Pope Saint Pius X on Faith in the Pope and the Church

Pope Saint Pius X, 1903-1914, Oath against Modernism (1910): “I … firmly embrace and accept each and every definition that has been set forth and declared by the unerring teaching authority of the Church…. I believe with equally firm faith that the Church, the guardian and teacher of the revealed word, was personally instituted by the real and historical Christ when he lived among us, and that the Church was built upon Peter, the prince of the apostolic hierarchy, and his successors for the duration of time.”

Quotations are from multiple documents by Pius X. Footnotes are here.

Pius X: “But when We consider the place on which Our feet rest and on which this Pontifical See is rooted, We feel Ourself perfectly safe on the rock of Holy Church. ‘For who does not know,’ wrote Saint Gregory to the Patriarch Eulogius of Alexandria, ‘that Holy Church stands on the solidity of the Prince of the Apostles, who got his name from his firmness, for he was called Peter from the word rock?’ (Registr. vii. 37 [40]). Supernatural force has never, during the flight of ages, been found wanting in the Church, nor have Christ’s promises failed.”

Pius X: “Kingdoms and empires have passed away; peoples once renowned for their history and civilization have disappeared; time and again the nations, as though overwhelmed by the weight of years, have fallen asunder; while the Church, indefectible in her essence, united by ties indissoluble with her heavenly Spouse, is here today radiant with eternal youth, strong with the same primitive vigor with which she came from the Heart of Christ dead upon the Cross. Men powerful in the world have risen up against her. They have disappeared, and she remains. Philosophical systems without number, of every form and every kind, rose up against her, arrogantly vaunting themselves her masters, as though they had at last destroyed the doctrine of the Church, refuted the dogmas of her faith, proved the absurdity of her teachings. But those systems, one after another, have passed into books of history, forgotten, bankrupt; while from the Rock of Peter the light of truth shines forth as brilliantly as on the day when Jesus first kindled it on His appearance in the world, and fed it with His Divine words: ‘Heaven and earth shall pass, but my words shall not pass’ (Mt 24:35).”

~ The indefectibility of the Church is one of the most ancient and constant dogmas of the Christian Faith. But those who accuse Popes and Councils of grave error or grave failures in faith imply that the Church has defected. For the Roman Pontiff is the Head and foundational Rock of the Church; if he can fail in faith, then the Church would have defected, which is impossible. Then each and every Ecumenical Council, approved by the Pope, has been accepted by the whole Church, from ancient times to the present. Thus, it is inherent to the indefectibility of the Church, that She continue unceasingly to shine forth “the light of truth”, “from the Rock of Peter”. In this way, the never-failing faith of the Pope is essential to the indefectibility of the Church.

Pius X: “The Pope is the guardian of dogma and morals; he is the depositary of the principles that form honest families, great nations, holy souls; he is the counselor of princes and peoples; it is the head under which no one feels tyrannized, because it represents God himself; he is the father par excellence who in himself brings together everything that can be loving, tender, divine. It seems incredible, and it is also painful, that there are priests to whom this recommendation should be made, but unfortunately we are in our days in this hard unhappy condition of having to say to priests: love the Pope!”

~ Those who accuse the Pope at every turn, who seek to accuse as many past Popes as they can, do not love the Vicar of Christ, and so we must question whether they truly love Christ himself. The great accuser does not love the Pope, and neither do those who imitate that wicked serpent.

Pius X: “And how is one to love the Pope? Non verbo neque lingua, sed opere et veritate. [Not in words only, but in works and in truth. (cf. 1 Jn 3:18).] When you love a person, you try to conform to his thoughts in everything, to carry out his wishes, to interpret his desires. And if our Lord Jesus Christ said of himself: Si quis diligit me, sermonem meum servabit [If anyone loves me, he shall keep my word], so to show our love for the Pope, it is necessary to obey him.”

Pius X: “Therefore, when one loves the Pope, there is no discussion about what he disposes or demands, or how far obedience must go, and in what things one must obey; when one loves the Pope, one does not say that he did not speak clearly enough, as if he were obliged to repeat in the ear of everyone that clearly expressed will many times, not only verbally, but with letters and other public documents…”

~ Those who wish to disobey the Pope often claim that his teachings are ambiguous or confusing. But the ambiguity and confusion is only in the minds of those who are unwilling to love or obey the Vicar of Christ. He speaks clearly enough, and if anyone has difficulty understanding, there are many papal supporters who have and will explain further.

Pius X: “his orders are not questioned, citing the easy pretext of those who do not want to obey, that it is not the Pope who commands, but those who surround him; the field in which he can and must exercise his authority is not limited. The authority of the Pope is not preceded by that of other people, however learned, who disagree with the Pope, who, if they are learned, are not saints, because whoever is holy cannot disagree with the Pope.”

~ The claim that the Pope is unduly influenced by “those who surround him” is ever the accusation of those who are unwilling to believe that Christ teaches through the Roman Pontiff, His Vicar. They invent fables, based on rumors and malicious speculation, in order to justify disobeying the Pope.

Pius X: “This is the outlet of a grieving heart, which I do with deep bitterness not for you, dear confreres, but with you, to deplore the conduct of so many priests, who not only allow themselves to discuss and review the Pope’s wishes, but are not ashamed to arrive at an impudent and blatant disobedience, with so much scandal toward the good and with so much ruin of souls.”

~ And these words are still true today, as they were over 100 years ago, when Pius X spoke (in 1912). So many of the faithful are unfortunately willing to make themselves the judges over the Pope’s words and deeds, even over his perceived innermost thoughts. And they do this “to arrive at an impudent and blatant disobedience”, which greatly scandalizes the faithful.

Pius X: “The office divinely committed to Us of feeding the Lord’s flock has especially this duty assigned to it by Christ, namely, to guard with the greatest vigilance the deposit of the faith, delivered to the saints, rejecting the profane novelties of words and oppositions of knowledge falsely so-called. There has never been a time when this watchfulness of the Supreme Pastor was not necessary to the Catholic body….”

~ This duty and watchfulness of the Roman Pontiff is guaranteed by Christ and by the work of the Holy Spirit. It does not depend upon the personal qualities of each Pope, but instead depends upon the faithfulness of God. The Father sent the Son, and then Father and Son sent the Holy Spirit, not upon a Church that would or could fail, but upon that one and only Church which is truly the body of Christ, and which is as unfailing as its eternal Head, Christ Himself.

Pius X: “May the reverence and obedience which you solemnly pledged to those whom the Holy Spirit has appointed to rule the Church, increase and gain strength; and especially, may your minds and hearts be linked by ever closer ties of loyalty to this Apostolic See, which justly claims your respectful homage.”

Pius X: “for, owing to the efforts of the Enemy of the human race, there have never been lacking ‘men speaking perverse things’ (Acts xx. 30), ‘vain talkers and seducers’ (Tit. i. 10), ‘erring and driving into error’ (2 Tim. iii. 13). Still it must be confessed that the number of the enemies of the Cross of Christ has, in these last days, increased exceedingly — they who are striving, by arts, entirely new and full of subtlety, to destroy the vital energy of the Church, and, if they can, to overthrow utterly Christ’s kingdom itself.”

~ The papal accusers claim that the Church is being attacked from within, and they point to multiple Popes and Councils. But whenever the Church is attacked from within, it is always those who disobey Popes and Councils who are the attackers. They speak perverse things who accuse any Pope or Council of heresy. They are vain talkers and seducers, who tell stories designed to cause the faithful to lose faith in the body of Bishops or their head the Pope. They err and drive into error, who accuse the Pope, the body of Bishops or any Ecumenical Council of grave errors in doctrine or discipline, or of grave failings in faith.

Pope Saint Pius X: “That We make no delay in this matter is rendered necessary especially by the fact that the partisans of error are to be sought, not only among the Church’s open enemies: they lie hid, a thing to be deeply deplored and feared, in her very bosom and heart, and are the more mischievous, the less conspicuously they appear. We allude, Venerable Brethren, to many who belong to the Catholic laity, nay, and this is far more lamentable, to the ranks of the priesthood itself, who, feigning a love for the Church, lacking the firm protection of philosophy and theology, nay more, thoroughly imbued with the poisonous doctrines taught by the enemies of the Church, and lost to all sense of modesty, vaunt themselves as reformers of the Church….”

~ Such is the situation today, with those who accuse Pope Francis and other Popes of heresy or grave error, who oppose the Roman Pontiff at every turn, and who reject both Vatican I and II. They claim to admire Pope Saint Pius X, yet they do not heed his words. They are imbued with poisonous doctrines, such as the false assertions that a Pope can err to any extent when not speaking infallibly, that a Pope can be a heretic, and that an Ecumenical Council can err gravely on doctrine and discipline. Such poison drives the faithful away from the true Magisterium of the Church. These enemies of the Church feign a love for Tradition, but they reject the sole authoritative interpreter of Tradition, the Magisterium. These priests and laity lie in the bosom of the Church, but seek to reject everything the Church decides on doctrine or discipline that is contrary to their own fallen sinful minds. They have no faith in the prayer and promise of Christ (Mt 16:18; Lk 22:32) on Peter and his successors, nor in the ancient teachings of the Church on the indefectibility of Popes and Councils. Though Pius X spoke over 100 years ago, it is as if he were prophesying this future time.

Pius X: “So, too, acting on the principle that science in no way depends upon faith, when they treat of philosophy, history, criticism, feeling no horror at treading in the footsteps of Luther, they are wont to display a certain contempt for Catholic doctrines, or the Holy Fathers, for the Ecumenical Councils, for the ecclesiastical Magisterium; and should they be rebuked for this, they complain that they are being deprived of their liberty.”

Pius X: “And as this Magisterium springs, [so they claim] in its last analysis, from the individual consciences and possesses its mandate of public utility for their benefit, it follows that the ecclesiastical Magisterium must be subordinate to them, and should therefore take democratic forms.”

~ Those who accuse Pope Francis of honoring Martin Luther are themselves following Luther’s path of pride and of rebellion against Popes and Councils. And when these papal accusers are rebuked, they complain that they have the right to disobey and to refuse to believe, as if they were free from the authority of Christ. And while they reject the decisions of Popes and Councils on doctrine and discipline, they instead treat the majority opinion of their favored conservative or traditionalist subculture as if it were dogma.


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2 Responses to Pope Saint Pius X on Faith in the Pope and the Church

  1. Thank you for this article, Ron. I say Amen to this Oath by Pope Saint Pius X.

  2. Robert L Fastiggi says:

    Dear Ron,
    Thank you very much for this great compilation of quotes from St. Pius X on papal authority. In his Major Catechism(Catechismo Maggiore) of 1905, Pius X provides this simple and clear answer to how each Catholic should behave towards the Pope:

    204. Come deve comportarsi ogni cattolico verso il Papa?
    Ogni cattolico deve riconoscere il Papa, qual Padre, Pastore e Maestro universale e stare a lui unito di mente e di cuore.

    204. How should each Catholic behave towards the Pope?
    Each Catholic should recognize the Pope as Father, Shepherd, and universal Teacher and be united with him in mind and heart.

    I wish the papal critics would take this message to heart.

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