Rorate Caeli

160 years of Qui Pluribus

The "liberal Pope" had been elected in June 1846, and many did not know what to expect from Mastai-Ferretti. Pope Pius would still suffer bitterly in the hands of men who would receive so much from his mercy. He was a generous man -- but he was no liberal, and nothing could make this as clear in the first year of his pontificate as his first encyclical, Qui Pluribus, signed at the Patriarchal Basilica of Saint Mary Major on November 9, 1846.

As with all great popes, the first remarks of Blessed Pius emphasized his view of his own weaknesses:

We are well aware of Our weakness. So when We reflect on the most serious duties of the supreme apostolate especially in a period of great instability, We would simply have fallen into great sadness, did We not place all Our hope in God who is Our Saviour.
Qui Pluribus is, however, much more than a simple "introductory" Encyclical. When, in one of the most sollemn moments of his reign, Pope Pius signs Quanta Cura and, with it, the Syllabus, in 1864, a great number of the collected errors are those condemnations mentioned in his first encyclical. In it, one can read all the signs of Pope Mastai-Ferretti's concerns for the salvation of souls and for the integrity of the Doctrine of the Faith in the post-Enlightenment age, which is also our own.

Let us read anew the always necessary teachings and warnings of that great and holy Pontiff.
Private Interpretation:

God Himself has set up a living authority to establish and teach the true and legitimate meaning of His heavenly revelation. This authority judges infallibly all disputes which concern matters of faith and morals, lest the faithful be swirled around by every wind of doctrine which springs from the evilness of men in encompassing error. And this living infallible authority is active only in that Church which was built by Christ the Lord upon Peter, the head of the entire Church, leader and shepherd, whose faith He promised would never fail.

Bible Societies and dangerous biblical translations:

...the crafty Bible Societies ... renew the old skill of the heretics and ceaselessly force on people of all kinds, even the uneducated, gifts of the Bible. They issue these in large numbers and at great cost, in vernacular translations, which infringe the holy rules of the Church. The commentaries which are included often contain perverse explanations; so, having rejected divine tradition, the doctrine of the Fathers and the authority of the Catholic Church, they all interpret the words of the Lord by their own private judgment, thereby perverting their meaning. As a result, they fall into the greatest errors.

Indifferentism and Universalism:

Also perverse is the shocking theory that it makes no difference to which religion one belongs, a theory which is greatly at variance even with reason. By means of this theory, those crafty men remove all distinction between virtue and vice, truth and error, honorable and vile action. They pretend that men can gain eternal salvation by the practice of any religion, as if there could ever be any sharing between justice and iniquity, any collaboration between light and darkness, or any agreement between Christ and Belial.
Priestly celibacy under attack...:

The sacred celibacy of clerics has also been the victim of conspiracy. Indeed, some churchmen have wretchedly forgotten their own rank and let themselves be converted by the charms and snares of pleasure.
Anti-Catholic teaching methods:

...the prevalent but wrong method of teaching, especially in the philosophical disciplines, a method which deceives and corrupts incautious youth in a wretched manner and gives it as drink the poison of the serpent in the goblet of Babylon.

...the unspeakable doctrine of Communism ... a doctrine most opposed to the very natural law. For if this doctrine were accepted, the complete destruction of everyone's laws, government, property, and even of human society itself would follow.
The prophetic view of our depraved age:

As a result of this filthy medley of errors which creeps in from every side, and as the result of the unbridled license to think, speak and write, We see the following: morals deteriorated, Christ's most holy religion despised, the majesty of divine worship rejected, the power of this Apostolic See plundered, the authority of the Church attacked and reduced to base slavery, the rights of bishops trampled on, the sanctity of marriage infringed, the rule of every government violently shaken and many other losses for both the Christian and the civil commonwealth.
The duties of Bishops: accordance with your pastoral care, work assiduously to protect and preserve this faith. Never cease to instruct all men in it, to encourage the wavering, to convince dissenters, to strengthen the weak in faith by never tolerating and letting pass anything which could in the slightest degree defile the purity of this faith. With the same great strength of mind, foster in all men their unity with the Catholic Church, outside of which there is no salvation; also foster their obedience towards this See of Peter on which rests the entire structure of our most holy religion. ... to assure the greater glory of God and the Church, venerable brothers, join together with all eagerness, care and wakefulness to repulse error and to root out vice.
May Our Lady ("our mediatrix, advocate, firmest hope, and greatest source of confidence", cf. Qui Pluribus) and Blessed Pius IX pray for the Church of the Lord in these even more perilous times.


  1. Thank you for this anniversary commemoration

  2. Pax Christi. It is always striking to see the sense of urgency and great alarm that is present in these first pontifical writings of the modern era. It is all the more striking in comparision to post-modern pontifical pronoucements where this sense is lacking or contradicted, even though the worst fears have been realized. Indeed, papal pronouncements of the last pontificate were optimistic to a fault: "springtime of the Church."

    Pope Benedict is much more a realist. I pray his pre-election "sinking ship" and "filth in the Church...[and] priesthood" themes will gain in visionary intensity and be re-issued as Supreme Pontiff with prophetic militancy.

  3. Towards the end of his life, Blessed Pius IX said that the single greatest act of his pontificate was, in his holy estimation, the definition of the Immaculate Conception. No doubt he understood that she "who has destroyed all heresies" is our best refuge and protection from the errors of our modern world. Interestingly, Bl. Padre Pio, in his later years, when his health and eyesight were failing, habitually said the votive Mass of the Immaculate Conception. Perhaps it would be best for us to offer all our prayers and aspirations for the Church--including the widespread return of the traditional Mass--through her hands.

  4. How wonderful to hear a genuinely spiritual sacerdotal voice addressing this issue; thank you, Father.

    One thing that the priest who received me into the Church continually impressed upon me was our Lord's desire that all his victories should come through her. The defeat of modernism and of all the other evils of our time, and the restoration of sacred tradition, will be no different, and it is as well that we all recognize this and pray accordingly. The SSPX's rosary bouquet is very timely in this respect, and we can all add our prayers to theirs.

    There is a temptation to see things in purely human terms as we discuss the political machinations of certain hierarchs. It is good to be reminded that Providence is above all of this, and that nothing can bring about peace in the word and in the Church like heeding the imperative to be devout to Mary.

  5. Excellent document.

    It does not leave much hope for Pope Benedict XVI's predecessor.


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