Free Resources: Encyclical Letters

Quanta Cura & Syllabus of Errors

Condemning Current Errors
Pope Pius IX (December 8, 1864)

Summary: This encyclical letter of Pope Pius IX was promulgated in 1864, and the attached Syllabus of Errors was simultaneously issued by the same great Pontiff. This important papal document was sent to all the bishops of the Catholic world "in order that these same bishops may have before their eyes all the errors and pernicious doctrines which he [Pius IX] has reprobated and condemned." Though this is all-but-forgotten and greatly ignored nowadays, it did ignite a worldwide "firestorm" reaction when it was first issued. The world was greatly shocked to discover that the Church did not share its high opinion of itself. The Syllabus is a catalog of 80 erroneous propositions, a list of the most common errors of modern thinking. Grouped under ten separate headings, each proposition is cross-referenced to the specific Papal document where the particular proposition was discussed—and condemned as erroneous. This document is particularly useful for us to help clear our minds of these false ideas now polluting the world we live in, and whose repercussions will clearly affect our future and the future of the world.

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Humanum Genus

On Freemasonry
Pope Leo XIII (April 20, 1884)

Summary: Pope Leo XIII minces no words in this encyclical on the evils of Freemasonry, stating from the outset that the battle between the Church and Freemasonry is nothing more than the battle between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Satan. St. Augustine described these two kingdoms as two cities, saying: "Two loves built two cities: the love of self reaching even to contempt of God, an earthly city; and the love of God reaching to contempt of self, a heavenly city." There has always been conflict between these two cities. However, the earthly city, Satan's Kingdom, seems to be battling with united vigor under the leadership of a world-wide organization called the Freemasons. Realizing this, the Holy Father, sounds this and other cries of warning at this critical hour, and also meets the enemies of God with every resource as his command. In this encyclical, his aim was to explain the teachings and practices of Masonry and to bring to light its power for evil so that the poisonous progress of this fatal plague may be stopped. The pope ends by specifying certain actions that could be performed for achieving this goal.

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Ad Diem Illum Lætissimum

On the Immaculate Conception
Pope Pius X (February 2, 1904)

Summary: On the 50th anniversary of the solemn promulgation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception (1854-1904), Pope St. Pius X issued this encyclical to encourage the whole Church to organize joyous celebrations, and to grant a Jubilee Indulgence in honor of this event. The pope ultimately hoped by doing this to gain that restoration of all things in Christ which is the motto of his pontificate. In these encyclical, he outlines the great riches and the wonderful hidden implications behind the dogma of the Immaculate Conception: Mary is the Reparatrix; Dispensatrix of all grace; our chief Mediatrix; our supreme example of sanctity. She continues to labor in Heaven in order to bring us to perfect charity of God and to eternal happiness. The pope insists on our corresponding response in faith, hope and charity—of keeping the commandments and fleeing from sin, of praying for those who are fallen away. By proclaiming the dogma we combat all the Modernist errors, proving what the Church attributes to this august Virgin, that she has exterminated all heresies in the world.

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E Supremi Apostolatus

On the Restoration of All Things in Christ
Pope St. Pius X (October 4, 1903)

Summary: Pope St. Pius X here lays out the program of his pontificate. This is the same as that which St. Paul proposed to the Christians at Ephesus: “Instaurare omnia in Christo: to renew all things in Christ.” But if it was a difficult task in St. Paul’s time, it is surely no less difficult in ours.
The pope notes how “the nations are raging” against God; how men are putting themselves in His place. This is, as it were, a foretaste of the evil days to come, of the Anti-Christ. But he reassures us that God will ultimately win this battle, as can be read from the Scriptures. Therefore everyone should pray for God’s victory to come soon, and most of all affirm God’s supreme dominion over all things. Peace, that tranquility of order, can only be restored when men join “God’s Party.” On the other hand, submission to God can only come through acknowledging the sovereignty of Our Lord Jesus Christ, without whom no one could be saved. Therefore, the pope points out, to restore all things in Christ and to lead men back to submission to God is one and the same aim.

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Divini Redemptoris

On Atheistic Communism
Pope Pius XI (March 19, 1937)

Summary: The 1927 Soviet Secret Police's official published list of victims whom they put to death (over a period of 10 years since the 1917 Russian Revolution) numbered 1,744,674. Furthermore, world-wide proganda of unprecedented activity, well-organized and supported by an unstinted supply of funds, went on without intermission or relaxation, the effects of which we still suffer today. The main aim of this campaign was to root out from the minds of the people the Christian faith and even the belief in God, and to overthrow the existing civilization founded upon that faith. Pope Pius XI, seeing this, recalls previous and present solemn condemnations and solemn protests against Communism. He then contrasts the destructive principles and method of action of atheistic Communism vs. the clear doctrine of the Catholic Church, in order to inculcate anew and with greater insistence the means by which Christian civilization can be saved from this satanic scourge.

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Our Apostolic Mandate

On The Sillon
Pope Pius X (August 25, 1910)

Summary: What the Sillon exactly was, and what it stood for, will be made clear in the encyclical…. This letter was dated August 25, 1910. Why bring it to light again? Because the socio-political errors of contemporary Catholicism and their incidence on the life of the Church, take their origin in Sillonism. This Encyclical therefore, is terribly relevant to our won time; for the first time in the history of the Church, democratic ideas have won official recognition; even the Provincial of a religious order has to abide by the decisions of his “Council”! The poison has permeated every stratum of Church life.

…Pius X dealt a deathblow to Sillonism and its “democratic dreams,” as he himself put it. But whilst a movement may be destroyed, ideas cannot. So the Sillonist ideas continued to spread under different labels. By 1945 the Catholic world in its entirety had been infected. 1965 marked their official victory…Herein is Pius X’s famous line: “Indeed, the true friends of the people are neither revolutionaries, nor innovators, they are traditionalists.”

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Custodi Di Quella Fede

Guardians of that Faith
Pope Leo XIII (October 15, 1890)

Summary: Pope Leo XIII wrote his encyclical Humanun Genus: On Freemasonry, on April 20, 1884, and another, Dall’Alto Dell’Apostolico Seggio: To the bishops, clergy and people of Italy: on Freemasonry in Italy, on October 15, 1890, where he discusses at length the Masonic program and warned faithful Catholics about its incompatibility and opposition to the Church’s program of eternal salvation. But seeing that the impious war continued to rage against the Church and particularly in Italy, he wrote this present encyclical, addressed to the Italian people, where again he raised a cry of alarm and protest over the machinations of this secret sect. Since he had already talked about the principles of Masonry in the previous encyclicals, he limited himself this time to list its deplorable effects and accomplishments in Italy. The good pope then exhorts the Italian people to shake themselves loose from the allurements, false promises, and threats of this sect; to avoid being drawn into it; and to fight this battle offensively, opposing press to press, school to school, organization to organization, congress to congress, action to action.

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Qui Pluribus

On Faith and Religion
Pope Pius IX (November 9, 1846)

Summary: Just when everyone thought Pope Pius IX would be the pope to “get it on” with the world came his Qui Pluribus (Nov. 9, 1846), a cannon shot fired across the bow of modern Europe which proved he was anything but naive regarding the dangers threatening the Catholic Church. Here Pius IX alerted the world’s bishops to the errors of the day: liberalism, Freemasonry, rationalism, pantheism, naturalism, Protestantism, and Communism. These forces, he said, were “linked in guilty fellowship,” to wage a “fierce and terrible war” against the Church, divine revelation, and society. Pius lumped protestant “Bible Societies” in with Freemasons and Communists, and decried the hypocrisy of Protestantism, which, claiming to venerate Sacred Scripture, falsely translated the Bible and further mutated the Holy Word with “perverse and erroneous conformity with his own private judgment.” Pius IX lays open all the modern pretensions and sounds a rousing exhortation to his bishops to fight and conquer them.

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Quo Graviora

Condemnation of Freemansonry
Pope Leo XII (March 13, 1826)

Summary: Pope Leo XII points out how the Popes of the past have always shown themselves to be vigilant over their flock against the evils threatening them, an example of which is their constant condemnation of secret societies contriving maliciously against Christ and against His Church. He cites previous papal condemnations of the Freemasonic sect starting with In Eminenti by Clement XII, April 28, 1738 (with full text) which obliged all faithful to abstain from such secret societies under pain of excommunication (ipso facto). Noting that since Clement’s death, these sectarians have tended to downgrade the gravity of Clement’s condemnation, Pope Benedict XIV in turn published Providas on March 18, 1751 (full text cited), renewing with vigor the previous condemnation. Pius VII further condemned the sect of the Carbonari, a virulent Masonic sect which has arisen in Italy, on September 13, 1821 with his Ecclesiam a Jesu Christo (full text cited). Pope Leo XII then concludes by forbidding forever, under threat of the same penalties previously given, these secret societies, by whatever name they may finally be called.

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