03 September 2009

Pope St. Pius X

I have exalted one chosen out of the people, with My holy oil I have anointed him: so that My hand may ever be with him and My arm strengthen him.

We were only able to muster some Italian wine with dinner to celebrate the feast day of the Italian-born Joseph Sarto, who reigned as Supreme Pontiff from 1903-1914.

His are some of the greatest and most important papal documents of recent centuries. Some of my personal favorites:

Instruction on Sacred Music Tra le Sollecitudini (1903).
"And it is vain to hope that the blessing of heaven will descend abundantly upon us, when our homage to the Most High, instead of ascending in the odor of sweetness, puts into the hand of the Lord the scourges wherewith of old the Divine Redeemer drove the unworthy profaners from the Temple."

"The more closely a composition for church approaches in its movement, inspiration and savor the Gregorian form, the more sacred and liturgical it becomes; and the more out of harmony it is with that supreme model, the less worthy it is of the temple."

"The employment of the piano is forbidden in church, as is also that of noisy or frivolous instruments such as drums, cymbals, bells and the like."

Encyclical on the French Laws of Separation Vehementer nos (1906).
"That the State must be separated from the Church is a thesis absolutely false, a most pernicious error. Based, as it is, on the principle that the State must not recognize any religious cult, it is in the first place guilty of a great injustice to God; for the Creator of man is also the Founder of human societies, and preserves their existence as He preserves our own."

"Indeed, the true friends of the people are neither revolutionaries, nor innovators: they are traditionalists."


Anna said...

Are bells even forbidden? I would think that after the organ, bells would be the most traditional instrument to be used during Mass.

John said...

Well, of course not much of anything is forbidden anymore.

But anyways, the ringing of church bells at the elevation (as well as the altar boys' bells in the sanctuary) would, I suppose, not be included in that condemnation.

big daddy said...

I guess I need to apologize to you for the handbells that accompanied the "Te Deum" at your wedding, then.

Anna said...

But also, aren't bells just built into churches anyway? (I'm thinking specifically of the famous ones in Notre Dame) Or are they, according to Pius the X, only allowed to be used outside the actual liturgy of the Mass. Or are theses not as common as I supposed them to be. Bells just seem to make a lot more sense in the Mass setting, it is strange to me that he would lump them into the same category as drums and cymbals.

Somebody Calls Me Nana said...

Did the good and holy Pope ever read Psalm 150 or Psalm 100? Just asking how you reconcile his instructions with the Scriptures. Also, when a Pope gives "instructions" is he speaking ex cathedra?

John said...

Big Daddy: no apology necessary. I don't think they are forbidden anymore.

Anna: bells in church towers and bells in the sanctuary are indeed quite traditional, and are not included in the pope's condemnation. He is referring to bells used as musical accompaniment to songs and chants, for which neither the tower bells nor the sanctuary bells were used.

Mom: I'm sure he did. I don't see much in need of reconciliation, though, frankly. Psalm 100 speaks of singing to the Lord, and St. Pius X says that "the music proper to the Church is purely vocal music." Psalm 150 seems more to the point with its mention of "loud clashing symbols," but even so it doesn't seem all that relevant to me. The Temple worship of the Israelites is far from normative for Catholic worship. E.g. one cannot say that because the Israelites sacrificed goats in their Temple we should in ours (an extreme example, I know :)

Either way, such instructions are matters of law rather than of faith or morals, and are certainly not infallible. One is quite free to think that particular laws promulgated by a pope are prudent or not. The laws must be respected and obeyed, prudent or not, but that doesn't mean that one must think that they are good laws.

One would get into quite an intellectual bind otherwise, trying to think both that the prohibition of vernacular in the Mass was a good law and that the allowing it is a good law; that the prohibition of female altar boys was a good law, and that their permission is a good law; etc.

Hence, when discussing matters of ecclesiastical law, it's very important to distinguish. There may be discussions of what is the law and there may be discussions of whether a particular law is a good one. In the first case, it is sufficient merely to cite what the relevant pope says, but in the latter reasoned arguments are necessary.

Who would have thought that that line would draw all the comments? I thought surely the bit about separation of Church and State was the more controversial line.

big daddy said...

But, all your commenters are literate and thoughtful worshippers of God. Those of us who've actually read the United States Constitution recognize the good pope's instruction as clearly consistent with it. It is recent American jurisprudence in the area that is controversial.