Probe Nostis - Pope Gregory XVI - The Papal Library


Probe Nostis Encyclical of Pope Gregory XVI on The Propagation of the Faith September 18, 1840 Venerable Brothers, We Give You Greeting and Our Apostolic Blessing. You are well aware, venerable brothers, of the many misfortunes which now afflict the Catholic Church. You know, too, that holy religion is being attacked by the pollution of errors of every kind and by the unbridled rashness of renegades. At the same time heretics and unbelievers attempt by cleverness and deceit to pervert the hearts and minds of the faithful You are aware, in shore, that practically no effort has been left untried in the attempt to overthrow the unshakeable building of the holy city. In particular, We are obliged, alas! to see the wicked enemies of truth spread everywhere unpunished. They harass religion with ridicule, the Church with insults, and Catholics with arrogance and calumny. They even enter cities and towns, establish schools of error and impiety, and publish their poisonous teachings which are adapted to secret deceit by misusing the natural sciences and recent discoveries. Furthermore they enter the hovels of the poor, traverse the countryside, and seek the acquaintance of the farmers and the lowest classes. They try every method of attracting the uneducated, especially the youth, to their sects, and of making them desert the Catholic faith, whether by means of Bibles inaccurately translated into the vernacular, pestilential newspapers and pamphlets of little weight, or by seductive speeches, pretended charity, and gifts of money. 2. We mention events which you yourselves witness. For despite your sorrow and your pastoral denunciations, you are obliged to tolerate in your dioceses these men spreading heresy and unbelief, these assertive preachers who ceaselessly waylay and ravage your flock by going around in sheep's clothing while inwardly they are ravening wolves. What more can We add? There is hardly any uncivilized district left in the entire world to which headquarters of the main societies of heretics and unbelievers have not sent scouts and emissaries without counting the cost. These men, by waging secret or open war on the Catholic religion and its pastors and ministers, tear the faithful from the bosom of the Church and prevent unbelievers from entering it. 3. You can easily imagine the straits in which We live, since We are laden with the care of Christ's flock and the churches, and must therefore render a detailed account to the divine Prince of Shepherds. For this reason We decided to recall in this letter the causes of the troubles which beset both Us and you. You can then reflect how important it is for all the bishops to redouble their efforts so as to break the assault of the enemies, to beat back their attacks, and to forewarn and protect the faithful from their clever appeals. We have been doing this, and We shall not stop. We know that you have likewise done so, and We are confident that you will continue. 4. However, in order not to lose heart, we should all be sure not to fear them as if We had to overcome them by our own strength, since Christ is both our counsel and our courage. As we can do nothing without Him, with Him we can do all things. To give strength to the preachers of the Gospel and ministers of the sacraments, He says, 'Behold I am with you all days even to the end of the world' and also, 'I have spoken these things to you that you may have peace in me; in the world you shall have affliction but take heart, I have overcome the world.' So clear and indisputable are these promises that no scandals should make us weak lest we seem unthankful for God's choice of us even though His help is as effective as His promises are true.(1) 5. Even in our time all can see those clear results of the divine promise which never have failed and never shall fail in the Church. They are plainly seen in the unconquerable constancy of the Church amid so many enemy attacks, in the spread of religion amid such disturbance and dangers, and in the consolation which the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation gives us in every trial. On the one hand We have to lament the loss which the Catholic religion has suffered and continues to suffer in certain districts. But the many victories which the unconquerable constancy of Catholics and their priests has won and continues to win even in those districts gives us ground for joy. We rejoice greatly also at its marvelously abundant gains despite so many hindrances. This proves even to our enemies that oppression of the Church frequently contributes to its glory and strengthens the faithful. 6. We are thankful for the success of apostolic missions in America, the Indies, and other faithless lands. The indefatigable zeal of many apostolic men has led them abroad into those places. Relying not on wealth nor on any army, they are protected by the shield of faith alone. They fearlessly fight the Lord's battles against heresy and unbelief by private and public speech and writings. They are inspired with a burning love and undeterred by rough roads and heavy toil. They search out those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death to summon them to the light and life of the Catholic Religion. So, fearless in the face of every danger, they bravely enter the woods and caves of savages, gradually pacify them by Christian kindness, and prepare them for true faith and real virtue. At length they snatch them from the devil's rule, by the bath of regeneration and promote them to the freedom of God's adopted sons. 7. However, We are reduced to tears both of sorrow in Our detestation of cruel persecutors and executioners, and of consolation in beholding the heroic constancy of the confessors of the faith, as We recall here the glorious deeds of the new martyrs in the Far East. We have already praised them at length in an address to the consistory. Tonkin and Cochin are still wet with the blood of many bishops, priests, and faithful. They have repeated the achievement of the early Christian martyrs in facing a cruel death for Christ undismayed by torture. This is a major victory for the Church and for religion. It casts the persecutors into confusion when they see that even today the divine promises of unending protection and help are really fulfilled. This is the reason why, in the words of St. Leo: the religion established by the sacrament of the Cross of Christ cannot be destroyed by any kind of cruelty.(2) 8. These events bring consolation a

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