Apostolic Letter of Pope Pius IX

Multiplices Inter (1851)

Apostolic Letter of His Holiness Pope Pius IX, issued on June 10, 1851, condemning certain Errors of Francisco de Paula González Vigil

from which the 1864 Syllabus of Errors draws condemned propositions 15, 21, 23, 30, 51, 54, 68, and 74

(Not to be confused with the Encyclical Inter Multiplices of 1853
nor the Allocution Multiplices Inter Machinationes of 1865)

1. Among the manifold and very heavy cares of Our office, by which We are weighed down on all sides, and among the very great misfortunes of this time, which disturb and violently distress Our mind amid the increasing novelty of all things, there is added the greatly-to-be-lamented fact that the most dangerous books are daily springing forth from the lairs of the Jansenists and other men of that kind, whereby the sons of this age, in order to attract disciples to follow them, speak perverse things in the convincing words of human wisdom. Therefore, the guiding principle of Our apostolic ministry demands that We proscribe and condemn books of this type in a more solemn manner in order to protect and keep safe the purity of the Catholic religion and the revered teaching of the Church, and also in order that, with all care, We do not neglect to preserve the Lord’s flock entrusted to Our Lowliness by Jesus Christ, the Paramount Leader of Shepherds, and to ward [the flock] off from—as if from poisoned grazing areas—the deadly reading and possession of those books.

2. Moreover, when We learned that there had been published a book or work comprising six volumes, written in the Spanish language, the title of which is The Defense of the Authority of Governments and of Bishops against the Claims of the Roman Curia by Francisco de Paula G[onzález] Vigil (Lima, 1848); and also when, from the very title of the work, We sufficiently understood the author to be a man possessed of a mind ill-disposed to this Apostolic See, We did not fail to determine its sense; and by an easy effort, although not without a very considerable sadness of Our heart, We recognized and perceived the same book as renewing 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, and as abounding in other wicked teachings and propositions again-and-again condemned in every respect.

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, 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.

4. Although unquestionably it easily becomes known to anyone that so many and such a vast number of chapters of errors are contained in the same work, nevertheless, sticking to the footsteps of Our predecessors, We ordered that the aforesaid work be brought under consideration in Our Congregation of the Universal Inquisition and that the judgment of the same congregation be delivered to Us afterward. Further, Our venerable brothers the cardinals inquisitor-general of the Holy Roman Church, after a prior evaluation of the same work and after having carefully assessed the votes of the consultors, they judged that the mentioned work containing to the same degree teachings and propositions, respectively, scandalous, rash, false, schismatic, disrespectful of the rights of Roman pontiffs and ecumenical councils, subversive of the Church’s power, liberty, and jurisdiction, erroneous, impious, and heretical, is to be condemned and prohibited.

5. Hence, after the report of the aforesaid things was heard and after all these matters were fully weighed in a timely manner in accordance with the consultation of the previously mentioned cardinals, and also on Our own initiative, based on indisputable expert knowledge and in accordance with the fullness of apostolic power, by the intent and meaning of the matter contained therein [tenore praesentium], We condemn and reprove and forbid to be read or be kept in one’s possession the mentioned work wherein the teachings and propositions, as noted above, are contained, either hitherto printed or to be printed (God forbid it!) in the future, in any place whatever and in any other language whatsoever, whether in any edition or version; and We absolutely prohibit for each and every Christian, even for those deserving of specific and individual identification and express mention, the printing, transcribing, reading, keeping in one’s possession, and use of the same work, under pain of excommunication to be incurred ipso facto without any other declaration by those acting to the contrary, from which no one can obtain the benefit of absolution from anyone, except from Us or, according to circumstances, the sitting [existente] Roman Pontiff, unless the person is situated at the point of death.

6. Intending, and by the apostolic authority ordering, that whichever persons have the aforesaid book or work in their possession be obligated, from the moment that the present document becomes known [to them], to deliver [the work] to the local ordinaries and to register it with the inquisitors of heretical perversity. Notwithstanding any things whatsoever acting to the contrary.

7. Moreover, in order that these same present letters be more easily brought to the acquaintance of everybody and that no one be able to allege ignorance of them, We intend, and We decree by the aforesaid authority, that [these present letters] be made public, as is the custom, by one of Our couriers, and that copies of them be left posted there-and-then on the doors of the Basilica of the Prince of the Apostles and of the Apostolic Chancery, and also of the General Curia in Montecitorio, and in the Campo de’ Fiori in the city. [We intend that these letters], published in this manner, thereby make an impression upon and obligate each and everyone whom [these letters] concern, as if [these letters] had been personally made known to and deeply impressed upon each one of them. Furthermore, [We intend that] both in a trial and everywhere outside of it, the same credibility be absolutely rendered to transcriptions or printed copies of these present letters, undersigned by the hand of any notary public and stamped with the seal of a person constituted in an ecclesiastical dignity, which would be rendered to these self-same presents if they had been displayed or exhibited [there].

Translation by Novus Ordo Watch from original Latin found in Cardinal Pietro Gasparri, ed., Codicis Iuris Canonici Fontes, vol. 2 [Typis Poliglottis Vaticanis, 1938], n. 510, pp. 855-857. Italics given in original.

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