Singulari Nos: On the Errors of Lammenais by Pope Gregory XVI
Pope Gregory XVI (b. 8 September 1765 – d. 1 June 1846), born Bartolomeo Alberto Cappellari, began his pontificate on 2 February 1831. On 25 June 1834, he issued a papal encyclical regarding the writings of French priest and Bishop of Rennes Félicité Robert de La Mennais, also referred to as Lamennais (b. 19 June 1782 – 27 February 1854). He was known to hold liberalist views, at least later on in his career.
Gregory XVI’s encyclical “Mirari Vos” (dated 15 August 1832) was at least in part referring to the ideas Lamennais promoted so by this time in 1834, there had been some interaction between the two parties.
This encyclical is approximately 1,600 words in 9 paragraphs. Below are a few key paragraphs referring to the booklet Paroles d’un croyant (Words of a Believer) by Lamennais published in 1843. Gregory XVI in effect repeats the warnings of the dangers of religious indifferentism and freedom of conscience and its implications on society.
3. We were very much amazed, venerable brothers, when at first We understood the blindness of this wretched author, for in him knowledge does not come from God, but from the elements of the world; this “knowledge” bursts forth. Against the oath solemnly given in his declaration, he cloaked Catholic teaching in enticing verbal artifice, in order ultimately to oppose it and overthrow it. We expressed this in Our letter mentioned above concerning both the dutiful submission toward authorities and the prevention of the fatal contamination of the people by indifferentism. It also concerned measures to use against the spreading license of ideas and speeches. Finally, it concerned that freedom of conscience which should be thoroughly condemned and the repulsive conspiracy of societies enkindling destruction of sacred and state affairs, even from the followers of false religions, as We have made clear by the authority handed down to Us.
4. The mind shrinks from reading through those things in which the author tries to break the bond of loyalty and submission toward leaders. Once the torch of treason is ignited everywhere, it ruins public order, fosters contempt of government, and stimulates lawlessness. It overthrows every element of sacred and civil power. From this, the writer transposes the power of princes, through a new and wicked idea, to the power of Satan and an omen of subterfuge, as if it were dangerous to divine law, even a work of sin. He brands the same marks of wickedness on the priests and rulers because of the conspiracy of crimes and labors in which he dreams they are joined against the rights of the people. Not content with such temerity, he thrusts forth every kind of opinion, speech, and freedom of conscience. He prays that everything will be favorable and happy for the soldiers who will fight to free liberty from tyranny, and he encourages groups and associations in the furious combat which engulfs everything. He stands so firm in such heinous thoughts that We feel him trample right from the beginning Our advice and orders.
5. It is annoying to recount here everything which throws all human and divine affairs into confusion with the wicked fruit of impiety and daring. But these things especially arouse Our indignation and should clearly not be tolerated by religion. Especially dangerous is the fact that holy Scriptures that have been tainted with the errors of this author are disseminated to the unwary. Acting as if he were sent and inspired by God, he speaks in the name of the Trinity and then uses Scripture as a pretext for releasing the people from the law of obedience. He twists the words of holy Scripture in a bold and cunning manner in order to firmly establish his depraved ravings. He does this in order that, as St. Bernard used to say, “He might spread clouds for light or give poison for honey, or rather in the honey, creating a new Gospel for the people and laying a different foundation from the one which is already laid.”
Lamennais apparently died without ever reconciling with the Catholic Church.
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