"And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven."
What is an Ecumenical Council?
Ecumenical Councils are those to which
the bishops, and others entitled to vote, are convoked from the whole world (oikoumene)
under the presidency of the pope or his legates, and the decrees of which,
having received papal confirmation, bind all Christians. A council, Ecumenical
in its convocation, may fail to secure the approbation of the whole Church or of
the pope, and thus not rank in authority with Ecumenical councils. Such was the
case with the Robber Synod of 449 (Latrocinium Ephesinum), the Synod of
Pisa in 1409, and in part with the Councils of Constance and Basle.
A legally convened meeting
of members of the hierarchy
including the worldwide collection of Bishops lawfully summoned by the Pope, or
with his consent,
for the purpose of carrying out
their judicial and doctrinal functions,
With the intentions of utilizing the gift of the Holy Spirit, namely , Infallibility, when defining Faith or Morals.
with and under the authority of
the Pope, presided by the Pope or by his legates, with its decrees having the
approval of the Sovereign Pontiff,
by means of deliberation in
resulting in regulations and decrees invested with the authority of the whole assembly.
Other Gatherings of the Catholic Church
General Synods - The second rank is held by the general synods of the East or of the West, composed of but one-half of the episcopate. The Synod Of Constantinople (381) was originally only an Eastern general synod, at which were present the four patriarchs of the East (viz. of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem), with many metropolitans and bishops. It ranks as Ecumenical because its decrees were ultimately received in the West also.
Patriarchal, national, and primatial councils represent a whole patriarchate, a whole nation, or the several provinces subject to a primate. Of such councils we have frequent examples in Latin Africa, where the metropolitan and ordinary bishops used to meet under the Primate of Carthage, in Spain, under the Primate of Toledo, and in earlier times in Syria, under the Metropolitan -- later Patriarch -- of Antioch.
Provincial councils bring together the suffragan bishops of the metropolitan of an ecclesiastical province and other dignitaries entitled to participate.
Diocesan synods consist of the clergy of the diocese and are presided over by the bishop or the vicar-general.
Visitors' synods- A peculiar kind of council used to be held at Constantinople, it consisted of bishops from any part of the world who happened to be at the time in that imperial city. Hence the name synodoi enoemousai "visitors' synods".
Mixed synods, in which both civil and ecclesiastical dignitaries met to settle secular as well as ecclesiastical matters. They were frequent at the beginning of the Middle Ages in France, Germany, Spain, and Italy. In England even abbesses were occasionally present at such mixed councils. Sometimes, not always, the clergy and laity voted in separate chambers.
Brief explanation of the teachings of the following
First Ecumenical Council -- Nicaea I
|SITE:||Nicaea (in N.W. Asia Minor)|
|POPE:||St. Sylvester I, 314 - 335|
|EMPEROR:||Constantine I, The Great, Western Roman Emperor 306-337; Sole Emperor 324 - 337|
Condemned Arianism (which denied the divinity of Christ); Defined the consubstantiality of the Father and the Son, and thus Christ's divinity; Defined Christ will return in glory at the end of time to judge each individually; Pronounced one true Church as: One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic; Formulated Nicene Creed; Fixed date of Easter; promulgated numerous dogmatic and disiplinary canons, including primacy of the Roman Church over all.(TFW: 13, 23, 35, 100)
Council of Nicaea (325) lasted two months and twelve days. 318 Bishops were present. Hosius, Bishop of Cordova, assisted as legate of Pope Sylvester. The Emperor Constantine was also present. To this council we owe The Creed (Symbolum) Of Nicaea, defining against Arius the true Divinity of the Son of God (homoousios), and the fixing of the date for keeping Easter (against the Quartodecimans).
ACTION: Called by the emperor and ratified by the Pope, this council Condemned the heresy of Arius (priest of Alexandria, d. 336) by defining the CONSUBSTANTIALITY of God the Son with God the Father. The Son is of the "same substance," homo-ousion, as the Father (St. Athanasius); not merely a "like substance," homoi-ousion (as with the semi-Arians); nor is He (as Arius taught) some sort of super-creature.
NOTE: St. Athanasius, Doctor of the Church (d. 373), Bishop of Alexandria, was present as deacon and peritus at Nicaea; exiled five times and excommunicated by the Arians. St. Ephrem, Doctor of the Church (d. 373), deacon, was also present at Nicaea as peritus.
Second Ecumenical Council -- Constantinople I
|SITE:||Constantinople (near Bosporus, a strait in today's Turkey).|
|POPE:||St. Damasus I, 367 - 384|
|EMPEROR:||Theodosius I, the Great, 379 - 395|
Re-Condemned Arianism and Condemned Semi-Arianism(Christ is divine, but of a "lesser" divinity than the Father); Condemned Macedonians, who denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit; Defined the Holy Spirit as consubstantial with the Father and the Son; Completed the Nicene-Constantinople Creed (professed every Sunday at Holy Mass); Promulgated numerous dogmatic and disiplinary canons, (TFW:13,23,35,100)
First Council of Constantinople (381), under Pope Damasus and the Emperor Theodosius I, was attended by 150 Bishops. It was directed against the followers of Macedonius, who impugned the Divinity of the Holy Ghost. To the above-mentioned Nicene creed it added the clauses referring to the Holy Ghost (qui simul adoratur) and all that follows to the end.
ACTION: It appears that Pope St. Damasus I was not contacted in regard to this council attended by about 186 Bishops. Called by the emperor, it was not attended by the Pope or his legates or any Bishops from the West. Nevertheless, it is listed as a General Council of the 4th century by papal decrees of the 6th century, by which time its doctrinal definitions were accepted throughout the Church (Murphy, pg. 41). This council Condemned the heresy of Macedonius by clearly defining the divinity of the Holy Ghost: He is not created like the angels no matter how high an order is attributed to such a "creature." The council also Reaffirmed the faith of Nicaea.
NOTE: St. Gregory Nazianzen, Doctor of the Church (d. 389), was the bishop presiding. St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Doctor of the Church (d. 386), was also in attendance.
Third Ecumenical Council -- Ephesus
|SITE:||Ephesus (S. of Smyrna in SW Asia Minor).|
|POPE:||St. Celestine I, 423 - 432|
|EMPEROR:||Theodosius II, 408 - 450|
Condemned Nestorianism, which denied the unity of the divine and human in Christ; Defined that Mary is the Mother of God; Defined that Christ was One Person, with two natures; Pronounced the primacy and necessity of grace for justification and salvation; Condemned Pelagianism, which held that man could earn his own justification and salvation by his nature works; that Adam's sin affedted only himself and not the human race, and that new born's are in that state in which Adam was in before his fall; Promulgated numerous dogmatic canons. (TFW 23,25,31,44)
Council of Ephesus (431), of 200 Bishops, presided over by St. Cyril of Alexandria representing Pope Celestine l, Defined the true personal unity of Christ, declared Mary the Mother of God (theotokos) against Nestorius, Bishop of Constantinople, and renewed the condemnation of Pelagius.
ACTION: Called by the Eastern Emperor, Theodosius II, influenced by his pious sister, St. Pulcheria (Emperor in the West was Valentinian III, 425 - 455), and ratified by Pope Celestine I, this council Condemned the heresy of Nestorius by clearly defining the Divine maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. There are two natures in Christ (Divine and Human), but only one Person (Divine). Mary is the Mother of this one Divine Person, the eternal Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. Nestorius was deposed as bishop of Constantinople. This council also briefly affirmed the condemnation of the Pelagians (see local Council of Carthage, A.D. 416).
NOTE: St. Cyril of Alexandria, Doctor of the Church (d.444), was the bishop presiding.
Fourth Ecumenical Council -- Chalcedon
|SITE:||Chalcedon, (north of Constatinople)|
|POPE:||St. Leo I, the Great, 440 - 461|
|EMPEROR:||Marcian, 450 - 457|
Condemned Monophysitism which denied Christ's human nature believing it was absorbed by His divine nature; Defined that the two natures of Christ are distinct, not confused or blended (Hypostatic Union); Defined that Christ's humanity includes a human rational soul; Promulgated numerous disciplinary canons. (TFW: 23,25)
Council of Chalcedon (451) -- 603 Bishops under Pope Leo the Great and the Emperor Marcian Defined the two natures (Divine and human) in Christ against Eutyches, who was excommunicated
ACTION: Called by Emperor Marcian, spouse of the chaste and noble St. Pulcheria, and ratified by Pope St. Leo the Great, the council Condemned the heresy of the Abbot Eutyches, MONOPHYSITISM, which claimed that there existed only "one nature" (the divine) in Christ from the Incarnation onward. Though the council had approved the assertion that Constantinople should be ranked first after Rome ecclesiastically, Pope St. Leo did not. The primacy of the See of Rome was due to it's possession of the Chair of Peter, not to any political power. In his "Dogmatic Epistle," read by his legates at the end of the second session of the council (Oct. 10, 451), Pope St. Leo I also declared invalid all that had been done at the "Robber Synod of Ephesus" (a false Ephesus II): " ....we see no Council, but a den of thieves (Latrocinium)." In the greatest testimony of the Eastern Council to the primacy of the Pope, the Bishops cried out: "Behold the faith of the fathers, the faith of the Apostles; thus through Leo has Peter spoken!" Eutyches was excommunicated.
NOTE: Pope St. Leo I, Doctor of the Church (d. 461), was called the "Soul" of Chalcedon.
HERESIARCH / HERETICS: EUTYCHES - MONOPHYSITES.
Fifth Ecumenical Council -- Constantinople II
|POPE:||Vigilius, 537 - 555|
|EMPEROR:||Justinian I, 527 - 565|
Condemned the "Three Chapters:, writings influenced by Nestorianism; Defined that Mary was a virgin throughout her entire life (Perpetual Virginity) Reaffirmed Mary as the Mother of God; Promulgated numerous dogmatic canons. (TFW: 25, 27, 44-45)
Second Council of Constantinople (553), of 165 Bishops under Pope Vigilius and Emperor Justinian I, Condemned the errors of Origen and certain writings (The Three Chapters) of Theodoret, of Theodore, Bishop of Mopsuestia and of Ibas, Bishop of Edessa; it further confirmed the first four general councils, especially that of Chalcedon whose authority was contested by some heretics.
ACTION: Effectively called by Justinian I and eventually ratified by Pope Vigilius, Constantinople II Condemned a collection of statements known as the "Three Chapters": 1) the person and the writings of Theodore of Mopsuestia, Master of Nestorius, originator of that heresy; 2) the writings of Theodoret of Cyrrhus; 3) the writings of Ibas of Edessa. The last two friends of Nestorius had been restored to their sees by Chalcedon when they no longer opposed the teachings of St. Cyril of Alexandria (d. 444) and of Ephesus. Chalcedon was not discredited here (as the Monophysites had hoped) since it had been concerned with men. Constantinople II was concerned with their writings, although a hundred years after they had died.
NOTE: Two important local councils condemning heresies: Carthage (416) solemnly approved by Pope Innocent II, (401 - 417), and then in 418 by Pope Zosimus (417 - 418), Condemned Pelagianism (Pelagius, a British Monk), which heresy denied original sin calling it only "bad example." Orange (429) France, solemnly approved by Pope Boniface II (530 - 532), Condemned Semi-Pelagianism (an over-reaction to St. Augustine on grace), which claimed man needed grace only after his first supernatural act. St. Augustine made it clear that God's grace is first.
NOTE: Council referred much to St. Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria, Doctor of the Church (d. 444).
HERESIARCH: THEODORE OF MOPSUESTIA ("3 Chapters").
Sixth Ecumenical Council -- Constantinople III
|YEARS:||A.D. 680 - 681|
|POPES:||St. Agatho, 678 - 681, and St. Leo II, 682 - 683|
|EMPEROR:||Constantine IV, 668 - 685|
Condemned Monothelitism, which held that Christ had but one will, the divine will; Defined that Christ's humanity includes a free will, which was never contrary to His divine will; Defined that Christ was free from all sin - both original and personal; Censored Pope Honorius I (625-638) for failing to condemn Monothelitism and for a letter wherein he made an ambiguous statement concerning Christ's two wills. (TFW: 23, 26)
Third Council of Constantinople (680-681), under Pope Agatho and the Emperor Constantine Pogonatus, was attended by the Patriarchs of Constantinople and of Antioch, 170 Bishops, and the emperor. It put an end to Monothelism by defining two wills in Christ, the Divine and the human, as two distinct principles of operation. It anathematized Sergius, Pyrrhus, Paul, Macarius, and all their followers.
ACTION: Called by Emperor Constantine IV, and its calling authorized by Pope St. Agatho, this council Condemned the heresy of the Monothelites (Mono-one thelema-will), which attributed only one will, to Christ (the divine), instead of two wills (divine and human), which two are in perfect accord within the one divine person, Jesus. Constantinople III also reconfirmed Chalcedon. Pope St. Leo II, 682 - 683, approved the decrees of Constantinople III, Pope St. Agatho having died (Jan. 10) before the council's end.
NOTE: Pope St. Leo II also Condemned Pope Honorius I (625 - 638) for negligence of duty in the face of heresy, in that he should have ascertained that Sergius was teaching not a mere harmony (oneness) of wills in Christ but literally one will in Christ, the divine will. Honorius had not spoken ex cathedra, so infallibility had not been involved.
HERESY/HERESIARCH: MONOTHELITISM originated by SERGIUS (patriarch of Constantinople, 610 A.D.).
Seventh Ecumenical Council -- Nicaea II
|POPE:||Hadrian I, 772 - 795|
|EMPERORS:||Constantine VI, 780 - 797 and Empress Irene (797 - 802)|
Condemned iconoclasm, which held that the use of images constituted idolatry; Condemned Adoptionism, which held that Christ was not the Son of God by nature but only by adoption, thereby denying the Hypostatic Union; Defined that veneration of images and relics of saints is both right and beneficial.(TFW: 48)
Second Council of Nicaea (787) was convoked by Emperor Constantine VI and his mother Irene, under Pope Adrian I, and was presided over by the legates of Pope Adrian; it regulated the veneration of holy images. 367 Bishops assisted.
ACTION: This council, called by Empress Irene (widow of Emperor Leo IV and regent for her son Constantine VI), with its doctrinal decree ratified by Pope Hadrian I, Condemned ICONOCLASM. The Pope's epistle here, just as with Pope St.Leo I at Chalcedon, set the tone of the council.
NOTE: Brewing beneath the surface at this time, however, was a rejection of papal authority. The Eastern Bishops, cut off from Rome and receptive to heresy under persecution, were held suspect by Rome.
NOTE: Iconoclasm had been fostered by Emperor Leo III (717 - 741), who was opposed by Popes Gregory II (715 - 731) and Gregory III (731 - 741) and by St. John Damascene (d.749), priest and Doctor of the Church, who published three discourses in defense of images.
Eighth Ecumenical Council -- Constantinople IV
|YEARS:||A.D. 869 - 870|
|POPE:||Hadrian II, 867 - 872|
|EMPEROR:||Basil, 867 - 886|
Pronounced that holding the Catholic Faith is the first condition for salvation; ReCondemned Adoptionism; Deposed Photius as Patriarch of Constantinople, thereby ending the Photian schism; Promulgated numerous disciplinary canons.
Fourth Council of Constantinople (869), under Pope Adrian II and Emperor Basil numbering 102 Bishops, consigned to the flames the Acts of an irregular council (conciliabulum) brought together by Photius against Pope Nicholas and Ignatius the legitimate Patriarch of Constantinople; it Condemned Photius who had unlawfully seized the patriarchal dignity. The Photian Schism, however, triumphed in the Greek Church, and no other general council took place in the East.
ACTION: Called by Emperor Basil and ratified by Pope Hadrian II, this council Condemned and deposed PHOTIUS (820 - 891), the patriarch of Constantinople and author of the Greek schism.
NOTE: In 1054 the Greek schism was actually consummated by Michael Cerularius, the Patriarch of Constantinople at that time. PHOTIUS attacked enforced clerical celibacy, the addition by the West of the "FILIOQUE" to the Creed, and the crowning of Charlemagne in the West. CERULARIUS (about 200 years later) closed the churches of the Latins in Constantinople, had the Blessed Sacrament cast out and trodden underfoot as invalid, and persisted in refusing to see the three delegates sent by Pope Leo IX (1049 - 1054). On 16 July, 1054, they publicly placed on the altar of Saint Sophia the document containing his excommunication.
(Here end the Eastern Councils and begin the Western)
Ninth Ecumenical Council -- Lateran I
|SITE:||The Basilica of Saint John Lateran in Rome|
|POPE:||Callistus II, 1119 - 1124|
|EMPEROR:||Henry V, 1106 - 1125|
Decrees on condemning simony (the buying or selling of spiritual things, sacraments, prayers, indulgences, etc); Decrees on celibacy, lay investiture and confirmed the Concordat of Worms. This where the Pope and the Emperor sought to end the dispute over investiture(i.e. the attempt by the secular powers to assume authority in appointing Bishops).
First Lateran Council (1123) held at Rome under Pope Callistus II. 300 Bishops and 600 mitred abbots assisted. It abolished the right claimed by lay princes, of investiture with ring and crosier to ecclesiastical benefices and dealt with church discipline and the recovery of the Holy Land from the infidels.
ACTION: Called and ratified by Pope Callistus II, this council confirmed the Concordat of Worms (1122) between Emperor Henry V and Pope Callistus II, which secured that all elections of Bishops and Abbots should be made freely by the proper ecclesiastical authorities (electors). In Germany the emperor was to preside over these free elections and then bestow temporal power on the bishop so chosen, in return for temporal fealty. Outside Germany the emperor was to have no part in any elections.
NOTE: Also dealt with at this council was the subject of clerical marriages. It was decided that once ordained, a priest may not marry in either Latin or Eastern Rites.
CONTROVERSY: LAY INVESTITURE.
Tenth Ecumenical Council -- Lateran II
|SITE:||The Basilica of Saint John Lateran (Rome)|
|POPE:||Innocent II, 1130 - 1143|
|EMPEROR:||Conrad III, 1137 - 1152|
Ended a Papal schism by antipope Anacletus II; Reaffirmed baptism of infants; Reaffirmed sacramental nature of priesthood, marriage, and the Eucharist against Medieval heretics; Reaffirmed that holy orders is an impediment to marriage; Promulgated numerous disciplinary canons.
Second Lateran Council (1139) held at Rome under Pope Innocent II with an attendance of 1000 Bishops(prelates) and the Emperor Conrad. Its object was to put an end to the errors of Arnold of Brescia.
ACTION: Called and ratified by Pope Innocent II, this council voided the acts of the deceased antiPope, Anacletus II (d. 1138), ending the Papal schism of the time. It also Condemned the heresies of: 1) Peter Bruys (Bruis) and his NEO-MANICHEANS, who denounced the Mass as a "vain show," opposed the Eucharist, marriage, and the baptism of children -- all this leading to Albigensianism ("Material things are evil in themselves"); 2) Arnold of Brescia, who contended that the Church was an "invisible body," not of this world, and should own no property.
NOTE: St. Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church (d. 1153), preached against the abuses and laxity attendant upon lay investiture, and the Lateran Council set down laws to remove them.
HERESIARCHS: PETER BRUYS and ARNOLD of BRESCIA.
Eleventh Ecumenical Council -- Lateran III
|SITE:||The Basilica of Saint John Lateran (Rome)|
|POPE:||Alexander III, 1159 - 1181|
|EMPEROR:||Frederick Barbarossa, 1152 - 1190|
Regulated Papal elections by requiring a two-thirds vote of cardinals;Condemned Waldensiansim and Albigensiansim, a form of Manicheanism (an ancient heresy that held matter is evil and thus denied the Incarnation). Albigensians opposed the authority of the Church and of the state, opposed the Sacrament of Matrimony and all external ritual, and practiced ritual suicide.
Third Lateran Council (1179) took place under Pope Alexander III, Frederick I being emperor. There were 300 Bishops present. It Condemned the Albigenses and Waldenses and issued numerous decrees for the reformation of morals.
ACTION: Called and ratified by Pope Alexander III, this council regulated the election of Popes (two-thirds majority vote by the College of Cardinals was required for the Pope to be elected, and the emperor was excluded from voting). It annulled the acts of three antiPopes: ANTIPOPE VICTOR IV (1159) and TWO SUCCESSORS. One of its chapters excommunicated the Albigensians, but dealing with them in greater detail was Lateran IV Council, under Pope Innocent III.
Twelfth Ecumenical Council -- Lateran IV
|SITE :||The Basilica of Saint John Lateran (Rome)|
|POPE:||Innocent III, 1198 - 1216|
|EMPEROR:||Otto IV, 1208 - 1215|
Defined that God is transcendent, above nature and God's perfect attributes; Defined that God created all things ex nihilo (out of nothing); Defined that human nature is composed on two essential parts: a material body and a spiritual soul; Defined that, at His death, Christ's soul separated from His body and descended into hell and that He rose in the flesh from the dead; Defined that outside the Church there is no salvation; Defined that it is the ordained priest who brings about the consecration of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ; Defined the Real Presence with the term "transubstantiation". Defined that both Heaven (the Beatific Vision) and Hell (along with its pains) are eternal. Promulgated more disciplinary canons (TFW: 8-9, 13, 16, 21, 32-33, 35, 39, 75, 92, 96)
Fourth Lateran Council (1215), under Innocent III. There were present the Patriarchs of Constantinople and Jerusalem, 412 Bishops, and 800 Abbots and Friars, sovereigns and princes, the Primate of the Maronites, and St. Dominic. It issued an enlarged creed (symbol) against the Albigenses (Firmiter credimus), Condemned the Trinitarian errors of Abbot Joachim, and published 70 important reformatory decrees. This is the most important council of the Middle Ages, it marks the culminating point of ecclesiastical life and papal power.
ACTION: Called and ratified by Pope Innocent III [which Pope Defined ex cathedra (Denz. 430): "There is but one Universal Church of the faithful, outside of which no one at all is saved."], Lateran IV prescribed at least annual confession and communion for all the faithful and made official the use of the word, "TRANSUBSTANTIATION." Its only failure was the Fourth Crusade. It reformed discipline and Condemned the heresies of: 1) ALBIGENSIANISM (NEO-MANICHEANISM), which opposed marriage and all sacraments and belief in the resurrection of the body; 2) WALDENSIANISM (anti-clerical heresy), which claimed that laymen living an apostolic life could forgive sins, while a priest in the state of sin could not absolve. Waldensianism also held that oath taking and assigning death penalties were held to be mortal sins. They also held that the Evangelical Counsel of poverty was a commandment, thus they forbad all private ownership of property.
HERESIES: ALBIGENSIANISM and WALDENSIANISM.
Thirteenth Ecumenical Council -- Lyons I
|POPE:||Innocent IV, 1243 - 1254|
|EMPEROR:||Frederick II, 1215 - 1250|
Exommunicated and deposed Frederick II(Emperor) for heresy and crimes against the Church; planned the seventh crusade (led by Saint Louis, King of France)
First Council of Lyons (1245). Innocent IV presided the Patriarchs of Constantinople, Antioch, and Aquileia (Venice), 140 bishops, Baldwin II, Emperor of the East, and St. Louis, King of France, assisted. It excommunicated and deposed Emperor Frederick II and directed a new crusade, under the command of St. Louis, against the Saracens and Mongols.
ACTION: Called and ratified by Pope Innocent IV, this council excommunicated Emperor Frederick II, grandson of Frederick Barbarossa, for his contumacious attempt to make the Church merely a department of the state. Lyons I also directed a new crusade (the 6th) under the command of King St. Louis IX (1226 - 1270) of France against the Saracens and the Mongols.
HERETIC: EMPEROR FREDERICK II.
Fourteenth Ecumenical Council -- Lyons II
|POPE:||Blessed Gregory X, 1271 - 1276|
|EMPEROR:||Rudolph I of Hapsburg, 1273 - 1291|
Defined that the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son as from on Principle(Filioque clause); Defined the primacy and authority of the Roman Church; Defined that there are seven (and only seven) sacraments;
Council of Lyons (1274) with Pope Gregory X, the Patriarchs of Antioch and Constantinople, 500 Bishops, 70 Abbots, and 100 minor Prelates (dignitaries). It effected a temporary reunion of the Greek Church with Rome. The word filioque was added to the symbol of Constantinople and means were sought for recovering Palestine from the Turks. It also laid down the rules for papal elections.
ACTION: Called and ratified by Pope Gregory X, this council declared the double procession of the Holy Ghost from the Father and the Son: "Qui ex Patre Filioque procedit." The return of the Eastern Church to union with Rome, sought by the Popes, failed utterly.
NOTE: St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (d. 1274), died on his way to Lyons II. St. Bonaventure, Cardinal and Doctor of the Church (d.1274), was prominent at Lyons II, died there, and was buried by the council. FILIOQUE Defined and added to Nicene Creed.
Fifteenth Ecumenical Council -- Vienne
|SITE:||Vienne (South of Lyons), France|
|YEARS:||1311 - 1312|
|POPE:||Clement V, 1305 - 1314|
|EMPEROR:||Henry VII, 1308 - 1313|
Defined that the Vision of God is a supernatural gift beyond the natural powers of the human soul;
Defined "that there is one baptism which regenerates all those baptized in Christ, just as there is one God and one faith. We believe that when baptism is administered in water in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, it is a perfect means of salvation for both adults and children."
NOTE: This council does NOT say that administering baptism by water is the only means to reach the same effect of the sacrament, but that Baptism of water is the perfect means to achieve this sacrament, indicating that there are imperfect means to achieve this sacrament as well.
NOTE: Baptism can manifest itself in 3 different ways, water, blood, or desire, but it is still one and the same baptism.
NOTE: There is almost always an exception to a rule as Christ has demonstrated in the Gospels, when he appeared to break Jewish laws due to the fact that the Groom is with His bride. Another example of an exception is the fact that Our Lord said that no one is greater than Saint John the Baptist. "Amen I say to you, there hath not risen among them that are born of a greater than John the Baptist...".(Saint Matthew 11:11) Our Lord did not list the exception of Our Lady. Another example of an exception is the fact that Saint Paul proclamed that "For ALL have sinned ..."(Romans 3:23) Saint Paul did not list the exception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Let us look at the words of Saint Augustine (Doctor of the Church) "For whatever unbaptized persons die confessing Christ, this confession is of the same efficacy for the remission of sins as if they were washed in the sacred font of baptism. For He who said, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God,"[Saint John 3:5] (2) made also an exception in their favor, in that other sentence where He no less absolutely said, "Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven;"[Saint Matthew 10:32] (3) and in another place, "Whosoever will lose his life for my sake, shall find it." [Saint Matthew 16:25]" (Christ is supporting Baptism of Blood when he says "Whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it".)
NOTE: The Council of Trent, 1545-1563, Decree on Justification, Ch. 4: "... and this translation after the promulgation of the Gospel cannot be effected without the laver of regeneration(baptism), OR A DESIRE FOR IT, as it is written "Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" [Saint John 3:5] (Here Trent interprets Saint John 3:5 to mean we must be baptized either in reality or in desire.)
NOTE: If a catechumen meets some unforseen death, having desired to be a member of the Church through Baptism of water, he can still attain salvation.
NOTE: "Augustine says 'that some have received the invisible sanctification without visible sacraments'...the sacrament of Baptism may be wanting to anyone in reality but not in desire." (Summa Theologica IIIa qu. 68 a 2)
NOTE: "On the other hand, it must likewise be held as certain that those who are affected by ignorance of the true religion, if it is invincible ignorance, are not subject to any guilt in this matter before the eyes of the Lord." Venerable Pope Pius IX
Abolished the Knights Templars; Promulgated decrees on reforms and morals(TFW: 93)
Council of Vienne in France (1311-1313) by order of Clement V, the first of the Avignon popes. The Patriarchs of Antioch and Alexandria, 300 Bishops, many Prelates, and 3 kings -- Philip IV of France, Edward II of England, and James II of Aragon -- were present. The synod dealt with the crimes and errors imputed to the Knights Templars, the Fraticelli, the Beghards, and the Beguines, with projects of a new crusade, the reformation of the clergy, and the teaching of Oriental languages in the universities.
ACTION: Called and ratified by Pope Clement V, first of the Avignon Popes (The "Avignon Captivity" lasted from 1305 until 1377, when Pope Gregory XI returned the Holy See to Rome), this council suppressed the Knights Templars (Master: Jacques de Molay) for crimes charged by King Philip IV of France. Their confiscated property was given to the Hospitalers or, in Spain, to national orders that had fought against the Moors. The council also declared that anyone who obstinately holds "that the rational or intellectual soul is not the form of the human body in itself and essentially, must be regarded as a heretic." (Denz. 481) The council also Condemned the Beghards (males) and Beguines ( ), who so stressed "inner union with God". Quietism, that prayer and fasting became unimportant. Quietism taught that the "spiritual" person is so perfect that he or she can give free reign to fleshly desires.
NOTE: In his 1302 Bull UNAM SANCTAM Pope Boniface VIII (1294 - 1303), declared ex cathedra that it is "...absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff." (Denz. 469) He was opposed by the French King Philip IV, the "Fair" (1268-1314), who seems to have given up on gaining a condemnation of Pope Boniface, while gaining one against the Knights Templars at Vienne, 1311.
HERESIES: The Errors of Peter John of Olivi and QUIETISM.
Sixteenth Ecumenical Council -- Constance
|YEARS:||1414 - 1418|
|POPES:||Gregory XII, 1406 - 1415; Martin V, 1417 - 1431|
|EMPEROR:||Sigismund of Luxembourg, 1410 - 1437|
Ended the Great Schism, wich involved three rival claiments to the Papal throne; Condemned the teachings of John Wycliffe, who taught sola scriptura and denied the authority of the Pope and Bishops; denied the Real Presence and indulgences; Condemned the teachings of John Huss, who denied papal authority and its necessity for salvation and who taught wrongly about the nature of the Church; Promulgated disciplinary decrees
Council of Constance (1414-1418), 200 Bishops and Prelates were present, and was held during the great Schism of the West, with the object of ending the divisions in the Church. It only became legitimate when Gregory XI had formally convoked it. Owing to this circumstance it succeeded in putting an end to the schism by the election of Pope Martin V, which the Council of Pisa (1403) had failed to accomplish on account of its illegality. The rightful pope confirmed the former decrees of the synod against Wyclif and Hus. This council is thus only ecumenical in its last sessions (XLII-XLV inclusive) and with respect to the decrees of earlier sessions approved by Martin V.
ACTION: Called by Emperor Sigismund and Pope Gregory XII who authorized the convocation as he abdicated the Papacy. The anti-popes Benedict XIII (Avignon) and John XXIII (Pisa) also agreed to "abdicate" in the interests of unity. The council elevated Martin V to the Chair of Peter to end the confustion of the Western Schism. Pope Martin ratified the council ...except the decrees which proposed conciliarism. In addition to ending the Western Schism, Constance also Condemned the heresies of: 1) John Wycliffe, who rejected the Holy sacrifice of the Mass, emphasized scripture as the sole rule of faith, subscribed to Donatism, asserted the Pope is not the head of the Church, and Bishops have no authority; and, 2) John Huss, who preached the above after Wycliffe's death.
HERETICS: WYCLIFFE and HUSS.
Seventeenth Ecumenical Council -- Florence
|SITES with YEARS:||Basel (Switzerland, near France), 1431 - 1437; Ferrara (Italy, north of Bologna, southwest of Venice), 1438; Florence (Italy, south of Bologna, north of Rome), 1439 - 1445|
|POPE:||Eugene IV, 1431 - 1447|
|EMPERORS:||Albrecht II, 1438 - 1439; Frederick III, 1440 - 1493.|
Reaffirmed Papal primacy against the conciliarist heresy, which held that an ecumenical council is superior to a pope; Reaffirmed Filioque clause concerning the procession of the Holy Spirit; Reaffirmed that there are seven and only seven sacraments; Defined the necessity of proper form (words), matter and intention for the validity of the sacraments; Defined that Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders produce a spiritual mark which cannot be removed, hence these sacraments cannot be repeated; Defined that it is by Baptism men are made members of the Church; Defined the effects of Baptism and Confirmation; Pronounced the divine inspiration and authorship and and inerrancy of Sacred Scripture; Pronounced the canon of Scripture as containing 73(72) books; Defined the Province of God; Defined that outside the Catholic Church no one can be saved, "even if he has shed his blood in the name of Christ, unless he has persevered in the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church." Defined Christ's Second Coming will be in the flesh "intellectually animated"; Decreed and approved of reunion with several eastern churches; (TFW: 5a,c, 13-16, 18, 25, 27, 39, 50, 63, 66, 68, 69a-d, 84a-c, 90-91, 94-99, 101)
Council of Basle (1431), Eugene IV being pope, with 200 Bishops present and Sigismund Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Its object was the religious pacification of Bohemia. Quarrels with the pope having arisen, the council was transferred first to Ferrara (1438), then to Florence (1439), where a short-lived union with the Greek Church was effected, the Greeks accepting the council's definition of controverted points. The Council of Basle is only ecumenical till the end of the twenty-fifth session, and of its decrees Eugene IV approved only such as dealt with the extirpation of heresy, the peace of Christendom, and the reform of the Church, and which at the same time did not derogate from the rights of the Holy See.
ACTION: This council was called in 1431 for Basel, Switzerland, by Pope Martin V, who died that year. Pope Eugene IV confirmed this decree for Basel, and the first session was held on 14 December, 1431. Believing it would become unruly, Eugene IV dissolved the council within four days, angering the Bishops at Basel, who began to reassert the heretical decrees at Constance that "a general council is superior to the Pope". In January, 1438, the Pope ordered a fresh start at Ferrara. (Some Bishops remained in open schism at Basel, even electing an anti-pope, Felix V -- two "Popes," two "councils" at one time.) A plague came to Ferrara, and the Pope moved the Council to Florence. On June 8, 1439, the Greeks accepted the double procession of the Holy Ghost and, by July 5, agreed on some other points, but lasting union failed: "Better the turban of the Prophet than the tiara of the Pope." On May 29, 1453, Constantinople fell to the Mohammedans. Cantate Domino decreed. (Papal Authority More Firmly Established): ex cathedra: It [the Roman Catholic Church] firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that none of those who are not within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart "into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matt. 25:41), unless before the end of their life the same have been added to the flock; and that the unity of Ecclesiastical body is so strong that only to those remaining in it are the Sacraments of the Church of benefit for Salvation, and do fastings, almsgiving, and other functions of piety and exercises of Christian service produce eternal reward, and that no one, whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church. [Pope Eugene IV, the Bull Cantate Domino, 1441, Denzinger 714]. Temporary reconciliation with the Greeks RE: Filoque.
Eighteenth Ecumenical Council -- Lateran V
|SITE:||The Basilica of Saint John Lateran (Rome)|
|YEARS:||1512 - 1517 (March). (Luther's theses posted 31 October, 1517)|
|POPES:||Julius II, 1503 - 1513; Leo X, 1513 - 1521|
|EMPEROR:||ilian I, 1493 - 1519|
Condemned errors concerning the soul; Defined that the soul is immortal and that it is the form of the human body; Reaffirmed the necessity of the submission to the Roman Pontiff for salvation, (but not if that obedience harms faith).; Reaffirmed the dogma of Indulgences; Failed to establish thorough reforms within the Church, thus helping the Protestant revolt
Fifth Lateran Council, sat from 1512 to 1517 under Popes Julius II and Leo X, the emperor being ilian I. 120 Bishops, representatives of kings and princes, took part in it. Its decrees are chiefly disciplinary. A new crusade against the Turks was also planned, but came to naught, owing to the religious upheaval in Germany caused by Luther.
ACTION: Called by Pope Julius II, this council opened on May 10, 1512; by Feb. 1513 Pope Julius was dying, and the council was reconvened by Pope Leo X in April 1513 and ratified by him. The most important discussions concerned the "Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges." In 1438 the King of France, Charles VII, had issued this edict, declaring a general council superior to the Pope and denying his right to nominate Bishops in France. A later King, Louis XI, had abolished this decree in 1461, but Louis XII (1498 - 1515) had attempted to reintroduce it. This council clearly rejected the teaching contained in the edict. (The appeal for another Crusade against the Turks met with no enthusiasm, and the situation in Europe relegated such a venture to oblivion.)
Condemned: PRAGMATIC SANCTION OF BOURGES (Charles VII/Louis XII).
Nineteenth Ecumenical Council -- Trent
|YEARS:||1545 - 1563|
|POPES:||Paul III, 1534 - 1549 & 1551 - 1552; Julius III, 1550 - 1555; Pius IV, 1559 - 1565|
|EMPERORS:||Charles V, 1519 - 1556 & Ferdinand I, 1556 - 1564|
Affirmed Catholic doctrines against the errors of the Protestants; Initiated the Counter-Reformation; Reaffirmed and Defined doctrines of the Bible and Tradition, grace, sin, justification, Mass as real sacrifice, the Real Presence, purgatory, indulgences, jurisdiction of the Pope; Defined numerous points concerning the sacraments; Defined the necessity of Baptism for salvation, whether in reality or desire; Defined the necessity of both faith and good works for salvation; Promulgated numerous decrees on the sacraments and the liturgy; Reformed the clergy and morals; Ordered establishment of seminaries for future training of priests (TFW: 5c, 6, 19-20, 28-31, 37-38, 48-67, 69b-74, 76-89, 98-99)
Council of Trent, lasted eighteen years (1545-1563) under five popes: Paul III, Julius III, Marcellus II, Paul IV and Pius IV, and under the Emperors Charles V and Ferdinand. There were present 5 cardinal legates of the Holy See, 3 patriarchs, 200 Bishops, 7 abbots, 7 generals of monastic orders, representatives of kings and princes. It was convoked to examine and condemn the errors promulgated by Luther and other Reformers, and to reform the discipline of the Church. Of all councils it lasted longest, issued the largest number of dogmatic and reformatory decrees, and produced the most beneficial results.
ACTION: Called by Pope Paul III, this council was continued by Pope Julius III, and, after 18 years and 25 sessions in all, Pope Pius IV concluded it and solemnly confirmed its decrees. Trent Condemned the heresies of Luther, Calvin, and others. It issued decrees on the Eucharist, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Sacraments (notably Baptism and Holy Orders) and teachings on marriage, purgatory, indulgences and the use of images. +See canons II and V, BAPTISM. The remaining tasks begun by Pope Pius IV were continued by his successor, Pope St. Pius V (1566 - 1572): reforming of the Missal and Brieviary, writing of the Catechism based on the decrees of Trent, appointing a commission to issue a more exact edition of the Vulgate, and the reforming of morals.
NOTE: St. Peter Canisius, Priest, Doctor of the Church (d. 1597), represented the Pope at Trent, and was an opponent of Melancthon.
Twentieth Ecumenical Council -- Vatican I
|SITE:||The Vatican (St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City-State, Rome).|
|YEARS:||1869 - 1870|
|POPE:||Pius IX, 1846 - 1878|
|EUROPEAN RULERS DURING THE COUNCIL:||AUSTRIA: Francis Joseph, 1848 - 1916; ENGLAND: Victoria, 1837 - 1901; FRANCE: Napolean III, 1852 - 1870; SPAIN: Republic, 1868 - 1870; PRUSSIA: German Empire Prussian Kingdom William I, 1861 - 1888; RUSSIA: Alexander II, 1855 - 1881; ITALY: Victor Emmanuel II, 1848 - 1861 (King of Sardinia) 1861 - 1878 (King of Italy); Ulyssyes S. Grant, 1869 -1877 (United States President).|
Defined Papal infallibility; Defined the constitution, mission and infallibility of the Church; Defined nature of Divine Revelation and dogmas; Pronounced necessity of believing the Catholic Faith for salvation; Condemned errors concerning relationship between faith and reason, revelation and scientific knowledge and other modern errors (TFW: 1-12, 16-18, 21, 34, 36, 38, 40-41, 56)
First Vatican Council was summoned to the Vatican by Pius IX. It met 8 December, 1869, and lasted till 18 July, 1870, when it was adjourned; it is still (1908) unfinished. There were 704 Patriarchs, Bishops, and superiors of Religious Orders present. Besides important canons relating to the Faith and the constitution of the Church, the council decreed the infallibility of the pope when speaking ex cathedra, i.e. when as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church.
ACTION: Convened and ratified by Pope Pius IX, the First Vatican Council Defined the INFALLIBILITY of the Pope when, as Supreme Pontiff, he speaks from the Seat of Peter (ex cathedra), on a matter of Faith and Morals, pronouncing a doctrine to be believed by the whole Church.
List of Illegitimate Councils
Antioch (341 AD)
Arles ( 353 AD)
Basel (1061 AD) (1438 AD)
Ephesus (John of Antioch) (431 AD)
Ephesus (Latrocinium) (449 AD)
Hieria (725 AD)
Mainz and Brixen (1080 AD)
Milan (355 AD)
Parma (1063 AD)
Philippopolis (343 AD)
Pisa (1409 AD)
Pisa, Milan & Lyons (1511-1512 AD)
Rimini (359 AD)
Rome (1084 AD) (1089 AD) (1098 AD) (1412 AD)
Seleucia (359 AD)
Second Council of Simirium (357 AD)
Synod of Photius (879-880 AD)
Second Vatican Council (1962-1965 AD)
|SITE:||The Vatican (St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City-State, Rome).|
|YEARS:||1962 - 1965|
Issued pastoral documents on matters of Church life: spiritual renewal, the reform of religious institutions, disciplines, liturgy, evangelization and the work for Christian unity and religious tolerance, for a total of 16 documents. Of these 16 documents two are entitled "dogmatic" but neither involves any definitive dogmatic pronouncements.
ACTION: Called by John XXIII and ratified by Paul VI, the Second Vatican Council was claimed to be "Pastoral Council" rathar than a Dognatic Council. There are 16 documents emphasizing ecumenism understood as religious fellowship, rather than emphasizing Catholic missionary enterprise for the conversion to the Faith.
NOTE: The purpose of any legitimate council is for the defining of a Dogma and/or to condem a heresy. There was no dogma Defined and no heresy Condemned at Vatican Council II.
Canon 18 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law is "Ecclesiastical laws are to be understood according to the proper (appropriate, corresponding) significance of the words ... and to the intent or mind of the legislator (one who proposes laws or norms(for example pastoral norms and guidance)."
This principle can easily be applied to Council Documents. The Intent of the author of a document, for example, a document of a Council, determines its authority.
"There will be no infallible definitions. All that was done by former Councils. That is enough." -- John XXIII (apud Fr. Yves Congar)
"In view of the pastoral nature of the Council, it avoided proclaiming in an extraordinary manner any dogmata carrying the mark of infallibility." ( Paul VI, General Audience of January 12, 1966)
NOTE: All the Popes since the existence of communism have condemned this most fatal social organization. Vatican Council II failed to condemn communism, in fact specifically forbid anyone from condemning communism, or any heresy for that matter and did not define any dogma. By not condemning Communism, Vatican II implicitly approved of it. The illegitimate Vatican Council II was the only Council out of 20 Ecumenical Councils that specifically did not intend to implore that special protection from the Holy Ghost to be infallible and therefore the Vatican Council II is quite fallible. The past 20 Ecumenical Councils practiced an entirely different ecumenism than what is being practiced today. Genuine ecumenism consists of the conversion of non-Catholics to the Catholic Faith never treating the Catholic Faith as an equal among equals with other faiths.
NOTE: All the Ecumenical Councils of the Most Holy Roman Catholic Church have either condemned a heresy, excommunicated a heretic, promulgated dogmatic canons, or defined infallible doctrines. Vatican II not only strayed from teaching authentic Catholicism but promoted heresy.
|BR. FRANCIS, M.I.C.M., selected notes and texts.|
|DENZINGER, The Sources of Catholic Dogma, Translated by Roy J. Deferrari from the 30th Edition of Henry Denzinger's Enchiridion Symbolorum, St. Louis, Mo.: B. Herder Book Co., 1957. (Imprimatur).|
|HUGHES, Philip, A Popular History of the Catholic Church, New York: Macmillan Publishing Co. Inc., 1947. (Imprimatur index, tables of Popes and emperors, 320pp.)|
|LAUX, Rev. John L., Church History, Rockford, Illinois 61105: Tan Books & Publishers, 1989 (1945 Benzinger Bros.,N.Y.). (Imprimatur, index and appendices, 621pp.)|
|MURPHY, Fr. John L., The General Councils of the Church, Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Company, 1960. (Imprimatur, index 193pp., photos [8 plates], map [opp. p.1] of sites of the General Councils.)|
|Given by His Holiness St. Pius X, September 1, 1910.|
sworn to by all clergy, pastors, confessors, preachers, religious
superiors, and professors in philosophical-theological seminaries.
|Oath Against Modernism|
|I (name) firmly embrace and accept each and every definition that has been set forth and declared by the unerring teaching authority of the Church, especially those principal truths which are directly opposed to the errors of this day.|
|And first of all, I profess that God, the origin and end of all things, can be known with certainty by the natural light of reason from the created world, that is, from the visible works of creation, as a cause from its effects, and that, therefore, his existence can also be demonstrated.|
|Secondly, I accept and acknowledge the external proofs of revelation, that is, divine acts and especially miracles and prophecies as the surest signs of the divine origin of the Christian religion and I hold that these same proofs are well adapted to the understanding of all eras and all men, even of this time.|
|Thirdly, I believe with equally firm faith that the Church, the guardian and teacher of the revealed word, was personally instituted by the real and historical Christ when he lived among us, and that the Church was built upon Peter, the prince of the apostolic hierarchy, and his successors for the duration of time.|
|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.|
|Fifthly, I hold with certainty and sincerely confess that faith is not a blind sentiment of religion welling up from the depths of the subconscious under the impulse of the heart and the motion of a will trained to morality; but faith is a genuine assent of the intellect to truth received by hearing from an external source. By this assent, because of the authority of the supremely truthful God, we believe to be true that which has been revealed and attested to by a personal God, our creator and Lord.|
|Furthermore, with due reverence, I submit and adhere with my whole heart to the condemnations, declarations, and all the prescripts contained in the encyclical Pascendi and in the decree Lamentabili, especially those concerning what is known as the history of dogmas.|
I also reject the error of those who say that the faith held by the Church can contradict history, and that Catholic dogmas, in the sense in which they are now understood, are irreconcilable with a more realistic view of the origins of the Christian religion.
I also condemn and reject the opinion of those who say that a well-educated Christian assumes a dual personality-that of a believer and at the same time of a historian, as if it were permissible for a historian to hold things that contradict the faith of the believer, or to establish premises which, provided there be no direct denial of dogmas, would lead to the conclusion that dogmas are either false or doubtful.
Likewise, I reject that method of judging and interpreting Sacred Scripture which, departing from the tradition of the Church, the analogy of faith, and the norms of the Apostolic See, embraces the misrepresentations of the rationalists and with no prudence or restraint adopts textual criticism as the one and supreme norm.
Furthermore, I reject the opinion of those who hold that a professor lecturing or writing on a historico-theological subject should first put aside any preconceived opinion about the supernatural origin of Catholic tradition or about the divine promise of help to preserve all revealed truth forever; and that they should then interpret the writings of each of the Fathers solely by scientific principles, excluding all sacred authority, and with the same liberty of judgment that is common in the investigation of all ordinary historical documents.
Finally, I declare that I am completely opposed to the error of the modernists who hold that there is nothing divine in sacred tradition; or what is far worse, say that there is, but in a pantheistic sense, with the result that there would remain nothing but this plain simple fact-one to be put on a par with the ordinary facts of history-the fact, namely, that a group of men by their own labor, skill, and talent have continued through subsequent ages a school begun by Christ and his apostles.
I promise that I shall keep all these articles faithfully, entirely, and sincerely, and guard them inviolate, in no way deviating from them in teaching or in any way in word or in writing. Thus I promise, this I swear, so help me God, and these holy Gospels of God which I touch with my hand.
Teachings of the Popes
Communism and the Church in China, June 29, 1958
On Sacred Music, December 25, 1955
On Proclaiming the Queenship of Mary, October 11, 1954
On Supranationality of the Church, October 7, 1954
Concerning the Eucharistic Fast, January 6, 1953
On Reciting the Rosary, September 15, 1951
Concerning Some False Opinions, August 12, 1950
On Combating Atheistic Propaganda, March 12, 1950
On the Sacred Liturgy, November 20, 1947
On Ordination and Consecration Rites, November 13, 1947
On the Mystical Body of Christ, June 29, 1943
On Hierachry in the United States, November 1, 1939
On the Unity of Human Society, October 20, 1939
The Rosary, September 29, 1937
On Atheistic Communism, March 19, 1937
On the Church and the German Reich, March 14, 1937
On The Catholic Priesthood, December 20, 1935
On The Sacred Heart, May 3, 1932
On Reconstruction of the Social Order, May 15, 1931
On Christian Marriage, December 31, 1930
On Christian Education, December 31, 1929
On Reparation to The Sacred Heart, May 8, 1928
On The Promotion of True Religious Unity, January 6, 1928
On the Feast of Christ the King, December 11, 1925
Saint Dominic, June 29, 1921
On Dante, April 30, 1921
On the Third Order of Saint Francis, January 6, 1921
On the Children of Central Europe, December 1, 1920
On Saint Ephrem the Syrian, October 5, 1920
On Saint Jerome, September 15, 1920
On Peace and Reconciliation, May 23, 1920
On the Children of Central Europe, November 24, 1919
On Saint Boniface, May 14, 1919
On the Future Peace Conference, December 1, 1918
On Preaching the Word of God, June 15, 1917
Appealing for Peace, November 1, 1914
|Saint Pius X|
On the Bible and Against the Modernists, November 18, 1907
New Opinions, Regarding Americanism, January 22, 1899
On the Nullity of Anglican Orders, September 18, 1896
On the Unity of the Church, June 29, 1896
On the Study of Holy Scripture, November 18, 1893
On Freemasonry in Italy, December 8, 1892
On Church & State in France, February 16, 1892
On the Rosary, September 22, 1891
On Freemasonry in Italy, October 15, 1890
On Christians as Citizens, January 10, 1890
On the Nature of Human Liberty, June 20, 1888
On the Abolition of Slavery, May 5, 1888
On Christian States, November 1, 1885
On the Religious Question in France, February 8, 1884
On Freemasonry, April 20, 1884
On the Origin of Civil Power, June 29, 1881
On Socialism, December 28, 1878
On the Evils of Society, April 21, 1878
the Afflictions of Church, October 27, 1867
The Syllabus of Errors, 1864
On Current Errors, December 8, 1864
On Promotion of False Doctrines, August 10, 1863
On the Need for Civil Sovereignty, January 19, 1860
On Pleading for Public Prayer, April 27, 1859
On Priests and the Care of Souls, May 3, 1858
The Immaculate Conception, December 8, 1854
On Urging Prayers for Peace, August 1, 1854
On Pleading for Unity of Spirit, March 21, 1853
On Faith and Religion, November 9, 1846
the Propagation of the Faith, September 18, 1840
Condemning the Slave Trade, December 3, 1839
On the Errors of Lammenais, June 25, 1834
On Liberialism and Religious Indifferentism, August 15, 1832
The Observance of Oriental Rites, July 26, 1755
On Christians Using Mohammedan Names, August 1, 1754
On Judaism in Poland, June 14, 1751
On Usury and Other Dishonest Profit, November 1, 1745
|On Freemasonry, April 28, 1738|
|On the Errors of Miguel De Molinos, November 20, 1687|
|Saint Pius V|
the Rite of Mass, July 14, 1570
|On Error in Respect of the Faith, February 15, 1559|
|Condemning the Errors of Martin Luther, June 15, 1520|
|On Appealing to a Future Council, January 16, 1460|
|On Papal Primacy, November 18, 1302|
Papal Coronation Oath
"I vow to change nothing of the received Tradition, and nothing thereof I have found before me guarded by my God-pleasing predecessors, to encroach upon, to alter, or to permit any innovation therein;
To the contrary: with glowing affection as her truly faithful student and successor, to safeguard reverently the passed-on good, with my whole strength and utmost effort;
To cleanse all that is in contradiction to the canonical order, should such appear; to guard the Holy Canons and Decrees of our Popes as if they were the divine ordinance of Heaven, because I am conscious of Thee, whose place I take through the Grace of God, whose Vicarship I possess with Thy support, being subject to severest accounting before Thy Divine Tribunal over all that I shall confess;
I swear to God Almighty and the Savior Jesus Christ that I will keep whatever has been revealed through Christ and His Successors and whatever the first councils and my predecessors have defined and declared.
I will keep without sacrifice to itself the discipline and the rite of the Church. I will put outside the Church whoever dares to go against this oath, may it be somebody else or I.
If I should undertake to act in anything of contrary sense, or should permit that it will be executed, Thou willst not be merciful to me on the dreadful Day of Divine Justice.
Accordingly, without exclusion, We subject to severest excommunication anyone -- be it Ourselves or be it another -- who would dare to undertake anything new in contradiction to this constituted evangelic Tradition and the purity of the orthodox Faith and the Christian religion, or would seek to change anything by his opposing efforts, or would agree with those who undertake such a blasphemous venture."
This oath was written by Pope St. Agatho, 678AD, however, it is more likely centuries older. It was taken by all pontiffs and even those claiming the papacy after Vatican II until John Paul II, who did not.
Dogmas of the Catholic Church.
from "Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma" by Dr. Ludwig Ott
The following De Fide statements comprise "Our Catholic Faith without which it is impossible to please God" (The Council of Trent, Session V, explaining the correct interpretation of Hebrews 11: 6). These positive "articles of faith" have the function of fundamental principles which the faithful accepts without discussion as being certain and sure by virtue of the authority of God, Who is absolute truth (Council of the Vatican). They represent the mind of Christ as St. Paul says:
|1 Cor. 2:16. - But we have the mind of Christ.|
|Hebrews 13:8. - Jesus Christ yesterday, and today: and the same for ever.|
Since Our Catholic Faith comes from God, they are not open for debate, and they are not reversible.
The Christian is called to adhere to Christ and His teaching integrally; the unity of faith is the dominant motif of divine revelation on which St. Paul insists energetically, when he writes:
|1 Cor. 1:10. - I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no schisms among you: but that you be perfect in mind and in the same judgement.|
There is, then, no place for "pick and choose" in the truths proposed to the Faith of Christians by the Infallible Teaching Church for they are bound in Heaven by God Himself. If something is decreed on earth and is also bound in Heaven, that thing must be the truth. Otherwise, God is no longer the Truth, which is contrary to the Gospel:
|Matthew 16:19. - And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in Heaven.|
The Catholic Church is infallible because it is:
|1 Tim 3:15. - the church of the living God, the pillar and the ground of the truth.|
If a baptized person deliberately denies or contradicts a dogma, he or she is guilty of sin of heresy and automatically becomes subject to the punishment of excommunication.
From the work of Dr. Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, published by the Mercier Press Ltd., Cork, Ireland, 1955. With Imprimatur of Cornelius, Bishop. Reprinted in U.S.A. by Tan Books and Publishers, Rockford, Illinois, 1974.
The Lord's teaching to the heathen by the Twelve Apostles.
1. There are two Ways, one of Life and one of Death, and there is a great difference between the two Ways.
2. The way of life is this:" First, you shalt love the God who made thee, secondly, thy neighbor as thyself; and whatsoever thou wouldst not have done to thyself, do not thou to another."
3. Now, the teaching of these words is this: "Bless those that curse you, and pray for your enemies, and fast for those that persecute you. For what credit is it to you if you love those that love you? Do not even the heathen do the same?" But, for your part, "love those that hate you," and you will have no enemy.
4. "Abstain from carnal" and bodily "lusts." "If any man smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other cheek also," and thou wilt be perfect. "If any man impress thee to go with him one mile, go with him two. If any man take thy coat, give him thy shirt also. If any man will take from thee what is thine, refuse it not," not even if thou canst.
5. Give to everyone that asks thee, and do not refuse, for the Father's will is that we give to all from the gifts we have received. Blessed is he that gives according to the mandate; for he is innocent; but he who receives it without need shall be tried as to why he took and for what, and being in prison he shall be examined as to his deeds, and "he shall not come out thence until he pay the last farthing."
6. But concerning this it was also said, "Let thine alms sweat into thine hands until thou knowest to whom thou art giving."
1. But the second commandment of the teaching is this:
2. "Thou shalt do no murder; thou shalt not commit adultery"; thou shalt not commit sodomy; thou shalt not commit fornication; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not use magic; thou shalt not use philtres; thou shalt not procure abortion, nor commit infanticide; "thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods";
3. thou shalt not commit perjury, "thou shall not bear false witness"; thou shalt not speak evil; thou shalt not bear malice.
4. Thou shalt not be double-minded nor double-tongued, for to be double-tongued is the snare of death.
5. Thy speech shall not be false nor vain, but completed in action.
6. Thou shalt not be covetous nor extortionate, nor a hypocrite, nor malignant, nor proud, thou shalt make no evil plan against thy neighbor.
7. Thou shalt hate no man; but some thou shalt reprove, and for some shalt thou pray, and some thou shalt love more then thine own life.
1. My child, flee from every evil man and from all like him.
2. Be not proud, for pride leads to murder, nor jealous, nor contentious, nor passionate, for from all these murders are engendered.
3. My child, be not lustful, for lust leads to fornication, nor a speaker of base words, nor a lifter up of the eyes, for from all these is adultery engendered.
4. My child, regard not omens, for this leads to idolatry; neither be an enchanter, nor an astrologer, nor a magician, neither wish to see these things, for from them all is idolatry engendered.
5. My child, be not a liar, for lying leads to theft, nor a lover of money, nor vain-glorious, for from all these things are thefts engendered.
6. My child, be not a grumbler, for this leads to blasphemy, nor stubborn, nor a thinker of evil, for from all these are blasphemies engendered.
7. but be thou "meek, for the meek shall inherit the earth;"
8. be thou long-suffering, and merciful and guileless, and quiet, and good, and ever fearing the words which thou hast heard.
9. Thou shalt not exalt thyself, nor let thy soul be presumptuous. Thy soul shall not consort with the lofty, but thou shalt walk with righteous and humble men.
10. Receive the accidents that befall to thee as good, knowing that nothing happens without God.
1. My child, thou shalt remember, day and night, him who speaks the word of God to thee, and thou shalt honor him as the Lord, for where the Lord's nature is spoken of, there is he present.
2. And thou shalt seek daily the presence of the saints, that thou mayest find rest in their words.
3. Thou shalt not desire a schism, but shalt reconcile those that strive. Thou shalt give rightous judgement; thou shalt favor no mans person in reproving transgression.
4. Thou shalt not be of two minds whether it shall be or not.
5. Be not one who stretches out his hands to receive, but shuts them when it comes to giving.
6. Of whatsoever thou hast gained by thy hands thou shalt give a ransom for thy sins.
7. Thou shalt not hesitate to give, nor shalt thou grumble when thou givest, for thou shalt know who is the good Paymaster of the reward.
8. Thou shalt not turn away the needy, but shalt share everything with thy brother, and shalt not say it is thine own, for if you are sharers in the imperishable, how much more in the things which perish?
9. Thou shalt not withhold thine hand from thy son or from thy daughter, but thou shalt teach them the fear of God from their youth up.
10. Thou shalt not command in thy bitterness thy slave or thine handmaid, who hope in the same God, lest they cease to fear the God who is over you both; for he comes not to call men with respect of persons, but those whom the Spirit has prepared.
11. But do you who are slaves be subject to your master, as to God's representative, in reverence and fear.
12. Thou shalt hate all hypocrisy, and everything that is not pleasing to the Lord.
13. Thou shalt not forsake the commandments of the Lord, but thou shalt keep what thou didst receive, "Adding nothing to it and taking nothing away."
14. In the congregation thou shalt confess thy transgressions, and thou shalt not betake thyself to prayer with an evil conscience. This is the way of life.
1.But the Way of Death is this: First of all, it is wicked and full of cursing, murders, adulteries, lusts, fornications, thefts, idolatries, witchcrafts, charms, robberies, false witness, hypocrisies, a double heart, fraud, pride, malice, stubbornness, covetousness, foul speach, jealousy, impudence, haughtiness, boastfulness.
2. Persecutors of the good, haters of truth, lovers of lies, knowing not the reward of righteousness, not cleaving to the good nor to righteous judgment, spending wakeful nights not for good but for wickedness, from whom meekness and patience is far, lovers of vanity, following after reward, unmerciful to the poor, not working for him who is oppressed with toil, without knowledge of him who made them, murderers of children, corrupters of God's creatures, turning away the needy, oppressing the distressed, advocates of the rich, unjust judges of the poor, altogether sinful; may ye be delivered, my children, from all these.
1. See "that no one make thee to err" from this Way of the teaching, for he teaches thee without God.
2. For if thou canst bear the whole yoke of the Lord, thou wilt be perfect, but if thou canst not, do what thou canst.
3. And concerning food, bear what thou canst, but keep strictly from that which is offered to idols, for it is the worship of dead gods.
1. Concerning baptism, baptise thus: Having first rehearsed all these things, "baptise, in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost," in running water;
2. but if thou hast no running water, baptise in other water, and if thou canst not in cold, then in warm.
3. But if thou hast neither, pour water three times on the head "in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost."
4. And before the baptism let the baptiser and him who is to be baptised fast, and any others who are able. And thou shalt bid him who is to be baptised to fast one or two days before.
1. Let not your fasts be with the hypocrites, for they fast on Mondays and Thursdays, but do you fast on Wednesdays and Fridays.
2. And do not pray as the hypocrites, but as the Lord commanded in his Gospel, pray thus: "Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy Name, thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, as in Heaven so also upon earth; give us today our daily bread, and forgive us our debt as we forgive our debtors, and lead us not into trial, but deliver us from the Evil One, for thine is the power and the glory for ever."
3. Pray thus three times a day.
1. And concerning the Eucharist, hold Eucharist thus:
2. First concerning the Cup, "We give thanks to thee, our Father, for the Holy Vine of David thy child, which, thou didst make known to us through Jesus thy Child; to thee be glory for ever."
3. And concerning the broken Bread: "We give thee thanks, our Father, for the life and knowledge which thou didst make known to us through Jesus thy Child. To thee be glory for ever.
4. As this broken bread was scattered upon the mountains, but was brought together and became one, so let thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into thy kingdom, for thine is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever."
5. But let none eat or drink of your Eucharist except those who have been baptised in the Lord's Name. For concerning this also did the Lord say, "Give not that which is holy to the dogs."
1. But after you are satisfied with food, thus give thanks:
2. "We give thanks to thee, O Holy Father, for thy Holy Name which thou didst make to tabernacle in out hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality which thou didst make known to us through Jesus thy Child. To thee be glory for ever.
3. Thou, Lord Almighty, didst create all things for thy Name's sake, and didst give food and drink to men for their enjoyment, that they might give thanks to thee, but us hast thou blessed with spiritual food and drink and eternal light through thy Child.
4. Above all we give thanks to thee for that thou art mighty. To thee be glory for ever.
5. Remember, Lord, thy Church, to deliver it from all evil and to make it perfect in thy love, and gather it together in its holiness from the four winds to thy kingdom which thou hast prepared for it. For thine is the power and the glory for ever.
6. Let grace come and let this world pass away. Hosannah to the God of David. If any man be holy, let him come! if any man be not, let him repent: Maranatha ("Our Lord! Come!"), Amen."
7. But suffer the prophets to hold Eucharist as they will.
1. Whosoever then comes and teaches you all these things aforesaid, receive him.
2. But if the teacher himself be perverted and teach another doctrine to destroy these things, do not listen to him, but if his teaching be for the increase of righteousness and knowledge of the Lord, receive him as the Lord.
3. And concerning the Apostles and Prophets, act thus according to the ordinance of the Gospel.
4. Let every Apostle who comes to you be received as the Lord,
5. but let him not stay more than one day, or if need be a second as well; but if he stay three days, he is a false prophet.
6. And when an Apostle goes forth let him accept nothing but bread till he reach his night's lodging; but if he ask for money, he is a false prophet.
7. Do not test or examine any prophet who is speaking in a spirit, "for every sin shall be forgiven, but this sin shall not be forgiven."
8. But not everyone who speaks in a spirit is a prophet, except he have the behaviour of the Lord. From his behaviour, then, the false prophet and the true prophet shall be known.
9. And no prophet who orders a meal in a spirit shall eat of it: otherwise he is a false prophet.
10. And every prophet who teaches truth, if he do not what he teaches, is a false prophet.
11. But no prophet who has been tried and is genuine, though he enact a worldly mystery of the Church, if he teach not others to do what he does himself, shall be judged by you: for he has his judgment with God, for so also did the prophets of old.
12. But whosoever shall say in a spirit "Give me money, or something else," you shall not listen to him; but if he tell you to give on behalf of others in want, let none judge him.
1. Let everyone who "comes in the Name of the Lord" be received; but when you have tested him you shall know him, for you shall have understanding of true and false.
2. If he who comes is a traveller, help him as much as you can, but he shall not remain with you more than two days, or, if need be, three.
3. And if he wishes to settle among you and has a craft, let him work for his bread.
4. But if he has no craft provide for him according to your understanding, so that no man shall live among you in idleness because he is a Christian.
5. But if he will not do so, he is making traffic of Christ; beware of such.
1. But every true prophet who wishes to settle among you is "worthy of his food."
2. Likewise a true teacher is himself worthy, like the workman, of his food.
3. Therefore thou shalt take the firstfruit of the produce of the winepress and of the threshingfloor and of oxen and sheep, and shalt give them as the firstfruits to the prophets, for they are your high priests.
4. But if you have not a prophet, give to the poor.
5. If thou makest bread, take the firstfruits, and give it according to the commandment.
6. Likewise when thou openest a jar of wine or oil, give the firstfruits to the prophets.
7. Of money also and clothes, and of all your possessions, take the firstfruits, as it seem best to you, and give according to the commandment.
1. On the Lord's Day of the Lord come together, break bread and hold Eucharist, after confessing your transgressions that your offering may be pure;
2. but let none who has a quarrel with his fellow join in your meeting until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice be not defiled.
3. For this is that which was spoken by the Lord, "In every place and time offer me a pure sacrifice, for I am a great king," saith the Lord, "and my name is wonderful among the heathen."
1. Appoint therefore for yourselves bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, meek men, and not lovers of money, and truthful and approved, for they also minister to you the ministry of the prophets and teachers.
2. Therefore do not despise them, for they are your honourable men together with the prophets and teachers.
3. And reprove one another not in wrath but in peace as you find in the Gospel, and let none speak with any who has done wrong to his neighbour, nor let him hear a word from you until he repents.
4. But your prayers and alms and all your acts perform as ye find in the Gospel of our Lord.
1. "Watch" over you life "let your lamps" be not quenched "and your loins" be not ungirded, but be "ready," for ye know not "the hour in which our Lord cometh."
2. But be frequently gathered together seeking the things which are profitable for your souls, for the whole time of your faith shall not profit you except ye be found perfect at the last time;
3. for in the last days the false prophets and the corrupters shall be multiplied, and the sheep shall be turned into wolves, and love shall change to hate;
4. for as lawlessness increaseth they shall hate one another and persecute and betray, and then shall appear the deceiver of the world as a Son of God, and shall do signs and wonders and the earth shall be given over into his hands and he shall commit iniquities which have never been since the world began.
5. Then shall the creation of mankind come to the fiery trial and "many shall be offended" and be lost, but "they who endure" in their faith "shall be saved" by the curse itself.
6. And "then shall appear the signs" of the truth. First the sign spread out in Heaven, then the sign of the sound of the trumpet, and thirdly the resurrection of the dead:
7. but not of all the dead, but as it was said, "The Lord shall come and all his saints with him."
8. Then shall the world "see the Lord comming on the clouds of Heaven."
Courtesy of TraditionalCatholic.net
Encyclical of Pope Clement XIII promulgated on 25 November 1766.
To Our Venerable Brothers, all Patriarchs, Primates, Metropolitans, Archbishops, and Bishops Who Enjoy Grace and Communion with the Apostolic See.
Venerable Brothers, Greetings and Apostolic Blessing.
The well-being of the Christian community which has been entrusted to Us by the Prince of shepherds and the Guardian of souls requires Us to see to it that the unaccustomed and offensive licentiousness of books which has emerged from hiding to cause ruin and desolation does not become more destructive as it triumphantly spreads abroad. The distortion of this hateful error and the boldness of the enemy has so increased, especially at this time, in sowing weeds among the wheat either in word or in writing that unless We lay the scythe to the root and bind up the bad plants in bundles to burn, it will not be long before the growing thorns of evil attempt to choke the seedlings of the Lord Sabaoth. For accursed men who have given themselves over to myths and who do not uphold the stronghold of Sion from all sides vomit the poison of serpents from their hearts for the ruin of the Christian people by the contagious plague of books which almost overwhelms us. They pollute the pure waters of belief and destroy the foundations of religion.
They are abominable in their activity. Secretly sitting in ambush, they draw arrows out of the quiver which they shoot at the righteous in the dark. They have not restrained their impious minds from anything divine, holy, and consecrated by the oldest religion of all time; rather in their attack they have sharpened their tongues like a sword. They have run first of all against God in their pride. Armed with a thick neck, they have strengthened themselves against the Almighty. They raise again from the ashes the absurdities of the impious which have been destroyed so often. They deny God even though He makes Himself known everywhere and comes before their eyes daily, not because of the dullness of their mind, but only on the urging of their depraved will. Or else they represent God Himself as lazy and indolent. They do not respect His providence nor do they fear His justice. They preach with a detestable and insane freedom of thought that the origin and nature of our soul is mortal although it was created in the image of the supreme creator little lower than the angels. Whether they think matter has been created or foolishly imagine that it is eternal and independent of the causes, they consider that nothing else exists in this universe. Or else if they are forced to admit that spirit exists with matter, they exclude the soul from the spirit's heavenly nature. They are unwilling to understand that in this very weakness of which we are formed something spiritual and incorruptible abides in us. By its power we know, act, will, look to the future, attend to the present, and remember the past.
On the other hand, there are others who, even if they judge correctly that the fog of earthly reasonings should be dispelled and the smoke of worldly wisdom should be driven from the eye of enlightened faith, still dare to examine with human measures the hidden mysteries of faith which surpass all understanding. Having become investigators of greatness, they are not afraid of being overwhelmed by its glory. They ridicule the faith of simple people. They lay open the mysteries of God. They rashly discourse on questions concerning the highest matters. The bold mind of the enquirer takes everything for itself, examines everything, reserves nothing for faith, and deprives faith of merit by seeking proof for it in human reason.
Should we not also be angry with those who use the most wicked indecency of word and example to corrupt pure and strict morals by mortal sin, who recommend to the minds of the unwary an accursed license of living, and who cause an extreme loss of faith? Then consider how they sprinkle their writings with a certain refined splendor, a seductive pleasantness of speech and allurement so as to penetrate more easily into the readers' minds and infect them more deeply with the poison of their error. Thus they will give the snake's poison in the cup of Babylon to the unwary who are seduced and blinded by their smooth speech and so do not recognize the poison that kills them. Finally, who can avoid deep sadness when he sees the bitter enemy exceed the bounds of modesty and due respect and attack with the publication of outrageous books now in open battle, now in dissimulated combat the very See of Peter which the strong redeemer of Jacob has placed as an iron column and as a bronze wall against the leaders of darkness. Perhaps they are led on by the desperate thought that if they shatter the head of the Church, they will be able more freely to tear to pieces its members.
2. Therefore since the Holy Spirit has made you bishops to govern the Church of God and has taught you concerning the unique sacrament of human salvation, We cannot neglect our duty in the face of these evil books. We must arouse the enthusiasm of your devotion so that you, who are called to share in Our pastoral concern join together to oppose this evil with all energy possible. It is necessary to fight bitterly, as the situation requires, and to eradicate with all our strength the deadly destruction caused by such books. The substance of the error will never be removed unless the criminal elements of wickedness burn in the fire and perish. Since you have been constituted stewards of the mysteries of God and armed with His strength to destroy their defenses, exert yourselves to keep the sheep entrusted to you and redeemed by the blood of Christ at a safe distance from these poisoned pastures. For if it is necessary to avoid the company of evildoers because their words encourage impiety and their speech acts like a cancer, what desolation the plague of their books can cause! Well and cunningly written these books are always with us and forever within our reach. They travel with us, stay at home with us, and enter bedrooms which would be shut to their evil and deception.
Since you have been constituted ministers of Christ for the nations, in order to make holy his Gospel, exert yourselves and do everything in your power both by word and example to cut down the shoots of falsehood. Block up the corrupt springs of vice. Sound the trumpet in case as their leader you have to account for the souls who are lost. Act according to the position you hold, according to the rank with which you are vested, and according to the authority which you have received from the Lord. In addition, as nobody could or should avoid sharing in this sadness and insofar as there is one common reason for everyone to grieve and to help in this great crisis of faith and religion, call to your aid when it is necessary the time-honored piety of Catholic leaders. Explain the cause of the Church's sorrow and arouse its beloved sons who have always served it well on many occasions to bring their help. Since they do not carry the sword without cause, urge them with the united authority of state and of priesthood, to vigorously rout those accursed men who fight against the armies of Israel.
It is principally your duty to stand as a wall so that no foundation can be laid other than the one that is already laid. Watch over the most holy deposit of faith to whose protection you committed yourselves on oath at your solemn consecration. Reveal to the faithful the wolves which are demolishing the Lord's vineyard. They should be warned not to allow themselves to be ensnared by the splendid writing of certain authors in order to halt the diffusion of error by cunning and wicked men. In a word, they should detest books which contain elements shocking to the reader; which are contrary to faith, religion, and good morals; and which lack an atmosphere of Christian virtue. We manifest to you Our great happiness in this matter that most of you, following the apostolic customs and energetically defending the laws of the Church, have shown yourselves zealous and watchful in order to avert this pestilence and have not allowed the simple people to sleep soundly with serpents.
Certainly We who are distressed and distracted by Our concern for all the churches and for the salvation of the Christian people, are unsparing of Our efforts, and We promise you assistance too in your own grave danger. Meanwhile, We will not cease to ask God with deep humility to grant you help from His holy place to deflect the cunning of the insidious enemy and to entirely fulfill the duties of your ministry. As a pledge of the desired outcome, we lovingly impart Our apostolic blessing to you and your flock.
Given in Rome in St. Mary Major's on the 25th day of November in the year 1766, the ninth year of Our pontificate.
Apostolic Exhortation given by Pope St. Pius X on August 4, 1908.
This Exhortation, which the Holy Father addressed to the catholic clergy on the occasion of the Golden jubilee of his priesthood, was written entirety in his own hand in the space of some weeks. It is a document which truly comes from the heart of the Pontiff. In it he presents his ideal of the priesthood, and reveals the serious anxieties which he experienced at a time when the modernist crisis was still a source of perturbation to the clergy; the Exhortation rounds off the numerous earlier instructions of the Holy Father. Saint Pius X was fond of recommending this Exhortation to the members of the episcopate: "This document, in which we opened our heart to all sacred ministers, make it your business to recall it and explain it for the benefit of the clerics for whom you are responsible. Besides, realize thoroughly and hold fast to this truth: when you have a body of clergy who conform to the ideal outlined in that Exhortation, you will certainly find your pastoral care greatly lightened, and the fruits of your apostolate will be much more abundant."
Deeply imprinted upon our mind are those dread words which the Apostle of the gentiles wrote to the Hebrews to remind them of the obedience which they owed to their superiors: They keep watch as having to render an account of your souls.
These grave words apply, no doubt, to all who have authority in the Church, but they apply in a special way to us who, despite our unworthiness, by the grace of God exercise supreme power within the Church. Therefore, with unceasing solicitude, our thoughts and endeavors are constantly directed to the promotion of the well-being and growth of the flock of the Lord.
Our first and chief concern is that all who are invested with the priestly ministry should be in every way fitted for the discharge of their responsibilities. For we are fully convinced that it is here that hope lies for the welfare and progress of religious life.
Hence it is that, ever since our elevation to the office of supreme Pontiff, we have felt it a duty, notwithstanding the manifest and numerous proofs of the high quality of the clergy as a whole, to urge with all earnestness our venerable brethren the bishops of the whole catholic world, to devote themselves unceasingly and efficaciously to the formation of Christ in those who, by their calling, have the responsibility of forming Christ in others.
We are well aware of the eagerness with which the episcopate have carried out this task. We know the watchful care and unwearied energy with which they seek to form the clergy in the ways of virtue, and for this we wish not so much to praise them as to render them public thanks.
But though it is a matter for congratulation that, as a result of the diligence of the bishops, so many priests are animated by heavenly fervor to rekindle or strengthen in their souls the flame of divine grace which they received by the imposition of hands, we must deplore the fact that there are others in different countries who do not show themselves worthy to be taken as models by the christian people who rightly look to them for a genuine model of christian virtue.
It is to these priests that we wish to open our heart in this Letter; it is a father's loving heart which beats anxiously as he looks upon an ailing child. Our love for them inspires us to add our own appeal to the appeals of their own bishops. And while our appeal is intended above all to recall the erring to the right path and to spur the lukewarm to fresh endeavor, we would wish it to serve as an encouragement to others also. We point out the path which each one must strive to follow with constantly growing fervor, so that he may become truly a man of God, as the Apostle so concisely expresses it, and fulfill the legitimate expectations of the Church.
We have nothing to say which you have not already heard, no doctrine to propound that is new to anyone; but we treat of matters which it is necessary for everyone to bear in mind, and God inspires us with the hope that our message will not fail to bear abundant fruit.
Our earnest appeal to you is this: Be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man, who according to God is created in justice and sanctity of truth; that will be the most excellent and most acceptable gift which you could offer to us on this fiftieth anniversary of our ordination.
For our own part, when we review before God with a contrite heart and in a spirit of humility the years passed in the priesthood, we will feel that we are making reparation in some measure for the human frailties which we have cause to regret, by thus admonishing and exhorting you to walk worthily of God, in all things pleasing.
In this exhortation, it is not your personal welfare alone that we are striving to secure, but the common welfare of catholic peoples; the one cannot be separated from the other. For the priest cannot be good or bad for himself alone; his conduct and way of life have far-reaching consequences for the people. A truly good priest is an immense gift wherever he may be.
I. THE OBLIGATION OF PRIESTLY SANCTITY
Therefore, beloved sons, we will begin this exhortation by stimulating you to that sanctity of life which the dignity of your office demands.
Anyone who exercises the priestly ministry exercises it not for himself alone, but for others. For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in the things that pertain to God. Christ himself taught that lesson when he compared the priest to salt and to light, in order to show the nature of the priestly ministry. The priest then is the light of the world and the salt of the earth. Everyone knows that he fulfills this function chiefly by the teaching of christian truth; and who can be unaware that this ministry of teaching is practically useless if the priest fails to confirm by the example of his life the truths which he teaches? Those who hear him might say, insultingly it is true, but not without justification: They profess that they know God but in their works they deny him; they will refuse to accept his teaching and will derive no benefit from the light of the priest.
Christ himself, the model of priests, taught first by the example of his deeds and then by his words: Jesus began to do and then to teach.
Likewise, a priest who neglects his own sanctification can never be the salt of the earth; what is corrupt and contaminated is utterly incapable of preserving from corruption; where sanctity is lacking, there corruption will inevitably find its way. Hence Christ, continuing this comparison, calls such priests salt that has lost its savor, which is good for nothing any more, but to be cast out and to be trodden on by men.
These truths are all the more evident inasmuch as we exercise the priestly ministry not in our own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ. The Apostle said: Let man so consider us as the ministers of Christ and the dispensers of the mysteries of God; for Christ, therefore, we are ambassadors. This is the reason that Christ has numbered us not among his servants but as his friends. I will not now call you servants; . . . but I have called you friends, because all things whatsoever I have heard from my Father I have made known to you; . . . I have chosen you and appointed you that you should go and bring forth fruit.
We have, therefore, to take the place of Christ: the mission which he has given to us we must fulfill with that same purpose that he intended. True friendship consists in unity of mind and will, identity of likes and dislikes; therefore, as friends of Jesus Christ, we are bound to have that mind in us which was in Jesus Christ who is holy, innocent, undefiled. As his envoys, we must win the minds of men for his doctrine and his law by first observing them ourselves; sharing as we do in his power to deliver souls from the bondage of sin, we must strive by every means to avoid becoming entangled in these toils of sin.
But it is particularly as the ministers of Jesus Christ in the great sacrifice which is constantly renewed with abiding power for the salvation of the world, that we have the duty of conforming our minds to that spirit in which he offered himself as an unspotted victim to God on the altar of the Cross. In the Old Law, though victims were only shadowy figures and symbols, sanctity of a high degree was demanded of the priest; what then of us, now that the victim is Christ himself? "How pure should not he be who shares in this sacrifice! More resplendent than the sun must be the hand that divides this Flesh, the mouth that is filled with spiritual fire, the tongue that is reddened by this Blood!"
Saint Charles Borromeo gave apt expression to this thought when, in his discourses to the clergy, he declared: "If we would only bear in mind, dearly beloved brethren, the exalted character of the things that the Lord God has placed in our hands, what unbounded influence would not this have in impelling us to lead lives worthy of ecclesiastics! Has not the Lord placed everything in my hand, when he put there his only-begotten Son, coeternal and coequal with himself? In my hand he has placed all his treasures, his sacraments, his graces; he has placed there souls, than whom nothing can be dearer to him; in his love he has preferred them to himself, and redeemed them by his Blood; he has placed heaven in my hand, and it is in my power to open and close it to others . . . How, then, can I be so ungrateful for such condescension and love as to sin against him, to offend his honor, to pollute this body which is his? How can I come to defile this high dignity, this life consecrated to his service?"
It is well to speak at greater length on this holiness of life, which is the object of the unfailing solicitude of the Church. This is the purpose for which seminaries have been founded; within their walls young men who hope to be priests are trained in letters and other branches of learning, but even more important is the training in piety which they also receive there from their tender years. And then, when the Church gradually and at long intervals promotes candidates to Orders, like a watchful parent she never fails to exhort them to sanctity.
It is a source of joy to recall her words on these occasions.
When we were first enrolled in the army of the Church, she sought from us the formal declaration: The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and of my cup: it is thou that wilt restore my inheritance to me. St. Jerome tells us that with these words "the cleric is reminded that one who is the portion of the Lord, or who has the Lord as his portion, must show himself to be such a one as possesses the Lord and is possessed by him."
How solemnly the Church addresses those who are about to be promoted sub-deacons! "You must consider repeatedly and with all attention the office which of your own volition you seek to-day . . . if you receive this Order, you cannot afterwards revoke your decision, you must remain always in the service of God and, with his help, observe chastity." And finally: "If up to now you have been negligent in relation to the Church, henceforth you must be diligent; if hitherto you have been somnolent, henceforth you must be vigilant . . . if up to now your life has been unseemly, henceforth you must be chaste; . . . Consider the ministry which is entrusted to you!" For those who are about to be raised to the diaconate, the Church prays to God through the mouth of the bishop: "May they have in abundance the pattern of every virtue, authority that is unassuming, constancy in chastity, the purity of innocence, and the observance of spiritual discipline. May thy commands shine forth through their conduct, and may the people find a saintly model in their exemplary chastity."
The admonition addressed to those who are about to be ordained priests is even more moving: "It is with great fear that one must approach this high dignity, and care must be taken that those chosen for it are recommended by heavenly wisdom, blameless life and sustained observance of justice . . . Let the fragrance of your life be a joy to the Church of Christ, so that by your preaching and example you may build up the house, that is, the family of God." Above all the Church stresses the solemn words: Imitate that which you handle, an injunction which fully agrees with the command of St. Paul: That we may present every man perfect in Jesus Christ.
Since this is the mind of the Church on the life of a priest, one cannot be surprised at the complete unanimity of the Fathers and Doctors on this matter; it might indeed be thought that they are guilty of exaggeration, but a careful examination will lead to the conclusion that they taught nothing that was not entirely true and correct. Their teaching can be summarized thus: there should be as much difference between the priest and any other upright man as there is between heaven and earth; consequently, the priest must see to it that his life is free not merely from grave faults but even from the slightest faults. The Council of Trent made the teaching of these venerable men its own when it warned clerics to avoid" even venial faults which in their case would be very grave." These faults are grave, not in themselves, but in relation to the one who commits them; for to him, even more than to the sacred edifice, are applicable the words: Holiness becometh thy house.a
II. NATURE OF PRIESTLY HOLINESS
We must now consider what is the nature of this sanctity, which the priest cannot lack without being culpable; ignorance or misunderstanding of it leaves one exposed to grave peril.
There are some who think, and even declare openly, that the true measure of the merits of a priest is his dedication to the service of others; consequently, with an almost complete disregard for the cultivation of the virtues which lead to the personal sanctification of the priest (these they describe as passive virtues), they assert that all his energies and fervor should be directed to the development and practice of what they call the active virtues. One can only be astonished by this gravely erroneous and pernicious teaching.
Our predecessor of happy memory in his wisdom spoke as follows of this teaching: "To maintain that some christian virtues are more suited to one period than to another is to forget the words of the Apostle: Those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son. Christ is the teacher and the model of all sanctity; all who desire to take their place in the abode of the blessed must adapt their conduct to the standard which he has laid down. Now Christ does not change with the passing of the centuries: He is the same yesterday and to-day and forever. The words: Learn of me because I am meek and humble of heart, apply to men of every age; at all times Christ reveals himself obedient unto death; true for every age are the words of the Apostle: They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh, with the vices and concupiscences."
These passages apply, no doubt, to all the faithful, but they apply more especially to priests. Let priests take as directed particularly to themselves the further words which were spoken by our predecessor in his apostolic zeal: "Would that at the present day there were many more who cultivated these virtues as did the saints of former times, who by their humility, their obedience, their abstinence, were mighty in work and word, to the great benefit not only of religion but also of public and civil life."
It is not irrelevant to note here that Leo XIII in his wisdom made special mention of the virtue of abstinence, which we call self-denial, in the words of the Gospel. He was quite right to do so, for it is from self-denial chiefly that the strength and power and fruit of every priestly function derive; it is when this virtue is neglected that there appears in the priest's conduct whatever may be of a nature to cause offense to the eyes and hearts of the faithful. If one acts for the sake of filthy lucre, or becomes involved in worldly affairs, or seeks for the highest places and despises others, or follows merely human counsel, or seeks to please men, or trusts in the persuasive words of human wisdom, this is the result of neglect of the command of Christ and of the refusal to accept the condition laid down by him: If anyone will come after me, let him deny himself.
While insisting on these truths, we would likewise admonish the priest that in the last analysis, it is not for himself alone that he has to sanctify himself, for he is the workman whom Christ went out . . . to hire into his vineyard. Therefore, it is his duty to uproot unfruitful plants and to sow useful ones, to water the crop and to guard lest the enemy sow cockle among it. Consequently, the priest must be careful not to allow an unbalanced concern for personal perfection to lead him to overlook any part of the duties of his office which are conducive to the welfare of others. These duties include the preaching of the word of God, the hearing of confessions, assisting the sick, especially the dying, the instruction of those who are ignorant of the faith, the consolation of the sorrowing, leading back the erring, in a word, the imitation in every respect of Christ who went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil.
In the midst of all these duties, the priest shall have ever present to his mind the striking admonition given by St. Paul: Neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. It may be that we go and sow the seed with tears; it may be that we tend its growth at the cost of heavy labor; but to make it germinate and yield the hoped for fruit, that depends on God alone and his powerful assistance. This further point also is worthy of profound consideration, namely that men are but the instruments whom God employs for the salvation of souls; they must, therefore, be instruments fit to be employed by God. And how is this to be achieved? Do we imagine that God is influenced by any inborn or acquired excellence of ours, to make use of our help for the extension of his glory? By no means; for it is written: God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and the weak things of the world God has chosen to confound the strong, and the humble and contemptible things of the world God has chosen, the things that are not, in order to bring to nought the things that are.
There is, indeed, only one thing that unites man to God, one thing that makes him pleasing to God and a not unworthy dispenser of his mercy; and that one thing is holiness of life and conduct. If this holiness, which is the true supereminent knowledge of Jesus Christ, is wanting in the priest, then everything is wanting. Without this, even the resources of profound learning (which we strive to promote among the clergy), or exceptional competence in practical affairs, though they may bring some benefit to the Church or to individuals, are not infrequently the cause of deplorable damage to them.
On the other hand, there is abundant evidence from every age that even the humblest priest, provided his life has the adornment of overflowing sanctity, can undertake and accomplish marvelous works for the spiritual welfare of the people of God; an outstanding example in recent times is John Baptist Vianney, a model pastor of souls, to whom we are happy to have decreed the honors of the Blessed in heaven.
Sanctity alone makes us what our divine vocation demands, men crucified to the world and to whom the world has been crucified, men walking in newness of life who, in the words of St. Paul, show themselves as ministers of God in labors, in vigils, in fasting, in chastity, in knowledge, in long-suffering, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in sincere charity, in the word of truth; men who seek only heavenly things and strive by every means to lead others to them.
II MEANS OF ACQUIRING PRIESTLY SANCTITY
1 PRAYER, AN ESSENTIAL CONDITION OF SANCTITY.
Since, as everyone realizes, holiness of life is the fruit of the exercise of the will inasmuch as it is strengthened by the aid of divine grace, God has made abundant provision lest we should at any time lack the gift of grace, if we desire it. We can obtain it, in the first place, by constant prayer.
There is, in fact, such a necessary link between holiness and prayer that the one cannot exist without the other.
The words of Chrysostom on this matter are an exact expression of the truth: "I consider that it is obvious to everyone that it is impossible to live virtuously without the aid of prayer;" and Augustine sums up shrewdly: "He truly knows how to live rightly, who rightly knows how to pray."
Christ himself, by his constant exhortations and especially by his example, has even more firmly inculcated these truths. To pray he withdrew into desert places or climbed the mountain alone; he spent whole nights absorbed in prayer; he paid many visits to the temple; even when the crowds thronged around him, he raised his eyes to heaven and prayed openly before them; when nailed to the Cross, in the agony of death, he supplicated the Father with a strong cry and tears.
Let us be convinced, therefore, that a priest must be specially devoted to the practice of prayer if he is to maintain worthily his dignity and to fulfill his duty. All too frequently one must deplore the fact that prayer is a matter of routine rather than of genuine fervor; the Psalms are recited at the appointed times in a negligent manner, a few short prayers are said in between; there is no further thought of consecrating part of the day to speaking with God, with pious aspirations to him. And it is the priest, more than any other, who is bound to obey scrupulously the command of Christ: We ought always pray, a command which Paul so insistently inculcated: Be instant in prayer, watching in it with thanksgiving; pray without ceasing.
How numerous are the opportunities of turning to God in prayer which present themselves daily to the soul which is eager for its own sanctification and the salvation of others! Anguish of soul, the persistent onslaught of temptation, our lack of virtue, slackness and failure in our works, our many offenses and negligences, fear of the divine judgment, all these should move us to approach the Lord with tears, in order to obtain help from him and also to increase without difficulty the treasure of our merit in his eyes.
Nor should our tearful supplication be for ourselves alone. In the deluge of crime, which spreads far and wide, we especially should implore and pray for divine clemency; we should appeal insistently to Christ who in his infinite mercy lavishes his graces in his wonderful Sacrament: Spare, O Lord, spare thy people.
2 THE OBLIGATION OF DAILY MEDITATION
A point of capital importance is that a certain time should be given daily to meditation on the eternal truths. No priest can neglect this practice without incurring a grave charge of negligence and without detriment to his soul. The saintly abbot, Bernard, when writing to Eugene III, his former pupil who had become Roman Pontiff, frankly and emphatically admonished him never to omit daily divine meditation; he would not admit as an excusing cause even the many weighty cares which the supreme pontificate involves. In justification of this advice he enumerated with great prudence the benefits of the practice of meditation: "Meditation purifies the source from which it comes, the mind. It controls affections, guides our acts, corrects excesses, rules our conduct, introduces order and dignity into our lives; it bestows understanding of things divine and human. It brings clarity where there is confusion, binds what is torn apart, gathers what is scattered, investigates what is hidden, seeks out the truth, weighs what has the appearance of truth, and shows up what is pretense and falsehood. It plans future action and reviews the past, so that nothing remains in the mind that has not been corrected or that stands in need of correction. When affairs are prospering it anticipates the onset of adversity, and when adversity comes it seems not to feel it, in this it displays in turn prudence and fortitude."
This summary of the benefits which meditation is calculated to bring is an instructive reminder not only of its salutary effect in every department, but also of its absolute necessity.
Despite the high dignity of the various functions of the priestly office and the veneration which they deserve, frequent exercise of these functions may lead those who discharge them to treat them with less respect than is their due. From a gradual decline in fervor it is an easy step to carelessness and even to distaste for the most sacred things. In addition, a priest cannot avoid daily contact with a corrupt society; frequently, in the very exercise of pastoral charity, he must fear the insidious attacks of the infernal serpent. Is it not all too easy even for religious souls to be tarnished by contact with the world? It is evident, therefore, that there is a grave and urgent need for the priest to turn daily to the contemplation of the eternal truths, so that his mind and will may gain new strength to stand firm against every enticement to evil.
Moreover, it is the strict duty of the priest to have a mind for heavenly things, to teach them, to inculcate them; in the regulation of his whole life he must be so much superior to human considerations that whatever he does in the discharge of his sacred office will be done in accordance with God, under the impulse and guidance of faith; it is fitting then that he should possess a certain aptitude to rise above earthly considerations and strive for heavenly things. Nothing is more conducive to the acquisition and strengthening of this disposition of soul, this quasi-natural union with God, than daily meditation; it is unnecessary to dwell upon this truth which every prudent person clearly realizes.
The life of a priest who underestimates the value of meditation, or has lost all taste for it, provides a sad confirmation of what we have been saying. Let your eyes dwell on the spectacle of men in whom the mind of Christ, that supremely precious gift, has grown weak; their thoughts are all on earthly things, they are engaged in vain pursuits, their words are so much unimportant chatter; in the performance of their sacred functions they are careless, cold, perhaps even unworthy. Formerly, these same men, with the oil of priestly ordination still fresh upon them, diligently prepared themselves for the recitation of the Psalms, lest they should be like men who tempt God; they sought a time and place free from disturbance; they endeavored to grasp the divine meaning; in union with the psalmist they poured forth their soul in songs of praise, sorrow and rejoicing. But now, what a change has taken place!
In like manner, little now remains of that lively devotion which they felt towards the divine mysteries. Formerly, how beloved were those tabernacles! It was their delight to be present at the table of the Lord, to invite more and more pious souls to that banquet! Before Mass, what purity, what earnestness in the prayers of a loving heart! How great reverence in the celebration of Mass, with complete observance of the august rites in all their beauty! What sincerity in thanksgiving! And the sweet perfume of Christ was diffused over their people! We beg of you, beloved sons: Call to mind . . . the former days; for then your soul was burning with zeal, being nourished by holy meditation.
Some of those who find recollection of the heart a burden, or entirely neglect it, do not seek to disguise the impoverishment of soul which results from their attitude, but they try to excuse themselves on the pretext that they are completely occupied by the activity of their ministry, to the manifold benefit of others.
They are gravely mistaken. For as they are unaccustomed to converse with God, their words completely lack the inspiration which comes from God when they speak to men about God or inculcate the counsels of the christian life; it is as if the message of the Gospel were practically dead in them. However distinguished for prudence and eloquence, their speech does not echo the voice of the good Shepherd which the sheep hear to their spiritual profit; it is mere sound which goes forth without fruit, and sometimes gives a pernicious example to the disgrace of religion and the scandal of the good.
It is the same in other spheres of their activity; there can be no solid achievement, nothing of lasting benefit, in the absence of the heavenly dew which is brought down in abundance by the prayer of the man who humbles himself.
At this point we cannot refrain from referring with sorrow to those who, carried away by pernicious novelties, dare to maintain a contrary opinion, and to hold that time devoted to meditation and prayer is wasted. What calamitous blindness! Would that such people would take thought seriously with themselves and realize whither this neglect and contempt of prayer leads. From it have sprung pride and stubbornness; and these have produced those bitter fruits which in our paternal love we hesitate to mention and most earnestly desire to remove completely.
May God answer this our prayer: may he look down with kindness on those who have strayed, and pour forth on them the "spirit of grace and of prayer" in such abundance that they may repent of their error and, of their own will and to the joy of all, return to the path which they wrongly abandoned, and henceforth follow it with greater care. God himself be witness, as he was to the Apostle, of how we long for them all with the love of Jesus Christ.
Beloved sons, may this our exhortation, which is none other than the exhortation of Christ our Lord: Be watchful, be vigilant and pray, be deeply engraven in their hearts and in yours. Let each one diligently apply himself above all to the practice of pious meditation; let him do so with sincere confidence, constantly repeating the words: Lord teach us to pray. There is a special, very important reason which should urge us to meditation; it is that meditation is a rich source of the wisdom and virtue which are so useful in the supremely difficult task of caring for souls.
The pastoral address of St. Charles Borromeo is relevant here and is worth recalling: "Realize, my brethren, that nothing is so necessary to an ecclesiastic as mental prayer before, during and after all our actions. I will sing, said the prophet, and I will understand. If administering the sacraments, my brother, meditate on what you are doing; if celebrating Mass, ponder on what you are offering; in reciting the Psalms, reflect on what you are saying and to whom you are speaking; if directing souls, reflect on the Blood with which they were washed."
Therefore, it is with good reason that the Church commends us to repeat frequently the sentiments of David: Blessed is the man who meditates in the law of the Lord, whose desire is upon it night and day; everything that he does shall prosper.
There is one final motive which can be regarded as comprising all the others. If the priest is called "another Christ" and is truly such by reason of his sharing in Christ's power, should he not also become and be recognized as another Christ through imitation of Christ's deeds? "Let it be our principal study to meditate upon the life of Jesus Christ."
3 SPIRITUAL READING
It is of great importance that the priest should combine his daily divine meditation with the constant reading of pious books, especially the inspired books. That was the command that Paul gave to Timothy: Attend unto reading. The same lesson was taught by St. Jerome when instructing Nepotianus on the priestly life: "Never let the sacred book leave your hands"; and he gave the following reason for his advice: "Learn that which you are to teach; holding to that faithful word which conforms to doctrine, that you may be able to exhort with sound doctrine, and refute the opponents." What great advantages are gained by priests who are faithful to this practice! With what unction they preach Christ! Far from flattering and soothing the hearts and minds of their audience, they stimulate them to better things, and arouse in them the desire of heavenly things.
The command of St. Jerome: "Let the sacred books be always in your hands," is important for another reason also, a reason which concerns your own personal welfare.
Everyone knows the great influence that is exerted by the voice of a friend who gives candid advice, assists by his counsel, corrects, encourages and leads one away from error. Blessed is the man who has found a true friend; he that has found him has found a treasure. We should, then, count pious books among our true friends. They solemnly remind us of our duties and of the prescriptions of legitimate discipline; they arouse the heavenly voices that were stifled in our souls; they rid our resolutions of listlessness; they disturb our deceitful complacency; they show the true nature of less worthy affections to which we have sought to close our eyes; they bring to light the many dangers which beset the path of the imprudent. They render all these services with such kindly discretion that they prove themselves to be not only our friends, but the very best of friends. They are always at hand, constantly beside us to assist us in the needs of our souls; their voice is never harsh, their advice is never self-seeking, their words are never timid or deceitful.
There are many striking examples of the salutary effects of the reading of pious books. Outstanding is the case of Augustine whose great services to the Church had their origin in such reading: "Take, read; take, read; I took (the epistles of Paul the Apostle), I opened, I read in silence; it was as though the darkness of all my doubting was driven away by the light of peace which had entered my soul."
In our own day, alas! it is the contrary that happens all too frequently. Members of the clergy allow their minds to be overcome gradually by the darkness of doubt and turn aside to worldly pursuits; the chief reason for this is that they prefer to read a variety of other works and newspapers, which are full of cunningly propounded errors and corruption, rather than the divine books and other pious literature.
Be on your guard, beloved sons; do not trust in your experience and mature years, do not be deluded by the vain hope that you can thus better serve the general good. Do not transgress the limits which are determined by the laws of the Church, nor go beyond what is suggested by prudence and charity towards oneself. Anyone who admits this poison into his soul will rarely escape the disastrous consequences of the evil thus introduced.
4 EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE
The benefits to be derived from spiritual reading and meditation will certainly be more abundant if the priest supplements them by an examination which will enable him to discern whether he is striving conscientiously to put into practice what he has learned in his reading and meditation.
Particularly relevant in this context is the excellent advice of Chrysostom which was intended especially for priests. Every night before going to sleep, "make your conscience appear in judgment; demand of it an account, and having thoroughly probed and dissected whatever evil purposes you formed during the day, repent for them."
The excellence of this practice and its fruitfulness for christian virtue are clearly established by the teaching of the great masters of the spiritual life. We are pleased to quote that remarkable passage from the rule of St. Bernard: "As a searching investigator of the integrity of your own conduct, submit your life to a daily examination. Consider carefully what progress you have made or what ground you have lost . . . Strive to know yourself . . . Place all your faults before your eyes. Come face to face with yourself, as though you were another person, and then weep for your faults."
It would be shameful, indeed, were we to see verified in this matter the words of Christ: The children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light. You know with what assiduity the children of this world manage their affairs, how often they compare income with expenses, how carefully and strictly they balance their accounts, how they grieve over their losses, and drive themselves on to make them good. We, on the other hand, though perhaps our hearts are eager for gaining honors, for increasing our wealth, or for the mere winning of renown and glory by our learning, are listless and without inclination for the supremely important and difficult task of achieving our own sanctification. Rarely do we take time for recollection and submit our souls to scrutiny; our soul has become overgrown like the vineyard of the slothful man, of which it is written: I passed by the field of the slothful man and by the vineyard of the foolish man; and behold with nettles it was all filled, and thorns had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall was broken down.
The situation is aggravated by the fact that all round us we see the multiplication of evil example which is a menace to priestly virtue itself every day calls for even greater vigilance and fresh endeavor.
Experience shows that the man who frequently subjects his thoughts, words and actions to a strict examination, gains new strength of soul both to detest and fly from evil and to desire and strive for the good.
It is also shown by experience that one who refuses to appear before the tribunal where justice sits in judgment, and conscience appears at once as the accused and the accuser, usually suffers grave loss and disadvantage thereby. Vainly too will one seek in the conduct of such a person for that circumspection, so highly prized in the christian, that tries to avoid even venial faults, or that sense of reverence, so becoming in a priest, which shudders at even the slightest offense to God.
This carelessness and indifference to one's own welfare sometimes go so far as to lead to neglect even of the sacrament of Penance, which Christ, in his great mercy, has given us as a most timely aid to human weakness.
It cannot be denied, and it is bitterly to be deplored, that not infrequently one finds priests who use the thunders of their eloquence to frighten others from sin, but seem to have no such fear for themselves and become hardened in their faults; a priest who exhorts and arouses others to wash away without delay the stains from their souls by due religious acts, is himself so sluggish in doing this that he delays even for months; he who knows how to pour the health-giving oil and wine into the wounds of others is himself content to lie wounded by the wayside, and lacks the prudence to call for the saving hand of a brother which is almost within his grasp. In the past and even to-day, in different places, what great evils have resulted from this, bringing dishonor to God and the Church, injuring the christian flock and disgracing the priesthood!
For our own part, beloved sons, when we reflect upon these matters, as is our bounden duty, we are overcome with grief and our voice breaks into lamentation.
Woe to the priest who fails to respect his high dignity, and defiles by his infidelities the name of the holy God for whom he is bound to be holy. Corruptio optimi pessima. "Sublime is the dignity of the priest, but great is his fall, if he is guilty of sin; let us rejoice for the high honor, but let us fear for them lest they fall; great is the joy that they have scaled the heights, but it is insignificant compared with the sorrow of their fall from on high."
Woe then to the priest who so far forgets himself that he abandons the practice of prayer, rejects the nourishment of spiritual reading and never turns his attention inwards upon himself to hear the accusing voice of conscience. Neither the festering wounds on his conscience, nor even the tearful pleas of his mother the Church, will move such an unfortunate priest until those fearsome threats come upon him: Blind the heart of this people, make dull their ears, and close their eyes, lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and be converted and I should heal them.
May God in his bounteous mercy grant that these ominous words may never be true of any of you, beloved sons; he knows what is in our heart, he sees that it is free from rancor towards anyone, and that it is inflamed with pastoral zeal and paternal love for all: For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of glory? Is it not you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ?
IV. PRIESTLY VIRTUES
You all know very well, wherever you may be, the difficult period through which, in the mysterious design of God, the Church is now passing. Consider likewise and ponder on the sacred duty which is yours to stand by and to assist in her struggles the Church which has bestowed upon you an office of such exalted dignity.
Now more than ever the clergy need to be men of more than ordinary virtue, virtue that is a shining example, eager, active, ever ready to do great things for Christ and to suffer much. There is nothing that we more ardently ask from God and desire for each and everyone of you.
May chastity, the choicest ornament of our priesthood, flourish undimmed amongst you; through the splendor of this virtue, by which the priest is made like the angels, the priest wins greater veneration among the christian flock, and his ministry yields an even greater harvest of holiness.
May the reverence and obedience which you solemnly pledged to those whom the Holy Spirit has appointed to rule the Church, increase and gain strength; and especially, may your minds and hearts be linked by ever closer ties of loyalty to this Apostolic See which justly claims your respectful homage.
May all of you excel in charity-a charity that never seeks what is its own; when you have mastered the human incentives of jealous rivalry and self-seeking ambition, let all together in fraternal emulation strive for the glory of God.
A great multitude of sick, blind, lame and paralytics, in abject misery, awaits the benefits of your charity; the youth above all, those countless young people who are the dearest hope of society and religion, it is they, menaced as they are by error and corrupting influences, who especially stand in need of your charitable activity.
Strive eagerly not only by means of catechetical instruction-which once more with even greater earnestness we commend to you-but by unsparing use of all the resources of wisdom and skill at your command, to deserve well of all. Whether your immediate task be to assist, to protect, to heal, to make peace, let your one aim and most ardent desire be to win or to secure souls for Christ. How unwearied, how industrious, how fearless are Christ's enemies in their activities, to the immeasurable loss of souls!
The Catholic Church rejoices in and is proud of the charity beyond praise which inspires the clergy to proclaim the Gospel of christian peace and to bring the blessings of salvation and civilization even to barbarous races; through their unsparing labor, sometimes consecrated by their blood, the kingdom of Christ is expanding constantly and the christian faith gains added splendor from these new triumphs.
If, beloved sons, the unsparing charity of your efforts is met by jealousy, reproaches and calumnies as frequently happens, do not allow yourselves to be overcome with sadness: Do not tire in doing good.
Let your mind dwell on those countless great figures who, following the example of the Apostles, even in the midst of cruel insults borne for the name of Christ, went rejoicing, blessing those who cursed them.
For we are the children and the brethren of the saints, whose names shine in the book of life, and whose praises the Church proclaims: Let us not stain our glory.
COUNSELS OF PRIESTLY PERFECTION.
When the spirit of the grace of the priesthood has been restored and strengthened in the ranks of the clergy, our other proposals for reform, of whatever kind they may be, will with God's help prove much more successful.
For this reason we have thought it well to supplement what we have already said by some points of practical advice which will give you timely aid to preserve and nourish the grace of your priesthood.
First, there is the pious retreat during which the soul devotes itself to spiritual exercises, as they are called. These exercises are known and approved by all, though not everyone puts them into practice; there should, if possible, be a yearly retreat, performed either alone or, preferably, in common with others, the second method being usually more productive of good results, without prejudice to episcopal regulations. We ourselves have already spoken in praise of the advantages to be derived from a retreat, on the occasion when we issued certain decrees on this subject bearing on the discipline of the clergy of Rome.
It will be no less profitable for souls, if a similar retreat lasting a few hours is performed each month either privately or with others. We are happy to note that in many places a custom of this kind has already been introduced, with the encouragement of the bishops who sometimes preside over the group assembled for retreat.
Another suggestion which we warmly recommend is that priests, as befits brothers, should form a closer union among themselves, with the approval and under the direction of the bishop. It is strongly to be recommended that they should form an association in order to help one another in adversity, to defend the honor of their name and office against attack, and for other similar objects. But it is even more important that they should form an association with a view to the cultivation of sacred learning, particularly in order to apply themselves with greater solicitude to the object of their vocation and to promote the welfare of souls by concerting their ideas and their efforts. The annals of the Church show that at times when priests generally lived in a form of common life, this association produced many good results. Why might not one re-establish in our own day something of the kind, with due attention to differences of country and priestly duties? Might not one justifiably hope, and the Church would rejoice at it, that such an institution would yield the same good results as formerly?
There are, indeed, associations of this kind which enjoy episcopal approval; and the advantages they confer are all the greater if one becomes a member early in life, in the very first years of the priesthood. We ourselves have had practical experience of the worth of one such association and fostered it during our episcopate; even still we continue to show special consideration to it and others.
Beloved sons, it is your duty to value highly and to apply these aids to priestly grace and such other means as the watchful prudence of your bishops may suggest from time to time; thus with each passing day you will walk more worthily of the vocation in which you are called, honoring your ministry and accomplishing in yourselves the will of God, that is, your sanctification.
Your sanctification has, indeed, first place in our thoughts and in our cares; therefore, with our eyes raised to heaven, we frequently pray for the whole clergy, repeating the words of Christ, our Lord: Holy Father . . . sanctify them.
It is a source of joy to us that we are joined in that prayer by very many from among the faithful of every condition who are gravely concerned for your welfare and that of the Church; it is no less a source of joy that there are many generous souls, not only within the cloister but in the midst of the busy world, who offer themselves continuously as victims to God for the same object.
May the Lord graciously deign to accept, as a sweet perfume, their pure and sublime prayers, and may he not refuse our own humble supplication; we implore him, in his merciful providence, to come to our aid, and may he pour forth upon all the clergy the riches of grace, charity and virtue which repose in the most pure Heart of his beloved Son.
Finally, beloved sons, we are happy to express our heartfelt thanks for the manifold expressions of good wishes, inspired by filial piety, which were offered by you on the approach of the fiftieth anniversary of our ordination. The good wishes which we convey to you in return, we entrust to the care of the great Virgin Mother, Queen of Apostles, in order that they may be fulfilled even more abundantly.
It was she who by her example showed the Apostles, who were the first to share the blessing of the priesthood, how they should persevere with one mind in prayer until they were clothed with power from on high; by her prayers she secured that power for them in more abundant measure, she increased and strengthened it by her counsel, so that their labors were abundantly blessed.
Beloved sons, we pray that the peace of Christ may reign in your hearts with the joy of the Holy Spirit; as a pledge of this we bestow on all with the deepest affection the Apostolic benediction.
Given in Rome, at St. Peter's, 4 August 1908, at the beginning of the sixth year of our pontificate.