PIUS IX 1846-1878

Naturalism, Communism, Socialism *


[From the Encyclical, “Quanta cura,” Dec. 8, 1864]


1688 Moreover, although We have not failed to proscribe and frequently condemn the most important errors of this sort, nevertheless, the cause of the Catholic Church and the salvation of souls divinely entrusted to Us, and the good of human society itself, demand that We again arouse your pastoral solicitude to overcome other base opinions which spring from these same errors as from fountains. These false and perverted errors are to be the more detested because they have this goal in mind: to impede and remove that salutary force which the Catholic Church, according to the institution and command of her divine founder, must exercise freely “unto the consummation of the world” [Matt. 28:20], no less toward individual men, than toward nations, peoples, and their highest leaders; and to remove that mutual alliance of councils between the sacerdotal ministry and the government, and that “happy concord which has always existed, and is so salutary to sacred and civil affairs.” *


1689 For, surely you know, Venerable Brothers, that at this time not a few are found who, applying the impious and absurd principles of naturalism, as they call it, to civil society, dare to teach that “the best plan for public society, and civil progress absolutely requires that human society be established and governed with no regard to religion, as if it did not exist, or at least, without making distinction between the true and the false religions.” And also, contrary to the teaching of Sacred Scripture, of the Church, and of the most holy Fathers, they do not hesitate to assert that “the best condition of society is the one in which there is no acknowledgment by the government of the duty of restraining, by established penalties, offenders of the Catholic religion, except insofar as the public peace demands.”


1690 And, from this wholly false idea of social organization they do not fear to foster that erroneous opinion, especially fatal to the Catholic Church and to the salvation of souls, called * by Our predecessor of recent memory, GREGORY XVI, insanity; namely, that “liberty of conscience and of worship is the proper right of every man, and should be proclaimed and asserted by law in every correctly established society; that the right to all manner of liberty rests in the citizens, not to be restrained by either ecclesiastical or civil authority; and that by this right they can manifest openly and publicly and declare their own concepts, whatever they be, by voice, by print, or in any other way.” While, in truth, they rashly affirm this, they do not understand and note that they are preaching a “liberty of perdition,” * and that “if human opinions always have freedom for discussion, there could never be wanting those who will dare to resist truth, and to trust in the eloquence of human (al. mundane) wisdom, when faith and Christian wisdom know from the very teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ how much it should avoid such harmful vanity.” *


1691 And since, when religion has been removed from civil society, and when the teaching and authority of divine revelation have been repudiated; or the true notion of justice and human right is obscured by darkness and lost; and when in place of true justice and legitimate right, material force is substituted, then it is clear why some, completely neglecting and putting aside the certain principles of sound reason, dare to exclaim: “The will of the people, manifested as they say by public opinion, or in some other way, constitutes the supreme law, freed from all divine and human right; and, that deeds consummated in the political order, by the very fact that they have been consummated, have the force of right.” But who does not see and plainly understand that a society of men who are released from the bonds of religion and of true justice can have no other aim, surely, than the goal of amassing and heaping up wealth, and that it (society) can follow no other law in its actions except an uncontrolled cupidity of soul, a slave to its own pleasures and advantages?


1692 Therefore, men of this sort pursue with bitter hatred religious orders, no matter how supremely deserving because of their Christian, civil, and literary work; and they cry out that these same orders have no legitimate reason for existing, and in this way approve the falsehoods of heretics. For, as Our predecessor of recent memory, PIUS VI, very wisely taught, “abolition of the regulars wounds the status of the public profession of the evangelical counsels; it injures the way of life approved in the Church as suitable to the apostolic teaching; it harms the most distinguished founders whom we venerate on our altars, who established these orders only when inspired by God.”*


1693 And they also make the impious pronouncement that from the citizens and the Church must be taken away the power “by which they can ask for alms openly in the cause of Christian charity,” and also that the law should be repealed “by which on some fixed days, because of the worship of God, servile works are prohibited,” pretending most deceitfully that the said power and law obstruct the principles of the best public economy. And, not content with removing religion from public society, they wish even to banish religion itself from private families.


1694 For, teaching and professing that most deadly error of communism and socialism, they assert that “domestic society or the family borrows the whole reason for its existence from the civil law alone; and, hence, all rights of parents over their children, especially the right of caring for their instruction and education, emanate from and depend wholly on the civil law.”


1695 In these impious opinions and machinations these most deceitful men have this particular intention: that the saving doctrine and power of the Catholic Church be entirely eliminated from the instruction and training of youth, and that the tender and impressionable minds of youths may be unfortunately infected and ruined by every pernicious error and vice. For, all who have tried to disturb not only the ecclesiastical but also the public welfare, and to overturn the just order of society, and to destroy all rights, divine and human, have always formed all their evil plans, studies, and work to deceive and deprave especially unsuspecting youth, as we have intimated above, and have placed all their hopes in the corruption of youth. Therefore, they never cease to harass in every unspeakable way both clergy (secular and regular), from whom, as the genuine documents of history splendidly testify, have flowed so many great advantages for Christian, civil, and literary society; and they never cease to declare that the clergy “as an enemy to the true and useful progress of science and government, must be removed from all responsibility and duty of instructing and training youth.”


1696 But, in truth, others, renewing the evil and so-many-times-condemned fabrications of the innovators, dare with signal impudence to subject the supreme authority of the Church and of this Apostolic See, given to it by Christ the Lord, to the judgment of the civil authority, and to deny all rights of the same Church and See with regard to those things which pertain to the exterior order.


1697 For, they are not at all ashamed to affirm that “the laws of the Church do not bind in conscience, except when promulgated by the civil power; that the acts and decrees of the Roman Pontiffs relating to religion and the Church, need the sanction and approval, or at least the assent, of the civil power; that the Apostolic Constitutions,* in which secret societies are condemned, whether an oath of secrecy is demanded in them or not, and their followers and sympathizers are punished with anathema, have no force in those regions of the world where societies of this sort are allowed by the civil government; that the excommunication uttered by the Council of Trent and the Roman Pontiffs against those who invade and usurp the rights and possessions of the Church rests upon a confusion between the spiritual order and the civil and political order for the attaining of a mundane good only; that the Church should decree nothing which could bind the consciences of the faithful in relation to the use of temporal goods; that to the Church does not belong the right to coerce by temporal punishments violators of its laws; that it is conformable to the principles of sacred theology, and to the principles of public law for the civil government to claim and defend the ownership of the goods which are possessed by churches, by religious orders, and by other pious places.”


1698 Nor do they blush to profess openly and publicly the axiom and principle of heretics from which so many perverse opinions and errors arise. For they repeatedly say that “the ecclesiastical power is not by divine right distinct from and independent of the civil power, and that the distinction and independence of the same could not be preserved without the essential rights of the civil power being invaded and usurped by the Church.” And, we cannot pass over in silence the boldness of those who “not enduring sound doctrine” [2 Tim. 4:3], contend that “without sin and with no loss of Catholic profession, one can withhold assent and obedience to those judgments and decrees of the Apostolic See, whose object is declared to relate to the general good of the Church and its rights and discipline, provided it does not touch dogmas of faith or morals.” There is no one who does not see and understand clearly and openly how opposed this is to the Catholic dogma of the plenary power divinely bestowed on the Roman Pontiff by Christ the Lord Himself of feeding, ruling, and governing the universal Church.


1699 In such great perversity of evil opinions, therefore, We, truly mindful of Our Apostolic duty, and especially solicitous about our most holy religion, about sound doctrine and the salvation of souls divinely entrusted to Us, and about the good of human society itself, have decided to lift Our Apostolic voice again And so all and each evil opinion and doctrine individually mentioned in this letter, by Our Apostolic authority We reject, proscribe, and condemn; and We wish and command that they be considered as absolutely rejected, proscribed, and condemned by all the sons of the Catholic Church.

Denzinger Menu