Monday, May 16, 2005


We have heard from more than a few so called Catholic theologians that the reason our new Holy Father took the name Benedict was because Pope Benedict XV brought peace and calm to the Church. The claim is made that his predecessor had ruthlessly stifled dialogue in the Church. Legitimate theological opinions, they claim, were suddenly silenced. Benedict XV, in his very first encyclical letter, put an end to this and once again restored peace to the Church.

This is a distortion that is filled with half-truths and, sad to say, outright deceptions. Indeed, Pope Benedict XVI took his name in memory of Benedict XV. He did indeed try to bring peace to the world and prevent World Wat I. That part is true. The rest is a false.

The truth is that in his very first encyclical, Pope Benedict XV, not only praised his predecessor, but affirmed his teachings. Thus we read in: Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum: N. 25 "Besides, the Church demands from those who have devoted themselves to furthering her interests, something very different from the dwelling upon profitless questions; she demands that they should devote the whole of their energy to preserve the faith intact and unsullied by any breath of error, and follow most closely him whom Christ has appointed to be the guardian and interpreter of the truth. There are to be found today, and in no small numbers, men, of whom the Apostle says that: "having itching ears, they will not endure sound doctrine: but according to their own desires they will heap up to themselves teachers, and will indeed turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned unto fables" (2 Tim. 4:34). Infatuated and carried away by a lofty idea of the human intellect, by which God's good gift has certainly made incredible progress in the study of nature, confident in their own judgment, and contemptuous of the authority of the Church, they have reached such a degree of rashness as not to hesitate to measure by the standard of their own mind even the hidden things of God and all that God has revealed to men. Hence arose the monstrous errors of "Modernism," which Our Predecessor rightly declared to be "the synthesis of all heresies," and solemnly condemned. We hereby renew that condemnation in all its fullness, Venerable Brethren, and as the plague is not yet entirely stamped out, but lurks here and there in hidden places, We exhort all to be carefully here and there in hidden places, We exhort all to be carefully on their guard against any contagion of the evil, to which we may apply the words Job used in other circumstances: "It is a fire that devoureth even to destruction, and rooteth up all things that spring" (Job 31:12). Nor do We merely desire that Catholics should shrink from the errors of Modernism, but also from the tendencies or what is called the spirit of Modernism. Those who are infected by that spirit develop a keen dislike for all that savours of antiquity and become eager searchers after novelties in everything: in the way in which they carry out religious functions, in the ruling of Catholic institutions, and even in private exercises of piety. Therefore it is Our will that the law of our forefathers should still be held sacred: "Let there be no innovation; keep to what has been handed down." In matters of faith that must be inviolably adhered to as the law; it may however also serve as a guide even in matters subject to change, but even in such cases the rule would hold: "Old things, but in a new way."

26. As men are generally stimulated, Venerable Brethren, openly to profess their Catholic faith, and to harmonize their lives with its teaching, by brotherly exhortation and by the good example of their fellow men, we greatly rejoice as more and more Catholic associations are formed. Not only do We hope that they will increase, but it is Our wish that under Our patronage and encouragement they may ever flourish; and they certainly will flourish, if steadfastly and faithfully they abide by the directions which this Apostolic See has given or will give. Let all the members of societies which further the interests of God and His Church ever remember the words of Divine Wisdom: "An obedient man shall speak of victory" (Prov. 11:8), for unless they obey God by showing deference to the Head of the Church, vainly will they look for divine assistance, vainly, too, will they labour. "

It is amazing to witness how folks like Father Richard McBrien can refer to this encyclical, "Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum," and make the outlandish claim that Pope Benedict XV repudiated his predecessor's policies. Clearly, the implication is that Pope Benedict XVI will do the same and, in some way, repudiate the teachings of his predecessor. Let me assure one and all that this is wishful thinking. By the way, Benedict XV's predecessor was Pope Saint Pius X, one of the greatest Popes in the history of the Church. Historians tell us that Pope Saint Pius X was the kindest of men, but did not tolerate, for an instant, false teachers or false doctrines. It is amazing to behold how far some modern theologians will go to further their falacious views.

Giacomo della Chiesa, (His name translated into English, means, James of the Church) was ordained in 1878, named Vatican Secretary of State in 1901, Archbishop of Bologna in 1907, and created a Cardinal in 1914 by Pope Saint Pius X. That same year, after the death of St. Pius X, he was elected Pope. To our detriment, this outstanding pope has been lost in the shadow of the great popes of modern times. His encyclical were short, to the point and profound. Perhaps the most famous of these was Spiritus Paraclitus, commemorating the life of Saint Jerome and the correct study of Sacred Scripture.

A common complaint these days is the emptiness of many of the sermons that we hear. It is interesting that Pope Benedict XV addressed the subject of preaching in his encyclical, Humani Generis Apostolorum, November 1, 1914. After reading it, I was deeply moved. "Wow," was my first thought! Pope Benedict XV was VERY clear about the grave responsibility of preaching the truth of Catholic faith. It indeed gives pause to all of us who are entrusted with preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For an eye opener, look it up and read it. Then, pray for us priests that we may indeed preach the Gospel, "in charity and truth."

Father Richard J. Rego


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