|Pope Paul VI|
I recently came across the oath against the errors of modernism - Sacrorum Antistitum – that His Holiness, Pope St. Pius X, issued in 1910 and which he mandated “all clergy, pastors, confessors, preachers, religious superiors, and professors in philosophical-theological seminaries” should swear. (I include the entire oath at the end of this document for those who wish to read it.)
It is interesting to note that all of those who participated in Vatican II would have taken this Oath Against Modernism, since it was only in 1967, after Vatican II, that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith rescinded the requirement to take the oath. It should however also be noted that although the taking of the oath is no longer compulsory, it is not in anyway prohibited and there are today still some clergy who take the oath voluntarily.
Having learned of this cessation of the requirement to take the oath, especially since it occurred so soon after Vatican II, I couldn’t help but give some thought to what the Church has experienced since Vatican II and the rescission of this oath: a significant reduction in vocations to the priesthood and religious life; Catholic Schools failing to catechise children in the truths of the Catholic Faith; a loss of belief in the Real Presence; an attack on the sanctity and the permanence of traditional marriage; a significant drop off in the use of the Sacrament of Confession; shocking priestly and episcopal homosexual and paedophile sex scandals.
In 1972 Pope Paul VI had this to say with reference to Vatican II: “We believed that after the Council would come a day of sunshine in the history of the Church. But instead there has come a day of clouds and storms, and of darkness of searching and uncertainties ... And how did this come about? We will confide to you the thought that may be, we ourselves admit in free discussion, ... that there has been a power, an adversary power. Let us call him by his name: the devil... It is as if from some mysterious crack ... the smoke of Satan has entered the Temple of God.”
My research soon revealed that there are some in the Church who believe that the “crack”, to which Pope Paul VI refers, may in fact have been created precisely because of the cessation of the requirement to take the Oath Against Modernism.
I myself cannot help but wonder whether there could in fact be some truth in this contention. It is after all blatantly obvious, as far as I am concerned, how Modernism has and is working to destroy the Church from within – sometimes even led by some of the clergy, religious, theologians and others who hold positions of influence in the Church or its related organisations. (Consider the recent events regarding the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in the USA.)
The perverse desire, by so many people in the Church, to selfishly change the teaching of the Church, so that it conforms to modern ideas and norms, is plain for all to see in the variety of causes that are promoted by these people: same sex marriage; euthanasia; cohabitation; divorce and re-marriage; contraception; ordination of women; abortion; in vitro fertilisation.
In 1998, Blessed Pope John Paul II deemed it necessary to issue, motu proprio - “on his own impulse” - his apostolic letter Ad Tuendam Fidem. The letter caused modifications to be made to the Code of Canon Law. In particular, this clause below was added as a second point to Canon 750:
“Furthermore, each and everything set forth definitively by the Magisterium of the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals must be firmly accepted and held; namely, those things required for the holy keeping and faithful exposition of the deposit of faith; therefore, anyone who rejects propositions which are to be held definitively sets himself against the teaching of the Catholic Church.”
Whether Pope John Paul II was intent on reintroducing the Oath of Modernism, which some have alleged, is not really important. What is important is that the pope felt the need to speak out “to protect the faith of the Catholic Church against errors arising from certain members of the Christian faithful”. Sadly, despite this law, so many Catholics who hold positions of influence in the Church, or its related organisations, still continue to express or propose dissenting views 14 years later. As a result, Modernism continues to wreak havoc on the Church and it does so quite frequently right from within the Church.
What is of grave concern is how often the faithful are exposed to these dissenters by their own pastors, be it unwittingly in most instances. One clear example of how this happens is through the sale of Catholic newspapers via parishes. These newspapers are in many instances given privileged access to the faithful, by the relevant bishop and priest, because they are 'Catholic' newspapers. So they get to peddle their newspapers right there in the pews of our churches. At some parishes the faithful are even urged to support the newspaper. As a consequence, these 'Catholic' newspapers get to use the very place and infrastructure, which should offer the faithful a guaranteed source of doctrinally error free information, to deliver their content to the faithful. The sad reality is that more often than not the content of the Catholic newspapers contradict, challenge, question and generally create confusion amongst the faithful about the definitive teaching of the Magisterium. All of course under the guise of reporting news and encouraging dialogue. There is no doubt that the bishops would never give dissidents permission to preach during Mass. Yet, sadly, it is evident that sometimes they may just as well do so, since the faithful are often exposed to the newspaper not only before and after Mass, but also during Mass!
In 1977, Pope Paul VI said, “The tail of the devil is functioning in the disintegration of the Catholic world. The darkness of Satan has entered and spread throughout the Catholic Church even to its summit. Apostasy, the loss of the faith, is spreading throughout the world and into the highest levels within the Church.”
Who today would argue with Pope Paul VI’s observation? Confusion in the Church exists because of the number of dissenting voices operating from within the Church. The faithful are not receiving a clear message from their pastors. Instead their messages are being transmitted like a short-wave radio signal, full of interference and noise created by those 'Catholics' who abuse their access to the faithful, which the pastors of the Church have afforded them in good faith.
Maybe it is time to reintroduce the oath against modernism, including subjecting lay people of associated Catholic organisations, like the editors, writers, bloggers and journalists of Catholic newspapers, to taking the oath. For some of these people I suspect it would be a really foreign concept to have to fully accept and hold as true "each and everything set forth definitively by the Magisterium of the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals".
Oath Against Modernism
I firmly embrace and accept each and every definition that has been set forth and declared by the unerring teaching authority of the Church, especially those principal truths which are directly opposed to the errors of this day.
And first of all, I profess that God, the origin and end of all things, can be known with certainty by the natural light of reason from the created world (see Rom. 1:90), that is, from the visible works of creation, as a cause from its effects, and that, therefore, his existence can also be demonstrated.
Secondly, I accept and acknowledge the external proofs of revelation, that is, divine acts and especially miracles and prophecies as the surest signs of the divine origin of the Christian religion and I hold that these same proofs are well adapted to the understanding of all eras and all men, even of this time.
Thirdly, 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.
Fourthly, I sincerely hold that the doctrine of faith was handed down to us from the apostles through the orthodox Fathers in exactly the same meaning and always in the same purport. Therefore, I entirely reject the heretical misrepresentation that dogmas evolve and change from one meaning to another different from the one, which the Church held previously. I also condemn every error according to which, in place of the divine deposit, which has been given to the spouse of Christ to be carefully guarded by her, there is put a philosophical figment or product of a human conscience that has gradually been developed by human effort and will continue to develop indefinitely.
Fifthly, I hold with certainty and sincerely confess that faith is not a blind sentiment of religion welling up from the depths of the subconscious under the impulse of the heart and the motion of a will trained to morality; but faith is a genuine assent of the intellect to truth received by hearing from an external source. By this assent, because of the authority of the supremely truthful God, we believe to be true that which has been revealed and attested to by a personal God, our creator and lord.
Furthermore, with due reverence, I submit and adhere with my whole heart to the condemnations, declarations, and all the prescripts contained in the encyclical Pascendi and in the decree Lamentabili, especially those concerning what is known as the history of dogmas.
I also reject the error of those who say that the faith held by the Church can contradict history, and that Catholic dogmas, in the sense in which they are now understood, are irreconcilable with a more realistic view of the origins of the Christian religion.
I also condemn and reject the opinion of those who say that a well-educated Christian assumes a dual personality-that of a believer and at the same time of a historian, as if it were permissible for a historian to hold things that contradict the faith of the believer, or to establish premises which, provided there be no direct denial of dogmas, would lead to the conclusion that dogmas are either false or doubtful.
Likewise, I reject that method of judging and interpreting Sacred Scripture which, departing from the tradition of the Church, the analogy of faith, and the norms of the Apostolic See, embraces the misrepresentations of the rationalists and with no prudence or restraint adopts textual criticism as the one and supreme norm.
Furthermore, I reject the opinion of those who hold that a professor lecturing or writing on a historico-theological subject should first put aside any preconceived opinion about the supernatural origin of Catholic tradition or about the divine promise of help to preserve all revealed truth forever; and that they should then interpret the writings of each of the Fathers solely by scientific principles, excluding all sacred authority, and with the same liberty of judgment that is common in the investigation of all ordinary historical documents.
Finally, I declare that I am completely opposed to the error of the modernists who hold that there is nothing divine in sacred tradition; or what is far worse, say that there is, but in a pantheistic sense, with the result that there would remain nothing but this plain simple fact-one to be put on a par with the ordinary facts of history-the fact, namely, that a group of men by their own labour, skill, and talent have continued through subsequent ages a school begun by Christ and his apostles.
I firmly hold, then, and shall hold to my dying breath the belief of the Fathers in the charism of truth, which certainly is, was, and always will be in the succession of the episcopacy from the apostles. The purpose of this is, then, not that dogma may be tailored according to what seems better and more suited to the culture of each age; rather, that the absolute and immutable truth preached by the apostles from the beginning may never be believed to be different, may never be understood in any other way.
I promise that I shall keep all these articles faithfully, entirely, and sincerely, and guard them inviolate, in no way deviating from them in teaching or in any way in word or in writing. Thus I promise, this I swear, so help me God.
 Pope St Pius X, Sacrorum Antistitum, September 1, 1910
 Pope Paul VI, Address: On the Occasion of the Ninth Anniversary of His Election, June 29, 1972
 Pope John Paul II, Ad Tuendam Fidem, May 18, 1998
 Pope Paul VI, Address on the Sixtieth Anniversary of the Fatima Apparitions, October 13, 1977
 Pope St Pius X, Pascendi Dominici Gregis, September 8, 1907
 Pope St Pius X, Lamentabili Sane, July 3, 1907