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Modernism, Oath Against


The popular name for the oath contained in the motu proprio Sacrorum antistitum of pius x (Sept. 1, 1910), which was required of clerics before the subdiaconate, confessors, preachers, pastors, canons, benefice-holders, seminary professors, officials in Roman congregations and episcopal curias, and religious superiors. The oath contains two parts. Part I contains five main propositions:(1) God can be known and proved to exist by natural reason; (2) the external signs of revelation, especially miracles and prophecies, are signs giving certainty and are adapted to all men and times, including the present; (3) the Church was founded by Christ on earth; (4) there is a deposit of faith and the assertion that dogmas change from one sense to another one different from that held by the Church is heretical; (5) faith is not a blind sense welling up from the depths of the subconscious under the impulse of the heart and of a will trained to morality, but a real assent of the intellect to truth by hearing from an external source. Part II promises submission and assent to pascendi and rejection of opposition between history and dogma. The oath, a formal personal ratification of previous authoritative decisions of Pius X, was aimed at certain clandestine groups forming after Pascendi. The assent to which the oath binds is commensurate with the assent demanded by the sources of Catholic teaching from which the oath is drawn.

The strongest reaction to the oath occurred in Germany. Chiefly because of their position on faculties at state universities where the oath would endanger their position, theology professors who exercised no pastoral ministry were dispensed from taking the oath. In Italy the Barnabite priest Giovanni Semeria was allowed by Pius X to take the oath with certain reservations. In England Maude petre, who was preparing her work on George tyrrell, was asked to take the oath. When she refused, she was deprived of the Sacraments. Only 40 or so priests in the world refused to take the oath. The oath itself marked the last breath of Modernism.

The oath was rescinded by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1967 in favor of a concise affirmation of the faith.

Bibliography: pius x, "Sacrorum antistitum" (Motu proprio, Sept. 1, 1910). Acta Apostolicae Sedis 2 (1910) 655680, Eng. American Catholic Quarterly Review 35 (Philadelphia 1910) 712731. Declarations on "Sacrorum antistitum," Acta Apostolicae Sedis 2 (Rome 1910) 740741, 856857. r. merry del val, letter to the bishop of Breslau concerning the oath against Modernism, ibid. 3 (1911) 8788. j. riviÈre, Le Modernisme dans l'Église (Paris 1929).

[j. j. heaney]

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