Christianae Reipublicae: On the Dangers of Anti-Christian Writings by Pope Clement XIII
Bad writing has been around for as long as writing utensils. As for anti-Christian writings, they have been around since the time of the contemporaries of Christ Himself. No doubt in many instances, the Church authorities probably couldn’t do much about it anyway and, rightly or wrongly, ignore it.
Pope Clement XIII (b. 7 March 1693 – d. 2 February 1769), born Carlo de la Torre de Rezzonico, began his pontificate on 6 July 1758. On 25 November 1766, he issued a papal encyclical warning of the dangers of anti-Christian writings.
The document is approximately 1,500 words in 11 paragraphs and does not seem significant when read in isolation. And although it is highly generalized like most encyclicals, the timing is telling, warning of modern thought in 1766 when they surfaced and started to spread. Clement XIII addresses materialistic thought:
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.
It should be noted that modern liberalists often use seemingly reasonable and innocuous terminology to hide their message in order to prevent or deflect counter-attacks. The more one reads, the more one recognizes their tactics. In this case, “freedom of thought” sounds reasonable and right; after all, God has given us a brain and the opportunity to use it. But liberalists don’t mean it that way—their intended meaning is closer to “think and do whatever one wants without inhibitions”.
Not surprisingly, Clement XIII addresses these tactics, albeit in general terms:
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.
This was in 1766 when modern thought was gaining momentum. Sadly, this was not the last time the Church had to address the issue.
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