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Syllabus of Errors

A list of eighty propositions condemning the doctrines of liberalism attached to the encyclical Quanta Cura issued by Pius IX* on 8 December 1864. The first impulse toward the drawing up of the Syllabus came from the Provincial Council of Spoleto in 1849 when Gioacchino Vincenza Pecci, bishop of Perugia (later Leo XIII*) requested a condemnation of modern errors. He wanted to bring together under the form of a constitution the chief errors of the time. Preparation of the Syllabus began in 1852 and continued over a period of twelve years. In 1860 O.P. Gerbet issued a Pastoral Instruction in which he listed eighty-five errors. This list, which became the basis of the Syllabus, was modified into sixty- one theses and was approved by an assembly of bishops at Rome in 1862. The final stage of preparation began with the appointment of a new commission by Pius IX which incorporated thirty of the approved sixty-one theses in its formulation of the eighty errors to be condemned. The wording of the errors was taken from the earlier official declarations of Pius IX. A reference was added to each of the eighty theses to indicate its content so as to determine the true meaning and theological value of the subjects treated.

The Syllabus was arranged under ten headings: Pantheism, Naturalism, and Absolute Rationalism; Moderate Rationalism; Indifferentism and False Tolerance in Religious matters; Socialism, Communism, Secret Societies, Bible Societies, and Liberal Clerical Associations; the Church and its Rights; the State and its Relation to the Church; Natural and Christian Ethics; Christian Marriage; Temporal Power of the Pope; and Modern Liberalism.

The pope's enemies saw in the Syllabus a formal rejection of modern culture and a declaration on the modern state. Belgians objected to it on the ground that it infringed constitutional rights. On 1 January 1865, publication of the Syllabus and encyclical was forbidden in France, although the prohibition was later withdrawn. In France and Germany it was seen as creating a cleavage between the church and the modern world. The Syllabus was a blow to liberalism. Roman Catholics saw the intellectual movement of the nineteenth century as a threat to the foundations of human and divine order in the world. They regarded the Syllabus as a necessary attempt to stem this tide which was undermining the influence of the Catholic Church on the life of nations and individuals.

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