Pius X, Pope, St.
PIUS X, POPE, ST.
Pontificate: Aug. 9, 1903 to Aug. 20, 1914; b. Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto, at Riese (Treviso), Italy.
Early Life and Prepapal Career. Giuseppe Sarto was born on June 2, 1835 in the village of Riese in Venetia.
He was the second of ten children of Giovanni Battista and Margherita (Sanson) Sarto. His family circumstances were humble. His father was a village messenger and postman, and his mother helped out as a seamstress. Especially from his mother, he received a deeply religious formation, and even as a child, he felt a strong call to the priesthood. After studies in his home village and Castelfranco, in 1850 at the age of 15 he entered the seminary of Padua. Ordained to the priesthood on Sept 18, 1858, he spent nine years as curate in Tombolo and eight years as a pastor in Salzano. These years of parish work helped to shape the future Pope with a pastoral sensitivity and a love for the common people. In 1875, he was called to Treviso to serve as the spiritual director of the major seminary and to work as the chancellor of the diocese. The Bishop of Treviso likewise made him a canon of the cathedral. As the spiritual director of the seminary, Msgr. Sarto was zealous and demanding but also warm and compassionate. He combined his work at the seminary with his duties as chancellor, and for a seven-month period, in 1879–1880, he served as the Vicar Capitular of the diocese following the death of the bishop.
In 1884, Msgr. Sarto was named the Bishop of Mantua, and, during his nine years there, he did much to revitalize the spiritual life of the diocese. He was especially devoted to catechetics, and the lessons he drew up formed the basis for what was to become The Catechism of Pius X. Likewise, he encouraged the laity in their pious associations, especially the Third Order of St. Francis to which he himself belonged. He was equally dedicated to fostering vocations to the priesthood. In 1885, he ordained only one priest, but by the end of his nine years as bishop of Mantua, he had ordained 175.
On June 12, 1893, Pope Leo XIII named Bishop Sarto of Mantua a Cardinal, and three days later, appointed him to be the next Patriarch of Venice. The Italian government delayed his entry into Venice, claiming that the state must approve such appointments. Eventually, the government relented, and Cardinal Sarto was permitted, on Nov. 24, 1894, to make his solemn entry into Venice as the Patriarch-Archbishop. In his new role, Cardinal Sarto continued to emphasize the need for sound catechesis, lay devotion and holy and well-educated priests. In a pastoral letter of May 1, 1895, he treated the subject of church music, and he underlined the importance of Gregorian chant. In August 1897, he presided over a Eucharistic Congress, and he encouraged the frequent reception of the sacrament.
Cardinal Sarto's time in Venice was marked by apostolic zeal, a spirit of poverty, concern for divine worship, directives in the field of Catholic action, and also for his professional, social and political interests. His pastoral letters of this period also afford a glimpse of his future work. Thus, a letter to the Mantuans (1887) reproved the principles and tendencies of what was later termed "modernism." His first pastoral to the Venetians underscored the need for obedience to the pope. As Cardinal Sarto noted, in matters concerning the Vicar of Christ, "there should be no questions, no subtleties, no opposing of personal rights to his rights, but only obedience." His reforms as pope reflected, to a large extent, the needs and aspirations he had experienced and expressed as a pastor and bishop.
Papal Program. The conclave of 1903 (July 31–August 4) elected him successor to Leo XIII, despite his entreaties. Cardinal merry del val, secretary of the conclave, became his secretary of state. His first encyclical, E supremi Apostolatus (October 4), together with his allocution to the sacred college (November 9), formulated the guiding principles of his pontificate: to battle against estrangement from God and against apostasy, which was becoming ever more ruinous to societies. To this end he would seek "to restore all things in Christ, in order that Christ may be all and in all." He desired to be merely the minister of the Most High; but this position he intended to fill completely. In no area of human activity, he promised, would he fail to affirm the authority of God, the rigorous obedience due His Church, and the limitless extent of the papal mission. Even political affairs, so far as they concern faith and morals, must not escape the need for universal "restoration"; as was reiterated in the encyclical Jucunda sane (March 12, 1904), commemorating the 13th centenary of Pope St. Gregory the Great. Pius X also resolved "to teach the Christian truth and law," and to defend them with circumspection against "the insidious maneuvers of a type of new science." He further aimed to promote social justice and charity, the sole guarantee of real order and peace among individuals and groups.
Modernism. Modernism provided the gravest concerns for Pius X in the realms of philosophy, theology and biblical exegesis. Since the time of the enlightenment, there had been various efforts to accommodate the Christian faith to newer philosophical and scientific movements. A certain tendency emerged that seemed to reduce revelation to subjective feelings and the aspirations of the human spirit moving towards transcendence. Modernism provided the gravest problems with which Pius X had to contend in the philosophical, theological, and exegetical realms. For some years this new trend had been infiltrating intellectual circles in Christian nations and gaining entrance into some periodicals in the U.S. As a result several works of unequal importance had been placed on the Index, including writings by loisy, houtin, laberthonniÈre, Fogazzaro, and others. The Pontiff revealed his attitude on several occasions, notably in the encyclical Pieni l'animo (July 28, 1906), and even more clearly, in the Consistory of April 17, 1907. Official condemnation came with the publication of Lamentabili sane exitu (July 3, 1907), a decree of the Holy Office approved by the Pope, which reprobrated 65 propositions containing in summary form the errors imputed to Modernism. The encyclical Pascendi dominici gregis (September 8) completed the repression of what it termed the "résumé of all the heresies." Pius X enacted in it a series of measures destined to protect the faith of the laity and, still more, of the clergy. The motu proprio Praestantia (Nov. 18, 1907) confirmed lamentabili and pascendi under penalty of grave censures.
Despite these measures, supplemented by a number of excommunications, and several additions to the Index of Forbidden Books, resistance did not disappear. This led to the imposition of an oath against modernism (September 1910) that created difficulties in Germany. To the end of his pontificate the Pope continued to denounce the Modernist peril and the "circuitous means" by which it maintained itself.
Excesses unfortunately accompanied the repression of Modernism. They were caused chiefly by the supporters of Integralism, particularly Monsignor Benigni and his sodalitium pianum (League of St. Pius V). As a result numbers of Catholics, savants among them, found themselves unjustly denounced. Ecclesiastical studies suffered a setback. Three papal letters encouraging the Sodalitium were published; but these did not mention all of its numerous secret activities. Never did the Pontiff accord it "formal and definitive approval."
Popular Action Groups. Unfavorable by nature to alliance with groups hostile or even foreign to Catholicism, Pius X desired Catholics to form a great union to effect a program of just and prudent social reforms. From the beginning of his pontificate he issued instructions of this tenor to the Italian Opera dei Congressi. His motu proprio Fin dalla prima (Dec. 18, 1903) tried to remove Italian popular action groups from the ardent political involvements in which Romolo murri and others were trying to engage them, contrary to the directives of the Holy See.
After dissolving the internally divided Opera dei Congressi, Pius X directed his attention to the followers of Christian Democracy led by Murri. In two encyclicals, Il fermo proposito (June 11, 1905) and Pieni l'animo (July 28, 1906), he affirmed the great social role (actually the role of prudent political preparation), which devolved on catholic action, under the control of the heads of the Church. He also opposed the spirit of insubordination, shown by some ecclesiastics, which menaced young clerics. This insubordination had, in the Pope's mind, ties with Modernist errors. The Holy Office's condemnation (Feb. 13, 1908) of the journal of Abbé Naudet, La Justice sociale, and that of Abbé Dabry, La Vie catholique, manifested Roman disquietude concerning the activities of French Christian Democracy, which had oriented itself toward politics in the framework of the ralliement, as recommended by Leo XIII. The letter to the French episcopate Notre charge (Aug. 25, 1910) condemned the Sillon, directed by Marc sangnier, a man to whom the Pope was at first attracted. But the inter-confessional Sillon freed itself from ecclesiastical authority; adopted social, civic, and even religious theses in opposition at times to pontifical directives; "enfeoffed religion" to the party of democracy; and formed alliances that compromised the defense of the Church in a grave hour.
Distaste for inter-confessional groups appeared again in the encyclical Singulari quadam (Sept. 24, 1912), which authorized under certain conditions Protestant membership in some groups, but preferred in principle purely Catholic associations.
Internal Affairs of the Church. Pius X profoundly reformed the Church's interior life, while favoring its missionary expansion. Interest in public prayer and the splendor of divine worship inspired his motu proprio Tra le sollecitudini (Nov. 22, 1903), which supplied norms for sacred music, especially Gregorian chant. Breviary prayers were distributed anew, permitting the weekly recitation of the entire Psalter, by the apostolic constitution Divino afflatu (Nov. 1, 1911).
To modernize the vast body of ecclesiastical laws and bring them into agreement with one another, Pius X undertook the codification of the Code of Canon Law in the motu proprio Arduum sane (March 19, 1904). At his death the enormous labor was nearly completed.
The Church's central government was simplified, harmonized, and strengthened by the apostolic constitution Sapienti consilio (June 29, 1908). Among other provisions, it removed from the jurisdiction of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith the U.S., Canada, Newfoundland, England, Ireland, Holland, and Luxembourg.
Pius X commended the development of studies that conformed to the spirit of Christianity. Notable was his establishment (May 7, 1909) of the pontifical biblical institute, destined to promote, despite some criticisms, the scientific knowledge of Sacred Scripture. The philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas always found in the Pope a zealous champion. Pius X's dedication to Thomism was manifested in his, motu proprio, Doctor Angelici, of June 29, 1914. In this document, he ordered the ecclesiastical schools of Italy "to uphold religiously the first principles and major declarations of Thomas Aquinas" contained in the 24 metaphysical theses that he authorized for promulgation by the Congregation of Studies (cf. H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum, 32nd. ed., edited by A. Schönmetzer (Freiburg 1963) 3601-3624). However, after the death of Pius X, Pope Benedict XV qualified this mandate. In his March 19, 1917 letter, Quod de fovenda, to Wladimir Ledochowski, the Superior General of the Jesuits, Benedict XV explained that the 24 theses were to be understood as "secure directional norms" and there was no strict obligation "to accept all of the theses." To the Jesuits (some of whom were Suarezians instead of Thomists) this came as welcome news.
The importance of religious instruction and the catechism were emphasized in the encyclical Acerbo nimis (April 15, 1905). The greatness of the priesthood was extolled in the papal jubilee exhortation (Aug. 4, 1908). His devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared frequently, notably in the encyclical commemorating the 50th anniversary of the definition of the Immaculate Conception. As Pope of the Eucharist, he considerably advanced devotion to it, especially by the decree Sacra Tridentina Synodus (Dec. 20, 1905), recommending greater frequency of Communion. His decree Quam singulari (Aug. 8,1910), concerning the reception of first communion by children, demolished the apprehensive resistance at first met.
Pius X canonized Alexander sauli, Gerard majella, Joseph oriol, and Clement hofbauer. He also beatified numerous martyrs, and founders and foundresses of religious congregations.
Relations with Governments. The apostolic constitution Commissum nobis (Jan. 20, 1904) ended the veto power of Catholic governments resurrected by the Austrian Cardinal Puzyna at the 1903 conclave to defeat Cardinal Rampolla.
Pius X's pontificate coincided with the growth of anticlericalism in France, especially during the ministry of Émile Combes, which saw the prohibition of all teaching by religious congregations, and conflicts over episcopal nominations. It witnessed the rupture of diplomatic relations with the Holy See (July 30, 1904) subsequent to the note of Cardinal Merry del Val concerning the visit of President Loubet of France to the king of Italy, and also the summoning to Rome of the bishops of Dijon and Laval. A French law (Dec. 9, 1905) annulled unilaterally the concordat of 1801, separated Church from State, and transferred the Church's goods to lay associations. Pius X condemned the legislation in the encyclical Vehementer Nos (Feb. 11, 1906). Despite the wish of the French bishops, who were concerned for the existence of their dioceses, the Pontiff opposed all projects for bettering the lay associations in the encyclical Gravissimo officii munere (Aug. 10, 1906). In his solicitude for the rights of God and the Church, he repeatedly displayed his hostility to the new legislation, which had been enacted in violent circumstances and which included expulsions and violations of the archives of the nunciature.
French Catholics were advised by the Holy See not to continue to identify the defense of their religion with union of Church and State. Pius X was remarkably indulgent toward the leader of the action franÇaise, Charles maurras, when he left unpublished for a time the decree condemning several of Maurras' books.
In his relations with the government of Italy, Pius X upheld the temporal rights of the Holy See, while preparing the way little by little in diverse acts for the solution of the roman question. He felt compelled to protest against the anticlerical violence of Ernesto Nathan, Mayor of Rome. Consideration for the country's general welfare dictated his encyclical Il fermo proposito (June 11, 1905), which allowed bishops in certain cases to remove the papal prohibition that kept the faithful from political elections.
One of the Pope's commemorative encyclicals, Editae saepe (May 26, 1910), dedicated to St. Charles Borromeo, roused some ill-feeling in Germany because one passage was interpreted as being severe toward the Reformation. Sympathy for the Poles won for the Pontiff the hostility of the Russian government. Similarly, the mission of Cardinal Vincenzo Vannutelli as legate to Ireland was viewed amiss in London. Catalan revolutionaries plunged the Spanish Church into mourning (1909); and the anticlerical government of Canalejas caused it extreme distress. The young republic of Portugal was reproved in the encyclical Jamdudum in Lusitania (May 24, 1911) for its law separating State from Church, which led to violent religious persecution.
Public opinion in the U.S. deplored the refusal of a papal audience (1910) to former Pres. Theodore Roosevelt, because he intended to speak in the Methodist church in Rome. On the other hand, Pius X praised the liberalism of the government of the U.S. He also approved (June 11, 1911) the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Frequently he praised and aided the fervor of North American Catholics.
Antireligious legislation in Ecuador merited papal disapproval (1905). Bolivia was reminded of certain ecclesiastical laws. The Holy See's prestige mounted with the arbitration of the pope's delegate, Monsignor Bavona, in the conflict involving Brazil, Bolivia, and Peru. The encyclical Lacrimabili statu (June 7, 1912) invited the Latin American bishops to do their utmost to improve the lot of the native peoples.
Conclusion. Pius X's grief at the outbreak of World War I appeared in his exhortation Dum Europa fere (Aug. 2, 1914). He died soon after (Aug. 20). Christendom recalled in manifold ways the sanctity of this pontiff of luminous faith and compassionate humility. The cardinals of the Roman Curia requested (Feb. 24, 1923) the introduction of his cause. After long investigations (1923–46), the approval of the required miracles, and the ritual formalities, Pius X was beatified (June 3, 1951) and canonized (May 29, 1954).
Devotion to Pius X was particularly strong in the U.S.A. from the 1930s through the 1950s. Edwin Vincent O'Hara, Bishop of Great Falls, Montana and later of Kansas City, Missouri, was especially committed to his cause. In part, this dedication was inspired by the growth of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) in America which had been mandated for every parish by Pius X's encyclical, Acerbo Nimis, of 1905. O'Hara led a popular movement that produced books, holy cards and prayer crusades to promote the cause for the Pius X's beatification and later canonization. Cardinal Cushing of Boston was also an enthusiastic promoter of the cause. During this period, Pius X was especially esteemed for his Eucharistic piety, humility, warmth and his love for children. In many respects, he was held up a "people's Pope" in a manner similar to that of John XXIII.
Since Vatican II, some scholars have become critical of Pius X for what they perceive as his overly harsh treatment of theologians accused of Modernism. The 1967 replacement of the Oath against Modernism with a simpler profession was welcomed as an end to an unfortunate era. On the other hand, many "traditionalist" Catholics, such as the followers of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, have associated themselves with Pope Pius X in his zeal against the Modernist heresy. This can be seen in the chosen name of the Society of St. Pius X, a group of priests who carry on Archbishop Lefebvre's resistance to many of the doctrines of Vatican II and the new Mass promulgated by Paul VI in 1969. Some Catholics resent this "usurpation" of the heritage of Pius X by a schismatic movement. They see no contradiction between the sanctity and Eucharistic piety of St. Pius X and the "universal call to holiness" promoted by Vatican II and the post-conciliar pontiffs. As for Pius X's resistance to Modernism, some Catholic theologians recently have become more sympathetic to the general spirit (if not every detail) of his opposition to this "movement."
Feast: Sept. 3.
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