Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Happy 200th Birthday To Pope Leo XIII!

Today we celebrate the birth of Vincenzo Gioacchino Raffaele Luigi Pecci. This remarkable guy ascended the Throne of St. Peter as His Holiness Pope Leo XIII just shy of his 68th birthday. He would go on to serve as Vicar of Christ for 25 years. Next time you think about wanting to retire, remember Pope Leo having to tough it out in the most important job in the world until he was 93.

I've mentioned my fondness for Pope Leo many times. By all accounts, he was an outstanding man with regards to intellect and morality. He's also got a lot of good papal trivia. I'm pretty sure he's the only camerlengo ever elected to the papacy. He's also the first pope that we have film and audio recordings for:

Pretty neat, if you ask me.

However, my main affection for Pope Leo comes from the fact that I consider him, out of all the Successors of Peter, to be the best teacher. He wrote something like 85 encyclicals on subjects that are of absolutely critical importance to us today. Marian devotion? He did 11 (I think) encyclicals on the Rosary. Church/state relations? Immortale Dei is the main papal reference in the Catechism on the topic. Social justice? The entire modern concept is rooted in Rerum Novarum.

He confronted the problems of modern secularism by writing letters to leaders and nations all over the world, including America. Ecumenical issues were dealt with, even when doing so meant reality checks for the opposition, as was the case when he declared Anglican orders invalid. Before St. Pius X was fighting modernism, Pope Leo was already standing in the breach, though he admittedly was condemning the heresy one doctrine at a time rather than treating it as a cohesive object.

Freemasonry, communism, materialism, liberalism, the list goes on. Pope Leo dealt with them all and did so with a clarity and calmness in his writing that is well-nigh supernatural in character.

It's amazing stuff to read, which is why I'm presenting my top 5 Pope Leo XIII writings for our folks here.

Counting them down:


Deals with pretty much all the historical critical nonsense that would strip the Scriptures of their inerrancy. Also gives a great lesson on how to read and study Scripture.

But it is absolutely wrong and forbidden, either to narrow inspiration to certain parts only of Holy Scripture, or to admit that the sacred writer has erred. For the system of those who, in order to rid themselves of these difficulties, do not hesitate to concede that divine inspiration regards the things of faith and morals, and nothing beyond, because (as they wrongly think) in a question of the truth or falsehood of a passage, we should consider not so much what God has said as the reason and purpose which He had in mind in saying it-this system cannot be tolerated. For 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; and so far is it from being possible that any error can co-exist with inspiration, that inspiration not only is essentially incompatible with error, but excludes and rejects it as absolutely and necessarily as it is impossible that God Himself, the supreme Truth, can utter that which is not true.


You will not understand Catholic social justice without reading this, nor will you be able to grasp just how much the modern heterodox have pushed to distort it.

But although all citizens, without exception, can and ought to contribute to that common good in which individuals share so advantageously to themselves, yet it should not be supposed that all can contribute in the like way and to the same extent. No matter what changes may occur in forms of government, there will ever be differences and inequalities of condition in the State. Society cannot exist or be conceived of without them. Some there must be who devote themselves to the work of the commonwealth, who make the laws or administer justice, or whose advice and authority govern the nation in times of peace, and defend it in war. Such men clearly occupy the foremost place in the State, and should be held in highest estimation, for their work concerns most nearly and effectively the general interests of the community. Those who labor at a trade or calling do not promote the general welfare in such measure as this, but they benefit the nation, if less directly, in a most important manner. We have insisted, it is true, that, since the end of society is to make men better, the chief good that society can possess is virtue.


This might seem an odd inclusion to some folks. I put it here because there are a lot of Catholics who really pay no attention to the 3rd Person of the Trinity. This is both annoying and dangerous, especially these days when the fastest growing contra-Catholic movements tend to be charismatic groups with very wacky ideas about the Holy Spirit. The Holy Father also goes into the doctrine of appropriation, the rejection of which is at the root of a lot of Trinitarian heresies.

The Church is accustomed most fittingly to attribute to the Father those works of the Divinity in which power excels, to the Son those in which wisdom excels, and those in which love excels to the Holy Ghost. Not that all perfections and external operations are not common to the Divine Persons; for "the operations of the Trinity are indivisible, even as the essence of the Trinity is indivisible"; because as the three Divine Persons "are inseparable, so do they act inseparably." But by a certain comparison, and a kind of affinity between the operations and the properties of the Persons, these operations are attributed or, as it is said, "appropriated" to One Person rather than to the others. "Just as we make use of the traces of similarity or likeness which we find in creatures for the manifestation of the Divine Persons, so do we use Their essential attributes; and this manifestation of the Persons by Their essential attributes is called appropriation".


This is probably the best papal teaching on ecclesiology the Church has ever seen. It exposes the irrationality of heretical ecumenism quite well and gives easy to follow, logical arguments why the whole idea of religious relativism is stupid.

From this it follows that those who arbitrarily conjure up and picture to themselves a hidden and invisible Church are in grievous and pernicious error: as also are those who regard the Church as a human institution which claims a certain obedience in discipline and external duties, but which is without the perennial communication of the gifts of divine grace, and without all that which testifies by constant and undoubted signs to the existence of that life which is drawn from God. It is assuredly as impossible that the Church of Jesus Christ can be the one or the other, as that man should be a body alone or a soul alone. The connection and union of both elements is as absolutely necessary to the true Church as the intimate union of the soul and body is to human nature. The Church is not something dead: it is the body of Christ endowed with supernatural life.

AND #1

Quite simply the greatest work of political philosophy in the last 400 years or so. It really is that good.

For, once ascribe to human reason the only authority to decide what is true and what is good, and the real distinction between good and evil is destroyed; honor and dishonor differ not in their nature, but in the opinion and judgment of each one; pleasure is the measure of what is lawful; and, given a code of morality which can have little or no power to restrain or quiet the unruly propensities of man, a way is naturally opened to universal corruption. With reference also to public affairs: authority is severed from the true and natural principle whence it derives all its efficacy for the common good; and the law determining what it is right to do and avoid doing is at the mercy of a majority. Now, this is simply a road leading straight to tyranny. The empire of God over man and civil society once repudiated, it follows that religion, as a public institution, can have no claim to exist, and that everything that belongs to religion will be treated with complete indifference. Furthermore, with ambitious designs on sovereignty, tumult and sedition will be common amongst the people; and when duty and conscience cease to appeal to them, there will be nothing to hold them back but force, which of itself alone is powerless to keep their covetousness in check.

I round this out with simple observations and questions. Consider the above. Look up stuff on Pope Leo for yourself. Consider it carefully. Then note that he isn't called "Servant of God" Pope Leo XIII. That's right. Apparently, there is no cause for the canonization of this great man.

Compare him to Paul VI, who has an active cause. Even John Paul I has a an active cause.

What is wrong with this picture?


Roisin said...

Wow...I definitely need to read more on him. What an intellect! And so calm and measured in his words as well.

Fr. Robert Boyd said...

I've had respect and a devotion to Pope Leo XIII since I was in seminary. I have a medal of him - a souvenir of his jubilee. You need to prove a "cultus" as part of the process for opening a cause -- something which could easily be done for such a great pope!