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Saturday, 13 September 2014

Pope Pius IX - 'Quanta Cura' and the 'Syllabus of Errors' (1864)


(continued from 11 July)
For Pope Pius IX, the decade following the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was a period of increasing stress and uncertainty, with Rome and the Papal States  under constant threat of invasion and annexation by one or other of the armies of France, Piedmont-Sardinia, and the forces of the Risorgimento. Among the leading political figures in events of this period were Count Camillo Cavour,  Prime Minister of Piedmont-Sardinia;  Emperor Napoleon III of France; King Victor Emmanuel of Sardinia; and Garibaldi; all to varying degrees and for perhaps different reasons, plotting against Pope Pius IX and the Catholic Church. Their ultimate aim was the acquisition of the papal states, and the setting up of a republican government in Italy.  The papacy was to be stripped of its temporal kingdom, with the Pope and the Church tolerated but largely subject to the laws of the new secular State. Such an  objective had the backing of the English and other anti-Catholic governments, together with Masonic and secular 
powers throughout Europe
 
 
    Pope Pius IX
 
This post is concerned with one particularly notable event of Pio Nono’s pontificate, namely the papal encyclical ‘Quanta Cura’ published on December 8, 1864, and its annex - the ‘Syllabus of the Principal Errors of Our Time’.
          The history of the Syllabus goes back to the year 1849, in the wake of the Roman revolution, when Cardinal Pecci (later Pope Leo XIII), together with the Bishops of Spoleto, wrote to Pope Pius IX asking him to “tabulate all the errors against the Church, against authority and property, as they present themselves in our time, and to condemn them, specifying the relevant note of censure”.
 In 1851, a layman,  Emiliano della Motta, in a work published in Turin, ‘Essay on socialism and the socialist doctrines and tendencies’ also called for a global condemnation of the ‘huge and highly pernicious errors of modern society.’ In 1852 when the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was being prepared, it had been suggested that a solemn condemnation of the errors of the time
should be included in the Bull defining the dogma, but this idea was ultimately abandoned.
 
After the promulgation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception and the work of the Commission  completed, it was instructed  to continue in the preparation of  the future Syllabus. In October 1859, at the Pope’s request, Abbot Dom Gueranger of Solesmes Abbey, and Mgr de Ram of the Catholic University of Louvain,  submitted their respective views on the chief errors of the time, with the Bishop of Poitiers, Mgr Pie, submitting his opinion on two specified errors, viz.
  “the order of faith and of the supernatural sacrificed to the order of nature”, and
  “the practical and absolute separation of the religious order from the civil order, raised to the level of a dogma and hailed as progress”.
The replies, consisting of detailed memorandi, were read and annotated by the Pope, and from these the commission initially drew up a collection of seventy-nine condemned theses.
          Some months later Mgr Gerbet, Bishop of Perpignan, on his own initiative, published a pastoral instruction on ‘various errors of the present time’, which amounted to eighty-five propositions. The Pope was sent a copy of this pastoral instruction and its annexed catalogue, and was sufficiently impressed to decide that it was to be used as a guide when preparing the Syllabus.

          In May 1861 a second commission was set up to examine Mgr Gerbet's propositions in more detail. After many working sessions a final list of sixty-one doctrinal propositions was drawn up, each with its relevant censure. When the Bishops met in Rome in June 1862, for the canonization of the Japanese Martyrs, Pius IX had a copy of this list distributed to each of them, under the
seal of secrecy, requiring  them to examine the condemned errors attentively and make their observations within two months. The majority of Bishops approved the proposed text, but about a third of them judged a condemnation of this kind inopportune or expressed disagreement concerning the censure to be applied to particular errors.
 
          Within a few weeks the secrecy requested by the Pope had been broken. The French Ambassador to Rome communicated the proposed list of condemned propositions to his Minister, and it was not long before it became widely known. Meetings were held by the French liberal-Catholic groups, also by scholars from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, with the details of the propositions severely criticised. A congress of ‘Belgian Catholics’ was held in Malines, with the liberal Catholic, Count Montalembert,  praising ‘Catholic and liberal Belgium’ but regretting that many Catholics ‘had not yet taken their part in the great revolution that has given birth to the new society, the new life of the peoples’. He advocated the separation of Church and State, praising ‘freedom of worship and of conscience, the most precious, the most sacred, the most legitimate, the most necessary freedom.’ His remarks scandalised many present, which included the English Cardinal Wiseman, and several Bishops subsequently demanded an official condemnation of his remarks.
        
 
               Count Montalembert (1810-1870)
 
The Pope valued Montalembert’s past battles for the Church, particularly for freedom of education in France, and was not prepared to publicly condemn him, however he wrote to him privately rejecting his ideas which were ‘in contradiction with the teachings of the Catholic Church and with the acts of various sovereign Pontiffs.’ The liberal Catholics feared the forthcoming solemn condemnation, with Deschamps a friend of Montalembert, writing to the Pope and suggesting that condemning the very foundations of the modern constitutions would put the Church in danger of intensified hostility; sentiments echoed by Leopold I, King of the Belgians.
 
The author of the final version of the Syllabus was a Barnabite religious Fr Luigi Bilio, who as consultor of the Congregation of the Holy Office, had been responsible for examining the two addresses of Montalembert, and had concluded that the speaker had erred, resulting in the papal condemnation.    Fr Bilio had so impressed with his work, that he was charged with the task of finalising the Syllabus,  producing three different drafts over a six month period. His last draft, in contrast to the format of his earlier ones, was based on Pius IX’s teachings as expressed in his encyclicals dating from 1846, from which he extracted a list of eighty-four propositions explicitly censured by the Pope. The result was a list of quotations with references, concerning philosophical and theological questions and the relations between Church and State. Two quotations were withdrawn on account of duplication, and two more were withdrawn by Fr Bilio on his own initiative, who judged that they could be misunderstood. Thus the definitive version of the Syllabus, after twelve years of work and eight different draft versions, contained eighty condemned propositions drawn from thirty-two encyclicals, allocutions, and letters of Pope Pius IX.
The Syllabus, formally without signature or date,  with the eighty condemned propositions divided into ten categories, was sent to all the bishops of the world, together with the explanatory encyclical ‘Quanta Cura’ dated December 8, 1864.
 
 
The Syllabus of Errors.
         
          1. Propositions of pantheism’, ’naturalism’, andabsolute rationalism’ i.e. those which say that ‘God and nature are the same thing’; ‘all things are God’; ‘there is no difference between spirit and matter, necessity and freedom, true and false, good and evil, justice and injustice’; ‘the idea that reason is law to itself, and suffices, by its natural force, to secure the welfare of men and of nations’; ‘the faith of Christ is in opposition to human reason.’
          2. Moderate rationalism’, in which the ‘theological must be treated in the same way as philosophical sciences’; ‘the decrees of the Apostolic See and of the Roman congregations impede the free progress of science’; and ‘that one can engage in philosophy without taking any account of supernatural revelation’.
          3/4Indifferentism and latitudinarianism were dealt with in four propositions. ‘Every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which guided by the light of reason, he shall consider true’; ‘man may in the observance of any religion whatever, find the way of eternal salvation, and arrive at eternal salvation’. Socialism, Communism, Secret societies, Biblical societies, and Clerico-liberal societies, were also condemned.
          5. Twenty propositions manifested errors regarding the Church and her rights. For example, ‘it falls on the civil power to define the rights of the Church, and the limits in which she may exercise those rights’; ‘ that the Church has not any temporal power, direct or indirect’; ‘national churches, withdrawn from the authority of the Roman pontiff and altogether separated, can be established.’
          6. A sixth section condemned errors about civil society,  considered both in itself and in its relation to the Church. For example, ‘in the case of conflicting laws enacted by the two powers, the civil law prevails’; ’the civil authority may interfere in matters relating to religion, morality, and spiritual government’;  ‘ the laws enacted for the protection of religious orders and regarding their rights and duties, ought to be abolished.’
          7. Nine erroneous propositions on ‘Natural and Christian ethics’. ‘The science of philosophical things and morals and also civil laws, may and ought to keep aloof from divine and ecclesiastical authority’; ’it is lawful to refuse obedience to legitimate princes, and even to rebel against them.’
          8. Ten propositions covered the ‘errors concerning Christian marriage. For example, ‘the doctrine that Christ has raised marriage to the dignity of a sacrament cannot be at all tolerated’; ‘in many cases divorce properly so-called may be decreed by the civil authority’; ‘in force of a merely civil contract there may exist between Christians a real marriage.’
          9. Errors regarding the civil power of the Sovereign Pontiff were dealt with in two propositions, one of which states that ‘the abolition of the temporal power of which the Apostolic See is possessed, would contribute in the greatest degree to the liberty and prosperity of the Church.’
          10. Finally, Section ten listed four errors connected to modern liberalism. The last of these is probably the most publicised of the entire list, viz. ‘The Roman Pontiff can, and ought to reconcile himself, and come to terms with progress, liberalism, and modern civilisation.’
 
The encyclical and Syllabus struck a blow not only against the anti-clericals, agnostics, and atheists, but also against liberal Catholics. In France, the government and anti-clerical press showed great hostility to the Pope’s condemnations e.g. ‘the supreme insult offered to the modern world by a doomed papacy’ (Le Siecle), Emperor Napoleon III, through his Minister of Justice and Education, forbade the French bishops from publicising those parts of the Syllabus which contained  propositions contrary to the principles underlying the Empire’s constitution. Their reactions varied, with about eighty responding, some thirty sending a written letter of protest to the Minister, and the others using the traditional means of a pastoral letter which provided the opportunity of commenting on the encyclical and the catalogue of condemned errors. Two bishops ignored the prohibition completely, reading out the entire text of both encyclical and Syllabus in their respective Cathedrals. As a result they were brought before a Council of State and condemned for a breach of the law.
 
The most widely circulated episcopal reaction came from Mgr Dupanlou, the liberal Bishop of Orleans, who produced a pamphlet in which he suggested that the encyclical 'had not been interpreted, it had been misrepresented'. Enlarging on this he stated that the condemnation of a proposition does not necessarily imply that its opposite is being affirmed, nor should it be regarded as universal and absolute. He further stated that the Pope had condemned only ‘unlimited liberty’, not whatever is good in progress, whatever is truly useful in modern civilisation, whatever is truly liberal and Christian in Liberalism. He went on to say that the Church is not the enemy of political liberty, and that in fact no spirit is more liberal than hers.
    

             Mgr Dupanlou, Bishop of Orleans (1876)

The pamphlet was an immediate success, with 100,000 copies sold within three weeks. It offered encouragement to both liberal Catholics and to those loyal to the Pope. The Pope sent him a Brief of congratulations, praising him for the manner in which he had repudiated ‘the calumnies and errors of the newspapers, which had so lamentably disfigured the meaning of the teaching proposed by Us’. However he was not totally uncritical in his praise, reminding the Bishop, a liberal Catholic, of his lack of support in the past, and urging greater zeal and care  in the future.
Entirely contrary to the Bishop’s views, were those of another eminent Catholic Frenchman, the ultramontanist layman, Louis Veuillet, who produced his own pamphlet entitled ‘L’Illusion Liberale’:-
                ‘the liberal Catholic is neither Catholic nor liberal. What I mean by this - and I am not doubting his sincerity- is that he has lost both the true notion of liberty and the true notion of the Church. He may say that he is a liberal Catholic as much as he pleases, but he exhibits a much more well-known character, and all his features show us someone met with all too frequently in the history of the Church: his true name is SECTARIAN ……. Catholic liberalism and the spirit of the world are of the same blood; they tend towards each other by a thousand slopes ….. Heresy, which does not deny all the truth at once, which does not affirm all the error at once, opens a water-course
for these futile springs; they converge on it from two opposite sides, and so the torrent swells. If heresy breaks its banks, there is only one solid ground, only one refuge, the ROCK … Tu es Petrus …. Et non praevalebunt’
         

      Louis Veuillet (1813-1883) by Nadar

Veuillet called on Catholics to ‘rally around the Sovereign Pontiff, to follow his inspired directives unshakeably, to affirm with him those truths which alone will save both our souls and the world.’
The Pope was  delighted and his response enthusiastic - ‘these are my ideas, utterly and absolutely’.
 The anti-clerical Press took the opportunity to discredit the Church, and initially the governments of Austria and Italy tried to prohibit the publication of the two documents, but then abandoned the attempt. In the German speaking countries it was primarily the supporters of the Syllabus who made their voices heard. The Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Rauscher, in his publication ‘The State without God’ praised the Pope for opposing the separation of Church and State.’

                 Cardinal Rauscher, Archbishop of Vienna (1853-1875)

The publication of the ‘Syllabus of Errors’ was one of the three great milestones of Pope Pius IX’s pontificate, the others being the proclamation of the ‘Dogma of the Immaculate Conception’, and the ‘First Vatican Council.’  The Pope’s intention of continuity between these events is evident by their respective dates:-  the dogma was proclaimed on December 8, 1854;  the Syllabus with the encyclical Quanta Cura, published December 8, 1864; and  the opening of the Council on December 8, 1869. 
 Ack.  'Pope Pius IX – the Man and the Myth' by Yves Chiron, published by Angelus Press.
'Blessed Pius IX' by Roberto Mattei, published by Gracewing.
'Pio Nono' by E Y Hales, published by Eyre and Spottiswood. 
(to be continued)

2 comments:

Mary Ann Kreitzer said...

What a history lesson. I'm going to link from my blog. Thank you!

umblepie said...


Mary, Thank you for your interest and encouragement. BC.