What should we make of the book The Poem of the Man God by Maria Valtorta?

What should we make of the book The Poem of the Man God by Maria Valtorta?

To answer to questions which were asked of us about Maria Valtorta, we publish here a text coming from Le Sel de la terre n° 7 (doctrinal review of the Dominicans of Avrillé).

For more details, you can consult the book of Fr Herrbach: “Des visions sur l’Évangile” on the website: http://www.clovis-diffusion.com/

Maria Valtorta died in 1961 “in an incomprehensible physical isolation” (in an insane asylum).

Her principal work The Poem of the Man God, which was written in the years from 1943 to 1947, took up 10,000 pages of note-books.

Her confessor Father Migliorini, claims to have been received in audience with Pope Pius XII alongside Father Berti, in February 1948 and the Pope is supposed to have said to them to publish this work, adding ” Whoever reads it, will understand“.  This oral authorisation of the Pope seems very unlikely: The Pope could only have given the authorisation of the work if he had read it and been assured of its orthodoxy; but how would the Pope have found the time to read these 10,000 pages?  This authorisation appears even less credible when the Holy Office forbade the work definitively (with no possible correction) one year later in February 1949.  The first four volumes were however published without Imprimatur from 1956 to 1959.  On the 16th of December 1959, the edited books were put on The Index [Editor: The Index of Forbidden Books].   The Osservatore Romano (official newspaper of the Vatican) published the placement on The Index accompanied with an article justifying the condemnation.  Here are some extracts:

“The four Gospels present us with a Jesus humble and full of reserve; His speaking is sober, incisive but supremely efficacious.  On the contrary in this sort of romantic History [Editor:  i.e. The Poem of the Man God], Jesus is excessively loquacious and resembles a man of propaganda, always ready to proclaim Himself the Messiah and Son of God, and to give out lessons of theology, using the same terms that a professor of theology would use today.

In the Gospel narratives, we admire the humility and the silence of the Mother of Jesus.  On the contrary for the author of this work, the most blessed Virgin Mary with the talkativeness of a modern lawyer, is always present everywhere and always ready to give lessons of Marian theology, perfectly up to date with the latest current studies of specialists on the matter…

Some scenes are rather indecent and make us think of scenes from a modern novel.  We will only give a few examples, such as the confession made to Mary by a certain Aglae, a woman of ill-repute (1st volume, p.790 and after1);  the not very edifying narrative from pages 887 and onwards in the first volume;  a ballet executed in an immodest fashion before Pilate at the pretorium (volume 4, p. 75) etc…

To finish let us point out another strange and imprecise affirmation where it is said of the Madonna, “You, all the time that you will be on this earth, you will be the second after Peter, in the ecclesiastical hierarchy. [It is we who underline, says the review]”

Here are some examples of the errors and improprieties of this book

  • Our Lord thinks that words tire now and we must have recourse to visions… of Maria Valtorta; 
  • The tree of life in the terrestrial paradise is only a symbol; 
  • The sin of Adam and Eve consisted in the use of marriage in a spirit of lust; 
  • Saint Anne gave birth without pain; 
  • Our Lady brags of her humility and her calm; 
  • She says that she redeemed women through her maternity; 
  • She said that she saw God at her creation; 
  • Satan became flesh in the form of Judas.

One can note numerous contradictions with the Gospel, for example:

  • Our Lord is supposed to have sucked with avidity the vinegar given by the soldier;
  • On the Cross Our Lord did not cease to cry out “Mommy!” and she replied: “Yes, my treasure, I am here”; 
  • Our Lady gets angry, cries out and becomes “almost” delirious after the death of her Son;
  • and this is not to mention the numerous sensualities which are spread throughout the work.

Let us finish by citing a talk by Archbishop Lefebvre at a retreat, where he expresses his reserve regarding Maria Valtorta:

It is better for us […] not to spend too much time on the material details of the life of Our Lord. […] These books which present themselves as revelations of the Life of Our Lord, in my opinion, can be a danger, precisely because they represent Our Lord in a too concrete manner, too much in the details of His life.  I am thinking of course of Maria Valtorta.   And perhaps for some this reading can do good, it can bring them close to Our Lord, to try to imagine what would have been the life of the Apostles with Our Lord, the life at Nazareth, the life of Our Lord as the visits of the cities of Israel.

But there is a danger, a great danger; that is to humanize too much, to concretize too much, and to not sufficiently show the face of God, in this Life of Our Lord.  This is the danger.  I do not know if we should recommend so much to people the reading of these books, if they are not forewarned.  I do not know if that would raise them up and make them know Our Lord, such as He was, such as He is, such as we should know Him and believe Him to be.2

Last advice : Rather than read these novels where errors abound, it would be better to read Holy Scripture with good commentary based on the Fathers of the Church3, or even good lives of the saints4.

(From Le Sel de la terre, n° 7)

Satan’s master stroke (Part 2 of 2)

Satan’s master stroke (Part 2 of 2)

(Editorial of Le Sel de la terre 94, Autumn 2015)


4. Should we return to the old principle :

“No practical agreement without doctrinal agreement” ?

Today, under Pope Francis, it is no longer possible to argue for a supposed improvement in the situation in Rome, but this does not stop certain people from raising objections to a return to the “old principle”.  Here are some objections which are voiced and the responses which can be made to them:

Objection 1

Between “no practical agreement without doctrinal agreement” and “practical agreement without doctrinal agreement”, there is a middle way which is in conformity with the thought of Archbishop Lefebvre.

1st Response: The Devil fishes in troubled waters.  In a matter of such importance (since the Faith is in danger), we must be clear.

2nd Response:  The thought of Archbishop Lefebvre evolved with events.  The more Conciliar Rome showed itself to be stubborn in its adherence to Modernism, the more he took his distance.  After the failure of the negotiations, he took up a very clear position, which is the one we have explained above (i.e. in the first part of this article).  Those who today want to make a practical agreement with Rome while claiming to be faithful to Archbishop Lefebvre are obliged to suppose that Archbishop Lefebvre would have changed his mind.  It is more correct to think that Archbishop Lefebvre would, on the contrary, be even more wary of today’s Rome, because of the fact that it is even more Modernist than in 1988.

Objection 2.

But if the Pope grants us something (like the label of “Catholic Association” in Argentina, or even ordinary jurisdiction to confess validly and licitly during the Holy Year), without asking us for anything in exchange, then we are not going to refuse!  It binds us to nothing.

Response: “Timeo Daneos et dona ferentes”1, replies Virgil.  We should instead have the wisdom and prudence to at least recall that we remain separated by a wall – i.e. the wall which separates Catholic doctrine from Modernism.  Otherwise we could end up thinking that these little gifts are the proof that collaboration is possible2.

During the Communist persecutions, Catholics who wanted to resist chose rather the policy of never accepting anything from the Communists (see “Le piège des pains au jambon” by Rose Hu, in Sel de la Terre 61, Summer 2007, p. 703).

Objection 3.

By refusing to follow the Society of Saint Pius X, you are dividing Tradition, whereas it needs to be united vis-à-vis Rome, in order to be stronger.

1st Response: Our strength lies above all in the truth which we defend.  By “muting” this truth (by accepting a “practical agreement” with those who do not profess it), we lose our strength, just as Sampson lost his by allowing his hair to be cut.

2nd Response: Bishop de Galarreta had foreseen that if we continued down this path of a practical agreement, “many superiors and priests will have a legitimate problem of conscience and will oppose it4”.

3rd Response: Who causes division: the one who changes policy – without saying so clearly – or the one who does not want to change and simply explains why he does not want to change?

Objection 4.

But nothing has been signed!  So, we can keep the current situation, while waiting for a better Pope with whom we will be able to make an agreement.

Response:  Signing will be the end of the process.  But once you accept in principle to place yourself under the direct authority of Modernists, you are committing yourself to a process of rapprochement.  This is a process which is already well underway: in effect, since 2011, at least, there has been no serious condemnation of the errors and faults of Modernist Rome by the superior authority of the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X.  Some underlings have been allowed to speak out, but even they less and less5.

Objection 5.

One cannot say, without further qualification, that principles – even practical ones – remain unchangeable.  As a result, you are exaggerating when you make of this principle an unchangeable rule6.

Response: It is true that prudence must take account of circumstances and that the application of the principles can vary.  Saint Thomas Aquinas (II-IIae, q. 49, a.2) shows that the practical syllogism of prudence contains a universal Major (a first proposition) and a particular Minor (a second proposition).

This Minor, which is the observation of a concrete fact, is changeable according to the circumstances.  But it is not a “principle” in the sense used here7.

The Major, however, is a principle, a general rule of action founded on human nature and therefore invariable:  it is in this sense that the word “principle” is used in the quotes of Cardinal Pie, Monseigneur Freppel, Fréderic Le Play, etc.:

Let us not hope to seize once more, by means of secret capitulations, that which Heaven itself refuses to give us.  The reign of expediency is over; the reign of principles is beginning (Cardinal Pie, First Pastoral Letter, 25 November 1849).

In a society which is everywhere collapsing, it seemed to me that the first thing to do was to straighten out ideas.  What is necessary is to concentrate on improving the fundamentals in light of the principles.  There is no other rule of reform than that of seeking what is true and confessing it, whatever may happen (Fréderic Le Play in 1865).

Let us know how to recognize that abandoning the principles is the real cause of our disasters (The Count de Chambord, 8 May 1871).

The greatest misfortune for any era or country is when truth is abandoned or diminished.  One can recover from anything else; one never recovers from sacrificing principles (Monseigneur Freppel, 19 January 1873).

It is clear that, for these distinguished minds, the principles of which they speak are not variable rules.

Conclusion: let us keep the “old principle”

Undoubtedly the principle “no canonical agreement before a doctrinal agreement” is not one of the very first principles of the Natural Law (like the Ten Commandments).  It is rather to be ranked amongst those common truths admitted by prudent people.

However, in the current circumstances, after more than 25 years’ experience of witnessing that those groups which have gone over to Conciliar Rome always end up abandoning the fight for the Faith, after observing that the situation in Rome, far from improving, is actually only worsening, it appears clearly that only the observation of this principle – left as a testament by Archbishop Lefebvre – will allow us to resist “Satan’s master stroke”.

Satan’s “master stroke” (Part 1 of 2)

Satan’s “master stroke”  (Part 1 of 2)

(Editorial of Le Sel de la terre 94, Autumn 2015)

1.  Satan Launches his “master stroke”

We know that Pope Paul VI spoke of the auto-destruction of the Church and of the smoke of Satan which had entered the Temple of God:

“The Church finds Herself in a time of anxiety, of self-criticism, we could even say of auto-destruction. It is akin to an interior upheaval, which is both acute and complex, and which no-one would have expected after the Council.”1

“Faced with the situation in the Church today, we have the impression that through some crack or fissure the smoke of Satan has entered into the Temple of God.  There are doubts, uncertainties, problems, anxiety, dissatisfaction, confrontation. The Church is no longer trusted. […] It was thought that after the Council the sun would have shone on the history of the Church.  But, instead of sun, we have had clouds, storms, darkness, searching, uncertainty. […] How was this able to happen?  An adversary power has intervened, whose name is the devil, this mysterious being to whom Saint Peter alludes in his letter.”2

Just as the High-Priest, Caiaphas, prophesied that it was necessary for Our Lord Jesus Christ to die in order to save His people3, but without understanding his prophecy, so Paul VI saw that the Church was auto-destructing via the action of Satan, but without understanding the process.

On 13 October 1974, the anniversary of the apparitions of Fatima, in a written work entitled “Satan’s Master stroke”, Archbishop Lefebvre described in a striking manner how the auto-destruction of the Church was happening.  Here are some extracts from that text:

“Satan’s master stroke will therefore be to spread the revolutionary principles introduced into the Church by the authority of the Church itself, placing this authority in a situation of incoherence and permanent contradiction; so long as this ambiguity has not been dispersed, disasters will multiply within the Church. […]  We must acknowledge that the trick has been well played and that Satan’s lie has been masterfully utilized.  The Church will destroy Herself through obedience.  […]  You must obey!  Whom or what must we obey?  We don’t know exactly.  Woe to the man who does not consent.  He thereby earns the right to be trampled under-foot, to be calumniated, to be deprived of everything which allowed him to live.  He is a heretic, a schismatic; let him die – that is all he deserves.”

“Satan has really succeeded in pulling off a master stroke: he is succeeding in having those who keep the Catholic Faith condemned by the very people who should be defending and propagating it. […]  Satan reigns through ambiguity and incoherence, which are his means of combat, and which deceive men of little Faith.  Satan’s master stroke, by which he is bringing about the auto-destruction of the Church, is therefore to use obedience in order to destroy the Faith: authority against Truth.“

2. Satan continues his “master stroke”

It is not only in the immediate aftermath of the Council that Satan used his master stroke.  He began all over again after the consecrations of 30 June 1988 in order to try to divide Tradition.  Here is how Dom Thomas Aquinas describes the scenario in the last Letter to the Friends of Santa Cruz Monastery:

“On June 30, 1988, after having prayed for a long time, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre consecrated four bishops so that Holy Church could continue Her mission.  This ceremony stirred up the predicted storm.  Rome thundered excommunication (invalid because Archbishop Lefebvre’s act was licit and necessary due to the situation in which the Church finds Herself) and the newspapers published the news with great gusto.However, Rome was not the only one to disapprove of these consecrations. Some within Tradition also opposed them: Dom Gérard Calvet, Prior of the Sainte Madeleine Monastery in Le Barroux, France, Jean Madiran, director of the Itinéraires magazine, Father Bisig4, and some others.  Dom Gérard said that it was necessary to remain within the visible perimeter of the Church.  In order to accomplish this, he regularized his canonical situation with Rome, abandoning Archbishop Lefebvre and Bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer, bringing with him the Benedictine nuns of the Annonciation Monastery in France.  He also tried to bring with him in his opposition to the 1988 consecrations the Brazilian foundation of Santa Cruz.

And what were his arguments?  They were subtle and threatened to undermine the monks of Santa Cruz:

You must obey me”, he said, “because this decision does not concern the Faith.  It is a prudential question.  You must obey me because of your vows”.

These are not his exact words, but that was the essence of his argument.  Dom Gérard had already declared:  “Rome is giving us everything and is asking nothing from us.  How could we refuse?”  He thus employed every means to convince his monks, the faithful and friendly priests: to disobey him would be a mortal sin, a sin against our vows.

What were we to say faced with such an argument?   “Our Faith is exposed to great risks by this agreement with Rome.  We cannot accept it”.

“You must come back to France”, Dom Gérard told me.  “There are fifty monks in the monastery to protect your Faith”.

Even though Dom Gérard said there was no risk for our Faith, even though Dom Gérard said that his decision was purely prudential, the truth was completely different.  Even though this decision was prudential, it had serious consequences for the Faith.  By submitting himself to authorities who were not professing the Catholic Faith in all its integrity, Dom Gérard was placing our monasteries in a situation whose harmfulness would be demonstrated over time:  the New Mass celebrated by monks, Religious Liberty defended by Father Basile, the departure of several monks as well as a new orientation for the whole monastery of Le Barroux.”

3. A means of resisting pointed out by Archbishop Lefebvre

Satan’s master stroke has been working well for about fifty years.  It is to be foreseen that the devil will continue using it.  How can we resist and not allow ourselves to be tricked by it?

Archbishop Lefebvre himself gives us some good advice.

First off, distinguish the two Romes:

“We can think that there is Rome and Rome: [on one hand,] there is the Rome which is eternal in Her Faith, Her Dogmas, Her concept of the Sacrifice of the Mass; [on the other hand,] there is the temporal Rome which is influenced by the ideas of the modern world, an influence which the Council itself did not escape.5

Then we must clearly manifest our refusal to follow neo-Modernist Rome. Some weeks after writing his text on “Satan’s master stroke”, in his famous Declaration of 21 November 1974, Archbishop Lefebvre returned to this distinction of the two Romes and explained his refusal to follow neo-Modernist Rome:

“We hold fast, with all our heart and with all our soul, to Catholic Rome, Guardian of the Catholic Faith and of the traditions necessary to preserve this Faith, to Eternal Rome, Mistress of wisdom and truth.

We refuse, on the other hand, and have always refused to follow the Rome of neo-Modernist and neo-Protestant tendencies which were clearly evident in the Second Vatican Council and, after the Council, in all the reforms which issued from it. “

In his Spiritual Journey6,“written for us in 1990, as his spiritual will and testament7”, Archbishop Lefebvre reaffirmed with force the necessity of breaking with neo-Modernist Rome, once more called “Conciliar church”:

“It is, therefore, a strict duty for every priest wanting to remain Catholic to separate himself from this Conciliar Church for as long as it does not rediscover the Tradition of the Church and of the Catholic Faith!”

As Archbishop Lefebvre also said: “it is the superiors who make the subjects8” and not the opposite. Whence the necessity of maintaining a respectful distance from the Modernist Roman authorities and of observing the principle which was that of the Society of Saint Pius X between 1998 and 2012: “No canonical agreement with Rome before a doctrinal agreement”.

This principle was bequeathed by Archbishop Lefebvre after the failure of the negotiations of 1988. Here, for example, are some extracts of the article entitled “À une reprise des colloques, je poserai mes conditions” (“If talks were renewed, I would lay down my conditions”), which appeared in Fideliter No. 66 of December 1988:

“I shall not accept being in the position where I was put during the dialogue. No more. I will place the discussion on the doctrinal level: “Do you agree with the great encyclicals of all the popes who preceded you? Do you agree with Quanta Cura of Pius IX, Immortale Dei and Libertas of Leo XIII, Pascendi Gregis of Pius X, Quas Primas of Pius XI, Humani Generis of Pius XII? Are you in full communion with these Popes and their teachings? Do you still accept the entire Anti-Modernist Oath? Are you in favor of the Social Reign of Our Lord Jesus Christ? If you do not accept the doctrine of your predecessors, it is useless to talk! As long as you do not accept the correction of the Council, in consideration of the doctrine of these Popes, your predecessors, no dialogue is possible. It is useless.” Thus, the positions will be clear.”

This principle was repeated very many times by the authorities of the Society of Saint Pius X, notably by the Chapter of 2006:

“The contacts made from time to time [by the Society] with the authorities in Rome have no other purpose than to help them embrace once again that Tradition which the Church cannot repudiate without losing her identity. The purpose is not just to benefit the Society, nor to arrive at some merely practical impossible agreement. “

In 2008, Bishop Fellay judged, correctly, that this principle is based on the order of the nature of things:

“It is so clear for us that the issue of the Faith and of the spirit of Faith has priority over all that we cannot consider a practical solution before the first issue is safely resolved. […] Each day brings additional proofs that we must clarify to the maximum the underlying issues before taking one more step toward a canonical situation, which is not in itself displeasing to us. But this is a matter of following the order of the nature of things, and to start from the wrong end would unavoidably place us in an unbearable situation. We have daily proofs of this. What is at stake is nothing more nor less than our future existence.9

And yet, in March 2012 Bishop Fellay announced that he was abandoning this principle, because of the improvement in Rome since 200610, and this abandonment was supported by the General Chapter of the Society of Saint Pius X in July 2012: the condition of an agreement on doctrine no longer figures amongst the six conditions laid down for a canonical recognition.11

Since then, despite many pleas, Bishop Fellay has refused to return to the old principle. Whence the troubles which Tradition has been experiencing for three years now.

(Continue to Part 2)

  1. Paul VI, Declaration of 7 December 1968. Source in French: Documentation Catholique, 5 January 1969, Column 12.
  2. Homily of Paul VI of 6/29/1972.   Source (in French): http://notredamedesneiges.-overblog. Text in Italian: http://www.vatican.va/… Strangely, it is not the text itself which is reproduced, but a “report”, which is undoubtedly the work of the Curia offices.
  3. “It is expedient for you that one man should die for the people”(John XI, 50).
  4. Founder of the Society of Saint Peter
  5. « Le coup de maître de Satan » (“Satan’s Masterstroke”), 13 October, 1974.
  6. Archbishop Lefebvre, Spiritual Journey, Angelus Press, 1991.
  7. Bishop Bernard Tissier de Mallerais , sermon of 1 January, 2015.
  8. Fideliter, 70, p.6.
  9. Letter to Friends and Benefactors, No. 73, 23 October, 2008.
  10. “The Chapter in 2006 set forth a very clear line of conduct in matters concerning our situation with respect to Rome. We give priority to the Faith, without seeking for our part a practical solution BEFORE the doctrinal question is resolved. This is not a principle, but a line of conduct that should regulate our concrete action. […] If there were a change in the situation of the Church with respect to Tradition, then that might necessitate a corresponding modification of the conclusion. […] Now there is no doubt that since 2006 we have witnessed a development in the Church, an important and extremely interesting development, although it is not very visible. […] This requires that we take up a new position with respect to the official Church. […] This is the context in which it is advisable to ask the question about some form of recognition of the Society by the official Church. […] Our new friends in Rome declare that the impact of such recognition would be extremely powerful on the whole Church.” (Bishop Fellay, Cor Unum, 18 March, 2012).
  11. Sine qua non conditions to be laid down by the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X in the case of a canonical recognition: 1 Freedom to keep, to transmit and to teach the sane doctrine of the unchanging magisterium of the Church and of the unchangeable truth of Divine Tradition ; freedom to defend, to correct and to reprove, even in public, those responsible for the errors or novelties of modernism, of liberalism, of The Second Vatican Council and their consequences ; 2 Exclusive use of the liturgy of 1962. The retention of the sacramental practice that we have at the moment (including holy orders, confirmation and marriage) ; 3 The guarantee of at least one bishop. – Desirable conditions: 1 Our own ecclesiastical tribunals, in the first instance ; 2 Exemption of houses of The Society of St Pius X in respect of diocesan bishops ; 3 A Pontifical Commission in Rome for Tradition, dependent on the Pope, with a majority of members, and the presidency, from Tradition”. (Father Christian Thouvenot, Circular Letter to Superiors of 18 July 2012. French source: http://tradinews.blogspot.fr/2012/07)

On the Deposition of the Pope (Part 2 of 2)

ON THE DEPOSITION OF THE POPE  – continued  (Part 2 of 2)

Text of John of St. Thomas O.P.

Translated from the Latin and annotated by Fr. Pierre-Marie O.P. (Avrillé. France)

and published in Le Sel de la Terre [No. 90, Fall 2014]

Translated from French to English by Fr. Juan Carlos Ortiz

Response to the objections

It is easy to answer the objections of Bellarmine and Suárez against this view.

Objection 1. “A heretic is not a member, so cannot be head of the Church”

Bellarmine objected that the Apostle [St Paul] says that we must avoid the heretic after two admonitions, that is to say, after he clearly appears pertinacious, before any excommunication and sentence of a judge, as St. Jerome says in his commentary, for heretics separate themselves by the heresy itself (per se) from the Body of Christ.

And here is his reasoning:

  • A non-Christian cannot be Pope, for he who is not a member [of the Church] cannot be the head; now, a heretic is not a Christian, as commonly say the Fathers; thus, a manifest heretic cannot be Pope.
  • One cannot object that a character remains in him , because if he remained Pope because of a character, since it is indelible, it could never be deposed.  This is why the Fathers commonly teach that a heretic, because of heresy and regardless of excommunication, is deprived of any jurisdiction and power, as say St. Cyprian, St. Ambrose and St. Jerome.


I answer [to Bellarmine] that the heretic should be avoided after two admonitions legally made and with the Church’s authority, and not according to private judgment; indeed, a great confusion in the Church would follow , if it was allowed that the admonition is made by a private man, and that the manifestation of this heresy having been made without being declared by the Church and proclaimed to all, in order that they avoid the Pontiff, that all should be required to avoid; for a heresy of the Pope cannot be public for all the faithful on the report of a few, and this report, not being legal, does not require that all believe it and avoid the Pontiff; and therefore as the Church proclaims him legally elected by legally designating him for all, it is necessary that she deposes him by declaring and proclaiming him as a heretic to be avoided.

Therefore, we see that this has been practiced by the Church, when in the case of the deposition of the Pope, the cause itself was first addressed by the General Council before the Pope was declared “No Pope”, as we said above.  Therefore it is not because the Pope is a heretic, even publicly, that he will ipso facto cease to be Pope, before the declaration of the Church, and before she proclaims him as “to be avoided” by the faithful.

And when St. Jerome says that a heretic separates itself from the body of Christ, he does not exclude a judgment of the Church, especially in such a serious matter as the deposition of the Pope, but it indicates only the quality of the crime, which excludes per se from the Church, without any further sentence, at least from the moment he is declared [heretic] by the Church;  indeed, even if the crime of heresy separates itself (ex se) of the Church, however, in relation to us that separation is not understood as have been made (not intelligitur facto) without this statement.

It is the same thing from the reason added by Bellarmine.  A non-Christian who is such in itself AND in relation to us (quoad se et quoad nos) cannot be Pope;  however, if he is not in itself a Christian, because he has lost the faith, but if in relation to us he is not legally declared being infidel or heretic, as obvious as it may appear in a private judgment, he is still in relation to us (quoad nos) a member of the Church and therefore the head.   Accordingly, a judgment of the Church is required through which he is declared (proponatur) as being a non-Christian and to be avoided, and then he ceases in relation to us to be the Pope, consequently, previously he did not cease to be himself (etiam in se) [Pope], because all what he did was valid in itself.1

Objection 2. “The Church has no power over the conjunction of the Pontificate with the person.”

The points of this objection are these:

  • [a] The Church cannot have power over the conjunction of the pontificate with the person, unless you have power over the Papacy itself; indeed, when the Pope deposes a bishop he does nothing else than to destroy his conjunction with the episcopate, though he does not destroy the episcopate itself;  therefore, if the Church has power over the conjunction of the Pontificate with the person, consequently she has power over the Papacy and the person of the Pope.
  • [b] A confirmation of this argument is that the Pope is deposed against his will, therefore, he is punished by this deposition; but it belongs to the superior and to the judge to punish. Therefore, the Church who deposes or punishes through the punishment of deposition, has superiority over the Pope.
  • [c] Finally, one who has power over the united parties or their conjunction simply has power over the whole. Therefore, if the Church has power over the conjunction of the Pontificate with the person, she has simpliciter power over the Pope, which Cajetan denies.


[a] We answer that it is not in the same manner that the Pontiff has power over the bishop when he deposes him, and the Church over the Pontiff: indeed, the Pontiff punishes the bishop as someone who is subjected to him, [the latter] being invested with a subordinated and dependent power, which [the former] can limit and restrict; and, although it does not remove the episcopate from the person [punished], nor destroys it, nevertheless he does it by the superiority he has over the person, including in this power which is subordinated to him.  That is why he really removes the power to [from] that person, and does not just remove that person from power.  On the contrary, the Church removes the Pontificate not by superiority over him, but by a power which is only ministerial and dispositive, in so far as she can induce a disposition incompatible with the Pontificate, as it was said.

[b] In response to the confirmation of the reasoning, the Pope is deposed against his will, in a ministerial and dispositive manner by the Church, [but] authoritatively by Christ the Lord, so that through him, and not by Church, he is properly said punished.

[c]  Regarding the latter reason, he who has power over the conjunction of the parties has power over the whole simpliciter, unless his power over the conjunction is ministerial and dispositive; we must distinguish between

  • physical realities when the dispositions have a natural connection to the very being of the whole, so that when the agent realizes the combination producing the dispositions binding the parties, it produces the whole simpliciter;
  • and moral realities, in which the disposition made by the agent has only a moral connection with the form, in relation to a free institution, so that he who does the disposition is not supposed to do the whole simpliciter;  for example, when the Pontiff grants to anyone the power to designate a place to be favored to gain indulgences, or remove indulgences by saying that the place is not privileged anymore, that designation or declaration removes or grants indulgences, not with authority and principaliter, but only ministerially.”

[End of John of St. Thomas’s text]

Some thoughts as a conclusion

The main argument of sedevacantists concluding on the vacancy of the Apostolic See is “the theological argument of the heresy of the Pope,” namely of a Pope who becomes a heretic loses the Pontificate.

In the “Small Catechism on Sedevacantism” (Le Sel de la terre 79, p. 40), Dominicus explained that this argument cannot conclude, on the one side because it would be necessary to prove the formal and manifest heresy of the Pope, on the other, because a judgment of the Church stating that heresy would be necessary.

The text of John of St. Thomas develops this second point: the need for a judgment of the Church for the deposition of a heretical pope.

But at the same time, it shows the difficulty of such a judgment in the present circumstances of the Church.  Indeed, it is easy to see that the vast majority of bishops share the Pope’s ideas about false ecumenism, false religious freedom, etc.  It is therefore impossible to imagine in the current circumstances, a judgment of a General Council which would declare the heresy of Pope Francis.

Humanly speaking we see the situation is hopeless.  We must wait that the Providence, in one way or another, shows the way to overcome this impasse.  Meanwhile, it is prudent to maintain the position of Archbishop Lefebvre and pray for the Pope, while resisting his “heresies”.


Here we give some other texts from Thomist authors who share the view of Cajetan and John of St. ThomasBáñez, the Carmelites of Salamanca, Billuart and Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange.


Domingo (Dominicus) Báñez or Bannez O.P. (1528-1604) is one of the greatest theologians of the 16th century, the golden age of Theology in Spain (with Francisco de Vitoria, Domingo de Soto, Melchior Cano, Bartholomew Medina and Pedro de Sotomayor).

Báñez is regarded, rightly, as one of the most profound and safest commentators of the doctrine of St. Thomas. His style is clear, sober and nervous, without darkness or false elegance.  His erudition is abundant, without ostentation or clutter.  His logic power and intelligence of metaphysics are particularly noteworthy, and on this ground exceeds his teachers and his most famous colleagues. (P. MANDONNET, D.T.C., “Bañez”)

In his commentary on the Summa Theologica, he defends the view that:

If the Supreme Pontiff falls into heresy, he does not lose immediately the Papal dignity, before he is deposed by the Church. (In II-II q. 1 a. 10)

He explained that a number of theologians believe that the Pope, once he becomes a heretic, immediately loses his power.  But the opinion he defends is that of Cajetan, of which he summarizes the arguments:

  1. The other bishops, if they become heretics, retain their episcopal dignity until they are deposed by the Pope. […]
  2. If the Pontiff, once fallen into heresy, is ready to amend, he should not be deposed, as even those who hold the opposite view admit, so he does not cease to be Pope. […]

He then examines an objection against his thesis, and this is the most interesting passage for our study:

One objects that the Sovereign Pontiff ceases to be the head of the Church when he falls into heresy and therefore he ceases to be Pope.  Indeed, as soon as he falls into heresy he ceases to be a member of the Church, so to be its head.

One easily answers this objection with the doctrine we have given while explaining the definition of the Church.  The Pontiff is not said to be the head of the Church because of his holiness or his faith, because it is not thus that he influences the other members, but [rather] is said to be the head of the Church because of his ministerial office, which aims to govern the Church by defining the truth, by establishing laws, by administering the sacraments, all of which are carried out according externally according to a visible ecclesiastical hierarchy, and almost palpable.  Besides, the fact that the Pontiff, because of his heresy, ceases to be a member of Christ, for he ceases to receive from Him the spiritual influence for his own sanctification, does not prevent him of being called the chief member of the Church, namely its head, in relation to the ecclesiastical government.  Similarly, the head of a State is said to be the head of the Republic.  As the notion of membership is employed metaphorically, we have said above that there may be different points of view of the metaphor: according to one point of view [Editor’s note: from the spiritual influence received from Christ] the Pontiff is not a member of Christ or the Church, and from another [Editor’s note: the power of government] he is a member. (Venice edition of 1587, columns 194-196)

The Carmelites of Salamanca

The composition of the Cursus theologicus salmanticensis extends over seventy years, during the last three quarters of the 17th century. It is a renowned theological course composed by six Discalced Carmelite theologians of Saint-Elias Convent of Salamanca.  The convent was founded in 1581, during the life and under the counsel of St. Teresa of Avila.

They ask if the Pope, as an individual doctor, can become a heretic.  They cite some authors who think it is not possible (Pighi, Bellarmine, Suárez), and they continue:

The contrary view (which states that the Pontiff as a private doctor can err, not only in secondary objects, but even on matters of faith, and not just with a non-culpable error coming from ignorance or negligence, but also with pertinacity, so that he is a heretic) is much more probable (longe probabilior) and more common among theologians.

Among the reasons they give in favor of their opinion, there is this one:

Because the Church may depose the Pontiff of his dignity, as Cajetan shows in his Treatise on the Authority of the Pope (from chapter 20 to chapter 26) and Melchior Cano in his book De Locis theologicis (book 6, chapter 8).  But this power to depose is not vain in the Church, and it cannot be reduced to the act except if the Pontiff errs in the faith: so this error may be in the Pope as a private person. (De Fide, disp. 4 dubium 1, n. 7)


Charles-René Billuart O.P. (1685-1757) is a French Thomist theologian.  He composed a Theology course which enjoys a high reputation.

In the Treatise on the Incarnation (De Incarnatione, diss. IX, a. II, § 2, obj. 2) Billuart defends the thesis that Christ is not the head of heretics, even occult.

It is objected that several doctors (Cajetan, Soto Cano, Suárez, etc.) say that the Pope fallen into occult heresy remains the head of the Church. So he must be a member.

Billuart denies the conclusion:

There is a difference between being constituted a head by the fact that one is influencing on the members, and being made a member by the fact that one is receiving an influx in itself;  this is why, while the pontiff [who] fell into occult heresy keeps the jurisdiction by which he influences the Church by governing her, thereby he remains the head;  but as he no longer receives the vital influx of Christ‘s faith or charity, who is the invisible and first head, he cannot be said to be a member of Christ or of the Church.

Instance: it is repugnant to be the head of a body without being a member, since the head is the primary member.

Answer:  I distinguish the first sentence: it is repugnant to a natural head, I agree; to a moral head, I deny it.  For example, Christ is the moral head of the Church, but he is not a member.  The reason for the difference is that the natural head cannot have an influence on other members without receiving the vital influx of the soul.  But the moral head, as the Pontiff is, can exercise the jurisdiction and the government over the Church and its members, although he is not informed by the soul of the Church, which are faith and charity, and that he does not receive any vital influx.   

In a word, the Pope is made a member of the Church through the personal faith which he can lose, and the head of the Church by the jurisdiction and the power which can be reconciled with an internal heresy. (Cursus theologiœ, Pars III, Venice, 1787, p. 66)

In the Treatise on Faith (De Fide diss IV to III, § 3, obj 2) Billuart defends the following thesis:   Heretics, even manifest (unless being denounced by name, or by leaving the Church themselves) keep the jurisdiction and absolve validly.

He considers the question of the case of a Pope, which is a special case, who receives his jurisdiction not from the Church, but directly from Christ:

It is nowhere stated that Christ continues to give jurisdiction to a manifestly heretical Pontiff, for this can be known by the Church and she can get another pastor.  However the common sentence [editor:  opinion] holds that Christ, by a special provision (ex speciali dispensatione), for the common good and peace of the Church, continues [to give] jurisdiction to a Pontiff even who is a manifest heretic, until he is declared manifestly heretical by the Church. (Cursus theologiœ, Pars II-II, Brescia, 1838, p. 33-34)

In the Treaty on the Rules of Faith (De regulis fidei, diss IV, VIII a, § 2, obj 2 and 6) Billuart defends the following thesis:  The sovereign Pontiff is superior to any council by authority and jurisdiction.

It is objected that the Pontiff is subject to the judgment of the Church in the case of heresy.  Why then he would not be subject also in other cases?

He replies:

This is because in the case of heresy, and not in other cases, he loses the pontificate by the fact itself of his heresy: how could remain head of the Church he who is no longer a member?  This is why he is subject to the judgment of the Church, not in order to be removed, since he is already deposed himself by heresy and he rejected the Pontificate (pontificatum abjecerit), but in order to be declared a heretic, and thus that he will be known to the Church that he is not anymore Pontiff: before this statement [of the Church] it is not permitted to refuse him obedience, because he keeps jurisdiction until then, not by right, as if he were still Pontiff, but in fact, by the will of God and accordingly disposing it for the common good of the Church. (Cursus theologiœ, Pars II-II, Brescia, 1838, p. 123)

Another objector remarked that the Church would be deprived of a remedy if she could not subject the Pope to the Council in the case that he would be harmful and would seek to subvert her.

Billuart replied that:

If the pope sought to harm her in the faith, he would be manifestly heretical, and he would thereby lose the Pontificate: however it should be necessary a declaration of the Church in order to deny him obedience, as we have said above. (Cursus theologiœ, Pars II-II, Brescia, 1838, p. 125)

If the Pope would harm the Church otherwise than in the faith, some say that one could resist him by the force of arms, however without losing his superiority.  St. Thomas Aquinas said it would be necessary to appeal to God in order to correct him or taking him away from this world (4 Sent. D. 19, q. 2, a. 2 q.1a 3, ad 2).

Billuart prefers to think that:

Whereas God governs and sustains his Church with a special Providence, he will not permit, as he has not permitted it so far, that this situation will happen, and if he permits it, he will not fail to give the means and the help appropriate. (Cursus theologiœ, Pars II-II, Brescia, 1838, p. 125)

St. Alphonsus Liguori

St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787), Doctor of the Church, devoted several writings in defense of Papal power against the conciliarist heresy (which gave to the councils a higher authority over the Pope).  Collected in one volume by a Redemptorist religious on the eve of Vatican Council I, (Du Pape et du concile; Tournai, Casterman, 1869) these writings have helped to prepare the definition of the dogma of Papal infallibility.  St. Alphonsus does not really treat the issue of a heretical Pope, and he excludes it so that it does not disturb his subject.  But, without entering into the details, he said repeatedly that the heretical Pope loses his authority only when his heresy has been confirmed by a council.   He clearly shares the view of Cajetan and John of St. Thomas.

In an essay on the authority of the Pope, added by St. Alphonsus at the end of the edition of his Moral Theology in 1748,2 the Holy Doctor vigorously defends the superiority of the Pope over the council, but beforehand he declares:

  1. It should first be noted that the superiority of the Pope over the council does not extend to the dubious Pope in the time of a schism when there is a serious doubt about the legitimacy of his election; because then everyone must submit to the council, as defined by the Council of Constance.  Then indeed the General Council draws its supreme power directly from Christ, as in times of vacancy of the Apostolic See, as it was well said by St. Antoninus (Summa, p. 3 did. 23, c. 2 § 6).
  2. The same must be said of a pope who would be manifestly and exteriorly heretical (and not only secretly and mentally).  However, others argue more accurately that, in this case, the Pope cannot be deprived of his authority by the council as if it were above him, but that he is deposed immediately by Jesus Christ, when the condition of this deposition [= the declaration of the council] is carried out as required.3

After presenting the views of Azorius (viz. that the council is above a manifestly heretical pope), St. Alphonsus nuances it and therefore ultimately follows the position of Cajetan and John of St. Thomas, considered as “more accurate”.   St. Alphonsus did the same in his apologetical treatise Truth of Faith (1767):

“When in time of schism we are in doubt about the true Pope, the council may be convened by the cardinals and the bishops; and then each of the elected Popes is obliged to follow the decision of the council because, at that time, the Apostolic See is considered vacant.  It would be the same if the Pope would fall notoriously and perseveringly, persistently in some heresy.  However, there are those who affirm with more foundation that in the latter case, that the Pope would not be deprived of the papacy by the council as if it were superior to him, but he would be stripped directly by Jesus Christ because he would then become a subject completely disqualified and deprived of his office.” (Truth of Faith (1767), penultimate chapter “On the Superiority of the Roman pontiff over the councils”, art. I, Preliminary Notions, 2°)

St. Alphonsus defends again the same idea in 1768 in his refutation of the errors of Febronius:

If ever the Pope, as a private person, falls into heresy, then he would be immediately stripped of papal authority as he would be outside the Church and therefore he could not be the head of the Church.  So, in this case, the Church should not truly depose him, because no one has a superior power to the Pope, but to declare him deprived of the pontificate.  (We said: if the Pope fall into heresy as a private person, because the Pope as Pope, that is to say, teaching the whole Church ex cathedra cannot teach an error against Faith because Christ’s promise cannot fail). (Vindiciae pro suprema Pontificis potestate adversus justinum febronium, 1768, Chapter VIII, response to the 6th objection)

Father Garrigou-Lagrange O.P.

Father Garrigou-Lagrange examines the question of the heretical pope in his treatise De Christo Salvatore. (Marietti, Rome-Turin, 1946, p. 232)  After explaining that Christ cannot be the head of a formal heretic, he concludes:

This is why a baptized formal heretic is not a member in act of the Church, yet the Church has the right to punish him, in so far as he does not hold what he has promised, like a king has the right to punish a deserter.

Bellarmine objects that a Pope fallen into occult heresy remains a member of the Church in act, for he remains the head of the Church, as taught [also] by Cajetan, Soto, Cano, Suárez and others.4

I answer that this case is quite abnormal, so it is no wonder that it follows an abnormal consequence, namely that an occult heretical Pope would not remain a member of the Church in act (according to the doctrine we have just described), but he would keep the jurisdiction by which he influences the Church by governing her.  So he would retain the reason [= the nature] of head vis-à-vis the Church, on which he would continue to influence, but he would cease to be a member of Christ, because he would no longer receive the vital influx of the faith of Christ, the invisible and first head.  Thus, in a quite abnormal manner, in relation to the jurisdiction he would be the head of the Church, but he would not be a member.

This would be impossible if it were a physical head, but it is not contradictory for a secondary moral head.  The reason is that, while a physical head cannot exert any influence on the members without receiving the vital influx of the soul, a moral head, as is the [Roman] Pontiff can exercise jurisdiction on the Church even if it [he] receives from the soul of the Church no influence from internal faith and from charity.

In short, as Billuart says, the Pope is considered a member of the Church by his personal faith, which he may lose, and a head of the visible Church by the jurisdiction and power that may coexist with internal heresy.  The Church will always appear as a union of members placed under a visible head, namely the Roman Pontiff, although some of those who appear to be members of the Church are internal heretics.  Therefore we must conclude that occult heretics are only apparent members of the Church, which [the latter] they profess outwardly and visibly to be the true one.

On the Deposition of the Pope (Part 1 of 2)


Text of John of St. Thomas O.P.

Translated from the Latin and annotated by Fr. Pierre-Marie O.P. (Avrillé. France)

and published in Le Sel de la Terre [No. 90, Fall 2014]

Translated from French to English by Fr. Juan Carlos Ortiz


John of St. Thomas (1589-1644) is rightly regarded as one of the greatest Thomistic theologians. His contemporaries unanimously called him a second Thomas, a bright star in front of the Sun (St. Thomas Aquinas) and always he was placed, in the company of Cajetan and Báñez, alongside the Angel of the School.  His doctrine is none other than that of the Angelic Doctor, profoundly understood and faithfully expressed.”  (J.M. Ramírez, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, “Jean de Saint-Thomas”, col. 806)

He was born in Lisbon, was educated at Coimbra University, then at Louvain University, before joining the Dominicans in Madrid at the age of 23. He was long time a professor at Alcalá (Madrid University).  The last year of his life he was the confessor of King Philip IV of Spain (1605-1665, king in 1621).  It is, moreover, much against his will and by obedience that he accepted this honor while telling his brothers in religion, “This is the end of my life, Fathers; I’m dead, pray for me.”

“His life was a living reproduction of the virtues of the Angelic Doctor, from whom he had taken the name to mark his devotion to him.  In fact, he joined to his hard intellectual work, a great love of prayer and a burning desire for religious perfection.  Students flocked to his courses, attracted by the depth and solidity of his doctrine.” (Ibid. col. 804)

We give here the first [French] translation of the main passages of his dissertation on “Can the Pope be deposed by the Church as he is elected by Her, and in what case?” (Disputatio II, articulus III, in II-II, q. 1 a. 7, p. 133-140 in the edition of Lyon, 1663) which he wrote while commenting the first question of the II-II of St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica.

This is a matter whose importance will not escape our lectors.  However, the book of Arnaldo Xavier da Silveira, La Nouvelle Messe de Paul VI: Qu’en penser?  1 often considered the reference on the question on the “heretical pope” does not have this opinion.  John of St. Thomas is not even mentioned in the extensive bibliography of the book.  In fact, Xavier da Silveira agrees with the opinion of St. Robert Bellarmine, while Cardinal Journet affirms that the studies of Cajetan and John of St. Thomas on this point are more penetrating than those of the Jesuit doctor.

As we have remarked in the report we did in Le Sel de la Terre 52 (p. 205), Father Jean-Michel Gleize [SSPX] thinks that this “thesis [of Cajetan on the deposition of heretical pope] does not hold” since St. Robert Bellarmine’s S.J. studies (1542-1621), and declares not being satisfied with the answers John of St. Thomas gave to the Jesuit theologian. (Thomas de Vio Cajetan, The Successor of Peter, annotated translation by Father Gleize in Courrier de Rome, 2004, n. 65, p. XXII and n. 473, p. 138.)

Nevertheless, a century after John of St. Thomas, Billuart (1685- 1737) also qualified this thesis of Cajetan and John of St. Thomas as ‘more common’. (See the text given in the Appendix.)  It seems, to us, to be solidly supported.  With the text published here and the appendices that follow, the readers may judge by themselves.

The subtitles and the notes are ours.

Le Sel de la Terre [No. 90, Fall 2014]


“I affirm that the Pope can lose the pontificate in three ways: through natural death, by voluntary renunciation, and by deposition.

About the first case, there is no difficulty.

About the second case, there is an express provision [in Canon Law2 ], where it is established that the Pontiff may resign, as it was the case with Celestine V; at the Council of Constance, the resignation was asked to the doubtful pontiffs in order to finish with the schism as did Gregory XII and John XXIII. […]

About the third case of losing the Pontificate, many difficulties arise: to make this brief, we reduce all these problems to two main headers: [1] Under what circumstances a deposition can be made?   [2] And by which power this deposition should be made?

On the first point, we will mention three main cases in which a deposition can take place.  The first is the case of heresy or infidelity.  The second case is perpetual madness.  The third case is doubt about the validity of the election.”

[COMMENT: Here we are only interested in the first case dealt with by John of St. Thomas: the deposition for cases of heresy or infidelity, as it is the case currently concerning us with Pope Francis.]

Can a deposition occur in cases of heresy or infidelity?

“Concerning the case of heresy, theologians and Canon lawyers have disputed very much.  It is not necessary to dwell at length.  However, there is an agreement among the Doctors on the fact that the Pope may be deposed in case of heresy: we will mention them in the discussion of the difficulty.

Arguments from authority

  • A specific text is found in the Decree of Gratian, Distinction 40, chapter “Si Papa”, where it is said:  “On earth, no mortal should presume to reproach (redarguere) any faults to the Pontiff, because he who has to judge (judicaturus) others, should not be judged (judicandus) by anyone, unless he is found deviating from the Faith.” (Pars I, D 40, c. 6)   This exception obviously means that in case of heresy, a judgment could be made of the pope.
  • The same thing is confirmed by the letter of Hadrian II, reported in the Eighth General Council [IV Constantinople, 869-870], in the 7th session, where it is said that the Roman Pontiff is judged by no one, but the anathema was made by the Orientals against Honorius, because he was accused of heresy, the only cause for which it is lawful for inferiors to resist their superiors. (MANSI, Sacrorum Conciliorum nova collectio amplissima, Venice, 1771, vol. 16, col. 126)
  • Also Pope St. Clement says in his first epistle that Saint Peter taught that a heretical pope must be deposed.3

Theological argument

The reason is that we must separate ourselves from heretics, according to Titus 3:10: A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, avoid (devita) him.”   Now, one should not avoid one that remains in the [Sovereign] Pontificate; on the contrary, the Church should instead be united to him as her supreme head and communicate with him.  Therefore, if the pope is a heretic, either the Church should communicate with him, or he must be deposed from the Pontificate.

The first solution leads to the obvious destruction of the Church, and has inherently a risk that the whole ecclesiastical government errs, if she has to follow a heretical head.  In addition, as the heretic is an enemy of the Church, natural law provides protection against such a Pope according to the rules of self-defense, because she can defend herself against an enemy as is a heretical Pope; therefore, she can act (in justice) against him.  So, in any case, it is necessary that such a Pope must be deposed.

Response to an objection.

An objection: Christ the Lord tolerated, in the chair of Moses, infidels and heretics, like the Pharisees: The scribes and the Pharisees have sitten on the chair of Moses.  All things therefore whatsoever they shall say to you, observe and do: but according to their works do ye not; for they say, and do not. (Mt 23: 2-3).  But the Pharisees were heretics and taught false doctrines according to various superstitions and traditions, says St. Jerome in his commentary on Chapter 8 of Isaiah.  St. Epiphanius lists their errors (Panarion, 1. 1, c. 16), and Josephus (Jewish War, 1. 2, c 7 on the end) and Baronius (Annals, v. 7).   So on the Chair of Peter, too, one must tolerate a heretic and an infidel, because he can define a heresy or an error, and thus the Church will always remain free of heresy.

I answer that Christ the Lord did not order that Pharisees be tolerated in the chair of Moses, even if they are declared heretics, or that any heretic or infidel should be kept in the priesthood or in the Papacy, but he only gave this counsel in case they are tolerated there.  If they are not yet declared and deposed from their chair, the faithful should listen to them and obey them, because they keep their power and jurisdiction; however, if the Church wants to declare them heretic and no longer tolerate them, Christ the Lord does not prohibit it by the words reported above.

Two conditions.

But we need to know if the Pope can be deposed in any case of heresy and in whatever form of being a heretic; or if some additional conditions are needed without which heresy alone is not sufficient to depose the Pontiff.

I answer that the pontiff cannot be deposed and lose the pontificate except if two conditions are fulfilled together:

  1. That the heresy is not hidden, but public and legally notorious;
  2. Then that he must be incorrigible and pertinacious in his heresy.

If both conditions are fulfilled the pontiff may be deposed, but not without them; and even if he is not unfaithful interiorly, however if he behaves externally as a heretic, he can be deposed and the sentence of deposition will be valid.

Concerning the first requirement, some among Catholics are of a different opinion, saying that even for an occult  heresy [Editor:  occult = “hidden”, “not visible”], the Pontiff loses his papal jurisdiction, which is based on the true Faith and right confession of Faith; supporting this opinion we have Torquemada (1, 2, 2 p. from v. 18 and 1. 2, c. 102), Paludanus, Castro, Simancas, Driedo […]

Others think that it is necessary that the heresy must be external and proved in the external forum in order that the Pontiff can be deposed of the pontificate; thus Soto (4 Sent. D. 22, q. 2. 2); Cano (from Locis, 1. 4), who believes that the contrary opinion is not even probable; Cajetan (On the Pope’s power, De Comparatione auctoritatis papae and concilii cum apologia eiusdem tractatus; Rome, Angelicum, 1936; c. 18 and 19), Suárez, Azorius, Bellarmine (On the Roman Pontiff, c. 30).

The principle is that occult heretics, as long as they are not condemned by the Church and being separated [by her], belong to the Church and are in communion with her, as like being moved from the exterior, even if they do not receive any more interiorly the vital movement; therefore the Pontiff, if he is an occult heretic, is not separated from the Church; therefore, he can still be the head, since he is still a part and a member, even if he is not a living one.

A confirmation of it is that the priests of a lower order can exercise the power of order and jurisdiction without Faith because a heretical priest can confer the sacraments and give absolution in cases of extreme need […]

The second condition, in order to be able to depose the Pope, namely that he is guilty of incorrigible and pertinacious heresy, is evident, because if someone is ready to be corrected and is not pertinacious in heresy, is not considered to be heretical (Decree of Gratian, No. 24. 3. 29 “Dixit Apostolus.”); therefore, if the Pope is ready to be corrected, he should not be deposed as a heretic.

The Apostle [Paul] prescribes to avoid heretics only after a first and a second correction: if he comes to repentance after the correction, he should not be avoided; therefore, as the Pope must be deposed for heresy under this apostolic precept, it follows that if he can be corrected, he should not be deposed. […]”

On the Deposition of the Pope

“It remains to deal with the second problem: by what authority should the deposition of the Pope be done?    And the whole issue revolves around two points:

  1. The declarative sentence by which the Pope’s crime is declared: should it be made by the Cardinals or by the General Council?  And if it is by the General Council, by what authority should it be assembled, and on what basis could this Council judge the case?
  2. The deposition itself which must follow the declarative sentence of the crime: is it made by the power of the Church, or immediately by Christ, being supposed made the declaration?

1. Who should pronounce the declarative sentence of the crime of heresy?

The declarative sentence should not be made by the Cardinals

On the first point, we must say that the statement of the crime does not come from the Cardinals, but from the General Council.

It first appears from the practice of the Church. Indeed, in the case of Pope Marcellinus (Pope from 296 to 304) about the incense offered to idols, a Synod was convened, as stated in the Decree of Gratian. (Distinction 21, Chapter 7, “Nunc autem”)   And in the case of the Great [Western] Schism during which there were three popes, the Council of Constance was assembled to settle the schism.  Likewise in the case of Pope Symmachus (Pope from 498 to 514), a Council was convened in Rome to treat the case against him, as reported in Antoine Augustin in his Epitome juris pontificii veteris (Title 13, Chapter 14. See also Catholic Encyclopedia, Pope St. Symmachus); and the places of Canon Law quoted above, show that the Pontiffs who wanted to defend themselves against the crimes imputed to them, have done it before a Council.

Then we see that the power to treat the cause of the Pontiff, and what concerns his deposition, was not entrusted to the Cardinals.  In the case of deposition, this belongs to the Church, whose authority is represented by the General Council; indeed, to the cardinal is only entrusted the election, and nothing else, as can be seen in Canon Law [John of St. Thomas refers to what he said earlier in his works]: see Torquemada (Summa, 1. 2, c. 93), Cajetan (De Comparatione auctoritatis papae), and the Canonists (On the Decretal of Boniface VIII (in 6th), chap. “In fidei de haereticis” and the Decree of Gratian, Dist. 40).

The declarative sentence must be made by a General Council

[…] This council can be convened by the authority of the Church which is in the Bishops or the greater majority of them; the Church has, by divine law, the right to separate herself from a heretical Pope, and therefore she has all the means necessary for such a separation; now, a necessary means in itself (per se) is to be able to legally prove such a crime; but we cannot prove it see legally unless if there is a competent judgment, and in such a serious matter, we cannot have a competent judgment except by the General Council, because it is about the universal head of the Church, so much so that it depends on the judgment of the universal Church, that is to say, of the General Council.

I do not share the opinion of Father Suárez who believes that this can be treated by Provincial Councils; indeed, a Provincial Council does not represent the universal Church in a manner that this case can be treated by such authority; and even several Provincial Councils have no such representation or such authority.

If this is not about the authority under which one must judge, but about the one which has the authority to convene the [General] Council, I believe that this is not assigned to a specific person, but it can be done either by the Cardinals who could communicate the news to the bishops, either by the nearest bishops who can tell others so that all are gathered; or even at the request of princes, not as a summons having coercive force, as when the Pope convenes a Council, but as an “enuntative” convocation that denounces such a crime to the bishops and manifest it in order that they come to bring a remedy.  And the Pope cannot annul such a Council or reject it because he is itself part of it (quia ipse est pars), and that the Church has the power, by the divine right, to convene the council for this purpose, because she has the right to secede from a heretic.

2. On which authority is the Pope deposed?

The diverse opinions

On the second point, namely on which authority the declaration [of heresy] and the deposition are to be made, there is dissension among theologians, and it is not clear by whom that statement should be made, because it is an act of judgment and jurisdiction, which no one can exert on the Pope.  Cajetan, in his treatise On the Pope’s authority, refers to two extreme positions and two middle positions. (De Comparatione auctoritatis Papae and concilii; Angelicum, Rome, 1936; chapter 20)

The two extremes: one says that the Pope is removed without human judge by the mere fact of being a heretic (Bellarmine and Suárez); on the opposite, the other said that the Pope has truly a power above him by which he can be judged (this opinion is not sustained anymore; Cajetan considered it false).

The two middle positions: one says that the pope has no superior [on earth] in absolute terms, except in case of heresy; the other says that he has no superior on earth, neither absolutely, nor in the case of heresy, but only in a ministerial way: just as the Church has a ministerial power to choose the person [Pope], but not to give power, as this is done immediately by Christ, in the same manner, in the deposition, which is the destruction of the bond by which the Papacy is attached to such person in particular, the Church has the power to depose him in a ministerial manner; but it is Christ who deprives [his power] with authority.

The first opinion is that of Azorius (the church is above the Pope in case of heresy).  The second is that of Cajetan who develops it extensively.  Bellarmine quotes it and combats it (The Romano Pontifice, c. 20), especially on two points:  Cajetan said that the manifest heretic Pope is not ipso facto removed and that the Pope is actually deposed really and authoritatively by the Church.  Similarly Suárez (De fide Predisputatio, Sec. 6, num. 7) reproaches Cajetan for saying that the Church, in the case of heresy, is above the Pope as a private person, but not as a Pope.  This, in fact, Cajetan did not say: he holds that the Church is not above the Pope absolutely, even in the case of heresy, but she is above the link joining the Pontificate with such a person, and that she dissolves it, in the same manner as the Church has joined it in the election, and that this power of the Church is ministerial, because only Christ the Lord is simpliciter superior to the pope.

Bellarmine and Suárez therefore think that the Pope, by the very fact that he is a manifest heretic and declared incorrigible, is immediately deposed by Christ the Lord and not by any authority of the Church.

The opinion of Cajetan

Thus the opinion of Cajetan contains three points.

1.  The first is that the heretic pope is not deprived of the Pontificate and deposed by the mere fact of heresy, considered separately.

2.  The second is that the Church has neither power nor superiority over the Pope about his power, even in the case of heresy; never is the Church’s power above the power of the Pope, and consequently above the Pope absolutely.

3.  The third is that the Church’s power has for its object:

  • the application of the papal power to such person, in designating him by the election, and
  • the separation of the power with such a person, by declaring him heretical and to be avoided by the faithful.

Therefore, although the declaration of a crime is like an antecedent disposition preceding the deposition itself and that it relates to it only in a ministerial manner, however, it reaches the form itself of this dispositive and ministerial manner; insofar as it reaches the disposition, so it aims mediately to the form: in the same manner as in the generation and corruption of a man, the begetter neither produces nor educts the form, and the one who corrupts it does not destroy it, but the first one produces the combination of the form, and the second one the separation, immediately reaching the dispositions of the matter to the form, and through them, the form.

Cajetan’s FIRST POINT:  The heretical pope is not deprived of the Pontificate and deposed by the mere fact of heresy considered separately

The first point is obvious and is not legitimately opposed by Bellarmine.  His truth appears thus:

First, because the Pope, no matter how real and public may be his heresy, by the moment he is eager to be corrected, he cannot be deposed, and the Church cannot depose him by divine right, for she cannot nor should avoid him since the Apostle [Paul] says, “avoid the heretic after the first and second correction; therefore, before the first and second correction he should not be avoided, and consequently he should not be deposed; therefore it is wrong to say that the pope is deposed (ipso facto) as soon as he is a public heretic: he may be a public heretic, but not yet corrected by the Church, nor declared incorrigible.

Then, because (as Azorius rightly noted) any heretical Bishop, no matter how visible is his heresy, and although he incurs an excommunication, does not lose ipso facto the Episcopal jurisdiction and power until he is declared [such] by the Church and deposed; indeed only the excommunicated “not tolerated” [vitandus] loses jurisdiction ipso facto, namely those specifically excommunicated or those who manifestly struck a cleric (manifesti percussores clerici).  Therefore, if a bishop or some other prelate loses not ipso facto his power by the mere external heresy, why the Pope would lose it [even] before the Church’s declaration?   Especially since the Pope cannot incur excommunication: on the one hand, no excommunication at all – I suppose – is carried by divine law itself;  on the other hand, he cannot be excommunicated by human right, because he is superior to any human right.

The Church has neither power nor superiority over the Pope concerning his power of Pope, even in case of heresy

Thesis to be proved

The second point of Cajetan is proved by the fact that the power of the Pope absolutely (absolute) is a power derived from Christ the Lord, and not from the Church, and that Christ has submitted to that power the entire Church, namely, all the faithful without restriction: that is certain of faith [de fide] as we have shown it above.

Therefore, in no case the Church can have a power superior to him, except in a case where the power of the Pope would be made dependent to the Church, and inferior to her: and by the fact that it is made inferior in this case, his power is changed and remains the same as before, since before it was above the Church and independent from her, but in this case it is made dependent and inferior: thus, it never happened that the Church has [had] power over the pope formally, because in order to have a higher power than the papal power in a particular case, it is necessary that the papal power be formally other, and not so extensive and supreme as it was before.

Argument from authority

And one cannot cite any authority stating that Christ the Lord has given in such a manner to the Church a power above the Pope.  Those who were cited in the case of heresy, do not indicate any superiority over the Pope formally, but only speak about avoiding him, getting separated from him, to refuse the communion with him, etc., all things which can be done without a power formally above the Pope’s power.

Lack of foundation of the opposite opinion

There is no basis for the proposition which allows to affirm that Christ the Lord, who gave unrestricted, supreme, and independent power to the Pope and to the Holy See, has determined that, in the case of heresy, such a power would be formally as a power (in ratione potestatis) dependent on and inferior to that of the Church, which implies that it would remain subordinate to that of the Church, and not superior as before.


Theological argument

This second point of Cajetan (the Church has never, in the strict sense, a superior power to the Pope), is widely proved by what has been said above, since the Church must be submitted to the Pope and the power of the Pope did not originate from the Church, as a political power, but immediately from Christ, of whom the Pope is the Vicar.

That, even in the case of heresy, the Church is not superior to the Pope, as a Pope, it appears:

  • On the one hand, because the power of the Pope is in no way derived from the Church, nor does it come from her, but from Christ, therefore never is the power of the Church superior [to that of the Pope].
  • On the other hand, because the power of the Pope, which originated in that of Christ, is established as a supreme power above all other powers of the Church here on earth (as we have shown above with many authorities); no case has been excluded by Christ in which this power [of the Pope] would be limited and subjected to another, but always and in relation to all [powers], He speaks of it as a supreme power and as a monarchy.   When He deals with the case of heresy, He does not assign any superiority [of someone] in relation to the Pope, but He prescribed only to avoid the heretic, to be separated from him, not to communicate with him, all things that do not show any superiority, and which can exist without it.  Therefore, the Church’s power is not superior to the power of the Pope, even in the case of heresy.

Canonical argument

Finally, Canon Law also gives us this conviction when it says that “the First Seat is judged by no one,” and this applies even in cases of infidelity, for the Fathers gathered to examine the case of Pope Marcellinus said: “Judge thyself.”

Cajetan’s THIRD POINT:  The power of the Church has as its object the application of the Papal power to a person

Theological argument

The third point follows from the previous two.  For the Church can declare the crime of the Pontiff and proclaim (proponere) to the faithful that he should be avoided according to divine law, decreeing that a heretic must be avoided.

Now, a pontiff who must be avoided by this provision is necessarily prevented from being made the head of the Church, for he is a member which she must avoid, and therefore he cannot have an influence on her; this is why, by virtue of such a power, the Church dissolves ministerially and dispositively the link of the pontificate with such a person.  The implication is clear: an agent that can induce in a subject a disposition that necessarily causes the separation of the form, a disposition without which the form cannot exist in the subject, has power over the dissolution of the form, and acts mediately on the form, in order to separate it from the subject, and not to destroy it; it is clear in the case of an agent who corrupts a man: he does not destroy the form [the soul], but it induces the dissolution of the form, by putting in the matter a disposition without which the form cannot subsist.

Thus, since the Church can declare the Pontiff as a person to be avoided, she can induce in that person a disposition without which the pontificate cannot stand; the pontificate is so dissolved ministerially and dispositively by the Church, by the authority of Christ, in the same manner as the Church, in choosing the pontiff by the election, she ultimately disposes him to receive the collation of power by Christ the Lord.

Explanation of the words of Cajetan

When Cajetan says that the Church acts with authority (auctoritative) on the conjunction or separation of the Pontificate with the person, and ministerially on the Papacy itself, we must understand it in the sense that the Church has the authority to declare the crime of the Pope, as she has [the power] to choose him to the Papacy, and that what she does with authority in this declaration, acts at the same time ministerially on the form [the Papacy] to join or to separate [the person]: for the form itself, absolutely and in itself (absolute et in se), the Church cannot do anything because the Papal power is not submitted to her.

Canonical argument.

This is congruent with the provisions of the law that sometimes affirm that the deposition of the Pontiff belongs only to God, and that sometimes in case of heresy he can be judged by his inferiors: both are true,

  • On the one side, the “ejection” or deposition of the Pope is reserved only to God in order to be done with authority and from above (auctoritative et principaliter), as stated in the Decree of Gratian, Distinction 79 (Pars I, D 79, c. 11) and in many other places of the law, which say that God has reserved to Himself the judgment of the Apostolic See;
  • Secondly, the Church judges the Pontiff in a ministerial and dispositive manner, by declaring his crime and by proposing him to be avoided, as stated in the Decree of Gratian, in Distinction 40, chapter “Si Papa” (Pars I, D 40, c. 6) and in Part II, Chapter “oves” (q. 7 c. 13).

(To be continued)

From Liberal Protestantism to the True Church of Christ

Andrew de Bavier

(1890 – 1948)



From Liberal Protestantism to the True Church of Christ

I was born into Protestantism.  I called myself a Christian, but I didn’t recognize any authority other than my own conscience, and no revelation other than religious experience.  I recognized in Christ a unique personality, but I refused to concede Him any supernatural character.

Besides, the problem of the Divinity of Christ didn’t make sense anymore, in this day and age.  Doesn’t God dwell within man?  The divine and the human, don’t they make one and the same thing?

Imbued, without even realizing it, with this pantheism which has poisoned modern thinking, I saw prayer not as an act of adoration or as the call from an indigent creature to its Creator, but as an excellent way of accumulating in myself the spiritual energies spread throughout the universe.

In fact, I had lost any notion of the Divine transcendence and all sense of the supernatural.  I never gave a thought to the laws of God.  Besides, religion, being essentially a life, what does our Creed matter, provided that our religious experiences are strong? One must be broad-minded, if one desires to be penetrated by the breath of the Holy Ghost.  I was broad-minded, very broad-minded, and I had a holy hatred for “narrow-mindedness”, that is those who held traditional ideas.

My liberalism made me into a sectarian opponent of sectarianism! Disciples of the new liberal orthodoxy, my companions and I were virtually scandalized when we heard a preacher repeat an old formula or profess any veneration for Jesus-Christ which was in harmony with the Nicene Creed.

As for Catholicism, it was the incarnation of all that we detested.  Didn’t the Roman Church press an iron yoke upon souls?  She was the most faithful ally of all reactionaries and of all those in authority.  Happily the Church died slowly but surely, decrepit and powerless. The modern spirit was incapable of interesting itself in the old fashioned rites which made up the cult of the Catholic Church.

Moreover, I was completely unaware of what those rites were.  As I understood nothing of the gestures of the priest, the Mass (which I had only attended one or two times), appeared to me to be an artificial and theatrical ceremony; and I proudly compared the vain pomp of Catholicism to our cult in spirit and in truth.  I had, like almost all Protestants, a conception of Catholic dogma that was absolutely false on every point, and I never even thought of verifying.

— Experience as an Anglican

In the spring of 1909 I went to the Kings College in London, a School of Anglican theology.

I will never forget the first impression I had of the Anglican environment in which I found myself.  The College Chapel was more like a Catholic Church than a Protestant one.  I was astonished.  I was even more astounded when I understood the thoughts or ideas of my companions.  Their faith was dogmatic.  They believed, like the Catholics, in the Real Presence in the Protestant Communion or Lord’s Table which they went so far as calling the Mass.  For me, the visible Church was nothing more than a political and administrative machine; for them, she was the mystical body of Jesus Christ, his Spouse.

My time spent at the King’s College would have a decisive influence on my entire life.  I wouldn’t realize this until later however.  At that particular time my liberal ideas weren’t damaged in the least.  I had already entered the School of Theology of Paris in November 1909.  My liberal Protestant tendencies, which Anglican influences began to undermine, without my having been aware of it, were accentuated again at the same time as was my hostility towards Rome.

I soon became one of the most Rationalist students at the College.  Exclusively taken up with social questions, I abandoned my Bible for the “apostles” of the Revolution.

— A Crisis: Faced with my nothingness

The crisis came suddenly in January of 1911.

My whole being was profoundly shaken; I was forced to face myself and to put into question my most cherished ideas.

I had exalted this earthly existence; I hadn’t come to the realization that our temporal life is fragile, fleeting, incapable of satisfying our most noble aspirations.  Blinded by spiritual pride, I relegated “sin” to those old fashioned notions of days gone by; and behold! how I now awoke, poor and guilty, having an immense need of the love and forgiveness of God.

I suddenly felt the need of a mediator and of a Savior, and the problem of the Divinity of Christ took upon itself an altogether new significance for me.

Liberal Protestantism could suit, if need be, the rich and happy of this world, but it folds up before the great truths and realities of this life: sin, suffering and death.

I understood that my most grievous fault had been to separate myself from Christ.  Without Him, I sadly discovered, religious faith finishes being absorbed into a vague pantheism.  I knew not yet if Christ was the Son of God, but I now knew He was the Way, the Truth and the Life.  I resolved to place myself quite simply before the Christ of the Gospels without any preconceived notions, and to allow myself to be taught by Him.

A work that I did at the School on the Cult of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Middle Ages made me enter for the first time into contact with Catholic devotion.  It was a true revelation for me.

I found in the meditations and prayers of Saint Anselm, Saint Bernard and Saint Thomas, a fervor, a tenderness, a simplicity, which I had never ever been accustomed to.  Saint Anselm made me understand the beauty of the dogma of the Communion of Saints.  Why had I not till then believed what was evidently so natural?  God, being the bond which held souls together, were not deceased Christians then more alive than us, and even closer to us?  From then on it was easy to enter into contact spiritually with those souls and to ask their prayers.

I persevered however in my daily meditations on the Gospels.  The more I lived in union with Jesus Christ, the more He grew in my eyes.  Not content with upsetting all the values of this world, Jesus dared to go so far as to say that none could come to the Father save through Him.  He incarnated something of the Absolute.

For a long time I refused to affirm His Divinity, for fear of falling into dogmatism.  However, there arrived a time when it was impossible for me to hide from the question that Our Lord asked me, as he had asked so many others, “Who do you say that I am?”

Upon returning to Switzerland, I took up first the Catechism of the Council of Trent, then the excellent manual of Father Lesetre called “The Catholic Faith”.  I went from one discovery to another.

I soon had to admit that the Catholic Faith had an extraordinary sense of the Divine about it.  Nowhere was God so transcendent and yet immanent; so far and yet so close.

He was the Unique, the Inaccessible, the Ineffable.  “I am He Who Is”, said Our Lord to Saint Catherine of Siena, “and you are she who is not.”  And yet the God who surpasses any framework of our mind, the God of the mystery of the Trinity, was at the same time the God of the mystery of the Incarnation, the God who had espoused our frail humanity in the Person of Christ, the God who continues to unite Himself to us in the Eucharistic Communion and who lives in the soul in the state of grace.

Liberal Protestants and modernists, in neglecting the Divine transcendence, to insist uniquely on the immanence, belittled God, under the pretext of drawing man closer to God.

— A Problem of Authority

Christianity was a revealed Religion, or it wasn’t: it therefore implicated a dogmatic element and Christians never considered Religion as a thing of mere sentiment.

If Christianity was a gift from God, a revelation from on High, it must necessarily be a Religion of Authority.  Neither the Protestant ‘solution’, nor the Anglican ‘solution’ of the problem of Authority was satisfying.  Didn’t all Protestant denominations claim to have their roots in the Bible, and with equal right, because there is no authorized interpreter of Biblical Revelation?  As for Anglicanism, where does the authority lie in this National Church, which holds within itself tendencies which are not only different, but contradictory?

Perhaps only the Catholic Church had a conception of Authority which was capable of resisting all the effects of time and of satisfying all the demands of reason.

An anguishing problem posed itself from then on to my soul, and never ceased haunting me for many long months:

« Would Christianity in its entirety be found only in Catholicism? Was Protestantism vitiated at its roots? »

I was incapable, at the time, to answer.  But my duty (or task) was clear: I had but to study Catholicism very seriously and to redouble with fervor in my religious life.  Three years of Protestant theology imbued me with the idea that the Religion of the New Testament was different from that of the Council of Trent.

Was primitive Christianity truly in opposition with Catholicism?  This question was vital to me.  What I was searching for was the Religion which Jesus Christ had founded.  I put my whole soul into re-reading the New Testament, leaving aside, as much as possible, any preconceived notions.  I had already been struck for a long time by the Catholic character of certain passages in the Gospels and Epistles.  I believed to have seen, in analyzing the notion of the Church in the Epistles of Saint Paul, that the great Apostle of the Gentiles already possessed all the essential elements of the Roman conception of the Church.

I began researching Catholic works on the first Centuries of Christianity.  The more I examined the Christianity of the New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers, the more I was struck with its resemblance to Catholicism.  My eyes were beginning to open.  The Religion of the New Testament was a Religion of authority, a dogmatic Religion which imposed itself upon men as a supernatural revelation, independent of human judgments, rising above the changes of time, absolute and Divine.  The Church had always remained faithful to herself; and the Sovereign Pontiff, in warning Christians against modernism, had repeated the actions of Saint Paul writing to Saint Timothy:  “O Timothy, guard that which is committed to thy trust, and keep free from profane novelties in speech…” (I Tim. 6:20)

— Was the Church human or Divine?

When I condemned the subjection of Catholics to Rome, I had forgotten that the Church, in the eyes of a Catholic, was not an administrative organization, created by man, fallible and obsolete like them; but that, for a Catholic, the Church is the Spouse of Christ, She is animated and directed by the Holy Ghost.  I had been wrong in believing the Church to be as it were a barrier between God and the soul, preventing the soul from communicating directly with God.

I had forgotten that mankind is not made up of a simple dust of individuals, each one a law unto himself.  Christians are the members of the body of Christ, and they only participate in the life of Christ by participating in the life of the Body, which doesn’t prevent them from entering directly into communion with Christ.  In the same way as an arm or a leg united to the body directly experiences the effects of the soul which governs the body, so does the Christian united to the Church directly experience the effects of Christ who governs the Church.

Personal observation also proved Catholicism to be right: it is in the Roman Church that one finds souls that have had the most direct vision of God.  Saints such as Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Catherine of Siena, Saint Teresa of Avila, who had received admirable revelations, distinguished themselves just as much by their scrupulous obedience to the Hierarchy of the Church.

Dogma opened up an infinite amount of points of view; Dogma was even of such greatness that the Church would never have been capable of conserving it, and fully developing it without the assistance of the Holy Ghost.  Heretics are always offering us a shriveled and mutilated Christianity; our poor human brains never being able to see but one side of things.

On the contrary, the Church was essentially comprehensive. She has ever refused to place herself at an exclusive point of view.  She combats with equal vigor:

  • The Docetists, who denied the humanity of Christ; the Arians, who deny the Divinity of Christ;
  • The Pelagians, who didn’t believe in Grace; the Calvinists and the Jansenists, who didn’t believe in free will;
  • The Rationalists, who denied the Faith; and The Pragmatists, who denied that man is endowed with reason.

Yet, Catholic doctrine wasn’t a vague compromise between several contradictory tendencies.  The more I studied it, the more I admired its harmony.  Everything flowed from a single source: Jesus Christ.  And everything tended towards the same end: the Glory of God. By no means did the unity of Dogma exclude the diversity of systems of thought, and the theologians divided themselves into numerous schools.

Far from oppressing the intelligence, Catholicism essentially liberated it.  Catholics were unaware of the painful divorce of mind and heart which so many Protestants suffered from.  I was soon to experience myself this double action of the intellect on the heart and the heart on the intellect.  The winter of 1911-1912 was not only for me a year of hard work, but also a time of fervent religious life.

— The Gift of the Faith

I loved to pass entire hours in the Chapel of the Benedictines.

I hadn’t yet the Faith, but I often assisted at the Mass.  The ceremonies which I had judged to be devoid of sense some years ago, took up for me a greatness all their own.  Didn’t the Catholic have the privilege of assisting at the greatest Drama in History, the mystical representation of the Sacrifice of Calvary? In union with the Priest, he could even offer himself to God with Jesus Christ present in the Sacred Host, and unite himself closely in Holy Communion with the Sacred Victim.

All other Sects appeared poor to me when I understood the profound Mystery of the Mass.

A day came when God granted me the greatest grace of my life.  On Easter Sunday, in 1912, while the Priest elevated the Consecrated Host, I was granted the grace to believe.  I adored God made man, who continues to live with us under the veil of the Eucharistic Bread.

My conversion was virtually completed.  My Protestant friends tried to dissuade me by recommending a book to me called: “What One Has Made Of The Church” (which was anonymously written).  It was full of errors and contradictions and made all sorts of accusations against the Church and Her Leaders.  I must say that the long enumerations of scandals made no impression on me.  There had been bad Bishops and even bad Popes.  There would always be scandals in the Church.  How could it be otherwise?  The Church is Divine, but it is composed of sinful men.  God promised infallibility to the Pope, but he never promised that he would be impeccable.  God asks our collaboration, but He leaves us free to accord it or not to Him.  It is this collaboration of God and man which makes up the drama of the life of the Church; and the great miracle of History is that the Church has been able to live and develop itself despite Christians.

Conversion became for me a serious obligation.  I had been led from liberal Protestantism to the Christianity of the Gospels.  I now saw clearly that the Religion of the Gospels and Catholicism were one and the same thing.  Orthodox Protestantism and even Anglicanism were nothing more than imperfect realizations of the Christian ideal.  Only the Catholic Church had remained faithful to Christ and the glorious freedom of the children of God could not be found but in being submissive to the Vicar of Jesus-Christ1.

Those around me asked me to wait a few months before taking such a decisive step.  I wasn’t received into the Church until the Eve of All Saints Day, 1912, in the Dominican Monastery of Saulchoir.

Andrew de Bavier (“From Geneva to Rome, by way of Canterbury” – abridged text). Andrew de Bavier was ordained a Priest on April 21, 1924. He passed away in 1948.



(Our Lady of Fatima)


4. The Standards

These standards may appear as something out-dated; but the words of Our Lady assure us they are as pertinent today as ever:

The Church has no fashions; Our Lord is always the same.”

Pope Pius XII also assured us that although there can be a wide variety in fashions, “there always exists an absolute norm to be preserved 1 which cannot change with times and customs.  To “justify” immodest fashions by calling them things we get “accustomed to,” he said, was among “the most insidious of sophisms 2.”

Therefore, the following timeless standards should be joyfully welcomed and embraced.  Furthermore, Catholics should both charitably encourage and admonish each other to dress with proper modesty.

The Marylike Standards For Modesty In Dress 3

“In order that uniformity in understanding prevail… we recall that a dress cannot be called decent which is cut deeper than two fingers breadth under the pit of the throat;  which does not cover the arms at least to the elbows;  and scarcely reaches a bit beyond the knees.  Furthermore, dresses of transparent materials are improper.”  (The Cardinal Vicar of Pope Pius XI.)

1. Marylike is modest without compromise, “like Mary,” Christ’s Mother.

2. Marylike dresses have sleeves extending at least to the elbows and skirts reaching below the knees. [When a woman sits down her knees should still be well covered].

(Note: because of impossible market conditions quarter-length sleeves are temporarily tolerated with Ecclesiastical Approval, until Christian womanhood again turns to Mary as the model of modesty in dress.)

3. Marylike dresses require full coverage for the bodice, chest, shoulders, and back; except for a cut-out about the neck not exceeding two inches below the neckline in front and in back, and a corresponding two inches on the shoulders.

4. Marylike dresses do not admit as modest coverage transparent fabrics — laces, nets, organdy, nylons, etc. — unless sufficient backing is added. However, their moderate use as trimmings is


5. Marylike dresses avoid the improper use of flesh-colored fabrics.

6. Marylike dresses conceal rather than reveal the figure of the wearer; they do not emphasize, unduly, parts of the body.

7. Marylike dresses provide full coverage even after jacket, cape or stole are removed.

Virtuous young ladies should understand that dressing modestly does not mean that they cannot appear attractive.  However, the attractiveness of their attire should be a modest reflection of the beauty deep within their soul rather than an improper exposure of sensual beauty that has an attraction that is only skin deep.  Scripture teaches:

“…let their adorning not be the outward plaiting of the hair, or the wearing of gold, or the putting on of apparel: But the hidden self of the heart in the incorruptibility of a quiet and a meek spirit which is rich in the sight of God” (1Pet. 3:3-4).

Standards for Men

Earlier in this booklet, St. Paul was quoted as saying that women should appear “in decent apparel; adorning themselves with modesty and sobriety” (1Tim. 2:9).

And although, as already mentioned, this is more important for women, St. Francis De Sales commenting on this passage does not hesitate to remark that the same may be said of men” 4.”

Yes, men too must dress with proper Christian dignity.  How overly casual they have become.  It is not acceptable for Christian men to go about their daily business in sportswear or other scanty clothing that covers the body little more than the clothing of savages.  Remember that missionaries throughout Church history in converting these savages, taught them to cover themselves according to Christian decency.

Although the Church has not provided a universal standard for men’s clothing, still, some guidelines can be found.  In May 1946 the Canadian Bishops directed these words on modesty to men:

Man himself does not escape from the inclination of exhibiting his flesh: some go in public, stripped to the waist, or in very tight pants or in very scanty bathing suits.  They thus commit offences against the virtue of modesty.  They may also be an occasion of sin (in thought or desire) for our neighbor 5.”

Certainly then, men must take care to avoid tight fitting clothes, short shorts, low-buttoned shirts, muscle shirts, and going shirtless.  Because of their Christian dignity, for their everyday attire they should gladly adhere to the ideal (or traditional) form of dress for men: “Loose fitting shirts and slacks.”  Long, loose fitting shorts are acceptable for sports, hiking and certain types of work.  And finally, it should go without saying that earrings and other marks of effeminacy are to be avoided.

Standards for Children and Youth

Finally, with regards to youngsters, the Church teaches that even small children should be instructed in the practice of properly covering and adorning the body.  In this way, by the time they reach puberty their sense of modesty will have become very acute, and the observance of modesty an ordinary part of their daily lives.  In reality, then, there should exist little if any difference between the way adults and children observe modesty.  Looking at pictures of the three Fatima children, we find good examples.

They are but young children tending sheep, yet see how they are fully dressed, the boy like a male and the girls like females.  And the youngest among them, Bl. Jacinta, gives us this beautiful example in her final illness.  At only ten years old she had to undergo an operation at the insistence of her doctors.  Though the anesthesia of those days “by no means took away her pain,” it is said that she “suffered more from the humiliation of having to expose her body…than from the physical pain 6.”

The 1930 letter of the Sacred Congregation of the Council (mentioned above) decreed, in part, the following:

Parents, conscious of their grave obligations toward the education, especially religious and moral, of their offspring, should assiduously inculcate in their souls, by word and example, love for the virtues of modesty and purity, and since their family should follow the example of the Holy Family, they must rule in such a manner that all its members, reared within the walls of the home, should find reason and incentive to love and preserve modesty. … Let parents never permit their daughters to don immodest garb. 7

Later, that great champion of Christian modesty, Pope Pius XII, gave these strong admonitions to parents:

Woe to those fathers and mothers lacking in energy and prudence, who cede to the caprices of their children and surrender that paternal authority written on the brow of man and wife as a reflection of the divine Majesty8.””

O Christian mothers (and fathers), if only you knew the future of distress and peril, of shame ill-restrained, that you prepare for your sons and daughters in imprudently accustoming them to live hardly clothed and in making them lose the sense of modesty, you would be ashamed of yourselves and of the harm done to the little ones whom Heaven entrusted to your care, to be reared in Christian dignity and culture9.”

Finally, on December 8, 1995, the Pontifical Council for the Family reminded parents:

“Even if they are socially acceptable, some habits of speech and dress are not morally correct and represent a way of trivializing sexuality, reducing it to a consumer object.  Parents should therefore teach their children the value of Christian modesty, moderate dress, and, when it comes to trends, the necessary autonomy. 10

Sports and Recreation

Many people think that when they are having a picnic or on an outing that the standards for modesty do not apply.  Yet, on August 20, 1954, Pope Pius XII declared:

On the beaches, in country resorts, almost everywhere, on the streets of cities and towns, in public and private places, and, indeed, often even in buildings dedicated to God, an unworthy and indecent mode of dress has prevailed11.

These words remind us that the same standard of modesty is to be practiced at all times and places since in all circumstances human nature is subject to the same temptations.

Perhaps for many, because of existing habits, practicing modesty in this area will be the most difficult to observe.  Our culture practically worships sports.  Because of this, modesty in sportswear has been sacrificed to the god of gaining the competitive advantage — even if there is no competition!  It is good to be reminded again of the words of Pope Pius XII:

The good of our soul is more important than that of our body; and we have to prefer the spiritual welfare of our neighbor to our bodily comforts…  If a certain kind of dress constitutes a grave and proximate occasion of sin, and endangers the salvation of your soul and others, it is your duty to give it up12.

Obviously, for this same reason, Pius XI, taught in his encyclical “On The Christian Education of Youth,” that in gymnastic exercises and deportment, special care must be had of Christian modesty in young women and girls, which is so gravely impaired by any kind of exhibition in public13.”

Later, Pope Pius XII would add:

“Do they not see the harm resulting from excess in certain gymnastic exercises and sports not suitable for virtuous girls14?”

Therefore, the Marylike Crusade taught that the same two rules apply everywhere: “Sufficient coverage and proper fit15.”

This is why Catholic schools once dressed their girls in Marylike gym suits for physical education.  We see how God came first in those days!

With regard to swimming there are virtually no commercially available swimsuits for women and girls that give proper coverage.  The skintight suits for men are equally to be abhorred.

Even as far back as 1959, Enrique Cardinal Pla y Daniel, Archbishop of Toledo, Spain, was moved to give this directive:

“A special danger to morals is represented by public bathing at the beaches, in pools and river banks…  Mixed bathing between men and women which nearly always is an approximate occasion of sin and a scandal, must be avoided16.”

Perhaps we can understand from this the original wisdom in having a YMCA and a YWCA.  Let us also keep in mind that up until the mid 1800’s people just didn’t swim in public.  It seems in the past folks were well aware of the “special danger to morals” this would cause.  Therefore, if any swimming is to be done, it should be within the family in an enclosed area.  And carefully selected, skirted swimsuits will be necessary to preserve the modesty and femininity of the women.

Norms for Church and Other Sacred Places

Since Catholic Churches contain Jesus’ Real Presence in the Tabernacle, they are the holiest places on earth; therefore, modesty must be specially observed in them.  Modesty should also be specially observed in other sacred places (i.e. outdoor shrines, convents, rectories, seminaries, etc.). This is so important that the Marylike Crusade offered a special imprimatured “Code of Attire for Church and Sacred Places.”

This Code taught women that while they should dress with “Marylike modesty, both at home and in public,”  they must be  “specially careful to do so when visiting any place dedicated to God.”  It also taught that “principles of proper clothing apply…also to men and boys.”  Finally, it warned that by coming to church or other sacred places in any kind of immodest garb “God is offended…very grievously.”  Consequently, it made a special point of instructing anyone who had “provoked the just anger of God by improper attire” in holy places to “humbly acknowledge and confess these sins…and make reparation to the offended Divine Majesty17.”   These words of God’s anger may sound severe to our hearing, but let us be mindful that the only place in the Gospel where Jesus ever showed anger (and a severe anger) was in the Temple of God.  For as it is written of Him:

“The zeal of thy House hath eaten me up.” (Jn. 2:17).

Today, to observe proper norms for dress will often mean being different than others.  Be mindful that it was daring individuals, who had no fear of the opinions of others, who introduced the improper, indecent and egalitarian fashions that are now destroying our once Christian culture.  Therefore, it must be faithful Catholics (called to be the salt of the earth) who, reacting “firmly against the currents that are contrary to the best traditions,” dare to lead our society back to that high standard of decency and harmonious diversity so pleasing to Our Lord and Our Lady.  And thus even by their dress, they will prepare the world for the coming of God’s Kingdom!

5. The Feminine Advantage

As a final note, it must be said that women often believe they are gaining some great advantage by turning away from their proper and natural role in the family, society and the Church.  The ironic truth of the matter is that in doing so they actually lose their most important advantage: their spiritual advantage over men.  This truth is explained in this final section.

As noted above, the “mental attitude of being ‘like a man’ ” which Cardinal Siri spoke of, has been very much instilled into our modern culture. This is expressed not only by the clothing women now wear, but also by their seeking to take more dominant roles in society, by their no longer recognizing their husband’s authority in the family, and some, by even seeking Holy Orders in the Church.  But as was shown above, men and women are created different.  Therefore, though the genders are certainly equal in dignity, they have different roles to fulfill.

Pope Pius XI pointed this out beautifully in this passage from his Encyclical, Casti Cannubii:

“…if the man is the head, the woman is the heart, and as he occupies the chief place in ruling so she may and ought to claim for herself the chief place in love18.”

The highly respected Catholic philosopher, Alice Von Hildebrand eloquently explains these differing roles further:

“Men and women, while equal in dignity, are different and therefore are called upon to fulfill different functions.  Men symbolize the active principle; women the receptive one (which is not to be identified with passivity). This complementarity finds its expression not only in the mystery of the sexual sphere, but on a much higher level, in the fact that the dignity of the priesthood is assigned to men and not to women.  It is proper that a human male should actively duplicate the words Christ spoke at the Last Supper; while to the human female has been assigned the glorious function of sacred receptivity, so powerfully expressed in the words of the Holy Virgin, the blessed one among women, and the most perfect of all creatures.  It was she who gave women their holy motto: “Be it DONE unto me according to Thy word19.”

“Receptivity,” as Von Hildebrand defines it, “is a generous opening of oneself to another, allowing the possibility of fecundity [i.e. fertility or fruitfulness]20.”

Therefore, the irony is, true holiness — with its demand for obedience, submissiveness, hiddenness, attentiveness, and for total trust and dependency on God — demands that receptivity, which by nature is characteristic — not of men — but of women.

This characteristic receptivity, we can be sure, is the reason that (as St. Teresa of Avila pointed out) many more women than men receive mystical graces.  This is a simple fact of history.  And sadly, women are losing this receptivity as they strive to be independent, aggressive and dominant seeking to take on the more active role of men.  It would seem clear then that God is calling women to be, in a certain sense, spiritual leaders, yet without in any way giving up the beautiful feminine nature with which He adorned them.

Following the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the countless female Saints, by their example, they will lead all humanity along the way of obedience, submissiveness, hiddenness, attentiveness, trust and love to the establishment of God’s Kingdom on earth, where the Divine Will will “be done on earth as it is in Heaven… Amen!


Are women still required to wear veils in the House of God?  Perhaps most Catholics today believe they are not.  But what is the truth?  Jackie Freppon in a recent newsletter article reports:

During the Second Vatican Council, a mob of reporters waited for news after a council meeting.  One of them asked Msgr. Annibale Bugnini, then secretary of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship, if women still had to wear a headcovering in church.  He responded that the bishops were considering other issues, and women’s veils were not on the agenda.  The next day, the international press announced throughout the world that women did not have to keep their heads covered in church anymore.  A few days later, Msgr. Bugnini told the press he was misquoted and women must still wear the veil.  But the press did not retract the error, and many women stopped wearing the veil as out of confusion and because of pressure from feminist groups.

We read in First Corinthians:

“Every man praying or prophesying with his head covered, disgraceth his head.  But every women praying or prophesying with her head not covered, disgraceth her head: for it is all one as if she were shaven.  For if a woman be not covered, let her be shorn. But if it be a shame to a woman to be shorn or made bald, let her cover her head.  The man indeed ought not to cover his head, because he is the image and glory of God.  But the woman is the glory of the man.  For the man is not of the woman but the woman of the man.  For the man was not created for the woman: but the woman for the man.”

“Therefore ought the woman to have a power over her head, because of the angels.…

“You yourselves judge. Doth it become a woman to pray unto God uncovered?  Doth not even nature itself teach you, that a man indeed, if he nourish his hair, it is a shame unto him?  But if a woman nourish her hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering.  But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor the church of God.” (1Cor. 11:4-10,13-16).

Here we see that the custom of the woman veiling her head in church is something bound up in her proper relation to the man as ordained by God.  For the man, as Scripture teaches, is in authority over his wife (Eph. 5:22-33).  We also see that “nature itself” teaches the logic of the veiling of a woman’s head.  For, during divine worship when all attention is to be directed to the adoration of Almighty God, reason dictates that women must conceal the beauty of their hair and be modestly clad so as not to cause a distraction to men.

This passage, being Scriptural, is a divinely inspired teaching.  Some would like to believe this teaching was just St. Paul’s personal opinion, but Paul himself in the same epistle said: “…know that the things I write to you, that they are the commandments of the Lord.” (1 Cor. 14:37).  And, speaking on Sacred Scripture, Pope Leo XIII taught in his encyclical Providentissiumus Deus that “all the books which the Church receives as sacred and canonical, are written wholly and entirely, with all their parts, at the dictation of the Holy Ghost.”

St. Paul’s final words show to anyone who wants to act contrary to this practice, that it is an unchangeable apostolic and ecclesial tradition: “…if any man be contentious, we [i.e. Apostles] have no such custom, nor the church of God.”  And the Fathers of the Church unanimously agree.  For instance, St. John Chrysostom states: “To oppose this practiced is contentious, which is irrational.  The Corinthians might object, but if they do they are going against the practice of the Universal Church” (Homilies on First Corinthians, 26, 5). And Tertullian states: “What is the meaning of ‘every woman’ except women of every age, every rank, and every circumstance? No one is excepted” (On Prayer, 22, 4, on 1 Cor. 11:5).

Please note, Pope St. Pius X, in his encyclical Pascendi reiterated the Church’s teaching that apostolic and ecclesial traditions are not to be changed:

“But for Catholics nothing will remove the authority of the second Council of Nicea, where it condemns those “who dare, after the impious fashion of heretics, to deride the ecclesiastical traditions…or endeavor by malice of craft to overthrow any one of the legitimate traditions of the Catholic Church”.… Wherefore the Roman Pontiffs, Pius IV and Pius IX, ordered the insertion in the profession of the faith of the following declaration: “I most firmly admit and embrace the apostolic and ecclesiastical traditions and other observances and constitutions of the Church.”

This apostolic tradition was kept always and everywhere in continuum for nearly 2000 years.  Nowhere in all Church history do we find a breech in this venerable practice until some 35-40 years ago.  Yet, even today, there exists no Church document abrogating this observance.

While it is true that there was a provision in the 1917 Code of Canon Law (Can. 1262.2) calling for the veil that is not seen in the new 1983 Code, that does not mean that it is no longer required.  In the effort for simplification of Canon Law, this provision — already called for in Scripture and Tradition — was simply left out.  In fact, being that it is both a Scriptural teaching and a traditional observance, we have reason to believe that the Church hierarchy has no authority to change this observance.  Therefore, what we seem to be seeing today — with the majority of women entering churches with their heads unveiled — can be considered a breech in a divinely mandated observance which is being universally tolerated.  The unveiled head may indeed seem to be a small thing, but Jesus taught: “He therefore that shall break one of these least commandments, and shall so teach men, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 5:19).  Let us remember the proof of our love for God: “If you love me keep my commandments.” (John 14:15).

And then, how edifying it is to see women in church modestly dressed and heads veiled!  How much it contributes to the atmosphere of sacredness in the House of God!  How pleasing it is to the Angels of God! (1Cor. 11:10)


— Our Lady of Good Success appeared to a holy nun (Mother Mariana) in Quito, Ecuador in the 17th Century with a message of warning for the end of the 19th Century and especially the 20th Century.  The following words are taken from this Church approved apparition:

…in these unhappy times, there will be unbridled luxury which, acting thus to snare the rest into sin, will conquer innumerable frivolous souls who will be lost.  Innocence will almost no longer be found in children, nor modesty in women, and in this supreme moment of need of the Church, those who should speak will fall silent.

— Jacinta having heard the words of Our Lady of Fatima stated:

“…the sins that bring most souls to Hell are the sins of the flesh.  Certain fashions are going to be introduced which will offend Our Lord very much.  Those who serve God should not follow these fashions. The Church has no fashions; Our Lord is always the same. The sins of the  world are too great. If only people knew what eternity is they would do everything to change their lives.  People lose their souls because they do not think about the death of Our Lord and do not do penance.”

— Pope Pius XII:

“It is often said almost with passive resignation that fashions reflect the customs of a people.  But it would be more exact and much more useful to say that they express the decision and moral direction that a nation intends to take: either to be shipwrecked in licentiousness or maintain itself at the level to which it has been raised by religion and civilization.”

— “…[A] noble lady, who was exceedingly pious, asked God to make known to her what displeased His Divine Majesty most in persons of her sex.  The Lord vouchsafed in a miraculous manner to hear her.  He opened under her eyes the Eternal Abyss.  There she saw a woman a prey to cruel torments and in her recognized one of her friends, a short time before deceased.  This sight caused her as much astonishment as grief: the person whom she saw damned did not seem to her to have lived badly. T hen that unhappy soul said to her: ‘It is true that I practiced religion, but I was a slave of vanity.  Rued by the passion to please, I was not afraid to adopt indecent fashions to attract attention, and I kindled the fire of impurity in more than one heart.  Ah! If Christian women knew how much immodesty in dress displeases God!’  At the same moment, this unhappy soul was pierced by two fiery lances, and plunged into a caldron of liquid lead.”   Fr. X. Schouppe.



(Our Lady of Fatima)

Fourth Edition (Slightly Revised September 2014)   © A.D. 2014 Robert T. Hart

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The Mind of the Catholic Church on Modesty in Dress

Often today we hear sensible people complaining about the immodesty in dress that is seen everywhere and unfortunately even in our churches. But, objectively speaking, where do we draw the line and call a garment immodest? And how can we be sure that we ourselves are dressing with proper Christian modesty that is pleasing to God? This booklet is provided to answer these questions. For on this subject, through his Church, God has made his Will clearly known. Perhaps for some, this booklet will be the litmus test to determine whether or not they are truly willing to deny themselves, to take up their cross, and follow Jesus.


1. The Need for this text

It is widely known that Pope Pius XII often said: “The greatest sin of our modern generation is that it has lost all sense of sin1”.  It is less known that more specifically he once stated:  Many women . . . give in to the tyranny of fashion, be it even immodest, in such a way as to appear not even to suspect that it is unbecoming.  They have lost the very concept of danger: they have lost the instinct of modesty 2.” 

These words spoken over 50 years ago ring more true today than ever (and not only for women).  For in today’s post-Christian society where indecent and improper dress have become the norm, even among good-willed and devout Catholics there is much ignorance as to what is meant by proper Christian modesty.  Yes, even the most virtuous of Catholics who attend daily Mass and have an intimate relationship with Jesus, frequently are not fully aware of the Church’s teaching in this matter. Could it be that this booklet is for you?  May Our Lady, our true Mother, be with you to enlighten you to understand and to be receptive to the Will of God in this matter — for indeed, it may be a challenge.

This booklet has been prepared, therefore, to provide all those who have been given the immense privilege of calling themselves Catholic the information they need to be well aware of the mind of the Church, and therefore the mind of Christ, on what constitutes proper Christian modesty and decency in dress.

A Cultural Revolution.

Now, how is it that there exists today this ignorance among devout Catholics regarding proper Christian modesty? We have passed through a Cultural Revolution — a revolution aimed at destroying the once Catholic culture on which Western Civilization was founded.  Although styles began changing for the worse soon after World War I, it was only 40-50 years ago that the true revolution took place.  Since that time, little has been done to preach against the new, unchristian fashions which have become the norm.   In a recent article, Catholic journalist, Marian Therese Horvat, Ph.D. 3explained:  “If we understand the revolution as the abolition of a natural and good order of things so as to replace it with the opposite, we can begin to analyze the cultural revolution that has changed the customs, habits and ways of being of modern-day man.  The cultural revolution includes a revolution in style, in which a new “loose,” “relaxed,” egalitarian and vulgar type of clothing and way of being came to replace the existing order and values that had been cultivated by Christian Civilization.”

She went on to explain that this revolution, which began to take place in the 1960s, affects our way of thinking and the health of our society:

“Now, some thirty years after, we can see that this egalitarian revolution has produced profound transformations in the mentality of modern-day men — even of those who call themselves conservative.  Dress began to change in a way that increasingly accentuated the idea not only of equality among sexes — with increasingly unisex clothing — but also the notion of equality among social classes.  The differentiation in dress that still remained in the ’60s to indicate a class or office of life has largely disappeared.  The businessman and lawyer are removing their suits, the professor looks like the student, the doctor like his gardener.  In effect, the consequence of the underlying philosophy of this revolution was the creation of an egalitarian, vulgar and sexually liberated culture to replace the Catholic culture characterized by harmonic inequalities and chaste customs. … The new “anything-goes” dress and way of being gives no opportunity for souls to mirror the moral values and notion of hierarchy necessary for the good ordering of any sound society.

Dr. Horvat went on to say, “Christendom has always been understood as a projection of the Catholic principles into every aspect of the temporal sphere.”  This means Catholics are called to counter this anti-Catholic Cultural Revolution by reestablishing Catholic principles in societyOne way they can and must do this is by choosing clothing that truly reflects our Christian belief.  For as Horvat recognized, “The more a civilization becomes Christian, the more the clothing of men will be virile, dignified, noble — from the highest dignitary to the lowest worker.”

This booklet may seem lengthy for the topic it covers, but since this Cultural Revolution has “produced profound transformations in the mentality of modern day men — even of those who call themselves conservative,” many words are needed to point out the errors of this modern mentality.  The goal of this booklet is not to preach self-righteously to those who are erring, but as humbly as possible, to present the Catholic truth.  Thus it is hoped that the sincere Catholics will be assisted in replacing this false mentality with the truly Catholic one that is in full harmony with the Holy Will of God.


2. The Two Aspects of Christian Modesty


First Aspect: Avoid Being an Occasion of Sin

There are two aspects to Christian modesty.  The first is to avoid being an occasion of sin.  The second, more positively speaking, is to be instilled with the spirit of modesty inspired by a deep love for the virtue of chastity, and also by the proper understanding that our clothing is meant to enhance the dignity of the human body and to be a symbol of our state in life.  Both aspects, while in no way excluding men, are much more important for women.  Because of the natural differences in the genders, women are both far more prone to be occasions of sin, and, being “the weaker vessel” (1Pet. 3:7), to be treated with less dignity or respect.  Proper dress does much to overcome this, and this is why St. Paul wrote in the New Testament that women should appear “in decent apparel; adorning themselves with modesty and sobriety.” (1 Tim. 2:9).

With regards to the first aspect — avoiding being an occasion of sin — the late Archbishop Albert G. Meyer of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has these words to say, taken from his Pastoral Letter to the Clergy, Religious and Faithful Laity of May 1, 1956:

“In the desire to fulfill the charge given to us as your pastor, whose duty it is to protect his flock against the enemy, and as an appointed watchman of God, who must speak out in clear and explicit warnings, lest the sins of those who err be charged to his account (Ezech. 33:8-9), we have decided to address this letter to you.  In this letter, it is our thought to consider the general subject of Decency… We are impelled to do this as we recall some of the recent forceful statements of our Holy Father (Pope Pius XII4).     With regard to clothing, modesty requires especially two things: first, care that one does not make purity difficult for oneself, or for others, by one’s own mode of dress; and, second, a prudent but firm and courageous resistance to the styles and customs, no matter how popular or widespread, or adopted by others, which are a danger to purity … We must emphasize in the strongest possible language that it is Catholic teaching, based on the most clear words of Christ Himself, that impure thoughts and desires freely indulged in are serious sins.  To invite such impure thoughts and desires through dress … [one] cannot help but participate [in] the grave sin of scandal and cooperation 5.”

Heaven too warned us to offer a firm and courageous resistance to the styles and customs,” for Our Lady of Fatima told Blessed Jacinta Marto in 1919:

Certain fashions are to be introduced which will offend Our Lord very much.  Those who serve God should not follow these fashions.  The Church has no fashions. Our Lord is always the same.6

Unfortunately many modern women do not understand the strong reaction men have to immodest dress.  For this reason, even fifty years ago Pope Pius XII was led to exclaim: “How many young girls there are who do not see any wrongdoing in following certain shameless styles like so many sheep. They would certainly blush if they could guess the impression they make and the feelings they evoke in those who see them 7.”

Dear Catholic ladies, you must clearly understand that, while not all men are tempted in the same way or to the same extent, in general, bare thighs, mid-riffs, shoulders, and backs; low cut, sheer or see through blouses and shirts; and dresses with long slits are all sources of temptation. Therefore, all these must all be absolutely avoided to avoid serious sin.

Even when the body is adequately covered, be aware that clothes that adhere too closely to the flesh and reveal a woman’s form (so common in our time) are just as much a source of temptation. Pants on women are of special concern because by their very nature they conform more to the shape of the body than dresses or skirts. Therefore, it is generally more difficult for a woman to preserve modesty in them, especially when she stoops or bends.  Tight-fitting jeans — which unfortunately are most popular today — incite impurity in the most blatant manner.  They are certainly the source of innumerable mortal sins and have no place on Christian women.

Strong Admonitions from the Saints

Be well aware that the strict necessity of modesty in dress has been the constant teaching of the Church throughout the centuries.

As Fr. Stefano M. Manelli, FFI (once an altar boy for Padre Pio), stated in his marvelous book, Jesus Our Eucharistic Love:   “A strict insistence on this particular point is a constant in the lives of all the Saints, from the Apostle, St. Paul (telling the woman to wear a veil so that she may not need to have her head appear ‘as if she were shorn’: [1Cor. 11:5-6]), to St. John Chrysostom, St. Ambrose, etc., down to Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, who would permit no halfway measures, but always insisted on modest dresses clearly below the knees8.”

In fact, when coming to confess, if their dresses were low-cut or too short, Padre Pio would send the women away, refusing them this Sacrament.  As dresses in the 60’s became scantier and scantier, he sent larger and larger numbers of women away.  It finally came to pass — since he was sending so many away — that his fellow friars posted a sign on the door of the Church which read:

“By Padre Pio’s explicit wish, women must enter the confessional wearing skirts at least 8 inches below the knee.…”  If those whom he refused asked why he treated them in this manner, he would answer: “Don’t you know what pain it costs me to shut the door on anyone? The Lord has forced me to do so.  I do not call anyone, nor do I refuse anyone either.  There is someone else who calls and refuses them.  I am His useless tool9.”

Certainly this action was most appropriate, since it would not have been right to grant them absolution while dressed in an indecent manner.  For as St. John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church, taught:

When you have made another sin in his heart, how can you be innocent?  Tell me, whom does this world condemn?  Whom do judges in court punish? T hose who drink poison or those who prepare it and administer the fatal potion?  You have prepared the abominable cup, you have given the death-dealing drink, and you are more criminal than are those who poison the body; you murder not the body but the soul.  And it is not to enemies you do this, nor are you urged on by any imaginary necessity, nor provoked by injury, but out of foolish vanity and pride10.

These are some of those “hard sayings” (Jn. 6:61) of the Gospel which are often unpopular in our times.  Yet, since the Gospel must be preached “in season” and “out of season” (2Tim. 4:2) no compromise can be made.  The words of the Angelic Doctor help us to keep the proper perspective:

“The good of our soul is more important than that of our body; and we have to prefer the spiritual welfare of our neighbor to our bodily comforts11.

For precisely this reason, Pope Pius XII concluded that if a certain kind of dress “becomes a grave and proximate danger for the salvation of the soul…it is your duty to give it up 12.  If these words are not enough to convince our Catholic women of the grave necessity of modestly covering their bodies, we hope that the following anecdote from Fr. Schouppe’s book on Hell will do so:

“…[A] noble lady, who was exceedingly pious, asked God to make known to her what displeased His Divine Majesty most in persons of her sex.  The Lord vouchsafed in a miraculous manner to hear her.  He opened under her eyes the Eternal Abyss.  There she saw a woman a prey to cruel torments and in her recognized one of her friends, a short time before deceased.  This sight caused her as much astonishment as grief: the person whom she saw damned did not seem to her to have lived badly.  Then that unhappy soul said to her: “It is true that I practiced religion, but I was a slave of vanity. Rued by the passion to please, I was not afraid to adopt indecent fashions to attract attention, and I kindled the fire of impurity in more than one heart.  Ah! If Christian women knew how much immodesty in dress displeases God!”  At the same moment, this unhappy soul was pierced by two fiery lances, and plunged into a caldron of liquid lead13.”

Christian ladies should also remember that if men are stronger than women in their bodies, they are weaker in the area of sensuality.  If the man’s duty is to use his superior strength, not to bring harm to women, but rather to assist, protect and defend them physically, it is the woman’s duty to use her strength in the area of sensuality (by her conduct and by her dress) to help men to remain chaste.  As it is said: “Women are the guardians of chastity for the world.”  Christian gentlemen should be aware that women often dress with a desire to please men.  Therefore, they must be careful not to express — either by their words or looks — any approval for the appearance of women who dress in any manner displeasing to God.  In contrast, it can be useful to compliment those who dress with due reserve.

The Need for a Unified Standard

Seeing, then, what grave words have been spoken in the Church regarding modesty, one is left to ask:  How can I be certain that I am dressing in a manner that conforms with the Church’s understanding of modesty? The answer is found in a 1935 publication of the “League of Modesty”: “The adoption of a unified standard is necessary.”   Otherwise, everyone would do whatever suits them and the attempt to ensure that all clothe themselves in objectively modest attire would “shatter on the rocks of discordant opinions…. 14

Fortunately, the Church has (at least for women) given us just such a standard.  This standard came into being because of Pope Pius XI’s order on August 23, 1928 for a “Crusade Against Immodest Fashions, Especially in Schools Directed by Religious 15.”

As part of that Crusade, on September 24 of the same year, by order of the Pope, Cardinal Pompili (Pius XI’s Cardinal-Vicar) issued a letter in which the following standard was given:

In order that uniformity in understanding prevail…we recall that a dress cannot be called decent which is cut deeper than two fingers’ breadth under the pit of the throat; which does not cover the arms at least to the elbows; and scarcely reaches a bit beyond the knees.  Furthermore, dresses of transparent materials are improper16.

The Crusade was initially addressed only to the institutions directed by female religious in Italy.  However, in 1930 the Pope extended his Crusade to all the world.  By the Pope’s mandate, on January 12, 1930, a letter was issued from the Sacred Congregation of the Council to all the bishops of the world.   In this letter, the directives on modesty were given not only to institutes directed by female religious, but “they were extended to include also pastors, parents and the laity in general 17.”

It was from Pope Pius XI’s universal standard that an American priest, Fr. Bernard A. Kunkel, developed “The Marylike Standards For Modesty In Dress.”  Fr. Kunkel’s idea was to use Mary as the model of modesty and the Pope’s standard as a concrete guide, and thus with his “Marylike Standards,” women could be sure of pleasing God.   Fr. Kunkel’s Marylike Standards were submitted to the discretion of the Church, and, as a result, on December 8, 1944 with full ecclesiastical approval, the “Marylike Modesty Crusade” was born.  For a full quarter century (till his death in 1969) Fr. Kunkel led this Crusade, preaching that the universal standard of Pius XI was binding on all Catholic women and offering his Marylike Crusade to assist them in embracing it.  Though, for the most part, the Catholic hierarchy in the United States ignored the Papal standard, Fr. Kunkel courageously spread the Church’s teaching on modesty throughout the dioceses of the United States and beyond.  On two separate occasions Pope Pius XII imparted his Apostolic Blessing upon the Crusade.  In his blessing he called the Crusade a “laudable movement for modesty in dress and behavior,” and extended that blessing “to all who further 18it.

Considering the weight of approval the “Marylike Standards,” have received and that they are derived from the universal standard set by Pope Pius XI, could there be any other standards for Catholic women to adopt?  Following “The Marylike Standards” they will be following the approved teaching of the Church, and thus, they will never have reason to doubt that they are truly dressing in a manner that is pleasing to Jesus.  “The Marylike Standards,” are provided in Section 4 along with guidelines for men, children and youth.  [Editor’s note:  Section 4 will  part of PART 2 of this article, which will be coming soon…]

3. The Second Aspect (of Christian Modesty)

The Spirit of Modesty and The Traditional Form of Dress

This second aspect of proper Christian dress is something less apparent than the first.   Yet, though it is more subtle, because of the long-term effects of failing in this aspect, it may well be equally important to the Heart of God.  The second aspect of Christian modesty: being instilled with the spirit of modesty, does not deal with the danger of mortal sin by becoming an occasion of sin against purity.  Rather, this second aspect deals, more positively, with learning to dress in the manner that is proper to Christian dignity.  This means embracing the idea of dressing not so much with the view of seeking one’s own pleasure or comfort, as to honor and edify one’s neighbor, to be healthy yeast in the dough of society, and above all, to best please God.  For many, this may mean sacrifice: The sacrifice of one’s own desire, convenience, and habit, as well as the sacrifice of countering the popular fashions of the Cultural Revolution.

The Traditional Form of Dress

The few leaflets on modesty that can be found today generally say that for preserving purity, loose fitting pants are actually loose enough to conceal a woman’s form.  However, one current little leaflet distributed by the Franciscan Friars of Mary Immaculate says something more.  After presenting what is necessary for preserving purity, it goes on to state:

The ideal form of dress for a woman is a modest blouse and dress extending close to the ankles.  Men should wear loose fitting shirts and slacks 19.”

This ideal, it should be observed, is nothing more than the traditional form of dress for men and women approved in Christian society ever since males went from wearing robes to pants.*  It should also be noted that throughout centuries, from Apostolic times until the 1920’s, Christian women, as a rule, did not wear such things as tight-fitting or sleeveless tops, miniskirts, pants or shorts.  Rather, even though styles have greatly varied, they have generally worn loose fitting dresses extending near or to the ankle.  This is true even when women took part in activities such as riding on a horse or donkey (as Our Lady did en route to Bethlehem at the dawn of the Christian Era) or working in the fields (like St. Maria Goretti and her mother at the dawn of the 20th Century), though such activities are done more conveniently in pants or shorts.  The length of garment was indeed fitting, since in the Book of Isaiah God refers to a woman’s bare legs as “nakedness” and “shame” (Is. 47:2-3).

By and large, Catholics have always understood that there are good reasons for traditions and thus have regarded them with respect.  Traditions are simply good customs that help to safeguard and defend what we believe.  They were practiced by those that came before and they are, in turn, to be handed on.

Modern man seems to place little value on traditions (whether cultural or religious). Perhaps this is because our advancements in technology cause us to think of ourselves as superior to the generations that came before us.  Therefore, we easily discard traditions for the sake of expediency, convenience or even the desire for novelty.  Yet, there is always much wisdom bound up in good traditions.

For instance, in the Church we have the ancient ecclesiastical tradition of genuflecting in front of the Tabernacle.  This tradition safeguards our belief that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is really present in the Sacred Hosts reserved there and that when we are before the Tabernacle, we are in the awesome presence of Almighty God.  Thus, when the practice of genuflecting is maintained, we are continually reminded that the church is the House of God, a Sacred Place, to be entered with due respect.  Finally, it reminds us of His greatness and of our lowliness before Him.  The wisdom bound up in the tradition of genuflecting is clearly seen.  Certainly it is more expedient and convenient to forego the act of genuflecting when entering the church.  Yet, if this tradition is not preserved, Eucharistic faith and devotion begin eroding away.  In a similar manner, there is also wisdom bound up in the traditional form of dress of Christian culture.

The Need for Distinction

Notice first, that the traditional form of dress for men and for women is different.  And even in earlier times when men wore robes, their garments were distinctly different from women’s.*  There is a dangerous tendency in our modern culture to reduce or minimize the differences between men and women and their complementary roles.  As Horvat pointed out, we are becoming a “unisex” society.  Hasn’t the most common and popular form of dress for both men and women been reduced to denim pants and a cotton T-shirt?  God however, “created them male and female” (Gen. 5:2); therefore, though equal in dignity, they are indeed meant to be distinct from one another.  So much so that the Bible says:

“A woman shall not be clothed with man’s apparel: neither shall a man use women’s apparel. For he that doeth these things is abominable before God.” (Deut. 22:5).

On this same subject Fr. William C. Breda, O.S.A., wrote in an article entitled “Proper Attire Makes Us Human” in the September 10, 1981 issue of “The Wanderer”:

“There seems to persist among many people the mistaken belief that we clothe ourselves mainly against the inclemencies of the climate, for protection against the weather and the cold, and that when summer comes, and the warm weather, we can doff our suits and dresses and go about unclad and half-naked.  The whole idea is of course superficial… Without proper attire and without distinctive raiment we are simply not even human.  Chesterton somewhere points to the truth of the old phrase ‘clothed and in his right mind[Mk. 5:15]:  a sound and sane man moves around in his world in decent and proper apparel.

Our clothes are first and most of all the symbols of our state of life and of our social dignity. In the manner in which we dress and present ourselves, we express our masculinity and femininity…we manifest our beliefs and convictions, and we also proclaim our designs and intentions, and denote our tastes and tendencies.  We are able therefore, or should be [able], to recognize a man and a woman by the clothes they are wearing20. (Emphasis in the original).

(Men’s robes were narrower and shorter. Women’s robes were fuller and more colorful. This can still be seen today in some eastern cultures.)

From this we see the need for distinction in dress between the sexes.  But why is it that the traditional form of dress for women is a long dress or skirt?  The answer lies in the fact that dresses are a more dignified form of dress than pants, and thus they both adorn and safeguard a woman’s beautiful and delicate femininity.  In fact, Chesterton points out that because this style of clothing is more dignified, “when men wish to be safely impressive, as judges, priests or kings, they do wear skirts, the long, trailing robes of female dignity 21.”

Yes, even judges, priests, and kings traditionally wear distinguished robes signifying the special dignity of their office.  Their manner of dress evokes the respect of others.  And while it is fitting for a man to dress in robes (of masculine character), as was the custom in Biblical times, the thinking here is that it is not fitting for a woman to degrade her feminine dignity by wearing pants.  As was stated above, because of the natural differences in the genders, women are more prone to be treated with less dignity or respect than men.  Thus, Pope Pius XII taught that “the innate need to enhance beauty and dignity” is “more greatly felt by woman 22

A police officer might complain that he would be more comfortable working in jeans and a T-shirt.  Yet, if he were allowed to do this, he wouldn’t be recognized as an officer, nor would he be given the proper respect due to his position.  Thus policemen wear a uniform and are respected and obeyed as being officers of the law.  Likewise, a woman may seek comfort and convenience in wearing pants, but in doing so, she is less likely to be recognized and respected as a lady.  Rather, she will blend in and may well be treated as just another man.  By dressing in traditional feminine attire women are sure to be recognized as ladies, thus eliciting the admiration and commanding the respect of men, while also glorifying their God-given femininity.  They will also do much to combat the abuse to which they are often subject today.

Reverence for the Female Body

There is also another reason why “the innate need to enhance…dignity” is “more greatly felt by woman.”  The Franciscan Friars Leaflet (mentioned above) explains a special reverence due to the female body:

“The female body is, in a certain sense, more sacred than the male body because her body is capable of bringing to life a new human person created in the image and likeness of God and infused with an immortal soul that will last for all eternity.”

Reflecting on this “frightful privilege,” Chesterton was moved to express that “no one…can quite believe in the equality of the sexes 23.”

The leaflet goes on to say that “because the female body has this power and dignity it must be treated with reverence and should be kept ‘veiled’ with modest clothing.  Immodest clothing thus profanes its sacred character.”

Here again we note that dresses are far more suitable for a woman than pants.  Dresses drape over a woman’s form and veil in mystery and dignity her intimate center where new human life comes forth into this world.  And long dresses aid women in safeguarding modesty while bending, stooping, working and going about their daily tasks.  Pants on the other hand, by their nature are designed to fit a woman’s outline, thus, even when they are loose they can become a danger when bending, stooping, etc.  It is similar to the difference between a mitten and a glove.  Which one reveals more about the hand?

A Perceptive Cardinal’s Letter

The late Giuseppe Cardinal Siri explains some other important reasons for maintaining the traditional form of feminine attire.  These reasons have to do with the effects of women wearing pants on families and society.  The Cardinal explains them in a letter he wrote in 1960 when he first noticed “a certain increase in the use of men’s dress by girls and women, even family mothers” in his Archdiocese of Genoa 24.

This letter was addressed to all those responsible for souls (i.e. Priests, Teaching Sisters, Educators, etc.).  He began by mentioning that since trousers generally tend “to cling closer” than other forms of feminine attire, “the tight fit of such clothing gives us no less grounds for concern than does exposure of the body.”  Then, he went on to describe “a different aspect of women’s wearing of men’s trousers,” which he said, “seems to us the gravest.” He wrote:

The wearing of men’s dress by women affects firstly the woman herself, by changing the feminine psychology proper to women; secondly it affects the woman as wife of her husband, by tending to vitiate* relationships between the sexes; thirdly it affects the woman as mother of her children by harming her dignity in her children’s eyes.

He went on to carefully elaborate on each of these points. Being too long to quote in full, two of the points are summarized here:

With regards to the “feminine psychology proper to women,” he explained that “the motive impelling women to wear men’s dress is always that of imitating, nay, of competing with, the man who is considered stronger, less tied down, more independent.”

A little study of history will reveal that, indeed, it was the desire to be “like a man” that motivated women to begin to wear pants.  Today, of course, this can hardly be considered the conscious motive of all women in wearing pants.  Many probably wear them because they are considered acceptable and for their convenience.

Nevertheless, the Cardinal pointed out that the clothing a person wears, demands, imposes and modifies that person’s gestures, attitudes and behavior, such that from merely being worn outside, clothing comes to impose a particular frame of mind inside. Therefore, wearing trousers “is the visible aid to bringing about a mental attitude of being ‘like a man,'” and to some degree “indicates her reacting to her femininity as though it is inferiority when in fact it is only diversity.

Certainly not every woman’s psychology will be affected in the same way by the wearing of pants, but in reality, how many women have been affected without even realizing it, and by this, the whole of society?  Are they still the heart of their families, desiring to be at home with their children?  Are they still subject to the authority of their husbands as our holy religion teaches?

Or have they become more independent and taken interest in being out in the world, in competing with men at being the breadwinner and the head of the family 25?*  All evidence indicates that this trend has already very much changed the psychology of women in society.  How will Catholic women be able fulfill their God-given role as females if they do not preserve their true feminine identity?

With regards to “the woman as mother of her children,” the Cardinal explained that “all children have an instinct for the sense of dignity and decorum of their mother.”  Therefore, although “the child may not know the definition of exposure, frivolity or infidelity, …he possesses an instinctive sixth sense to recognize them when they occur, to suffer from them, and be bitterly wounded by them in his soul.”  Here we see the need for maintaining a dignified feminine modesty not only in public, but also within the sanctuary of the home.

Obviously, the Cardinal’s concern is not with restricting women, but in helping them preserve their beautiful and delicate femininity so vital to healthy families and to a healthy society.  God made them male and female; and, Oh! how the world suffers when it loses the female element!  As it is said: “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.”

Further on in his letter, Cardinal Siri wrote:

“Out of charity we are fighting against the flattening out of mankind, against the attack upon those differences on which rests the complementarity of man and woman.  When we see a woman in trousers, we should think not so much of her, as of all mankind, of what it will be when women will have masculinized themselves for good.  Nobody stands to gain by helping to bring about a future age of vagueness, ambiguity, imperfection and, in a word, monstrosities.”

The Cardinal went on to warn that unlike the immediate harm done by “grave immodesty,” the damage caused by women wearing pants was not “all to be seen within a short time.” Rather the effects would be slow and insidious. During the past 40+ years since this warning, pants on women have become increasingly the norm.  Less and less has been seen of the traditional form of dress, and thus, the demarcation between masculine and feminine and their complementary roles has faded.  Unfortunately, those 40+ years have been long enough for us to witness the distressing consequences the clear-sighted Cardinal feared would come about in families and in society.  Sadly, there is ample evidence that the “masculinization” of women has helped to bring about an age of “imperfection” and “monstrosities”.  The Catholic Medical Association (CMA) in a recent open letter to the United States Bishops 26 explained that Gender Identification Disorder (GID) is the principal predisposing complex leading to the neurotic condition of homosexual attraction.  Boys and girls are certainly born male and female respectively, but they must learn (especially through their same-sex parent) what it means to be a man or a woman.  If this is not learned, and a child grows up with a weak sexual identity (GID), there is a strong possibility he will eventually develop same-sex attraction (SSA).  According to CMA’s letter, of boys with GID “approximately 75% of them will go on to develop SSA.”  Here, then, is seen a strong reason why, as Fr. Breda stated, “the manner in which we dress ourselves” should “express our masculinity and femininity,” and that we “should be [able] to recognize a man and a woman by the clothes they are wearing.”  Interestingly, Catholic psychologist Gerard van den Aardweg notes in his “(self-) therapy” book for homosexuality, The Battle for Normality, that in cultures (even the most primitive and pagan) where “the clear distinction” is made “between boys and girls,” homosexuality is very rare, if not non-existent 27.  As part of the therapy in battling for normality, this orthodox Catholic psychologist, with over thirty years of successful therapeutic experience, advises women with SSA “to amend their stubborn aversion to wearing a nice gown or other typical women’s dress28.”  He also states that “the ideology that obliterates sex roles is so unnatural that future generations will undoubtedly see it as a perversion of a decadent culture29.”

With all this in mind, could it be that pants on women were among the fashions Our Lady of Fatima was referring to when She said: “Certain fashions are to be introduced which will offend Our Lord very much”?  Was it because Padre Pio foresaw these things that he preached against women wearing pants30?

The Church’s thinking on Women’s Attire

If we understand the female’s greater need to enhance her dignity and to safeguard her feminine identity, we can understand why pants were never considered acceptable garb for women throughout the entire history of the Church.  Pope Pius XI’s 1928 standard for women’s attire mentions only a dress. No standard was given for pants because they certainly were not considered feminine garb at that time.  Now, however, at the dawn of the third millennium, it is clear that secular society in general has approved of pants for women.  But is that enough?  Not according to Pope Pius XII.  In his address to the Latin Union of High Fashion in 1957, he stated that a “garment must not be evaluated according to the estimation of a decadent or already corrupt society, but according to the aspirations of a society which prizes the dignity and seriousness of its public attire 31.”

It is plain to see from mass abortion alone (not to mention many other commonly accepted immoral practices) that today’s society is “decadent” and “already corrupt.”  It is also plain to see that today’s society does not “prize the dignity” nor the “seriousness of its public attire.”  One has only to go to a typical public school and observe what our society permits children and teenagers to wear to be convinced (i.e. lowrider pants, miniskirts, halter tops, pierced noses, lips, eyebrows, etc.).  Therefore, society’s approval of women wearing pants (contrary to Christian tradition) can be no guarantee that they are in fact a garment worthy of feminine dignity, or much less that they are pleasing to God.

Yet that is not all.  In the same address, Pope Pius XII went on to say that people, being often “too docile” or “too lazy” to make their own critical judgment, “wish to be guided in style more than in any other activity.”  Therefore, they often “accept the first thing that is offered to them and only later become aware of how mediocre or unbecoming certain fashions are 32.”

Hence, we understand his warning that “style should be directed and controlled instead of being abandoned to caprice….”  Though he was addressing first of all the designers, he went on to say: “…it also applies to individuals, whose dignity demands of them that they should liberate themselves with free and enlightened conscience from the imposition of pre-determined tastes, especially tastes debatable on moral grounds.”  Therefore, he concluded:

“…react firmly against currents that are contrary to the best traditions33.” [Emphasis added]

We have seen that the ideal or traditional form of dress “for a woman is a modest blouse and dress extending close to the ankles.”  We have also seen that pants on women are indeed “debatable on moral grounds.”  Therefore, it seems clear that the Pope is asking for women to “react firmly against” donning pants (as well as other novelties in modern clothing) which not only cannot be found anywhere in “the best traditions”, but are actually opposed by Christian tradition.  Instead, they are to continue the long-standing tradition of wearing long dresses and skirts.

In fact, this same Pope went on to point out where the “best traditions” in feminine attire could be found.  As the best models for women’s clothing, he offered the “feminine figures in the masterpieces of classical art which have undisputed esthetical value.  Here the clothing, marked by Christian decency, is a worthy ornament of the person with whose beauty it blends as in a single triumph of admirable dignity34.”

The impressive dresses he speaks of, as a rule, had not only ankle length hems, but also modest collars and long sleeves never shorter than the elbow35.  Nor did this attire hinder women from looking chastely beautiful.  Let us understand here that the Pope is trying to do nothing more than move fashions back to the common decency of 1900 years of Christian tradition.  Today’s scanty and form-fitting clothes were virtually unheard of in past ages.

Perhaps such clothing that admirably covers so much of the body won’t be easily found today; nevertheless, a lofty example has been given for the virtuous woman to pursue.  For while Pope Pius XII recognized that public morality certainly changes “according to the times, the nature and the conditions of the civilization of individual peoples,” he said that “this does not invalidate the obligation to strive for the ideal of perfection…. 36

And with this example we see that Fr. Kunkel’s Crusade was right in calling the Marylike Standards as “minimum standards 37.”  For there exists a higher ideal, an even greater modesty for which one can strive.

Shrines of the Holy Ghost

As was said before, dressing modestly is not reserved for women alone.  All Christians, men, women and children, must dress with apt dignity.  If by our manner of dress “we express” not only “our masculinity and femininity,” as Fr. Breda explained, but also “our beliefs and convictions”, we can understand the reason for this.  What is our conviction?  What do we believe as Christians?

St. Paul says: “Surely you know that your bodies are the shrines of the Holy Ghost, Who dwells in you. And He is God’s gift to you, so that you are no longer your own masters. A great price was paid to ransom you; glorify God by making your bodies the shrines of his presence.” (1 Cor. 6:19-20, Knox version)

A Positive Effect on Society

Often in our day, good Catholics are rightly heard complaining because they frequently see priests going about without their cassocks and collars, and religious sisters without their traditional habits.  What a great effect their outward appearance has upon us!  Yes, outward appearance produces such great effects, that Pope Pius XII exclaimed:   “It is often said almost with passive resignation that fashions reflect the customs of a people.  But it would be more exact and much more useful to say that they express the decision and moral direction that a nation intends to take: either to be shipwrecked in licentiousness or maintain itself at the level to which it has been raised by religion and civilization38.

Therefore, by becoming zealous in adhering to the traditional form of dress, Catholics will have a positive, moralizing effect upon the pagan world around them.  Thus, they will work to reverse the Cultural Revolution and restore Christian Civilization.

(To be continued)

Sons of the Church (part II)

Sons of the Church  (part II)

in a time of crisis

By the Reverend Fr. Roger-Thomas Calmel, O.P.


* * * * *

Too many ecclesiastical dignitaries have abandoned themselves to the modernist mental perversion; they have reached the point at which they no longer find monstrous the habit of affirming contradictories in the same statement because they deem the intellect incapable of knowing truth.  They rather suppose that it [that is, truth] exists somewhere, though where one knows not, a sort of religious noumena  [Editor:  (in Kantian philosophy) a thing as it is in itself, as distinct from a thing as it is knowable by the senses through phenomenal attributes.]  beyond reach about which the mind fabricates ingenious, infinitely variable systems over the course the evolution of our species, but always impotent to reach what is.  One thing counts: that these [supposed] systems, ideologies, theologies, be placed at the service of humanity’s development.  They will be appreciated for their power to stimulate a grand ascension toward freedom and progress. 

One who consents to such a warped mentality refrains himself from condemning heretics or heresies and does not deem himself bound by any dogma.   He contemplates with detachment and benevolence the most opposed theses, applying himself to bring out in each one the elements that can prepare a better future and that connect more or less with a so-called evangelical spirit, the Gospel being interpreted as a leaven of an ideal future, but not to be received as a definitive rule faithfully guarded by a divinely-assisted Tradition.   When prelates whose minds have been thus denatured occupy the commanding posts in the Church, it is a cause of unutterable distress for all the faithful.

“Unless those days had been shortened, no flesh should be saved, but for the sake of the elect those days shall be shortened” (Matt. 24:22).

* * * * *

Some young priests from their very first days in the clergy, pushed by apparently noble motives to aspire keenly to reach the highest ranks in the Church, have offered the devil an easy prey.  The devil has taken them in charge in order to make them succeed, but he has made them pay a heavy price.  In olden times, during the Middle Ages or the early Church, whoever ambitioned the cardinalate, or higher, often had to become an accomplice, at least by his silence, in the sins and prevarications of Christian princes.  Today Christian princes don’t exist anymore; in any case, they have become irrelevant.  Power has passed to the secret societies, Masonic or Communist.  That’s where for the most part the horrible masters of modern times are to be found.  Today, then, a priest who cherishes the ambition to advance in the Church to its highest posts must deal with these princes.  He must become their accomplice.  Could he achieve his goal if he did not consent to become involved, perhaps only by degrees yet genuinely, in a radical perversion of the mind?  For if he refused to allow himself to be gradually won over by the spiritual darkness, he would remain incapable, despite all his efforts, of becoming a useful ally of the occult forces.  Do what he might, he would remain an adversary.  But he has to be an auxiliary; it is for no other reason that the modern Caesar has raised him to a position of command.

It happens that a man or woman, in the throes of passion, opens with a terrifying determination the sacred door of their liberty to the spirit of lust.  The devil becomes their master.  He is as it were invested with the power to precipitate them into the pit; he has opportunities to almost totally paralyze the will of his victims.  Now, the demon of pride is more fearsome than the one of carnal desires.  How powerful, then, will be his hold over the priest who, avid for power in spiritualibus [in spiritual things], has entrusted himself, even only indirectly, in order to be more sure of gaining his ambition, to these formidable occult organizations of our time over which the devil rules as master.  Into what mental contortions will the devil not induce the ambitious priest?  If he does not succeed in getting a grip on himself in time, his reason will be invincibly falsified by the prince of this world.

* * * * *

Were the Church’s plight a hundred times worse, a hundred times more cruel, it is still the Lord who is forever Master and King.  It is to Him that all power has been given; it is before Him that every knee must bow in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, including those in this kind of hell, for the moment painless, which is the modernist sect.  Its harmfulness cannot extend beyond the strict limits set by the Lord, and the Lord only grants it a certain power to obscure, to falsify, and to scandalize in thousands of ways, only for the good of the elect and to augment the gracious splendor of His Church.  We ought not to be fearful, but rather persevere with confidence in the Church of always, the everlasting Church, the Church of all time.

(Prologue to Apologia for the Everlasting Church)

Father Calmel’s Apologia first appeared in the journal Itinéraires, No. 151, March 1971, pp. 104-111.

Sons of the Church (Part I)

Sons of the Church

in a time of crisis

By the Reverend Fr. Roger-Thomas Calmel, O.P.

(Prologue to Apologia for the Everlasting Church)

Prelates who occupy the most important posts in the Church, misled by the grand chimera of their own desire to find easy, infallible means to achieving once and for all the religious unity of mankind, are working to invent a church without borders in which all men, unconditionally dispensed from renouncing the world and Satan, will soon be united in the bonds of brotherly love.  Dogmas, rites, hierarchy, discipline, should one insist, would all be carried over from the first Church, but everything would be bereft of the safeguards willed by the Lord and specified by Tradition.  By that very fact, everything would be drained of Catholic vitality, namely grace and holiness.  The adepts of the most divers beliefs, and even those who refuse to have any, would enter as equals, but they would enter on equal footing into a dummy church.  Such is the present endeavor of the prestigious Master of lies and illusions.  Behold the masterwork, of Masonic inspiration, to which he commits his minions—faithless priests promoted as eminent theologians; oblivious or disloyal bishops, if not disguised apostates, rapidly elevated to the choicest honors and invested with the highest prelatures.  They spend their lives and lose their souls building a postconciliar Church under the star of Satan.

— Dogmas, affected by relativism because of the new pastoral praxis that refuses to condemn heresy, no longer propose any precise supernatural object.  Consequently, in order to accept them, even supposing that the notion still means anything in this case, neither intellectual assent nor purity of heart is required.

— The sacraments are placed within reach of those who do not believe; almost nothing keeps even unbelievers and the unworthy from approaching them, so far have the new ecclesiastical rites, by their instability and fluidity, become alienated from the sacramental sign efficacious in and of itself, divinely fixed by the Saviour once and for all “until He comes again.”

— As for the hierarchy, it is dissolving insensibly into the people of God, of which it is tending to become a democratic emanation, elected by universal suffrage for a provisional function.

Thanks to these unprecedented innovations, their instigators are congratulating themselves for having torn down the barriers that kept out of the Church those who even yesterday, in the recent ante-conciliar period, rejected the Church’s dogmas, spurned the sacraments, and defied the hierarchy.  Undoubtedly, as they were understood before the Council, dogmas, sacraments, government, a needful inward conversion, gave the Church the aspect of a fortified city—Jerusalem quae aedificatur ut civitas (Ps. 121:3)—with well-guarded doors and impregnable ramparts.  No-one was permitted across the sacred threshold who had not converted.

Henceforth, however, things have been changing before our eyes:  doctrines, liturgy, interior life have been subjected to a treatment of dissolution so violent, universal, and perfected that they no longer admit the distinction between Catholics and non-Catholics.  Since yes and no, the definite and the definitive, are held to have been surpassed, one wonders what would prevent the non-Christian religions themselves from being a part of the new universal Church, continually updated by ecumenical interpretations.

One wonders about it, at least if one accepts the point of view so many former Council Fathers, circumvented by Vatican II, allowed to be imposed upon them: to forge a heretofore unknown system and a new apparatus in order to win over the world without being exposed to failure, nor suffering, nor persecution, beginning with relativizing the supernatural.  But that means nothing, for:

  • On one hand Jesus Christ has said: The servant is not greater than his master; if they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my word, they will keep yours also (John 15:20).
  • On the other hand the supernatural is not formless or modifiable; it is firm and precise; it presents a determined aspect; it has an achieved, definitive configuration; since the Incarnation of the Word, since Redemption by the Cross and the sending of the Holy Ghost, the only supernatural that exists is Christian and Catholic. It has no reality except in Christo Jesu, et Virgine Maria et Ecclesia Christi. That is why if one keeps in one’s soul the viewpoint of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the first twenty Councils, one sees quite well what routs the chimera of ecumenical unity: the duty to bend the knee before the Son of man, author and sovereign dispenser of salvation, but only in the one Church He established.

(To be continued)