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).


  1. Ecclesia Militans11:42 AM

    "In 1926, a new drama occurred in the Church in France: brutally and inconsiderately, Pope Pius XI condemned Action Francaise, a counter-revolutionary movement which was secular in itself, but in which there were many of the most anti-liberal Catholic militants. Judging the condemnation to be unjust (and this with some grounded arguments), the majority of the leaders and members refused it: they were excommunicated (they disputed the validity and existence of the excommunication), and the censure was lifted only in 1939, by Pius XII, at the beginning of the Second World War. After this condemnation, French bishops and other Church authorities (the press, Catholic Action, etc) were methodically purged in favor of Catholics who were more liberal and leaning more to the Left."
    Angelus magazine (September 2008)

    "Action Francaise advocated a sound, definitive reaction, a return to order, to discipline, to a moral code, to Christian morals. So the government, displeased with this movement also, insisted that Pope Pius XI condemn it. Action Francaise was made up of the best Catholics who were trying to put France back on the right track again. And yet Pope Pius XI condemned it. The best proof that his judgement was unsound is that when he died, his Secretary of State, Pope Pius XII, who succeeded him, lifted the condemnation of the movement. It was too late! The evil had been done. Action Francaise had been ruined. It was frightening and had enormous consequences."
    Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, The Little Story of My Long Life, page 32.

  2. Ecclesia Militans11:48 AM

    Condemnation of Action Francaise = the beginning of the disaster of French Catholicism, with the thorough installation of liberal modernist bishops throughout France.

  3. Saint Pius X and Pius XI had sound reasons for condemning the mentioned works and the periodical. Pius XI had sound reasons for making the condemnation public when he did it. The "beginning of the disaster of French Catholicism" dates from centuries earlier.


  4. Ecclesia Militans1:01 PM

    Well, there was no disaster before because the liberal modernist bishops weren't in power before the sad condemnations, but after them they took over the entire French episcopate.

    I remember reading of an episode of Abp. Lefebvre's life, when he was appointed Bishop of Tulle, France. All of the other French bishops, all of them liberals, refused to allow him membership in two episcopal councils, because he was traditional, although it was his prerogative as an archbishop.

    If the condemnations were not unjust, then why was it that the very cardinal Secratary of State of Pope Pius XI, the future Pontiff Pius XII, abolished them as one of the first acts of his pontificate?

    Action Francaise was an organization of French royalists fully devoted to the Church and to the eternal fight between good and evil, fighting for the Restoration and against the Revolution.
    Of course, the revolutionaries couldn't stand it and so they used all their influence in the Vatican to cripple these militant Catholics.

    These sad condemnations can be compared perfectly to the tragic situation with the Cristeros in Mexico, and they show just how early the Vatican was infiltrated.

    It is very indicative that the first order of business for the infiltrators was disposing of Catholic militancy throughout the Church, and thereby crippling the strength to fight.

    Viva Cristo Rey!

  5. Pius XII, thirteen years later, lifted the ban on the periodical - because of the change of tone in the periodical itself regarding the Church.

    Lefebvre was named bishop of Tulle in 1962, long after these events - he was Abp. of Dakar first.

  6. Steve2:19 PM

    "Condemnation of Action Francaise = the beginning of the disaster of French Catholicism..."

    I don't think so.

    The fate of France was sealed when the French Monarchy rejected the requests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, delivered to them by Saint Margaret Mary Alcoque.

    The world got a second chance with the requests made by Our Lady of the Rosary at Fatima.

    How's that working for you?

  7. Call Me Ishmael3:01 PM

    The statements of the Angelus Magazine and Archbishop Lefebvre do not outrank those of Pope Saint Pius X, Benedict XV and Pius XI.

  8. I do think the condemnation of Action Francaise was politically faulted. In the lack of a Church-supported political movement, many European catholics ended up drifting away to liberalism, socialism or nazi-fascism. Pius XII realized that but it was already too late. By 1939 the french catholics were not a political force in itself and were scattered. Needless to say, that most conservative catholics in Europe chose the wrong side during the war and became demoralized afterwards.

  9. John McFarland1:32 AM

    Dear New Catholic,

    In his "Christendom and Revolution" talk at the SSPX's conference in Kansas City last fall, Fr. Juan Carolos Inscara of the Society said:

    "The present crisis is not new, it did not start with Vatican II, but it is the end result of a long history of plots and blunders, cunning and weaknesses." The first analysis of the process that he mentions dates from 1310.

    But this does not let the authors of the more recent blunders off the hook, and the condemnation of Action Francaise was manifestly one of them. An even more important one was Pope Leo XII's ordering French Catholics to rally to the Republic, which required the political battle against the Revolution to take place under atheist leadership. For a Catholic to keep up the fight was to incur excommunication.

    So when Pius XI forced French Catholics to abandon that leadership, the fight with the Revolution was over, and Catholic France -- the Church's tribe of Judah, as St. Pius X was wont to say -- was reduced to impotence in the fight against the Revolution. As Cardinal Billot tossed his red hat on the Holy Father's desk and went into retirement, the creation of Maritainism began almost immediately under literal papal auspices. Political Sillonism had won, and the victory of theological modernism was only forty years away.

  10. Anonymous4:37 AM

    Action Francaise was not a Catholic but nationalistic movement which embraced Catholicism as being French, not as being true.

    The long-time guru of AF, Charles Maurras, said he would not put his trust in the gospels, which he termed "the scriptures of four obscure Jews". While some of the antics of the paramilitaristic youth-wing of AF is humorous, it was violent and had no regard for either civil law, or when it came to the crunch, for ecclesiastical authority. The paper, "Action Francaise" was full of venom and included any number of false accusations against those who disagreed with its editorials.

    While some elements of the AF were laudable, both Pius X and Pius XI were right in their condemnations (though the former's went unpublished: "damnabilis sed non damnanda").

    There are many striking similarities between the SSPX and AF: no regard for legitimate authority; a claim to be the salvation of society; setting themselves above the law; intemperance in writings and speeches. And that the Society defends the AF so vehemently is not insignificant.

    Fr Brendan Arthur


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