental liturgy, the tendency has always been towards growth-----additions and accretions, the effort to obtain a fuller, more perfect, more clearly significant symbolism. Thus many beautiful and highly appropriate ceremonies have from time to time been added to the ordinals in use in various parts of the Church, but nothing has been discarded; and notably, the imposition of hands holds in every one of them the same position, and has the same significance and import that it ever held and possessed. 7

The ceremony of the "tradition" consisted of the handing over to the candidate of those things used in the exercise of the Order in question, namely the chalice containing wine and the paten with bread for the Priesthood, and the book of the Gospels for the Diaconate, together with a form of words signifying the power conferred by ordination. By the thirteenth century the "tradition" of the instruments had been universally adopted throughout the Latin Church, so much so that the scholastics began to teach that this tradition of the instruments, with the respective form of words, belonged to the sacramental matter and form. 8 This was indeed the opinion of St. Thomas Aquinas; Pope Eugenius IV cited his very words in instructing the Armenians (D. 701).

It is not necessary to study in detail the long and complex theological disputes which took place on this question. The obvious problem was that, if the "tradition" of the instruments was necessary for validity, what of all the ordinations which had taken place in the centuries prior to its introduction and of those in the Eastern rites where there was no "tradition"? Pope Pius XII settled the matter in his constitution Sacramentum Ordinis of 30 November 1947 (D. 2301). He decreed that the sole matter of the Sacrament is the imposition of hands and the sole form consists of the words of the Preface of the rite, the essential words being:

Grant, we beseech Thee, Almighty Father, to this Thy servant, the dignity of the priesthood; renew the spirit of holiness within him, that he may hold from Thee, O God, the second rank in Thy service and by the example of his behaviour afford a pattern of holy living.

Pope Pius XII thus taught conclusively that the tradition of the instruments is not necessary for validity, but he did not pronounce on whether it had been necessary for validity within the Latin rites up to the promulgation of Sacramentum Ordinis. He contented himself with observing that "if at any time the delivery of the instruments has, by the will and enactment of the Church, been necessary even for validity, everybody knows that what the Church has once ordained she can change and abrogate." This final comment refers, of course, to those aspects of the administration of the Sacraments over which the Church does have power, and not to the substance of the Sacraments, which can never be changed.

Pope Pius XII made no change in the rite of ordination itself, in which the tradition of instruments was retained. In this respect it is worth noting that the essential form as laid down by the Pope simply states that the candidate has been admitted to the dignity of the Priesthood. It does not state in specific terms (expressis verbis) what powers have been conferred upon the priest, just as the essential form in other Sacraments does not always state their specific effects. For example, the form of Baptism does not state specifically that the candidate has been cleansed from the stain of Original Sin. However, the powers conferred upon a priest and the effects of Baptism are signified specifically in other parts of the traditional rites. Thus the form itself can derive its signification from other parts of the rite into which it is incorporated. Pope Leo XIII explained that the Anglican Ordinal did contain certain words which might conceivably "be held to suffice in a Catholic rite which the Church had approved."

It is possible to find ancient ordination rites whose validity the Church does not contest, in which the intention of ordaining a sacrificing priest is made explicit neither in the essential form nor anywhere else in the rite. The fact that these powers are nowhere mentioned expressis verbis has no bearing on the validity of the rite. As was explained above, the history of sacramental liturgy is a history of development towards a fuller and more significant symbolism. There is no parallel at all between a primitive rite which had not developed to the point of clearly signifying its effects and a rite, such as that of the Anglican Ordinal, in which such developments had been deliberately discarded to manifest a rejection of Catholic teaching. As St. Thomas Aquinas explains, additions or suppressions which change a rite from that which is recognized by the Church indicate an intention other than that of the Church and hence lead to invalidity. 9

Where the essential form, the "operative formula" of a sacramental rite, does not expressly mention the power and grace conferred by a Sacrament, but this power and grace is signified in other parts of the rite, this form of signification is termed determinatio ex adiunctis. Father Francis Clark explains that:

The sacramental signification of an ordination rite is not necessarily limited to one phrase or formula, but can be clearly conveyed from many different parts of the rite. These other parts could thus contribute, either individually or in combination, to determining the sacramental meaning of the operative formula in an unambiguous sense. Thus the wording of an ordination form, even if not specifically determinate in itself, can be given the required determination from its setting (ex adiunctis), that is, from the other prayers and actions of the rite, or even from the connotation of the ceremony as a whole in the religious context of the age. 10

All valid Sacraments are Sacraments of the Catholic Church and sacramental rites composed by separated Christians can be valid only in so far as their matter and form suffice to confect the Catholic Sacrament.

The only formulae that infallibly and necessarily contain the essential significance of a Sacrament are those which have been canonised by being instituted by Christ and His Church for that purpose. Such words, when exactly reproduced, are removed beyond the reach of ambiguity or private distortion. Thus for example the formula for Baptism and the words of consecration in the Eucharist are always and necessarily a sufficient sacramental form, even if included in a rite of obvious heretical purport. 11

However, validity could still be nullified by defect of matter or ministerial intention. But where a form and matter not specified by Our Lord are involved the presumption of validity is considerably lessened. The one, true Church alone can pronounce on its validity, and can do so with certainty: "a certainty based on the 'practical infallibility' of the Church's determining decrees, which in the sacramental sphere effectively guarantee what they declare." 12

Thus, the very fact that the Church declares a rite to be valid or invalid is proof that this is the case.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Communion of Saints: Ecclesiology

Communion of Saints:
St. Robert Bellarmine on the Mystical Body of Christ
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

Shortly after his defection from Rome, Johann Döllinger bitterly reproached the First Vatican Council with “doing nothing but defining the private opinions of a single man—Cardinal Robert Bellarmine.” The accusation is false but suggestive, because it leads us to investigate the teaching of St. Robert on the organization of the Catholic Church as the Mystical Body of Christ. Most of the Council’s business had to deal with the origin and nature of the one true Church. Moreover, Bellarmine’s ecclesiology was the main source from which the Fathers of the Council drew their decrees and definitions. Consequently, with the current interest even among non-Catholics in the Church of Christ as the Mystical Body, we should not overlook what St. Robert Bellarmine has to say about a subject in which the Church herself considers him the outstanding authority.


Pope Pius XII, in his Encyclical Mystici Corporis, confirms this authority when he quotes St. Robert to support his explanation of why the social Body of the Church should be honored with the name of Christ. “As Bellarmine notes with acumen and accuracy,” the Pope says, “this naming of the Body of Christ is not to be explained solely by the fact that Christ must be called the Head of His Mystical Body, but also by the fact that He so sustains the Church, and so in a sense lives in the Church, that it is, as it were, another Christ.” 1 So much for an apologetic of Bellarmine’s qualifications. What follows is a synthesis of his doctrine on the Mystical Body taken from his sermons and controversies, which, it is hoped, will help to amplify several points of detail which the Mystici Corporis only suggests but otherwise does not develop or dwell upon.

The Mystical Body of Christ Is the Catholic Church

It is significant that Bellarmine went out of his way to emphasize what seems so obvious to us—that the Mystical Body of Christ is also the established Church of Christ. Until his time, there were relatively few Christians not in communion with Rome who claimed that their organization was the Body of Christ of which St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “You are the Body of Christ, member for member” (I Cor., xii. 27). But with the advent of Luther and Calvin the situation changed. On the one hand, they preached an invisible Church founded on faith and predestination; on the other hand, they called their Church the Body of Christ. This was a new idea and challenge to traditional Catholic theology.

The Mystical Body of Christ, the predestinarians argued, is not unlike His tangible physical Body. And since the whole physical Body of Christ is in heaven and glorified with all its component parts, it follows that the Mystical Body should also arrive at heavenly glory in all its individual members. The statement looks harmless enough until we examine its implications. If every member of the Mystical Body is going to be saved and the Church of Christ is the Body, then the only members of the Church are those whom God has eternally decreed should enter heaven. Everyone else is a putative member only, deceived by God and deceiving himself that he is even a Christian, much less a part of the Mystical Body.

“My first reaction to this doctrine,” Bellarmine observes, “is that the opposition has pushed the analogy between the mystical and physical Bodies of Christ far beyond the limits ever intended for them by the Apostle. They are certainly alive in general outline, but not in every detail. And besides, even the physical Body of Christ entered heaven and was glorified only in its formal constituents, but not in all its natural parts, many of which were lost and changed with the passage of time, as we notice happens in our own bodies. So, it is correct enough to say that the whole Mystical Body will be saved in its constitutive elements, inasmuch as every class in the Catholic Church—apostles, prophets, teachers, confessors and virgins—will be represented among the saved. It is not true, however, that all its material elements, that is, every numerical member of the Mystical Body, will finally attain to salvation.” 2

Calvinists and The Mystical Body

Another argument, of the Calvinists particularly, was that the only Church of which Christ may be said to be the Head is the one which He will eventually save and “set before Him on the Day of Judgment—glorious and without spot or wrinkle,” as described by the Apostle in his Epistle to the Ephesians. However, since only the predestined will be saved and glorified, only they are properly to be considered members of the Church of Christ.

St. Robert answers: “It all depends on how you understand the expression, ‘His Church.’ If it is taken to mean that Christ is Head only of that part of ‘His Church’ which He will save, then the proposition is false. Christ is Head of the whole Mystical Body, in spite of the tragic fact that certain people who are now its members, will be lost for all eternity. But if ‘His Church’ is understood to include the whole body of the faithful as distinguished from the societies of unbelievers, then the proposition is true, while the conclusion deduced from it is false. For although some members of this Church will not be saved, it is wrong to conclude that therefore Christ does not save His Church, of which He is the Head.” 3

However, Bellarmine does not limit his concept of the Mystical Body to the visible Church on earth. The Mystical Body of Christ is composed of three “Churches”—the Church Militant, the Church Suffering and the Church Triumphant. He has as little sympathy with those who denied membership in the Body of Christ to the souls in purgatory and the Saints in heaven, as he had with anyone who restricted its membership to the predestined and elect or extended it to those who were united only by a common, internal faith in Christ.

Bellarmine Defends Honoring the Saints

In his defense of the Holy Eucharist against the Calvinists, St. Robert had to answer some of their stock charges on the traditional custom of offering the Holy Sacrifice in honor of the Saints. He explains that the Protestant bias against this practice arises form two fundamental errors in their theology: one a misunderstanding of Catholic doctrine, where they claim that we offer the Mass as an act of adoration to the Saints instead of to God; the other is an unwarranted limitation of membership in the Mystical Body. “The practice of offering Holy Mass to honor the Saints,” he says, “is especially appropriate as a public expression of our belief in the Communion of Saints. The Sacrifice of the physical Body of Christ is an oblation of the corporate Mystical Body of Christ. Moreover, since we do not hesitate to mention the names of living persons, such as the Pope and bishop, in the ritual of the Mass, why should we fail to remember those of the faithful departed who are in heaven or in purgatory, when all of them belong to the same Body of the Lord? According to St. Augustine, there is no better way of fulfilling the one great purpose for which the Eucharistic Sacrifice was instituted, than that it might symbolize the universal sacrifice in which the whole Mystical Body of Christ —the whole regenerated City of God—is offered by the hands of the great High Priest to the glory of His Heavenly Father. Once we recognize the Saints, no less than we, are organically united to the Mystical Body, it becomes not only proper but necessary that their memory should be recalled during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.” 4

Membership in The Mystical Body

In general, however, when Bellarmine speaks of the Mystical Body, he has in mind only the first of its three branches, the Church Militant—or, in other words, the visible organization of the Roman Catholic Church. Thus, in treating the delicate question of occult infidels, he refutes the doctrine of Calvin who held that, if a baptized person has lost the virtue of faith, in spite of his external profession of belief and conformity with Christian practice he is no longer a member of the organic Body of Christ. “It is certainly true,” he admits, “that a sincere faith and not its mere external profession is required if we are to be internally united to the Body of Christ, which is the Church …. But even the man who makes only an outward profession along with the rest of the faithful is a true member, albeit a dry and dead member, of the Body of the Church.” 5 It follows, therefore, that the Mystical Body of Christ is the Roman Catholic Church, whose members are all those who have been baptized and who at least externally practice and profess the true faith. Commentators on the Mystici Corporis make special note of the fact that, after centuries of controversy on the subject, the Pope has authoritatively approved Bellarmine’s doctrine on the minimum essentials for membership in the Mystical Body—which reads like a paraphrase from the third book of St. Robert’s De Conciliis. In the words of Pope Pius XII, “only those are really to be included as members of the Church who have been baptized and profess the true faith and have not unhappily withdrawn from Body-unity, or for grave faults been excluded by legitimate authority. For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one Body.” 6

Sinners as Members of The Mystical Body

John Wyclif, and after him the Protestants in general, allowed that all the justified in the state of grace, and only they, are members of the Mystical Body. Even Catholic theologians like de Soto and Cano, when they came to explain how sinners are members of the Body of Christ, gave them analogous membership and nothing more. They admitted that baptized persons in the state of sin may be called “the faithful” and “Christians,” but only in the sense that they are somehow externally attached to the Body of the Church. “Not only the organs and limbs,” they argued, “but also bodily secretions, the teeth, the hair, and such like, all belong to the body.” Bellarmine refused to accept this view. “If what they say is true, the consequences are impossible. A wicked Pope then is not the Head of the Church, and other bishops, if they are in sin, are also not heads of their respective churches. For the head is not a bodily secretion or the hair, but a member of the body—indeed, its most important member.”

“To solve the difficulty, therefore, we have to distinguish two senses in which a member of the body may be understood. It may be taken in the strict sense to designate the member in itself, in its essence and substance as a member. Or it may mean a member of the body in its capacity as a medium of activity through which the body operates. Thus, for example, the eye of a man and the eye of a horse are specifically different as substances or entities because they are radicated specially different souls. But as kinetic instruments they are specifically the same because both have the same end and object of their operation—both being directed to the sensible perception of color.

“An evil bishop, a bad priest, a layman in grievous sin are dead members of the Body of Christ, and therefore not true members, if we understand ‘member’ in the strict sense of an integral part of a living body. However, these same ‘dead members’ are very vital members if we consider them as instruments of activity within the Church. So that the Pope and bishops are real heads, the teachers and preachers are real eyes and tongues of the Body of Christ, even when they have fallen from the grace of God. For while it is true that a Christian becomes a living member of this Body through charity, yet in the Providence of God the instruments of operation in the Church are constituted by the power of orders and jurisdiction, which can be obtained and exercised even by a man who is personally an enemy of God.

“Hence the great difference between a physical body, in which a dead member cannot serve as a vital instrument, and the supernatural Mystical Body, where this is not only possible but actually happens. To explain the paradox we should recall that in natural bodies their work depends entirely on the health and soundness of the organs by which they act. But the Mystical Body of Christ can operate independently of the virtue and vitality of its members, because the soul of this Body, which is the Holy Spirit, can function equally through good instruments as through bad, through instruments that are alive as through those which are dead.” 7

The Functions and Parts of The Mystical Body

For seven years, starting in 1568, Bellarmine taught theology at Louvain, where he met and successfully routed Michael de Bay, father of Baianism and author of the pernicious theory that man can live the life of friendship with God even before Baptism and without the remission of sins. During this time he also preached every week at the Cathedral to a mixed congregation of Catholics and non-Catholics, some of whom came all the way from Elizabethan England just to hear him speak. About a hundred of these discourses have come down to us, among them a panegyric on Our Lady, given on the Feast of her Nativity, in which the Saint recalled that this was the anniversary of another sermon preached not far away by Martin Luther, when he blasphemously attacked the sanctity of the Mother of God, telling his audience that: “She has no more intercessory power with God than you or I, because she is no more holy than we.”

Bellarmine launched into what perhaps the most bitter attack on any opponent that can be found in all his extant writings. Best of all, though, is the occasion which this defense of Mary’s sanctity gave him to reveal her transcendent position in the Mystical Body of her Divine Son.

“The Church,” he explains, “is a most beautifully organized and stately Body of which Christ, the God-man, is the Head. ‘For the Lord hath made Him Head over all the Church,’ as the Apostle says. What is the Head? It is the principle and governing force of the Body. Christ is, therefore, the Head because, as He tells us, ‘I am the principle who speak with you.’ In what way is the head superior to the other members of the body? In this that, while the rest of the body is possessed of only one bodily sense and that the most ignoble, the head is gifted with all the senses, including the sense of touch. Christ is, therefore, the Head in whom are the eyes of His providence, by which He watches over us; the ears of His mercy, by which He listens to our prayers; the nostrils of His justice, by which after death He will separate the good from the wicked and who have lived among us; and the palate of experience, by which He tries the virtue and fidelity of the least and the greatest of us.

‘What is the special function of the head? To give sense and movement to the other members. So, Christ is the Head because He freely gives life and movement, that is faith and charity, and all the virtues, to the faithful members who compose His Body. And although at times and to a limited degree He permits, or rather commits, to mere man the function of certain senses (like the sense of sight to teachers, of speech to preachers, of sight and smell and hearing to pastors), yet He always reserves to Himself the faculty of giving life and motion, which is the special prerogative of the head of every body.” 8

The Holy Spirit in The Mystical Body

Anticipating by three centuries the doctrine of the Mystici Corporis in which Pope Pius XII attributes to the Holy Spirit the invisible principle of life in the Mystical Body, Bellarmine declares: “The Heart, which is in the center of the Body, and which, although itself unseen, mysteriously nourishes the parts that are seen, is the Holy Ghost. For He is not clothed with human flesh and thus made visible, like the Head, who is Christ our Lord. They rant, therefore, who madly assert that Melchisedech or one of the prophets is the Holy Spirit. No, the Spirit of Christ is not visible to human eyes, and yet it is He who governs and feeds and keeps alive the Body of Christ, which is the Catholic Church.” 9

Bellarmine lived in the period of horrible transition from orthodoxy to heresy, when Calvin was teaching the people that there is no priesthood and no hierarchy, when Luther was calling the Pope “Antichrist” and bishops and priests “destroyers of human souls.” But if the Church which Christ established is His Body, this Body must have shoulders, and these shoulders, according to Bellarmine, are the Apostles, and the Roman Pontiffs, bishops and priests who have succeeded them. “We are accustomed to placing burdens on our shoulders,” he writes, “and so also Christ has done, by placing the burden of the Church’s government on the shoulders of the Apostles and their priestly successors. It follows, therefore, as the Fathers of the Church keep reminding us, that the episcopal office is not so much a dignity as a heavy responsibility. Hence also, the Supreme Pastor of souls, on whom rests the heaviest burden of all, appropriately calls himself the servant of the servants of God.” 10

There are two sorts of enemies with whom the Church has had to contend in the course of her history: pagans and infidels from without, and heretics from within her ranks. Against both of these Christ has endowed His Mystical Body with adequate means of defense. Bellarmine conceives the martyrs and teachers of the Catholic Church as the arms of the Mystical Body. “What are the martyrs,” he asks, “but the arms of the Body of Christ—men and women who fight with the sword of God’s word and conquer the enemies of His name by the shedding of their blood? And not only the martyrs but the teachers of Christ’s doctrine are the arms of His Body. Both are equally necessary to combat the forces of evil that are aligned against the Church. Pagans and the spirit of idolatry are met and defeated by the martyrs; heretics and apostates by the teachers. If the most painful kind of death is martyrdom, the most dangerous kind of life is to teach the truth. To both has Christ promised the reward of victory, not only in heaven, but over their enemies even here on earth.” 11

Protestant Assaults on The Practice of Celibacy

An unfamiliar side of the Protestant revolt was the disgraceful way in which the self-appointed reformers of the Church’s morals allied themselves against her doctrine and practice of celibacy. In a rhetorical passage of his “Babylonian Captivity,” Luther pleaded with “the prisoners of the monastic life” to break the chains which bound them to their monasteries and to serve Christ with the untrammeled liberty of the children of God. If any of them still hesitated to accept the responsibilities of marriage, he argued, let them remember that this is only a ruse of the devil who would have them reverse the order of divine providence and obey man rather than God.

Against this background it is easier for us to sympathize with the strong feeling to which Bellarmine would give expression whenever he wrote on the subject of virginity. “Virgins,” he believes, “are the vitals of the Mystical Body, comparably close to God as the vitals of a physical body are close to the human heart. If only the swillers, gluttons and lechers among the heretics understood how pleasing is virginity in the eyes of God, how ‘they follow the Lamb wherever He goes, singing a new song before the throne which no one else can sing’ (Apoc., xiv. 3, 4)! If only they would read the promise which the Lord had spoken through the prophet Isaias: ‘Let not the eunuch say: “behold I am a dry tree.” For thus saith the Lord to the eunuchs; ‘I will give to them in My house and within My walls a place and a name better than sons and daughters. I will give them an everlasting name which shall never perish’ (Is, lvi. 3, 4). But the enemies of the Church will not read and will not understand. If only they realized that, by forcing consecrated virgins to marry, they are tearing at the very entrails of the Mystical Body and robbing it of its dearest possession. If only they realized this, I say, they would not so readily debauch the minds of the young with their devilish doctrine about the unchristian character of celibacy.” 12

Mary’s Place in The Mystical Body

In a way, the most inspiring feature of Bellarmine’s theology of the Mystical Body is the place which he assigns within it to the Blessed Mother of God: “The Head of the Catholic Church is Jesus Christ, and Mary is the neck which joins the Head to its Body.” Because she has merited so well of God by her perfect conformity to His holy will, He has decreed that “all the gifts and all the graces which proceed from Christ as the Head should pass through Mary to the Body of the Church. Even the physical body has several members in its other parts—hands, shoulders, arms and feet—but only one head and one neck. So also the Church has many apostles, martyrs, confessors and virgins, but only one Head, the Son of God, and one bond between the Head and members, the Mother of God. By virtue of her transcendent merits before God, the Blessed Virgin stands closer than any other creature to the Head of the Mystical Body; it is no exaggeration to say that she unites the Head to the Body, and that therefore through her, before all others, flow the heavenly blessings from the Head, who is Christ, to us who are His members.” 13

The doctrine of the Mystical Body is anything but sterile theology. Among the practical consequences which St. Robert derives from our incorporation in Christ is the motive which it gives for the practice of fraternal charity. The Saints in heaven intercede for the souls in purgatory, he says, because they are both members of the same Body. The souls in purgatory intercede for each other because they are also members of one Body; the Saints and poor souls intercede for us because we are one Body with them, member of member; and we are moved to pray for each other on earth, to ask for favors from the Saints in heaven, and to pray for the souls in purgatory because “together with them we form one Church and one Body, united by the bond of the same charity in the Kingdom of Christ.” 14


End notes

Mystici Corporis,English Translation (American Press, 1943), p. 24.

De Ecclesia Militante, lib. III, cap. 7.


De Eucharistia, lib. VI, cap. 8.

De Conciliis, lib. III, cap. 10.

Mystici Corporis, p. 12.

De Ecclesia Militante, lib. III, cap. 7.

Concio xlii de Nativitate B.V.M.






Saturday, February 04, 2012


PIUS X AND CARDINAL PIE (From The Angelus, May 2004)

Pope Pius X never hid his admiration for Cardinal Pie, who was probably the greatest French bishop of the 19th century. The posthumous influence that he was to exercise on Pius X does even more credit to his teaching. On March 1, 1912, he gratified the cathedral of Poitiers with the title of minor basilica, a tribute which revealed what was in his heart, as Canon Etienne Catta remarks in his book The Social and Political Doctrine of Cardinal Pie.2 To Cardinal Pie, Pope Pius X rendered homage that day when he referred to St. Hilary, Doctor of the Church, "the intrepid champion of the divinity of Christ against the Arians, but alongside of him it is sweet to remember Louis-Edouard Pie, cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, who, like a second Hilary - alter Hilarius - avenged the integrity of the Faith against the modern Arians by his victorious eloquence."3

Canon Vigue recounts in the introduction to his Selected Writings of Cardinal Pie4 that one day a priest from the diocese of Poitiers had the honor of being received into the office of Pope Pius X.

"Oh! The diocese of Cardinal Pie," said the Holy Father, raising his arms as soon as he had heard the name of Poitiers. "I have the works of your cardinal right here, and for years hardly a day has gone by that I haven't read a few pages."

As he spoke, he took one of the volumes and put it in the hands of his visitors. These could tell, by the wear on the binding, that they must have belonged to the parish priest of Salzano or the spiritual director of the seminary of Treviso long before entering the Vatican.

"As soon as I can snatch a few moments," admitted Pius X on another occasion, "I read something by your great cardinal, Cardinal Pie. He is my mentor."5

Pope Pius X was imbued with the writings of the Bishop of Poitiers and many times, in his pontifical acts, the Pope was to cite him without giving his name. The four examples that follow will try to prove this fact: I) The famous "prophecy" concerning France's future; II) The first pages of his first encyclical, E Supremi Apostolatus; III) The prayer of Pope Pius X to the Immaculate Conception; IV) A final example; V) Conclusion.

"Prophecy for France"

This "prophecy" of Pope Pius X has been published often.6 It was pronounced November 29, 1911, during the allocution Vi Ringrazio, which was a response to Cardinal Falconio, after the creation of several new cardinals, among whom were numbered three Frenchmen distinguished in the battle against modernism: Cardinals Cabrieres, Dubillard, and Billot. The Pope's discourse was not an improvisation; it had been written out by the Pope beforehand. Cardinal Merry del Val testified to the fact before the bishop of Laval during an audience; the latter referred to it in his Religious Week [Semaine Religieuse], July 29, 1917. The letter itself, if not its spirit, had been drawn from the works of Cardinal Pie. Some support for this claim is found in Cardinal Pie's homily when he took possession of his titular see of Santa Maria della Vittoria, in Rome (Sept. 28, 1879)-the very homily printed in the last volume of his episcopal writings7 (Vol. X, pp.63-64).

The thought of Cardinal Pie, which became a "prophecy" in the mouth of St. Pius X, was present in his mind when a parish priest, then bishop, and at last a cardinal, that is to say, during his entire life. This is proven by his sermon "On the Duty of Society as a Whole to Turn Itself Toward God" which he gave in the cathedral of Chartres (Mar. 1, 1846) and the funeral sermon for General de La Moriciere, delivered in the cathedral of Poitiers (Dec. 5, 1865) and published in the episcopal works Oeuvres de Monseigneur I'eveque de Poitiers. It is probably from here that Pius X drew his "prophetic inspiration."

What follows is the text of Cardinal Pie which was known to Pope Pius X, with his "prophecy" after it; then the main passages of Pius X's first encyclical, after passages of Cardinal Pie's first pastoral letter which are most likely their origin. Finally, we reprint Pope Pius X's prayer to the Immaculate Virgin which reads very much like its probable source, Cardinal Pie's prayer to the Immaculate Virgin.

Comparison of the Texts


The "Prophecy" concerning France

This "prophecy" of Pope Pius X had been formulated a second time by Cardinal Pie (Dec. 5, 1864). It is clearly from this text that the Pope drew his inspiration.

Cardinal Pie

Text of Card. Pie (Dec. 5, 1864)8

God holds in his hands the hearts of peoples as well as the hearts of men. Courage, O France: thus you will return to your first vocation. Precious instincts, which yet escape you, but which are only asleep, will awaken in your breast.

And even as, like Saul, still breathing threats and slaughter on the road to Damascus, you seem perhaps to be engaged in the way of impiety and violence, suddenly a secret force will throw you to the ground, a blinding light will shine about you, and a voice will be heard: "Who art thou?" you will cry: "Quis es, Domine?' "I am Jesus, whom you pursue, whom you persecute: Ego sum Jesus quern tu persequeris." O France, it is hard for you to kick against the goad. To make war on God is not in your nature. Rise up, predestined race, vessel of election, and go, as in the past, carry my name to all peoples and to all the kings of the earth.

Pope St. Pius X

The allocution Vi Ringrazio (Nov. 29, 1911)9

What shall I say to you now, dear sons of France, who groan beneath the weight of persecution? The people who made an alliance with God at the baptismal font of Rheims will repent and return to its first vocation. Her faults will not remain unpunished, but she will never perish, the daughter of so many merits, so many sighs, and so many tears.

A day will come, and we hope it will not be far, when France, like Saul on the road to Damascus, will be surrounded by a heavenly light and will hear a voice repeating to her, "My daughter, why do you persecute me?" And to her response, "Who art thou, Lord?" the voice will reply, "I am Jesus, whom you persecute. It is hard for you to kick against the goad, because, in your obstinacy, you destroy yourself." And she, trembling and astonished, will say, "Lord, what wouldst thou have me do?" And He will say, "Rise up, wash the filth that has disfigured you, awaken in your heart those dormant affections and the pact of our alliance and go, eldest daughter of the Church, predestined nation, vessel of election, go, as in the past, and carry my name before all peoples and before the kings of the earth."


The First Pastoral Letter of Card. Pie
and the First Encyclical of Pope Pius X

Cardinal Pie
The first Pastoral Letter (Nov. 25, 1849)10

It is not for us to say with what pleading and with what tears we have asked that this chalice pass far from us...; but in submitting to a will stronger than our own, we have accepted a heavy charge, a labor of courage and sacrifice. For we are not so blind to the nature of things as to be dazzled by certain outer appearances. We cannot mistake the fact that human society is prey to an evil more intimate, more profound, and more destructive than can be expressed in words.

The logic of passions, long held in check, retained in its advance, has finally produced the inevitable conclusions of the principles posed by the previous centuries. We live in the fatal period of consequences, of extreme consequences. Each day the last hopes melt away; the same terrible problems, pushed aside for a moment, present themselves before us. Any human solution is henceforth impossible. There remains only one alternative: submit ourselves to God, or perish.

If you ask me at this moment who we are, to what party we belong, I will answer without hesitation. We are, and we will be among you the man of God. We will always be of the party of God. We will engage all of our efforts, and consecrate our entire life, to the service of the divine cause. And if we were to adopt one rule of action, it would be this: "Instaurare omnia in Christ" "To restore all things in Christ" (Eph. 1:10).

...What essentially characterizes the modern age is that the world has now been separated into two parties, along a clearer dividing-line and according to a more frank opposition than at any other age, that is, the party of God, and the party of man, or if you prefer, of the prideful genius that drives him. The struggle between man and God had never been more open or more direct. No other generation had broken its every pact with heaven, or so absolutely. No society had ever spoken to God with such resolution or audacity, telling Him: "Begone!" Man had never set himself up as a god on earth with greater insolence. He thought he had already vanquished. The old dream of human pride was thus to become a reality: man was to be his own god.

One could easily have believed that the son of perdition, announced by St. Paul, had appeared on the earth, or at least that all the elements he was to embody awaited only their unification in a single person to constitute the Antichrist named by the Scriptures. Vowed to the most constant opposition, adversary of all belief and of any affirmation of truth, man had also toppled all that bore the character of the divinity, or any resemblance thereof. And if the idea of a god still remained, it was because man, putting himself at the place of his Creator, had made the universe into a temple, in which he played the god.

The struggle was unequal, and we knew which side would carry off the victory and which know defeat. The more man seemed to triumph, the more surely we predicted his fall, and, to speak as do the holy books, one of those catastrophes whose blast long echoes in the ears of those who hear.

History had taught us that God hides Himself for a certain time, and that He seems at times to retreat before His enemies, but that these apparent defeats are of the moment, and are only the wise and cunning tactics of Providence, after which He takes back the position and delivers the final blow. More than once it seemed to us that the heavenly spirits, weary of the long success of the triumphant rebellion, adopted the language of the prophets and said, "Arise, O God, and may it not be given to man to prevail."

That is why, notwithstanding the great work of social reconstruction undertaken by so many architects at once, we will suffer in spite of ourselves the consequences of the sins of our fathers, so long as we have not rebuilt, in the heart of the nation, the temple they overturned. Men speak of a great party founded in the name of order and compromise. Only one party can save the world, the party of God. There alone is salvation. Renounce our dreams of independence from the Supreme Being, and submit to Him. Make no mistake. The burning question, and the question that troubles the world, is not between man and man; it is between man and God. If we were to adopt a single rule of action, it would be "to re-establish all things in Jesus Christ." Jesus Christ! Ah! We are profoundly moved as we utter this sacred name among you for the first time, this saving name that we will have so often to repeat. "For other foundation no man can lay, but that which is laid by the hand of God; which is Christ Jesus" (I Cor. 3:11).

The God whose minister-whose ambassador-we shall be among you is not that vague, complacent God whose tutelary authority is invoked by today's materialism, taking fright and wishing to defend its pleasures and its idols against the new wave of invaders, firmly resolved to pay Him no tribute in return, and certainly not to offer Him any sacrifice. Our God is He who gave His law to men, who came down to earth and who spoke in the person of Jesus Christ, His Son and His envoy. Outside of Jesus Christ, there is no other Messias, or Revelation, or Savior.

Both God and Jesus Christ are to be found by us only in the Catholic Church. Whoever does not listen to the Church, is in our eyes worse than an infidel.

Therefore, to replace all these things under the legitimate empire of God, of Jesus Christ, and of the Church; everywhere combat that sacrilege which puts man in the place of God, and which is the chief crime of the modern age; resolve anew, by the precepts or the counsels of the Gospel and by the institutions of the Church, all the problems that the Gospel and the Church had already resolved-education, family, property, power; to re-establish a Catholic balance between the diverse conditions within society; to pacify the earth and give citizens to heaven: such is our mission.

L.E. Pie

Pope St. Pius X
The first encyclical E Supremi Apostolatus (Oct. 4, 1903)11

I need not remind you with what tears and ardent prayers we endeavored to turn aside the heavy charge of the supreme pontificate. Fully conscious of our weakness, we dreaded to take on a work so replete with difficulty, and yet so imperative.

We felt a kind of terror when we called to mind the tragic condition of humanity today. Can anyone be unaware of the profound and serious illness from which human society suffers, now so much more than in the past, and which, worsening day by day and eating away at its very substance, drags it down to ruin? This illness, as you well know, is apostasy and the rejection of God; and surely there is nothing that leads more inevitably to disaster, according to the word of the prophet, "Behold, those who depart far from you will perish."

We declare in all truth that we desire to be, in the midst of human societies, nothing other than the minister of that God who has invested us with His authority, and with the divine assistance, we shall be only that. His interests remain our interests; to consecrate our strength and our life to them: such is our unshakable resolution. That is why, if one asks us for a motto revealing the very depths of our soul, we will give none but this: "To restore all things in Christ." the face of the impious war that has been declared and that continues to be waged against God from nearly every side. In our day it is only too true, "the nations have trembled and the peoples have meditated folly" against their Creator, and this cry has become nearly a commonplace among His enemies: "Depart from us." From there springs, from nearly every side, a total rejection of any respect for God. From there spring those manners of living, public as well as private, without the least regard for His sovereignty. What is more, there is no effort and no artifice that is not employed in the attempt to abolish the memory of Him, and even the very notion of God.

He who considers these things may well fear that such a perversion of mind be the beginning of those evils announced for the end of time and as it were their introduction upon the earth, and that truly the son of perdition of whom the Apostle speaks (II Thess. 2:2) is already among us. So great is the boldness and so violent the rage with which men everywhere hurl themselves to the assault of religion, attack the dogmas of the Faith, and labor with obstinacy to destroy all relation of man to the divinity! On the other hand, and this is the hallmark of the Antichrist, in the very words of the same Apostle, man, with an unspeakable temerity, has usurped the throne of the Creator, raising himself above all that bears the name of God. And this to such a degree that, powerless to eradicate in himself the notion of God, he nonetheless shakes off the yoke of His majesty and dedicates the temple of the visible world to himself, where he wishes to receive the adoration of his fellow creatures. "He is enthroned in the temple of God, where he presides as if he himself were God."

No sane mind can doubt what will be the outcome of this war waged on God by frail mortals. Man is surely able to abuse his liberty if he wishes and violate the rights and the supreme authority of the Creator, but the victory will always belong to the Creator. But my words fall short. Catastrophe threatens all the closer precisely when man waxes more audacious in the hope of triumph.

But this confidence does not dispense us from hastening the divine work, insofar as it depends on us, and not only by untiring prayer: "Arise, O Lord, and do not allow man to prevail in his force," but also by demanding the fullness of God's empire over man and all creation.

We know that many, driven by the love of peace-that is, the tranquility of order-come together in associations, forming what they call "the party of order." Alas! Vain hopes and wasted labors! There is only one force of order capable of re-establishing tranquility in the midst of universal turmoil-the party of God. It is therefore that party that we must promote, and to this association that we must attract the greatest possible number of adherents, if we have public security at heart.

Nonetheless, and whatever be our efforts to realize it, this return of nations to the respect of God's sovereign majesty can only come about through Jesus Christ. Indeed, the Apostle warns us that "other foundation no man can lay, but that which is laid; which is Christ Jesus" (I Cor. 3:11).

From this it follows that restoring all things in Christ and bringing men back to God's obedience are one and the same thing. And that is why the goal toward which all our efforts should tend is to bring the human race back under the empire of Christ. This accomplished, man will find himself led back to God, by that very fact.

We do not refer to a lifeless God, unconcerned with the ways of man, like the one invented by materialists in their foolish imaginings, but a living and true God, three Persons in the unity of a single nature, Author of the universe, extending His infinite Providence to all things, and finally a very just Law-Maker who punishes the guilty and ensures the recompense of virtue.

Now what is the way that gives us access to Jesus Christ? She is before our eyes-the Church. As St. John Chrysostom rightly tells us, "The Church is your hope; the Church is your salvation; the Church is your refuge."

That is why Christ established her after having acquired her by the price of His blood. That is why He confided His doctrine and the precepts of His law to her, at the same time bestowing on her the treasures of divine grace for the sanctification and the salvation of mankind.

It is a question of leading human societies, strayed far from the wisdom of Christ, back to the obedience of the Church; the Church, in turn, will submit them to Christ, and Christ to God.

First and foremost, if the results are to match our desires, we must employ every means and consecrate every effort to uprooting entirely that monstrous and detestable iniquity proper to the present age and by which man puts himself in the place of God; to re-establish in their former dignity the very holy laws and counsels of the Gospel; to proclaim far and wide the truths handed down by the Church concerning the sanctity of marriage, the education of youth, the possession and the use of temporal goods, the duties of those who govern; finally, to re-establish the just balance among the diverse classes of society according to Christian laws and institutions.

Pope Pius X


The prayer of Pope Pius X for the
Novena to the Immaculate Conception

Cardinal Pie 12

O spotless Virgin, you were pleasing to the Lord, and you were His Mother only because you were immaculate in all things; immaculate in your flesh as in your soul; immaculate in your faith as in your charity.

Indeed, the great blasphemer, the great cause of damnation, is the serpent, against whom was pronounced the first of damnations.

And you, O Mary conceived without sin, thou art the woman of the promise who has crushed the head of the serpent. I say it, "of the serpent" - and it was foretold - who never ceases to lay traps for thy heel, and who yet continues in his enmity against thy race. But while that head which raises itself beneath thy victorious foot, hisses damnation and blasphemy through every age, thou, O Virgin, O Mother, O Queen, thou lettest rise toward the heavenly throne the accent of thy all-powerful supplication. O Mary Immaculate, we join our prayer to thine this day. And the Church, and Rome, and Christian France will once again sing the hymn of deliverance, of victory, and of peace.

Pope Pius X

Most holy Virgin, who wast pleasing to the Lord and who became His Mother, Immaculate Virgin in thy body, in thy soul, in thy faith, and in thy love, have pity on us, and look with kindness on us, so miserable, who implore thy powerful protection.

Alas! The infernal serpent, against whom was cast the first damnation, continues to combat and to tempt the poor sons of Eve.

O thou, our blessed Mother, our queen and our advocate, thou who crushest the head of the enemy from the first moment of thy conception, accept our prayers, and, united as in one heart, we beseech thee. Present them before the throne of God in order that we never allow ourselves to be taken by the traps laid before us, but that we all reach the port of salvation; and that in the midst of so many dangers, the Church and Catholic society sing once again the hymn of deliverance, of victory, and of peace.


A Final Example

Cardinal Pie
Homily preached on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of his episcopal consecration (Nov.25,1864)13

Hear this maxim, O you, Catholics full of temerity, who so quickly adopt the ideas and the language of your time, you who speak of reconciling the faith and of reconciling the Church with the modern spirit and with the new law. And you who accept with so much confidence the most dangerous pursuits of what our age so pridefully labels "Science," see to what extent you are straying from the program set out by the great Apostle, "O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding the profane novelties of words, and oppositions of knowledge falsely so-called" (I Tim. 6:20). But take heed. With such temerities, one is soon led farther than he first had thought. And in placing themselves on the slope of profane novelties, in obeying the currents of so-called science, many have lost the Faith.

Have you not often been saddened, and taken fright, my venerable brothers, on hearing the language of certain men, who believe themselves still to be sons of the Church, men who still practice occasionally as Catholics and who often approach the Lord's Table? Do you still believe them to be sons, do you still believe them to be members of the Church, those who, wrapping themselves in such vague phrases as modern aspirations and the force of progress and civilization, proclaim the existence of a "consciousness of the laity," of a secular and political conscience opposed to the "conscience of the Church," against which they assume the right to react, for its correction and renewal? Ah! So many passengers, and even pilots, who, believing themselves to be yet in the barque, and playing with profane novelties and the lying science of their time, have already sunk and are in the abyss.

Pope St. Pius X
The letter Il Gravore Dolore on the occasion of the creation of new cardinals (May 27, 1914)14

Alas! We are living in an age when men welcome and adopt with great ease certain ideas of reconciling the Faith with the modern spirit; ideas that lead much farther than one would imagine, not only to the weakening, but to the complete loss of the Faith. One is no longer surprised to hear men who delight in the most vague expressions of modern aspiration, of the force of progress and of civilization; who delight in affirming the existence of a conscience of the laity, a political conscience opposed to the conscience of the Church, against which they assume the right to react for its correction and renewal.

It is not unheard-of to meet individuals who express doubts and uncertainty about truths, and even obstinately cling to manifest errors, a hundred times condemned, and who are nonetheless convinced that they have never left the Church, since they sometimes accomplish Catholic duties. Oh! How many navigators, how many pilots, and, God forbid, how many captains, confident in profane novelties and in the lying science of the time, rather than arriving at the port, have already capsized.


People can talk all they like of the Rights of Man: there are two of them that must never be forgotten. Every man is born with the right to death and the right to hell (Cardinal Pie).15

When he first was made a bishop, Giuseppe Sarto took on his charge with resolution animated by that hope which was symbolized in his coat of arms-an anchor cast into a stormy sea, lit up by a star. It was a passage from St. Paul (Heb. 6:18-19) that inspired his choice. Perhaps he added the lion when he became the successor of St. Mark's in Venice. As for the motto of his pontificate, "To restore all things in Christ," he had already taken it as patriarch, and there is every indication that it was the motto of his entire episcopate.

Cardinal Pie was a great figure. Now, more than ever in this battle waged between the Church and the Revolution, he remains the man who dominates the situation. He is a light, a standard-bearer, a leader worthy of a rank of honor among those fathers of our generation whom we should praise, whose counsels we should follow, whose example we should imitate, and upon whose teachings we should meditate. If our heart's ambition is to serve the sacred cause of God and His Holy Church in the troubled times in which we are living we can benefit from placing ourselves at the school of this master. (Praise of Cardinal Pie expressed by Cardinal Billot on the 100th anniversary of his birth [Sept. 26, 1915])16

Before closing this study, I cannot resist telling you the story of a conversation between Msgr. Pie and the emperor Napoleon III (Mar. 5, 1859),17 following the account of Canon Etienne Catta in The Social and Political Doctrine of Cardinal Pie.18

The audience lasted 55 minutes. The emperor himself had brought the conversation over to politics. He dismissed all negative interpretations of his Italian intervention.19 He only wished well to the pontifical government, and desired to "render it more popular, showing Europe that France had not maintained an army of occupation in Rome in order to give its stamp [of approval] to corruption."

Msgr. Pie asked if he might express his thoughts frankly, Napoleon III granted the request, far from imagining the line of argument that was about to drive him into a corner.

"Since Your Majesty deigns to hear my opinion," said the bishop, "you will also permit my surprise at the scruples that make you fear all appearance of giving your stamp [of approval] to corruption by the presence of our army of occupation in Rome. Surely, I am aware that there are abuses everywhere. What government can claim to escape them entirely? But I dare say that nowhere are there fewer abuses than in the city and in the states governed by the pope. May it please Your Majesty to consider Constantinople and Turkey, on the other hand. May you draw a comparison and permit me to ask what our glorious Crimean expedition was doing there?20 Is it not there rather than to Rome that France went to give her stamp to corruption?"

The secretary of Msgr. Pie, who was taking down the account of the audience by dictation, recounts that at that moment, "the eyes of the Emperor, ordinarily half-closed, were raised for a moment on his audacious interviewer."

"Ah! Sire, when one considers that, during 11 centuries, the policy of Catholic Europe was to combat the Turks, how can one avoid a certain astonishment seeing the sovereign of a Catholic country providing support for the Ottoman power, and embarking, at great cost, to ensure its independence? Indeed, am I not justified in asserting that such an action was precisely putting the stamp on corruption? I ask you, whom are we protecting? There is a man, at Constantinople, or rather a being that I prefer not to qualify, who eats, out of a trough of gold, 200 million francs [about 37 million US dollars-Ed.] earned by the sweat of Catholics. He eats them with his 800 legitimate wives, his 36 sultans and his 750 harem-girls, not counting the court favorites, the sons-in-law and their wives. And it was to perpetuate and consolidate such a state of affairs that we embarked for the East! It was to ensure its security that we threw away two billion francs [about 370 million US dollars-Ed.], 68 superior officers, 350 young men, the flower of our noble families, and 200,000 Frenchmen. In view of all that, are we really here discussing the corruption of pontifical Rome?"

During this discourse, the emperor twisted his long moustache, and the bishop observed that he pulled them lower as the question became more embarrassing. Msgr. Pie continued:

"Excuse me, Sire, but not only did we say to this Turk, 'Continue to wallow in your age-old mire as you have done in the past. I guarantee your pleasures and I will not permit anyone to lay a hand on your empire,' but we added, 'Great Sultan, until now, the pope, the sovereign of Rome, had presided at the councils of Europe. Well, now we are going to have a European Council. The pope will not be there, but you will come, you who have never been part of it before. Not only will you be there, but we will perform before you the trial of the absent old man.

And we will give you the pleasure of seeing us describe and submit to your judgment all the so-called corruption of his government!'"

"Truly, Sire, is that not what has taken place?"

Seeing the bishop's animation, the emperor had drawn closer. He listened spellbound, passing his hand over his forehead. Suddenly, he changed the direction of the conversation:

"But honestly, Monsignor, have I not given abundant proof of my goodwill toward religion? The Restoration of the monarchy itself did not do more than I have done."

With this remark the way was open, and the bishop, inspired, could express his own idea of what Christian politics should be, going straight to the principles that guide it.

"I am most eager to do justice to Your Majesty's religious dispositions, and I can quite appreciate, Sire, the services you have rendered to Rome and the Church, particularly in the first years of your government.

"Perhaps the Restoration did not do more than you. But allow me to add that neither the Restoration, nor you, have done for God what should have been done. Neither of you has raised up His throne. Neither of you has denied the principles of the Revolution, whose practical consequences you continue to fight because the social gospel that inspires the State is still the Declaration of the Rights of Man, which, Sire, is nothing other than the formal negation of the rights of God.

"Indeed, it is among the rights of God to rule over States as over individuals. It was for this alone that our Lord came upon the earth. He ought to reign here by inspiring our laws, sanctifying our morals, enlightening our teaching, directing our counsel, and ordering the actions of governments as of the governed. Everywhere that Jesus Christ does not reign, there is disorder and decadence.

"It is my duty to tell you that He does not reign among us and that our Constitution is not that of a Christian and a Catholic State, far from it. Our public law establishes that the Catholic religion is that of the majority of the French people, but it adds that all other religions have a right to an equal protection. Is that not tantamount to proclaiming that the Constitution equally protects truth and error? Well, Sire, do you know what Jesus Christ responds to governments who incur the guilt of such a contradiction? Jesus Christ, King of heaven and earth, answers them. 'I, too, O governments, who succeed yourselves the one upon the other, as you overthrow one another, I, too, grant you equal protection. I granted this protection to the Bourbon king, and the same to the Republic, and to you as well I accord the same protection.'"

The emperor stopped the bishop.

"But do you still imagine that in our day such a thing could exist, and that the moment has arrived to establish the exclusively religious reign that you demand? Do you not rather think, Monsignor, that such an action would unleash the most passionate opposition?"

The bishop of Poitiers had not spoken of an "exclusively religious reign," he had simply brought to light the divine prerogative to dominate every reign. The essential of the objection consisted in the "political expedience" that is always put first. He answered it with this solemn reply:

"Sire, when great men of politics like Your Majesty object that the moment has not come, I can only bow before their judgment, because I am not a great man of politics. But I am a bishop, and as a bishop, I answer them. 'The moment has not come for Jesus Christ to reign. In that case, the moment has not come for governments to endure.'"21

If only God would accord us, not a half-dozen, but a single shepherd of this mettle, and the quality of the air we breathe would be greatly improved.

Fr. Nicolas Pinaud was ordained for the Society of Saint Pius X in 1993. He is currently headmaster of the Society's school at Domezain, France, Ecole Saint Michel Garico'its. The article was translated into English exclusively for Angelus Press. Edited by Fr. Kenneth Novak. Taken from Le Donjon (No.45, May 2000) the bulletin of the Society of Saint Pius X for the Basque country, the Landes, Bigorre, and Gascony. It was revised and completed by the author for publication in Sel de la Terre, No.42, Autumn 2002, pp.206-21.

1. June 2, 1835-August 20, 1914, pope from 1903-14. Defunctus adhuc loquitur refers to the sacrifice of Abel which still rises to heaven after his murder: "and by it he being dead yet speaketh" (Heb. 11:4).

2. La doctrine politique et sociale du cardinal Pie (Paris: Nouvelles Editions Latines, 1959) p.362.

3. Actes de S.S. Pie X (Bonne Press), Vol.VII, p. 188.

4. Pages choisies du cardinal Pie (Paris-Poitiers: Oudin, 1916) 2 vol., Introduction, p.xi.

5. See also Rene Bazin, St. Pie X, 1928 edition, pp.57-58.

6. You can read it in the Bulletin diocesain de Bayonne, December 1,1918, pp.597-598; No.28 of Itineraires published it, p.42; in this same review, Fr. Calmel cites it as well, in his article "Brumes du revelationisme" (No.181, p.182); Fr. Rifan referred to it in his sermon during the day of "BBR 1998"; Francis-Marie Algoud also cites it in Annex XVII, p.480, of his book Histoire de la volonte de perversion de Vintelligence et des moeurs', and the 15th centenary of the baptism of Clovis, in 1996, provided a new occasion for a number of journals to reprint this prophecy, such as Sel de la Terre, No. 17, pp.86-87.

7. Oeuvres de Monseigneur I 'eveque de Poitiers (Paris-Poitiers: Oudin, 1886-1879) 1st edition, Vols.I to IX. The 10th edition was published by Leday, Paris, and contained 10Vols. (1890-1894).

8. Ibid., t. V, pp.506-507.

9. Documents pontificaux de S.S. saint Pie X (Versailles: Courrier de Rome, 1993), Vol.11, pp.396-397.

10. Oeuvres de Monseigneur I'eveque de Poitiers, Vol.1, pp.96-119.

11. Documents pontificaux de S.S. saint Pie X, Vol.1, pp.33 ff.

12. Oeuvres de Monseigneur I'eveque de Poitiers, Vol.VII, p.68.

13. Ibid., Vol.V, pp.376-377.

14. Documents pontificaux de S.S. saint Pie X, Vol.11, pp.575-577.

15. Oeuvres de Monseigneur I'eveque de Poitiers, Vol.V, p. 154.

16. Published in Nos.40 and 41 of the Bulletin catholique of the diocese of Mon-tauban, October 2 and 9, 1915, pp.339, 342.

17. Napoleon III was proclaimed emperor November 7, 1852, following the coup d'etat of December 2, 1851, remaining emperor until his imprisonment by the Prussians at Sedan, August 30, 1870. The empire was overthrown a few days later and a republic was proclaimed, September 4, by Favre, Gambetta, and Ferry.

18. La Doctrine politique et sociale du cardinal Pie (Paris: Nouvelles Editions Latines, 1959), ch. XIII: "Ueveque, Fempereur and la question romaine," pp.301-304.

19. Beginning in June 1849 (when Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, future Napoleon III, was president of the Republic), France had sent an expeditionary force into Italy, the Papal States, to support the pope who was being attacked by Italian "republican" forces. The French troops occupied Rome from July 3, 1849, to December 11, 1866. However, Napoleon III, himself a former carbonaro [Freemason], wished to maintain his alliance with the House of Piedmont, [desirous of a secular, united Italy] and little by little weakened his policy of support for the papacy, letting the Piedmontese conquer Italy and invade the Pontifical States in 1860-61.