The Syllabus of Errors is just as relevant today as it was 150 years ago
10 December 2014
(originally published in Catholic Voice. Republished with kind permission)
The 8th December, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, marked the 150th anniversary of the Syllabus Errorum (“The Syllabus of Errors”) and Quanta Cura (“Condemning Current Errors”) by Blessed Pope Pius IX. The Church in his day was in grave danger of being hurt by enemies within and overwhelmed by enemies without. The holy Pio Nono saw therefore the need to teach strongly against the theological, philosophical, moral and other errors behind this danger. In December 1864 he did this not only with an encylical (Quanta Cura), but with an annex to that encylical listing these errors, all of which had been condemned previously in his other Magisterial statements.
In Quanta Cura, Pius IX referred both to the “pastoral vigilance of the Roman Pontiffs” and to “episcopal vigilance” in “guarding the Church from poisoned pastures”. He spoke of how his predecessors were especially keen to “condemn all those heresies and errors which, being adverse to our Divine Faith, to the doctrine of the Catholic Church, to purity of morals, and to the eternal salvation of men”. The Pope sought to “stir up the bishops’ pastoral solicitude to exterminate…evil opinions”, not least to defend “the eternal natural law engraven by God in all men’s hearts”.
To that end, he condemned the following propositions:
- “that domestic society or the family derives the whole principle of its existence from the civil law alone; and, consequently, that on civil law alone depend all rights of parents over their children, and especially that of providing for education.”
- “that the Church’s laws do not bind in conscience unless when they are promulgated by the civil power”
- “that the Church can decree nothing which binds the conscience of the faithful in regard to their use of temporal things”.
In these condemnations, Blessed Pius IX was particularly prophetic. In both Britain and increasingly in Ireland today, we are witnessing attempts by the State to impose sex education on faithful Catholic families. And in so many countries around the world, we see so-called Catholic politicians following their own malformed consciences and not the Church’s Magisterium and thus vote for laws permitting abortion.
In the Syllabus, Pius IX condemned (among many others) the following propositions:
- 55. “The Church ought to be separated from the State, and the State from the Church.”
- 56. “…It is not at all necessary that human laws should be made conformable to the laws of nature…”
- 77. “In the present day it is no longer expedient that the Catholic religion should be held as the only religion of the State, to the exclusion of all other forms of worship.”
- 80. “The Roman Pontiff can, and ought to, reconcile himself, and come to terms with progress, liberalism and modern civilization.”
- 5. “Divine revelation is imperfect, and therefore subject to a continual and indefinite progress, corresponding with the advancement of human reason.”
- 13. “The method and principles by which the old scholastic doctors cultivated theology are no longer suitable to the demands of our times and to the progress of the sciences.”
- 66. “The Sacrament of Marriage is only a something accessory to the contract and separate from it, and the sacrament itself consists in the nuptial benediction alone.”
In the first set of errors (55, 56, 77 and 80), we can see the causes of the scandal of formerly Catholic countries now legislating for homosexual pseudo-marriage. In the second set of errors (5, 13 and 66), we see the causes of the scandal caused recently by the recent Extraordinary Synod on the Family.
In Quanta Cura Pius IX said that the bishops should encourage the faithful to “abstain from noxious verbiage, which Jesus Christ does not cultivate because it is not His Father’s plantation.” Today it is the faithful who are increasingly encouraging the bishops – including Synod Fathers – to “abstain from noxious verbiage”. Either way, Quanta Cura and the Syllabus of Errors are therefore just as relevant today as they were 150 years ago.
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