Sunday, February 03, 2013

More Catholic Examinations of Conscience: The Syllabi of Errors

Mary, Exterminatrix of Heresies.  But since Mary is the perfect type of the Church, we can also think of this as an image of the Church defending us with Truth.
Some months ago, in this space, we considered St. Thomas More's syllabus of errors emanating from the sect of Luther.  Popes have also issued or approved syllabi of errors.  In modern times, we have the 1864 Syllabus of Errors condemned by Bl. Pius IX, and the 1907 Syllabus of Errors of the modernists, Lamentabili sane, issued by the Holy Office (now the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith) under St. Pius X.  Bl. Pius IX, Pio Nonno, had the great privilege of defining the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, but also the great sorrow of reigning during a time when secular states, stirred up by the doctrines of Freemasonry, warred against the Church and seized the Papal States.  St. Pius X also lived through these turbulent times; the sulfuric smell of modernism, against which he worked hard to fortify the Church, stank strongly in his nostrils.   In our day, notwithstanding the warnings of St. Pius X, the windows of the Church were opened to let in the smog and poisoned atmosphere of the world, so that even faithful Catholics are not immune to error.  It pays to go down these two lists of condemned errors and ponder whether any of them have had any influence over us.  

How many of these errors have been voiced in seminaries and RCIA classes, and even from the pulpit?  Many will probably sound familiar.  For example:
Pius IX, Paragraph 7: The prophecies and miracles set forth and recorded in the Sacred Scriptures are the fiction of poets, and the mysteries of the Christian faith the result of philosophical investigations. In the books of the Old and the New Testament there are contained mythical inventions, and Jesus Christ is Himself a myth.
Pius IX, Paragraph 14: Philosophy is to be treated without taking any account of supernatural revelation.
Pius X, Paragraph 35: Christ did not always possess the consciousness of His Messianic dignity.
Pius X, Paragraph 55: Simon Peter never even suspected that Christ entrusted the primacy in the Church to him.
Pius X, Paragraph 63: The Church shows that she is incapable of effectively maintaining evangelical ethics since she obstinately clings to immutable doctrines which cannot be reconciled with modern progress.

Note well that the Popes hit one or two of our sacred American cows right between the eyes:
Pius IX, Paragraph 47: The best theory of civil society requires that popular schools open to children of every class of the people, and, generally, all public institutes intended for instruction in letters and philosophical sciences and for carrying on the education of youth, should be freed from all ecclesiastical authority, control and interference, and should be fully subjected to the civil and political power at the pleasure of the rulers, and according to the standard of the prevalent opinions of the age.
Pius IX, Paragraph 55: The Church ought to be separated from the State, and the State from the Church.

If our peace has been disturbed by any of the items listed in these Syllabi, then we can rid ourselves of them and not be troubled by them anymore, secure in the knowledge that, since they are condemned, they cannot be true.


  1. Excellent! I particularly like your concluding statement. I've never really thought about it this way, and it is a very powerful perspective.

  2. Thank you for a very insightful post! I have a question for you; how does one best explain Modernism without going into a very lengthy explanation which will confuse the other person. I tried to explain it to someone and couldn't put it into words very well.

  3. I guess I would say that in essence, modernism denies the supernatural. It is firmly rooted in the material world, shunning beauty and mystery and accepting as real only that which is gray, mundane, flat-footed, jejune and pedestrian. Thus, modernists view everything through the lens of secularism. They prefer secular, political solutions to problems to spiritual ones. You will frequently find modernists ginning up alternative explanations for the miracles described in Scripture -- classic example: the Feeding of the Five Thousand was a "miracle of sharing," rather than a divinely worked wonder. You will also find modernists designing churches that look like warehouses, so as to obscure the fact that a Catholic church is a place where one encounters mystery. And of course there are the liturgical abuses perpetrated by those steeped in modernism, which obscure the mystery of the Holy Mass.

    Modernism is ultimately a denial of all that the Catholic faith teaches; but since modernists don't want to come out and say so, they cloak themselves in a smokescreen of confusion. With modernists, everything is "shades of gray," never black or white. They abhor flat declarations of doctrine couched in plain language. Therefore it has been well said that modernism is the heresy of obfuscation. One priest, preaching on the subject of Thomas Aquinas, said that hatred and denigration of the Angelic Doctor is an unmistakable sign of a modernist. Modernists dislike Aquinas because he is "too clear."

    Hope that helps.

  4. Yes it does, thank you so much. And eloquently said as well!

  5. Glad to help, NBW.

    I want to add also that, since modernists are good at sounding plausible, and specialize in fine gradations and subtleties -- a slight shift here, a tiny emphasis there, a minute change in contour all around -- it is critically important for us to know our faith with precision. A modernist will take a passage of Scripture, for example, and focus on the human author of the divinely inspired Word: he will start with the culture in which this human author must have grown up; then begin explaining about how elements of the passage must have furthered some agenda that is attributed to the human author -- until the passage becomes some sort of political manifesto, rather than the inspired, inerrant Word of God, and therefore not perhaps worth taking all that seriously.

    It is important to study our Faith and learn it, and use memorization. Memorization has fallen into disrepute in recent decades, without justification: it is the things we memorize that come to our rescue in times of crisis and distress, and those are the times we need our Faith the most. The Baltimore Catechism lends itself well to memorization, and it is both concise and precise, which is why persons infected with modernism treat it with contempt. Aquinas is also a good safeguard against error; and for spiritual reading, you can't go wrong with St. Francis de Sales or St. Alphonsus Liguori, or Ven. Fulton Sheen.

    And of course, in addition to study, there is prayer, which we must on no account neglect if we are to have light.

  6. A good list Anita. I agree with Jay in liking the last one in particular.

    One thing that I had hoped for was a syllabus of errors on implementation of Vatican II some time this year. It doesn't seem very likely, at least not soon.

  7. George, in a year that that already hit us with some huge bolts from the blue, who can say? Many things may happen that seem unlikely...