September 30, 2004


Sacred mysteries: Pope who defied liberal forces (Christopher Howse, 25/09/2004, Daily Telegraph)

At dawn on Sept 20, 1870, as the guns of enemy Italians opened up on the walls of Rome, Pope Pius IX invited the diplomatic corps to attend his early morning Mass. Afterwards they were given chocolate and ices as the Pontiff surrendered his army, if not his jurisdiction.

Pope Pius IX is famous for condemning as an error the proposition that: "The Roman Pontiff may and ought to reconcile himself to, and agree with progress, liberalism and modern civilisation."

Looking at the television schedules, one is tempted to say "hear, hear" but television, if he'd known about it, was not the sort of technology of modern civilisation he had in mind. While he still had control of the Papal States, railways were built, telegraphs linked the towns and factories were constructed. Pius IX's enemies were not things but systems of ideas. [...]

Socialism and Communism, which he had condemned as early as 1846, were in his eyes the sponsors of an idolatry that replaced God with human self-sufficiency. This lay behind his two great acts: the declaration of the Immaculate Conception in 1854 - 150 years ago this December - and of Papal Infallibility in 1870. Both are much misunderstood.

The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception stated that Mary the Mother of Jesus was without sin from the first moment of her existence.

The day after its promulgation, Pius made a speech in which he stressed the terrible effects of Original Sin, from which Mary was exempt, and the need mankind had for God to reveal himself. This he contrasted to the false claims of rationalism, which saw no need for humanity to be healed.

As for Papal Infallibility, its terms were so restricted that it hardly meant more than that the Church itself was preserved from solemnly teaching erroneous doctrine.

For Pius IX, defining Infallibility meant combatting the third and most dangerous kind of liberalism that threatened the Church he had in his care.

The first had been the political liberalism, secularist republicanism rather than laissez-faire economics, whose armies prevailed. The second was the moral liberalism, sex and drugs, that remains with us.

The third was the emptying of Christian belief of its content. If, as Dr Edward Norman has argued in his latest books, the Catholic Church has retained a mechanism to preserve doctrinal integrity, it is thanks to Pius IX and his successors.

Opponents of progressivism always look bad in their own day but prescient and heroic in retrospect.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 30, 2004 2:39 PM

My Catholic Church, run as often by knuckleheads as visionaries, as often by pedophiles as celibates, is the molten core of all that good in human societies. Protestantism, Islam and Secular Judaism, for all their good intentions, have, by definition, no "doctrinal integrity." Of Orthodox Jews, well they're mostly just Amish Catholics, aren't they?

Posted by: JimGooding at September 30, 2004 3:22 PM

Pius also removed the street lights from Rome in 1849, sponsored child stealing and suppressed Acton.

He looked like an ignorant despot then and he still looks like an ignorant despot.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at September 30, 2004 4:02 PM

"As for Papal Infallibility, its terms were so restricted that it hardly meant more than that the Church itself was preserved from solemnly teaching erroneous doctrine."


Posted by: M Ali Choudhury at September 30, 2004 6:29 PM


Of course he got rid of the street lights. Made it easier to steal children.

Posted by: Peter B at September 30, 2004 6:53 PM

The street lights are funny.

The children are not.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at September 30, 2004 7:53 PM


Ok, source please. About the children, I mean, not the streetlights.

Posted by: Peter B at September 30, 2004 8:54 PM

As a Catholic graduate lay theologian who was viewed as conservative by my peers, I cringe at the notion of Pio Nono redivivus. He's the last sort of creature Rome needs right now unless it wishes to founder completely. The tasteless joke about the child refers to the notorious case of Edgardo Mortara, a Jewish child baptized by a Catholic servant when he was ill [one hopes she had only the best intentions, even if she acted in culpable ignorance] and therefore seized by the Church, since Jews could not be allowed control over a little Catholic boy. Subsequent popes backed away from the stands taken by this pope. Even his bastard son, whom he made a cardinal, opposed His Holiness in his demands for the claim of Infallibility. Perhaps you should study Catholic Church history a little more critically before you make such fatuous statements.

Posted by: Ossian at October 1, 2004 3:40 AM

The Catholic Church is true. The guys who run it are sinners and sometimes pompous and backwards. The fact that this Church has stood as a refuge from the devil since Christ founded it is a friggin miracle.

Posted by: JimGooding at October 1, 2004 8:45 AM

Isn't the official name of the Lefeberite schism "Sacred Society of Pius IX" or something similar?

Posted by: Ken at October 1, 2004 11:56 AM

Tasteless? And it wasn't a joke, either.

How many children do you have to steal to become a childstealer?

I'd also note, for all you frogophobes, that it was French bayonets that brought Pio Nono back to Rome. The Romans detested him.

If Howse were right, then society's salvation would be due to France. How ironic.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 1, 2004 2:25 PM


They rescued a Catholic, like Castro rescued a communist Elian. Of course both were wrong.

Posted by: oj at October 1, 2004 2:32 PM

So much for liberty.

The Church is the implacable enemy of liberty.

Elian was returned to his father, which is the opposite of what the Church did with its stolen children.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 1, 2004 5:08 PM

Elian was taken from liberty to bondage.

Posted by: oj at October 1, 2004 5:28 PM

Orrin, as were the Protestants...

Posted by: JimGooding at October 1, 2004 8:19 PM

Orrin, he's just a little kid. Only a savage uses little kids to make political points.

One thing we can be certain of: Anyone who looks at him as a political game piece and not as a little boy has no business being around him.

But the original point was about the Church and childstealing. It wasn't a spur of the moment thing or a mistake done in a hot moment and later regretted.

At leisure, and drawing on its vast store of tradition and moral authority, the church stole a little kid. A deep crime.

Only an evil organization could do that

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 2, 2004 3:28 PM


The kid had been baptized.

Posted by: oj at October 2, 2004 3:49 PM

Then why don't we forcibly baptize all Muslims ?

They'll instantly become Christians, and problem solved, eh ?

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 4, 2004 7:43 AM

We saved the Christians of Sudan first.

Posted by: oj at October 4, 2004 7:48 AM