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Qui Pluribus: On Faith and Religion by Pope Pius IX

Pope Pius IX (b. 13 May 1792 – d. 7 February 1878), born Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti, began his pontificate on 16 June 1846. On 9 November 1846, he issued a papal encyclical regarding faith and religion.


This encyclical is approximately 5,300 words in 37 paragraphs. Pius IX follows up on the things his predecessors warned about, such as the dissemination of liberalist ideas and the attacks on the church and civil authorities.


The text is highly generalized with no specifics, simply assuming the audience is generally aware of the conditions of society at the time. In that respect, this encyclical is more of a reminder and can be better appreciated when read with other encyclicals that came before and after.


Piux IX warns of the divorcing faith and reason when the two are meant to go together:

5. In order to easily mislead the people into making errors, deceiving particularly the imprudent and the inexperienced, they pretend that they alone know the ways to prosperity. They claim for themselves without hesitation the name of “philosophers.” They feel as if philosophy, which is wholly concerned with the search for truth in nature, ought to reject those truths which God Himself, the supreme and merciful creator of nature, has deigned to make plain to men as a special gift. With these truths, mankind can gain true happiness and salvation. So, by means of an obviously ridiculous and extremely specious kind of argumentation, these enemies never stop invoking the power and excellence of human reason; they raise it up against the most holy faith of Christ, and they blather with great foolhardiness that this faith is opposed to human reason.

Amongst other things, he adds:

6. … For although faith is above reason, no real disagreement or opposition can ever be found between them; this is because both of them come from the same greatest source of unchanging and eternal truth, God. They give such reciprocal help to each other that true reason shows, maintains and protects the truth of the faith, while faith frees reason from all errors and wondrously enlightens, strengthens and perfects reason with the knowledge of divine matters.

Pius XI reiterates the need for authority to interpret Scripture:

10. This consideration too clarifies the great error of those others as well who boldly venture to explain and interpret the words of God by their own judgment, misusing their reason and holding the opinion that these words are like a human work. God Himself has set up a living authority to establish and teach the true and legitimate meaning of His heavenly revelation. This authority judges infallibly all disputes which concern matters of faith and morals, lest the faithful be swirled around by every wind of doctrine which springs from the evilness of men in encompassing error. And this living infallible authority is active only in that Church which was built by Christ the Lord upon Peter, the head of the entire Church, leader and shepherd, whose faith He promised would never fail. …

The warning regarding the so-called Bible Societies is repeated:

14. This is the goal too of the crafty Bible Societies which renew the old skill of the heretics and ceaselessly force on people of all kinds, even the uneducated, gifts of the Bible. They issue these in large numbers and at great cost, in vernacular translations, which infringe the holy rules of the Church. The commentaries which are included often contain perverse explanations; so, having rejected divine tradition, the doctrine of the Fathers and the authority of the Catholic Church, they all interpret the words of the Lord by their own private judgment, thereby perverting their meaning. …

The humanist idea of religious indifference is also repeated:

15. Also perverse is the shocking theory that it makes no difference to which religion one belongs, a theory which is greatly at variance even with reason. By means of this theory, those crafty men remove all distinction between virtue and vice, truth and error, honorable and vile action. They pretend that men can gain eternal salvation by the practice of any religion, as if there could ever be any sharing between justice and iniquity, any collaboration between light and darkness, or any agreement between Christ and Belial.

And the consequences are predictable. Also note the attack on marriage (and in turn, ipso facto, the family).

18. As a result of this filthy medley of errors which creeps in from every side, and as the result of the unbridled license to think, speak and write, We see the following: morals deteriorated, Christ’s most holy religion despised, the majesty of divine worship rejected, the power of this Apostolic See plundered, the authority of the Church attacked and reduced to base slavery, the rights of bishops trampled on, the sanctity of marriage infringed, the rule of every government violently shaken and many other losses for both the Christian and the civil commonwealth. Venerable brothers, We are compelled to weep and share in your lament that this is the case.

Although Pius IX does not name them, he alludes to the groups that promote these liberalist ideas:

21. “It is an act of great piety to expose the concealments of the impious and to defeat there the devil himself, whose slaves they are. Therefore We entreat you to use every means of revealing to your faithful people the many kinds of plot, pretense, error, deceit and contrivance which our enemies use. This will turn them carefully away from infectious books. Also exhort them unceasingly to flee from the sects and societies of the impious as from the presence of a serpent, earnestly avoiding everything which is at variance with the wholeness of faith, religion and morality. Therefore, never stop preaching the Gospel, so that the Christian people may grow in the knowledge of God by being daily better versed in the most holy precepts of the Christian law; as a result, they may turn from evil, do good, and walk in the ways of the Lord. …

Pius IX concludes with a reminder that the faithful should obey governments insofar as it does not oppose the laws of God and the Church. He also reminds the civil authorities that authority comes from God and of their responsibilities to the Church.

22. … Take pains to impress on the Christian people a due obedience and subjection to rulers and governments. Do this by teaching, in accordance with the warning of the Apostle, that all authority comes from God. Whoever resists authority resists the ordering made by God Himself, consequently achieving his own condemnation; disobeying authority is always sinful except when an order is given which is opposed to the laws of God and the Church.
34. We hope that Our political leaders will keep in mind, in accordance with their piety and religion, that “the kingly power has been conferred on them not only for ruling the world but especially for the protection of the Church.” Sometimes We “act both for the sake of their rule and safety that they may possess their provinces by peaceful right.” We hope that with their aid and authority they will support the objects, plans and pursuits which we have in common, and that they will also defend the liberty and safety of the Church, so that “the right hand of Christ may also defend their rule.”

Pope Pius IX
Pope Pius IX
 

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