10 September 1957 – Pius XII to Jesuits


Not amused

A priest friend of mine sent me the text of an Allocution to Jesuits made by Pius XII on 10 September 1957 (AAS 49 – pp. 802-812).  I haven’t found it in English and I don’t have the time today to render it for you, but here are a couple savory bits.

Pius is clearly concerned that the Jesuits are drifting from their moorings.  He reminds them of their Founder’s ideals for them and the special vows they make.  They are to be especially obedient, hierarchical, sound in doctrine, austere and detached from worldly things.  Note especially:

Sane inter praeclara facinora maiorum vestrorum, quibus iure gloriamini quaeque aemulari contenditis, illud ceteris praestat, vestram nempe Societatem, Cathedrae Petri quam intime adhaerentem, doctrinam a Pontifice illius Sedis, ad quam «propter potentiorem principalitatem necesse est omnem convenire Ecclesiam, hoc est eos qui sunt undique fideles» propositam, semper intactam custodire, docere, defendere, promovere conatam esse; nec quidquam quod periculosam vel non satis probatam novitatem sapiat tolerare.


Hanc autem laudem rectitudinis doctrinae et fidelitatis in obedientia Christi Vicario debita, nemo a vobis tollat; nec locus sit inter vos cuidam superbiae «liberi examinis», heterodoxae potius quam catholicae mentis propriae, qua unusquisque ea etiam quae a Sede Apostolica emanant, ad trutinam proprii iudicii revocare non refugit; nec toleretur coniventia cum quibusdam autumantibus magis ex iis quae fiunt quam ex iis quae fieri debent normas agendi atque ad aeternam salutem contendendi esse desumendas; nec sinantur pro libitu sentire et agere ii quibus disciplina ecclesiastica videatur res antiquata, vanus, ut aiunt, «formalismus», quo quis, ut veritati serviat, se facile eximat oportet. Si enim eiusmodi mens, ab incredulorum coetibus mutuata, in agmine vestro libere serperet, nonne brevi inter vos reperirentur indigni et infidi filii vestri Patris Ignatii, quamprimum e corpore vestrae Societatis resecandi?


HA! And if they were to get rid of harmful elements quamprimum… as soon as possible… from their own body, does it not stand to reason that, if they don’t do that, the Church should – quamprimum – get rid of that harmful foreign body from the body of the Church? 

Because Pius seems to have thought that the Jesuits were getting too worldly, he beats them for a couple paragraphs with exhortations not to use to many conveniences or travel much or spend time outside of religious houses.  They should practice mortifications.  He even says that they should stop using tobacco: “Inter ea annumerandus est usus, qui hac nostra aetate tantopere diffunditur, tabaci, quo variis formis adhibito homines delectantur.”  Jesuits have, in the past, had quite the relationship with tobacco, especially as missionaries in the New World and the Far East.

If I may be allowed a digression, I will observe that Leo XIII, St. Pius X, Pius XI and John XXIII used tobacco, either via snuff, cigars or cigarettes.  If memory serves, when younger so did Benedict XVI (some say he liked US Marlboros).  [UPDATE: Apparently not.] Not to get too far from the point of this post – the swift reformation of the Jesuits or their rapid suppression – my favorite papal tobacco story remains – and always will remain – that of the great Papa Lambertini Benedict XIV (whose Z-SWAG is available HERE – read more about it HERE with explanations).  Lambertini was a lover of tobacco in the form of snuff, which was very popular in the 18th century.  Decorative snuff boxes of the era are found in every great museum of the world.  One day, in a great gesture of friendly papal condescension, Benedict offered to a cardinal a pinch of snuff from The Apostolic Snuff Box.  The cardinal declined, saying, “Thank you, no, Your Holiness.  I don’t have that vice.”  Never at a loss for words, Benedict retorted, “Your Eminence, were it a vice, you would have it.”



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Dimitri_Cavalli says:

    Having conducted a lot of research on Pius XII and published a number of articles about him over the years, I believe that part of the problem why he is often attacked is that he rarely photographed well. In fact, Paulist Press picked the most sinister photo of him to put on the English translation of the Rev. Pierre Blet, S.J.’s excellent, “Pius XII and the Second World War: According to the Archives of the Vatican” (1999).

    However, in moving pictures, the pope comes across as nicer. And many people, Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant, reported how pleasant, polite, and knowledgable he was to them during audiences.

  2. Fr. Lovell says:

    In his book, “My Brother, the Pope,” Msgr. Georg Ratzinger specifically mentions that Pope Benedict XVI never used or even tried cigarettes.

    [Thanks for that.]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  3. Animadversor says:

    Truly, among the noble deeds of your forefathers, of which you rightly boast and which you strive to emulate, this one surpasses the others, that indeed your Society, cleaving as closely as possible to the throne of Peter, has endeavored to guard, teach, defend and advance intact the teaching proposed by the Pontiff of that See, with which,

    on account of its preëminent authority, it is necessary that every Church, that is, all the faithful everywhere, should agree

    and also that it does not tolerate anything that smacks of dangerous or insufficiently-tested novelty.


    Moreover, let no one steal from you this renown for orthodoxy and faithfulness in due obedience to the Vicar of Christ; nor let there be among you a place for any pride of “free-thinking,” which belongs rather to a heterodox than to a Catholic mentality, by which each man does not eschew to summon to the scale of his own judgment even those things that proceed from the Apostolic See; nor let there be tolerated any connivance with certain persons who assert that standards of behavior and of striving for eternal salvation are to be chosen from among those things that are done rather than from those that ought to be done; nor let there be allowed to opine and to act according to their pleasure those to whom it seems that ecclesiastical discipline is something antiquated, vane—“formalism,” as it’s called—which it unquestionably behooves someone to dispense with so that he might be a servant of the truth. For if a mentality of this kind, borrowed from the throngs of the unbelieving, should slither unhindered among your ranks, will not shortly there be discovered among you unworthy and faithless sons of your Father Ignatius, who ought forthwith to be cut off from the body of your Society?

    For any errors or infelicities I apologize and offer as some small excuse the late hour and the many years since my formal study of Latin. Suggestions for correction or other improvement will be very gratefully received.

  4. Animadversor says:

    vane—“formalism,” as it’s called—

    should be

    —empty “formalism,” as it’s called—

  5. Boniface says:

    Dimitri, great point regarding the photos of the great Ven. Pius XII. Such a lie, often spread, that he never smiled in photos – and so easy for an honest person to check up on with a simple search that as you well know turns up many photos of him grinning. He was a handsome man and knew how to “perform” the role of pope beautifully, with dignity, poise, and true fatherliness (this is emphatically not a criticism of other popes).
    I noticed he never or almost never looked into the camera for posed shots – doubtless an old papal protocol that has clear roots in and connections to even older courtly protocols. I thought of that with the recent Trump/HH Francis kerfuffle in the media, as HH Francis seems to have his own variant on the practice – I.e. not smiling in formally posed photos with politicians.
    I can’t resist, myself, when lecturing on the V2 era, using in my slides only smiling photos of Ven. Pius XII and solemn (wearing the tiara is a plus!) ones of St John XXIII, just to throw off the silly “mean pope vs jolly pope” narrative the media has pushed for decades. God bless you for your fine work.

  6. Caspian says:

    Father Z, I know you are busy, but a full translation of this document would be edifying and encouraging to many of us.

  7. otsowalo says:

    There were a number of old Jesuits who got pissed when Pope John Paul II appointed an interim superior general of his own choice, instead of letting them elect after Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ resigned.

    [Which meant that they were not good Jesuits… not if they became angry (or did not mean drunk?) because the Pope – to whom they owe complete obedience – chose to act. They are bound to obey perinde ac cadaver.]

  8. bibi1003 says:

    I, for one, love this picture of Pope Pius XII, in light of the subject of this post.

  9. JamesA says:

    Have we never had a pontiff who enjoyed the pipe, that most noble and refined method of partaking ?!

  10. Dimitri_Cavalli says:

    Pope Paul VI smoked cigarettes. He died in his 80s.

    The Jewish author Dennis Prager once said, to much outrage, that if the worst things his children end up doing is smoking, he will be happy and think he succeeded as a parent.

  11. Sieber says:

    I seem to recall that Pius had a several pipes that Sr. Pascalina retrieved along with his canaries as she was being tossed out of the Vatican by Cardinal Tisserant. I could be wrong. It’s been years since I read her biography, La Popessa. The argument between Sheen and Spellman in front of the Pope is to be relished.

  12. SenexCalvus says:

    If memory serves, the late Fr. Karl Rahner, S.J., did attempt to give up smoking in obedience to the Holy Father’s exhortation.

  13. Boniface says:

    A cigar factory was built in the papal states under Bl. Pius IX. St Pius IX is reported to have smoked cigars, and Leo XIII a taker of snuff.

  14. Imrahil says:

    Let me note briefly that

    from the way our reverend host presented it here, cutting short on tobacco or quitting the use of it was listed under “mortifications” (here in the context of consecrated life), where it obviously does have its place.

    As does cutting short on meat even though not being vegeterians. Just saying.

  15. NoraLee9 says:

    Gratias tibi ago.

  16. Christophorus says:

    Sorry this took so long — but the english translation can be found in The Pope Speaks: Spring 1958 page 447 (Vol.4 #4).

    [Good to know.]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

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