Given by His
Holiness Pope Pius VIII
May 24, 1829
To Our Venerable Brothers, Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, and
Venerable Brothers, Greetings and Apostolic Benediction.
According to the custom of Our ancestors, We are about to assume Our
pontificate in the church of the Lateran. This office has been granted
to Us, even though We are humble and unworthy. We open Our heart with
joy to you, venerable brothers, whom God has given to Us as helpers in
the conduct of so great an administration. We are pleased to let you
know the intimate sentiments of Our will. We also think it helpful to
communicate those things from which the Christian cause may benefit.
For the duty of Our office is not only to feed, rule, and direct the
lambs, namely the Christian people, but also the sheep, that is the
2. We rejoice and praise Christ, who raised up shepherds for the
safekeeping of His flock. These shepherds vigilantly lead their flocks
so as not to lose even one of those they have received from the Father.
For We know well, venerable brothers, your unshakeable faith, your zeal
for religion, your sanctity of life, and your singular prudence.
Co-workers such as you make Us happy and confident. This pleasant
situation encourages Us when We fear because of the great
responsibility of Our office, and it refreshes and strengthens Us when
We feel overwhelmed by so many serious concerns. We shall not detain
you with a long sermon to remind you what things are required to
perform sacred duties well, what the canons prescribe lest anyone
depart from vigilance over his flock, and what attention ought to be
given in preparing and accepting ministers. Rather We call upon God the
Savior that He may protect you with His omnipresent divinity and bless
your activities and endeavors with happy success.
3. Although God may console Us with you, We are nonetheless sad. This
is due to the numberless errors and the teachings of perverse doctrines
which, no longer secretly and clandestinely but openly and vigorously,
attack the Catholic faith. You know how evil men have raised the
standard of revolt against religion through philosophy (of which they
proclaim themselves doctors) and through empty fallacies devised
according to natural reason. In the first place, the Roman See is
assailed and the bonds of unity are, every day, being severed. The
authority of the Church is weakened and the protectors of things sacred
are snatched away and held in contempt. The holy precepts are despised,
the celebration of divine offices is ridiculed, and the worship of God
is cursed by the sinner. All things which concern religion are
relegated to the fables of old women and the superstitions of priests.
Truly lions have roared in Israel. With tears We say: "Truly they
have conspired against the Lord and against His Christ." Truly the
impious have said: "Raze it, raze it down to its foundations."
4. Among these heresies belongs that foul contrivance of the sophists
of this age who do not admit any difference among the different
professions of faith and who think that the portal of eternal salvation
opens for all from any religion. They, therefore, label with the stigma
of levity and stupidity those who, having abandoned the religion which
they learned, embrace another of any kind, even Catholicism. This is
certainly a monstrous impiety which assigns the same praise and the
mark of the just and upright man to truth and to error, to virtue and
to vice, to goodness and to turpitude. Indeed this deadly idea
concerning the lack of difference among religions is refuted even by
the light of natural reason. We are assured of this because the various
religions do not often agree among themselves. If one is true, the
other must be false; there can be no society of darkness with light.
Against these experienced sophists the people must be taught that the
profession of the Catholic faith is uniquely true, as the apostle
proclaims: one Lord, one faith, one baptism. Jerome used to say it
this way: he who eats the lamb outside this house will perish as did
those during the flood who were not with Noah in the ark. Indeed, no
other name than the name of Jesus is given to men, by which they may be
saved. He who believes shall be saved; he who does not believe shall
5. We must also be wary of those who publish the Bible with new
interpretations contrary to the Church's laws. They skillfully distort
the meaning by their own interpretation. They print the Bibles in the
vernacular and, absorbing an incredible expense, offer them free even
to the uneducated. Furthermore, the Bibles are rarely without perverse
little inserts to insure that the reader imbibes their lethal poison
instead of the saving water of salvation. Long ago the Apostolic See
warned about this serious hazard to the faith and drew up a list of the
authors of these pernicious notions. The rules of this Index were
published by the Council of Trent; the ordinance required that
translations of the Bible into the vernacular not be permitted without
the approval of the Apostolic See and further required that they be
published with commentaries from the Fathers. The sacred Synod of Trent
had decreed in order to restrain impudent characters, that no one,
relying on his own prudence in matters of faith and of conduct which
concerns Christian doctrine, might twist the sacred Scriptures to his
own opinion, or to an opinion contrary to that of the Church or the
popes. Though such machinations against the Catholic faith had been
assailed long ago by these canonical proscriptions, Our recent
predecessors made a special effort to check these spreading evils.
With these arms may you too strive to fight the battles of the Lord
which endanger the sacred teachings, lest this deadly virus spread in
6. When this corruption has been abolished, then eradicate those secret
societies of factious men who, completely opposed to God and to
princes, are wholly dedicated to bringing about the fall of the Church,
the destruction of kingdoms, and disorder in the whole world. Having
cast off the restraints of true religion, they prepare the way for
shameful crimes. Indeed, because they concealed their societies, they
aroused suspicion of their evil intent. Afterwards this evil intention
broke forth, about to assail the sacred and the civil orders. Hence the
supreme pontiffs, Our predecessors, Clement XII, Benedict XIV, Pius
VII, Leo XII, repeatedly condemned with anathema that kind of
secret society. Our predecessors condemned them in apostolic letters;
We confirm those commands and order that they be observed exactly. In
this matter We shall be diligent lest the Church and the state suffer
harm from the machinations of such sects. With your help We strenuously
take up the mission of destroying the strongholds which the putrid
impiety of evil men sets up.
7. We want you to know of another secret society organized not so long
ago for the corruption of young people who are taught in the gymnasia
and the lycea. Its cunning purpose is to engage evil teachers to lead
the students along the paths of Baal by teaching them un-Christian
doctrines. The perpetrators know well that the students' minds and
morals are molded by the precepts of the teachers. Its influence is
already so persuasive that all fear of religion has been lost, all
discipline of morals has been abandoned, the sanctity of pure doctrine
has been contested, and the rights of the sacred and of the civil
powers have been trampled upon. Nor are they ashamed of any disgraceful
crime OT error. We can truly say with Leo the Great that for them "Law
is prevarication; religion, the devil; sacrifice, disgrace.' Drive
these evils from your dioceses. Strive to assign not only learned, but
also good men to train our youth.
8. Also watch the seminaries more diligently. The fathers of Trent made
you responsible for their administration. From them must come forth
men well instructed both in Christian and ecclesiastical discipline and
in the principles of sound doctrine. Such men may then distinguish
themselves for their piety and their teaching. Thus, their ministry
will be a witness, even to those outside the Church and they will be
able to refute those who have strayed from the path of justice. Be very
careful in choosing the seminarians since the salvation of the people
principally depends on good pastors. Nothing contributes more to the
ruin of souls than impious, weak, or uninformed clerics.
9. The heretics have disseminated pestilential books everywhere, by
which the teachings of the impious spread, much as a cancer. To
counteract this most deadly pest, spare no labor. Be admonished by the
words of Pius VII: "May they consider only that kind of food to be
healthy to which the voice and authority of Peter has sent them. May
they choose such food and nourish themselves with it. May they judge
that food from which Peter's voice calls them away to be entirely
harmful and pestiferous. May they quickly shrink away from it, and
never permit themselves to be caught by its appearance and perverted by
its allurements. "
10. We also want you to imbue your flock with reverence for the
sanctity of marriage so that they may never do anything to detract from
the dignity of this sacrament. They should do nothing that might be
unbecoming to this spotless union nor anything that might cause doubt
about the perpetuity of the bond of matrimony. This goal will be
accomplished if the Christian people are accurately taught that the
sacrament of matrimony ought to be governed not so much by human law as
by divine law and that it ought to be counted among sacred, not
earthly, concerns. Thus, it is wholly subject to the Church. Formerly
marriage had no other purpose than that of bringing children into the
world. But now it has been raised to the dignity of a sacrament by
Christ the Lord and enriched with heavenly gifts. Now its purpose is
not so much to generate offspring as to educate children for God and
for religion. This increases the number of worshippers of the true
divinity. It is agreed that the union of marriage signifies the
perpetual and sublime union of Christ with His Church; as a result, the
close union of husband and wife is a sacrament, that is, a sacred sign
of the immortal love of Christ for His spouse. Therefore, teach the
people what is sanctioned and what is condemned by the rules of the
Church and the decrees of the Councils. Also explain those things
which pertain to the essence of the sacrament. Then they will be able
to accomplish those things and will not dare to attempt what the Church
detests. We ask this earnestly of you because of your love of religion.
11. You know now what causes Our present grief. There are also other
things, no less serious, which it would take too long to recount here,
but which you know well. Shall We hold back Our voice when the
Christian cause is in such great need? Shall We be restrained by human
arguments? Shall We suffer in silence the rending of the seamless robe
of Christ the Savior, which even the soldiers who crucified Him did not
dare to rend? Let it never happen that We be found lacking in zealous
pastoral care for Our flock, beset as it is by serious dangers. We know
you will do even more than We ask, and that you will cherish, augment,
and defend the faith by means of teachings, counsel, work, and zeal.
12. With many ardent prayers We ask that, with God restoring the
penitence of Israel, holy religion may flourish everywhere. We also ask
that the true happiness of the people may continue undisturbed, and
that God may always protect the pastor of His earthly flock and nourish
him. May the powerful princes of the nations, with their generous
spirits, favor Our cares and endeavors. With God's help, may they
continue vigorously to promote the prosperity and safety of the Church,
which is afflicted by so many evils.
13. Let us ask these things humbly of Mary, the holy Mother of God. We
confess that she alone has overcome all heresies and We salute her with
gratitude on this day, the anniversary of Our predecessor, Pius VII's,
restoration to the city of Rome after he had suffered many adversities.
Let us ask these things of Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, and of
his coapostle Paul. With Christ's consent, may these two apostles grant
that We, firmly established on the rock of the Church's confession,
suffer no disturbing circumstances. From Christ Himself We humbly ask
the gifts of grace, peace, and joy for you and for the flock entrusted
to you. As a pledge of Our affection We lovingly impart the apostolic
Given in Rome, at St. Peter's, May 24, 1829, the first year of Our
1. Wis 1.32.
2. Jer 2.25.
3. Ps 136.7.
4. Eph 4.5
5. Epistle to Damasus, the 37th pope.
6. Acts 4.12.
7. Mk 16.16.
8. Rule 4 of the Index, and the addition to same from the decree of the
Index of 13 June 1737.
9. Session 4 on the decree concerning holy books.
10. Read, among other things, the apostolic letters of Pius VII to the
archbishops of Gnesen (1 June 1816) and Mohilev (3 September 1816).
11. Clement XII, constitution In eminenti; Benedict XIV, constitution
Providas; Pius VII, Constitution Ecclesiam a Jesu Christo; Leo XII,
constitution Quo graviora.
12. In sermon 5 on fasting of the tenth month, chap. 4.
13. Session 25, chap. 18, on reform.
14. 2 Tm 2.17.
15. In the encyclical letter to all bishops published in Venice.
16. Read the Roman catechism for parish priests on matrimony.