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The Syllabus of Errors 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.

By 1864, he had been reigning for about 18 years, during which time he had been warning about the errors and dangers of modern thought. Indeed, there had been quite a few papal documents, by Pius IX and his predecessors, about such topics.

Pius IX ordered the compilation of a syllabus or list or collection of modern errors for the benefit of the hierarchy and the faithful, taken from documents written by Pius IX. The text, issued in 1864 by Cardinal Antonelli along with the encyclical “Quanta Cura”, is commonly referred to as the “Syllabus” or the “Syllabus of Errors”.

According to the index in Denzinger, the Syllabus is compiled from 32 sources. The Syllabus itself has 80 points that are organized into 10 sections.

This is a very convenient resource and is worth reading as it is still relevant today. It is a quick read but a small sample is reproduced below under its corresponding section title.

The exception is section IV regarding “Socialism, Communism, Secret Societies, Biblical Societies, Clerico-Liberal Societies” which contains a mere reminder of which documents to look up. This is arguably the Syllabus’s main weakness as even a few points in this section might be helpful. That said, there is much overlap between the other points and what could be listed under this section. In other words, the errors listed were/are (initially) promoted by socialism, communism, secret societies etc. It is probably for this reason that this section contains merely a reminder.

To repeat: this is a syllabus of errors so each point is wrong, even if it is subtle. The text provided below is taken from Denzinger.

I. Pantheism, Naturalism and Absolute Rationalism (1–7)

3. Human reason, with absolutely no regard to God, is the only judge of the true and the false, the good and the evil; it is a law onto itself and is, by its own natural powers, sufficient to provide for the good of individuals and of peoples.
4. All truths of religion flow from the natural power of human reason; hence, reason is the chief norm by which man can and should come to knowledge of all truths of whatever kind.
6. The faith of Christ is opposed to human reason; and divine revelation is not only of no benefit to, but even harms the perfection of man.

II. Modified Rationalism (8–14)

12. The decrees of the Apostolic See and of the Roman Congregations hinder the free progress of science.
14. Philosophy is to be treated without any regard to supernatural revelation.

III. Indifferentism, Latitudinarianism (15–18)

15. Everyman is free to embrace and profess that religion which he, led by the light of reason, thinks to be the true religion.

IV. Socialism, Communism, Secret Societies, Biblical Societies, Clerico-Liberal Societies

V. Errors Concerning the Church and Its Rights (19–38)

20. The ecclesiastical power should not exercise its authority without the permission and assent of the civil government.
24. The Church does not have the power of using force, nor does it have any temporal power, direct or indirect.
34. The doctrine of those who compare the Roman Pontiff to a free prince acting in the universal Church is a doctrine which prevailed in the Middle Ages.

VI. Errors Concerning Civil Society, Viewed Both in Themselves and in Their Relations to the Church (39–55)

42. In a conflict between the laws of both powers, the civil law prevails.
45. The entire government of the public schools in which the youth of any Christian state is instructed, episcopal seminaries being excepted for some reason, can and should be assigned to the civil authority; and assigned in such a way, indeed, that for no other authority is the right recognized to interfere in the discipline of the schools, in the system of studies, in the conferring of degrees, in the choice of approval of teachers.
55. The Church is to be separated from the state, and the state from the church.

VII. Errors Concerning Natural and Christian Ethics (56–64)

57. The science of philosophy and of morals, likewise the civil laws, can and should ignore divine and ecclesiastical authority.
59. Right consists in a physical fact; all the duties of men are an empty name, and all human deeds have the force of right.
64. The violation of any most sacred oath, and even any criminal and disgraceful action repugnant to eternal law, not only must by no means be reproved, but is even altogether lawful and worth of the highest praise, when it is done for the love of country.

VIII. Errors Concerning Christian Marriage (65–74)

65. In no way can be asserted that Christ raised matrimony to the dignity of a sacrament.
67. By natural law the bond of matrimony is not indissoluble, and in various cases divorce, properly so-called, can be sanctioned by civil authority.
74. Matrimonial cases and betrothals by their very nature belong to the civil court.

IX. Errors Concerning the Civil Power of the Roman Pontiff (75–76)

75. The sons of the Christian and Catholic Church dispute about the compatibility of the temporal power with the spiritual.

X. Errors Which Are Related to Modern Liberalism (77–80)

78. Hence in certain religions of Catholic name, it has been laudably sanctioned by law that men immigrating there be allowed to have public exercises of any form of worship of their own.
79. For it is false that the civil liberty of every cult, and likewise, the full power granted to all of manifesting openly and publicly and kind of opinions and ideas, more easily leads to the corruption of the morals and minds of the people, and to the spread of the evil of indifferentism.

Pope Pius IX
Pope Pius IX

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