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Allocution of Pope Pius IX

Iamdudum Cernimus (1861)

Allocution of His Holiness Pope Pius IX to Cardinals gathered in private Consistory on March 18, 1861

from which the 1864 Syllabus of Errors draws condemned propositions 37, 61, and 80


1. Now after a long time We see, Venerable Brothers, by what a truly lamentable conflict civil society is being continually disturbed, especially in this our most unfortunate age, on account of principles alternatively contending between truth and error, between virtue and vice, between light and darkness. For instance, on the one hand, some uphold certain beliefs of, as they term it, “modern civilization.” On the other hand, others fight in defense of the rights of justice and our most holy religion. And in fact, the first [faction] demands that the Roman Pontiff reconcile himself and come to terms with Progress, with Liberalism, as they call it, and with the current civilization. The other [faction], however, rightly requests insistently that the immovable and unshaken principles of eternal justice be maintained whole and inviolate, and [that] the most salutary essence of our divine religion be entirely preserved — [the divine religion] that both increases the glory of God and produces suitable remedies for so many evils with which the human race is afflicted and that is the sole and true norm by which the sons of men, having been trained in every virtue in this mortal life, are led to the haven of blessed eternity. But such advocates of contemporary civilization are not satisfied, seeing that they assert they are true and genuine friends of religion. And We would be willing to show them trust, if the truly very dismal events that are daily ever present before everyone’s eyes did not utterly indicate the contrary. And, indeed, there is one true and holy religion on the earth founded and established by Christ the Lord Himself. It is called Catholic, Apostolic, Roman by name, the fruitful and nurturing parent of all virtues, the expeller of vices, and the liberator of souls, the touchstone of true happiness. Now, at another time, in Our consistorial allocution of the 9th day of December of the year 1854, We already declared what must be thought about those who live outside this ark of salvation, and We confirm the same teaching here. Further, We ask of those who invite Us to extend [Our] right hand to today’s civilization for the good of religion whether the facts are of such a kind that they can induce Christ’s Vicar here on earth — divinely appointed by [Christ] Himself, to preserve the purity of His heavenly teaching and to feed and confirm the lambs and sheep with the same teaching — to associate himself, without the gravest sin of conscience and to the most considerable scandal of everyone, with today’s civilization, a great number of the undertakings of which (never to be deplored enough) turn out [to be] evil, [and by which] so many most shocking opinions, errors, and principles are promulgated, which wholly oppose the Catholic religion and its teaching. And among these deeds, no one is unaware, for instance, how solemn concordats duly entered into between this Apostolic See and princely heads of state are entirely destroyed, as happened lately at Naples. Indeed, Venerable Brothers, again and again We lament the state of affairs in this very large gathering of yours, and in the highest degree We cry out absolutely in the manner by which We bore witness against similar audacious undertakings and profanations.

2. This modern civilization, moreover, while it favors any non-Catholic cult, and by no means forbids those very infidels from performing official public duties and opens Catholic schools to their children, grows angry against religious communities, against institutes founded to regulate Catholic schools, against as many churchmen as possible, of every rank, even those distinguished by the most eminent dignity, of whom not a few lead a life in uncertain exile or miserably in chains, and also against worthy laymen who, devoted to Us and to this Holy See, actively defend the cause of religion and justice. This civilization, while it bestows resources upon non-Catholic institutes and persons, despoils the Catholic Church of her most rightful possessions, and employs all measures and efforts to weaken the salutary efficacy of the Church herself. Moreover, while it grants freedom to every utterance or written work that opposes the Church and all those wholeheartedly devoted to her, and while it encourages, promotes, and fosters license, at the same time it shows itself completely circumspect and restrained in censuring the sometimes violent and cruel procedures used against those who publish the best writings; and also it administers every severity in punishing, if it should think that the boundaries of moderation are being bypassed, even if lightly, by these [authors].

3. Accordingly, could a Roman Pontiff ever stretch out a friendly hand to a civilization of this sort, and sincerely enter into a treaty and mutual agreement with it? Let the true names for things be reinstated, and this Holy See will always be self-consistent. For it has been without interruption the protector and sustainer of true civilization; and the monuments of history most eloquently bear witness and demonstrate that in all ages the true and proper cultivation of humane habits, education, and prudence have been introduced by the same Holy See into every remotest and barbarous region of the earth. But when a system, established in a manner to weaken and perhaps to destroy the Church of Christ, should wish to be recognized by the name of “civilization,” without a doubt this Holy See and Roman Pontiff at all events will never be able to be on good terms with a civilization of this sort. For what participation, as the Apostle very judiciously exclaims, hath justice with injustice? Or what fellowship hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? (2 Cor 6:14-15).

4. Accordingly, with what honesty do troublemakers and defenders of rebellion raise up their voice to magnify the efforts employed in vain by these very [persons] to reconcile themselves with the Roman Pontiff? Forasmuch as he draws all his strength from the principles of eternal justice, by what means could he ever forsake those [principles] so that the most holy faith be weakened, and to such a pass that Italy be brought into the danger of losing her chief brilliance and glory, wherewith, throughout nineteen centuries, she stands out by reason of the center and the seat of Catholic truth, by which she is distinguished. And it cannot be objected that, in affairs of civil government, this Apostolic See had [its] ears closed to the petitions of those who indicated they longed for a freer administration. In order that We leave long-past examples unmentioned, We shall speak of Our own unhappy age. For instance, when Italy obtained freer institutions from her legitimate princes, We, displaying paternal affection, chose a portion of our sons for the civil administration of Our Papal States, and We gave favorable concessions, regulated nonetheless by proper measures of prudence, lest a favor granted with paternal affection be tainted with poison through the work of evil men. But what indeed happened thereafter? Unbridled license got possession of Our blameless liberality, and at the Palazzo where the ministers of state and parliamentary deputies had assembled, the threshold was besprinkled with blood, and an impious hand was sacrilegiously turned round against him who had granted the favor. But if in these most recent times advice had been given to Us concerning civil administration, you are not unaware, Venerable Brothers, that it was received by Us, yet with the [section] that did not have reference to civil administration being removed and set aside so that We might consent to the already accomplished portion of the plundering. But there is no reason why We should speak about counsels well received and Our sincere promises to carry them out, since the controllers of the usurpations professed in a loud voice that, indeed, they wholly did not wish reforms but an unqualified rebellion and a complete separation from the legitimate ruler. And in fact these [individuals], not the people, were the instigators and leaders of this very grave crime, who filled everything with their outcries, so that one may rightly say of them what the Venerable Bede affirmed of the Pharisees and the Scribes, the enemies of Christ: Some of those from the crowd did not bring these false accusations, but in fact the Pharisees and the Scribes did (bk. 1, ch. 48 on Lk ch. 11, Exposition on the Gospel of Luke).

5. But the assault on the Roman Pontificate not only purposely intends that this Holy See and the Roman Pontiff be entirely deprived of its legitimate civil dominion but also endeavors with the aim that she be weakened and, if ever it could happen, that the salutary excellence of the Catholic religion be clearly abolished; and consequently it assails the work of God Himself, the fruit of redemption, and that most holy faith, which is the most precious inheritance passed on to us from the ineffable sacrifice that was accomplished on Golgotha. And now both the already-mentioned facts and those things that We see occurring every day demonstrate more than sufficiently that the state of affairs is such. Indeed, how many dioceses in Italy have been bereft of their bishops on account of impediments introduced with the approval of the defenders of modern civilization, who leave so many Christian peoples without shepherds and take possession of their goods in order to transform them into actually perverse uses! How many prelates live in exile! How many apostates — We speak with an extraordinary affliction of Our heart — who, speaking in the name not of God but of Satan and trusting in the impunity granted to them by a deadly system of government, disquiet consciences, drive the weak to play a double part, make obdurate those wretchedly sunken in every filthiest teaching, and strive to tear to pieces the garment of Christ when they by no means shrink from proposing and recommending “National Churches” (as they say) and other impieties of that kind. But after they have so insulted religion, which they hypocritically invite to be on good terms with today’s civilization, with equal hypocrisy they do not hesitate to appeal to Us to be reconciled with Italy—that is to say, in circumstances when, despoiled of almost all Our civil sovereignty, We sustain the very heavy burdens of Pope and Prince by means of the pious largess of the children of the Catholic Church, most lovingly sent to us daily, and in circumstances when We have been gratuitously made a symbol of ill-will and hatred by the efforts of those very [persons] who demand conciliation from Us. Moreover, they would have it that We publicly declare to surrender the usurped provinces of Our Papal States to the unrestricted ownership of the usurpers. By this truly audacious and hitherto-unheard-of demand, they would seek in vain that this Apostolic See, which always has been and will be the bulwark of truth and justice, would sanction that property unjustly and violently plundered can be peacefully and virtuously possessed by an unjust aggressor; and that a false principle be established, namely, that the successful injustice of a deed carries with it no damage to the sanctity of Right. This demand also is inconsistent with those solemn words whereby it has been declared in a great and distinguished senate in these most recent days that the Roman Pontiff is the representative of the chief moral power in human society. From this it follows that he in no way can agree to vandalistic plundering without violating the foundation of that moral discipline of which he himself is distinctly recognized as the leading model and representation.

6. Further, whoever, deceived by error or shattered by fear, should wish to offer appropriate counsel for the unjust wishes of the disturbers of civil society, it is necessary that, above all, in these times he convince himself of the fact that they will never be satisfied unless they see every principle of authority, every restraint of religion, and every rule of right and justice removed. And in fact, to the ruin of civil society, these overthrowers have already, by means of both their speeches and writings, obtained that [end], with the result that they have perverted human minds, weakened moral sense, and snatched away the horror of injustice. And they especially try everything to convince everyone that the Right invoked by decent people is nothing but an unjust desire that ought to be despised in every respect. Alas! truly the earth mourned, and faded away, and is weakened: the world is faded away, the height of the people of the earth is weakened. The earth is infected by the inhabitants thereof: because they have transgressed the laws, they have changed the ordinance, they have broken the everlasting covenant (Is 24:4-5).

7. But in so much pitch-black darkness, with which God, in his inscrutable judgment, permits nations to be covered, We by all means place all Our hope and trust in the most clement Father of mercies and God of all consolation, who consoles Us in Our every tribulation. Certainly, it is He, Venerable Brothers, who lavishly bestows upon you and among you the spirit of harmony and unanimity, and daily will repeatedly bestow more, so that, joined with Us very closely as well as [being] very much of the same mind, you may be prepared to endure together with Us that destiny, which has been reserved for each of us by the hidden design of His divine Providence. It is He Who by a bond of charity unites, among themselves and with this center of Catholic truth and unity, the bishops of the Christian world, who instruct the faithful entrusted to them in the doctrine of evangelical truth and show them the path to be safely followed in so great a darkness, conveying to the people, by the virtue of prudence, the holiest words. He pours out upon all Catholic peoples the spirit of prayer and instils a sense of equity in non-Catholics, in order that they make morally right judgments about contemporary issues. But now, this so very wondrous unanimity of prayers in the whole Catholic world and the so very unanimous tokens of love in relation to Us, expressed in truly so many and varying ways (which in previous ages cannot be easily found), most clearly indicate to rightly-disposed men how it is entirely necessary to direct their course to this Chair of the most blessèd Prince of the Apostles, the light of the world, which as teacher of truth and herald of salvation has always taught — and even to the consummation of the world will never cease to teach — the unchangeable laws of eternal justice. It is so far from the truth that the peoples of Italy have refrained from these splendid testimonies of filial love and esteem in relation this Apostolic See. On the contrary, [the truth is] that very many hundreds of thousands of them have approached Us with the most loving letters, not with the intention to demand the reconciliation invoked by the old foxes, but so that they might bewail in the highest degree Our vexations, hardships, and anguish affirm in every way their affection in relation to Us, and deprecate again and again the abominable and sacrilegious plundering of Our civil dominion and of the same See.

8. Moreover, since the state of affairs is such, before We finish speaking, We plainly and openly declare before God and men that there is absolutely no reason why We ought to be reconciled with anybody. But since We, albeit unworthy, here on earth perform the part of the Him Who prayed and sought pardon for transgressors, We properly feel that we must act forbearingly with those who hate Us and pray for them, so that with the aid of divine grace they may recover their senses and thus be worthy of the blessing of the one who here on earth who carries out the delegated work of Christ. By all means, with goodwill We pray for them, and as soon as they come to their senses, We are prepared to forgive and bless them. Meanwhile, however, We cannot remain idle as those who take no care with regard to human misfortunes; We cannot not be agitated and tormented and not consider as Our own the very great injuries and evils villainously thrust upon those who suffer persecution for the sake of justice. Wherefore, while We are consumed by the most profound sadness and earnestly entreat God, We discharge Our supreme Apostolate’s most weighty function of speaking of, teaching, and condemning whatever things that God and His Church teach and condemn, so that in this wise We may crown Our life’s work to bear witness to the Gospel of God’s grace and the ministry of the word, which We received from the Lord Jesus.

9. Therefore, if unjust things are asked for from Us, We cannot furnish [them]: but if pardon be requested, We shall gratuitously and willingly bestow it, as We made clear above. However, in order for Us to utter the formula of this forgiveness in the way that altogether befits the holiness of Our pontifical dignity, We kneel before God and, embracing the banner of our Redemption, We most humbly entreat Christ Jesus to fill us with His same charity so that We may forgive altogether in the way in which He spared His enemies before He delivered His most holy spirit unto the hands of His eternal Father. And from Him, We most earnestly implore that, just as after the bestowal of forgiveness by Him, amidst the thick darkness with which the whole earth was blanketed, He enlightened the minds of His enemies, who, repenting of the ghastly crime, returned beating their breasts, so may He, in this exceedingly great darkness of our age, be willing to pour out the gifts of His heavenly and triumphing grace from the inexhaustible treasures of His infinite mercy, whereby all those straying may return to His single fold. But whatever the unsearchable designs of His divine providence may be about to take place, in the name of His Church We ask Christ Jesus Himself to judge the cause of His Vicar, which is the cause of His Church, and defend it against the enterprises of His enemies and also provide and strengthen [it] with a glorious victory. Likewise, We prevail upon Him to restore order and tranquility to a society thrown into disorder and confer a much wished-for peace so as to produce the triumph of justice, which We await from Him only. For in the very considerable anxiety of Europe and of the whole world, and of those who perform the hard duty of directing the destiny of peoples, there is God alone who can fight with Us and for Us: Judge us, O God, and distinguish our cause from the nation that is not holy: Give peace in our time, O Lord, because there is none other that fighteth for us, but only Thou, our God.


Translation by Novus Ordo Watch from Latin version found in Acta SS. D. N. Pii PP. IX. ex quibus excerptus est Syllabus editus die VIII Decembris MDCCCLXIV (Rome: Typis Rev. Camerae Apostolicae, 1865), pp. 196-203. Most italics given in original.

An Italian version of the text can be found at the Vatican web site. A German translation is available in Oberhirtliches Verordnungsblatt für das Bistum Regensburg (Regensburg: Bischöflische Ordinariats-Kanzlei, 1861), pp. 52-60.


Image source: Wikimedia Commons
License: public domain

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