Errors of the Modernists

(Continued from September)


1. In the first place, with regard to studies, We will and ordain that scholastic philosophy be made the basis of the sacred sciences. It goes without saying that if anything is met with among the scholastic doctors which may be regarded as an excess of subtlety, or which is altogether destitute of probability, We have no desire whatever to propose it for the imitation of present generations (Leo XIII Enc. Aeterni Patris). And let it be clearly understood above all things that the scholastic philosophy We prescribe is that which the Angelic Doctor has bequeathed to us, and We, therefore, declare that all the ordinances of Our Predecessor on this subject continue fully in force, and, as far as may be necessary, We do decree anew, and confirm, and ordain that they be by all strictly observed. In seminaries where they may have been neglected let the Bishops impose them and require their observance, and let this apply also to the Superiors of religious institutions. Further let Professors remember that they cannot set St. Thomas aside, especially in metaphysical question, without grave detriment.

On this philosophical foundation the theological edifice is to be solidly raised. Promote the study of theology, Venerable Brethren, by all means in your power, so that your clerics on leaving the seminaries may admire and love it, and always find their delight in it. For in the vast and varied abundance of studies opening before the mind desirous of truth, everybody knows how the old maxim describes theology as so far in front of all others that every science and art should serve it and be to it as handmaidens (Leo XIII, Lett. ap. In Magna, Dec. 10, 1889). We will add that We deem worthy of praise those who with full respect for tradition, the Holy Fathers, and the ecclesiastical magisterium, undertake, with wellbalanced judgment and guided by Catholic principles (which is not always the case), seek to illustrate positive theology by throwing the light of true history upon it. Certainly more attention must be paid to positive theology than in the past, but this must be done without detriment to scholastic theology, and those are to be disapproved as of Modernist tendencies who exalt positive theology in such a way as to seem to despise the scholastic.

With regard to profane studies suffice it to recall here what Our Predecessor has admirably said: Apply yourselves energetically to the study of natural sciences: the brilliant discoveries and the bold and useful applications of them made in our times which have won such applause by our contemporaries will be an object of perpetual praise for those that come after us (Leo XIII, Alloc., March 7, 1880). But this do without interfering with sacred studies, as Our Predecessor in these most grave words prescribed: If you carefully search for the cause of those errors you will find that it lies in the fact that in these days when the natural sciences absorb so much study, the more severe and lofty studies have been proportionately neglected some of them have almost passed into oblivion, some of them are pursued in a halfhearted or superficial way, and, sad to say, now that they are fallen from their old estate, they have been disfigured by perverse doctrines and monstrous errors (loco. cit.) We ordain, therefore, that the study of natural science in the seminaries be carried on under this law.


2. All these prescriptions and those of Our Predecessor are to be borne in mind whenever there is question of choosing directors and professors for seminaries and Catholic universities. Anybody who in any way is found to be imbued with Modernism is to be excluded without compunction from these offices, and those who already occupy them are to be withdrawn. The same policy is to be adopted towards those who favor Modernism either by extolling the Modernists or excusing their culpable conduct, by criticizing scholasticism, the Fathers, or by refusing obedience to ecclesiastical authority in any of its depositaries; and towards those who show a love of novelty in history, archaeology, Biblical exegesis, and finally towards those who neglect the sacred sciences or appear to prefer to them the profane. In all this question of studies, Venerable Brethren, you cannot be too watchful or too constant, but most of all in the choice of professors, for as a rule the students are modeled after the pattern of their masters. Strong in the consciousness of your duty, act always prudently but vigorously.

Equal diligence and severity are to be used in examining and selecting candidates for Holy Orders. Far, far from the clergy be the love of novelty! God hates the proud and the obstinate. For the future the doctorate of theology and canon law must never be conferred on anybody who has not made the regular course of scholastic Philosophy; if conferred it shall be held as null and void. The rules laid down in 1896 by the Sacred Congregation of Bishops and Regulars for the clerics, both secular and regular, of Italy, concerning the frequenting of the universities, We now decree to be extended to all nations. Clerics priests inscribed in a Catholic institute or university must not in the future follow in civil universities those courses for which, there are chairs in the Catholic institutes to which they belong. If this has been permitted anywhere in the past, We ordain that it be not allowed for the future. Let the Bishops who form the governing board of such Catholic institutes or universities watch with all care that these Our commands be constantly observed.


3. It is also the duty of the Bishops to prevent writings infected with Modernism or favorable to it from being read when they have been published, and to hinder their publication when they have not. No book or paper or periodical of this kind must ever be permitted to seminarists or university students. The injury to them would be equal to that caused by immoral reading nay, it would be greater for such writings poison Christian life at its very fount. The same decision is to be taken concerning the writings of some Catholics, who, though not badly disposed themselves but illinstructed in theological studies and imbued with modern philosophy, strive to make this harmonize with the faith, and, as they say, to turn it to the account of the faith. The name and reputation of these authors cause them to be read without suspicion, and they are, therefore, all the more dangerous in preparing the way of Modernism.

To give you some more general directions, Venerable Brethren, in a matter of such moment, We bid you do everything in your power to drive out of your dioceses, even by solemn interdict, any pernicious books that may be in circulation there. The Holy See neglects no means to put down writings of this kind, but the number of them has now grown to such an extent that it is impossible to censure them all. Hence it happens that the medicine sometimes arrives too late, for the disease has taken root during the delay. We will, therefore, that the Bishops, putting aside all fear and the prudence of the flesh, despising the outcries of the wicked, gently by all means but constantly, do each his own share of this work, remembering the injunctions of Leo XIII in the Apostolic Constitution Officiorium: Let the Ordinaries, acting in this also as Delegates of the Apostolic See, exert themselves to prescribe and to put out of reach of the faithful injurious books or other writings printed or circulated in their dioceses. In this passage the Bishops, it is true, receive a right, but they have also a duty imposed on them. Let no Bishop think that he fulfills this duty by denouncing to us one or two books while a great many others of the same kind are being published and circulated. Nor are you to be deterred by the fact that a book has obtained the Imprimatur elsewhere, both because this may be merely simulated, and because it may have been granted through carelessness or easiness or excessive confidence in the author as may sometimes happen in religious Orders. Besides, just as the same food does not agree equally with everybody, it may happen that a book harmless in one place may, on account of the different circumstances, be hurtful in another. Should a Bishop, therefore, after having taken the advice of prudent persons, deem it right to condemn any of such books in his diocese, We not only give him ample faculty to do so but We impose it upon him as a duty to do so. Of course, it is Our wish that in such action proper regard be used, and sometimes it will suffice to restrict the prohibition to the clergy; but even in such cases it will be obligatory on Catholic booksellers not to put on sale books condemned by the Bishop. And while We are on this subject of booksellers, We wish the Bishops to see to it that they do not, through desire for gain, put on sale unsound books. It is certain that in the catalogues of some of them the books of the Modernists are not unfrequently announced with no small praise. If they refuse obedience let the Bishops have no hesitation in depriving them of the title of Catholic booksellers; so, too, and with more reason, if they have the title of Episcopal booksellers, and if they have that of Pontifical, let them be denounced to the Apostolic See. Finally, We remind all of the XXVI. article of the abovementioned Constitution Officiorum: All those who have obtained an apostolic faculty to read and keep forbidden books, are not thereby authorized to read books and periodicals forbidden by the local Ordinaries, unless the apostolic faculty expressly concedes permission to read and keep books condemned by anybody.


4. But it is not enough to hinder the reading and the sale of bad books it is also necessary to prevent them from being printed. Hence let the Bishops use the utmost severity in granting permission to print. Under the rules of the Constitution Officiorum, many publications require the authorization of the Ordinary, and in some dioceses it has been made the custom to have a suitable number of official censors for the examination of writings. We have the highest praise for this institution, and We not only exhort, but We order that it be extended to all dioceses. In all episcopal Curias, therefore, let censors be appointed for the revision of works intended for publication, and let the censors be chosen from both ranks of the clergy secular and regular, men of age, knowledge and prudence who will know how to follow the golden mean in their judgments. It shall be their office to examine everything which requires permission for publication according to Articles XLI. and XLII. of the abovementioned Constitution. The Censor shall give his verdict in writing. If it be favorable, the Bishop will give the permission for publication by the word Imprimatur which must always be preceded by the Nihil obstat and the name of the Censor. In the Curia of Rome official censors shall he appointed just as elsewhere, and the appointment of them shall appertain to the Master of the Sacred Palaces, after they have been proposed to the Cardinal Vicar and accepted by the Sovereign Pontiff. It will also be the office of the Master of the Sacred Palaces to, select the censor for each writing. Permission for publication will be granted by him as well as by the Cardinal Vicar or his Vicegerent, and this permission, as above prescribed, must always be preceded by the Nihil obstat and the name of the Censor. Only on very rare and exceptional occasions and on the prudent decision of the Bishop, shall it be possible to omit mention of the Censor. The name of the Censor shall never be made known to the authors until he shall have given a favorable decision, so that he may not have to suffer annoyance either while he is engaged in the examination of a writing or in case he should deny his approval. Censors shall never be chosen from the religious orders until the opinion of the Provincial, or in Rome of the General has been privately obtained, and the Provincial or the General must give a conscientious account of the character, knowledge and orthodoxy of the candidate. We admonish religious superiors of their solemn duty never to allow anything to be published by any of their subjects without permission from themselves and from the Ordinary. Finally We affirm and declare that the title of Censor has no value and can never be adduced to give credit to the private opinions of the person who holds it.


Having said this much in general, We now ordain in particular a more careful observance of Article XLII. of the abovementioned Constitution Officiorum. It is forbidden to secular priests, without the previous consent of the Ordinary, to undertake the direction of papers or periodicals. This permission shall be withdrawn from any priest who makes a wrong use of it after having been admonished. With regard to priests who are correspondents or collaborators of periodicals, as it happens not infrequently that they write matter infected with Modernism for their papers or periodicals, let the Bishops see to it that this is not permitted to happen, and, should it happen, let them warn the writers or prevent them from writing. The Superiors of religious orders, too, We admonish with all authority to do the same, and should they fail in this duty let the Bishops make due provision with authority delegated by the Supreme Pontiff. Let there be, as far as this is possible, a special Censor for newspapers and periodicals written by Catholics. It shall be his office to read in due time each number after it has been published, and if he find anything dangerous in it let him order that it be corrected. The Bishop shall have the same right even when the Censor has seen nothing objectionable in a publication.


5. We have already mentioned congresses and public gatherings as among the means used by the Modernists to propagate and defend their opinions. In the future Bishops shall not permit Congresses of priests except on very rare occasions. When they do permit them it shall only be on condition that matters appertaining to the Bishops or the Apostolic See be not treated in them, and that no motions or postulates be allowed that would imply a usurpation of sacred authority, and that no mention be made in them of Modernism, presbyterianism, or laicism. At Congresses of this kind, which can only be held after permission in writing has been obtained in due time and for each case, it shall not be lawful for priests of other dioceses to take part without the written permission of their Ordinary. Further, no priest must lose sight of the solemn recommendation of Leo XIII.: Let priests hold as sacred the authority of their bishops, let them take it for certain that the sacerdotal ministry, if not exercised under the guidance of the Bishops, can never be either holy, or very fruitful or respectable (Lett. Encyc. Nobilissima Gallorum, 10 Feb., 1884).


6. But of what avail, Venerable Brethren, will be all Our commands and prescriptions if they be not dutifully and firmly carried out? And, in order that this may be done, it has seemed expedient to Us to extend to all dioceses the regulations laid down with great wisdom many years ago by the Bishops of Umbria for theirs.

"In order," they say, "to extirpate the errors already propagated and to prevent their further diffusion, and to remove those teachers of impiety through whom the pernicious effects of such diffusion are being perpetuated, this sacred Assembly, following the example of St. Charles Borromeo, has decided to establish in each of the dioceses a Council consisting of approved members of both branches of the clergy, which shall be charged with the task of noting the existence of errors and the devices by which new ones are introduced and propagated, and to inform the Bishop of the whole so that he may take counsel with them as to the best means for nipping the evil in the bud and preventing it spreading for the ruin of souls or, worse still, gaining strength and growth" (Acts of the Congress of the Bishops of Umbria, Nov., 1849, tit. 2, art. 6). We decree, therefore, that in every diocese a council of this kind, which We are pleased to name "the Council of Vigilance," be instituted without delay. The priests called to form part in it shall be chosen somewhat after the manner above prescribed for the Censors, and they shall meet every two months on an appointed day under the presidency of the Bishop. They shall be bound to secrecy as to their deliberations and decisions, and their function shall be as follows: They shall watch most carefully for every trace and sign of Modernism both in publications and in teaching, and, to preserve from it the clergy and the young, they shall take all prudent, prompt and efficacious measures. Let them combat novelties of words remembering the admonitions of Leo XIII. (instruct. S.C. NN. EE. EE., 27 Jan., 1902): It is impossible to approve in Catholic publications of a style inspired by unsound novelty which seems to deride the piety of the faithful and dwells on the introduction of a new order of Christian life, on new directions of the Church, on new aspirations of the modern soul, on a new vocation of the clergy, on a new Christian civilization. Language of this kind is not to be tolerated either in books or from chairs of learning. The Councils must not neglect the books treating of the pious traditions of different places or of sacred relics. Let them not permit such questions to be discussed in periodicals destined to stimulate piety neither with expressions savoring of mockery or contempt, nor by dogmatic pronouncements. especially when, as is often the case, what is stated as a certainty either does not pass the limits of probability or is merely based on prejudiced opinion. Concerning sacred relics, let this be the rule: When Bishops, who alone are judges in such matters, know for certain that a relic is not genuine, let them remove it at once from the veneration of the faithful; if the authentications of a relic happen to have been lost through civil disturbances, or in any other way, let it not be exposed for public veneration until the Bishop has verified it. The argument of prescription or wellfounded presumption is to have weight only when devotion to a relic is commendable by reason of its antiquity, according to the sense of the Decree issued in 1896 by the Congregation of Indulgences and Sacred Relics: Ancient relics are to retain the veneration they have always enjoyed except when in individual instances there are clear arguments that they are false or suppositions. In passing judgment on pious traditions be it always borne in mind that in this matter the Church uses the greatest prudence, and that she does not allow traditions of this kind to be narrated in books except with the utmost caution and with the insertion of the declaration imposed by Urban VIII., and even then she does not guarantee the truth of the fact narrated; she simply does not forbid belief in things for which human arguments are not wanting. On this matter the Sacred Congregation of Rites, thirty years ago, decreed as follows: These apparitions and revelations have neither been approved nor condemned by the Holy See, which has simply allowed that they be believed on purely human faith, on the tradition which they relate, corroborated by testimonies and documents worthy of credence (Decree, May 2, 1877). Anybody who follows this rule has no cause for fear. For the devotion based on any apparition, in as far as it regards the fact itself, that is to say, in as far as it is relative, always implies the hypothesis of the truth of the fact; while in as far as it is absolute, it must always be based on the truth, seeing that its object is the persons of the saints who are honored. The same is true of relics. Finally, We entrust to the Councils of Vigilance the duty of overlooking assiduously and diligently social institutions as well as writings on social questions so that they may harbor no trace of Modernism, but obey the prescriptions of the Roman Pontiffs.

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