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Wednesday, 21 September 2016

"Woe to him that shall scandalise one of these My little ones" (Mathew 18/6)


We learn from our Catechism that the three enemies of the soul are the devil, the world, and the flesh.

For young people today the temptations of the flesh, promoted by Satan and the secular society in which we live, must seem overwhelming. Certainly without God's grace they could not win this ongoing battle. The mass media feeds our  society a diet of news and entertainment, some good but much of it sensational and downright licentious. Active homosexuality, a criminal offence in the UK prior to 1967, is promoted as a lifestyle by celebrities from all walks of life, as is so-called 'same-sex marriage'.  Indecent and pornographic material is readily available on the internet, which includes access by millions of young people worldwide using mobile phones, Ipods, etc.

In view of  -      a) current political initiatives to enforce sex-education in all schools in the United Kingdom;  and
                          b) outspoken criticism from respected Catholic sources that certain programmes incorporated in the recent Catholic World Youth Day in Poland, were pornographic in content;,,,

- it seems appropriate to remind ourselves of the Papal Encyclical  'On Christian Education’ - ‘Divini Illius Magistri’,  issued by His Holiness Pope Pius XI on December 31, 1929.

'Such is our misery and inclination to sin, that often in the very things considered to be remedies against sin, we find occasions for and inducements to sin itself.'                        
(Cardinal Silvio Antoniano b.1540-d.1603. Contemporary and friend of St Charles Borromeo and St Philip Neri. Renowned writer - 'Christian Education of Children'- translated in French and German editions in late 19th century)

                                                                       Pope Pius XI  (1930)

This is a comprehensive encyclical, too long to reproduce here, which,  although written nearly eighty-seven years ago, is particularly appropriate to our times, with the same relevance and truth.

 "ON CHRISTIAN EDUCATION  -  'Divini Illius Magistri'


 - the following are extracts from this encyclical. To read the whole, strongly recommended, go to

“….It is therefore as important to make no mistake in education, as it is to make no mistake in the pursuit of the last end, with which the whole work of education is intimately and necessarily connected. In fact, since education consists essentially in preparing man for what he must be and for what he must do here below, in order to attain the sublime end for which he was created, it is clear that there can be no true education which is not wholly directed to man's last end, and that in the present order of Providence, since God has revealed Himself to us in the Person of His Only Begotten Son, who alone is "the way, the truth and the life," there can be no ideally perfect education which is not Christian education.

Hence every form of pedagogic naturalism which in any way excludes or weakens supernatural Christian formation in the teaching of youth, is false. Every method of education founded, wholly or in part, on the denial or forgetfulness of original sin and of grace, and relying on the sole powers of human nature, is unsound. Such, generally speaking, are those modern systems bearing various names which appeal to a pretended self-government and unrestrained freedom on the part of the child, and which diminish or even suppress the teacher's authority and action, attributing to the child an exclusive primacy of initiative, and an activity independent of any higher law, natural or divine, in the work of his education.

But alas! it is clear from the obvious meaning of the words and from experience, that what is intended by not a few, is the withdrawal of education from every sort of dependence on the divine law. So today we see, strange sight indeed, educators and philosophers who spend their lives in searching for a universal moral code of education, as if there existed no decalogue, no gospel law, no law even of nature stamped by God on the heart of man, promulgated by right reason, and codified in positive revelation by God Himself in the ten commandments. These innovators are wont to refer contemptuously to Christian education as "heteronomous," "passive," "obsolete," because founded upon the authority of God and His holy law.

Such men are miserably deluded in their claim to emancipate, as they say, the child, while in reality they are making him the slave of his own blind pride and of his disorderly affections, which, as a logical consequence of this false system, come to be justified as legitimate demands of a so-called autonomous nature.

 Another very grave danger is that naturalism which nowadays invades the field of education in that most delicate matter of purity of morals. Far too common is the error of those who with dangerous assurance and under an ugly term propagate a so-called sex-education, falsely imagining they can forearm youths against the dangers of sensuality by means purely natural, such as a foolhardy initiation and precautionary instruction for all indiscriminately, even in public; and, worse still, by exposing them at an early age to the occasions, in order to accustom them, so it is argued, and as it were to harden them against such dangers.

          St Aloysius Gonzaga S.J. (1568-91) - declared patron saint of youth by Pope Pius XI in 1926.

 Such persons grievously err in refusing to recognize the inborn weakness of human nature, and the law of which the Apostle speaks, fighting against the law of the mind; and also in ignoring the experience of facts, from which it is clear that, particularly in young people, evil practices are the effect not so much of ignorance of intellect, as of weakness of a will exposed to dangerous occasions, and unsupported by the means of grace.

 In this extremely delicate matter, if, all things considered, some private instruction is found necessary and opportune, from those who hold from God the commission to teach and who have the grace of state, every precaution must be taken. Such precautions are well known in traditional Christian education, and are adequately described by Antoniano cited above, when he says:

'Such is our misery and inclination to sin, that often in the very things considered to be remedies against sin, we find occasions for and inducements to sin itself.'

Hence it is of the highest importance that a good father, while discussing with his son a matter so delicate, should be well on his guard and not descend to details, nor refer to the various ways in which this infernal hydra destroys with its poison so large a portion of the world; otherwise it may happen that instead of extinguishing this fire, he unwittingly stirs or kindles it in the simple and tender heart of the child. Speaking generally, during the period of childhood it suffices to employ those remedies which produce the double effect of opening the door to the virtue of purity and closing the door upon vice. 

False also and harmful to Christian education is the so-called method of "coeducation." This too, by many of its supporters, is founded upon naturalism and the denial of original sin; but by all, upon a deplorable confusion of ideas that mistakes a leveling promiscuity and equality, for the legitimate association of the sexes. The Creator has ordained and disposed perfect union of the sexes only in matrimony, and, with varying degrees of contact, in the family and in society. Besides there is not in nature itself, which fashions the two quite different in organism, in temperament, in abilities, anything to suggest that there can be or ought to be promiscuity, and much less equality, in the training of the two sexes. These, in keeping with the wonderful designs of the Creator, are destined to complement each other in the family and in society, precisely because of their differences, which therefore ought to be maintained and encouraged during their years of formation, with the necessary distinction and corresponding separation, according to age and circumstances. 

These principles, with due regard to time and place, must, in accordance with Christian prudence, be applied to all schools, particularly in the most delicate and decisive period of formation, that, namely, of adolescence; and in gymnastic exercises and deportment, special care must be had of Christian modesty in young women and girls, which is so gravely impaired by any kind of exhibition in public.

 It is no less necessary to direct and watch the education of the adolescent, "soft as wax to be moulded into vice," in whatever other environment he may happen to be, removing occasions of evil and providing occasions for good in his recreations and social intercourse; for "evil communications corrupt good manners."

The proper and immediate end of Christian education is to cooperate with divine grace in forming the true and perfect Christian, that is, to form Christ Himself in those regenerated by Baptism, according to the emphatic expression of the Apostle. ... For the true Christian must live a supernatural life in Christ ... and display it in all his actions.

How grave therefore is the error of those who separate things so closely united, and who think that they can produce good citizens by ways and methods other than those which make for the formation of good Christians. For, let human prudence say what it likes and reason as it pleases, it is impossible to produce true temporal peace and tranquillity by things repugnant or opposed to the peace and happiness of eternity.

O Catholic Church, true Mother of Christians! Not only doest thou preach to us, as is meet, how purely and chastely we are to worship God Himself, Whom to possess is life most blessed; thou does moreover so cherish neighborly love and charity, that all the infirmities to which sinful souls are subject, find their most potent remedy in thee.

Childlike thou are in molding the child, strong with the young man, gentle with the aged, dealing with each according to his needs of mind and body. Thou does subject child to parent in a sort of free servitude, and settest parent over child in a jurisdiction of love. 

Thou bindest brethren to brethren by the bond of religion, stronger and closer then the bond of blood .... Thou unitest citizen to citizen, nation to nation, yea, all men, in a union not of companionship only, but of brotherhood, reminding them of their common origin. Thou teachest kings to care for their people, and biddest people to be subject to their kings. Thou teachest assiduously to whom honor is due, to whom love, to whom reverence, to whom fear, to whom comfort, to whom rebuke, to whom punishment; showing us that whilst not all things nor the same things are due to all, charity is due to all and offense to none."

    Holy  Family   with St John the Baptist and female Saint - Titian                                                       


 'Such is our misery and inclination to sin, that often in the very things considered to be remedies against sin, we find occasions for and inducements to sin itself.'  (Cardinal Silvio Antoniavo)

Is this not the case with the  new Vatican sex-education programme? From all accounts it may represent a real 'occasion of sin'  for many young people. It is deeply disturbing, to say the least, that such a programme has the imprimatur of Rome - 'Woe to him that shall scandalise one of these My little ones' - Jesus' own words! We hope in the light of the widespread criticism, that the contents of the programme will be re-considered  and  amended, in line with the encyclical 'Divini Illius Magistri'. Finally, why has such an important encyclical as this been ignored? What is the purpose of papal encyclicals if they are not used as points of reference for similar encyclicals in later years?

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