Papa Pacelli rebukes Recognize-and-Resist…

Pope Pius XII: Even if Not Convinced by Church Teaching, “Obligation to Obey Still Remains”

The heroically virtuous Pope Pius X was declared a saint in the year 1954 by Pope Pius XII. As the cardinals were all gathered in Rome for the joyous occasion of the canonization ceremony in late May, the Holy Father summoned them for an allocution (address) called Si Diligis that focused on the Catholic Church’s teaching office, her magisterium. This address is extremely instructive and available in full English translation at the following link:

Later that year, Pius XII gave another speech to cardinals, one that was meant as a continuation of his May address. It is called Magnificate Dominum, and we have put up an English translation of it here:

In this long allocution, given on All Souls’ Day, the Pope rejects a number of modern errors about the priesthood and the Holy Mass and then turns his thoughts to the government of the Church.

As with the May address Si Diligis, so too in the November allocution Magnificate Dominum, Pius XII censures ideas that in our day we find put forward by the “traditional Catholics” of the recognize-and-resist position (represented by people such as Peter Kwasniewski, Eric Sammons, and Michael Matt). In particular, he condemns the idea that non-infallible Church teaching can be rejected by the faithful if they find the arguments supporting it to be unconvincing.

The Holy Father says:

And first, there are some noticeable attitudes and tendencies of mind which presume to check and set limits to the power of Bishops (the Roman Pontiff not excepted), as being strictly the shepherds of the flock entrusted to them. They fix their authority, office and watchfulness within certain bounds, which concern strictly religious matters, the statement of the truths of the faith, the regulation of devotional practices, administration of the Sacraments of the Church, and the carrying out of liturgical ceremonies. They wish to restrain the Church from all undertakings and business which concern life as it is really conducted—“the realities of life,” as they say. In short, this way of thinking in the official statements of some lay Catholics, even those in high positions, is sometimes shown when they say: “We are perfectly willing to see, to listen to, and to approach Bishops and priests in their Churches, and regarding matters within their authority; but in places of official and public business, where matters of this life are dealt with and decided, we have no wish to see them or to listen to what they say. For there, it is we laymen, and not the clergy—no matter of what rank or qualification—who are the legitimate judges.”

We must take an open and firm stand against errors of this kind. The power of the Church is not bound by the limits of “matters strictly religious,” as they say, but the whole matter of the natural law, its foundation, its interpretation, its application, so far as their moral aspects extend, are within the Church’s power. For the keeping of the Natural Law, by God’s appointment, has reference to the road by which man has to approach his supernatural end. But, on this road, the Church is man’s guide and guardian in what concerns his supreme end. The Apostles observed this in times past, and afterwards, from the earliest centuries, the Church has kept to this manner of acting, and keeps to it today, not indeed like some private guide or adviser, but by virtue of the Lord’s command and authority. Therefore, when it is a question of instructions and propositions which the properly constituted shepherds (i.e. the Roman Pontiff for the whole Church, and the Bishops for the faithful entrusted to them) publish on matters within the natural law, the faithful must not invoke that saying (which is wont to be employed with respect to opinions of individuals): “the strength of the authority is no more than the strength of the arguments.” Hence, even though to someone, certain declarations of the Church may not seem proved by the arguments put forward, his obligation to obey still remains. This was the mind, and these are the words of St. Pius X in his Encyclical Letter Singulari Quadam of September 24, 1912 (A.A.S., vol. 4, 1912, p. 658) : “Whatever a Christian man may do, even in affairs of this world, he may not ignore the supernatural, nay, he must direct all to the highest good as to his last end, in accordance with the dictates of Christian wisdom; but all his actions, in so far as they are morally good or evil, that is, agree with, or are in opposition to, divine and natural law, are subject to the judgment and authority of the Church.” And he immediately transfers this principle to the social sphere: “The social question and the controversies underlying that question … are not merely of an economic nature, and consequently such as can be settled while the Church’s authority is ignored, since, on the contrary, it is most certain that it (the social question) is primarily a moral and religious one, and on that account must be settled chiefly in accordance with the moral law and judgment based on religion” (ibid., pp. 658, 659).

Yet, those points We have just mentioned in connection with the jurisdiction of Bishops, who are shepherds of the souls committed to their care in all those matters which have to do with religion, moral law and ecclesiastical discipline, are subjected to criticism, often not above a whisper, and do not receive the firm assent they deserve. Hence, some proud, modern spirits provoke serious and dangerous confusion, traces of which are more or less clear in various regions. The awareness, daily more strongly insisted on, of having reached maturity produces in them an agitated and febrile spirit. Not a few moderns, men and women, think that the leadership and vigilance of the Church is not to be suffered by one who is grown up; they not only say it, but they hold it as a firm conviction. They are unwilling to be, like children, “under guardians and stewards” (Gal. 4, 2). They wish to be treated as adults who are in full possession of their rights, and can decide for themselves what they must, or must not, do in any given situation. Let the Church—they do not hesitate to say—propose her doctrine, pass her laws as norms of our actions. Still, when there is question of practical application to each individual’s life, the Church must not interfere; she should let each one of the faithful follow his own conscience and judgment. They declare this is all the more necessary because the Church and her ministers are unaware of certain sets of circumstances either personal or extrinsic to individuals; in them each person has been placed, and must take his own counsel and decide what he must do. Such people, moreover, are unwilling in their final personal decisions to have any intermediary or intercessor placed between themselves and God, no matter what his rank or title. Two years ago, in Our allocutions of March 23 and April 18, 1952, We spoke about these reprehensible theories and We examined their arguments (Discorsi e Radio-messaggi, vol. 14, 1952, pp. 19 sq., pp. 69 sq.). Concerning the importance given to the attainment of a person’s majority this assertion is correct: it is just and right that adults should not be ruled as children. The Apostle speaking of himself says, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child. Now that I have become a man, I have put away the things of a child” (I Cor. 13, 11). That is not a true art of education which follows any other principle or procedure, nor is he a true shepherd of souls who pursues any other purpose than to elevate the faithful entrusted to his care “to perfect manhood, to the mature measure of the fulness of Christ” (Eph. 4.13). But to be an adult and to have put off the things of childhood is one thing, and quite another to be an adult and not to be subject to the guidance and government of legitimate authority. For government is not a kind of nursery for children, but the effective direction of adults toward the end proposed to the state.

(Pope Pius XII, Allocution Magnificate Dominum; underlining added.)

Appraching the end of his address, the Holy Father Pius XII reminds the eminent cardinals of the authority of the Apostolic See as the divinely-established ultimate criterion of unity and orthodoxy:

In addition to this union and intercourse between brothers in the episcopacy there should be added close union and frequent communication with this Apostolic See. The custom of consulting the Holy See not only in doctrinal matters, but also in affairs of government and discipline, has flourished from the earliest days of Christianity. Many proofs and examples are to be found in ancient historical records. When asked for their decision, the Roman Pontiffs did not answer as private theologians, but in virtue of their authority and conscious of the power which they received from Christ to rule over the whole flock and each of its parts. The same is deduced from the instances in which the Roman Pontiffs, unasked, settled disputes that had arisen or commanded that “doubts” [dubia] be brought to them to be resolved. This union, therefore, and harmonious communication with the Holy See arises not from a kind of desire to centralize and unify everything, but by divine right and by reason of an essential element of the constitution of the Church of Christ.

(Pope Pius XII, Allocution Magnificate Dominum)

The more one reads and studies the pre-Vatican II magisterial texts of the Catholic Church, especially the encyclicals and allocutions of the true Roman Pontiffs, the more evident it becomes that the “Catholic Church” in our day is a diabolical counterfeit eclipsing the true Catholic Church of which Pope Pius XII was the last (known) visible head — and that the “recognize-and-resist” position, according to which the Novus Ordo “popes” are to be recognized as true Popes while their teachings are to be rejected, is not a tenable Catholic alternative.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons (Michael Pitcairn; cropped)
License: public domain

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