No. 623.
Mr. Rublee to Mr. Fish.

No. 206.]

Sir: I inclose herewith a French translation which I find in “Le Temps,” a Paris journal, of an encyclical letter addressed by the Pope, on the 23d ultimo, to the Catholics of Switzerland.

It characterizes the so-called Old Catholics as the “new heretics,” and warns the faithful, in the most earnest language, “to avoid their religious ceremonies, their teachings, their writings, and even contact with them.” The Old Catholic clergy are denounced as “apostates,” who are “to be held in horror, as strangers and thieves who come only to rob, to assassinate, and to ruin.”

As to the Swiss government, it is charged with having passed laws “contrary to the divine constitution and the authority of the church.” [Page 1285] A recent enactment of the Federal Assembly, on the subject of marriage, is especially reprobated as “opposed to the canonic prescriptions, and wholly annulling the ecclesiastic jurisdiction and authority and the bishops are in consequence urgently admonished to instruct their flocks in the Catholic doctrine touching Christian marriage, in order that they may conform to the canonic laws on that subject.

The marriage law thus referred to requires that all marriages in Switzerland shall be solemnized before a civil magistrate, and withdraws the keeping of the registers of marriages, births, and deaths from the clergy. It has not yet gone into effect, as the period within which, under the so-called referendum clause of the new constitution, a demand may be made for its submission to a vote of the people has not expired. There are many citizens who approve its general purposes, to wit, obligatory civil marriage, and the removal of certain impediments to marriage now existing by virtue of the cantonal laws, who are dissatisfied with some of its details. Consequently an organization has been formed, embracing many Protestants and liberals, with the purpose of securing signatures to a demand for its submission to the popular vote, with a view to its rejection. The encyclical letter comes very inopportunely for this movement. The public journals are already availing themselves of its publication to stimulate a feeling of jealousy against foreign interference with the domestic affairs of the country, and its immediate effect is likely to be the promotion of the union of nearly all, except the strictly Roman Catholic voters, in support of the measure so warmly assailed.

I am, &c.,

[From “Le Temps,” April 1, 1875.]

We copy from the “Univers” a translation of an encyclical letter addressed by Pius IX to the bishops, the clergy, and the faithful of Switzerland:

“Pius IX, Pope, to his venerable brethren and dear children greeting and apostolic benediction:

“The machinations and the earnest and prolonged efforts which are constantly multiplied in Switzerland by the new heretics, (who style themselves Old Catholics,) for the purpose of deceiving the faithful and of causing them to abandon the faith of their ancestors, demand special solicitude and care on our part, proportioned to the extent of our apostolic charge, for the protection of the spiritual interests of our children. We are aware, venerable brethren, and we deplore it in the bitterness of our heart, that these schismatics and heretics, availing themselves of the schismatic laws which publicly oppress the religions liberty of the Catholics in the diocese of Bâle, and in other parts of this country, perform, under the protection of the civil authorities, the ministerial functions of their condemned sect, cause parishes and churches to be violently occupied by apostate priests, and spare neither fraud nor artifice to entice the children of the Catholic Church into their miserable schism. But as craft and deception have always been the chief characteristics of heresy, these sons of darkness must be placed among those to whom the prophet said, ‘Woe to the rebellious children * * * that * * * trust in the shadow of Egypt:* * * Because ye despise this word and trust in calumny and tumult.’—Isaiah 30, 1, 2, 12. (Vulgate.)

“Their sole purpose is to deceive the unwary and lead them into error by their hypocrisy and dissimulation; they say openly that they by no means reject the Catholic Church and its visible head; they even declare that they adhere to the pure Catholic doctrine; that they are the inheritors of the faith and the only true Catholics, while in reality they refuse to recognize all the divine prerogatives of the vicar of Jesus Christ on earth, and to submit to his supreme authority. We even know that for the purpose of disseminating their heretical doctrines several of them have taken it upon themselves to teach sacred theology in the University of Berne, hoping thereby to gain over some young Catholics to their condemned faction.

“We have already reprobated and condemned this wretched sect, which has taken from the arsenal of the old heresies so many errors against the fundamental principles [Page 1286] of the Catholic faith; it attacks the very foundations of the Catholic religion; it boldly rejects the dogmatical definitions of the Vatican council, and labors, by all the means in its power, for the destruction of souls.

“By our letters of November 21, 1873, we openly announced and declared that these miserable sectarians, together with their partisans and abettors, were excluded from the communion of the church and were to be regarded as schismatics.

“We now publicly reiterate this declaration, and we deem it to be our duty, venerable brethren, to urge you to exert all your well-tried zeal, all the courage which you have so gloriously shown in your conflicts for the cause of your Divine Master, and all the means at your command, in order to preserve the unity of the faith among the faithful who are under your charge, and to remind them incessantly that they must keep aloof from these dangerous enemies of Christ’s flock, and from their poisoned pasture; that they must shun their religious ceremonies, their teachings, the pestilent pulpits from which they have the audacity to preach in order to betray the sacred doctrines, their writings, and all contact with them; that they must have no relations and hold no communication with the interloping and apostate priests who dare to perform the functions of the ecclesiastical ministry, and who have no jurisdiction whatever, and no legitimate mission; that they must regard them with horror as strangers and thieves who come but to steal, murder, and destroy.

“The children of the church must bear in mind that this conduct is enjoined upon them in order that they may preserve the most precious treasure of the faith, without which it is impossible to please God, and that by this strait path of righteousness they may at last reach the consummation of faith, which is the salvation of good souls.

“We also know that the civil authorities in your country, not content with having passed various laws which are at variance with the divine constitution and the authority of the church, have enacted others which are opposed to the canonical prescriptions concerning Christian marriage, and which set entirely at naught the authority and jurisdiction of the church.

“We therefore earnestly exhort you, venerable brethren, to expound to the faithful under your charge, by these timely instructions, the Catholic doctrine touching Christian marriage, and to remind them of what we have said concerning this sacrament in our apostolical letters and allocutions, especially those of September 9 and 27, 1852. They will thus better understand the sanctity and the virtue of this sacrament, and, by piously obeying the canonical laws on this subject, they will avoid the evils which are wont to befall families and human society when the sanctity of marriage is disregarded.

“As to you, our dear children, whose duty it is not only to sanctify yourselves, but to sanctify and save others, we hope in the Lord that, in the midst of the snares of the wicked, and the dangers which threaten you, unshaken in the piety and zeal of which you have given so many brilliant proofs, you will be a source of great comfort and a strong support to your bishops. Under their direction you will labor with courage and firmness for the cause of God and of the church, and for the salvation of souls. You will sustain the courage of the faithful, support the faltering, and daily increase the rewards which your patience, your priestly constancy, and your courage are winning for you at the hands of God. Heavy is the burden of the trials which must be borne by the ministers of Christ; but our confidence must be in him who has overcome the world, who supports those who labor in his name, and who has laid up for them in heaven a crown of glory that fadeth not away.

“And you, our dear children, the faithful of all Switzerland, we address to you the expression of our paternal solicitude for your salvation. You all know how great a treasure God has given you in the Catholic faith. Spare neither pains nor labor in order faithfully to preserve this precious gift, and to keep intact and whole the glory of the ancient religion which you have received from your forefathers. It is for this that we constantly urge you to adhere closely to your lawful pastors, who have been legitimately authorized to minister unto you by this Apostolic See, and who watch for the salvation of your souls, for which they must give an account to God.

“Have these words of eternal truth constantly before your eyes: ‘He that is not with me is against me, and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.’ Receive his doctrine with docility; love his easy yoke. Put far from you with horror those of whom our Redeemer said, ‘Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.’ Resist courageously in the faith the old enemy of the human race until the right hand of Almighty God shall break all the armor of the demons who are permitted to dare to accomplish something to the end that the victory of Christ’s faithful ones may be all the more brilliant, * * * because where truth reigns supreme comfort from on high is never wanting.’*

“We have thought it our duty to write these things to you, venerable brethren and dear children, in order to fulfill the duty of our supreme charge, which obliges us to guard the whole flock of Christ from all danger of error, and to labor for its salvation and for the unity of the faith and of the church. But inasmuch as every perfect gift [Page 1287] cometh from on high from the Father of lights, we earnestly pray Him to give you strength for the conflict, and to cover, you with His shield and His protection. May He vouchsafe to look with favor upon your country. May error and ungodliness disappear from it, so that it may enjoy the fruits of truth and righteousness in peace and repose. We do not meanwhile forget to pray to our Heavenly Father for these poor misguided ones, that they may cease to treasure up unto themselves wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, and that, turning aside from their error, they may sincerely repent while it is yet time.

“Join your fervent prayers to ours, venerable brethren and dear children, that we may receive mercy and divine graceand receive the apostolic blessing, which we give unto each and all of you, with love in the Lord, from the bottom of our heart, as an earnest of our particular affection.

“PIUS IX, Pope.”
  1. St. Leo; letter to priest Martin.