'What is Truth'?

The “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together” signed in Abu Dhabi by Pope Francis and the Grand Imama of Al-Azhar, Ahmad el-Tayeb

A comparison between Pope Francis’s Document on Human Fraternity and Pope Pius X’s E Supremi - on the Restoration of All things in Christ.

Preamble

It becomes apparent after even a superficial reading of Pope Francis’s The Document on Human Fraternity that this document prescribes remedies for current social and moral problems that are in stark contrast with what has been traditionally taught by the Catholic Church. For the purposes of highlighting such contrast this article will compare key aspects of The Document on Human Fraternity with the encyclical of Pope Pius X entitled E Supremi - on the Restoration of All things in Christ. While neither of these documents exercises papal infallibility, they do show a variance between the approaches of these two pontiffs, writing just over a century apart. One of the most pivotal differences between their approaches is the role the Catholic Church plays in bringing peace and tranquility to the world. Pope Pius X focuses on a true restoration of ‘all things in Christ’ in which the Catholic Church is ‘hope….salvation…(and) refuge.’ Pope Francis, however, appears to favour ‘the adoption of a culture of dialogue’.

In order to highlight further the variances between these two documents, this article will also look at historical Church documents, including those from the early Church Fathers, as well as contemporary commentaries from both traditional and modernist viewpoints.

Approach to Secular Issues

Pope Pius X

“We proclaim that we have no other program in the Supreme Pontificate but that 'of restoring all things in Christ'.”

Pope Francis

“The first and most important aim of religions is to believe in God, to honour Him and to invite all men and women to believe that this universe depends on a God who governs it.”

Background

Both popes while writing these documents faced, in some sense, similar social problems. Pope Pius X during the late 1800’s and early 1900s saw some turbulent and troublesome times in the secular world. Civil wars such as the Boxer Rebellion and Second Boer War saw the deaths of tens of thousands of people. Rioting, assassinations and strikes were not uncommon occurrences as the world crept towards the biggest scene of carnage and destruction in history... World War I and II. Over one hundred years later Pope Francis faces issues of violence and persecution; terrorism, wars and conflict in many middle eastern countries, continuous crime and violence, constant tensions between North Korea and America and so on. The question we ask is how have both Popes approached these major issues in the secular world? What has been their solution to the secular issue?

Commentary

Pope Pius X conforms to the idea of restoring all things in Christ. His encyclical is clear and concise and places the laws of God firmly at the centre of the solution. He speaks of his duty in the following manner “Affirming both by word and deed and in the light of day, God’s supreme dominion over man and all things, so that His right to command and His authority may be fully realized and respected. This is imposed upon us not only as a natural duty, but by our common interest.” He goes on to highlight the importance of “forming the clergy of holiness” and he proposes as a solution to the current crisis that “the principle way to restore the empire of God in their souls (the faithful) is religious instruction.” For the faithful he gives the advice “For it is not priests alone, but all the faithful without exception, who must concern themselves with the interests of God and souls-not of course according to their own views, but always under the direction and orders of the bishop.”

In stark contrast the “Document on Human Fraternity”  states that Pope Francis and the Grand Imama of Al-Azhar aim “To unite and work together so that (the document) may serve as a guide for future generations to advance a culture of mutual respect in the awareness of the great divine grace that makes all human beings brothers and sisters.” This represents a vague and ambiguous attempt at an all-inclusive vision that Pope Francis and the Grand Imama are trying to achieve. They ask that the “world re-discover the values of peace, justice, goodness, beauty, human fraternity and coexistence in order to confirm the importance of these values as anchors of salvation for all, and to promote them everywhere.”

The problem with Pope Francis and the Grand Imama of Al-Azhar’s aim is that it completely negates the truth of the Catholic Church as the depository of the Faith handed down to us by Christ. This is demonstrated by the comment that “the first and most important aim of religions is to believe in God, to honour Him and to invite all men and women to believe that this universe depends on a God who governs it.” A striking error in this statement is the word ‘religions.’ There is one true religion, not multiple “true religions” The Catholic Church and only the Catholic Church can fully believe and honour God. As Catholics we know that no other religion teaches the truth. There is only one truth and error does not have the ‘rights’ of truth. Regardless of how attached to error individuals (or nations) may be and regardless of how sincere they are in their beliefs; their false ideas of religion must be pointed out as errors. For example, a teacher is obligated to teach that one plus one equals two. It does not matter how much a student in class believes that one plus one equals three, the teacher has to correct the student because the student has the right to the truth and the error (however innocent) of the student has no ‘rights’ in the classroom. To argue otherwise is irrational and as Pope Pius X points out the ‘common interest’ is actually served by stating the truth; otherwise there would exist groups of people with a plethora of ideas as to what one plus one equals causing chaos in any field that uses mathematics! If this is the case on a purely natural level, then it can be understood how much more important it is in the supernatural level where our eternity is based on our acceptance or non-acceptance of the truth of the Catholic Faith. Without the Catholic Church words such as “re-discovering the values of peace, justice, goodness, beauty, human fraternity and coexistence” are empty. Without the Church these aims of the Pope are directionless and unattainable. The Church is the anchor in which all these aims can be achieved. They never have been and will never be achieved through co-existence of nations, religions, people’s etc.

On defending Catholic teachings

Pope St Pius X

“It remains to restore to their ancient place of honour the most holy laws and counsels of the gospel; to proclaim aloud the truths taught by the Church , and her teachings on the sanctity of marriage, on the education and discipline of youth, on the possession and use of property, the duties that men owe to those who rule the state; and lastly to restore equilibrium between the different classes of society according to Christian precept and custom.”

Pope Francis

“God, the Almighty, has no need to be defended by anyone and does not want His name to be used to terrorize people.”

Background

During the reign of Pope St. Pius X the Catholic Church faced difficulties from Modernist and Freemasonic theories which threatened the stability of the Church. It also saw a rapidly rising divorce rate and anti-clerical laws together with a push for the separation of Church and State. Pope Francis faces abortion rates that see approximately forty to fifty million abortions performed worldwide each year. The twenty-first century has also seen the legalization of same sex marriages in twenty-six countries with an increasing push for LGBT rights.

Commentary

In defending Catholic teachings Pope St Pius X takes a firm stance. The way to restore order and peace in the world is through the Church and only through the Church. Defending and promoting the laws of God are a paramount and necessary duty. He states: “The times we live in demand action-but action which consists entirely in observing with fidelity and zeal the divine laws and the precepts of the Church, in the frank and open profession of religion, in the exercise of every kind of charitable works, without regard to self-interest or worldly advantages.”

Pope Francis on the other hand would like us all to put down our weapons of speech or force and let the Almighty defend Himself. It is a remarkable statement to make considering the Church has always upheld that man has a free will and with that free will he is to instruct and teach others the truths about the Church. He must defend the name of God and the Church, even die for it. Many martyrs have shed their blood defending Christ and His teachings - not because the Almighty needs defending but because He has willed to be defended. We must defend Him and suffer with Him if we wish to attain a share in His glory. This is closely linked to the doctrine of the method of application of grace to souls first spoken about by the apostle St. Paul when he states: (I) now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the church.” Our Lord Jesus Christ has left us a part to play in both our own individual salvation, and in the salvation of the Church as a whole. Traditionally the Church has always maintained that defending the laws of the Church is a duty of Catholics. St Thomas maintains: “Each one of us is under obligation to show forth his faith, either to instruct and encourage others of the faithful, or to repel the attacks of unbelievers.” Indeed St Thomas refused an archbishopric solely on the grounds that he wished to continue his writings in defense of the God and the Catholic Faith. Pope Leo XIII is also clear on the duty of defending the Catholic faith. He writes in his encyclical “Chief duties of Christians as Citizens” that “To recoil before an enemy, or to keep silence when from all sides such clamours are raised against the truth, is the part of a man either devoid of character or who entertains doubt as to the truth of what he professes to believe. In both cases such mode of behaviour is base and is insulting to God, and both are incompatible with the salvation of mankind.”

The Catholic Church as the One, True Church

Pope St. Pius X

“Now the way to reach Christ is not hard to find: it is the Church. Rightly does Chrysostom inculcate: ‘The Church is thy hope, the Church is thy salvation, the Church is thy refuge.’ (Hom. de capto Euthropio, n. 6) It was for this that Christ founded it, gaining it at the price of His blood, and made it the depositary of His doctrine and His laws, bestowing upon it at the same time an inexhaustible treasury of graces for the sanctification and salvation of men.”

Pope Francis

“The pluralism and the diversity of religions, colour, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings. This divine wisdom is the source from which the right to freedom of belief and the freedom to be different derives. Therefore, the fact that people are forced to adhere to a certain religion or culture must be rejected…”

Background

Under the pontificate of Pope Pius X, children were granted the privilege of receive Holy Communion at the age of approximately seven. Adults were also permitted to receive Communion much more frequently than had previously been allowed. Pope Piux X also saw the reformation of Church music with the ordering of Gregorian chant to be used in Churches. Among many other aspects of his pontificate, Pope Pius X saw the overhauling of seminaries with the intention of restoring them to their obedience to Church teachings, the promotion of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and the drawing up of a new, simplified catechism.

Pope Francis was named by ‘The Advocate’ - an LGBT magazine - as their ‘man of the year’ in 2013 for his support to the gay right movement. He became the first Pope to visit the Buddhist country of Myanmar where he promoted the ‘working together’ of Catholics and Buddhists. Among many other aspects of his pontificate Pope Francis has promoted ‘sustainable living’ and the responsible care of the planet through his encyclical on climate change Laudato Si.

Commentary

Unfortunately, it is clearly evident from the thoughts expressed in the Document on Human Fraternity that Pope Francis welcomes a plethora of religious ideas - a notion which is in stark divergence from traditional Catholic teaching. At no point in the long history of the Catholic Church has this been part of Church teaching. The early Church Fathers were quite clear about this and there are multiple examples which show that the Catholic Church has always been perceived as having the sole right to claim the True religion as transmitted from Our Lord Jesus Christ. Writing in AD 350 St Cyril of Jerusalem comments: “if you ever are visiting in cities, do not inquire simply where the house of the Lord is - for the others, sects of the impious, attempt to call their dens 'houses of the Lord' - nor ask merely where the Church is, but where is the Catholic Church. For this is the name peculiar to this holy Church, the Mother of us all, which is the Spouse of our Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God.”

The Council of Constantinople, which took place in 381 AD and which gave us the Nicene Creed, also states that heretics (those who had separated themselves from the Catholic Church) were only to be received back into the Church “when they hand in statements and anathematize every heresy which is not of the same mind as the holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church of God.”

In fact at no point from Apostolic times till very recently (post Vatican II) has the Church prescribed “fraternal and open discussions” with members of other religions in order to “advance a culture of mutual respect” with “all persons who have faith in God”. We have absolutely no freedom whatsoever to choose our religion - and still attain Heaven. The phrase ‘faith in God’ means nothing unless it entails belief in God as he revealed Himself to us when He was on this earth - otherwise the whole life and death of Our Lord Jesus Christ is pointless and meaningless. The Catholic Faith “is not an opinion, but a certitude, based on the testimony of God.”

Even in today’s liberal religious climate this aspect of religious plurality in Pope Francis’ document has been somewhat difficult for many religious commentators to explain. At best it has been referred to as ‘not really what the Pope meant’ (without really specifying what it is the Pope did actually mean) or that the plurality of religions is an expression of God’s ‘permissive will’ and it is in this sense that the Pope is speaking. The fact remains that the Pope has said what he has said and no amount of reinterpretation can align it to the words of Pope Pius X when he states that the Church and no other is the ‘way to Christ.’ The obligation of the Pope is to faithfully transmit what he has clearly received from an unbroken link which traces back to the Apostles. Pope Francis’ comment on diversity of religions being ‘willed by God’ is completely contradicted by over two thousand years of Church teaching.

In contrast however, Pope Pius X puts the traditional teaching of the Catholic Church on this point very succinctly in his abovementioned encyclical when he states that “the way to reach Christ is not hard to find: it is the Church” From this we can see that the Pope Pius X was transmitting doctrine held from the earliest days of the Church which is in keeping with the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ who said that “he that believeth not shall be condemned.”

On Religious Unity

Pope St. Pius X

“You see, then, Venerable Brethren, the duty that has been imposed alike upon Us and upon you of bringing back to the discipline of the Church human society, now estranged from the wisdom of Christ; the Church will then subject it to Christ, and Christ to God.”

Pope Francis

“(We hold) the firm conviction that authentic teachings of religions invite us to remain rooted in the values of peace; to defend the values of mutual understanding, human fraternity and harmonious coexistence; to re-establish wisdom, justice and love…”

Background

Pope Pius X faced numerous theological errors making an appearance in the seminaries of his day. These included ideas based on Agnosticism and Immanentism which attempted to deny the objective truth of Church doctrine. He also, famously, condemned the heresy of Modernism in his encyclical ‘Pascendi.’

Pope Francis faces numerous factions that currently exist within the Church today. These include movements such as Sedevacantism; numerous breakaway groups who refuse to acknowledge the supremacy of the Pope as well as denying numerous Church teachings; as well as a ‘Call to Disobedience’ from members of the German clergy in reference to Church teachings such as divorce and priestly celibacy.

Commentary

Both Pope Pius X and Pope Francis share common ground in their belief that unity in a religious sense is absolutely essential.

The problem arises when one examines the premise for their individual definitions of unity. It is disturbing to note that throughout the ‘Document of Human Fraternity’ Pope Francis mentions religions in the plural a total of ten times - suggesting that ‘unity’ equates to each and any religion coexisting together in a ‘mutual cooperation.’ Pope Pius X however, aligns himself with what the Church has always taught, namely, that the Church has a duty to bring those outside the Church into the Church. This is, and always will be, the only true unity and the only unity that will provide ‘harmonious coexistence.’

Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre understood this aspect of Catholicism probably better than anyone since Pope Pius X and his reflections upon the use of a false sense of unity as way of bringing religions together is quite profound. In his Open Letter to Confused Catholics, the archbishop describes the turmoil caused by the attempt to bring together different denominations. Writing on the subject of ecumenism he states: “...it is clear we cannot combine contradictory principles. We cannot unite truth and error so as to form one thing, except by adopting the error and rejecting all or part of the truth.” This is a very enlightening comment in view of the statements made by Pope Francis. One can see in the Pope’s document an eagerness, almost an obsession, in making the Catholic Church on an equal (or even inferior) footing with any and all other religious belief systems. In doing so the Pope is quite clearly inviting error to coexist with truth.

To illustrate the gravity of this aspect one need only reflect on the fact that Pope Francis chose to sign this document with the Grand Imam of al-Azher. This action proclaims to the world that the Pope accepts as legitimate the religious beliefs of a religion which has always hated Catholicism and which to this day is persecuting Catholics as demonstrated by the recent church bombings in Sri Lanka. No amount of man-made peace plans can take the place of following Christ’s explicit instructions when He said “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”


All articles are written by members of the Youth Group (unless indicated otherwise) and approved by the parish priest.

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“Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”

Reference List

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