Rorate Caeli

Taming the Action - II
The Decree

[Taming the Action - I]

85 years ago, in December 1926, following his first explicit words of reprobation for  the Maurrasian movement, L'Action Française, Pope Pius XI, by way of a decree of the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office, officially condemned that work and their periodical. The action of Pope Saint Pius X, which had been in a kind of suspended state since 1914, in view of various considerations, finally reached its logical conclusion.

Decree of the Holy Office
condemning certain works of Charles Maurras
and the periodical L'Action française

January 29, 1914, and December 29, 1926.

Since many have asked that a diligent inquiry be taken on the thinking and intention of this Apostolic See, and especially those of Pius X, of blessed memory, regarding the works and writings of Charles Maurras and of the periodical named L'Action française, H.H. Pope Pius XI ordered me, the undersigned, assessor to the Holy Office, to research with care the acts and files of the Sacred Congregation of the Index - which, as all know, was joined and incorporated to the Holy Office - and to present him a report.

This inquiry having been accomplished, this is what was found:

In the preparatory Congregation held on Thursday, January 15, 1914:
«All the Consultants were of the unanimous opinion that the four works of Charles Maurras - Le Chemin de Paradis, Anthinéa, Les Amants de Venise et Trois idées politiques - were truly harmful and thus merited being prohibited; they declared that it was necessary to add the work L'Avenir de l'intelligence to the aforementioned works.

«Several Consultants wished that the books entitled Politique religieuse et Si le coup de force est possible would also be added.»

In the General Congregation held on Monday, January 26, 1914:

«The Eminent Cardinal-Prefect declared that he had discussed this matter with the Supreme Pontiff, and that the Holy Father, due to a number of petitions addressed to him verbally and in writing, even by considerable persons, had truly hesitated for a moment, but had in the end decided that the Sacred Congregation should deal with this matter in full liberty, reserving to himself the right of publishing the Decree.

«The Eminent Fathers, reaching thus the heart of the matter, declared that, without any possible doubt, the books indicated by the Consultants were truly very harmful and merited being censored, even more so because it is very difficult to distance the young from these books, whose author is recommended as a master and as the head of those from whom the salvation of the homeland is to be expected. The Eminent Fathers unanimously decided to proscribe, in the name of the Sacred Congregation, the mentioned books, but to leave the publication of the Decree to the discretion of the Supreme Pontiff. Concerning the periodical L'Action française, a bimonthly journal, the Eminent Fathers considered that decision was to be taken as on the works of Charles Maurras.»

On January 29,1914:

«The Secretary, received in audience by the Holy Father, rendered an account of all that had been done in the last Congregation. The Supreme Pontiff soon speaks of  the Action française and of the works of M. Maurras, saying that he had received, from many sides, petition demanding him not to allow the prohibition of these works by the Sacred Congregation, yet affirming that these works are forbidden and must be considered thus henceforth; according to the content of the proscription made by the Sacred Congregation, being reserved to the Supreme Pontiff nonetheless the right to indicate the moment in which the decree should be published, if he presents a new occasion of doing so, the decree that proscribes that periodical and those books should be promulgated today.»

On April 14, 1915:

«The Supreme Pontiff (Benedict XV, of blessed memory) inquired the Secretary on the matter of the books of Charles Maurras and of the periodical L'Action française. The Secretary reported in detail to His Holiness everything that the Sacted Congregation had done on this matter and how his predecessor, Pius X, of holy memory, had ratified and approved the proscription pronounced by the Eminent Fathers, but had postponed to a more adequate moment the publication of the decree. That being said, His Holiness declared that this moment had not yet arrived since, the war still being fought, political passions would prevent an equitable judgment of this act of the Holy See.»

All these things having been reported with care to Our Most Holy Father by myself, the undersigned, assessor to the Holy Office, His Holiness judged that it had become appropriate to have published and promulgated this decree of Pope Pius X and decided to proceed to its promulgation, with the date established by his predecessor, of blessed memory, Pius X.

Additionally, regarding the articles written and published, especially on the last few days, by the periodical of the same name, L'Action française, and notably by Charles Maurras and Léon Daudet, articles that any sensible man must recognize as written against the Apostolic See and the Roman Pontiff himself, His Holiness confirmed the condemnation carried on by his predecessor and extended it to the aforementioned periodical, L'Action française, as it is published today, in such a manner that this newspaper is to be considered forbidden and condemned and must be inscribed in the Index of forbidden books, without prejudice to future inquiries and condemnation of the work of either writer.

From Rome, at the palace of the Holy Offic, December 29, 1926.

By Most Holy Order,

CANALI, Adsessor.

In the next installment, Pope Pius XI firmly defends his action and commends all bishops of France who stand firm against the Action - which would lead to the rare event (the only case in the 20th century) of a Cardinal resigning from his eminent position (Cardinal Billot).