Rorate Caeli

250 years of In Dominico Agro
The faithful need the basic, simple, uncorrupted Truth

As he struggled against the trends that, in the very heart of Catholic Europe, did all they could to "destroy the Infâme" and plant the seeds of the Revolution that was about to come, Pope Clement XIII knew that the hearts of the faithful had to filled with true, basic, simple, essential Catholic doctrine, to be found in the Roman Catechism - which should be once again made widely available to all priests. In Dominico Agro, signed on June 14, 1761, is thus a strong charter for the catechization of the faithful - and, at the same time, a dramatic reminder of what the failure to properly do so has allowed: the loss of entire nations and of uncountable souls.

Particularly interesting is the warning of Pope Clement XIII on the teachings of Catholic writers. It is not only with heterodox writings that Bishops should be concerned. Scholarly discussions should not be introduced to the faithful - and the post-Conciliar period seems to prove this true.

The faithful -- especially those who are simple or uncultivated -- should be kept away from dangerous and narrow paths upon which they can hardly set foot without faltering. The sheep should not be led to pasture through trackless places. Nor should peculiar ideas -- even those of Catholic scholars -- be proposed to them. Rather, only those ideas should be communicated which are definitely marked as Catholic truth by their universality, antiquity, and harmony. ... The faithful should obey the apostolic advice not to know more than is necessary, but to know in moderation.

As our predecessors understood that that holy meeting of the universal Church was so prudent in judgment and so moderate that it abstained from condemning ideas which authorities among Church scholars supported, they wanted another work prepared with the agreement of that holy council which would cover the entire teaching which the faithful should know and which would be far removed from any error. They printed and distributed this book under the title of The Roman Catechism. There are aspects of their action worthy of special praise. In it they compiled the teaching which is common to the whole Church and which is far removed from every danger of error, and they proposed to transmit it openly to the faithful in very eloquent words according to the precept of Christ the Lord who told the apostles to proclaim in the light what He had said in the dark and to proclaim from the rooftops what they heard in secret. ... Therefore, in case the Church should be deceived and wander after the flocks of the companions who are themselves wanderers and unsettled with no certainty of truth, who are always learning but never arriving at the knowledge of truth, they proposed that only what is necessary and very useful for salvation be clearly and plainly explained in the Roman Catechism and communicated to the faithful.

And the Pope ends his powerful document with a significant warning:

[I]t is of the utmost importance that you choose for the office of communicating Christian teaching to the faithful not only men endowed with theological knowledge, but more importantly, men who manifest humility, enthusiasm for sanctifying souls, and charity. The totality of Christian practice does not consist in abundance of words nor in skill of debating nor in the search from praise and glory but in true and voluntary humility. There are those whom a greater wisdom raises up but also separates from the society of other people. The more they know, the more they dislike the virtue of harmony. [In Dominico Agro]
O Lord, grant us priests!
O Lord, grant us holy priests!
O Lord, grant us many holy priests!


  1. This makes too much sense, and we can see it playing out in our schools and universities. In a quest to appear cutting-edge and innovative, instructors (and this cuts across the humanities as well as "the divinities," the focus of this post) present only the esoteric or the novel ideas, rather than the structure from which these new theories are departing or deviating. It is always assumed that one's pupils have all the necessary formation already, so the instructor is free to discuss only finer points. Back to the point of the post, we see this in the half-educated, winking and smirking homilist preaching to his rural parish about who really wrote Hebrews rather than simply instructing his flock on the substance of the book. 99 out of 100 people--as Clement observes--don't even know that they should care who wrote it--'hey, and now dat ya mention it, Fadda, what else ain't true about da faith?'--and can only benefit from someone explaining what on earth the author is saying.

  2. Anonymous4:38 PM

    We are frequently told that today's laity are the most well educated in history. Therefore, we shouldn't teach them that artificial contraception and missing Sunday Mass through one's own fault are mortal sins. We shouldn't expect them to uncritically accept the Real Presence or the sacrificial nature of the Mass. They're too smart for that now. We have to meet them where they're at in this fast-paced technological world.

    In the same conversation we are also told that Latin is much, much too difficult for the average lay Catholic and that they will furiously resent it if you try to teach them. I'm starting to notice a pattern here...


  3. "Have I been so long a time with you, and have you not known me?" John 13:9.

  4. Anonymous6:12 PM

    "The faithful should obey the apostolic advice not to know more than is necessary, but to know in moderation."

    Too true all across the board. All of our knowledge hasn't produced a boatload of saints no matter where a Catholic ventures.

    I believe the Imitation of Christ has something to say about this too.


  5. Kathleen6:36 PM

    I've just enjoyed the pleasure of reading G.K. Chesterton's "The Everlasting Man" and both it and this item really bring home that this is far from the first time that the Church has been in a truly wretched situation due to large numbers of her children driving off into the ditch. And then hitting the gas!

    It actually, at least for me, does a lot to revive hope.

    An interesting pattern in relation to these cycles that was observed by Chesterton and seems worth mentioning is the repetition of a pattern that the "old" get weary and wander off into the ditch and that it is the youth that rescue the Church.

    Being one of the older ones, observing such things as the glorious SSPX pilgrimage this year, the blossoming of youthful traditional vocations, etc, I think we're seeing the pattern again.

    So as to your prayer New Catholic:

    O Lord, grant us priests!
    O Lord, grant us holy priests!
    O Lord, grant us many holy priests!

    And if I may,

    O Lord, bless our youth!


  6. Anonymous7:52 PM

    What the great Pope Clement 13th is telling us just listen to the doctors and sainrs regarding theology, not the latest "star" theologians such as Rahner, Congar, De Lubac, Von Balthasar Etc Etc Etc. Are you listening Father Fessio and Ignatius Press?

  7. Yes, the plain, simple truth would do. To quote St. Augustine: "Truth always shines with the brightness which belongs to it..."

    I've had conversations with learned Catholics sporting theology degrees. They can say the darnest things - probably to impress, maybe to shock; unwittingly, to undermine the faith of simple souls.

    Many years ago,a priest with whom I would not agree on a certain point shouted at me, "I have an STD!!" :-O

    I am happy to say that I don't and never have. :-D

  8. When we fail to contemplate the infinite riches of the Divine being, and his Truths, we seek novelty, oddity, and end up with ashes.

    We need to be contemplative souls to persevere.

  9. Anonymous10:53 PM


    I have a look of shock on my face!


  10. Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world, by wisdom, knew not God, it pleased God, by the foolishness of our preaching, to save them that believe . . . For the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

    1 Cor 1: 20-21, 25

  11. Typo fixed, thanks to all; now, someone has to alert the admin. of Papal Encyclicals.

  12. The Roman Catechism
    The Early Church Fathers
    Dom Gueranger's "The Liturgical Year."
    The Douai Rheims Bible
    Biblical Commentaries - Catena Aurea, Cornelius a Lapide, Haydock

    G.K. Chesterton wrote that when it came to education, the youngest children should be taught the oldest things (paraphrase) and he went on to note that the bouncing kids of his ages were being taught according to theories barely older than they were. How much more true is that about Catechetics and our children?

    I don't think I could make it through life without my Daily Conference with the Great Gueranger. He is my mentor and closest friend and I love him as my father in the Faith. He has taught me more about the Mass and Holy Mother Church than I thought I would ever know and I am so close to him that I swear that I can almost hear him speaking to me.

    The Liturgical Year ain't cheap, just priceless

  13. M. A.1:10 AM


    What is so shocking about having a Doctorate of Sacred Theology?


  14. Joe B1:11 AM

    "The faithful should obey the apostolic advice not to know more than is necessary ..."

    Yes, yes, that's exactly what I've been trying to say for forty years - no more Algebra.

  15. Anonymous4:32 PM


    That was my first thought - a Doctorate in Sacred Theology. But then it seemed like you were making a joke...and what's so funny about a doctorate in Theology? Then, all of a sudden, it came to me what else STD stands for; hence my shocked-ness!


    P.S. In any event, M.A., it was all meant in jest (you know me...that's what "pious" simpletons do!). Maybe one day NC will invest in an assortment of smilie faces here to convey such things.


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