GREGORY XVI 1831-1846

Indifferentism (against Felicite de Lamennais) *


[From the Encyclical “Mirari vos arbitramur,” Aug. 15, 1832]


1613 Now we examine another prolific cause of evils by which, we lament, the Church is at present afflicted, namely indifferentism, or that base opinion which has become prevalent everywhere through the deceit of wicked men, that eternal salvation of the soul can be acquired by any profession of faith whatsoever, if morals are conformed to the standard of the just and the honest. . . . And so from this most rotten source of indifferentism flows that absurd and erroneous opinion, or rather insanity, that liberty of conscience must be claimed and defended for anyone.


1614 Indeed, to this most unhealthy error that full and immoderate liberty of opinions which is spreading widely to the destruction of the sacred and civil welfare opens the way, with some men repeatedly asserting with supreme boldness that some advantage flows therefrom to religion itself. But “what death of the soul is worse than freedom for error?” Augustine used to say [ep. 166* ]. For, since all restraint has been removed by which men are kept on the paths of truth, since their nature inclined to evil is now plunging headlong, we say that the “bottom of the pit” has truly been opened, from which John [Rev. 9:3 ] saw “smoke arising by which the sun was darkened with locusts” coming out of it to devastate the earth. . . .


1615 Nor can we foresee more joyful omens for religion and the state from the wishes of those who desire that the Church be separated from the State, and that the mutual concord of the government with the sacred ministry be broken. For it is certain that that concord is greatly feared by lovers of this most shameless liberty, which has always been fortunate and salutary for the ecclesiastical and the civil welfare.


1616 Having embraced with paternal affection those especially who have applied their mind particularly to the sacred disciplines and to philosophic questions, encourage and support them so that they may not, by relying on the powers of their own talents alone, imprudently go astray from the path of truth into the way of the impious. Let them remember “that God is the guide of wisdom and the director of the wise” [cf.Wisd.7:15], and that it is not possible to learn to know God without God, who by means of the Word teaches men to know God. * It is characteristic of the proud, or rather of the foolish man to test the mysteries of faith “which surpasseth all understanding” [ Phil. 4:7] by human standards, and to entrust them to the reasoning of our mind, which by reason of the condition of our human nature is weak and infirm.

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