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Classic Encyclicals (Nemo Certe Ignorat)

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Nemo Certe Ignorat


On Discipline For Clergy


Pope Pius IX


March 25, 1852

To the Venerable Brothers, Archbishops, and Bishops of Ireland.

Venerable Brothers, Greetings and Apostolic Benediction.

1. Certainly no one is ignorant, venerable brothers, with what outstanding and constant trust and respect for this Chair of Peter, the Mother and Teacher(1) of all the faithful Christians, and with what singular concord and constancy the bishops of Ireland always strove to excel in protecting Catholic interests and fulfilling their episcopal duties. Even during grievous storms, to their great credit and to Our consolation, they strenuously fulfilled their ministry together and earned the Church's deep gratitude. They considered nothing more precious than with one accord to prevent the people of Ireland entrusted to their care from being contaminated by the contagion of error. The bishops have diligently protected, defended, and safeguarded the legacy of faith and Catholic truth in their flock.

2. We rejoice when We think of your accomplishments; they give Us pleasure and they merit honor for you. Nonetheless We are anxiously concerned to learn by what strategies the ancient enemy strives to damage and weaken your union of minds, since at present he is inciting dissensions. We have such an opinion of your devotion that We do not doubt at all that you will bravely resist the snares of the enemy and fight constantly and prudently, with ever greater zeal, for God and Church. Yet because of Our office of Apostolic ministry and because of the great love We entertain for you and for your faithful people, We cannot but impress upon you again and again the need of mutual concord. "For indeed We know and it is certain (to use the very words of St. Gregory the Great, Our predecessor) that the battle line of a camp appears terrible to an enemy when it is continuous and crowded together, with no open spaces. For if there is a vacant place by which the enemy could enter, then it no longer arouses fear in him. And therefore, since we make a spiritual line of battle against the evil spirits, we must of necessity always be found united, drawn together by love and never severed by discord. Whatever good works may be found in us, if love is lacking, a place is opened by evil discord in our line of battle by which the enemy is able to enter and to strike us."(2) You are daily bound together by a most stringent covenant of love, and you are obligated to spread the glory of God, to safeguard the doctrine of the Catholic Church, to fight for its rights, to protect the safety of the flocks entrusted to you, to overthrow the plots and errors of the enemies, and to satisfy the other serious episcopal duties. Therefore, from the depths of our hearts, We exhort, even beg you to be more of one mind each day, unified in the same perceptions and in the same judgments, and concerned with preserving the unity of spirit in the bond of peace.

3. In your wisdom you know well how much this sacerdotal and trusting agreement of minds, wills, and judgment is necessary and advantageous to the good of the Church and the profit of the faithful. Therefore We are convinced by your exceptional piety and virtue that you will consider nothing more important than to continually cultivate such concord, not only among yourselves, but also with other venerable brothers, especially with the bishops of England and Scotland. For you know well that both you and they must work very much with one and the same zeal and with the support of your mutual love. You must stand watch for the perfection of the saints in the words of the ministry and build up the body of Christ. With united forces, you must under the leadership of this Apostolic See do all you can to promote the glory of God and the eternal salvation of men. We trust that you will always be eager for such concord, since We joyfully recall with what unanimity you signed the Acts of the Synod of Tullamore in 1850, called to protect the affairs of the Catholic Church in Ireland.

4. And here is something related to that Synod. You will recall the letter that twelve of your number sent to Us following the Synod on September 11, 1850. It was also signed by the Venerable Brother Daniel, Archbishop of Dublin, over whose death We grieve. There was particular question in the letter about Queens Colleges, as they called them. Nor are you unaware of the Decree, prepared by Our Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, which We published after due consideration of the matter. Since We wanted you to know how, in this important matter, We had written to the same Archbishop of Dublin in a personal letter dated November 17 of the preceding year, We decided to use the same words in this letter. They are as follows: "Concerning the Queens Colleges you spoke of in your letter, We are pleased to learn that after the Decree of the Apostolic See concerning this important matter was published, you promptly agreed to obey it. We are convinced that you will carefully execute the Decree and do so with every zealous effort. We know that you will see to it that the bishops who signed the September 11 letter along with you, will respect and obey this Decree, complying with it promptly and zealously. This Decree was always dear to Us. We greatly desire that it be earnestly and religiously observed by all, since in it there is question of safeguarding Catholic doctrine, and nothing can be or should be more important for us." From this you can easily understand how that venerable brother, admonished and encouraged by Us, applied all his energies to seeing that the Decree would be diligently observed both by himself and by others. Because he died, he perhaps was unable to complete the task that We had intended; therefore We again commend and urge all of you that for the sake of your religion, the Decree under consideration be observed with diligence and accuracy by all. Now it is concealed from no one that We approved the Ordinances and Statutes of the same Synod you held at Tullamore. This We did after a careful examination and with some emendations, as early as May 23 of the preceding year, by a Decree issued by Our Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, supported by Our Supreme Authority. We decided to approve, confirm, and sanction again in a more solemn manner the same ordinances and statutes in accordance with all the changes. Our Apostolic Letters...issued on the twenty-third day of this month did this. Now your episcopal solicitude must carefully and zealously watch that these statutes may be scrutinized freely as documents in good condition.

5. We praise you because in the assembly at Tullamore mentioned above, solicitous for the salutary, Catholic education of youth, you wisely agreed to erect a Catholic University of Ireland as quickly as possible. There, young men, without danger to their Catholic faith, will be taught literature and the more austere disciplines. We encourage you to spare no zealous attention so that this most salutary work may rapidly achieve its desired success. We gladly approve the foundation of this same Catholic University with the promised Apostolic Letters. We rejoiced greatly when We learned that the faithful of Ireland seconded your splendid plans with ready good will and liberality, so that substantial subsidies have already been received to bring your plans to fruition. Therefore while We greatly congratulate you and the faithful, We certainly entertain the hope that this Catholic University with God's help will rise in prosperity and happiness as soon as possible, according to Our and your desires.

6. Now, however, as you know, nothing instructs others more in piety and the service of God than the lives and example of those who have dedicated themselves to the divine ministry. Therefore labor so that all who are called to the vineyard of the Lord, mindful of their proper vocation and office, abstain entirely from things forbidden to clerics and from things that are not proper for them. Then they may be an example for the faithful in word, in their dealings with others, in love, in faith, and in chastity. They must wear a clerical habit appropriate to their order and dignity, and they must perform their ministry piously and reverently. Further they must administer to the faithful, with fitting piety and reverence, the holy sacrament of the Eucharist. With it all true justice begins; or if already begun, is increased; or if already lost, is recovered. They should be devoted to prayer and study, especially sacred studies, and under your guidance let them zealously serve the salvation of souls. Each one of you knows very well how eager the Church is, especially in these hard times, to have suitable servants, who come only from well-trained clerics. Therefore devote all your care, thoughts, and diligent study to this, that the young clergy, even from their earliest years, are trained in all piety, virtue, and ecclesiastical spirit, and that they are carefully taught literature and the more serious disciplines, especially the sacred ones, free entirely from every danger of profane innovations and error. Then resplendent with the raiment of all the virtues and armed with salutary and solid doctrine, they may in time be able to teach the Christian people by word and example and to refute those who contradict them.

You have in these letters, venerable brothers, what We in Our great love for you and for the faithful have thought worthy to emphasize, and We have no doubt at all that you will be happy to agree as one man with Our desires. Your religious sense, your piety, your reverence for Us and for this Apostolic See, and your episcopal virtue and solicitude are commendable. Because of these attributes, We trust that you will concur with Us, never leaving anything untried. Furthermore, aided by divine grace, We trust that you will proceed with every constancy, zeal, and prudence to set up a wall for the house of Israel, to keep the flock entrusted to your care away from poisoned pastures, and to lead them to good ones. We expect to see you bringing the miserably lost back to the paths of truth and justice and attempting everything by which all may grow in the knowledge of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ. Meanwhile in all Our humble prayers We shall beseech the most clement and merciful Father to pour out the richest gifts of his goodness over you and the sheep entrusted to you. As a sign of this heavenly aid, and as a pledge of Our burning love for you, accept the Apostolic Blessing, proceeding from the depths of Our heart and joined with a prayer for all true happiness We most lovingly give Our blessing to you, venerable brothers, to all the clergy, and to the faithful laity entrusted to your care.

Given at Rome, at St. Peter's, March 25, 1852, in the sixth year of Our Pontificate.


1. Lateran Council 4, ch. 5. | 2. St. Gregor M. on Ez, bk. 1, homil. 8.6.

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