GREGORY XVI 1831-1846
Condemnation of the Works of George Hermes *
[From the Brief “Dum acerbissimas,” Sept. 26, 1835]
1618 To increase the anxieties by which we are overwhelmed day and night because of this (namely, persecutions of the Church), the following calamitous and highly lamentable circumstance is added: Among those who strive in behalf of religion by published works some dare to intrude themselves insincerely, who likewise wish to seem and who show that they are fighting on behalf of the same religion, in order that, though retaining the appearance of religion yet despising the truth, they can the more easily seduce and pervert the incautious “by philosophy” or by their false philosophic treatises “and vain deceit” [Col. 2:8], and hence deceive the people and extend helping hands more confidently to the enemies who openly rage against it (religion). Therefore, when the impious and insidious labors of any one of these writers have become known to us, we have not delayed by means of our encyclicals and other Apostolic letters to denounce their cunning and depraved plans, and to condemn their errors, and, at the same time, to expose the deadly deceits by which they very cunningly endeavor to overthrow completely the divine constitution of the Church and ecclesiastical discipline, nay, even the whole public order itself. Indeed, it has been proved by a very sad fact that at length, laying aside the veil of pretense, they have already raised on high the banner of hostility against whatever power has been established by God.
1619 But this alone is not the most grievous cause for mourning. For in addition to those who, to the scandal of all Catholics, have given themselves over to the enemy, to add to our bitter sorrow we see some entering even into the study of theology who, through a desire and passion for novelty “ever learning and never attaining to the knowledge of the truth” [2 Tim. 3:7], are teachers of error, because they have not been disciples of truth. In fact, they infect sacred studies with strange and unapproved doctrines, and they do not hesitate to profane even the office of teacher, if they hold a position in the schools and academies; they are known to falsify the most sacred deposit of faith itself, while boasting that they are protecting it Among the teachers of this sort of error, because of his constant and almost universal reputation throughout Germany, George Hermes is numbered as one who boldly left the royal path, which universal tradition and the most Holy Fathers have marked out in explaining and vindicating the truths of faith; nay, even haughtily despising and condemning it, he is now building a darksome way to error of all kinds on positive doubt as a basis for all theological inquiry, and on the principle which states that reason is the chief norm and only medium whereby man can acquire knowledge of supernatural truths. . . .
1620 Therefore, we ordered that these books be handed over to the theologians most skilled in the German language to be diligently scrutinized in every part. . . . At length … [the most Eminent Cardinal Inquisitors], weighing each and everything with great care, as the gravity of the matter demanded, judged that the author “was growing vain in his thoughts” [Rom. 1:21], and had woven into the said works many absurd ideas foreign to the teaching of the Catholic Church; but especially concerning the nature of faith and the rule of things to be believed, about Sacred Scripture, tradition, revelation, and the teaching office of the Church; about motives of credibility, about proofs by which the existence of God is wont to be established and confirmed; about the essence of God Himself, His holiness, justice, liberty, and His purpose in works which the theologians call external; and also about the necessity of grace, the distribution of it and of gifts, recompense of awards, and the infliction of penalties, about the state of our first parents, original sin, and the powers of fallen man; these same books, inasmuch as they contain doctrines and propositions respectively false, rash, captious, inducive to skepticism and indifferentism, erroneous, scandalous, injurious to Catholic schools, destructive of divine faith, suggesting heresy and other things condemned by the Church (the Most Eminent Cardinals) decree must be prohibited and condemned.
1621 And so we condemn and reject the aforesaid books wherever and in whatever idiom, in every edition or version so far published or to be published in the future, which God forbid, under tenor of these present letters, and we further command that they be placed on the Index of forbidden books.