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Pius XI.'s Encyclical on Church Union, Mortalium animos, Jan. 6, 1928.

[Pius XI.'s bull was intended to be the papal ultimatum on federation between the Protestant and Roman Catholic communions or their organic union. It explicitly reaffirms the distinctive dogmas which were fully developed in the Middle Ages and justified the split of Western Christendom in the sixteenth century. It repudiates the idea that there can be dealings between parts of the Christian family—so called—as between equals, insists that submission to the pope as Christ's vicar is the only method which can be tolerated by the Roman body, and demands from Protestants unconditional surrender and a confession of repentance for the so-called revolt from the 'Holy Father in Rome.' If they return, they must return as prodigal children. Such submission is the condition of being 'in the Church' and 'whosoever,' so the pronouncement runs, 'is outside the Catholic Church [meaning the R. C. Ch.] is a stranger to the hope of life and salvation.' The occasion of Pius's deliverance was the effort to bring the Church of England and the Roman Church into some accord, made in 'the conversations' held in Malines, Belgium, from 1921 to 1925 between Dr. Armitage Robinson, Bishops Frere and Gore, Dr. Kidd, and Lord Halifax, Anglicans, and Cardinal Mercier, and the invitation given to the Roman pontiff to join in the Christian conference in Lausanne, 1927. Card. Mercier died June 23, 1926. The temper of the Anglo-Catholics towards the conversations was shown by the message sent by a largely attended conference held in Albert Hall, July 13, 1923, through its chairman, the Bishop of Zanzibar, conveying 'the greetings of 16,000 Anglo-Catholics assembled in congress to the Holy Father, humbly praying that the day of peace may quickly break.' When, 1924, Cardinal Mercier in a letter to his clergy set forth the nature of the conversations, loud protests were made in England, and the Archbishop of Canterbury publicly stated, 1924, that 'the group' attending the meetings in Malines had 'no official standing. He had received the Anglican members and had proposed Drs. Gore and Kidd for the group, but had gone no further.' The conferences, he stated, were 'informal and private conversations with nothing of the nature of negotiations,' and that one of the first steps in the direction of the end proposed was to call for 'a repudiation of the Declaration against Anglican orders.' See London Times, February 7, 1924; The Conversations at Malines, 1921–25, Oxford, 1928; H. Wilson, Life of Cardinal Mercier, London, 1928, 391 pp.—Bell: Documents on Christian Unity, II., 32–64.

After referring to the extraordinary efforts being made among the nations to establish peace and fraternal relations among themselves, the document notes that 'a similar result was being aimed at by some in those matters which concern the New Law promulgated by Christ, our Lord,' large conventions being held to promote this object in which 'both infidels of every kind and true Christians—Christifideles—and even those who have fallen away from Christ or who with obstinacy deny his divine nature join in agreement.'400400    The Original in Ada sed. s., XX., 1–9. Other trans. in Cath. Hist. Rev., July. 1928; Bell: Documents, I., 32–44. The capitalizations are as in the original. Such movements, the pontiff declared, may in no wise be approved by Catholics, based as they are on the false notion that all religions are more or less worthy. Catholics, in favoring such movements, abandon the divinely revealed religion, being easily deceived with the idea that by their actions outward good may come, inasmuch as the question concerned is unity among Christians. From this point the 'Encyclical Letter of our Most Holy Lord Pius XI. by divine Providence Pope' goes on:]

Is it not proper, so it is often repeated, yea even consonant with duty, that all who invoke Christ's name should abstain from mutual criminations and at last be joined in mutual love? Who would dare to say that he loves Christ who desires not to carry out with all his strength 617the wishes of him who begged his Father that his disciples might be one—John xvii, 21? And did not the same Christ will that his disciples should be stamped and distinguished from the rest by this that they love one another—'By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one for another,' John xiii, 35. Indeed, they add that all Christians should be as 'one,' for if they were, they would be much more efficient in driving out the pest of irreligion which like a cancer daily creeps on and on and becomes more and more widely spread, weakening the Gospel. These things and others that class—genus—of men, who are called pan-Christians, continually and boastfully assert and these men unfortunately, far from being quite few and scattered, have grown to be veritable troops and have grouped themselves into societies widely diffused which, for the most part, are controlled by non-Catholics although among themselves they hold various opinions in the things of the faith. This movement is so actively promoted as in many places to win for itself the assent of the citizens and even to ensnare the minds of very many Catholics with the hope of bringing about such a union as might appear to be agreeable to the wish of Holy Mother Church who has nothing more fully at heart than to call back her erring sons and lead them to her bosom. However, in reality there lies hidden beneath these enticements and charms of words the gravest error, an error by which the very foundation of the Catholic faith is torn asunder.

Therefore, admonished by the obligation—conscientia—of our apostolic office, not to let the flock of the Lord be misled by pernicious fallacies, We invoke, Venerable Brethren, your zeal in guarding against this evil, for We are sure that by your writings and words the people will most easily get to know and understand those principles and considerations which we are about to lay down and from which Catholics will learn what they are to think and how to act when the question arises concerning those undertakings—inceptis—which look towards the coalescence in one body of all those who are properly called Christians.

We were created by God, the Creator of all things, in order that we might know and serve Him so that our Author has the full right to be served by us. God might have prescribed for man's government the law of nature alone which at creation He imprinted in man's soul and commanded additions to that same law by His ordinary providence, but 618He preferred to offer precepts for us to obey, and as time went on, that is from the beginnings of the human race to the advent and preaching of Jesus Christ, He himself taught man duties which a rational creature owes to him, the Creator,—'At sundry times and in divers manners, God, who spoke in time past unto the Fathers in the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us in His Son.' Heb. i, 1. >From this it follows that there can be no true religion, other than that which is founded on the revealed Word of God; which revelation, as begun at the beginning and continued under the Old Law, Christ Jesus himself under the New Law perfected. Now, if God has spoken (and it is historically certain that He has truly spoken), there is no one who does not see that it is man's duty to believe absolutely God's revelation and to obey implicitly His commands. And, that we might rightly do both, for the glory of God and our own salvation, the only begotten Son of God founded his Church on earth. Further, We believe that those who call themselves Christians can do no other than believe that a Church—the one Church—was established by Christ; but, if it is further asked what must of necessity be its nature according to the will of its Author, there all do not agree. A large number of these, for example, deny that the Church of Christ must be visible and manifest,401401    Adspectabilem et conspicuam. Leo XIII., June 29, 1896, put the idea of the visibility of Christ's kingdom and its identity with the Roman Church thus: 'As he willed that his kingdom should be manifest—conspicuam—Christ was obliged to appoint a vice-regent on earth in the person of Peter. He likewise determined that the authority given him for the salvation of mankind should in perpetuity pass to Peter's successors.' at least to such a degree that it appear as one body of the faithful, agreeing in one and the same doctrine under one teaching authority—magisterium—and government; on the contrary, they understand a visible Church as nothing else than a Federation—fœdus—composed of various communities of Christians, even though they hold different doctrines, which may even be in conflict one with the other. But Christ our Lord instituted his Church as a perfect society, with external qualities and perceptible to the senses which should carry on to later time the work of saving the human race, under the leadership of one head,—Matt, xvi, 18; Luke xxii, 32; John xxi, 15–17—with the authority of teaching by word of mouth,—Matt, xvi, 15—and by the ministry of the sacraments, the fonts of heavenly grace,—John iii, 5; vi, 48–50; xx, 22. Cp. Matt, xvi, 18, etc. For which 619reason he asserted, by way of comparison, the similarity of the Church to a kingdom, a house, a sheepfold, and a flock—Cp. Matt, xvi, 18; John x, 16; xxi, 15–17. And the Church, after being so wonderfully instituted by its Founder and his Apostles,—who were the leaders in propagating it,—when they were being removed by death, could not be entirely extinguished and cease to be, for to it was given the commandment to lead all men without distinction of time or place to eternal salvation: Going, therefore, teach ye all nations, Matt, xxviii, 19. In the continual carrying-out of this task, will any element of strength and efficiency be wanting to the Church, when Christ himself is perpetually present with us, as he solemnly promised, Behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world—Matt, xxviii, 20? It follows, then, that the Church of Christ not only exists today and has always existed, but is also exactly the same as it was in the Apostolic Age, unless we chose to say,—which God forbid,—either that Christ our Lord could not effect his purpose, or that he erred when he asserted that the gates of hell should never prevail against her. Matt, xvi, 18.

And, at this place, it seems opportune to explain and to remove that false opinion on which the whole case seems to hang and from which also that multiple action and combination—actio et conspiratio multiplex—of the non-Catholics seem to proceed which, as We have said, are designed to bring about the union of Christian churches into one society. For, it is to be noted, that the originators of this purpose—consilii—are forever accustomed to adduce Christ and his words: That they all may be one.… And there shall be one fold and one shepherd, John xvii, 21; x, 16, wishing to get from these words that they signify a desire and prayer of Christ Jesus which up to this time have not been fulfilled. For they are of the mind that the unity of faith and government—a note of the one true Church of Christ—has heretofore hardly ever existed and does not exist today; and that it is to be wished for and perchance some day will by a common bent of wills be secured but that in the meantime it is to be held as an ideal. They add that the Church of herself or by her very nature is divided into parts, that is, made up of a number of churches or separate communities which up to this have been distinct and which, although they have in common some articles of doctrine, are nevertheless at discord in regard to the rest. And, they are of the mind that each one of them properly enjoys the same 620rights and that, at best, the Church was unique and one from the time of the Apostles down to the œcumenical councils. Therefore, so they say, controversies and ancient differences of opinion, which to this day have divided the Christian name, should be renounced and set aside and some common rule of belief concerning the other doctrines be wrought out and laid down so that in the profession of that faith, they will not only know themselves to be brothers but feel themselves such; and, that the many separate churches or associations—communitates—if joined as it were in one universal federation—fœdus—would then be in a condition to oppose vigorously and fruitfully the advances of irreligion. These things, Venerable Brethren, are what is said by them in common. There are indeed, some who affirm and acknowledge that Protestantism, as they call it, with much lack of consideration discarded certain articles of faith and a number of external rites of worship which are most pleasing and useful and which, on the other hand, to this day the Roman Church retains. But they go on to declare that this very Church showed herself rash in corrupting the original religion by adding certain doctrines not only foreign to the Gospel but repugnant to it and offering them to be believed. As the chief of these, they enumerate the jurisdiction of the Primacy appointed to Peter and his successors in the Roman See. Likewise, in their number,—although the number is not so large,—there are those who grant to the Roman Pontiff either a Primacy of honor and jurisdiction of a certain authority—potestatem—which, however, they assert comes not by divine right—a jure divino—but from a certain consent of the faithful. And others there are who even go so far as to wish the Pontiff himself to preside over their varicolored meetings—conventibus. And, further, although many non-Catholics may be found who preach loudly fraternal communion in Christ Jesus, you will find that none of them have reached down to the thought of subjecting themselves to the Vicar of Jesus Christ and obeying him either as teacher or ruler. At the same time, they affirm, that on common terms, that is freely as equals with equals, they would deal with the Roman Church; but, if they were to deal in this wise, it does not seem open to doubt that they would so treat the idea, that in the league—pactem—so vigorously entered into, they would not recede from those opinions which heretofore have been the cause that they have strayed and wandered outside Christ's only sheepfold—unicum ovile.


These things being as they are, it is evident that the Apostolic See can have no part in their meetings by any league—pactum—nor is it lawful for Catholics by any league to support such undertakings and give them aid. For, if they should do so, they would be giving countenance to a false Christian religion, quite alien to the one Church of Christ. Shall We suffer,—what would indeed be iniquitous—the truth, and that truth divinely revealed, to be drawn out by agreements? For here the question is one of defending revealed truth. Jesus Christ sent the Apostles into the whole world to imbue all nations with the Gospel faith and, lest they should err, he willed beforehand that they should be taught by the Holy Ghost—John xvi, 13. Has then this doctrine of the Apostles completely vanished away, or at times been corrupted in the Church whose ruler and guardian, God Himself is with us? If our Redeemer plainly taught that His Gospel was to hold not only during the times of the Apostles, but also to after ages, is it possible that the object of faith should in the process of time become so obscure and uncertain that it would be necessary today to tolerate opinions which are even contrary one to the other? If this were true, we should have also to say that the coming of the Holy Ghost on the Apostles and the perpetual indwelling of the same Spirit in the Church, yea the preaching of Jesus Christ itself a number of centuries ago, lost all their efficacy and use—to affirm which would be blasphemy. But the Only-begotten Son of God, when he commanded his representatives to teach all nations, bound all men to give credence to whatever was made known to them by the witnesses preordained by God, Acts x, 21, and he also confirmed his command with this sanction: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned, Mk. xvi, 18. These two commands of Christ, which must be certainly fulfilled, the one, namely, to teach and the other to believe unto the reception of salvation, cannot be understood, unless the Church proposes a complete and easily understood teaching and is immune, when it thus teaches, from all danger of erring. In this matter, those also turn aside from the right path, who think that while the deposit of truth does indeed exist, it must be sought with such laborious trouble and with such daily study and reasonings that a man's term of life would hardly suffice to find it out and grasp it; as if the most merciful God has so spoken through the prophets and His only-begotten Son that only a few, and those stricken 622in years, could learn what He had revealed through them, and not that He might inculcate that doctrine of faith and morals, by which man is to be guided through the whole course of his moral life.

These pan-Christians who turn their minds to uniting churches,— consociandas ecclesias —seem indeed, to be pursuing the noblest plans in promoting love among all Christians; nevertheless, how shall it happen that this love inures to the injury of the faith? Certainly, no one is ignorant that John himself, the Apostle of love, who seems to reveal in his Gospel the secrets of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus, and never ceased to impress on the memories of his followers the new commandment 'Love one another,' altogether forbade any intercourse with those who professed a partial and corrupt version of Christ's teaching, If any man come to you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into the house nor say to him: God speed you, II John x. For which reason, since love is based on a complete and sincere faith, as its foundation, the disciples of Christ must be bound together by one faith as the principal bond. Who then can conceive any Christian Federation—fœdus—members of which retain each his own opinions and private judgment, yea in matters which concern the object of faith, even though their opinions be repugnant to the opinions of the rest? And by what sort of league—pacto—We ask, can men who go off into opposing opinions, belong to one and the same Federation of the faithful? For example, those who affirm, and those who deny that sacred Tradition is a true font of divine Revelation; those who hold that an ecclesiastical hierarchy, made up of bishops, priests and ministers, has been divinely constituted, and those who assert that it has been brought in little by little through the conditions of the time; those who adore Christ really present in the Most Holy Eucharist by that marvellous conversion of the bread and wine, called transubstantiation and adore him really as present and those who affirm that Christ is present only by faith, or symbolically and virtually in the Sacrament; those who in the Eucharist recognize the nature both of a sacrament and of a sacrifice, and those who say that it is nothing more than the memorial or (commemoration of the Lord's Supper; those who believe it to be good and useful to invoke by prayer the Saints reigning with Christ, especially Mary the Mother of God, and to venerate their images, and those urge that such worship is not to be employed since it is contrary 623to the honour due to Jesus Christ, 'the one mediator of God and men.' I Tim. ii, 5. How so great a discrepancy of opinions can make the way clear to effect the unity of the Church, We know not; since that unity can not arise except from one teaching authority, one law of belief and one faith of Christians. But, We do know that from this, it is an easy step to the neglect of religion or indifferentism and to modernism, as they call it. For those who are unhappily infected with these errors hold that dogmatic truth is not absolute but relative, that is, it adapts itself to the varying necessities of time and place and to the varying tendencies of the mind, since it is not contained in immutable revelation but is of such a nature that it accommodates itself to the life of men. Besides this, in connection with things which must be believed, it is nowise lawful to use that distinction which some have seen fit to introduce between fundamental and non-fundamental articles of faith, as they call them, as if the one are to be accepted by all while the other may be left free to the assent of the faithful. For the supernatural virtue of faith has a formal cause, namely the authority of God the revealer, and this authority admits of no such distinction. For this reason all who are truly Christ's believe, for example, the Conception of the Mother of God without stain of original sin with the same faith as they believe the mystery of the August Trinity and, likewise, the Incarnation of the Lord no otherwise than they believe the infallible teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, according to the sense in which it was defined by the Ecumenical Council of the Vatican. Are such truths not equally certain or not equally to be believed, because the Church has solemnly sanctioned and defined them, some in one age and some in another, yea, even in those times immediately before our own? Has not God revealed them all? For the teaching authority of the Church, which in the divine plan was constituted on earth in order that revealed doctrines might remain intact for ever and that they might be brought easily and safely to the knowledge of men, as that authority is exercised daily by the Roman Pontiff and the Bishops in communion with him and has for its office—in case it is necessary to resist more vigorously the errors and attacks of heretics or explain more clearly and deeply the articles of the sacred doctrine and impress them upon the minds of the faithful—to proceed at the proper times to make definitions either by solemn rites or decrees. However, in the use of 624this extraordinary teaching authority—magisterium—nothing newly discovered is introduced nor is anything new added to the sum of those truths which are at least implicitly—saltem implicite—contained in the deposit of Revelation, divinely handed down to the Church, but those things are declared which perhaps had seemed to many obscure or those things ordered to be held which by some had been regarded as matter of controversy.

Therefore, Venerable Brethren, it is evident why this Apostolic See has never allowed its own to take part in the meetings of non-Catholics, for the union of Christians can hardly be promoted otherwise than by promoting the return of the dissidents to Christ's one true Church, inasmuch as in the past they unhappily revolted—descivere—from her, yea Christ's one true Church,—We say,—which is clearly manifest—conspicuam—to all and by the will of her Author will so remain forever as He himself instituted it for our common salvation. For during the lapse of the centuries Christ's mystical Bride has never been contaminated nor can she be contaminated, as was said by Cyprian, 'Christ's Bride can never be adulterated; she is incorrupt and modest. She knows one dwelling and in chaste modesty guards the sanctity of one bedchamber,' de cath. eccl. unitate, 6. And the same holy Martyr with good reason marvelled greatly that any one could possibly believe that 'this unity, proceeding from the divine foundation and knit together by the heavenly sacraments might be rent in the church and torn apart by divorce through wills in collision.' For, since Christ's mystical body, that is the Church, is one being compacted together and conjoined, Eph. iv, 16, as is for example the physical body, I Cor. xii, 12, one speaks indiscreetly and foolishly who says that the mystical body can be made up of disjoined and scattered members. Whosoever, therefore, is not integrally connected with it—copulatur—is not a member of it nor is He joined with Christ, the head. Cp. Eph. v, 30; i, 22.

And, indeed, in this one Church of Christ there is no one and no one will continue to be except that, by giving his obedience, he acknowledges and accepts the authority and power of Peter and his legitimate successors. Did the ancestors of those who are ensnared in the errors of Photius and the modernists—novatorum—obey the Bishop of Rome, the supreme Pastor of souls? Alas, the sons left the paternal house but it did not on that account fall to pieces and perish, for it was upheld 625by God's perpetual and guardian care. Therefore, let them return to the common Father who forgetting the unjust injuries done to the Apostolic See, will accept them most affectionately. For if, as they continually are saying, they wish to be with Us and with ours, why do they not hasten to enter the Church, 'the mother and teacher of all Christ's faithful,'—Later. Counc. IV, c 5. Let them also hear Lactantius crying out, 'The Catholic Church is that alone which preserves the true worship. This is the font of truth, the house of the Faith, this the temple of God. If any one enter not therein or if any one go out therefrom, he is a stranger to the hope of life and salvation—a spe vitæ ac salutis alienus. No one should deceive himself with obstinate disputings. For here it is a question of life and salvation which are hopelessly lost unless they are dealt with advisedly and carefully.'—Div. Instt. lv, 30 11–12.

Let, therefore, the separated children draw nigh to the Apostolic See, set up in the City which Peter and Paul, the Princes of the Apostles, consecrated with their blood; to that See, We say, which is 'the root and matrix of the Catholic Church,' S. Cyprian, ep. 48 ad Cor., not with the purpose and the hope that 'the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth,' I Tim. iii, 15, will cast away the integrity of the faith and tolerate their errors, but, on the contrary, that they submit themselves to its teaching and government. Would that it were Our happy lot to do that which so many of Our predecessors could not do, namely, embrace with fatherly affection those whose lamentable separation from Us We now bewail. Would that God Our Saviour, 'Who will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth,' I Tim. ii, 4, would hear Us when We humbly beg that He would deign to recall to the Unity of the Church all who stray. In this most important undertaking We ask and wish that others should ask the interceder, Blessed Mary the Virgin, Mother of divine grace, Victor over all heresies and Help of Christians, that she may implore for Us the speedy coming of the much hoped for day, when all men shall hear the voice of her divine Son—'careful to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,' Eph. iv, 3.

You, Venerable Brethren, understand how much this question is on Our mind and We desire that Our children should also know it, not only those who belong to the Catholic world, but also those who are separated from Us. If these latter will humbly beg light from heaven, there is no 626doubt but that they will recognize the one true Church of Jesus Christ and will, at last, enter it and be united with Us in perfect love. Awaiting this event and as a sign of divine function and a pledge of Our paternal good will, We impart most affectionately to you, Venerable Brethren, and to your clergy and people, the apostolic benediction.

Given at Rome, at Saint Peter's, on the 6th day of January, on the Feast of the Epiphany of Jesus Christ Our Lord in the year 1928 and the sixth year of Our Pontificate.402402    In his scarcely less important encyclical on the 'Christian Education of Youth' issued in Italian, Dec. 31, 1929, Pius XI. claimed as the Church's supreme right the authority to lay down the rules of education and conduct education. He also forbade anew training in mixed schools and also the coeducation of the sexes.



Pius Xi. and the Russian Christians.

An urgent appeal was made by Pius XI., dated February 2, 1930, calling for prayer and relief for the oppressed Christians under the Soviet government. The document lacks, as it would seem, the marks commonly, if not always, regarded as essential for a papal utterance to be infallible. Nevertheless, the attitude taken by the Roman pontiff in the critical religious crisis in Russia and the claims he makes for the Roman Church render the document of more than usual importance.

After referring to Benedict XV.'s interest in the people of Russia and the commission on the Russian conditions which he had himself appointed, Pius appealed to the Russian government "to respect conscience, the freedom of worship and the goods of the Church." Again setting forth acts of "terrible persecution" going on to the extent of a formal demand on the part of the Soviet government that the people proceed to "apostasy and the hatred of God," he announced a "mass of expiation, propitiation and reparation in the basilica of St. Peter over the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles for Our most beloved Russian people—Nostro dilettissimo popolo russo." He called upon the Russians to return "to the one fold of Our one Saviour and Liberator, the Lord Jesus Christ," commended them anew to "the sweet thaumaturge of 627Lisieux, St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus," and implored further on their behalf the help of "the most holy and immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of God, her most chaste spouse and patron of the Church Universal, St. Joseph, and the special protectors of the Russians, St. John the Baptist, St. Nicholas, St. Basil, St. Chrysostom and Saints Cyril and Methodius."

On the day appointed, March 19, 1930, which was the Feast of St. Joseph, the pontiff officiated at mass in the midst of an overflowing throng. A handbill, distributed to the worshippers and spectators as they passed from the portico of St. Peter's to the body of the church, contained on the one side the text of the papal appeal and the prayer to St. Thérèse which the pope had issued, with the promise of 300 days of indulgence for all repeating it for a month. Calling upon the saint to help "our brother Russians, the victims of a long and cruel persecution," the prayer further besought her to bring about "the return, of the noble people to the one fold which Christ's most beloved heart intrusted to the care of St. Peter alone and his successors, that they might at last have the joy, in communion with the Catholic Church, of praising the Father, Son and Holy Ghost."

On the reverse side of the handbill under the caption, "The Catholic Church and Russian 'Orthodoxy'—La Chiesa cattolica e la 'orthodossia' russa," it was affirmed that, while the National Russian Church "pretends to call itself orthodox, it is heterodox, the only orthodox Church being the Catholic Apostolic Roman Church."

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