POST TAM DIUTURNAS
BRIEF OF POPE PIUS VII TO MGR. de BOULOGNE, BISHOP OF TROYES,
DATED 29TH APRIL, 1814
Translated by John S. Daly.
Venerable Brother, health and the Apostolic benediction.
After such lengthy and most vehement storms by which the vessel of Peter was tossed in a wondrous manner, and by which, also, We who unworthily captain her, seemed to be shaken and almost overwhelmed, at last the violence of the oncoming winds begins to be weakened and We are confident that tranquillity is being restored in accordance with the long-standing wishes and prayers of Ourself and of all good men. But while, having Ourself recovered Our former liberty (at a time when We least hoped for it), We were rejoicing, not so much that these things have been restored to Us, as that they have been restored to the Church; and while, also, we were humbly giving thanks to the Father of Mercies for this great benefit great was the consolation brought to Us when We learnt that the king-designate of the French nation was a scion of that most glorious dynasty which also once brought forth the most holy King Louis [St. Louis IX] and shone by its signal service to the Church of God and to this Apostolic See. And indeed to such an extent did this joy pervade Our soul that, although news sheets alone had brought to Us the most happy tidings of this matter, yet, taking no account of the received tradition, We determined to direct the extraordinary Nuncio into France so that, by his mediation, We might congratulate the named king upon the restoration of his power in the most forthright terms. However, the gravest sorrow swiftly disturbed this joy of Ours when the public dailies reported the new constitution of the kingdom that had been decreed by the Senate of Paris.
For We had hoped, affairs having so happily changed, not only that all impediments organized against the Catholic religion in France would be removed with the utmost speed (as We have unceasingly demanded), but also that, as the opportunity presented itself, provision would also be made for her splendour and ornament. We saw at once that a deep silence was preserved in the constitution concerning this, and that there was not even any mention made of Almighty God, by whom kings reign and princes command. You will find it easy, Venerable Brother, to convince yourself of how grave, how bitter and how painful this matter was to Us, to whom has been committed by Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Our Lord, the whole of Christendom. For how can We tolerate with equanimity that the Catholic religion, which France received in the first ages of the Church, which was confirmed in that very kingdom by the blood of so many most valiant martyrs, which by far the greatest part of the French race professes, and indeed bravely and constantly defended even among the most grave adversities and persecutions and dangers of recent years, and which, finally, that very dynasty to which the designated king belongs both professes and has defended with much zeal - that this Catholic, this most holy religion, We say, should not only not be declared to be the only one in the whole of France supported by the bulwark of the laws and by the authority of the Government, but should even, in the very restoration of the monarchy, be entirely passed over? But a much more grave, and indeed very bitter, sorrow increased in Our heart - a sorrow by which We confess that We were crushed, overwhelmed and torn in two - from the twenty-second article of the constitution in which We saw, not only that "liberty of religion and of conscience" (to use the same words found in the article) were permitted by the force of the constitution, but also that assistance and patronage were promised both to this liberty and also to the ministers of these different forms of "religion". There is certainly no need of many words, in addressing you, to make you fully recognize by how lethal a wound the Catholic religion in France is struck by this article. For when the liberty of all "religions" is indiscriminately asserted, by this very fact truth is confounded with error and the holy and immaculate Spouse of Christ, the Church, outside of which there can be no salvation, is set on a par with the sects of heretics and with Judaic perfidy itself. For when favour and patronage is promised even to the sects of heretics and their ministers, not only their persons, but also their very errors, are tolerated and fostered: a system of errors in which is contained that fatal and never sufficiently to be deplored HERESY which, as St. Augustine says (de Haeresibus, no.72), "asserts that all heretics proceed correctly and tell the truth: which is so absurd that it seems incredible to me."
But We ought no less to wonder at and grieve over the freedom of printing guaranteed and permitted by Article 23 of the constitution; by which indeed the experience of past times itself teaches, if anyone could doubt it, what great perils and what certain poisoning of faith and morals are encouraged. For it is quite clear that it is principally by this means that, first, the morals of people were depraved, then their faith corrupted and overthrown, and finally seditions, riots and rebellions stirred up among them. Given the present state of great corruption of mankind, these most grave evils would still be an object of fear if - which may God prevent - the free power were permitted to anyone of publishing whatever he pleased. Nor indeed are We without other causes of grief in this new constitution of the kingdom, especially in articles 6, 24 and 25. We shall forbear to expound these to you individually since We do not doubt that your Fraternity will easily perceive in what direction these articles tend. Indeed in such great and so just perturbation of Our soul We are comforted by the hope that the king-designate does not subscribe to the articles of the proposed constitution which We have mentioned; indeed We promise ourselves this most certainly, on account of the ancestral piety and zeal for religion with which We have no doubt that he is enkindled. But since, if We were silent during the peril of faith and of souls, We should most certainly betray Our ministry, We have decided meanwhile to send this letter to you, Venerable Brother, whose faith and priestly strength have been so persuasively demonstrated to Us, not only so that it may be thoroughly known that We most vehemently reject those things which We have hitherto expounded to you, and whatever may perchance be proposed contrary to the Catholic religion, but also so that, having conferred also with the other bishops of the French churches, you would apply yourself to the counsels and studies which We have enjoined upon you in order that the grave evils which, unless they be most swiftly driven away, threaten the Church in France, should be averted, and that those laws and decrees and other sanctions of government concerning which, as you well know, We have never ceased to lament in recent years, and which are still flourishing, should be removed. Present yourself therefore to the king-designate; intimate to him the most vehement sorrow by which, after such great adversities and tribulations hitherto suffered, amidst the general rejoicing of all, Our soul, on account of the foregoing, is beset, and tormented; expound what grave injuries to the Catholic religion, what grave dangers to souls, what destruction of faith would be wrought in France if assent were granted to the articles of the constitution which has been drafted; let him know that We are entirely persuaded that he cannot desire to open his reign with such an inauspicious beginning as to inflict upon the Catholic religion this most serious and almost incurable injury; and tell him that, on the contrary, God Himself, in whose power are the laws of all kingdoms, most certainly demands from him that he should employ that power which He has, to the joy of all good men and especially of Ourself, restored to him, particularly for the defence and embellishment of the Church of God; and that We hope and fervently trust that it will come to pass, by the inspiration of God, that Our voice, relayed by yourself, will touch his soul, so that, following in the footsteps of his predecessors who on account of their having professed and so often vindicated the Catholic religion merited from this Holy See the title of Most Christian Kings, he may do what he is bound to do, what all good men expect him to do, what We, with burning eagerness, implore him to do: namely, to undertake the patronage of the Catholic Faith. Exert, Venerable Brother, all your strength, and the zeal for religion which enflames you. Employ in this most great and most holy duty the grace in which you are so strong, and your outstanding eloquence. You will certainly receive from the Lord what you should say, and We also do not omit to implore holy assistance for you by Our prayers, We who meanwhile most lovingly impart to you, and to the flock committed to your care, the Apostolic benediction.
Given at Cesena, 29th April l8l4, in the fifteenth year of Our Pontificate.
PIUS P.P. VII
This translation was made from the original Latin text which is regrettably not found in the Roman Bullarium, but is included on pp. xciii, et seq., of the first volume of Sermons et Discours Inedits de M. de Boulogne, Eveque de Troyes (Vander Schelden, Gand, l827). A French translation is included in Paix Interieure des Nations, a collection of papal documents edited by the Benedictines of Solesmes.
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