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Singulari Quidem: On the Church in Austria 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 17 March 1856, he issued a papal encyclical regarding the Church in Austria.

This encyclical is approximately 5,000 words in 22 paragraphs. Although it is about Austria, it applies just about everywhere. Pius IX follows up on the things he and his predecessors warned about such as the dissemination of liberalist ideas.

Pius IX begins with a reminder about indifferentism:

3. Among the many deplorable evils which disturb and afflict both ecclesiastical and civil society, two stand out in our day and are justly considered to be the cause of the others. In effect, you are aware of the innumerable and fatal damages which the hideous error of indifferentism causes to Christian and civil society. It causes us to forget out duties to God in whom we live and act and have our being. It causes us to slacken our concern for holy religion and shakes almost to destruction the very basis of all law, justice, and virtue. There is little difference between this hideous form of indifference and the devilish system of indifference between the different religions. This belief embraces people who have strayed from the truth, who are enemies of the true faith and forget their own salvation, and who teach contradictory beliefs without firm doctrine. They make no distinction between the different creeds, agree with everybody, and maintain that the haven of eternal salvation is open to sectarians of any religion. The diversity of their teachings does not concern them as long as they agree to combat that which alone is the truth.

He then mentions the oft-repeated importance of good works as well as the importance of not divorcing that from doctrine:

5. Divine worship consists in these two things: pious doctrines and good works, in such a way that doctrines without good works cannot please God, nor does God accept works divorced from religious doctrines. …

Back to modernist thought, Pius IX warns about “rationalism”, clarifying that the Church is not against the use of reason but rather having reason supersede everything else. This, by the way, is one definition of humanism.

6. Another disease just as dangerous is spreading, a disease to which the name of rationalism has been given, because of the pride and a certain vanity of reason associated with it. Certainly the Church does not condemn the efforts of those who want to know the truth, since it is God who made it the nature of man to be most eager to grasp truth. Nor does she condemn the efforts of healthy and right reason, for it is through this reason that we cultivate the spirit, study nature, and bring to light its most hidden secrets. This tender mother recognizes and justly maintains that reason is the most notable of the heavenly gifts, since it is through reason that we raise ourselves above the senses and display a certain image of God in ourselves. She knows that we must search until we find and that we must believe what we have believed. But we must also believe, in addition, that there is nothing else to believe and to seek once we have found and believed what was taught by Christ, who does not command us to seek anything other than what He taught. What is it that the Church does not tolerate? What is it that she censures and absolutely condemns in virtue of her mission to preserve what has been entrusted to her? The Church has always condemned and continues to condemn the conduct of those who abuse their reason; those who do not fear to foolishly and criminally prefer reason to the authority of what God Himself says; those who boldly exalt themselves; those who, blinded by their pride and their vanity, lose the light of truth and proudly spurn the faith of which it is written: “Whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Full of confidence in themselves, they deny that we must believe in God for Himself and accept what He taught us about Himself. The Church does not cease to oppose these people, since whenever something deals with the very knowledge of God, it is God whom we should believe. It is from Him that all we believe about Him comes, because man could not know God if He Himself did not communicate this salutary knowledge.

He continues by highlighting the self-contradictory position of rationalism:

7. These are the people whom the Church seeks to bring back to sound reasoning with these words: “What is there more contrary to reason than to seek to exalt oneself above reason by means of reason itself? And what is more contrary to faith than to not want to believe that which we cannot attain by reason?” …

The rest of the letter is, amongst other things, a reminder and exhortation for clergy to actually turn up and address problems, particularly by educating the next generation of priests. In the paragraph below, for example, he also repeats the warning about unauthorized publications.

15. The lips of the priests must protect the wisdom which allows them to respond to those who consult them on the law and to convince those who combat it. It is thus necessary that you apply yourselves with the greatest care to the correct and precise instruction of the clergy. Especially in your seminaries, see that an excellent and entirely Catholic course of studies flourishes, a course by which the young clerics, under the direction of approved teachers, might be formed right from their most tender years to piety, virtue, and a Christian spirit. They should be instructed in the knowledge of Latin, in the humanities, and in philosophy, free from every danger of error. Then apply yourselves to teaching them carefully, for a sufficiently long period, dogmatic and moral theology based on the Holy Scriptures, on the tradition of the holy Fathers, and on the infallible authority of the Church. Give them a solid knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, of the sacred canons, of church history, and of the liturgy. Exercise the greatest precaution in choosing books, lest in the deluge of errors which prevails everywhere the young seminarians might be imprudently led off the path of sound doctrine. You know that there are learned men who dissent from this Holy See in religious matters and who are cut off from the Church. They are publishing the Holy Scriptures and the works of the holy Fathers, undoubtedly with a pleasing elegance but often—We cannot deplore this enough—in an altered condition, turned away from their true meaning by perverted commentaries.

The education of the youth and children is also emphasized. Also, contrary to what some think, the Church is not always about “being dogmatic”, discussions are good provided they are “useful”.

17. Be equally zealous that, regardless of sex or status, the youth of your dioceses might be educated in an ever more Catholic manner. Let this youth be full of the spirit of the fear of God and nourished with the milk of piety. Let Catholic youth be carefully instructed in the elements of the faith and brought to a fuller understanding of our holy religion. They should be formed in virtue, moral uprightness, and a Christian way of life. Let them be kept from all the flatteries and dangers of perversion and corruption. Constantly arouse the faithful people entrusted to you to greater religion and piety. Do everything possible so that, ever more nourished by the salutary food of truth and Catholic doctrine, these faithful people might love God with all their heart and zealously observe His commandment. Let them enter His temple frequently and religiously and keep holy the Sabbath, for they should piously attend the celebration of the divine sacrifice and the holy sacraments of Penance and Eucharist. May they honor the holy Mother of God, the Immaculate Virgin Mary, with a special devotion. …
18. … In your concern and your love for the flock entrusted to you, do not neglect the zealous visitation of your dioceses, in conformity with the canonical prescriptions. Do everything necessary to make this visitation produce happy fruits. Above all, eradicate entirely the errors, abuses, and vices which have penetrated into your diocese. Use vigilance, paternal punishments, useful discussions, and whatever means you find suitable to remove them. Spread salutary teaching and preserve intact the clerical discipline. Help and strengthen the faithful with all sorts of assistance, especially with spiritual aids; win everyone to Jesus Christ. …

Pope Pius IX
Pope Pius IX

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