Since faith is one, it must be professed in all its purity and integrity". Pope Francis/Pope Benedict

Monday, 18 March 2013

Pius VII: A 200 year old Papal program perfect for today

In May of 1800, Pius VII, recently elected Supreme Pontiff, outlined his Pontificate with the following themes from his encyclical, Diu Satis.  With all the talk about what Pope Francis may or may not do, the program of Pius seems Providentially contemporary:

The primary task of the Pope: 

The particular part of Our duty which is expressed in the words, "strengthen your brethren," also urges Us to do so. For at the present turbulent time, as much as ever, Satan "has sought after us all in order to sift us as wheat." Still who is so sluggish, so different-minded to Us not to understand fully that Christ does what He said He would do: "to pray for Peter that his faith should not fail even in the present grim circumstances...

The indestructibility of the Catholic Church: 

6. From these events men should realize that all attempts to overthrow the "House of God" are in vain. For this is the Church founded on Peter, "Rock," not merely in name but in truth. Against this "the gates of hell will not prevail"; "for it is founded on a rock. There has never been an enemy of the Christian religion who was not simultaneously at wicked war with the See of Peter, since while this See remained strong the survival of the Christian religion was assured....

Exposing false philosophy:

This is the direction of attack chosen by those men of today who replace with the defiling plague of false philosophy, the philosophy (as the Greek Fathers in particular rightly name Christian teaching) which the Son of God, who is eternal wisdom, brought down from heaven and imparted to men. But "it has been written" -- and these words of Paul are aimed directly at such men -- "'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the sense of the sensible I will reject.' Where is a wise man, where a scribe, where the examiner of this world? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?"

Exhorting bishops to toil for the Church:

We are led to recall those words, venerable brothers, especially since they marvellously refresh Us. They inspire Us to shun no toil on behalf of Christ's Church which He has entrusted to Us to rule, protect, adorn, and extend, despite Our fear of this unexpected burden. Assuredly "He will make us fitting ministers of the new testament as exaltation derives from the power of God and not from Ourselves." Therefore I now urge you to join me and devote your eager effort to this objective. May Christ's prayer to His Father never leave our minds: "Holy Father, keep them in your name that they may be one as We....not for these only (i.e. the Apostles) do I pray, but also for those who through their word will believe in me that they all may be one as you, Father, in me and I in you, that they also may be one in us."

A call for unity and reliance on God: 

"It is Our particular duty," as Cyprian says (in On the Unity of the Church), "to uphold and defend this unity" so that the world may see, wonder and believe "that you have sent me," as Christ's prayer continues. Christ is with Us and never leaves Our side; he strengthens Us with the words: "Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it fear. You believe in God, believe also in me." Relying on His help, let us work for the common safety with combined zeal.

Commanding bishops to combat evil: 

Therefore it is Our duty to help men and nations who are in distress, and to eliminate all present and threatening evils. For "Christ has given pastors and teachers for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the building up of Christ's Body, until we all come together to the unity of faith and knowledge of God's son." If ever anything deters, prevents, or delays any one of us from performing this task, what a disgraceful sin he will commit! Therefore, omit no watchfulness, diligence, care, and effort, in order to "guard the deposit" of Christ's teaching whose destruction has been planned, as you know, by a great conspiracy.

Purifying the clergy:

Do not admit anyone to the clergy, entrust to no one the ministry of the mysteries of God, allow no one to hear confessions or preach sermons, do not transfer any administration or office to anyone, before you carefully weigh, examine and "test their spirit to see if they are of God."

Exposing the corrupters of youth:

Would that We had not learned by experience how many "false apostles" the present age has spawned! These are "deceitful workmen who transform themselves into apostles of Christ." Unless we are on our guard "they will destroy the understanding of the faithful as the serpent seduced Eve by his cleverness, and they will fall away from their simplicity which is in Christ."While you must care for the whole flock over which the Holy Spirit has placed you as bishop, the watchfulness, eagerness, and effort of your fatherly love and benevolence is demanded in particular by boys and young men. Christ by example and statement has particularly entrusted these to us and the enemies of private property and states who are striving to confound all laws, divine and human, hope to effect their wicked plans chiefly by corrupting their young minds. For they are aware that the young are like soft wax and can easily be drawn in any direction, bent and moulded and that they firmly retain a form once they have received it and it has been hardened by advancing years; then they will reject a different form. Hence the well-worn proverb from scripture: "A young man will not depart from his way even when he has grown old.''

Reforming Catholic education:

Do not allow "that the children of this world be wiser in their generation than the children of light." Carefully investigate the directors given charge of boys and young men in seminaries and colleges, and the courses they are to follow, the teachers chosen for secondary schools, and the schools which are to be run. Keep out the ravening wolves who do not spare the flock of innocent lambs, and expel them if necessary by the way they entered. Eliminate them at once "according to the power which the Lord gave you for edification.'' We must use to the full this power to eradicate this very serious threat to our children.

Combatting the spread of heresy:

Books which openly oppose the teaching of Christ are to be burned. Even more importantly, the eyes and minds of all must be kept from books, which do so more stealthily and deceitfully. To recognize such books, as St. Cyprian says in On the Unity of the Church, "there is not need of a long treatise and arguments: The sum of truth is a proof easy for faith: the Lord says to Peter, 'feed my sheep.'" So the sheep of Christ should consider safe and eat cheerfully the food to which Peter's voice and authority directs them; but despite any beauty and charm, they should shun as harmful and plague-ridden, what this voice forbids them. Those who do not comply are certainly not to be counted among the sheep of Christ.

Safeguarding the Art and Inheritance of the Church: 

Regarding the Church's property, wealth which has been vowed, holy money, the substance of the saints -- the business of God, as Fathers, councils and scripture state -- shall We give you any instructions about this now that the Church has been wretchedly stripped of them? Only this: to devote your efforts so that everyone will realize the truth of the short statement of the synod of Aachen long ago. "Whoever takes away or intends to take away what other faithful have given from the heritage of their possessions for the care of their souls, the honor of God, the beauty of His Church and the use of its ministers, assuredly turns the gifts of others into danger for his own soul."...

True ecumenical outreach that all may return to the Church: 

But every people is embraced by my fatherly love, thoughts, and concern. We grieve and suffer greatly if any are separated from the truth, and We desire to assist them. Join us, then, in Our prayers that after this long-lasting disturbance, "the Church may have peace to be built up as it walks in the fear of the Lord and in the consolation of the Holy Spirit." May nothing hinder all peoples from becoming one fold with one shepherd.

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