Catholic Family News
A Monthly Journal Preserving our Catholic Faith and Heritage

The 150th Anniversary of the Syllabus of Errors - Special Edition

CFN Special Edition
traditional-catholic-pius-ix -2
It is necessary to familiar ourselves Pius IX's Syllabus and the great counter-revolutionary
Pontiffs. The principles of the anti-liberal Popes should be foundational and habitual in
our thinking, for their fight against “Liberal Catholicism” is the same battle we fight today

The 150th Anniversary
of the
Syllabus of Errors

By John Vennari

December 8, 2014, marks the 150th Anniversary of Blessed Pius IX’s Quanta Cura and Syllabus of Errors.

Catholic Family News marks this anniversary with a special issue that contains eight articles related to Quanta Cura and the Syllabus.[1] We plan to continue writing on these landmark documents throughout 2015.

[click here to subscribe and get a free copy of the December Special Issue]

It is necessary to familiar ourselves with the
Syllabus and the great counter-revolutionary Pontiffs. The principles of the anti-liberal Popes should be foundational and habitual in our thinking, for their fight against “Liberal Catholicism” is the same battle we fight today. This or that detail may have changed, but the conflict remains the same. It is one and the same struggle against the agents of the counter syllabus; one and the same struggle against the destructive Modernism these agents ushered in to the highest echelons of the Church.

We cannot truly understand the present crisis in the Church without a firm understanding of
Syllabus and what it represents.

“Errors of Our Time”

Promulgated on December 8, 1864,
Quanta Cura and the Syllabus comprise a systematic condemnation of the errors of liberalism, and the false ideas of liberty that emanated from the French Revolution.

So completely did Pius IX condemn the “principal errors of our time,” that since 1864, the world is effectively divided into two opposing camps: The
Syllabus, which represent perennial Catholic truth on salvation and social order; and the counter syllabus, which represents a surrender, in one way or another, to the errors of godless naturalism. There is no third alternative.

The reality of this division was recognized by the French Freemason Ferdinand Buisson who declared, “A school cannot remain neutral between the
Syllabus and the Declaration of the Rights of Man [French Revolution].”[2] Father Denis Fahey referred to this showdown as “Pius IX vs. the Pantheistic Deification of Man.”

In similar vein, Father Felix Sarda y Salvany noted in his classic work Liberalism Is a Sin (1899), that faithful Catholics had hailed the Syllabus “with an enthusiasm equaled only by the paroxysm of fury with which the Liberals received it,” while “Liberal Catholics thought it more prudent to strike at it indirectly by overwhelming it with artificial interpretations [and] emasculating explanations.”[3]

It is said that if you pick up a modern book on Catholic theology or history, and if you want to quickly assess the mindset of the author, go to the Index to find out what he says about Pius IX’s Syllabus. If the author praises the Syllabus, he is likely to be worth reading. If he disparages the Syllabus or claims it is a time-bound document that is now out of date, you are probably reading the work of a liberal Catholic.

Vatican II is hailed by modern liberals (and by some so-called “conservatives”) as a
counter-syllabus. This is a realistic assessment, and demonstrates the Council’s compromise with various elements of the godless naturalism forcefully condemned by Blessed Pope Pius IX.

Darkness from the “Enlightenment”

Throughout the 19th century, society had become increasingly permeated with the liberal principals of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, to the detriment of Christendom. The supposedly “kinder and gentler” notions of religious pluralism, religious indifferentism, a democracy which believes all authority comes from the people, false notions of liberty, separation of Church and State, interfaith gatherings and other novelties were gripping the minds of post-Enlightenment Europe, infecting statesmen and Churchmen alike. The entire world was being re-shaped according to the godless tenets of naturalism.

The Popes of the 19th century and early 20th century waged war against these dangerous trends in full battle dress. With clear-sighted presence of mind rooted in an uncompromised certitude of Faith, these Popes were not taken in. They knew that evil principles, no matter how honorable they may appear, cannot bear good fruit, and these were evil principles at their worst, since they were rooted not only in heresy, but in apostasy.

Like commanding generals who recognize the duty to hold their ground at all cost, these Popes aimed powerful cannons at the errors of the modern world and fired incessantly. The Encyclicals were their cannonballs, and they never missed their target.[8]

The most devastating blast came in the form of Pope Pius IX’s monumental 1864 Syllabus of Errors, which accompanied the magnificent encyclical Quanta Cura.

Conqueror of All Heresies

The idea for the
Syllabus of Errors came from Cardinal Gioachhino Pecci, Archbishop of Perugia, who would later become Leo XIII. In November 1849 Pecci chaired a conference of the Bishops of Umbria that approved the request for a solemn Pontifical condemnation of the principle errors of the age.

Three years later, the Rome-based
Civilita Cattolica had asked for a condemnation of modern errors to be inserted in the Bull defining the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, which was issued December 8, 1854. The link between the two acts, the Syllabus and the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, was based on title of Our Lady as “Conqueror of All Heresies,” found in the ancient liturgical verse: “Rejoice, O Virgin Mary, for thou alone has destroyed all heresies throughout the world.”[4]

Eventually the decision was made to separate the two and give more time to the preparation of the
Syllabus. There were also delays due to malevolent machinations; in 1862 an earlier version of the Syllabus was leaked to an anti-Catholic newspaper, which complicated the preparations.

Nonetheless, on December 8, 1864, the tenth anniversary of the proclamation of the Immaculate Conception, Pius IX’s
Syllabus of Errors was promulgated along with the encyclical Quanta Cura.

The Pantheistic Deification of Man

Syllabus is published in its entirety on page 2 of this issue, and Father Fahey’s thumbnail summary is found on page 6. Here we see Pius IX condemn the principle errors of the modern world not because they are modern, but because they defy the teaching of Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Holy Church.

The Syllabus condemned unbridled freedom of the press and the so-called “liberty of worship” for all sects; Quanta Cura condemned the notion of “liberty of conscience” (the error that a man may have the moral right to believe and act according to what is objectively wrong). The Syllabus condemned the belief that man may find salvation in the practice of any religion (religious indifferentism), it condemned the false claim that Protestantism is just another form of the true Christian religion in which it is possible to serve God as well as in the Catholic Church (a principle that makes modern ecumenism possible). The Syllabus condemned the false idea of “separation of Church and State,” a tenet that effectively gives the State the “moral right” to act and make laws as if Our Lord Jesus Christ and the Ten Commandments do not exist (see page 15 for Archbishop Lefebvre’s proficient treatment of the topic).

Most pointedly, the
Syllabus condemned the familiar-sounding claim that “The Roman Pontiff can, and ought to, reconcile himself, and come to terms with progress, liberalism and modern civilization.”

In short, the Syllabus condemns the modern belief that man effectively becomes God. To understand this error, we must explain it is not the belief that man becomes that the God Whom we know, the all powerful God, Creator and Heaven and earth. Rather, man “becomes God” in this sense: it is man who is the ultimate arbiter of morality and law. It is man who ultimately decides what is good or evil according to his own reason, and in defiance of the Our Lord and His Commandments. It is man – and the sacred majority vote – that decides whether crimes such as abortion or so-called “same-sex marriage” should be “legalized”. Man is the ultimate arbiter of what is good and evil, right and wrong.

This “pantheistic deification of man” is at the heart of the godless principles of the French Revolution. It is a key principle of Freemasonry.[5]

From this false principle flows the falsehood of religious indifferentism, the justification of the secular state with no regard to God, freedom of conscience with no reference to anyone but oneself, the breakdown of marriage and the family (
see page 3), and other multiple errors that would be condemned in the Syllabus.

Despite these obvious evils, the 19th century saw a new breed of utopian Catholic who sought a compromise between Catholicism and modern godless trends. These men looked for what they believed to be “good” in the principles of 1789 and tried to introduce them into the Church.

Prominent men of this movement included Father Felicité de Lamennais, Charles de Montalembert, and Bishop Felice Dupanloup (
see page 11). As is the case with many liberals, some may have been well meaning but not capable of seeing the consequences of their compromise. Faithful Popes such as Gregory XVI, Blessed Pius IX, Leo XIII and Pius X, however, foresaw the destructive outcome of these principles.

Many Catholics, both clergy and laity, infected by the spirit of the age, allowed themselves to be caught in the web of deadly compromise between the Revolution and Catholicism. They came to be known as “Liberal Catholics.” Pope Pius IX remarked that they were the worst enemies of the Church. Despite papal condemnations, their numbers increased.

As the eminent Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton explains (and as will be covered in an upcoming issue of CFN), Modernism is simply the final component of liberal Catholicism. A central tenet of Modernism is that there can be some transformation of the dogmatic message of the Church over the course of the centuries.

Liberal Catholics will thus accept the superstition that the Church would have one set of truths for the 19th Century, and perhaps some different and opposite “truths” for the Twentieth century. This perverse thinking effectively prevailed at Vatican II.

It is a well-known fact that liberal Catholicism triumphed at the Council. Marcel Prelot, a senator of the Dobbs region of France rejoiced after the Council: “We had struggled for a century and a half to bring our opinions to prevail within the Church and had not succeeded.
Finally there came Vatican II and we triumphed. From then on, the propositions and principles of liberal Catholicism have been definitively and officially accepted by Holy Church.”[6]

Ratzinger Concurs

One of the most powerful testimonies that Vatican II surrenders to liberal Catholicism comes from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Tragically, Ratzinger hails this new direction as a positive development.

The following Ratzinger quotes are important to consider, particularly in the age of Pope Francis. Francis’ extreme recklessness has caused many Catholics to simply long for the “good old days” of the “conservative” Benedict XVI. Yet Benedict himself is one of the prime agents of the
counter syllabus whose lifelong career laid the groundwork for the aberration of the Francis Papacy. Both Francis and Ratzinger are first and foremost agents of the counter syllabus, with Francis appearing to be the more reckless of the two.

For now we focus on Cardinal Ratzinger.

In his 1987 book Principles of Catholic Theology, Cardinal Ratzinger praises Vatican document Gaudium et Spes as a counter syllabus.

He writes, “If it is desirable to offer a diagnosis of the text as a whole, we might say that (in conjunction with the texts on religious liberty and world religions) it is
a revision of the Syllabus of Pius IX, a kind of counter syllabus. The Cardinal goes on to say

“the one-sidedness of the position adopted by the Church under Pius IX and Pius X in response to the situation created by the new phase of history inaugurated by the French Revolution was, to a large extent, corrected via facti, especially in Central Europe, but there was still no basic statement of the relationship that should exist between the Church and the world that had come into existence after 1789. In fact, an attitude that was largely pre-revolutionary continued to exist in countries with strong Catholic majorities. Hardly anyone will deny today that the Spanish and Italian Concordat strove to preserve too much of a view of the world that no longer corresponded to the facts. Hardly anyone will deny today that, in the field of education and with respect to the historico-critical method in modern science, anachronisms existed that corresponded closely to this adherence to an obsolete Church-state relationship.”[7]

Ratzinger thus paints one of the greatest Popes in Church history as “one-sided” in his efforts to protect the Church from the errors of liberalism and from the spread of godlessness in society. He claims Pius’ holy teaching, grounded in the perennial doctrine of the Church, merely represents “an obsolete Church-State relationship.”

Ratzinger continues, “The text [Gaudium et Spes] serves as a counter syllabus and, as such, represents, on the part of the Church, an attempt at an official reconciliation with the new era inaugurated in 1789.”[8]

Yet this surrender of Catholic Churchmen to the new godless social order, and to the spirit of religious indifferentism, is exactly what was condemned in the Proposition #80 of the
Syllabus already noted: “The Roman Pontiff can, and ought to, reconcile himself, and come to terms with progress, liberalism and modern civilization.”

Ratzinger affirms elsewhere in the same book, “There can be no return to the Syllabus, which may have marked the first stage in the confrontation with liberalism but cannot be the last stage.”[9]

It is always amusing to see Modernist churchmen, who built their careers on the alleged “changeableness” of certain doctrine, solemnly declare that their favorite Modernist tenet cannot change: “There can be no return to the
Syllabus”. In other words, “There can be no change to the countersyllabus”. Ratzinger would not be open to a counter-countersyllabus.

Father Yves Congar, a Council peritus, likewise rejoices over the counter syllabus of Vatican II.

Basing himself on the so-called “movement of history,” as if historical circumstances could alter objective Catholic truth in any way, Congar writes, “It cannot be denied that such a text [the Conciliar document on Religious Liberty] says anything but what the Syllabus of 1864 said, and even practically the contrary of propositions 15, 77 and 79 of that document.”

Congar further notes, “The Church of Vatican II by the declaration on Religious Liberty, by Gaudium et spes – ‘The Church in the Modern World’: significant title! – has been clearly situated in a pluralistic world of today, and without injuring the greatness it has had, has cut the chains that kept it on the shores of the Middle Ages.”[10]

“A Common Perjurer”

counter syllabus approach stands condemned by common sense, which recognizes that objective truth cannot change. The counter syllabus approach is also condemned by the perennial Catholic magisterium, which affirms Catholic truth as immutable.

In line with the Catholic doctrine of the centuries, Vatican I taught infallibly, “Let therefore the understanding, the knowledge and the wisdom of individual men, and of all men of one man, and of the entire Church, grow and advance greatly and powerfully, over the course of the years and the ages, but only in its own class, in the same dogma, with the same meaning and in the same explanation.” In other words, without change.
This is the same terminology – “in the same meaning and the same explanation” – used in the Oath Against Modernism.

Stressing the deadly seriousness of the matter, Msgr. Fenton noted in 1960 that a man who took the Oath Against Modernism, and who then promoted Modernism himself, or allowed it to be promoted, “
would mark himself not only as a sinner against the Catholic Faith but also as a common perjurer.”[11]

He who takes the Oath Against Modernism swears solemnly before God: “I sincerely hold that the doctrine of Faith was handed down to us from the apostles through the orthodox Fathers in exactly the same meaning and always in the same explanation (
eodem sensu eodemque sententia). Therefore, I entirely reject the heretical misrepresentation that dogmas evolve and change from one meaning to another, different from the one which the Church held previously."

At the end of the Oath, he make this solemn Promise before God Himself: “I promise that I shall keep all these articles faithfully, entirely, and sincerely, and guard them inviolate, in no way deviating from them in teaching or in any way in word or in writing. Thus I promise, this I swear, so help me God, and these holy Gospels of God which I touch with my hand."

There is no way that a person who holds to the counter syllabus of Vatican II can claim to have kept the Faith “in the same meaning and in the same explanation” as the Church always held. There is no way that someone who accepts the Council’s new program of ecumenism and religious liberty can claim to have “guarded inviolate”, and “in no way deviated” from the clear teachings of the pre-Vatican II popes regarding religious indifferentism and the Social Kingship of Christ.

As already noted, both Cardinal Ratzinger and Yves Congar stated openly, as if it’s something to be proud of, that Vatican II is a counter syllabus – that it says the opposite of key teachings from pre-Vatican II Popes – and thus advance a Modernist tenet.

Ratzinger and Congar make these bold claims despite their solemn Oath against Modernism. We again repeat the warning of Msgr. Fenton, that the man who took the Oath Against Modernism, and who then promoted Modernism himself, or allowed Modernist tenets to be promoted, “would mark himself not only as a sinner against the Catholic Faith but also as a common perjurer.”

It is these “perjurers” who gave us the entire Vatican II revolution, of which Papa Bergoglio is the latest manifestation. How could any genuine good come from this murky source?

The solution to the present crisis is not a reform of the reform, or a “hermeneutic of continuity” that incorporates the Council’s novelties into a new synthesis via “Living Tradition”. The answer is the Traditional Catholic Faith “integral and inviolate” as we recite in the Athanasian Creed.

Stay With Us

We invite you will deepen your study of
Quanta Cura, the Syllabus and the great counter-revolutionary Popes. As mentioned earlier, the battle fought by the 19th Century pontiffs is the same battle we fight today: the Church vs. the Revolution, the Syllabus vs. the counter syllabus.

Pope Francis, Cardinal Kasper and those who now wish to apply Modernist principles to morals (as we saw in the latest Extraordinary Synod) are actually consistent with the spirit of the Vatican II. They take the liberal principle “some truths can change over time” to its logical conclusion, as did Pope John Paul II in his day, by his scandalous pan-religious meetings at Assisi and his ecumenical prayers services at Lutheran temples; as did Pope Benedict in his day, by his ecumenical program of visiting synagogues and interfaith meetings, as he conducted in Cologne, Germany. Here Benedict said regarding ecumenism:

“... this unity does not mean what could be called ecumenism of the return: that is, to deny and to reject one’s own faith history. Absolutely not! It does not mean uniformity in all expressions of theology and spirituality, in liturgical forms and in discipline. Unity in multiplicity, and multiplicity in unity ...”.[12]

All of these modernist principles and practices: allowing Communion to divorced and remarried; pan-religious Assisi prayer meetings; telling non-Catholics they can remain in their false religion and remain on the road of salvation, were equally unthinkable under the pre-Vatican II Popes.

The answer to the present uproarious Bergoglio Pontificate is not a return to the counter syllabus Benedict, or to the ecumenical John Paul II, but a return to the great Popes of the Syllabus prior to the Second Vatican Council.

We hope you will stay with us throughout 2015 as we continue our study of the
Syllabus, Quanta Cura, the Counter-revolutionary Popes and the ravages of Liberal Catholicism.

Our Lady, Conqueror of all heresies, pray for us.

[click here to subscribe and get a free copy of the December CFN, Special issue - also lists contents]

[1] See both articles on page 1, and subsequent articles on page 2 (the Syllabus itself), and pages 3, 6, 7, 11 and 15.
[2] Quoted from The Mystical Body of Christ in the Modern World, Father Denis Fahey, [Originally published in 1935 by Regina Publications, Ireland: Republished by Omni Publications, 1994], p. 143.
[3] Felix Sarda y Salvany, Liberalism Is a Sin (Rockford, IL: TAN, 1993), p. 52.
[4] From the first antiphon in the third nocturne of Her Common Office.
[5] If man rejects God, then man himself will becomes “God”. This is the religion of naturalism, especially laid out in the writings of the great Cardinal Pie of the 19th Century.
[6] Le Catholicisme Liberal, 1969. Quoted in Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, An Open Letter to Confused Catholics. (Kansas City: Angelus Press, 1992), p. 89.
[7] Joseph Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1987), pp. 381-82. [emphasis added]
[8] Ibid., p. 381.
[9] Ibid., p. 191.
[10] Both Congar quotes from Archbishop Lefebvre and the Crisis if the Church by Father Yves Congar, quoted from They Have Uncrowned Him, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, [Dickenson: Angelus, 1988], pp. 132-3.
[11] “Sacrorum Antistitum and the Background of the Oath Against Modernism,” Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton, The American Ecclesiastical Review, October, 1960, p. 259. [emphasis added].
[12] Apostolic Journey to Cologne, On the Occasion of the XX World Youth Day. Ecumenical Meeting, Address of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, Cologne - Archbishop’s House: Friday, 19 August 2005. On Vatican webpage at: [emphasis added].

Pius IX's complete Syllabus of Errors

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