Condemnation of sundry familiar-sounding errors…
Pope Pius IX’s Apostolic Letter Multiplices Inter of 1851
Pope Pius IX was the second-longest-reigning Pope in the history of the Catholic Church.
Born Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti in 1792, he reigned as Pope Pius IX for nearly 32 years, from June 16, 1846 until his death on Feb. 7, 1878. The only Pope who reigned longer than he was St. Peter.
One of the highlights of Pius IX’s long pontificate was the Syllabus of Errors, released on Dec. 8, 1864, along with the encyclical letter Quanta Cura, in which he declared:
But now, as is well known to you, Venerable Brethren, already, scarcely had we been elevated to this Chair of Peter (by the hidden counsel of Divine Providence, certainly by no merit of our own), when, seeing with the greatest grief of Our soul a truly awful storm excited by so many evil opinions, and (seeing also) the most grievous calamities never sufficiently to be deplored which overspread the Christian people from so many errors, according to the duty of Our Apostolic Ministry, and following the illustrious example of Our Predecessors, We raised Our voice, and in many published Encyclical Letters and Allocutions delivered in Consistory, and other Apostolic Letters, we condemned the chief errors of this most unhappy age, and we excited your admirable episcopal vigilance, and we again and again admonished and exhorted all sons of the Catholic Church, to us most dear, that they should altogether abhor and flee from the contagion of so dire a pestilence.
Amidst, therefore, such great perversity of depraved opinions, we, well remembering our Apostolic Office, and very greatly solicitous for our most holy Religion, for sound doctrine and the salvation of souls which is intrusted to us by God, and (solicitous also) for the welfare of human society itself, have thought it right again to raise up our Apostolic voice. Therefore, by our Apostolic authority, we reprobate, proscribe, and condemn all the singular and evil opinions and doctrines severally mentioned in this letter, and will and command that they be thoroughly held by all children of the Catholic Church as reprobated, proscribed and condemned.
(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Quanta Cura, nn. 2, 6)
The Syllabus of Errors contains a total of 80 censured propositions. The document does not, however, condemn these errors for the very first time; rather, it simply serves as a handy reference list of modern errors condemned before in a papal magisterial document or consistorial allocution (address to the body of cardinals).
For each proposition, the Syllabus mentions the source(s) in which the error was condemned before. These references are important, if for no other reason than to be able to look up the context and so understand better the sense of a certain proposition and its condemnation.
One of the original sources in which as many as eight individual propositions listed in the Syllabus were first condemned is the Apostolic Letter Multiplices Inter, issued on June 10, 1851.
They are the following errors:
Erroneous Propositions in the Syllabus of Errors that were originally condemned in Multiplices Inter:
15. Every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which, guided by the light of reason, he shall consider true.
21. The Church has not the power of defining dogmatically that the religion of the Catholic Church is the only true religion.
23. Roman pontiffs and ecumenical councils have wandered outside the limits of their powers, have usurped the rights of princes, and have even erred in defining matters of faith and morals.
30. The immunity of the Church and of ecclesiastical persons derived its origin from civil law.
51. And, further, the lay government has the right of deposing bishops from their pastoral functions, and is not bound to obey the Roman pontiff in those things which relate to the institution of bishoprics and the appointment of bishops.
54. Kings and princes are not only exempt from the jurisdiction of the Church, but are superior to the Church in deciding questions of jurisdiction.
68. The Church has not the power of establishing diriment impediments of marriage, but such a power belongs to the civil authority by which existing impediments are to be removed.
74. Matrimonial causes and espousals belong by their nature to civil tribunals.
Notice in particular errors no. 23 and 51.
At a time when false traditionalists like Dr. Peter Kwasniewski try to undermine the Catholic doctrine on the Papacy with specious arguments against ‘Ultramontanism’, under the pretext of giving a ‘correct’ understanding of papal authority that includes refusing papally canonized saints and even defying the Pope’s removal of a bishop from his diocese (see our refutation of Kwasniewski on the Borecky case here), we thought it helpful to have available the full text of Pius IX’s Multiplices Inter in English, and to make this translation available to the public for the first time ever, it seems, on the internet:
The occasion for Multiplices Inter of 1851 was a 6-volume work by the Peruvian author Francisco de Paula González Vigil (1792-1875), entitled The Defense of the Authority of Governments and of Bishops against the Claims of the Roman Curia, published in Lima, Peru, in 1848.
Although Pius IX’s Apostolic Letter is not very long, nonetheless we would like to highlight one section in particular, as it denounces a number of errors that are very much in vogue in our own day, if not verbatim, at least very similar in essence:
3. To be sure, in order to adhere with impunity and also with greater immunity from punishment to the indifferentism and rationalism with which he shows himself to be infected, the author [Vigil], albeit a Catholic and reportedly subject to the divine ministry, denies the Church is possessed of the power of defining dogmatically that the religion of the Catholic Church is the only true religion; and he teaches that each man is free to embrace and profess the religion that anyone led by the light of reason supposes to be true. He unmindfully assails the law of celibacy, and after the fashion of the innovators, he prefers the conjugal state to the state of virginity. He maintains that the power—with which the Church was endowed by her divine Founder—of firmly establishing impediments voiding [dirimentia] a particular matrimonial union flows in different directions from the princes of the earth, and he affirms that the Church of Christ impiously claimed [that power] for herself.
He asserts that the immunity of the Church and of [consecrated] persons, established by the ordinance of God and by canonical sanctions, had its origin from civil law; and it does not shame him to maintain that the residence of an envoy of any nation must be treated with a greater esteem and solicitude than the temple of the living God. He assigns to the lay government the right of deposing from the exercise of pastoral ministry the bishops, whom the Holy Ghost has appointed to rule the Church of God. He strives to induce those who hold the helm of public affairs to not obey the Roman Pontiff in those matters that relate to the appointment of episcopates and of bishops. He removes from the jurisdiction of the same Church, just as though they were pagan sovereigns, kings and other princes who by baptism are members of the Church, as if Christian princes were not sons and subjects of the Church in matters spiritual and ecclesiastical. Worse still, intermingling in an unnatural way the heavenly with the earthly, the sacred with the profane, the loftiest with the lowliest, he is not afraid to teach that, in questions of jurisdiction still to be decided [quaestionibus iurisdictionis dirimendis], the earthly power is superior in respect to the Church, which is the pillar and mainstay of truth.
Finally, so that We may leave unmentioned the numerous other errors, he goes on to such a degree of boldness and impiety that he earnestly affirms, with unspeakable daring, that the Roman pontiffs and ecumenical councils have become detached from the limits of their power, usurped the rights of princes, and also erred in defining matters of faith and morals.
(Pope Pius IX, Apostolic Letter Multiplices Inter, n. 3; paragraph breaks and underlining added.)
One paragraph earlier, Pius IX notes that Vigil’s book renews, among other false ideas, “the numerous errors of the Synod of Pistoia, already dealt with in the dogmatic bull Auctorem fidei of Our predecessor of happy memory Pius VI….”
The condemned diocesan Synod of Pistoia had been convened in 1786 by Bp. Scipione de’ Ricci (1740-1810). It is now being recognized even in academic circles (commissions link) that this ‘robber synod’ was a kind of ‘proto-Vatican II’, pushing novelty and reform for the Church in the 18th century in a way similar to that of the so-called Second Vatican Council 175 years later.
Thus it is probably no accident that Pope Pius VI (r. 1775-1799), in his condemnation of Pistoia, sounds like he is denouncing the Novus Ordo Modernists when he says:
In order not to shock the ears of Catholics, the innovators sought to hide the subtleties of their tortuous maneuvers by the use of seemingly innocuous words such as would allow them to insinuate error into souls in the most gentle manner. Once the truth had been compromised, they could, by means of slight changes or additions in phraseology, distort the confession of the faith that is necessary for our salvation, and lead the faithful by subtle errors to their eternal damnation. This manner of dissimulating and lying is vicious, regardless of the circumstances under which it is used. For very good reasons it can never be tolerated in a synod of which the principal glory consists above all in teaching the truth with clarity and excluding all danger of error.
Moreover, if all this is sinful, it cannot be excused in the way that one sees it being done, under the erroneous pretext that the seemingly shocking affirmations in one place are further developed along orthodox lines in other places, and even in yet other places corrected; as if allowing for the possibility of either affirming or denying the statement, or of leaving it up the personal inclinations of the individual – such has always been the fraudulent and daring method used by innovators to establish error. It allows for both the possibility of promoting error and of excusing it.
(Pope Pius VI, Apostolic Constitution Auctorem Fidei, preamble)
There is no surer, no better way to see that the Vatican II Church is a counterfeit church teaching a counterfeit religion than by immersing oneself again and again in the true Catholic magisterium from Pope St. Peter to Pope Pius XII (d. 1958).
We hope to have made a contribution to that end by commissioning and publishing the first-ever English translation of Multiplices Inter of the magnificent Pope Pius IX.
Image source: Shutterstock (Marzolino; cropped)