Complete English translation found…
Pope St. Pius X’s Motu Proprio Sacrorum Antistitum and the Oath against Modernism
When Pope Pius X was faced with the grave threat of Modernism during his reign (1903-1914), he knew he had to act quickly and decisively to stamp out this “synthesis of all heresies”, as he called it in his landmark encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis (n. 39), in which he exposed and refuted the pernicious doctrines of the Modernists at length.
The holy pontiff, who would be canonized a saint less than 40 years after his death (by Pope Pius XII, in 1954), realized that it would not be enough simply to condemn Modernism theoretically but it was necessary to take practical steps to actually eradicate it. That is, St. Pius X was not content with merely writing an encyclical unmasking and refuting the poisonous errors of Modernism, he also ordered a concrete plan of action to be executed throughout the Church in order to weed out Modernists and/or prevent them from gaining a foothold anywhere in the Church.
Among the various powerful means His Holiness instituted to ensure the pestilence of Modernism would be snuffed out was the famous Oath against Modernism. This oath was to be sworn by all clerics to be initiated into major orders (subdiaconate, diaconate, priesthood, episcopacy), confessors, preachers, parish priests, curial officials in dioceses and in Roman congregations, religious superiors, etc.
Although the Oath is well known — especially for having been abolished by the false pope Paul VI in 1967 — the full papal document which introduced and prescribed the Oath has not been readily available in English translation, until now. It is the motu proprio letter Sacrorum Antistitum, released on Sep. 1, 1910, and we are pleased to present on our web site now a full English translation of this lengthy but important magisterial resource:
- Pope St. Pius X, Motu Proprio Letter Sacrorum Antistitum (English),
Establishing the Oath against Modernism and other Laws for the Driving Out of the Danger of Modernism
The only time an English version of Sacrorum Antistitum was ever published, apparently, was in the American Catholic Quarterly Review in October 1910, pp. 712-731, and it is from that source that we have taken this translation. The official Latin text is available on the Vatican website and was originally published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, vol. II (1910), pp. 655-680.
Much of Sacrorum Antistitum consists of quotations of Pope Pius X’s earlier encyclical letter Pascendi Dominici Gregis (Sep. 8, 1907) and Pope Leo XIII’s Apostolic Constitution Officiorum ac Munerum (Jan. 25, 1897), but there is also much original content. All in all, the motu proprio provides a good summary and overview of all the measures the Pope instituted to stamp out Modernism.
Next, we will look at several interesting excerpts of this important document, Sacrorum Antistitum:
With regard to probity of life [for a cleric] it would not be necessary to say more were it possible to separate this easily from the doctrines and opinions which a man takes it upon him to defend. But, as we read in the Book of Proverbs: “A man shall be known by his doctrine” [Prov 12:8], and as the Apostle teaches: “Whosoever continueth not in the doctrine of Christ hath not God” [2 John 9]. How much of effort is to be spent in acquiring knowledge of many and various things may be seen from the very conditions of the age which proclaims that the light of progressing humanity is the most glorious of achievements. All the clergy, therefore, who wish to perform their duties in a manner worthy of the time, fruitfully “to exhort in sound doctrine and to convince the gainsayers” [Titus 1:9] to devote the resources of intellect to the utility of the Church, must acquire a knowledge of things beyond the common and approach as closely as possible to the perfection of doctrine. For the fight is one with enemies not lacking in skill, whose polished studies are not unfrequently united with a science full of wiles and whose specious and vibrant sentences are made up of impetuous and sounding phrases, so as to make it appear that they contain something entirely new.
We can contrast St. Pius X’s emphasis on the importance of sound doctrine for the Catholic with the incessant pooh-poohing of doctrine by Jorge Bergoglio (‘Pope Francis’). For example, Bergoglio claims that the truth is not a system of doctrines and dogmas, and that “being a Christian is not about adhering to a doctrine….” He continually repudiates proselytism because at the end of the day he is not interested in converting souls to the true Faith at all — because he does not believe that souls have a need to be saved, or that there is one true Faith in which souls must be instructed for their salvation (cf. Mk 16:15-16; 2 Jn 9). He simply does not believe it.
Furthermore, Pope Pius X emphasizes the superiority of God’s supernatural revelation with mere “human wisdom” — something that should be simple common sense for a Catholic:
“… In these discourses, too, the power of conviction should be based rather on sacred doctrine than on the words of human wisdom, and that the exposition should be made with force and clearness, so that error may not make a deeper impression than truth on the minds of the hearers and objections be not stronger than the answers given to them. …”
“The Bible is, therefore, the chief source of sacred eloquence. But preachers eager after new models instead of going to the ‘living source,’ turn deplorably to ‘the broken cisterns of human wisdom,’ and neglecting the divinely inspired doctrine of the Fathers of the Church and the councils, lose themselves entirely in quoting the names and phrases of modern and still living profane writers — phrases which very often give rise to very dangerous interpretations or misunderstandings. …”
‘Pope’ Francis, by contrast, believes the ‘human wisdom’ and erroneous doctrines of false religions are an ‘enrichment’ for humanity, so much so that he tells Muslims to get their instructions from the Koran, Buddhists to follow Buddha, and secularists to send “good vibes” rather than prayers. Moreover, we all remember the heathen ‘wisdom’ Bergoglio embraced in Canada when he participated in a smudging ritual that opened “access to the sacred circle of spirits”.
Returning to Sacrorum Antistitum, St. Pius X quotes Pope Leo XIII’s rebuke against preachers tainted with Modernism:
“They offend again by speaking of religion as if they wished to measure everything according to the standard of the goods and advantages of this ephemeral life, with hardly any reference to a future and eternal life; by dilating on the fruits which the Christian religion has brought to human society, but omitting to dwell on the duties which it imposes; by exalting the charity of Christ the Saviour, but without speaking of His justice. Hence the small fruit derived from such preaching, from which the profane hearer rises with the impression that he can, without changing his conduct, be a Christian merely by saying: ‘I believe in Jesus Christ.’ But what care they for the fruits of their preaching — it is not of these they are thinking. Their one great care is to flatter their hearers by tickling their ears. It is enough for them that the churches are full, even if the hearts of the people in them are empty. Hence they never make any mention of the remission of sins, of the four last things and of other capital questions; they speak only to please and they think only of extracting cries of admiration and applause by a profane eloquence better fitted for speech-makers than for those engaged in the apostolic and sacred ministry. Against such as these St. Jerome writes: ‘When you teach in the church, let the people utter not exclamations, but groans; let the tears of your hearers be your praise’ [Ad Nepotian]. Hence it happens that these instructions, both within and without the precincts of the church, take on a theatrical appearance and lose all efficacy and all semblance of holiness; hence, too, the ears of the people and even of many of the clergy no longer find the pleasure which the Divine Word would give; hence a source of scandal for the good, little or no profit for the erring, who even when they crowd to hear fine language, drawn especially by big words about human progress, patriotism, recent discoveries of science, a hundred times repeated, punctuate the periods of the orator with prolonged applause, but leave the temple no better than they entered it, like those ‘who admired, but were not converted’ [Ex Aug. in Matth. xix., 25]. …”
Notice the uncanny resemblance with what emanates from Francis’ lips in our day! He has no genuine concern for anyone’s eternal salvation (on the contrary, he warns of the “supermarket of salvation”!); most of his focus is on the temporal world; he constantly presents Christ as merciful and forgiving, never as demanding or exacting. The four last things — death, judgment, heaven, hell — are topics he never speaks about. Bergoglio loves to tickle ears with “big words about human progress” but none about converting to the only true religion, established by Jesus Christ.
It is important to understand that St. Pius X did not condemn Modernism merely as unwise, inopportune, or contrary to long-standing tradition or discipline. Rather, he emphasized time and again that Modernism was utterly destructive of the Catholic religion, indeed of the very idea of revealed religion in general. It is for that reason that he acted so decisively and ferociously — because “the ruin of the faith” was looming:
If we have thought it necessary to repeat and reproduce these prescriptions, ordering them to be religiously observed, the reason is that we are forced to it by the gravity of an evil which is increasing every day and which it would be extremely dangerous not to arrest immediately. For we have not now, as in the beginning, to deal with contradictors who present themselves in sheep’s clothing, but with open and declared enemies — and in addition internal enemies, who in alliance with the chief enemies of the Church are aiming at the ruin of the faith. The audacity of these rises up each day against the wisdom which comes from heaven, arrogating to themselves the right to amend it as though it had become corrupted, to rejuvenate it as though it had become effete, to enlarge it and adapt it to the tendencies, progress and interests of the age, as though it were opposed not to some superficial minds, but to the welfare of society. Against these attacks on the teaching of the Gospel and sacred ecclesiastical tradition those who have received the sacred deposit of faith can never offer too vigilant and severe an opposition.
Considering not simply his subsequent canonization, which puts the stamp of divine approval on his anti-Modernist crusade, but everything that has transpired since the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958, we now have empirical confirmation, as it were, of the wisdom and prudence of Pius X’s relentless course of action.
Finally, we come to the text of the Anti-Modernist Oath itself (underlining added, for emphasis of portions that are of particular relevance to our times):
“I . . . firmly hold and accept each and every definition of the unerring teaching of the Church, with all she has maintained and declared, but especially those points of doctrine which expressly combat the errors of our time. In the first place, I profess my belief that God, the beginning and end of all, can be surely known and also proved to exist by the natural light of reason from the things that are made, that is, from the visible works of the creation as a cause from its effects. Next I recognize and acknowledge the external arguments of revelation, that is, divine facts, especially miracles and prophecies, as the surest signs of the divine origin of the Christian religion, and I hold that these are specially suited to the understanding of every age and of all men, even of our times. Thirdly, I likewise hold with firm faith that the Church, the guardian and exponent of the revealed Word, was proximately and directly founded by Christ Himself, the true person of history, while He dwelt amongst us, and that she was also built upon Peter, the Prince of the Apostolic Hierarchy, and upon his successors to the end of time. Fourthly, I sincerely receive the teaching of faith as transmitted in the same sense and meaning right down to us; and, therefore, I wholly reject the heretical notion of the evolution of dogmas, which pass from one sense to another alien to that the Church held from the start; and I likewise condemn every error whereby is substituted for the divine deposit, entrusted by Christ to His spouse and by her to be faithfully guarded, a philosophic system or a creation of the human conscience, gradually refined by the striving of men and finally to be perfected hereafter by indefinite progress. Fifthly, I hold for certain and sincerely profess that faith is not a blind religious sense making its way out of the hidden regions of the subliminal consciousness, morally tinged by the influence of heart and will, but is a true assent of the intellect to truth received from without by hearing, an assent whereby we believe to be true, because of the authority of the all true God, whatever by the personal God, our Creator and Lord, has been spoken, testified and revealed.
“I further, with all due reverence, submit and with my whole mind adhere to all the condemnations, declarations and directions contained in the encyclical letter ‘Pascendi’ and in the decree ‘Lamentabili’, particularly regarding what is called the history of dogma.
“I also reject the error of those who allege that the faith proposed by the Church may be in conflict with history and that Catholic dogmas in the sense in which they are now understood cannot be harmonized with the more truthful ‘origins’ of Christianity. Moreover, I condemn and reject the opinion which declares that a Christian man of better culture can assume a dual personality, one as believer and another as historian, thus taking it to be permissible for the historian to hold fast what his faith as a believer contradicts, or to lay down premises from which there follows the falsity or the uncertainty of dogmas, provided only that these are not directly denied. Likewise I reject that method of estimating and interpreting Holy Writ which, setting aside the Church’s tradition and the analogy of faith and the rules of the Apostolic See, adopts the rationalists’ principles and with equal arbitrariness and rashness considers criticism of the text the one only supreme rule. In like manner I reprobate the opinion of those who hold that a teacher of the science of historical theology or the writer on the subject must first put aside the notions previously conceived about the supernatural origin of Catholic tradition or about the divine aid promised for the perpetual preservation of each revealed truth; then that the writings of individual fathers must be interpreted solely by the data of science, without any reference to sacred authority, and with the freedom of judgment wherewith every profane record is usually examined.
“Finally and in general, I declare myself to be far removed from the error of the modernists who hold that in sacred tradition there is nothing inherently divine; or who — far worse still — admit it in a pantheistic sense: thus there would remain only a bare simple fact equal to the ordinary facts of history, viz., that the school started by Christ and His Apostles still finds men to support it by their energy, their shrewdness, their ability. Wherefore most firmly I retain and to my last breath will I retain the faith of the Fathers of the Church concerning the sure endowment of truth, which is, has been and ever will be in the succession of the episcopate from the Apostles (St. Irenaeus IV., c. 26); not in such a way that we may hold what seems best and most fitting according to the refinement of each age, but that we never in any different wise understand the absolute and unchangeable truth preached from the beginning by the Apostles. (Praescript, c. 28.)
“All this I promise that I will faithfully, entirely and sincerely keep and inviolably guard, and from this never in teaching or howsoever by word or writing in the least depart. So I promise, so I swear, so help me God, etc.”
It is fairly easy to see how far removed from this oath the Vatican II religion is. Indeed, in the July 28, 2010, edition of The Catholic Commentator, a Novus Ordo publication, one Fr. John J. Dietzen (1927-2011) wrote rather candidly regarding the Anti-Modernist Oath: “Pope Pius could not know that within 50 years, most of the positions he rejected would become accepted Catholic teaching” (p. 6). BAM! Little did Fr. Dietzen realize that by making that comment, he checkmated himself and the entire Novus Ordo religion.
The following is a famous cartoon illustrating the gradual but logical progression of Modernism all the way to atheism:
(“Descent of the Modernists” by E. J. Pace, Christian Cartoons, 1922 / Alamy Stock Photo)
When the Code of Canon Law was promulgated by Pope Benedict XV in 1917, the question arose whether the legislation of Pope Pius X concerning the Anti-Modernist Oath and the diocesan vigilance committees would remain in force or whether it was considered abrogated by the Code, which makes no mention of them (cf. Canon 6, 6°):
The Holy Office, on 22 Mar., 1918, declared that the aforesaid prescriptions, which were enacted on account of the current Modernistic errors, are not mentioned in the Code because they are of their nature temporary and transitory; but that, since the virus of Modernism has not ceased to spread, those prescriptions must remain in full force until the Holy See decrees otherwise.
The above Decree was approved and confirmed by His Holiness [Pope Benedict XV].
(T. Lincoln Bouscaren, S.J., ed., The Canon Law Digest, vol. I [Milwaukee, WI: The Bruce Publishing Company], p. 51)
After Pope Pius X’s holy death in 1914, his three successors (Benedict XV, Pius XI, Pius XII), although no less orthodox than he, did not continue his extreme vigilance and severe prescriptions against the Modernist threat. Alas, the long-term consequences have proven disastrous: Modernism re-emerged by the 1930s, although more refined and nuanced than its classical version. At present, there is nothing left in Rome but Modernism, which oozes from every nook and cranny of the hijacked ‘Holy See’, currently occupied by the impostor ‘Pope Francis’.
When one reads the anti-Modernist documents of Pope Pius X, it becomes evident what animates the great Pope’s crusade against the synthesis of all heresies: zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of souls, rooted in ardent love of God and neighbor.
The difference between these truly Catholic magisterial documents and the drivel put forward in our day by the pseudo-authorities of the Vatican II Church is utterly striking. In Saint Pius X, as in any true Pope, we find a man who truly believes in and loves the Roman Catholic Faith. There is a man who does not apologize for Catholicism, does not try to minimize it, does not dilute it before the world, does not mock or humiliate it but loves it as his most prized possession. There is a man who does not care what anyone thinks, a man who truly loves our Blessed Lord and Savior and seeks to do all he can to please Him and bring souls to Him.
As a real Catholic, St. Pius X understood the importance of religious instruction. In his 1905 encyclical Acerbo Nimis, His Holiness warned of the great menace that is ignorance of the true Faith, and pointed out remedies:
…the will cannot be upright nor the conduct good when the mind is shrouded in the darkness of crass ignorance. A man who walks with open eyes may, indeed, turn aside from the right path, but a blind man is in much more imminent danger of wandering away. Furthermore, there is always some hope for a reform of perverse conduct so long as the light of faith is not entirely extinguished; but if lack of faith is added to depraved morality because of ignorance, the evil hardly admits of remedy, and the road to ruin lies open.
How many and how grave are the consequences of ignorance in matters of religion! And on the other hand, how necessary and how beneficial is religious instruction! It is indeed vain to expect a fulfillment of the duties of a Christian by one who does not even know them.
We must now consider upon whom rests the obligation to dissipate this most pernicious ignorance and to impart in its stead the knowledge that is wholly indispensable. There can be no doubt, Venerable Brethren, that this most important duty rests upon all who are pastors of souls. On them, by command of Christ, rest the obligations of knowing and of feeding the flocks committed to their care; and to feed implies, first of all, to teach. “I will give you pastors according to my own heart,” God promised through Jeremias, “and they shall feed you with knowledge and doctrine” [Jer 3:15]. Hence the Apostle Paul said: “Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel” [1 Cor 1:17] thereby indicating that the first duty of all those who are entrusted in any way with the government of the Church is to instruct the faithful in the things of God.
(Pope Pius X, Encyclical Acerbo Nimis, nn. 5-7)
This is how a real Catholic Pope speaks. He is concerned, first and foremost, not with the social ills of the world, such as poverty, hunger, the environment, or unemployment. As legitimate as these causes are in themselves, they are not the chief concern of the Pope.
As the Vicar of Christ, the Pope concerns himself chiefly with the salvation of souls, salvation which cannot be achieved apart from Jesus Christ and His Gospel: “Jesus saith to him: I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father, but by me” (Jn 14:6); “I am the vine: you the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5); “But without faith it is impossible to please God. For he that cometh to God, must believe that he is, and is a rewarder to them that seek him” (Heb 11:6).
All the peace in the world, all the healthcare in the world, all the clean water in the world will not be of any use to us if in the end we lose our souls: “For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul?” (Mk 8:36).
Pope St. Pius X understood this, and hence he made it the motto of his pontificate to restore all things in Christ (see Encyclical E Supremi). In Christ — not in human dignity, or in fraternity, or in dialogue, or in mutual respect; but in Jesus Christ (cf. Eph 1:10).
For quick and easy reference, here are all of Pope St. Pius X’s written magisterial documents against Modernism:
- Syllabus of Modernist Errors Lamentabili Sane (July 3, 1907)
- Encyclical Letter Pascendi Dominici Gregis (Sep. 8, 1907)
- Motu Proprio Letter Praestantia Scripturae (Nov. 18, 1907)
- Motu Proprio Letter Sacrorum Antistitum (Sep. 1, 1910), including the Oath against Modernism
Pope Saint Pius X, pray for us!
Title image: American Catholic Quarterly Review (screenshot)
License: public domain