Friday, 27 November 2009

The Voice of... Pope Leo XIII (Part II)

On 15th February, 1882, Pope Leo XIII issued his Encyclical Etsi Nos to the Archbishops and Bishops and the Other Ordinaries of Italy on conditions in Italy:

"18. But your chief cares and thoughts, Venerable Brethren, must have for their object the due appointment of fitting ministers of God. For if it be the office of Bishops to use very much labor and zeal in properly training the whole of their youth, they ought to spend themselves far more on the clerics who are growing up as the hope of the Church, and are to be some day sharers in the most sacred duties. Indeed, grave reasons, common to all times, demand in priests many and great graces; but this time in which we live demands that they should be even more and greater. In truth the defense of the Catholic Faith, in which the industry of priests ought specially to be employed, and which is in these days so very necessary, demands no common nor ordinary learning, but that which is recondite and varies; which embraces not only sacred, but even philosophical studies, and is rich in the treatment of physical and historical discoveries. For the error which has to be eradicated is multiform, and saps all the foundations of Christian wisdom; and very often a battle has to be waged with adversaries well prepared, pertinacious in disputing, who astutely draw confirmation from every kind of science. Similarly, since in these days there is great and far extended corruption of morals, there is need in priests of singular excellence of virtue and constancy. They can by no means avoid associating with men; by the very duties of their office, indeed, they are compelled to have intimate relations with the people; and that in the midst of cities where there is hardly any lust that has not permitted and unbridled license. From which it follows that virtue in the clergy ought at this time to be strong enough peacefully to guard itself, and both conquer all the blandishments of desire and securely overcome dangerous examples. Besides a paucity of clerics has everywhere followed the laws which have been enacted to the injury of the Church, so plainly, that it is necessary for those who by the grace of God are being trained to Holy Orders, to give double attention, and by increased diligence, zeal, and devotion to compensate for the sparse supply. And, indeed, they cannot do this advantageously unless they possess a soul resolute of purpose, mortified, incorrupt, ardent with charity, ever prompt and quick in undertaking labors for the salvation of men. But for such tasks a long and diligent preparation must be made; for one is not accustomed to such great things easily and quickly. And they indeed will pass their time in the priesthood holily and purely, who have exercised themselves in this way from their youth, and have so advanced in discipline that they seem not so much to have been instructed to those virtues, of which We have spoken, as to have been born to them."

"19. For these reasons, Venerable Brethren, the Seminaries of clerics demand a very great portion of your zeal, care, and vigilance."

"20. As to virtue and morals, it does not escape your wisdom with what precepts and instruction the youth of clerics must be surrounded. In graver studies Our Encyclical Letters, "Aeterni Patris," have pointed out the best way and course. But since in such a condition of mental activity many things have been wisely and usefully discovered, which it is not fitting to ignore especially when wicked men are accustomed to turn, as new weapons, against divinely revealed truths, every addition of this kind which the day brings -- take care, Venerable Brethren, as far as lies in your power, that the young clerics be not only better instructed in natural sciences, but also properly educated in those arts which have connection with the interpretation or authority of the Sacred Scriptures. Of this surely we are not ignorant, that many things are needful for perfection in the highest studies, the means for which in the religious seminaries of Italy hostile laws are taking away or diminishing. But in this also the time demands that by their bounty and munificence Our children should strive to merit well of the Catholic religion. The pious and beneficent goodwill of our ancestors had admirably provided for necessities of this kind; and this the Church had been able by prudence and economy to accomplish, so that she had no necessity whatever to recommend to the charity of her children the care and preservation of sacred property. But her legitimate and sacred patrimony, which the attacks of former ages had spared, the tempest of our times has dissipated; so that there is again a reason why those who love the Catholic name should be induced to renew the liberality of their ancestors. Illustrious indeed are the proofs of munificence on the part of Frenchmen, Belgians, and others in a cause not very dissimilar from this munificence most worthy the admiration not only of contemporaries, but also of posterity. Nor do We doubt but that the Italian people, moved by the consideration of their common circumstances, will, in proportion to their means, act so as to show themselves worthy of their father, and will imitate the example of their brethren."

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