Rorate Caeli

The first encyclical
70 years ago

Seventy years ago, as war raged through Europe and parts of Asia, Pope Pius XII, in his first encyclical, reminded the world of the meaning of true tolerance, as practiced by the Church, of the place of true patriotism, and of the dangers of a deified nation and government:

The Church hails with joy and follows with her maternal blessing every method of guidance and care which aims at a wise and orderly evolution of particular forces and tendencies having their origin in the individual character of each race, provided that they are not opposed to the duties incumbent on men from their unity of origin and common destiny.

She has repeatedly shown in her missionary enterprises that such a principle of action is the guiding star of her universal apostolate. Pioneer research and investigation, involving sacrifice, devotedness and love on the part of her missionaries of every age, have been undertaken in order to facilitate the deeper appreciative insight into the most varied civilizations and to put their spiritual values to account for a living and vital preaching of the Gospel of Christ. All that in such usages and customs is not inseparably bound up with religious errors will always be subject to kindly consideration and, when it is found possible, will be sponsored and developed.
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Our immediate predecessor, of holy and venerated memory, applying such norms to a particularly delicate question, took some generous decisions which are a monument to his insight and to the intensity of his apostolic spirit. Nor need We tell you, Venerable Brethren, that We intend to proceed without hesitation along this way. Those who enter the Church, whatever be their origin or their speech, must know that they have equal rights as children in the House of the Lord, where the law of Christ and the peace of Christ prevail.

In accordance with these principles of equality, the Church devotes her care to forming cultured native clergy and gradually increasing the number of native Bishops. And in order to give external expression to these, Our intentions, We have chosen the forthcoming Feast of Christ the King to raise to the Episcopal dignity at the Tomb of the Apostles twelve representatives of widely different peoples and races. In the midst of the disruptive contrasts which divide the human family, may this solemn act proclaim to all Our sons, scattered over the world, that the spirit, the teaching and the work of the Church can never be other than that which the Apostle of the Gentiles preached: "putting on the new, (man) him who is renewed unto knowledge, according to the image of him that created him. Where there is neither Gentile nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian nor Scythian, bond nor free. But Christ is all and in all" (Colossians iii. 10, 11).

Nor is there any fear lest the consciousness of universal brotherhood aroused by the teaching of Christianity, and the spirit which it inspires, be in contrast with love of traditions or the glories of one's fatherland, or impede the progress of prosperity or legitimate interests. For that same Christianity teaches that in the exercise of charity we must follow a God-given order, yielding the place of honor in our affections and good works to those who are bound to us by special ties. Nay, the Divine Master Himself gave an example of this preference for His Own country and fatherland, as He wept over the coming destruction of the Holy City. But legitimate and well-ordered love of our native country should not make us close our eyes to the all-embracing nature of Christian Charity, which calls for consideration of others and of their interests in the pacifying light of love.

...[T]here is yet another error no less pernicious to the well-being of the nations and to the prosperity of that great human society which gathers together and embraces within its confines all races. It is the error contained in those ideas which do not hesitate to divorce civil authority from every kind of dependence upon the Supreme Being - First Source and absolute Master of man and of society - and from every restraint of a Higher Law derived from God as from its First Source. Thus they accord the civil authority an unrestricted field of action that is at the mercy of the changeful tide of human will, or of the dictates of casual historical claims, and of the interests of a few.

Once the authority of God and the sway of His law are denied in this way, the civil authority as an inevitable result tends to attribute to itself that absolute autonomy which belongs exclusively to the Supreme Maker. It puts itself in the place of the Almighty and elevates the State or group into the last end of life, the supreme criterion of the moral and juridical order, and therefore forbids every appeal to the principles of natural reason and of the Christian conscience.
Pius XII
October 20, 1939

5 comments:

Robert said...

And now, I fear, Rorate Caeli will be deluged by wackjobs who, maddened beyond endurance by the "Arbeit macht frei" picture, will accuse this website of being part of the World Jewish Conspiracy ...

Jordanes said...

Robert, Rorate Caeli has been subjected to attacks from anti-Semites for quite some time. It's one of the main reasons comments must be moderated here.

wheat4paradise said...

All that in such usages and customs is not inseparably bound up with religious errors will always be subject to kindly consideration and, when it is found possible, will be sponsored and developed.

It appears that this principle is now being wisely applied in the case of the TAC.

Robert said...

Jordanes wrote: "Rorate Caeli has been subjected to attacks from anti-Semites for quite some time. It's one of the main reasons comments must be moderated here."

I'm sorry to learn this, but not surprised. Flaming Jew-baiters seem to bombard every site worth reading, sooner or later.

The reason the secular website Takimag (which I enjoy perusing whether or not I agree with its contents) had to abandon comments altogether was that it was just being plagued by the craziest sort of Jew-baiting White Nationalist crank. Anyway, congratulations to your site on what it achieves.

New Catholic said...

Wheat4paradise,

I am glad that you noticed it. That was certainly in my mind as I posted this excerpt.

NC