Daily Archives: May 20, 2008

From Pope Leo XIII

From the encyclical On the Nature of True Liberty:

If when men discuss the question of liberty they were careful to grasp its true
and legitimate meaning, such as reason and reasoning have just explained, they
would never venture to affix such a calumny on the Church as to assert that she
is the foe of individual and public liberty. But many there are who follow in
the footsteps of Lucifer, and adopt as their own his rebellious cry, “I will not
serve,” and consequently substitute for true liberty what is sheer and most
foolish license. Such, for instance, are the men belonging to that widely spread
and powerful organization, who, usurping the name of liberty, style themselves

On progressivism, from Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae:

The underlying principle of these new opinions is that, in order to more easily
attract those who differ from her, the Church should shape her teachings
more in accord with the spirit of the age and relax some of her ancient severity and make some concessions to new opinions
. Many think that these concessions should be made not only in regard to ways of living, but even in regard to doctrines which belong to the deposit of the faith. They contend that it would be opportune, in order to gain those who differ from us, is to omit certain points of her teaching which are of lesser importance, and to
tone down the meaning which the Church has always attached to them.
It does not need many words, beloved son, to prove the falsity of these ideas if
the nature and origin of the doctrine which the Church proposes are recalled to
mind. [emphasis added]

Later, he condemns “conscience” as the liberal teach it:

there is even a greater danger and a more manifest opposition to Catholic
doctrine and discipline in that opinion of the lovers of novelty, according to
which they hold such liberty should be allowed in the Church, that her
supervision and watchfulness being in some sense lessened, allowance be granted
the faithful, each one to follow out more freely the leading of his own mind and
the trend of his own proper activity

On the idea that there can be multiple opinions on matters of faith and morals:

These dangers, viz., the confounding of license with liberty, the passion for discussing and pouring contempt upon any possible subject, the assumed right to hold whatever opinions one pleases upon any subject and to set them forth in print to the world, have so wrapped minds in darkness that there is now a greater need of the Church’s teaching office than ever before, lest people become unmindful both of conscience and of duty.

On vita activa versus vita contempliva:

Nor should any difference of praise be made between those who follow the active state of life and those others who, charmed with solitude, give themselves to prayer and bodily mortification. And how much, indeed, of good report these have merited, and do merit, is known surely to all who do not forget that the “continual prayer of the just man” avails to placate and to bring down the blessings of heaven when to such prayers bodily mortification is added.

Pope Leo discusses several attitudes among American Catholics: moral relativism, cultural relativism, the belief that their faith should not inform their public life, and the belief that they should not try to evangelize their non-Catholic neighbors. He condemns, collectively, these things as “Americanism”

From the Syllabus of Errors

Now, many try to argue that The Syllabus of Errors has been somehow abrogated by Vatican II–even some writings by Cardinal Ratzinger seem to read that way. However, there are several problems with this view. First, the errors Bl. Pius IX lists are just as wrong today as they were then. Second, the “syllabus” is itself a checklist of topics he discussed in other documents, many of which are difficult to find in English. He is specifically referring the reader back to the documents where he discusses these matters in more length. All of us have occasions to abbreviate into “sound bites” what we elaborate on more extensively elsewhere.

At present, I’m elaborating on such a “sound bite” of my own, and I’m excerpting from the Syllabus to help build my evidentiary case against the Progressive/Liberal/Liberation Theology movements.
(Remember that every statement is intended as a negative; he’s listing propositions that are false):

15. Every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which, guided by the
light of reason, he shall consider true. — Allocution “Maxima quidem,” June 9,
1862; Damnatio “Multiplices inter,” June 10, 1851.

This is one of the statements that some people will say Vatican II overturns. Let’s look carefully at what Bl. Pius says. First, he says, “Every man is free”; the question here is “from whom”? I’m going to assume that he’s not concerned about civil laws and that, in fact, he’s talking about God. The fact is that every person is not, ultimately, free to choose whatever religion he or she wants. If the person is “guided by the light of reason,” he or she will be led to Catholicism.

Yes, the Church teaches “individual conscience,” but conscience must always be informed. A person who tries to be guided by reason, and does what is best in accordance with his or her understanding, may possibly be saved through some extraordinary grace. However, a person who has been informed of the Catholic faith has an obligation to adopt it. See Karl Adam’s Spirit of Catholicism for an elaboration on this. Adam summarizes the principle as such: a Jew cannot be saved by Judaism. A Jew who *thinks* Judaism is true and doesn’t adequately understand Catholicism can possibly be saved by the grace of the Church, but not because of his own religion (you can substitute whatever religion you want).

So, the error of the progressives in this case is the attitude that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, or, as some people put it, “We’re all going to the same place in different boats.”

A person who uses reason to expressly reject Catholicism cannot get to Heaven.

16. Man may, in the observance of any religion whatever, find the way of eternal
salvation, and arrive at eternal salvation. — Encyclical “Qui pluribus,” Nov.
9, 1846

Discussed above. Nothing in Vatican II even suggests this teaching has changed, yet many who believe in the “Spirit of Vatican II” think it has changed, and that Dominus Iesus and related documents are reactionary.

17. Good hope at least is to be entertained of the eternal salvation of all
those who are not at all in the true Church of Christ. — Encyclical “Quanto
conficiamur,” Aug. 10, 1863, etc

Again, some people think this has changed. It has not. The operative word is “good hope”. The Church teaches that some who are not Catholic *may* be saved by some kind of extraordinary grace. That is not the same as “good hope.”

18. Protestantism is nothing more than another form of the same true Christian
religion, in which form it is given to please God equally as in the Catholic
Church. — Encyclical “Noscitis,” Dec. 8, 1849.

Again, if you actually read the documents, this hasn’t changed, either. See Dominus Iesus.

Pests of this kind are frequently reprobated in
the severest terms in the Encyclical “Qui pluribus,” Nov. 9, 1846, Allocution
“Quibus quantisque,” April 20, 1849, Encyclical “Noscitis et nobiscum,” Dec. 8,
1849, Allocution “Singulari quadam,” Dec. 9, 1854, Encyclical “Quanto
conficiamur,” Aug. 10, 1863.

The fact that he refers to socialism as a “pest” should qualify as a ’nuff said.

22. The obligation by which Catholic teachers and authors are strictly
bound is confined to those things only which are proposed to universal belief as
dogmas of faith by the infallible judgment of the Church. — Letter to the
Archbishop of Munich, “Tuas libenter,” Dec. 21, 1863.

This is a common attitude of the “progressives”: “If it’s not dogma, I’m not required to believe it.” Wrong.

23. Roman pontiffs and ecumenical councils have wandered outside the limits
of their powers, have usurped the rights of princes, and have even erred in
defining matters of faith and morals. — Damnatio “Multiplices inter,” June 10,

This is, of course, the Kennedy Heresy, perpetuated by just about every Catholic Democrat and many Catholic Republicans: “The Church has no business telling the State what to do.”

This one should interest Pio Nono-hating liberals:

32. The personal immunity by which clerics are exonerated from military
conscription and service in the army may be abolished without violation either
of natural right or equity. Its abolition is called for by civil progress,
especially in a society framed on the model of a liberal government. — Letter
to the Bishop of Monreale “Singularis nobisque,” Sept. 29, 1864.

In other words, Pius IX is anti-draft.

36. The definition of a national council does not admit of any subsequent
discussion, and the civil authority car assume this principle as the basis of
its acts. — Apostolic Letter “Ad Apostolicae,” Aug. 22, 1851.

I’d like to confirm this by seeing the original letter, but I’m assuming by “national councils,” he means “councils of bishops” and not civil legislatures. If so, he’s saying that councils of bishops, such as the USCCB, do not have absolute teaching authority, and it is perfectly acceptable to disagree with the decision of a national bishops’ conference (as, for example, did St. Thomas More). Since most progressives in the US rely on the documents of the USCCB to back up their position that “social justice” outweighs moral absolutes like contraception, divorce, homosexuality and abortion, this is an interesting principle.

40. The teaching of the Catholic Church is hostile to the well- being and
interests of society. — Encyclical “Qui pluribus,” Nov. 9, 1846; Allocution
“Quibus quantisque,” April 20, 1849.

This is, of course, the implicit teaching of Kennedy Catholics, who say that the Church’s teachings on contraception and abortion cannot be enforced in America.

54. Kings and princes are not only exempt from the jurisdiction of the Church,
but are superior to the Church in deciding questions of jurisdiction. —
Damnatio “Multiplices inter,” June 10, 1851.

Again, this is the position of Kennedy Catholics: “We are politicians; therefore, the Church can’t tell us what to do.”

55. The Church ought to be separated from the .State, and the State from
the Church. — Allocution “Acerbissimum,” Sept. 27, 1852.

This is one commonly pointed to as being “changed” by Vatican II. Key words, however, are “ought to be,” as opposed to “may be.” It’s the question of “freedom of religion” versus “freedom from religion.” He’s condemning the Jeffersonian “wall of separation,” as did Pope Benedict when he came to the US in April and said that a free society should allow people to speak about their religious beliefs in public, and that politicians must express their religious beliefs in their political offices.

66. The Sacrament of Marriage is only a something accessory to the contract
and separate from it, and the sacrament itself consists in the nuptial
Rbenediction alone. — Apostolic Letter “Ad Apostolicae,” Aug. 22, 1851.

This is interesting. These days, because of rampant divorce and annulment abuse in the US, people whine about “I had a real marriageThak!” Often, they’re told, “Well, an annulment doesn’t say anything about the marriage, just the sacramentality of the marriage.” Sorry, nope. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too. A marriage is a marriage. If there wasn’t a valid contract, there wasn’t a valid marriage.


67. By the law of nature, the marriage tie is not indissoluble, and in many
cases divorce properly so called may be decreed by the civil authority. —
Ibid.; Allocution “Acerbissimum,” Sept. 27, 1852.


80. The Roman Pontiff can, and ought to, reconcile himself, and come to
terms with progress, liberalism and modern civilization.- -Allocution “Jamdudum
cernimus,” March 18, 1861.

Trojan Horse in the City of God

Sometime in the early 1970s, a reviewer in L’Osservatore Romano said that every priest, and every layperson concerned with the state of the Church, should read Dietrich von Hildebrand’s Trojan Horse in the City of God. Christoph Cardinal Shonborn is quoted as saying, “Trojan Horse has lost none of its relevance. We have not yet surmounted the crisis.” Bishop John Myers of Peoria (who once boycotted the National Catholic Education Association Conference due to Sr. Joan Chittister being a speaker): “I encourage all Catholics to profit from the profound insights of this great philosopher.” The late John Cardinal O’Connor: “We can ask whether von Hildebrand’s critique of distorted interpretations of the council is still valid today. I believe it is, because so many of his warnings were ignored and even ridiculed in 1967.”

Primarily, the book concerns how the philosophies of Marx and Hegel underly the “progressive” movement in the Church. He establishes his argument on the idea of incomplete truth. An incomplete truth is not a lie.

The Catholic Church has, and has always had, the complete deposit of God’s Revelation. However, in practice, that deposit is usually expressed incompletely. Not everyone can really know everything there is to know about divine revelation. And people tend to express what needs to be expressed in different situations.

The Church prior to Vatican II, he says, was in such a state of “incomplete truth”. The Church was promoting nothing “false”; just neglecting to teach or emphasize certain aspects of the full Truth.

However, many who were dissatisfied with the state of affairs in the Church before Vatican II went to the other extreme. Rather than simply expanding the range of the Church’s teachings, as Bl. John XXIII intended, the progressives adopted the idea that everything “pre-conciliar” was bad, outdated, and reflective of a “Catholic ghetto.” In their zeal to correct what was “wrong” with the Church (and that wrongness being a deficiency, not a corruption), they instead adopted ideas that were completely wrong.

The desire for change was integrated with the philosophies of history of Hegel and Marx. Von Hildebrand’s exposition of the failures of trying to combine Marxism and Catholicism is profound. Unfortunately, I can’t find my copy to quote anything directly, but it is a must read for anyone concerned about the Church, the Culture Wars and what John Paul II repeatedly called the greatest spiritual battle in the history of the Church.