AUGUST 22, 2015
The Syllabus of Errors
The Syllabus of Errors (Latin: Syllabus Errorum) was a document issued by Holy See under Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1864, Feast of the Immaculate Conception, on the same day as the Pope’s encyclical Quanta Cura. It listed the church’s position in a number of both philosophical and political areas, and referred to the church’s teaching on these matters as given in a number of documents issued previously. It is important as it was widely interpreted as an attack by the church on modernism, secularization and the political emancipation of Europe from the tradition of Catholic Monarchies.
The Syllabus was made up of phrases and paraphrases from earlier papal documents, along with index references to them, and presented as a list of “condemned propositions”. For instance, in condemning proposition 14, “Philosophy is to be treated without taking any account of supernatural revelation”, the Syllabus asserts the truth of the contrary proposition—that philosophy should take account of supernatural revelation. The Syllabus does not explain why each particular proposition is wrong, but it cites earlier documents to which the reader can refer for the Pope’s reasons for saying each proposition is false. With the exception of some propositions drawn from Pius’ encyclical Qui pluribus of November 9, 1846, all the propositions were based on documents that postdated the shocks to the Pope and the papacy of the Revolutions of 1848 (Italian unification).
The Syllabus was divided into ten sections which condemned as false various statements about these topics:
pantheism, naturalism, and absolute rationalism, Propositions 1–7;
moderate rationalism, Propositions 8–14;
indifferentism and latitudinarianism, Propositions 15–18;
socialism, communism, secret societies, Bible societies, and liberal clerical societies, a general condemnation;
the church and its rights, Propositions 19–38 (defending temporal power in the Papal States, which were overthrown six years later);
civil society and its relationship to the church, Propositions 39–55;
natural and Christian ethics, Propositions 56–64;
Christian marriage, Propositions 65–74;
the civil power of the sovereign Pontiff in the Papal States, Propositions 75–76 and
modern liberalism, Propositions 77–80.
Some statements of condemnation
Statements the encyclical condemned as false include the following:
“Human reason, without any reference whatsoever to God, is the sole arbiter of truth and falsehood, and of good and evil.” (No. 3)
“All the truths of religion proceed from the innate strength of human reason; hence reason is the ultimate standard by which man can and ought to arrive at the knowledge of all truths of every kind.” (No. 4)
“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.” (No. 77)
“Protestantism is nothing more than another form of the same true Christian religion, in which form it is given to please God equally as in the Catholic Church.” (No. 18).
“The Church ought to be separated from the State, and the State from the Church.” (No. 55)
“Every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which, guided by the light of reason, he shall consider true.” (No. 15) and that “It has been wisely decided by law, in some Catholic countries, that persons coming to reside therein shall enjoy the public exercise of their own peculiar worship.” (No. 78)
“The Roman Pontiff can, and ought to, reconcile himself, and come to terms with, progress, liberalism and modern civilization.” (No. 80) (cf. Jamdudum cernimus)
Within the Protestant world, reactions were uniformly negative. In 1874 the British Leader of the Opposition William Ewart Gladstone published a tract entitled The Vatican Decrees in their bearing on Civil Allegiance: A Political Expostulation, in which he said that after the Syllabus:
. . . no one can now become (Rome’s) convert without renouncing his moral and mental freedom, and placing his civil loyalty and duty at the mercy of another.
The government of France briefly tried to suppress the circulation of the encyclical and the Syllabus within its borders; it forbade priests to explain the Syllabus from the pulpit, though newspapers were allowed to discuss it from a secular point of view.
The document met with a mixed reception among Catholics; many accepted it wholeheartedly, others wanted a clarification of some points, and still others were as shocked as their Protestant neighbors by the apparent broad scope of the condemnations.
Catholic apologists such as Félix Dupanloup and Blessed John Henry Newman said that the Syllabus was widely misinterpreted by readers who did not have access to or did not bother to check the original documents of which it was a summary. The propositions listed had been condemned as erroneous opinions in the sense and context in which they originally occurred; without the original context, the document appeared to condemn a larger range of ideas than it actually did. Thus it was asserted that no critical response to the Syllabus which did not take the cited documents and their context into account could be valid (Newman 1874). Newman writes:
The Syllabus then has no dogmatic force; it addresses us, not in its separate portions, but as a whole, and is to be received from the Pope by an act of obedience, not of faith, that obedience being shown by having recourse to the original and authoritative documents, (Allocutions and the like,) to which the Syllabus pointedly refers. Moreover, when we turn to those documents, which are authoritative, we find the Syllabus cannot even be called an echo of the Apostolic Voice; for, in matters in which wording is so important, it is not an exact transcript of the words of the Pope, in its account of the errors condemned, just as would be natural in what is an index for reference.
In the wake of the controversy following the document’s release, Pius IX referred to it as “raw meat needing to be cooked.” However, others within the church who supported the syllabus disagreed that there was any misinterpretation of the condemnations.
The Syllabus cited a number of previous documents that had been written during Pius’s papacy. These include : Qui pluribus, Maxima quidem, Singulari quadam, Tuas libenter, Multiplices inter, Quanto conficiamur, Noscitis, Nostis et nobiscum, Meminit unusquisque, Ad Apostolicae, Nunquam fore, Incredibili, Acerbissimum, Singularis nobisque, Multis gravibusque, Quibus quantisque, Quibus luctuosissimis, In consistoriali, Cum non sine, Cum saepe, Quanto conficiamur, Jamdudum cernimus, Novos et ante, Quibusque vestrum and Cum catholica.
Further thoughts in the same vein were expressed in Pius’ encyclical of 21 November 1873, Etsi multa (“On the Church in Italy, Germany, and Switzerland”), which is often appended to the Syllabus. There Pius condemned contemporary liberalizing anti-clerical legislation in South America as “a ferocious war on the Church.”
In 1907 Lamentabili sane was promulgated, a “Syllabus condemning the errors of the Modernists”, being a list of errors that might be made by scholars engaged in biblical criticism.
Some think that the political or dogmatic propositions of the Syllabus may be abrogated by later documents coming from the Second Vatican Council in 1962. Others argue that this view results from an excessively broad interpretation of statements that had a narrower sense in their original context, and from contrasting the infallible documents of the ecumenical council with papal statements that were not infallible because they were not addressed to the whole church.
English historian E.E.Y. Hales argues that:
[T]he Pope is not concerned with a universal principle, but with the position in a particular state at a particular date. He is expressing his “wonder and distress” (no more) that in a Catholic country (Spain) it should be proposed to disestablish the Church and to place any and every religion upon a precisely equal footing. … Disestablishment and toleration were far from the normal practice of the day, whether in Protestant or in Catholic states.
Encyclical Letter of Pope Pius IX Quanta Cura condemning current errors
December, 8, 1864
To Our Venerable Brethren, all Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops and Bishops having Favor and Communion of the Holy See.
Venerable Brethren, Health and Apostolic Benediction.
1. It is well known unto all men, and especially to You, Venerable Brothers, with what great care and pastoral vigilance Our Predecessors, the Roman Pontiffs, have discharged the Office entrusted by Christ Our Lord to them, in the Person of the Most Blessed Peter, Prince of the Apostles, have unremittingly discharged the duty of feeding the lambs and the sheep, and have diligently nourished the Lord’s entire flock with the words of faith, imbued it with salutary doctrine, and guarded it from poisoned pastures. And those Our Predecessors, who were the assertors and Champions of the august Catholic Religion, of truth and justice, being as they were chiefly solicitous for the salvation of souls, held nothing to be of so great importance as the duty of exposing and condemning, in their most wise Letters and Constitutions, all heresies and errors which are hostile to moral honesty and to the eternal salvation of mankind, and which have frequently stirred up terrible commotions and have damaged both the Christian and civil commonwealths in a disastrous manner. Wherefore those Our Predecessors have, with Apostolic fortitude, continually resisted the machinations of those evil men, who, “foaming out their own confusion, like the raging waves of the sea,” and “promising liberty, while they are themselves the slaves of corruption,” endeavored by their fallacious opinions and most wicked writings to subvert the foundations of Religion and of civil Society, to remove from our midst all virtue and justice, to deprave the hearts and minds of all, to turn away from right discipline of morals the incautious, and especially inexperienced youth, miserably corrupting them, leading them into the nets of error, and finally withdrawing them from the bosom of the Catholic Church.
2. And now, Venerable Brothers, as is also very well known to you, scarcely had We (by the secret Dispensation of Divine Providence, certainly by no merit of Our own) been called to this Chair of Peter, when We, to the extreme grief of Our soul, beheld a horrible tempest stirred up by so many erroneous opinions, and the dreadful and never enough to be lamented mischiefs which redound to Christian people from such errors; and We then, in discharge of Our Apostolic Ministerial Office, imitating the example of Our illustrious Predecessors, raised Our voice, and in several published Encyclical Letters, and in Allocutions delivered in Consistory, and in other Apostolic Letters, We condemned the prominent, most grievous errors of the age, and We stirred up your excellent episcopal vigilance, and again and again did We admonish and exhort all the sons of the Catholic Church, who are most dear to Us, that they should abhor and shun all the said errors, as they would the contagion of a fatal pestilence. Especially in Our first Encyclical Letter, written to You on the 9th of November, A.D. 1846, and in two Allocutions, one of which was delivered by Us in Consistory on the 9th of December, A.D. 1854, and the other on the 9th of June, A.D. 1862, We condemned the monstrous and portentous opinions, which prevail especially in the present age, to the very great loss of souls, and even to the detriment of civil society, and which are in the highest degree hostile, not only to the Catholic Church, and to her salutary doctrine and venerable laws, but also to the everlasting law of nature engraven by God Upon the hearts of all men, and to right reason; and out of which almost all errors originate.
3. Now although hitherto We have not omitted to denounce and reprove the chief errors of this kind, yet the cause of the Catholic Church and the salvation of souls committed to Us by God, and even the interests of human society absolutely demand, that once again We should stir up Your pastoral solicitude, to drive away other erroneous opinions which flow from those errors above specified, as their source. These false and perverse opinions are so much the more detestable, by as much as they have chiefly for their object to hinder and banish that salutary influence which the Catholic Church, by the institution and command of her Divine Author, ought freely to exercise, even to the consummation of the world, not only over individual men, but nations, peoples, and sovereigns, and to abolish that mutual cooperation and agreement of counsels between the Priesthood and Governments, which has always been propitious and conducive to the welfare both of Church and State. (Gregory XVI, Encyclical Mirari Vos, August 15, 1852). For you know well, Venerable Brethren, that at this time there are found not a few who, applying to civil intercourse the impious and absurd principles of what they call Naturalism, dare teach “that the best form of Society, and the exigencies of civil progress, absolutely require human society to be constituted and governed without any regard whatsoever to Religion, as if this [Religion] did not even exist, or at least without making any distinction between true and false religions.” Contrary to the teachings of the Holy Scriptures, of the Church, and of the Holy Fathers, these persons do not hesitate to assert, that “the best condition of human society is that wherein no duty is recognized by the Government of correcting, by enacted penalties, the violators of the Catholic Religion, except when the maintenance of the public peace requires it.” From this totally false notion of social government, they fear not to uphold that erroneous opinion most pernicious to the Catholic Church, and to the salvation of souls, which was called by Our Predecessor, Gregory XVI (lately quoted) the insanity [deliramentum] (Ibid.): namely, “that the liberty of conscience and of worship is the peculiar (or inalienable) right of every man, which should be proclaimed by law, and that citizens have the right to all kinds of liberty, to be restrained by no law, whether ecclesiastical or civil, by which they may be enabled to manifest openly and publicly their ideas, by word of mouth, through the press, or by any other means.” But whilst these men make these rash assertions, they do not reflect, or consider, that they preach the liberty of perdition (St. Augustine, Epistle 105, al. 166), and that, “if it is always free to human arguments to discuss, men will never be wanting who will dare to resist the truth, and to rely upon the loquacity of human wisdom, when we know from the command of Our Lord Jesus Christ, how faith and Christian wisdom ought to avoid this most mischievous vanity.” (St. Leo, Epistle 164, al. 133. sec 2. Boll. ed.)
4. And since Religion has been excluded from civil Society, and the doctrine and authority of divine Revelation, or the true and germane notion of justice and human right have been obscured and lost, and material or brute force substituted in the place of true justice and legitimate right, it is easy to perceive why some persons, forgetting and trampling upon the most
certain principles of sound reason, dare cry out together, “that the will of the people, manifested by what they call public opinion, or in any other way, constitutes the supreme law, independent of all divine and human right, and that, in the political order, accomplished facts, by the mere fact of having been accomplished, have the force of right.” But who does not see and plainly understand, that the Society of man, freed from the bonds of Religion and of true justice, can certainly have no other purpose than the effort to obtain and accumulate wealth, and that in its actions it follows no other law than that of the uncurbed cupidity, which seeks to secure its own pleasures and comforts? For this reason, also, these same men persecute with such bitter hatred the Religious Orders, who have deserved so well of Religion, civil Society, and Letters; they loudly declare that these Orders have no right to exist, and, in so doing, make common cause with the falsehoods of the heretics. For, as was most wisely taught by Our Predecessor of illustrious memory, Pius VI, “the abolition of Religious Orders injures the state of public profession of the Evangelical Counsels; injures a mode of life recommended by the Church, as in conformity with Apostolic doctrine; does wrong to the illustrious founders whom we venerate upon our altars, and who constituted these societies under the inspiration of God.” (Epistle to Cardinal de la Rochefoucauld, March 10, 1791.) And these same persons also impiously pretend that citizens should be deprived of the liberty of publicly bestowing on the Church their alms for the sake of Christian charity, and that the law forbidding “servile labor on account of Divine worship” upon certain fixed days should be abolished, upon the most fallacious pretext that such liberty and such law are contrary to the principles of political economy. Not content with abolishing Religion in public Society, they desire further to banish it from families and private life. Teaching and professing these most fatal errors of Socialism and Communism, they declare “that domestic society, or the family, derives all its reason of existence solely from civil law, whence it is to be concluded that from civil law descend and depend all the rights of parents over their children, and, above all, the right of instructing and educating them.” By such impious opinions and machinations, do these most false teachers endeavor to eliminate the salutary teaching and influence of the Catholic Church from the instruction and education of youth, and miserably to infect and deprave by every pernicious error and vice the tender and pliant minds of youth. All those who endeavor to throw into confusion both religious and political affairs, to destroy the good order of society, and to annihilate all Divine and human rights, have always exerted all their criminal schemes, attention, and efforts upon the manner in which they might, above all, deprave and delude unthinking youth, as We have already shown: it is upon the corruption of youth that they place all their hopes. Thus they never cease to attack by every method the Clergy; both secular and regular, from whom, as testify to us in so conspicuous a manner the most certain records of history, such considerable benefits have been bestowed in abundance upon Christian and Civil Society and upon the republic of Letters; asserting of the Clergy in general, that they are the enemies of the useful sciences, of progress, and of civilization, and that they ought to be deprived of all participation in the work of teaching and training the young.
5. Others, reviving the depraved fictions of innovators, errors many times condemned, presume, with extraordinary impudence, to subordinate the authority of the Church and of this Apostolic See, conferred upon it by Christ our Lord, to the judgment of civil authority, and to deny to all the rights of this same Church and this See with regard to those things which appertain to the secular order. For these persons do not blush to affirm “that the laws of the Church do not bind the conscience, if they are not promulgated by the civil power; that the acts and decrees of the Roman Pontiffs concerning religion and the Church require the sanction and approbation, or at least the assent of the civil power; and that the Apostolic Constitutions (Clement XII, In Eminenti; Benedict XIV, Providas Romanorum; Pius VII, Ecclesiam; Leo XII, Quo Graviora) condemning secret societies, whether these exact or do not exact an oath of secrecy, and branding with anathema their followers and partisans, have no force in those countries of the world where such associations are tolerated by the civil Government.” It is likewise affirmed “that the excommunications launched by the Council of Trent and the Roman Pontiffs against those who invade and usurp the possessions of the Church and its rights, strive, by confounding the spiritual and temporal orders, to attain solely a mere earthly end; that the Church can decide nothing which may bind the consciences of the faithful in the temporal order of things; the right of the Church is not competent to restrain with temporal penalties the violators of her laws; and that it is in accordance with the principles of theology and of public law for the civil Government to appropriate property possessed by the churches, the Religious Orders, and other pious establishments.” And they have no shame in avowing openly and publicly the heretical statement and principle, from which have emanated so many errors and perverse opinions, “that the ecclesiastical power is not, by the law of God, made distinct from and independent of the civil power, and that no distinction, no independence of this kind can be maintained without the Church invading and usurping the essential rights of the civil power.” Neither can We pass over in silence the audacity of those who, not enduring sound doctrine, assert that “the judgments and decrees of the Holy See, the object of which is declared to concern the general welfare of the Church, its rights, and its discipline, do not claim acquiescence and obedience, under pain of sin and loss of the Catholic profession, if they do not treat of the dogmas of Faith and of morals.” How contrary is this doctrine to the Catholic dogma, of the plenary power divinely conferred on the Sovereign Pontiff by Our Lord Jesus Christ, to guide, to supervise and to govern the Universal Church, no one can fail to see and understand, clearly and evidently.
6. Amid so great a perversity of depraved opinions. We, remembering Our Apostolic duty, and solicitous before all things for Our most holy Religion, for sound doctrine, for the salvation of the souls confided to Us, and for the welfare of human Society itself, have considered the moment opportune to raise anew Our Apostolic voice. Therefore do We, by our Apostolic authority, reprobate, denounce, and condemn generally and particularly all the evil opinions and doctrines specially mentioned in this Letter, and We wish that they may be held as reprobated, denounced, and condemned by all the children of the Catholic Church.
7. But You know further, Venerable Brothers, that in Our time the haters of all truth and justice and violent enemies of our Religion have spread abroad other impious doctrines, by means of pestilent books, pamphlets, and journals, which, distributed over the surface of the earth, deceive the people and wickedly lie. You are not ignorant that in our day men are found who, animated and excited by the spirit of Satan, have arrived at that excess of impiety as not to fear to deny Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, and to attack His Divinity with scandalous persistence. And here We cannot abstain from awarding You well-merited praise. Venerable Brothers, for all the care and zeal, with which You have raised Your episcopal voice against so great an impiety.
8. And therefore in this present Letter, We speak to You with all affection: to You who, called to partake of Our cares, are Our greatest support in the midst of Our very great grief; Our joy and consolation, by reason of the excellent piety of which You give proof in maintaining Religion, and the marvelous love, faith, and discipline with which, united by the strongest and most affectionate ties to Us and this Apostolic See. You strive valiantly and accurately to fulfill Your most weighty episcopal ministry. We do then expect, from Your excellent pastoral zeal, that, taking the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, and strengthened by the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, You will watch with redoubled care that the faithful committed to Your charge “abstain from evil pasturage, which Jesus Christ doth not till, because His Father hath not planted it.” (St. Ignatius, M. ad. Philadelphia, St Leo, Epist. 156, al. 125.) Never cease, then, to inculcate on the faithful that all true happiness for mankind proceeds from our august Religion, from its doctrine and practice, and that that people is happy who have the Lord for their God (Psalm 143). Teach them “that kingdoms rest upon the foundation of the Catholic faith (St. Celest, Epist. 22 ad. Syn. Eph.), and that nothing is so deadly, nothing so certain to engender every ill, nothing so exposed to danger, as for men to believe that they stand in need of nothing else than the freewill which we received at birth, if we ask nothing further from the Lord; that is to say, if, forgetting our Author, we abjure His power to show that we are free” (St. Innocent I, epistle 29 ad Episc. Conc. Carthag. apud Coust., p. 891). And do not omit to teach, “that the royal power has been established, not only to exercise the government of the world, but, above all, for the protection of the Church (St. Leo, Epist. 156, al. 125); and that there is nothing more profitable and more glorious for the Sovereigns of States, and Kings, than to leave the Catholic Church to exercise her laws, and not to permit any to curtail her liberty”; as Our most wise and courageous Predecessor, St. Felix, wrote to the Emperor Zeno. “It is certain that it is advantageous for Sovereigns, when the cause of God is in question, to submit their Royal will, according to his ordinance, to the Priests of Jesus Christ, and not to prefer it before them” (Pius VII, Encyclical Diu Satis, May 15,1800).
9. And if always, so especially at present, Venerable Brothers, in the midst of the numerous calamities of the Church and of civil Society, in view also of the terrible conspiracy of our adversaries against the Catholic Church and this Apostolic See, and the great accumulation of errors, it is before all things necessary to go with faith to the Throne of Grace, to obtain mercy and find Grace in timely aid. We have therefore judged it right to excite the piety of all the faithful, in order that, with Us and with You all, they may pray without ceasing to the Father of lights and of mercies, supplicating and beseeching Him fervently and humbly, and in the plenitude of their faith they may seek refuge in Our Lord Jesus Christ, who has redeemed us to God with his blood, that by their earnest and continual prayers, they may obtain from that most dear Heart, victim of burning charity for us, that it would draw all to Himself by the bonds of His love, that all men being inflamed by His holy love may live according to His heart, pleasing God in all things, and being fruitful in all good works. But, as there is no doubt that the prayers most agreeable to God are those of men who approach Him with a heart pure from all stain, We have thought it good to open to Christians, with Apostolic liberality, the heavenly treasures of the Church confided to Our dispensation, so that the faithful, more strongly drawn towards true piety, and purified from the stain of their sins by the Sacrament of Penance, may more confidently offer up their prayers to God and obtain His mercy and grace.
10. By these Letters therefore, emanating from Our Apostolic authority, We grant to all and each of the faithful of both sexes throughout the Catholic world a Plenary Indulgence, in the manner of a Jubilee, during one month, up to the end of the coming year 1865, and not longer, to be carried into effect by You, Venerable Brethren, and the other legitimate local Ordinaries, in the form and manner laid down at the commencement of Our Sovereign Pontificate by Our Apostolic Letters in form of a Brief, dated the 20th of November, A.D. 1846, and sent to the whole Episcopate of the world, commencing with the words, “Arcano Divinae Providentiae concilio,” and with the faculties given by Us in those same Letters. We desire, however, that all the prescriptions of Our Letters shall be observed, saving the exceptions We have declared are to be made. And we have granted this, notwithstanding all which might make to the contrary, even those worthy of special and individual mention and derogation; and in order that every doubt and difficulty may be removed, We have ordered that copies of those Letters should again be forwarded to You.
11. Let us implore, Venerable Brethren, from our inmost hearts, and with all our souls, the mercy of God. He has encouraged us so to do, by saying: “I will not withdraw My mercy from them.” “Let us ask and We shall receive; and if there is slowness or delay in the reception, because we have grievously offended, let us knock, because to him that knocketh it shall be opened; if our prayers, groans, and tears, in which We must persist and be obstinate, knock at the door: and if our prayers be united; let each one pray to God not for himself alone, but for all his brethren, as the Lord hath taught us to pray” (St. Cyprian, Epistle 11).
But, in order that God may accede more easily to Our and Your prayers, and to those of all His faithful servants, let us employ in all confidence, as our Mediatrix, with Him, the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, who has destroyed all heresies throughout the world, and who, the most loving Mother of us all, is “very gracious . . . and full of mercy, . . . allows herself to be entreated by all, shows herself most clement towards all, and takes under her pitying care all our necessities with a most ample affection” (St. Bernard, Serm. de duodecim praerogativis B.V.M. in verbis Apocalyp.), and, “sitting as queen at the right hand of her only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in a golden vestment clothed around with various adornments,” there is nothing which she cannot obtain from him. Let us implore also the intervention of the Blessed Peter, Chief of the Apostles, and his co-Apostle Paul, and of all those Saints of heaven, who, having already become the friends of God, have been admitted into the celestial kingdom, where they are crowned and bear palms in their hands; and who, henceforth certain of their own immortality, are solicitous for our salvation.
12. In conclusion, We ask of God from Our inmost soul the abundance of all His celestial benefits for you, and We bestow upon You, Venerable Brethren, and upon all the faithful Clergy, and Laity committed to Your care, Our Apostolic Benediction from the most loving depths of Our heart, in token of our Charity toward You.
PIUS, PP. IX.
Given at Rome, from St. Peter’s this 8th day of December, 1864, the tenth anniversary of the dogmatic Definition of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, in the nineteenth year of Our Pontificate.
This encyclical letter of Pope Pius IX was promulgated in 1864, and the attached Syllabus of Errors was simultaneously issued by the same great Pontiff. This important papal document was sent to all the bishops of the Catholic world “in order that these same bishops may have before their eyes all the errors and pernicious doctrines which he [Pius IX] has reprobated and condemned.” Though this is all-but-forgotten and greatly ignored nowadays, it did ignite a worldwide “firestorm” reaction when it was first issued. The world was greatly shocked to discover that the Church did not share its high opinion of itself. The Syllabus is a catalog of 80 erroneous propositions, a list of the most common errors of modern thinking. Grouped under ten separate headings, each proposition is cross-referenced to the specific Papal document where the particular proposition was discussed—and condemned as erroneous. This document is particularly useful for us to help clear our minds of these false ideas now polluting the world we live in, and whose repercussions will clearly affect our future and the future of the world. “Teach them that kingdoms rest upon the foundation of the Catholic faith… and that nothing is so deadly, nothing so certain to engender every ill…as for men to believe that they stand in need of nothing else than the free will which we received at birth.”
The Syllabus of Errors condemned by Pope Blessed Pius IX
December 8, 1864
I. PANTHEISM, NATURALISM AND ABSOLUTE RATIONALISM
1. There exists no Supreme, all-wise, all-provident Divine Being, distinct from the universe, and God is identical with the nature of things, and is, therefore, subject to changes. In effect, God is produced in man and in the world, and all things are God and have the very substance of God, and God is one and the same thing with the world, and, therefore, spirit with matter, necessity with liberty, good with evil, justice with injustice. -Allocution “Maxima quidem,” June 9, 1862.
2. All action of God upon man and the world is to be denied. -Ibid.
3. Human reason, without any reference whatsoever to God, is the sole arbiter of truth and falsehood, and of good and evil; it is law to itself, and suffices, by its natural force, to secure the welfare of men and of nations. -Ibid.
4. All the truths of religion proceed from the innate strength of human reason; hence reason is the ultimate standard by which man can and ought to arrive at the knowledge of all truths of every kind. -Ibid. and Encyclical “Qui pluribus,” Nov. 9, 1846, etc.
5. Divine revelation is imperfect, and therefore subject to a continual and indefinite progress, corresponding with the advancement of human reason. -Ibid.
6. The faith of Christ is in opposition to human reason and divine revelation not only is not useful, but is even hurtful to the perfection of man. -Ibid.
7. The prophecies and miracles set forth and recorded in the Sacred Scriptures are the fiction of poets, and the mysteries of the Christian faith the result of philosophical investigations. In the books of the Old and the New Testament there are contained mythical inventions, and Jesus Christ is Himself a myth.
II. MODERATE RATIONALISM
8. As human reason is placed on a level with religion itself, so theological must be treated in the same manner as philosophical sciences. -Allocution “Singulari quadam,” Dec. 9, 1854.
9. All the dogmas of the Christian religion are indiscriminately the object of natural science or philosophy, and human reason, enlightened solely in an historical way, is able, by its own natural strength and principles, to attain to the true science of even the most abstruse dogmas; provided only that such dogmas be proposed to reason itself as its object. -Letters to the Archbishop of Munich, “Gravissimas inter,” Dec. 11, 1862, and “Tuas libenter,” Dec. 21, 1863.
10. As the philosopher is one thing, and philosophy another, so it is the right and duty of the philosopher to subject himself to the authority which he shall have proved to be true; but philosophy neither can nor ought to submit to any such authority. -Ibid., Dec. 11, 1862.
11. The Church not only ought never to pass judgment on philosophy, but ought to tolerate the errors of philosophy, leaving it to correct itself. -Ibid., Dec. 21, 1863.
12. The decrees of the Apostolic See and of the Roman congregations impede the true progress of science. -Ibid.
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. -Ibid.
14. Philosophy is to be treated without taking any account of supernatural revelation. -Ibid.
III. INDIFFERENTISM, LATITUDINARIANISM
15. Every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which, guided by the light of reason, he shall consider true. -Allocution “Maxima quidem,” June 9, 1862; Damnatio “Multiplices inter,” June 10, 1851.
16. Man may, in the observance of any religion whatever, find the way of eternal salvation, and arrive at eternal salvation. -Encyclical “Qui pluribus,” Nov. 9, 1846.
17. Good hope at least is to be entertained of the eternal salvation of all those who are not at all in the true Church of Christ. -Encyclical “Quanto conficiamur,” Aug. 10, 1863, etc.
18. Protestantism is nothing more than another form of the same true Christian religion, in which form it is given to please God equally as in the Catholic Church. — Encyclical “Noscitis,” Dec. 8, 1849.
IV. SOCIALISM, COMMUNISM, SECRET SOCIETIES, BIBLICAL SOCIETIES, CLERICO-LIBERAL SOCIETIES
Pests of this kind are frequently reprobated in the severest terms in the Encyclical “Qui pluribus,” Nov. 9, 1846, Allocution “Quibus quantisque,” April 20, 1849, Encyclical “Noscitis et nobiscum,” Dec. 8, 1849, Allocution “Singulari quadam,” Dec. 9, 1854, Encyclical “Quanto conficiamur,” Aug. 10, 1863.
V. ERRORS CONCERNING THE CHURCH AND HER RIGHTS
19. The Church is not a true and perfect society, entirely free- nor is she endowed with proper and perpetual rights of her own, conferred upon her by her Divine Founder; but it appertains to the civil power to define what are the rights of the Church, and the limits within which she may exercise those rights. -Allocution “Singulari quadam,” Dec. 9, 1854, etc.
20. The ecclesiastical power ought not to exercise its authority without the permission and assent of the civil government. -Allocution “Meminit unusquisque,” Sept. 30, 1861.
21. The Church has not the power of defining dogmatically that the religion of the Catholic Church is the only true religion. -Damnatio “Multiplices inter,” June 10, 1851.
22. The obligation by which Catholic teachers and authors are strictly bound is confined to those things only which are proposed to universal belief as dogmas of faith by the infallible judgment of the Church. -Letter to the Archbishop of Munich, “Tuas libenter,” Dec. 21, 1863.
23. Roman pontiffs and ecumenical councils have wandered outside the limits of their powers, have usurped the rights of princes, and have even erred in defining matters of faith and morals. -Damnatio “Multiplices inter,” June 10, 1851.
24. The Church has not the power of using force, nor has she any temporal power, direct or indirect. -Apostolic Letter “Ad Apostolicae,” Aug. 22, 1851.
25. Besides the power inherent in the episcopate, other temporal power has been attributed to it by the civil authority granted either explicitly or tacitly, which on that account is revocable by the civil authority whenever it thinks fit. -Ibid.
26. The Church has no innate and legitimate right of acquiring and possessing property. -Allocution “Nunquam fore,” Dec. 15, 1856; Encyclical “Incredibili,” Sept. 7, 1863.
27. The sacred ministers of the Church and the Roman pontiff are to be absolutely excluded from every charge and dominion over temporal affairs. -Allocution “Maxima quidem,” June 9, 1862.
28. It is not lawful for bishops to publish even letters Apostolic without the permission of Government. -Allocution “Nunquam fore,” Dec. 15, 1856.
29. Favours granted by the Roman pontiff ought to be considered null, unless they have been sought for through the civil government. -Ibid.
30. The immunity of the Church and of ecclesiastical persons derived its origin from civil law. -Damnatio “Multiplices inter,” June 10, 1851.
31. The ecclesiastical forum or tribunal for the temporal causes, whether civil or criminal, of clerics, ought by all means to be abolished, even without consulting and against the protest of the Holy See. -Allocution “Nunquam fore,” Dec. 15, 1856; Allocution “Acerbissimum,” Sept. 27, 1852.
32. The personal immunity by which clerics are exonerated from military conscription and service in the army may be abolished without violation either of natural right or equity. Its abolition is called for by civil progress, especially in a society framed on the model of a liberal government. -Letter to the Bishop of Monreale “Singularis nobisque,” Sept. 29, 1864.
33. It does not appertain exclusively to the power of ecclesiastical jurisdiction by right, proper and innate, to direct the teaching of theological questions. -Letter to the Archbishop of Munich, “Tuas libenter,” Dec. 21, 1863.
34. The teaching of those who compare the Sovereign Pontiff to a prince, free and acting in the universal Church, is a doctrine which prevailed in the Middle Ages. -Apostolic Letter “Ad Apostolicae,” Aug. 22, 1851.
35. There is nothing to prevent the decree of a general council, or the act of all peoples, from transferring the supreme pontificate from the bishop and city of Rome to another bishop and another city. -Ibid.
36. The definition of a national council does not admit of any subsequent discussion, and the civil authority car assume this principle as the basis of its acts. -Ibid.
37. National churches, withdrawn from the authority of the Roman pontiff and altogether separated, can be established. -Allocution “Multis gravibusque,” Dec. 17, 1860.
38. The Roman pontiffs have, by their too arbitrary conduct, contributed to the division of the Church into Eastern and Western. -Apostolic Letter “Ad Apostolicae,” Aug. 22, 1851.
VI. ERRORS ABOUT CIVIL SOCIETY, CONSIDERED BOTH IN ITSELF AND IN ITS RELATION TO THE CHURCH
39. The State, as being the origin and source of all rights, is endowed with a certain right not circumscribed by any limits. -Allocution “Maxima quidem,” June 9, 1862.
40. The teaching of the Catholic Church is hostile to the well- being and interests of society. -Encyclical “Qui pluribus,” Nov. 9, 1846; Allocution “Quibus quantisque,” April 20, 1849.
41. The civil government, even when in the hands of an infidel sovereign, has a right to an indirect negative power over religious affairs. It therefore possesses not only the right called that of “exsequatur,” but also that of appeal, called “appellatio ab abusu.” -Apostolic Letter “Ad Apostolicae,” Aug. 22, 1851
42. In the case of conflicting laws enacted by the two powers, the civil law prevails. -Ibid.
43. The secular Dower has authority to rescind, declare and render null, solemn conventions, commonly called concordats, entered into with the Apostolic See, regarding the use of rights appertaining to ecclesiastical immunity, without the consent of the Apostolic See, and even in spite of its protest. -Allocution “Multis gravibusque,” Dec. 17, 1860; Allocution “In consistoriali,” Nov. 1, 1850.
44. The civil authority may interfere in matters relating to religion, morality and spiritual government: hence, it can pass judgment on the instructions issued for the guidance of consciences, conformably with their mission, by the pastors of the Church. Further, it has the right to make enactments regarding the administration of the divine sacraments, and the dispositions necessary for receiving them. -Allocutions “In consistoriali,” Nov. 1, 1850, and “Maxima quidem,” June 9, 1862.
45. The entire government of public schools in which the youth- of a Christian state is educated, except (to a certain extent) in the case of episcopal seminaries, may and ought to appertain to the civil power, and belong to it so far that no other authority whatsoever shall be recognized as having any right to interfere in the discipline of the schools, the arrangement of the studies, the conferring of degrees, in the choice or approval of the teachers. -Allocutions “Quibus luctuosissimis,” Sept. 5, 1851, and “In consistoriali,” Nov. 1, 1850.
46. Moreover, even in ecclesiastical seminaries, the method of studies to be adopted is subject to the civil authority. -Allocution “Nunquam fore,” Dec. 15, 1856.
47. The best theory of civil society requires that popular schools open to children of every class of the people, and, generally, all public institutes intended for instruction in letters and philosophical sciences and for carrying on the education of youth, should be freed from all ecclesiastical authority, control and interference, and should be fully subjected to the civil and political power at the pleasure of the rulers, and according to the standard of the prevalent opinions of the age. -Epistle to the Archbishop of Freiburg, “Cum non sine,” July 14, 1864.
48. Catholics may approve of the system of educating youth unconnected with Catholic faith and the power of the Church, and which regards the knowledge of merely natural things, and only, or at least primarily, the ends of earthly social life. -Ibid.
49. The civil power may prevent the prelates of the Church and the faithful from communicating freely and mutually with the Roman pontiff. -Allocution “Maxima quidem,” June 9, 1862.
50. Lay authority possesses of itself the right of presenting bishops, and may require of them to undertake the administration of the diocese before they receive canonical institution, and the Letters Apostolic from the Holy See. -Allocution “Nunquam fore,” Dec. 15, 1856.
51. And, further, the lay government has the right of deposing bishops from their pastoral functions, and is not bound to obey the Roman pontiff in those things which relate to the institution of bishoprics and the appointment of bishops. -Allocution “Acerbissimum,” Sept. 27, 1852, Damnatio “Multiplices inter,” June 10, 1851.
52. Government can, by its own right, alter the age prescribed by the Church for the religious profession of women and men; and may require of all religious orders to admit no person to take solemn vows without its permission. -Allocution “Nunquam fore,” Dec. 15, 1856.
53. The laws enacted for the protection of religious orders and regarding their rights and duties ought to be abolished; nay, more, civil Government may lend its assistance to all who desire to renounce the obligation which they have undertaken of a religious life, and to break their vows. Government may also suppress the said religious orders, as likewise collegiate churches and simple benefices, even those of advowson and subject their property and revenues to the administration and pleasure of the civil power. -Allocutions “Acerbissimum,” Sept. 27, 1852; “Probe memineritis,” Jan. 22, 1855; “Cum saepe,” July 26, 1855.
54. Kings and princes are not only exempt from the jurisdiction of the Church, but are superior to the Church in deciding questions of jurisdiction. — Damnatio “Multiplices inter,” June 10, 1851.
55. The Church ought to be separated from the .State, and the State from the Church. -Allocution “Acerbissimum,” Sept. 27, 1852.
VII. ERRORS CONCERNING NATURAL AND CHRISTIAN ETHICS
56. Moral laws do not stand in need of the divine sanction, and it is not at all necessary that human laws should be made conformable to the laws of nature and receive their power of binding from God. -Allocution “Maxima quidem,” June 9, 1862.
57. The science of philosophical things and morals and also civil laws may and ought to keep aloof from divine and ecclesiastical authority. -Ibid.
58. No other forces are to be recognized except those which reside in matter, and all the rectitude and excellence of morality ought to be placed in the accumulation and increase of riches by every possible means, and the gratification of pleasure. -Ibid.; Encyclical “Quanto conficiamur,” Aug. 10, 1863.
59. Right consists in the material fact. All human duties are an empty word, and all human facts have the force of right. -Allocution “Maxima quidem,” June 9, 1862.
60. Authority is nothing else but numbers and the sum total of material forces. -Ibid.
61. The injustice of an act when successful inflicts no injury on the sanctity of right. -Allocution “Jamdudum cernimus,” March 18, 1861.
62. The principle of non-intervention, as it is called, ought to be proclaimed and observed. -Allocution “Novos et ante,” Sept. 28, 1860.
63. It is lawful to refuse obedience to legitimate princes, and even to rebel against them. -Encyclical “Qui pluribus,” Nov. 9, 1864; Allocution “Quibusque vestrum,” Oct. 4, 1847; “Noscitis et Nobiscum,” Dec. 8, 1849; Apostolic Letter “Cum Catholica.”
64. The violation of any solemn oath, as well as any wicked and flagitious action repugnant to the eternal law, is not only not blamable but is altogether lawful and worthy of the highest praise when done through love of country. -Allocution “Quibus quantisque,” April 20, 1849.
VIII. ERRORS CONCERNING CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE
65. The doctrine that Christ has raised marriage to the dignity of a sacrament cannot be at all tolerated. -Apostolic Letter “Ad Apostolicae,” Aug. 22, 1851.
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. -Ibid.
67. By the law of nature, the marriage tie is not indissoluble, and in many cases divorce properly so called may be decreed by the civil authority. -Ibid.; Allocution “Acerbissimum,” Sept. 27, 1852.
68. The Church has not the power of establishing diriment impediments of marriage, but such a power belongs to the civil authority by which existing impediments are to be removed. -Damnatio “Multiplices inter,” June 10, 1851.
69. In the dark ages the Church began to establish diriment impediments, not by her own right, but by using a power borrowed from the State. -Apostolic Letter “Ad Apostolicae,” Aug. 22, 1851.
70. The canons of the Council of Trent, which anathematize those who dare to deny to the Church the right of establishing diriment impediments, either are not dogmatic or must be understood as referring to such borrowed power. -Ibid.
71. The form of solemnizing marriage prescribed by the Council of Trent, under pain of nullity, does not bind in cases where the civil law lays down another form, and declares that when this new form is used the marriage shall be valid.
72. Boniface VIII was the first who declared that the vow of chastity taken at ordination renders marriage void. -Ibid.
73. In force of a merely civil contract there may exist between Christians a real marriage, and it is false to say either that the marriage contract between Christians is always a sacrament, or that there is no contract if the sacrament be excluded. -Ibid.; Letter to the King of Sardinia, Sept. 9, 1852; Allocutions “Acerbissimum,” Sept. 27, 1852, “Multis gravibusque,” Dec. 17, 1860.
74. Matrimonial causes and espousals belong by their nature to civil tribunals. -Encyclical “Qui pluribus,” Nov. 9 1846; Damnatio “Multiplices inter,” June 10, 1851, “Ad Apostolicae,” Aug. 22, 1851; Allocution “Acerbissimum,” Sept. 27, 1852.
IX. ERRORS REGARDING THE CIVIL POWER OF THE SOVEREIGN PONTIFF
75. The children of the Christian and Catholic Church are divided amongst themselves about the compatibility of the temporal with the spiritual power. -“Ad Apostolicae,” Aug. 22, 1851.
76. The abolition of the temporal power of which the Apostolic See is possessed would contribute in the greatest degree to the liberty and prosperity of the Church. -Allocutions “Quibus quantisque,” April 20, 1849, “Si semper antea,” May 20, 1850.
X. ERRORS HAVING REFERENCE TO MODERN LIBERALISM
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. -Allocution “Nemo vestrum,” July 26, 1855.
78. Hence it has been wisely decided by law, in some Catholic countries, that persons coming to reside therein shall enjoy the public exercise of their own peculiar worship. -Allocution “Acerbissimum,” Sept. 27, 1852.
79. Moreover, it is false that the civil liberty of every form of worship, and the full power, given to all, of overtly and publicly manifesting any opinions whatsoever and thoughts, conduce more easily to corrupt the morals and minds of the people, and to propagate the pest of indifferentism. -Allocution “Nunquam fore,” Dec. 15, 1856.
80. The Roman Pontiff can, and ought to, reconcile himself, and come to terms with progress, liberalism and modern civilization. -Allocution “Jamdudum cernimus,” March 18, 1861.
The following paragraphs, although often appended to The Syllabus, actually derive from the encyclical of 21 November 1873 A.D.,
(On the Church in Italy, Germany, and Switzerland), by the same Holy Father, Pope Bl. Pius IX.
The faith teaches us and human reason demonstrates that a double order of things exists, and that we must therefore distinguish between the two earthly powers, the one of natural origin which provides for secular affairs and the tranquillity of human society, the other of supernatural origin, which presides over the City of God, that is to say the Church of Christ, which has been divinely instituted for the sake of souls and of eternal salvation…. The duties of this twofold power are most wisely ordered in such a way that to God is given what is God’s (Matt. 22:21), and because of God to Caesar what is Caesar’s, who is great because he is smaller than heaven. Certainly the Church has never disobeyed this divine command, the Church which always and everywhere instructs the faithful to show the respect which they should inviolably have for the supreme authority and its secular rights. . . . . .
Venerable Brethren, you see clearly enough how sad and full of perils is the condition of Catholics in the regions of Europe which We have mentioned. Nor are things any better or circumstances calmer in America, where some regions are so hostile to Catholics that their governments seem to deny by their actions the Catholic faith they claim to profess. In fact, there, for the last few years, a ferocious war on the Church, its institutions and the rights of the Apostolic See has been raging…. Venerable Brothers, it is surprising that in our time such a great war is being waged against the Catholic Church. But anyone who knows the nature, desires and intentions of the sects, whether they be called masonic or bear another name, and compares them with the nature the systems and the vastness of the obstacles by which the Church has been assailed almost everywhere, cannot doubt that the present misfortune must mainly be imputed to the frauds and machinations of these sects. It is from them that the synagogue of Satan, which gathers its troops against the Church of Christ, takes its strength. In the past Our predecessors, vigilant even from the beginning in Israel, had already denounced them to the kings and the nations, and had condemned them time and time again, and even We have not failed in this duty.
If those who would have been able to avert such a deadly scourge had only had more faith in the supreme Pastors of the Church! But this scourge, winding through sinuous caverns … deceiving many with astute frauds, finally has arrived at the point where it comes forth impetuously from its hiding places and triumphs as a powerful master. Since the throng of its propagandists has grown enormously, these wicked groups think that they have already become masters of the world and that they have almost reached their pre-established goal. Having sometimes obtained what they desired, and that is power, in several countries, they boldly turn the help of powers and authorities which they have secured to trying to submit the Church of God to the most cruel servitude, to undermine the foundations on which it rests, to contaminate its splendid qualities; and, moreover, to strike it with frequent blows, to shake it, to overthrow it, and, if possible, to make it disappear completely from the earth. Things being thus, Venerable Brothers, make every effort to defend the faithful which are entrusted to you against the insidious contagion of these sects and to save from perdition those who unfortunately have inscribed themselves in such sects. Make known and attack those who, whether suffering from, or planning, deception, are not afraid to affirm that these shady congregations aim only at the profit of society, at progress and mutual benefit. Explain to them often and impress deeply on their souls the Papal constitutions on this subject and teach, them that the masonic associations are anathematized by them not only in Europe but also in America and wherever they may be in the whole world.
To the Archbishops and Bishops of Prussia concerning the situation of the Catholic Church faced with persecution by that Government. . .
But although they (the bishops resisting persecution) should be praised rather than pitied, the scorn of episcopal dignity, the violation of the liberty and the rights of the Church, the ill treatment which does not only oppress those dioceses, but also the others of the Kingdom of Prussia, demand that We, owing to the Apostolic office with which God has entrusted us in spite of Our insufficient merit, protest against laws which have produced such great evils and make one fear even greater ones; and as far as we are able to do so with the sacred authority of divine law, We vindicate for the Church the freedom which has been trodden underfoot with sacrilegious violence. That is why by this letter we intend to do Our duty by announcing openly to all those whom this matter concerns and to the whole Catholic world, that these laws are null and void because they are absolutely contrary to the divine constitution of the Church. In fact, with respect to matters which concern the holy ministry, Our Lord did not put the mighty of this century in charge, but Saint Peter, whom he entrusted not only with feeding his sheep, but also the goats; therefore no power in the world, however great it may be, can deprive of the pastoral office those whom the Holy Ghost has made Bishops in order to feed the Church of God.