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Whatever happened to Pope St. Pius X’s instructions to bishops and priests regarding catechesis? November 5, 2015

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, catachesis, Domestic Church, episcopate, General Catholic, Interior Life, Papa, Saints, sanctity, Society, Tradition, true leadership, Virtue.

I posted yesterday portions of Acerbo Nimis, Pope St. Pius X’s encyclical on Christian Education and the Teaching of the Catechism.  The encyclical was not simply an exhortation, it contains demands, listed below, to all bishops and priests of the Church to implement the Saint’s catechetical program.  I am not certain whether these demands were ever formally entered into canon law, but the instructions below are very clear. I think they were, at least for a time, more or less observed throughout the Church.  The question is, whatever happened to them?  Were they viewed as superseded by documents of Vatican II?  Or were they just dealt with my mokusatsu, “killed” by being totally ignored and forgotten?

The directives from Acerbo Nimis are below.  See if you have ever experienced any of the catechetical programs specified.  I know that I have not, even within traditional parishes (where there is great catechesis, but not quite what was ordered by Pope St. Pius X):

We, therefore, Venerable Brethren, desirous of fulfilling this most important obligation of Our Teaching Office, and likewise wishing to introduce uniformity everywhere in so weighty a matter, do by Our Supreme Authority enact the following regulations and strictly command that they be observed and carried out in all dioceses of the world.

I. On every Sunday and holy day, with no exception, throughout the year, all parish priests and in general all those having the care of souls, shall instruct the boys and girls, for the space of an hour from the text of the Catechism on those things they must believe and do in order to attain salvation. [This is not parish CCD done by lay people of questionable qualifications and adherence to the Faith.  Not that instruction by priests would have been any assurance of orthodoxy over the past 50 years]

II. At certain times throughout the year, they [the priests] shall prepare boys and girls to receive properly the Sacraments of Penance and Confirmation, by a continued instruction over a period of days.

III. With a very special zeal, on every day in Lent and, if necessary, on the days following Easter, they shall instruct with the use of apt illustrations and exhortations the youth of both sexes to receive their first Communion in a holy manner.

IV. In each and every parish the society known as the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine is to be canonically established. Through this Confraternity, the pastors, especially in places where there is a scarcity of priests, will have lay helpers in the teaching of the Catechism, who will take up the work of imparting knowledge both from a zeal for the glory of God and in order to gain the numerous Indulgences granted by the Sovereign Pontiffs.

V. In the larger cities, and especially where universities, colleges and secondary schools are located, let classes in religion be organized to instruct in the truths of faith and in the practice of Christian life the youths who attend the public schools from which all religious teaching is banned.

VI. Since it is a fact that in these days adults need instruction no less than the young, all pastors and those having the care of souls shall explain the Catechism to the people in a plain and simple style adapted to the intelligence of their hearers. This shall be carried out on all holy days of obligation, at such time as is most convenient for the people, but not during the same hour when the children are instructed, and this instruction must be in addition to the usual homily on the Gospel which is delivered at the parochial Mass on Sundays and holy days. The catechetical instruction shall be based on the Catechism of the Council of Trent; and the matter is to be divided in such a way that in the space of four or five years, treatment will be given to the Apostles’ Creed, the Sacraments, the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer and the Precepts of the Church. [Again, it is assumed that priests shall/must conduct the instruction]

Venerable Brethren, We decree and command this by virtue of Our Apostolic Authority. It now rests with you to put it into prompt and complete execution in your respective dioceses, and by the power of your authority to see to it that these prescriptions of Ours be not neglected or, what amounts to the same thing, that they be not carried out carelessly or superficially.………

————-End Quote————-

I have reviewed the Vatican II Declaration on Christian Education, Gravissimum Educationis, and I can say it in no way countermands, contradicts, or removes the obligations imparted by Pope St. Pius X above.  In fact, the Vatican II declaration is, like so many documents of the Council, so broad and  lacking in specifics that it says very little, other than that education is good, that parents have a right to educate their children, and that Church also has a role in this education and Catholic schools are good.  Really stunning revelations like this: “Among all educational instruments the school has a special importance.”  You don’t say!

I also note that, again like so many other documents, the authors of Gravissimum Educationis appear to have assumed that the Church fell from the sky about 1930, with nary a reference to anything preceding.  That is to say, Acerbo Nimis does not appear in the references, in spite of its very clear calls and powerful exhortation, while John XXIII and Pius XI, are what you might call over-represented.  Pius XII gets rather short shrift, as well. I don’t think this accidental.

I feel a need to say something else, rather unrelated. I made a couple of very favorable mentions of HJA Sire’s book Phoenix from the Ashes.  Through the first 100 pages, I was very impressed.  Since then, I have found myself disagreeing very strongly with the author at times, especially regarding his exaltation of Pope Pius XI above Pius X and XII and some other related matters.  I disagree with his lambasting of the scholastic reforms that Pius X implemented.  I think he’s a bit narrow minded, from his deeply academic point of view, and a bit too casual in dismissing the material gains of the past 200 years as all rotten fruit from an evil capitalist tree.

There is still a great deal of good content, but I should have waited to, uh, you know……read the whole thing……..before giving a full-throated endorsement.  That’s generally not a problem – generally, if the first 1/3 or so of a book is really excellent, the rest will be, too, but in this case I think the author has lost the plot a bit by letting his biases get the best of him and he starts losing focus.  I’m hoping once he gets into the history of the Council things will improve (and I have reason to suspect they will).

I’ll wait to finish before I comment anymore.



1. richardmalcolm1564 - November 5, 2015

…especially regarding his exaltation of Pope Pius XI above Pius X and XII

As I’ve become more familiar with these pontificates, it’s become hard to say that not only was Pius XI the superior of Pius XII in most respects, but that Pacelli’s was generally a more problematic pope than most of us (trads or not) would like to admit. Ironically, to the extent that Pius XII is most criticized for his response to the Holocaust, it’s actually that response which was his most shining moment.

I can’t comment on Sire’s analysis, since I have not read the book yet (it’s sitting in my Amazon cart at the moment).

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