Pius XI: a pope who fulfilled his mandate

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On Palm Sunday 1937, 80 years ago this month, Pius XI’s encyclical letter Mit Brennender Sorge was read out from the pulpits of Germany. The encyclical, which had been smuggled into Germany to avoid confiscation, critiqued key aspects of Nazi ideology including ideas concerning God, race and the nature of the state. A central theme of the encyclical was the pope’s encouragement to Catholics, and in particular Catholic parents, to remain faithful to Christ and His Church in the face of increasing attempts by the Nazi regime to indoctrinate German children through school curricula and organisations such as the Hitler Youth.

Pope Pius XI’s defence of parents against the attempts of the state to impose its ideology on children will resonate with many today, when many national governments and international organisations  are attempting to impose destructive anti-life and anti-family programmes on children worldwide. 

In Mit Brennender Sorge Pius XI taught that:

“The believer has an absolute right to profess his Faith and live according to its dictates. Laws which impede this profession and practice of Faith are against natural law. Parents who are earnest and conscious of their educative duties, have a primary right to the education of the children God has given them in the spirit of their Faith, and according to its prescriptions. Laws and measures which in school questions fail to respect this freedom of the parents go against natural law, and are immoral.” (No.37)

He continued:

“We address Our special greetings to the Catholic parents. Their rights and duties as educators, conferred on them by God, are at present the stake of a campaign pregnant with consequences. The Church cannot wait to deplore the devastation of its altars, the destruction of its temples, if an education, hostile to Christ, is to profane the temple of the child’s soul consecrated by baptism, and extinguish the eternal light of the faith in Christ for the sake of counterfeit light alien to the Cross. Then the violation of temples is nigh, and it will be every one’s duty to sever his responsibility from the opposite camp, and free his conscience from guilty cooperation with such corruption. The more the enemies attempt to disguise their designs, the more a distrustful vigilance will be needed, in the light of bitter experience… Yet do not forget this: none can free you from the responsibility God has placed on you over your children. None of your oppressors, who pretend to relieve you of your duties can answer for you to the eternal Judge, when he will ask: ‘Where are those I confided to you?’ May every one of you be able to answer: ‘Of them whom thou hast given me, I have not lost any one’ (John xviii. 9).” (No. 39)

The strong defence of parents and children offered by Pope Pius XI provides a clear contrast with the actions of Pope Francis, who has professed himself “gratified” by international goals that seek to acheive “universal access to sexual and reproductive health, including for family planning, information and education” (such terms include abortion and contraception) by 2030. In his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis opened the way for ecclesiastical acceptance of dangerous sex education programmes in the section entitled “The Need for Sex Education”. This section does not make any reference to the role of parents in educating their children in areas relating sexuality, speaking only of “educational institutions”. Yet the Church teaches that sex education is “a basic right and duty of parents” which “must always be carried out under their attentive guidance, whether at home or in educational centers chosen and controlled by them.” (Familiaris Consortio, No. 37). Amoris Laetitia does make a brief reference to the general rights of parents in an earlier chapter (paragraph 84) but the omission of any reference to parental rights over sex education in a section dedicated to asserting the “need for sex education”, in the context of “educational institutions”, is an extremely grave omission.

Furthermore, under Pope Francis, the Holy See has produced and promoted an obscence, pornographic, sex education programme targeted at children. Serious problems with the programme have been identified by Dr Rick Fitzgibbons, a psychiatrist and adjunct professor of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, at the Catholic University of America. Dr Fitzgibbons has said:

“the most dangerous threat to Catholic youth that I have seen over the past 40 years is the Vatican’s new sexual education program, The Meeting Point: Course of Affective Sexual Education for Young People… I was particularly shocked by the images contained in this new sex education program, some of which are clearly pornographic. My immediate professional reaction was that this obscene or pornographic approach abuses youth psychologically and spiritually… As a professional who has treated both priest perpetrators and the victims of the abuse crisis in the Church, what I found particularly troubling was that the pornographic images in this program are similar to those used by adult sexual predators of adolescents.”

He continued:

“The Meeting Point program constitutes sexual abuse of Catholic adolescents worldwide and reveals an ignorance of the enormous sexual pressure upon youth today and will result in their subsequent confusion in accepting the Church’s teaching. It represents a grave future crisis in the Church and particularly for Catholic youth and families in far greater proportions than the scandalous sexual abuse crisis of youth recently so widely reported in the press.”

Catholics today, like their forefathers in 1930s Germany, look towards Rome for confirmation and reassurance in the face of attacks on their families. As Pius XI taught:

“At a time when your faith, like gold, is being tested in the fire of tribulation and persecution, when your religious freedom is beset on all sides, when the lack of religious teaching and of normal defence is heavily weighing on you, you have every right to words of truth and spiritual comfort from him whose first predecessor heard these words from the Lord: ‘I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not: and thou being once converted, confirm thy brethren’ (Lukexxii. 32).” (No.6)

Yet, today, far from receiving the support that they need, they see Pope Francis, expressing gratification at international goals that will further the systematic killing of unborn children, promoting a “need for sex education”,  and presiding over a Vatican body that is introducing children to obscene material. These Catholics will perhaps find renewed hope by turning once more to the words of Pius XI, a pope who fulfilled his mandate to confirm his brethren:

“Like other periods of the history of the Church, the present has ushered in a new ascension of interior purification… May the holy time of Lent and Easter, which preaches interior renovation and penance, turn Christian eyes towards the Cross and the risen Christ; be for all of you the joyful occasion that will fill your souls with heroism, patience and victory. Then We are sure, the enemies of the Church, who think that their time has come, will see that their joy was premature, and that they may close the grave they had dug. The day will come when the Te Deum of liberation will succeed to the premature hymns of the enemies of Christ.” (No. 42)