Pastoral Letter Promulgating the Jubilee/The Encyclical of Pope Pius IX

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☞ As several imperfect or faulty English translations of the Encyclical Letter of the Pope, and of its Annex, or Syllabus of errors condemned, have been published, it has been thought expedient to republish both documents, in a version which has been carefully revised and compared with the original, and which may therefore be regarded as substantially correct and authentic.



To Our Venerable Brothers, the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, and Bishops, of the Universal Church, having Grace and Communion with the Apostolic See.

Health and Apostolic Benediction:

It is well known unto all men, and especially to You, Venerable Brothers, with what great care and pastoral vigilance Our Predecessors, the Roman Pontiffs, have discharged the Office entrusted by Christ Our Lord to them, in the Person of the Most Blessed Peter, Prince of the Apostles, have unremittingly discharged the duty of feeding the lambs and the sheep, and have diligently nourished the Lord's entire flock with the words of faith, imbued it with salutary doctrine, and guarded it from poisoned pastures. And those Our Predecessors, who were the assertors and Champions of the august Catholic Religion, of truth and justice, being as they were chiefly solicitous for the salvation of souls, held nothing to be of so great importance as the duty of exposing and condemning, in their most wise Letters and Constitutions, all heresies and errors which are hostile to moral honesty and to the eternal salvation of mankind, and which have frequently stirred up terrible commotions and have damaged both the Christian and civil commonwealths in a disastrous manner. Wherefore those Our Predecessors have, with Apostolic fortitude continually resisted the machinations of those evil men, who, "foaming out their own confusion, like the raging waves of the sea," and "promising liberty, while they are themselves the slaves of corruption," endeavored by their fallacious opinions and most wicked writings to subvert the foundations of Religion and of civil Society, to remove from our midst all virtue and justice, to deprave the hearts and minds of all, to turn away from right discipline of morals the incautious, and especially inexperienced youth, miserably corrupting them, leading them into the nets of error, and finally withdrawing them from the bosom of the Catholic Church.

And now, Venerable Brothers, as is also very well known to you, scarcely had We (by the secret dispensation of Divine Providence, certainly by no merit of Our own) been called to this Chair of Peter, when We, to the extreme grief of Our soul, beheld a horrible tempest stirred up by so many erroneous opinions, and the dreadful and never-enough to be lamented mischiefs which redound to Christian people from such errors; and We then, in discharge of Our Apostolic Ministerial Office, imitating the example of Our illustrious Predecessors, raised Our voice, and in several published Encyclical Letters, and in Allocutions delivered in Consistory, and in other Apostolical Letters, We condemned the prominent, most grievous errors of the age, and We stirred up your excellent episcopal vigilance, and again and again did We admonish and exhort all the sons of the Catholic Church, who are most dear to Us, that they should abhor and shun all the said errors, as they would the contagion of a fatal pestilence.—Especially in Our first Encyclical Letter, written to You on the 9th of November, A. D. 1846, and in two Allocutions, one of which was delivered by Us in Consistory on the 9th of December, A. D. 1854, and the other on the 9th of June, A. D. 1862, We condemned the monstrous and portentous opinions, which prevail especially in the present age, to the very great loss of souls, and even to the detriment of civil society; and which are in the highest degree hostile, not only to the Catholic Church, and to her salutary doctrine and venerable laws, but also to the everlasting law of nature engraven by God upon the hearts of all men, and to right reason; and out of which almost all errors originate.

Now although hitherto We have not omitted to denounce and reprove the chief errors of this kind, yet the cause of the Catholic Church and the salvation of souls committed to Us by God, and even the interests of human society absolutely demand, that once again We should stir up Your pastoral solicitude, to drive away other erroneous opinions which flow from those errors above specified, as their source. These false and perverse opinions are so much the more detestable, by as much as they have chiefly for their object to hinder and banish that salutary influence which the Catholic Church, by the institution and command of her Divine Author, ought freely to exercise, even to the consummation of the world, not only over individual men, but nations, peoples, and sovereigns, and to abolish that mutual co-operation and agreement of counsels between the Priesthood and Governments, which has always been propitious and conducive to the welfare both of Church and State. (Gregory XVI. Encyclical, 13th August, 1832.) For you know well, Venerable Brethren, that at this time there are found not a few, who applying to civil intercourse the impious and absurd principles of what they call Naturalism, dare teach, "that the best form of Society, and the exigencies of civil progress absolutely require human society to be constituted and governed without any regard whatsoever to Religion, as if this (Religion) did not even exist, or at least without making any distinction between true and false religions." Contrary to the teaching of the Holy Scriptures, of the Church, and of the Holy Fathers, these persons do not hesitate to assert, that "the best condition of human society is that, wherein no duty is recognized by the Government of correcting, by enacted penalties, the violators of the Catholic Religion, except when the maintenance of the public peace requires it." From this totally false notion of social government, they fear not to uphold that erroneous opinion most pernicious to the Catholic Church, and to the salvation of souls, which was called by Our Predecessor Gregory XVI. (lately quoted) the insanity (deliramentum), (Encycl. 13 August, 1832): namely, "that the liberty of conscience and of worship is the peculiar (or inalienable) right of every man, which should be proclaimed by law, and that citizens have the right to all kinds of liberty, to be restrained by no law, whether ecclesiastical or civil, by which they may be enabled to manifest openly and publicly their ideas, by word of mouth, through the press, or by any other means." But whilst these men make these rash assertions, they do not reflect, or consider, that they preach the liberty of perdition (St. Augustine, Epistle 105. al. 166), and that, "if it is always free to human arguments to discuss, men will never be wanting who will dare to resist the truth, and to rely upon the loquacity of human wisdom, when we know from the command of Our Lord Jesus Christ, how faith and Christian wisdom ought to avoid this most mischievous vanity." (St. Leo, Epistle 164, al. 133, sec. 2, Boll. ed.).

And since Religion has been excluded from civil Society, and the doctrine and authority of divine Revelation, or the true and germane notion of justice and human right have been obscured and lost, and material or brute force substituted in the place of true justice and legitimate right, it is easy to perceive why some persons, forgetting and trampling upon the most certain principles of sound reason, dare cry out together, "that the will of the people, manifested by what they call public opinion, or in any other way, constitutes the supreme law, independent of all divine and human right, and that, in the political order, accomplished facts, by the mere fact of having been accomplished, have the force of right." But who does not see and plainly understand, that the Society of man, freed from the bonds of Religion and of true justice, can certainly have no other purpose than the effort to obtain and accumulate wealth, and that in its actions it follows no other law than that of the uncurbed cupidity, which seeks to secure its own pleasures and comforts? For this reason, also, these same men persecute with such bitter hatred the Religious Orders, who have deserved so well of religion, civil Society, and Letters; they loudly declare that these Orders have no right to exist, and, in so doing, make common cause with the falsehoods of the heretics. For, as was most wisely taught by Our Predecessor of illustrious memory, Pius VI., "the abolition of Religious Orders injures the state of public profession of the Evangelical Counsels; injures a mode of life recommended by the Church, as in conformity with Apostolical doctrine; does wrong to the illustrious founders whom we venerate upon our altars, and who constituted these societies under the inspiration of God." (Epistle to Cardinal de la Rochefaucauld, March 10, 1791.)

And these same persons also impiously pretend, that citizens should be deprived of the liberty of publicly bestowing on the Church their alms for the sake of Christian charity, and that the law forbidding "servile labour on account of Divine worship" upon certain fixed days should be abolished, upon the most fallacious pretext that such liberty and such law are contrary to the principles of political economy. Not content with abolishing Religion in public Society, they desire further to banish it from families and private life. Teaching and professing those most fatal errors of Socialism and Communism, they declare, that "domestic society, or the family, derives all its reason of existence solely from civil law, whence it is to be concluded that from civil law descend and depend all the rights of parents over their children, and, above all, the right of instructing and educating them." By such impious opinions and machinations, do these most false teachers endeavour to eliminate the salutary teaching and influence of the Catholic Church from the instruction and education of youth, and miserably to infect and deprave by every pernicious error and vice the tender and pliant minds of youth. All those who endeavour to throw into confusion both religious and political affairs, to destroy the good order of society, and to annihilate all Divine and human rights, have always exerted all their criminal schemes, attention, and efforts upon the manner in which they might, above all, deprave and delude unthinking youth, as We have already shown: it is upon the corruption of youth that they place all their hopes. Thus they never cease to attack by every method the Clergy, both secular and regular, from whom, as testify to us in so conspicuous a manner the most certain records of history, such considerable benefits have been bestowed in abundance upon Christian and Civil Society and upon the republic of Letters; asserting of the Clergy in general, that they are the enemies of the useful sciences, of progress, and of civilization, and that they ought to be deprived of all participation in the work of teaching and training the young.

Others, reviving the depraved fictions of innovators, errors many times condemned, presume, with extraordinary impudence, to subordinate the authority of the Church and of this Apostolic See, conferred upon it by Christ Our Lord, to the judgment of civil authority, and to deny all the rights of this same Church and this See with regard to those things which appertain to the secular order. For these persons do not blush to affirm, "that the laws of the Church do not bind the conscience, if they are not promulgated by the civil power; that the acts and decrees of the Roman Pontiffs concerning religion and the Church require the sanction and approbation, or at least, the assent of the civil power; and that the Apostolic Constitutions, (Clement XII., Benedict XIV., Pius VII., Leo XII.) condemning secret societies, whether these exact or do not exact an oath of secrecy, and branding with anathema their followers and partisans, have no force in those countries of the world where such associations are tolerated by the civil Government." It is likewise affirmed, "that the excommunications launched by the Council of Trent and the Roman Pontiffs against those who invade and usurp the possessions of the Church and its rights, strive, by confounding the spiritual and temporal orders, to attain solely a mere earthly end; that the Church can decide nothing which may bind the consciences of the faithful in the temporal order of things; that the right of the Church is not competent to restrain with temporal penalties the violators of her laws; and that it is in accordance with the principles of theology and of public law, for the civil Government to appropriate property possessed by the churches, the Religious Orders, and other pious establishments." And they have no shame in avowing openly and publicly the heretical statement and principle, from which have emanated so many errors and perverse opinions, "that the ecclesiastical power is not, by the law of God, made distinct from and independent of the civil power, and that no distinction, no independence of this kind can be maintained without the Church invading and usurping the essential rights of the civil power." Neither can We pass over in silence the audacity of those who, not enduring sound doctrine, assert that "the judgments and decrees of the Holy See, the object of which is declared to concern the general welfare of the Church, its rights, and its discipline, do not claim acquiescence and obedience, under pain of sin and loss of the Catholic profession, if they do not treat of the dogmas of faith and of morals."

How contrary is this doctrine to the Catholic dogma, of the plenary power divinely conferred on the Sovereign Pontiff by Our Lord Jesus Christ, to guide, to supervise and to govern the Universal Church, no one can fail to see and understand, clearly and evidently.

Amid so great a perversity of depraved opinions, We, remembering Our Apostolic duty, and solicitous before all things for Our most holy Religion, for sound doctrine, for the salvation of the souls confided to Us, and for the welfare of human Society itself, have considered the moment opportune to raise anew Our Apostolic voice. Therefore do We, by our Apostolic authority, reprobate, denounce, and condemn generally and particularly all the evil opinions and doctrines specially mentioned in this Letter, and We wish that they may be held as reprobated, denounced and condemned by all the children of the Catholic Church.

But You know further. Venerable Brothers, that in Our time the haters of all truth and justice, and violent enemies of our religion have spread abroad other impious doctrines, by means of pestilent books, pamphlets, and journals, which, distributed over the surface of the earth, deceive the people and wickedly lie. You are not ignorant that in our day men are found who, animated and excited by the spirit of Satan, have arrived at that excess of impiety, as not to fear to deny Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, and to attack His Divinity with scandalous persistence. And here We cannot abstain from awarding You well-merited praise. Venerable Brothers, for all the care and zeal, with which you have raised Your episcopal voice against so great an impiety.

And therefore in this present letter. We speak to You with all affection; to You who, called to partake Our cares, are Our greatest support in the midst of Our very great grief; Our joy and consolation, by reason of the excellent piety of which You give proof in maintaining religion, and the marvellous love, faith, and discipline with which, united by the strongest and most affectionate ties to Us and this Apostolic See, You strive valiantly and accurately to fulfil Your most weighty episcopal ministry. We do then expect, from Your excellent pastoral zeal, that, taking the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, and strengthened by the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, You will watch with redoubled care, that the faithful committed to Your charge "abstain from evil pasturage, which Jesus Christ doth not till, because His Father hath not planted it." (St. Ignatius, M. ad Philadelph. St. Leo, Epist. 156, al. 125). Never cease, then, to inculcate on the faithful that all true happiness for mankind proceeds from our august Religion, from its doctrine and practice, and that that people is happy who have the Lord for their God (Psalm 143). Teach them, "that kingdoms rest upon the foundation of the Catholic faith (St. Celest, Epist., 22 ad Syn. Eph.), and that nothing is so deadly, nothing so certain to engender every ill, nothing so exposed to danger, as for men to believe that they stand in need of nothing else than the free will which we received at birth, if we ask nothing further from the Lord; that is to say, if forgetting our Author, we abjure His power to show that we are free." And do not omit to teach, "that the royal power has been established, not only to exercise the government of the world, but, above all, for the protection of the Church (St. Leo, Epist. 156 al. 125); and that there is nothing more profitable and more glorious for the Sovereigns of States, and Kings, than to leave the Catholic Church to exercise her laws, and not to permit any to curtail her liberty;" as Our most wise and courageous Predecessor, St. Felix, wrote to the Emperor Zeno. "It is certain that it is advantageous for Sovereigns, when the cause of God is in question, to submit their Royal will, according to his ordinance, to the Priests of Jesus Christ, and not to prefer it before them." (Pius VII. Epist., Encycl., Diu satis, 15th May, 1800).

And if always, so especially at present. Venerable Brothers, in the midst of the numerous calamities of the Church and of civil Society, in view also of the terrible conspiracy of our adversaries against the Catholic Church and this Apostolic See, and the great accumulation of errors, it is before all things necessary to go with faith to the Throne of Grace, to obtain mercy and find Grace in timely aid. We have therefore judged it right to excite the piety of all the faithful, in order that, with Us and with You all, they may pray without ceasing to the Father bf lights and of mercies, supplicating and beseeching Him fervently and humbly, and in the plenitude of their faith they may seek refuge in Our Lord Jesus Christ, who has redeemed us to God with His blood, that by their earnest and continual prayers, they may obtain from that most dear Heart, victim of burning charity for us, that it would draw all to Himself by the bonds of His love, that all men being inflamed by His holy love may live according to His heart, pleasing God in all things, and being fruitful in all good works.

But, as there is no doubt that the prayers most agreeable to God, are those of men who approach Him with a heart pure from all stain, "We have thought it good to open to Christians, with Apostolic liberality, the heavenly treasures of the Church confided to Our dispensation, so that the faithful, more strongly drawn towards true piety, and purified from the stain of their sins by the Sacrament of Penance, may more confidently offer up their prayers to God and obtain His mercy and grace.

By these Letters therefore, emanating from Our Apostolic authority, We grant to all and each of the faithful of both sexes throughout the Catholic world a Plenary Indulgence, in the manner of a Jubilee, during one month, up to the end of the coming year 1865, and not longer, to be carried into effect by You, Venerable Brethren, and the other legitimate local Ordinaries, in the form and manner laid down at the commencement of Our Sovereign Pontificate by Our Apostolical Letters, in form of a Brief, dated the 20th of November, A. D. 1846, and sent to the whole Episcopate of the world, commencing with the words, "Arcano Divinæ Providentiæ consilio," and with the faculties given by Us in those same Letters. "We desire, however, that all the prescriptions of Our Letters shall be observed, saving the exceptions We have declared are to be made. And We have granted this, notwithstanding all which might make to the contrary, even those worthy of special and individual mention and derogation; and in order that every doubt and difficulty may be removed. We have ordered that copies of those Letters should be again forwarded to You.

Let us implore, Venerable Brethren, from our inmost hearts, and with all our souls, the mercy of God. He has encouraged us so to do, by saying: "I will not withdraw My mercy from them." "Let us ask and we shall receive; and if there is slowness or delay in the reception, because we have grievously offended, let us knock, because to him that knocketh it shall be opened; if our prayers, groans, and tears, in which we must persist and be obstinate, knock at the door: and if our prayers be united; let each one pray to God, not for himself alone, but for all his brethren, as the Lord hath taught us to pray." (St. Cyprian, Epistle 11.) But, in order that God may accede more easily to Our and Your prayers, and to those of all His faithful servants, let us employ in all confidence, as our Mediatrix with Him, the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, who "has destroyed all heresies throughout the world, and who, the most loving Mother of us all, is very gracious … and full of mercy, … allows herself to be entreated by all, shows herself most clement towards all, and takes under her pitying care all our necessities with a most ample affection," (St. Bernard, Serm de duodecim prærogativis B. V. M. in verbis Apocalyp.); and, "sitting as queen at the right hand of her only begotten Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in a golden vestment clothed around with various adornments," there is nothing which she cannot obtain from Him. Let us implore also the intervention of the Blessed Peter, Chief of the Apostles, and of his co-Apostle Paul, and of all those Saints of Heaven, who, having already become the friends of God, have been admitted into the celestial kingdom, where they are crowned and bear palms in their hands; and who, henceforth certain of their own immortality, are sollicitous for our salvation.

In conclusion. We ask of God from Our inmost soul the abundance of all his celestial benefits for You, and We bestow upon You, Venerable Brethren, and upon all the faithful Clergy, and Laity committed to Your care, Our Apostolic Benediction from the most loving depths of Our heart, in token of Our charity toward You.


Given at Rome, from St. Peter's, this 8th day of December, 1864, the tenth anniversary of the Dogmatic Definition of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, in the nineteenth year of Our Pontificate.