Pope Pius X on the dire need for better catechesis November 4, 2015Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, Basics, catachesis, episcopate, General Catholic, Glory, Grace, history, Papa, sanctity, the struggle for the Church, Tradition, Victory, Virtue.
That great pastor of souls and true shepherd of the flock, Giuseppe Sarto, knew the troubles of his times. In the first 4 years of his pontificate he composed 11
encyclicals dealing with problems and threats facing the Church. Of course, the capstone of this great effort of catechesis was the deservedly famous Pascendi Dominici Gregis, St. Pius X’s brilliant condemnation of modernism. Many traditional-leaning Catholics have read and re-read this encyclical, so important it is not only for reasons of catechesis, but also for understanding and responding to the crisis in the Church.
However, Pascendi was hardly the only worthy encyclical from this holy pontiff. Another, less well known encyclical on teaching Christian doctrine, Acerbo Nimis, is equally edifying and, even more, badly needed in our time. If good Pope Pius X thought catechesis was in need of great improvement in his own time, one can only imagine the great pain the Saint would feel if he knew the utterly deplorable state of catechesis in the Church today.
I just highlight some excerpts below, I strongly recommend reading the entire encyclical, which I know few may be inclined to do, but I think if you take the time to do so you will be very pleased you did (my emphasis and comments):
It is a common complaint, unfortunately too well founded, that there are large numbers of Christians in our own time who are entirely ignorant of those truths necessary for salvation. And when we mention Christians, We refer not only to the masses or to those in the lower walks of life — for these find some excuse for their ignorance in the fact that the demands of their harsh employers hardly leave them time to take care of themselves or of their dear ones — but We refer to those especially who do not lack culture or talents and, indeed, are possessed of abundant knowledge regarding things of the world but live rashly and imprudently with regard to religion. It is hard to find words to describe how profound is the darkness in which they are engulfed and, what is most deplorable of all, how tranquilly they repose there. They rarely give thought to God, the Supreme Author and Ruler of all things, or to the teachings of the faith of Christ. They know nothing of the Incarnation of the Word of God, nothing of the perfect restoration of the human race which He accomplished. Grace, the greatest of the helps for attaining eternal things, the Holy Sacrifice and the Sacraments by which we obtain grace, are entirely unknown to them. They have no conception of the malice and baseness of sin; hence they show no anxiety to avoid sin or to renounce it. [All this should make obvious that the crisis in the Church has been a long time coming. There have always been weak and impious souls, even in the Church’s days of greatest glory and influence, but I am
quite certain that our current day is enduring a nadir of faith and piety rarely seen in the Church’s long history] And so they arrive at life’s end in such a condition that, lest all hope of salvation be lost, the priest is obliged to give in the last few moments of life a summary teaching of religion, a time which should be devoted to stimulating the soul to greater love for God. And even this as too often happens only when the dying man is not so sinfully ignorant as to look upon the ministration of the priest as useless, and then calmly faces the fearful passage to eternity without making his peace with God. And so Our Predecessor, Benedict XIV, had just cause to write: “We declare that a great number of those who are condemned to eternal punishment suffer that everlasting calamity because of ignorance of those mysteries of faith which must be known and believed in order to be numbered among the elect.” [And these are not only theological mysteries, but those of the moral order, too. This statement strongly hints that ignorance of Church belief is not a “get out of hell free” card. Thus the enormity of the crime being perpetrated on souls in the name of a false, really diabolical mercy, wherein they are assured that their sin is not so bad, and are even encouraged to heap sin upon sin in sacrilegious reception of the Blessed Sacrament and much more besides.]
There is then, Venerable Brethren, no reason for wonder that the corruption of morals and depravity of life is already so great, and
ever increasingly greater, not only among uncivilized peoples but even in those very nations that are called Christian. The Apostle Paul, writing to the Ephesians, repeatedly admonished them in these words: “But immorality and every uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as become saints; or obscenity or foolish talk.” [That pretty much blows the Synod out of the water right there, doesn’t it?] He also places the foundation of holiness and sound morals upon a knowledge of divine things-which holds in check evil desires: “See to it therefore, brethren, that you walk with care: not as unwise but as wise. . . Therefore, do not become foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” And rightly so. For the will of man retains but little of that divinely implanted love of virtue and righteousness by which it was, as it were, attracted strongly toward the real and not merely apparent good. Disordered by the stain of the first sin, and almost forgetful of God, its Author, it improperly turns every affection to a love of vanity and deceit. This erring will, blinded by its own evil desires, has need therefore of a guide to lead it back to the paths of justice whence it has so unfortunately strayed……
……. All this becomes evident on a little reflection. Christian teaching reveals God and His infinite perfection with far greater clarity than is possible by the human faculties alone. Nor is that all. This same Christian teaching also commands us to honor God by faith, which is of the mind, by hope, which is of the will, by love, which is of the heart; and thus the whole man is subjected to the supreme Maker and Ruler of all things. The truly remarkable dignity of man as the son of the heavenly Father, in Whose image he is formed, and with Whom he is destined to live in eternal happiness, is also revealed only by the doctrine of Jesus Christ. From this very dignity, and from man’s knowledge of it, Christ showed that men should love one another as brothers, and should live here as become children of light, “not of revelry and drunkenness, not in debauchery and wantonness, not in strife and jealousy.” He also bids us to place all our anxiety and care in the hands of God, for He will provide for us; He tells us to help the poor, to do good to those who hate us, and to prefer the eternal welfare of the soul to the temporal goods of this life. Without wishing to touch on every detail, nevertheless is it not true that the proud man is urged and commanded by the teaching of Christ to strive for humility, the source of true glory? “Whoever, therefore, humbles himself. . . he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”………
………We by no means wish to conclude that a perverse will and unbridled conduct may not be joined with a knowledge of religion. Would to God that facts did not too abundantly prove the contrary! But We do maintain that 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.” Hence the Apostle Paul said: “Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel,“ 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.
We do not think it necessary to set forth here the praises of such instruction or to point out how meritorious it is in God’s sight. If, assuredly, the alms with which we relieve the needs of the poor are highly praised by the Lord, how much more precious in His eyes, then, will be the zeal and labor expended in teaching and admonishing, by which we provide not for the passing needs of the body but for the eternal profit of the soul! Nothing, surely, is more desirable, nothing more acceptable to Jesus Christ, the Savior of souls, Who testifies of Himself through Isaias: “To bring good news to the poor he has sent me…….
……… For this reason the Council of Trent, treating of the duties of pastors of souls, decreed that their first and most important work is the instruction of the faithful. [And yet it is in this duty, more than any other, that our pastors have failed us over the past 50+ years.]
The bit at the end is key. Failure to teach the orthodox faith (as opposed to a modernist simulacrum of same) hasn’t been an accident. It’s been a deliberate part of the plan for the success of the internal Revolution against the Church. Thus the Synod can be seen as a sort of culmination of decades of effort to leave the “faithful” ignorant and confused, in the hopes of being able to either win them over to the modernist heresy (a very successful project thus far), or to at least leave them so poorly formed as to be unable to respond, in any effective numbers, to each revolutionary advance. They’ve been very successful in that regard, too.
But woe to them who call evil good, and good evil. As we see from the Saint Pope Sarto, it is the highest duty of a pastor to form the souls in his charge in the faith. The vast majority have failed, and in spectacular fashion, for decades now. Most of that failure has been deliberate, as the pastors themselves did not hold the orthodox Faith and were interested in seeing the Revolution succeed, to varying degrees. We can imagine, then, the judgment, the recompense these men will face. I pray they somehow convert before their death, but seeing as how most of these men reject the reality of hell, I don’t see how. Most are very, very proud of their role in “modernizing” the Church. They would be pitiable, if their ministrations had not inflicted the likelihood of damnation on so many other, much more innocent souls.