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QUOTES ON THE DUTIES OF PRIESTS
Louis-Edouard-désiré Cardinal Pie
Angelus Online, February 2004
Louis-Edouard-désiré Cardinal Pie
Angelus Online, February 2004
Need for a Personal, Detailed, Complete Knowledge of Doctrine
The priest is obliged to be learned, and to be very learned. This has been true in all times, but it is even truer in these centuries of error and false philosophy. When a lying and artificial science multiplies in the bosom of society its perfidious lights and deceiving fires, then it is more necessary that the priesthood should carry with firm hand the torch of Truth.
Some priests, devout and zealous men, are not sufficiently men of study. They have forgotten that the abundant concerns of pastoral ministry have not been lacking to those great doctors who have left in their voluminous writings the testimony of their wide erudition and profound science, and that the most agitated existence is not incompatible with work and study, when the work has become a necessity and the study a second nature.
We do not want to hear the objection of the disasters, the political ruin amidst which our life passes....How were the times when St. Augustine fought, wrote, and argued about the manifold aspects of Christian philosophy and revealed religion? Oblivious to the noise of war that surrounded him but always in the first line of fire to defend the faith of the Church, he only ceased writing the day he ceased living, and he died on the vigil of the fall of Hippo into the hands of the barbarians.
The events that frighten and immobilize the men of this earth must neither freeze our courage nor break our weapons–and our weapons are the sacred books, the writings of the Fathers, the doctrine of the Church....1
Doctrine to be Transmitted Without Attenuation, Compromise, Silence
Everybody sees and acknowledges the abasement of all things since we have abandoned the heights into which Christianity had placed us–nobody can deny it–the abasement of minds, hearts, characters; the abasement of the family, political power, societies; in short, the complete abasement of men and institutions. The ending of so many abasements cannot be in the abasement of Truth also, which is the only principle that can impart to men and institutions the impulse to re-ascend. We have to beg those who are oracles of doctrine never to have the weakness to consent to any complacency or compromise. We have to beg them to tell us in the future the whole Truth, the Truth that saves individuals and nations. Their weakness will be the consummation of our ruin.
Let us not demand, then, the Church of Jesus Christ to descend with us "ad ima de summis" but to require her to remain there where she is and to tend us her hand, so that we may ascend with her "ad summa de summis," from the low and agitated region into which we have fallen and where we risk descending even more to the elevated and serene region where she dwells with the souls and the nations that are faithful to her.2
Be Instant in Season, Out of Season
On reading the sermons of the holy bishop of Hippo, we see that he did not miss any occasion to engage the Donatists in an almost daily polemic. The sectarian spirit is highly obstinate and stubborn. Without any regard for the most clear answers or the most decisive refutations, the sect imperturbably repeats the same banalities; invariably and shamelessly it repeats the same commonplaces.
Let it be known, said St. Augustine, that when I speak up against error I do so moved by the desire of a conversion or of an external conquest, certainly. But I am much more moved by the fear of a domestic failing or of an internal damage.
If I were indifferent before the error, the faithful could easily imagine that to pass into heresy is something indifferent. If the world presents before his eyes some great benefit with the condition of a change in his beliefs, this man, seeing my lack of passion against the separated sects, will say to himself: "God is on both sides, my choice is of no importance whatsoever; this diversity has been introduced simply by human quarrels; God can be equally honored on every side..."
Suppose, now, as an example, that a very rich Donatist tells him: "I will give you my daughter in marriage, but only if you belong to our party." To resist such a strong temptation, it would be strictly necessary that this man make the following reflection: "But... if it were all right to belong to their party, our shepherds would not speak up so much against it and would not make such great efforts to convert them."
On the contrary, if we remain quiet, he will follow the opposite reasoning: "Surely, if it were a crime to belong to the Donatist party, our shepherds would speak up against it, attack their followers, and make efforts to convince and convert them." And following this reasoning, he will imitate them in their apostasy.
The Prophet then is right in saying: "You have not called back the sheep that was going astray, you have not brought back the one that was being lost, and in doing so, you have killed one that was strong, and you have brought down one that was standing..."
A Final Reminder, Warning, and Encouragement
We suffer a terrible trial. We live in a century of transition; and the study of history reveals to us how dark, painful, and trying are such centuries. All passions and all errors seem to thrive in the bosom of society. Heaven looks down on this battle in silence and apparently without taking part. And in this dark night, the shining light of Truth is barely visible in the conflict. There is no doubt that dawn will come, and Truth will appear tomorrow, triumphant, standing over the smoking ruins of vice and deception. But waiting for this day, for this dawn, how difficult. How painful it is to go back to the struggle! Willingly we would leave the errors and passions that beset us. Willingly we would follow the example of Moses, who prayed in the mountain while the battle raged in the plain.
Thou knowest, O God, how many times at the foot of Thine altars, we have asked if it would not be sufficient for us to weep and cry before Thine Ark. Frequently we have said, Lord, the world is too sick; only Thou canst heal it. Falsity has penetrated everywhere in our century, it has tainted the air that this generation breathes; even the just is not free of error; all truths are diminished; nowhere is there to be found a strong, vigorous hatred of evil, nowhere a noble enthusiasm for the good. O Lord, Lord, now only Thou canst speak. Who are we, weak ministers of Thy word? Who are we to command with our voice over the noise of the storm? Lord, the evils of this century can be overcome only by the almighty Arm that makes thunder resound in the skies, that chains the winds over the sea, that breaks the waves against the shore, that can even dominate over the crimes and errors of nations. Then, O Lord! Thyself act, Thyself speak, and let us weep, let us pray the whole night, until the first rays of light, until the dawn of a better day restores us our strength and courage.
This is, my brethren, what we have frequently said before the tabernacles. But God has not heard us. Instead, we have heard His answer in the voice of the prophets of old: Why have you entered into this holy army, if it is not to fight the wars of the Lord? Have I demanded your success when I have commanded you to work? Go, and fight to the death for Truth. If you do not save their souls, at least you will save your own. And then, remember, you are not only the minister of my justice. Your priesthood is at the service both of my vengeance and of my goodness. You are priest to save some, and to render the others inexcusable. The chosen will be indebted to you for the reward they will receive, and I shall be indebted to you for the justification of My severe punishment. Talk to this people; tell them their crimes; My grace will be with you. Speak, and if the truth hurts them, I will give you a brow harder than theirs, I will pour into your heart a courage and, above all, a love stronger and more inexhaustible than their hatred.3
1. Pastoral Letter to the diocesan clergy, April 1, 1850.
2. Quoted in Théotime de St.-Just, pp. 220-221.
3. Sermon on the unity of Christian morals, faith, and practices. Chartres, 1841.