PODCAzT 150: Leo XIII on Right Christian Conduct and the “bent of our age”

For this 15oth PODCAzT I offer Pope Leo XIII’s 1888 Encyclical Exuente iam anno, On Right Christian Conduct.

Despite the claims of many, the Church began neither with the Second Vatican Council nor the Pontificate of Francis.   There are inestimable treasures available to us in the magisterial documents of Popes stretching back through the centuries.

Today let us hear, in its entirety, this wonderful encyclical which could be addressed – and is – to us in this troubling age.

I’ll give you some pointers about Leo XIII, talk about the 1880’s and specifically 1888 and then give you the whole text.  If you can imagine such a thing, encyclicals were used to be brief and clear. They didn’t make you scratch your head as you turned to the Roman Catechism or the documents of the Council of Trent to make sure that what you just read was really what you just read.  But I digress.


Leo paints a bleak picture, but he also offers consolations and counsel for how can can get out of this mess we are in with God’s help.  He makes a powerful plea to clergy, to priests, for learning and for virtue and for detachment.

Leo makes a strong case for the only thing that is going to help turn society around and avert the disaster that awaited every state and empire in history when it turned away from virtue. And Leo points to the fact that the pursuit of true virtues can only be rooted in faith in Christ.

Listen for the what he calls the “bent of our age”, meaning the overriding direction. Tune your ears for this paragraph:

“Nor is there any power mighty enough to bridle the passions, for it follows that the power of law is broken, and that all authority is loosened, if the belief in an ever-living God, Who commands what is right and forbids what is wrong is rejected. Hence the bonds of civil society will be utterly shattered when every man is driven by an unappeasable covetousness to a perpetual struggle, some striving to keep their possessions, others to obtain what they desire. This is well nigh the bent of our age.”

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. jameeka says:

    Thank you very much, Father Z. Very hopeful, and I think you are correct about the knock-on effect that individual priests can have ( especially with, but sometimes in spite of, their bishops).

  2. CandS says:

    Listening to the podcast now. Thank you for taking the time to make this. You set the background for the age in a very enriching way.

  3. HighMass says:

    Despite the claims of many, the Church began neither with the Second Vatican Council nor the Pontificate of Francis.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    sad to say many Catholics believe that the church began withVII and Frances……..what a bunch of bologna!!!!! Liberals!

  4. bombermac says:

    Thank you for producing this, Father. It was outstanding. Now I’m eager to track down some of Pope Leo XIII’s multiple encyclicals on the Rosary (or perhaps I’ll just buy the book you link to!)

  5. Blaise says:

    Thank you for this Father. I listened to it on my way to and from work. It must have been quite a labour,hopefully of love. I particularly liked the way he describes having spent great efforts in support of truth and correcting error,what I believe Fr Hunwicke would call acting as a remora, before going on to speak now about living a holy life.
    I wondered,is the translation your own and do you have the Latin in front of you and as it were read that for us in English?

  6. Semper Gumby says:

    Paraphrasing Leo XIII: “We acknowledge the power of God Who can draw great good from matters of the smallest moment.” Great line. Great podcast and sterling intro and closing.

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