A Papal Bull from Clement XI

This is a bit of fun, in a way. It seems that Pope Clement XI, gloriously reigning in 1713, issued the dogmatic constitution Unigenitus condemning the errors of the Jansenist known (in Latin) as Paschasius Quesnell. The condemnation can be found here.

Pope Clement condemned 101 of Quesnell’s propositions as

false, captious, ill-sounding, offensive to pious ears, scandalous, pernicious, rash, injurious to the Church and its practices, contumelious to Church and State, seditious, impious, blasphemous, suspected and savoring of heresy, favoring heretics, heresy, and schism, erroneous, bordering on heresy, often condemned, heretical, and reviving various heresies, especially those contained in the famous propositions of Jansenius.

Do you get the idea?

Now to be fair, Clement XI isn’t saying that every one of the 101 propositions is all those things, but rather that each of them is at least one of those things. So it’s not quite as negative as it seems.

Propositions 80-86 will interest Pray Tell readers, for they treat the twin concerns of Virgil Michel OSB when he founded Liturgical Press: the Bible and active participation.

As you have a look at them below, don’t let yourself get caught in a tangle of double negatives, wondering which side the pope (or you) are on. I advise that you read each proposition with an eye toward agreeing with it. If you do, consider yourself condemned. At least as of 1713.

Here you go.

The hundred and one condemned propositions are as follows:

  • …..80. The reading of sacred Scripture is for all. Acts viii. 28.
  • 81. The obscurity of the holy word of God is not a reason for the laity to excuse themselves from the reading thereof. Acts viii. 31.
  • 82. The Lord’s day ought to be sanctified by Christians with the readings of piety, and above all, of the holy Scriptures. It is damnable to wish to restrain a Christian from such reading. Acts xv. 21.
  • 83. It is an illusion to persuade oneself that a knowledge of the mysteries of religion ought not to be communicated to females by the reading of the sacred books. The abuse of the Scriptures has arisen, and heresies have sprung up, not from the simplicity of women, but from the haughty knowledge of men. John iv. 26.
  • 84. To snatch the New Testament out of the hands of Christians, or to keep it closed to them, by taking from them that method of understanding it, is to shut the mouth of Christ against them. Matt. v. 2.
  • 85. To interdict to Christians the reading of sacred Scripture, especially of the Gospel, is to interdict the use of light to the sons of light, and to cause them to suffer a certain kind of excommunication. Luke xi. 33. 1693.
  • 86. To snatch from the simple people this consolation, of joining their voice to the voice of the whole Church, is a custom contrary to the apostolic practice, and to the intention of God. 1 Cor. xiv. 16.

From Condemnation of the Errors of Paschasius Quesnell, Bull of Clement XI, 1713.

So then, we can take away from people the possibility of joining their voice to the church’s singing (cf. 86) and this would be in line with apostolic practice and the intention of God.

As is well known, there is only continuity in Catholic tradition, never rupture or contradiction. Two thousand years of, really, non-stop unanimity, with any development being but a deepening of already-known truth. If anyone tells you otherwise, deviously quoting facts of history at you, vigorously resist them. You probably have yourself a modernist. They probably think that Vatican II innovated here or there too.

Your task, then, is to read no. 86 in continuity with Pius X, Sacrosanctum Concilium, and the reformed liturgy of Paul VI. Go for it.




  1. Marvellous stuff – real Catholicism !!!. And not surprisingly a favoured text of the Neo-Cons/Neo-Orthodox, along with the Syllabus of Errors.
    Time to Make Catholicism – Roman Catholicism of course – Great Again.

  2. View from the Pew
    Regarding: Clement xi and the printing industry
    – Yup, one way to control the pernicious printing industry is to condemn the reading of the most printed book, and thus the book that brought in the most income to printers, that is , the bible.
    – Doing so clearly was an attempt to forestall the laity from learning how ill prepared many of the clergy generally were when it came to teaching scripture.
    – Nevertheless, especially in the ‘mission lands’ the clergy set out to translate Sacred Scriptures into the languages of those that they came to serve. Thus making scripture, in the common language, available to the laity.

  3. There is certainly continuity in Unigenitus with the Roman maxim that has long prevailed, that the pope and his court are the final arbiters of how Roman Catholics are to practice their faith. So ecumenical councils like Trent and Vatican II were treated as unwanted interlopers in that process.

    The Jansenists did not develop their views on the reading of scripture in a vacuum. They had produced a highly regarded version in French, the “Bible Sacy,” in the 17th century and they used it actively. Like the other “unauthorized” versions of Luther, Tyndale et al., it was considered a challenge to the traditional teaching authority of bishops.

    1. Yes the Bible du Maistre de Sacy is a masterpiece of 17th century French prose. It was also Louis Bouyer’s preferred French translation of the Bible, and the one he used in class in his early days as a priest of the French Oratory when he taught school at their Collège de Juilly (alas closed in 2012).

  4. Yes. Dear Pope Clement XI Albani, he of the Chinese Rites controversy (which also included the issue of Catholic priests using Chinese costume as Mass vestments) where the hermeneutic of continuity was conspicuous by its absence: opposed by Innocent X (1644-1655), approved by Alexander VII (1655-1667), banned again by Clement XI (1700-1721) and Benedict XVI (1740-1758) and approved by Pius XII (1939-1958).

  5. I am surprised to discover tolerance of Jansenism in Fr. Anthony’s article. Perhaps PTB might one day publish an article on the intense inward contemplation of the Jansenists? The silent but intense study of scripture sears the intellects of many.

    1. Oh sure, I like the good things in Jansenism! It’s a pity that some of their good liturgical ideas were discredited by association with Jansenism. This slowed down the inevitable drive toward liturgical reform in some ways.

      1. Except it wasn’t inevitable, was it? That also sounds like we’ve already reached or accomplished it. I am not quite sure about either.

        One unfortunate constant appears to be a temptation towards taint by association – shibbolething – by Right-Thinking People(TM) about Those Other People Over There.

      2. Oh, when I look at Gueranger and Tubingen and Beauduin and Parsch, I think some sort of liturgical reform was inevitable. The recognition that the status quo wasn’t working was becoming widespread, and it ran deep. Reform happened big time with the Office psalter under Pius X, and Holy Week under Pius XII. Of course it all could have happened differently – which probably wouldn’t have mattered that much – and of course it’s never over.

      3. Fr Ruff

        I guess my comment came from making sure that we don’t conflate and equate “liturgical reform” as necessarily and sufficiently what we’ve experienced since the time of Clement XI.

        So I think we are in agreement. Though I would suggest the necessary condition was more likely in the sacramental revolution of Pope St Pius X: once he implemented Trent’s exceedingly delayed vision of frequent active communion within the liturgy (as opposed to infrequent communion more typically experienced a-liturgically) by the faithful at large (rather than a narrower elite group with access to a personal confessor), I do think the longstanding common praxis of the Roman rite would shift in turn. (As some of the fringier members of Traditionalism seem to be aware.)

  6. In terms of the challenge given, in relation to No. 86 being read in continuity, it isn’t actually that difficult at all.

    Neither Pius X, Sacrosanctum Concilium or the reformed liturgy of Paul VI give us any reason to believe that if a Pope decided on a disciplinary basis to prohibit lay singing in some circumstance or other, that it would be intrinsically against God’s will. It is after all never wise to presume to tell future Popes what they can and can’t do from a disciplinary perspective, as the developments at Vatican II themselves show.

    1. Baloney. Forced. Active participation isn’t just a minor disciplinary practice, able to be eliminated at whim. It’s a strong teaching with doctrinal (ecclesiological) roots. That is to say: we have before us a contradiction within the magisterium. Admit it.

      1. Actuosa participatio is more concerned with internal disposition rather than external actions. This is highlighted with Pope Francis’ reminder about the importance of silence in the Mass. Thus, actuosa participatio can be accomplished by active listening to a song as well as the actually singing of it. This is not to say that singing by the congregation is not also a good.

      2. To Fr Forte: not so.

        SC says that the Church desires that her faithful “should be led to that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people … is their right and duty by reason of their baptism.” The critical Latin words are ad plenam illam, consciam atque actuosam liturgicarum celebrationum participationem ducantur.

        It is simply not the case that actuosa refers entirely or even primarily to internal disposition. In fact a good translation of actuosus is “full of activity”. And don’t forget plenam, “full”.

        This article quotes the 1958 instruction De musica sacra, explaining that “the participation of those present becomes fuller (plenior) if to internal attention is joined external participation, expressed, that is to say, by external actions such as the position of the body (genuflecting, standing, sitting), ceremonial gestures, or, in particular, the responses, prayers and singing . . .”

        There are two incorrect assertions that resound through the Internet Traditionalist echo chamber. First, the one you set out: that participatio actuosa means only, or primarily, interior participation, receptiveness, etc. and that it has been mistranslated for many years.

        Second, that those who believe it is better for the faithful to understand the words of the liturgy, or to join in the responses proper to them, or to take the roles that liturgical law permits (acting as lectors, or example) have no care for interior receptiveness and no desire other than that ‘everyone be constantly rushing around and carrying things and doing stuff’.

        Both canards deserve a swift burial.

      3. Jonathan Day,
        I said that actuosa participatio is more concerned with internal disposition rather than external actions, not that it is merely this or limited to this. It is a question ends and means. Even De musica sacra says as much in the paragraph preceding the one that you cited:

        Interior participation is the most important; this consists in paying devout attention, and in lifting up the heart to God in prayer. In this way the faithful “are intimately joined with their High Priest…and together with Him, and through Him offer (the Sacrifice), making themselves one with Him.”

        The instruction continues by referring to Pope Pius XII’s encyclical, Mediator Dei, which states that exterior participation can be accomplished in more than one way. It then states: “When the papal documents treat of “active participation” they are speaking of this general participation (Mediator Dei: AAS 39 [1947] 530-537), of which the outstanding example is the priest, and his ministers who serve at the altar with the proper interior dispositions, and carefully observe the rubrics, and ceremonies.”

        In Mediator Dei, Pius XII stated that “the chief element of divine worship must be interior” and that the chief aim of external participation “is to foster and promote the people’s piety and intimate union with Christ and His visible minister and to arouse those internal sentiments and dispositions which should make our hearts become like to that of the High Priest of the New Testament.”

        Given that Vatican II was merely reiterating actuosa participatio, not inventing it, this is the understanding of it which we must have. I also suggest you read the entire article form Msgr. Schuler that you linked. He is actually arguing for a distinction between activa and actuosa and makes the same point as I did about active listening.

    1. Vis-à-vis Father Forte’s comment about internal or external participation, it is a false dichotomy and a form of dualism to attempt to compare them. A wholistic, biblical approach to human anthropology eliminates the perceived competition.

  7. Fr Forte, I have read Msgr Schuler’s article, every word of it. It indeed contrasts actuosus with activus, but not in the way you describe.

    I have also read Mediator Dei, in English and in Latin, and the instruction De Musica Sacra et Sacra Liturgia from the SCR, also in Latin. The English translations of De Musica Sacra on the web, including the one you apparently clipped from Oremus, are weak; they mix up subjects and objects, for example. And praeprimis could mean “most important”, but I think a better translation is something like “foremost” or “first of all” – which doesn’t lapse into the dualism that Gerard Flynn rightly criticizes.

    The Latin:

    Missa natura sua postulat,ut omnes adstantes, secundum modum sibi proprium, eidem participant. Quae quidem participatio praeprimis interna esse debet … Adstantium vero participatio plenior evadit, si internae attentioni externa accedat participatio, actibus scilicet externis manifestata, uti corporis positione (genuflectendo, stando, sedendo), gestibus ritualibus, maxime vero responsionibus, precationibus et canto.

    In English:

    Of its nature the Mass demands that all those who are present should participate, each in his own proper way.

    This participation must first of all be interior … The true participation of those present ascends to greater completeness if, to this interior attention, exterior participation is added, manifested by external acts, such as the position of the body (genuflecting, standing, sitting), the ritual gestures, and, above all, by the responses, the prayers and the singing.

    As Gerard Flynn says, there is no competition between the two kinds of participation.

    Of course the fathers of Vatican II didn’t coin the concept of actuosa participatio. Whoever said that they had? But where do you come up with the throwaway line that they were “merely reiterating” it or the suggestion that the Church’s understanding of the idea hasn’t grown and developed over time?

    1. In stating that actuosa participatio is more concerned with internal disposition I am only following Pope Pius XII in Mediator Dei, who stated concerning external action in the liturgy:

      Their chief aim is to foster and promote the people’s piety and intimate union with Christ and His visible minister and to arouse those internal sentiments and dispositions which should make our hearts become like to that of the High Priest of the New Testament.

      Eo autem potissimum spectant, ut christianorum pietatem eorumque intimam cum Christo cum eiusque adspectabili administro coniunctionem alant ac foveant, itemque internos illos sensus et habitus excitent, quibus animus noster Summo Sacerdoti Novi Testamenti assimuletur oportet.

      This is not a denial of the importance of external actions or that participatio actuosa means only, or primarily, interior participation. Nor does it oppose the external with the internal. Rather, all it says is that the external is directed toward the internal. I do not deny that actuosa participatio includes external actions, but that it means only, or primarily, exterior participation. It includes both.

      My main point was that the lack of congregational singing does not negate Vatican II’s call for actuosa participatio. As Msgr. Schuler stated:

      One of the most active and demanding of human actions is that of listening. It requires strict attention and summons up in a person his total concentrative effort.… To listen attentively demands full human concentration. Listening can be the most active form of participation, demanding effort and attention. Truly, as the scriptures tell us, faith demands hearing, fides ex auditu.

      With that in mind, surely the baptized Christian who listens with care to the proclamation of the gospel or the singing of the preface at Mass truly has achieved participation, both activa and actuosa.

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