“Silence or indolence on our part, would incriminate us, too… In the midst of these public calamities it behooves us to cry aloud and make known the great truths of the faith”
It has now been six days since the bombshell Supreme Court decision was published enshrining a right to “gay marriage” in the U.S. Constitution. Since this shocking and tragic news, not a single word has been spoken by our, up till now, verbose Supreme Pastor in condemnation of this decision. Similarly, Pope Francis, as supreme Shepherd of Souls, has given absolutely no consolation, encouragement, or guidance to his flock in the United States, the world’s only remaining superpower and until now, one of the last Western nations not to require recognition of “gay marriage.”
In this sad state of affairs you can imagine my surprise as I came across a little known encyclical letter of St. Pius X called Communium Rerumgiven at Rome at St. Peter's on the feast of St. Anselm, April 21, 1909. As I read the encyclical it was as if St. Pius X himself was directly speaking to American Catholics, while simultaneously condemning the silence of Francis. In this encyclical, which could be written almost word for word today, St. Pius Xspeaks through the ages to his modern day flock, offering a precise explanation and condemnation of the deeper problems “gay marriage” is rooted in while offering hope, direction, and encouragement. In other words, he provides us precisely what we need during this tragic time and precisely what we are not getting from our present Pope, who is apparently too busy saving the planet from air conditioning to worry about the immortal souls of over 300 million Americans.
I hope that the excerpts from this encyclical which I provide below offer you the same sense of consolation and leadership that they did for me. For a brief few minutes, as I read these words, I felt the loving presence of a true spiritual father, who possessed concern for Christ, my soul, and the souls of my countrymen in this our hour of tragic sorrow. Sadly, I have not felt this from reading any papal encyclical of the last 50 years. (The emphasis below in bold is my own addition, calling attention to the parts I believe are most striking and relevant.)
Excerpts from Communium Rerum – St. Pius X - 1909
...For you are aware, Venerable Brothers, and you have often lamented it with us, how evil are the days on which we have fallen, and how iniquitous the conditions that have been forced upon us… efforts of all kinds are being made to supplant the kingdom of God by a reign of license under the lying name of liberty. And to bring about by the rule of vices and lusts the triumph of the worst of all slaveries and bring the people headlong to their ruin-"for sin makes peoples wretched (Prov. xiv., 34)… thus the ministers of religion have been despised and mocked, and, wherever that was possible, reduced to powerlessness and inertia…distinguished laymen who openly profess their Catholic faith have been turned into ridicule, persecuted, kept in the background as belonging to an inferior and outcast class, until the coming of the day, which is being hastened by ever more iniquitous laws, when they are to be utterly ostracized from public affairs.
And the authors of this war, cunning and pitiless as it is, boast that they are waging it through love of liberty, civilization and progress, and, were you to believe them, through a spirit of patriotism-in this lie, too, resembling their father, who "was a murderer from the beginning," and "when he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own, for he is a liar" (Igan., viii., 44), and raging with hate insatiable against God and the human race.Brazen-faced men these, seeking to create confusion by their words and to lay snares for the ears of the simple. No, it is not patriotism, or zealous care for the people, or any other noble aim, or desire to promote good of any kind, that incites them to this bitter war, but blind hatred which feeds their mad plan to weaken the Church and exclude her from social life, which makes them proclaim her as dead, while they never cease to attack her-nay, after having despoiled her of all liberty, they do not hesitate in their brazen folly to taunt her with her powerlessness to do anything for the benefit of mankind or human government.
…But with no less severity and sorrow have we been obliged to denounce and to put down another species of war, intestine and domestic, and all the more disastrous the more hidden it is. Waged by unnatural children, nestling in the very bosom of the Church in order to rend it in silence, this war aims more directly at the very root and the soul of the Church. They are trying to corrupt the springs of Christian life and teaching, to scatter the sacred deposit of the faith, to overthrow the foundations of the divine constitution by their contempt for all authority, pontifical as well as episcopal, to put a new form on the Church, new laws, new principles, according to the tenets of monstrous systems ; in short, to deface all the beauty of the Spouse of Christ for the empty glamor of a new culture…against which the Apostle frequently puts ;us on our guard: "Beware lest any man cheat you by philosophy and vain deceit, according to the traditions of men, according to the elements of the world, and not according to Christ." ( Colos. ii., 8.)
By this figment of false philosophy and this shallow and fallacious erudition, joined with a most audacious system of criticism, some have been seduced and "become vain in their thoughts" (Rom. i., 21), "having rejected good conscience, they have made shipwreck concerning the faith" (1. Tim. i., 19) ; they are being tossed about miserably on the waves of doubt, knowing not themselves at what port they must land; others, wasting both time and study, lose themselves in the investigation of abstruse trifling, and thus grow estranged from the study of divine things and of the real springs of doctrine. This hotbed of error and perdition (which has come to be known commonly as modernism from its craving for unhealthy novelty), although denounced several times and unmasked by the very excesses of its adepts, continues to be a most grave and deep evil. It lurks like poison in the vitals of modern society, estrangedas this is from God and His Church, and it is especially eating its way like a cancer among the young generations, which are naturally the most inexperienced and heedless.
It is not the result of solid study and true knowledge, for there can be no real conflict between reason and faith. ( Concil. Vatic., Cons tit. Dei filius, capo 4·) But it is the result of intellectual pride and of the pestiferous atmosphere that prevails of ignorance or confused knowledge of the things of religion, united with the stupid presumption of speaking about and discussing them. And this deadly infection is further fomented by a spirit of incredulity and of rebellion against God, so that those who are seized by the blind frenzy for novelty consider that they are all sufficient for themselves, and that they are at liberty to throw off either openly or by subterfuge the entire yoke of divine authority,fashioning for themselves according to their own caprice a vague, naturalistic individual religiosity, borrowing the name and some semblance of Christianity, but with none of its life and truth.
Now in all this it is not difficult to recognize one of the many forms of the eternal war waged against divine truth, and one that is all the more dangerous from the fact that its weapons are craftily concealed with a covering of fictitious piety, ingenuous candor and earnestness, in the hands of factious men who use them to reconcile things that are absolutely irreconcilable, viz., the extravagances of a fickle human science with divine faith, and the spirit of a frivolous world with the dignity and constancy of the Church.
But if you see all this, Venerable Brothers, and deplore it bitterly with us, you are not therefore cast down or without all hope. You know of the great conflicts that other times have brought upon the Christian people, very different though they were from our own days. We have but to turn again to the age in which Anselm lived, so full of difficulties as it appears in the annals of the Church. Then, indeed, was it necessary to fight for the altar and the home, for the sanctity of public law, for liberty, civilization, sound doctrine, of all of which the Church alone was the teacher and the defender among the nations, to curb the violence of Princes who arrogated to themselves the right of treading upon the most sacred liberties, to eradicate the vices, ignorance and uncouthness of the people, not yet entirely stripped of their old barbarism and often enough refractory to the educating influence of the Church, to rouse a part of the clergy who had grown lax or lawless in their conduct…
…To us, as you know well, Venerable Brothers, are especially addressed the words of the Lord: "Cry out, give yourself no rest, raise your voice like a trumpet" ( Isai. lviii., :t.), and all the more that "the Most High has made His voice heard" (Psalms xvii., 14), in the trembling nature and in tremendous calamities, "the voice of the Lord shaking the earth," ringing in our ears a terrible warning and bringing home to us the hard lesson that all but the eternal is vanity, that "we have nowhere a lasting city, but we seek one that is to come" ( Hebr. xiii., 14), but also a voice not only of justice, but of mercy and of wholesome reminder to the erring nations. In the midst of these public calamities it behooves us to cry aloud and make known the great truths of the faith not only to the people, to the humble, the afflicted, but to the powerful and the rich, to them that decide and govern the policy of nations, to make known to all the great truths which history confirms by its great and disastrous lessons, such as that "sin makes the nations miserable" (Prov. xiv., 34), "that a most severe judgment shall be for them that bear rule" (Sap. vi., 7), with the admonition of Psalm ii.: "And now, ye Kings, understand; receive instruction, you that judge the earth. Serve the Lord with fear . . . embrace discipline lest at any time the Lord be angry, and you perish from the just way." More bitter shall be the consequences of these threats when the vices of society are being multiplied, when the sin of rulers and of the people consists especially in the exclusion of God and in rebellion against the Church of Christ-that double social apostasy which is the deplorable fount of anarchy, corruption and endless misery for the individual and for society.
And since silence or indolence on our part, as unfortunately is not unfrequently the case among the good, would incriminate us, too,let every one of the sacred pastors take as said to himself for the defense of his flock, and bring home to others in due season, Anselm's words to the mighty Prince of Flanders: "As you are my Lord and truly beloved by me in God, I pray, conjure, admonish and counsel you, as the guardian of your soul, not to believe that your lofty dignity is diminished if you love and defend the liberty of the Spouse of God and your Mother, the Church, not to think that you abase yourself when you exalt her, not to believe that you weaken yourself when you strengthen her. Look round you and see; the examples are before you ; consider the princes that attack and maltreat her. What do they gain by it, what do they attain? It is so clear that there is no need to say it." (Epist., lib. IV., ep. 12.) …
But there is comfort for us ; the Lord liveth and "He will make all things work together unto good to them that love God." (Rom. viii., 28.) Even from these evils He will bring good, and above all the obstacles devised by human perversity He will make more splendid the triumph of His work and of His Church. Such is the wonderful design of the Divine Wisdom and such "His unsearchable ways" (Rom., xi., 33) in the present order of Providence, "for my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor my ways your ways, saith the Lord" (Isai. lv., 8), that the Church of Christ is destined ever to renew in herself the life of her Divine Founder, who suffered so much, and in a manner to "fill up what is wanting of the sufferings of Christ." (Coloss. i., 24.) Hence her condition as militant on earth divinely constrains her to live in the midst of contentions, troubles and difficulties, that thus "through many tribulations she may enter into the kingdom of God" (Act. xiv., 21) and at last be united with the Church triumphant in heaven…
They err greatly, therefore, who lose faith during the storm, wishing for themselves and the Church a permanent state of perfect tranquility, universal prosperity and practical, unanimous and uncontrasted recognition of her sacred authority. But the error is worse when men deceive themselves with the idea of gaining an ephemeral peace by cloaking the rights and interests of the Church, by sacrificing them to private interests, by minimizing them unjustly, by truckling to the world, "the whole of which is seated in wickedness" (I. loan. v., 19), on the pretext of reconciling the followers of novelties and bringing them back to the Church, as though any composition were possible between light and darkness, between Christ and Belial. This hallucination is as old as the world, but it is alwaysmodem and always present in the world so long as there are soldierswho are timid or treacherous and at the first onset ready to throwdown their arms or open negotiations with the enemy, who is the irreconcilable enemy of God and man.
It is for you, therefore, Venerable Brothers, whom Divine Providence has constituted to be the pastors and leaders of the Christian people, to resist with all your strength this most fatal tendency of modern society to lull itself in a shameful indolence while war is being waged against religion, seeking a cowardly neutrality made up of weak schemes and compromises to the injury of divine and human rights, to the oblivion of Christ's clear sentence: "He that is not with Me is against Me." (I. Cor. ix., 22.) …
This effort is necessary not only to oppose the assaults from without of those who fight openly against the liberty and the rights of the Church, but also in order to meet the dangers from within, arising from that second kind of war which we deplored above when we made mention of those misguided persons who are trying by their cunning systems to overthrow from the foundations the very institution and essence of the Church, to stain the purity of her doctrine and destroy her entire discipline. For even still there continues to circulate that poison which has been inoculated into many even among the clergy, and especially the young clergy, who have, as we have said, become infected by the pestilential atmosphere in their unbridled craving for novelty which is drawing them to the abyss and drowning them.
Then, again, by a deplorable aberration the very progress, good in itself, of positive science and material prosperity gives occasion and pretext for a display of intolerable arrogance towards divinely revealed truth on the part of many weak and intemperate minds. But these should rather remember the many mistakes and the frequent contradictions made by the followers of rash novelties in those questions of a speculative and practical order most vital for man, and realize that human pride is punished by never being able to be coherent with itself and by suffering shipwreck without ever sighting the port of truth. They are not able to profit by their own -experience to humble themselves and "to destroy the counsels and every height that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bring into captivity every understanding even unto the obedience of Christ." (II. Cor. X., 4. s.)
Nay, their very arrogance has led them into the other extreme, and their philosophy, throwing doubt on everything in darkness, has involved them ; hence the present profession of agnosticism with other absurd doctrines springing from an infinite series of systems in discord with one another and with right reason; so that "they have become vain in their thoughts . . . for professing themselves to be wise they became fools." (Rom. i., 21, 22.) But unfortunately their grandiloquent phrases and their promises of a new wisdom, fallen as it were from heaven, and of new methods of thought, have found favor with many young men, as those of the Manicheans found favor with Augustine, and have returned these aside, more or less unconsciously, from the right road. But concerning such pernicious masters of an insane knowledge, of their aims, their illusions, their erroneous and disastrous system, we have spoken at great length in our encyclical letter "Pascendi dominici gregis."…
But if the erring continue obstinately to scatter the seeds of dissension and error, to waste the patrimony of the sacred doctrine of the Church, to attack discipline, to heap contempt on venerated customs, "to destroy which is a species of heresy" (S. Anselm., De nuptiis consanguineorum, cap. 1), in the phrase of St. Anselm, and to destroy the constitution of the Church in its very foundations, then all the more strictly must we watch, Venerable Brothers, and keep away from our flock, and especially from youth, which is the most tender part of it, so deadly a pest.
This grace we implore of God with incessant prayers, interposing the most powerful patronage of the August Mother of God and the intercession of the blessed citizens of the Church triumphant, St. Anselm especially, shining light of Christian wisdom, incorrupt guardian and valiant defender of all the sacred rights of the Church, to whom we would here, in conclusion, address the same words that our holy predecessor, Gregory VII., wrote to him during his lifetime: "Since the sweet odor of your good works has reached us, we return due thanks for them to God, and we embrace you heartily in the love of Christ, holding it for certain that by your example the Church of God has been greatly benefited, and that by your prayers and those of men like you she may even be liberated from the dangers that hang over her, with the mercy of Christ to succor us." Hence we beg your fraternity to implore God assiduously to relieve the Church and us who govern it, albeit unworthily, from the pressing assaults of the heretics and lead these from their errors to the way of truth." (In libro II., Epist. S. Anselmi, ep. 31.)