Syllabus Condemning The Errors Of The Modernists
Pope St. Pius X
July 3, 1907
truly lamentable results, our age, casting aside all restraint in
its search for the ultimate causes of things, frequently pursues
novelties so ardently that it rejects the legacy of the human
race. Thus it falls into very serious errors, which are even more
serious when they concern sacred authority, the interpretation of
Sacred Scripture, and the principal mysteries of Faith. The fact
that many Catholic writers also go beyond the limits determined by
the Fathers and the Church herself is extremely regrettable. In
the name of higher knowledge and historical research (they say),
they are looking for that progress of dogmas which is, in reality,
nothing but the corruption of dogmas.
errors are being daily spread among the faithful. Lest they
captivate the faithful's minds and corrupt the purity of their
faith, His Holiness, Pius X, by Divine Providence, Pope, has
decided that the chief errors should be noted and condemned by the
Office of this Holy Roman and Universal Inquisition.
after a very diligent investigation and consultation with the
Reverend Consultors, the Most Eminent and Reverend Lord Cardinals,
the General Inquisitors in matters of faith and morals have judged
the following propositions to be condemned and proscribed. In
fact, by this general decree, they are condemned and proscribed.
The ecclesiastical law which prescribes that books concerning the
Divine Scriptures are subject to previous examination does not
apply to critical scholars and students of scientific exegesis of
the Old and New Testament.
The Church's interpretation of the Sacred Books is by no means to
be rejected; nevertheless, it is subject to the more accurate
judgment and correction of the exegetes.
From the ecclesiastical judgments and censures passed against free
and more scientific exegesis, one can conclude that the Faith the
Church proposes contradicts history and that Catholic teaching
cannot really be reconciled with the true origins of the Christian
Even by dogmatic definitions the Church's magisterium cannot
determine the genuine sense of the Sacred Scriptures.
Since the deposit of Faith contains only revealed truths, the
Church has no right to pass judgment on the assertions of the
The "Church learning" and the "Church
teaching" collaborate in such a way in defining truths that
it only remains for the "Church teaching" to sanction
the opinions of the "Church learning."
In proscribing errors, the Church cannot demand any internal
assent from the faithful by which the judgments she issues are to
They are free from all blame who treat lightly the condemnations
passed by the Sacred Congregation of the Index or by the Roman
They display excessive simplicity or ignorance who believe that
God is really the author of the Sacred Scriptures.
The inspiration of the books of the Old Testament consists in
this: The Israelite writers handed down religious doctrines under
a peculiar aspect which was either little or not at all known to
Divine inspiration does not extend to all of Sacred Scriptures so
that it renders its parts, each and every one, free from every
If he wishes to apply himself usefully to Biblical studies, the
exegete must first put aside all preconceived opinions about the
supernatural origin of Sacred Scripture and interpret it the same
as any other merely human document.
The Evangelists themselves, as well as the Christians of the
second and third generation, artificially arranged the evangelical
parables. In such a way they explained the scanty fruit of the
preaching of Christ among the Jews.
In many narrations the Evangelists recorded, not so much things
that are true, as things which, even though false, they judged to
be more profitable for their readers.
Until the time the canon was defined and constituted, the Gospels
were increased by additions and corrections. Therefore there
remained in them only a faint and uncertain trace of the doctrine
The narrations of John are not properly history, but a mystical
contemplation of the Gospel. The discourses contained in his
Gospel are theological meditations, lacking historical truth
concerning the mystery of salvation.
The fourth Gospel exaggerated miracles not only in order that the
extraordinary might stand out but also in order that it might
become more suitable for showing forth the work and glory of the
John claims for himself the quality of witness concerning Christ.
In reality, however, he is only a distinguished witness of the
Christian life, or of the life of Christ in the Church at the
close of the first century.
Heterodox exegetes have expressed the true sense of the Scriptures
more faithfully than Catholic exegetes.
Revelation could be nothing else than the consciousness man
acquired of his revelation to God.
Revelation, constituting the object of the Catholic faith, was not
completed with the Apostles.
The dogmas the Church holds out as revealed are not truths which
have fallen from heaven. They are an interpretation of religious
facts which the human mind has acquired by laborious effort.
Opposition may, and actually does, exist between the facts
narrated in Sacred Scripture and the Church's dogmas which rest on
them. Thus the critic may reject as false facts the Church holds
as most certain.
The exegete who constructs premises from which it follows that
dogmas are historically false or doubtful is not to be reproved as
long as he does not directly deny the dogmas themselves.
The assent of faith ultimately rests on a mass of probabilities.
The dogmas of the Faith are to be held only according to their
practical sense; that is to say, as perceptive norms of conduct
and not as norms of believing.
The divinity of Jesus Christ is not proved from the Gospels. It is
a dogma which the Christian conscience has derived from the notion
of the Messias.
While He was exercising His ministry, Jesus did not speak with the
object of teaching He was the Messias, nor did His miracles tend
to prove it.
It is permissible to grant that the Christ of history is far
inferior to the Christ Who is the object of faith.
In all the evangelical texts the name "Son of God'' is
equivalent only to that of "Messias." It does not in the
least way signify that Christ is the true and natural Son of God.
The doctrine concerning Christ taught by Paul, John, and the
Councils of Nicea, Ephesus and Chalcedon is not that which Jesus
taught but that which the Christian conscience conceived
It is impossible to reconcile the natural sense of the Gospel
texts with the sense taught by our theologians concerning the
conscience and the infallible knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Everyone who is not led by preconceived opinions can readily see
that either Jesus professed an error concerning the immediate
Messianic coming or the greater part of His doctrine as contained
in the Gospels is destitute of authenticity.
The critics can ascribe to Christ a knowledge without limits only
on a hypothesis which cannot be historically conceived and which
is repugnant to the moral sense. That hypothesis is that Christ as
man possessed the knowledge of God and yet was unwilling to
communicate the knowledge of a great many things to His disciples
Christ did not always possess the consciousness of His Messianic
The Resurrection of the Savior is not properly a fact of the
historical order. It is a fact of merely the supernatural order
(neither demonstrated nor demonstrable) which the Christian
conscience gradually derived from other facts.
In the beginning, faith in the Resurrection of Christ was not so
much in the fact itself of the Resurrection as in the immortal
life of Christ with God.
The doctrine of the expiatory death of Christ is Pauline and not
The opinions concerning the origin of the Sacraments which the
Fathers of Trent held and which certainly influenced their
dogmatic canons are very different from those which now rightly
exist among historians who examine Christianity.
The Sacraments have their origin in the fact that the Apostles and
their successors, swayed and moved by circumstances and events,
interpreted some idea and intention of Christ.
The Sacraments are intended merely to recall to man's mind the
ever-beneficent presence of the Creator.
The Christian community imposed the necessity of Baptism, adopted
it as a necessary rite, and added to it the obligation of the
The practice of administering Baptism to infants was a
disciplinary evolution, which became one of the causes why the
Sacrament was divided into two, namely, Baptism and Penance.
There is nothing to prove that the rite of the Sacrament of
Confirmation was employed by the Apostles. The formal distinction
of the two Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation does not pertain
to the history of primitive Christianity.
Not everything which Paul narrates concerning the institution of
the Eucharist (1 Cor. 11:23-25) is to be taken historically.
In the primitive Church the concept of the Christian sinner
reconciled by the authority of the Church did not exist. Only very
slowly did the Church accustom herself to this concept. As a
matter of fact, even after Penance was recognized as an
institution of the Church, it was not called a Sacrament since it
would be held as a disgraceful Sacrament.
The words of the Lord, "Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins
you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you
shall retain, they are retained'' (John 20:22-23), in no way refer
to the Sacrament of Penance, in spite of what it pleased the
Fathers of Trent to say.
In his Epistle (Ch. 5:14-15) James did not intend to promulgate a
Sacrament of Christ but only commend a pious custom. If in this
custom he happens to distinguish a means of grace, it is not in
that rigorous manner in which it was taken by the theologians who
laid down the notion and number of the Sacraments.
When the Christian supper gradually assumed the nature of a
liturgical action those who customarily presided over the supper
acquired the sacerdotal character.
The elders who fulfilled the office of watching over the
gatherings of the faithful were instituted by the Apostles as
priests or bishops to provide for the necessary ordering of the
increasing communities and not properly for the perpetuation of
the Apostolic mission and power.
It is impossible that Matrimony could have become a Sacrament of
the new law until later in the Church since it was necessary that
a full theological explication of the doctrine of grace and the
Sacraments should first take place before Matrimony should be held
as a Sacrament.
It was far from the mind of Christ to found a Church as a society
which would continue on earth for a long course of centuries. On
the contrary, in the mind of Christ the kingdom of heaven together
with the end of the world was about to come immediately.
The organic constitution of the Church is not immutable. Like
human society, Christian society is subject to a perpetual
Dogmas, Sacraments and hierarchy, both their notion and reality,
are only interpretations and evolutions of the Christian
intelligence which have increased and perfected by an external
series of additions the little germ latent in the Gospel.
Simon Peter never even suspected that Christ entrusted the primacy
in the Church to him.
The Roman Church became the head of all the churches, not through
the ordinance of Divine Providence, but merely through political
The Church has shown that she is hostile to the progress of the
natural and theological sciences.
Truth is no more immutable than man himself, since it evolved with
him, in him, and through him.
Christ did not teach a determined body of doctrine applicable to
all times and all men, but rather inaugurated a religious movement
adapted or to be adapted to different times and places.
Christian Doctrine was originally Judaic. Through successive
evolutions it became first Pauline, then Joannine, finally
Hellenic and universal.
It may be said without paradox that there is no chapter of
Scripture, from the first of Genesis to the last of the
Apocalypse, which contains a doctrine absolutely identical with
that which the Church teaches on the same matter. For the same
reason, therefore, no chapter of Scripture has the same sense for
the critic and the theologian.
The chief articles of the Apostles' Creed did not have the same
sense for the Christians of the first ages as they have for the
Christians of our time.
The Church shows that she is incapable of effectively maintaining
evangelical ethics since she obstinately clings to immutable
doctrines which cannot be reconciled with modern progress.
Scientific progress demands that the concepts of Christian
doctrine concerning God, creation, revelation, the Person of the
Incarnate Word, and Redemption be re-adjusted.
Modern Catholicism can be reconciled with true science only if it
is transformed into a non-dogmatic Christianity; that is to say,
into a broad and liberal Protestantism.
following Thursday, the fourth day of the same month and year, all
these matters were accurately reported to our Most Holy Lord, Pope
Pius X. His Holiness approved and confirmed the decree of the Most
Eminent Fathers and ordered that each and every one of the
above-listed propositions be held by all as condemned and
Palombelli, Notary of the Holy Roman and Universal Inquisition]
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